Dear Friends: We arrived in Guayaquil late afternoon on November 28, welcomed by a 5.2 earthquake and the intermittent racket of ripe mangos falling on the roof of our hostel during the night. The next day we rode up 10,000 feet to Cañar in a hired car. Here, with the inevitable altitude-induced headaches for a day or two, we settled into our annual drill of opening the shutters, checking which systems were working (gas, water, lights OK), which were not (Internet, printer not OK), and which critters had moved in while we were gone. Last year it was mice. This year no mice, but avian occupiers were in evidence by a beautiful birdnest in my straw hat left upside down in a basket on the coat shelf.
After a couple of days I carefully took down the basket and peer in to see two perfect eggs. I’m afraid we’ve scared away the parents as I’ve seen no sitting birds since we arrived. I try to imagine the small birds that regularly fly through the narrow opening under the glass-covered patio making this exquisite work of art – collecting the larger outer twigs for the superstructure, then the finer brushy plant matter, and finally “feathering the nest” with soft fuzz and feathers to hold the eggs. Maybe it was one of these birds we see all around, which Michael identifies in Birds of Ecuador as the Rufous-Collared Sparrow female. (OK, my bird photography not great, but I plan to get better.)A day or so after we arrived, when our regular helper Patricia came to clean the house of dust and cobwebs, she accidentally vacuumed a railroad spike off a tall bookshelf onto a laptop I’d left sitting, closed, on the bench below. Neither of us realized at the time, but the point of the spike must have fallen directly onto the translucent apple logo. Later, when I later opened the laptop, I found a shattered screen, but with the hard drive still working. I would imagine most of you have never seen a laptop screen shattered with a railroad spike (collected during our railroad walking years), so for the historical record, here it is:
I’ve looked up the translation – punto de ferrocarril – to explain to the Apple tech next time I go to Cuenca, but I don’t have much hope the screen can be fixed here, (though I did see a Youtube video of someone replacing a MacBook Pro screen with a heat gun, suction cup and tiny screwdriver. Scary!)
Otherwise, life in Cañar takes on its usual routines. We puff up the hill into town a couple of times a day – Michael out early to forage for food for dinner; then planning, cooking and chopping wood and making the fire; me at my laptop in the mornings, then out and about in the afternoons. “You back already?” we hear from shop vendors, taxi drivers, neighbors. “How long this time?”
Finally, I want to thank all of you who contributed to the Cañari Women’s Scholarship Fund this past month. We’ve done well in fundraising this year, and later in December our local committee will meet to review new applications and consider raising the monthly stipend for our current twelve scholarship women. I forgot to mention in my letter that one of our early graduates, Mercedes Guamán, a lawyer, represented Cañar and Ecuador at the three-week-long United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May. We congratulate her! (And keep reading for the Cañar Book Club blog that follows).
Cañar Book Club
Well, the virtual Cañar Book Club has been on hiatus for six months, and it’s long overdue for a meeting. Welcome back! Here is the selection of books I’ve brought from Portland for your consideration and my pleasurable reading. Some are from your recommendations, such as Ornament of the World, In the Country of Men; most from reviews or my particular interests (Alan Lomax bio); at least one was a gift (Cannery Row), and the last three from an unplanned quick stop at the PDX library bookstore, with some time to spare before meeting a friend. The rest I have absolutely no idea why I bought them. I’m just finishing, and loving, When We Were Orphans by 2017 Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro.
So please let me know what books or reviews or articles you are reading, and – as always – I appreciate your suggestions for my 2018-19 list.
- The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles, Roy Jacobsen
- Gloaming, Melanie Finn
- Caleb’s Crossing, Geraldine Brooks
- Before the Fall, Noah Hawley
- In the Country of Men, Hisham Matar
- Baltasar and Blimunda, José Saramago
- The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen
- That Bright Land, Terry Roberts
- Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded The World, John Szwed
- Cannery Row, John Steinbeck
- The Life-Writer, David Constantine
- Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in MEdiieval Spah, Maria Rosa Menocal
- Astoria, Peter Stark
- The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World, Andrea Wulf
- Victor: An Unfinished Song, Joan Jara
- When We Were Orphans, Kazuo Ishiguro
- Commonwealth, Ann Patchett
- An Atlas of Impossible Longing, Anuradha Roy
- Every Man for Himself, Beryl Bainbridge
- Travels in Vermeer: A Memoir, Michael White
- The Discomfort Zone, Jonathan Franzen
- The Farming of Bones, Edwidge Danticat
- Our Man in Havana, Graham Greene
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