Settling In

panoramaIt’s two weeks now since we arrived in Cañar and, along with our various systems – we are settling in. We had no water for the first 24 hours, and then only dribbles in the days that followed. Michael lay awake at night refiguring his plumbing systems. Last year, after a new city sewer/water main came down our street and we hooked up, Michael disconnected our big water storage tank, thinking we’d have city water 24 hours a day. Ha! There was also a pesky leaking pipe under the tile floor in the laundry room, connecting the tank. He fixed the pipe but left the pump disconnected. Last July it was easier to leave it all behind, foolishly assuming we’d have a constant source of water this year. M in bodga

Michael grumbles and predicts the worst possible scenarios – “We may never have running water again!” – but he’s a puzzle guy and can’t resist an interesting problem like this. He searched his bodega for parts, made lists and went into town, lie awake at night or dreamed Rube Goldberg schemes, and cursed as he struggled with the big tank in the pump room, or sprawed on the floor in the laundry room, wet with spray.P1110697

Five days later, after he’d fixed some related electrical problems and we had our first hot showers, Michael’s mood changed for the better and he announced that we are now ready for guests.

* * * *3 mujeres

Meanwhile, I went to work. The Fiesta de San Antonio always comes middle of January, before I’m well acclimated, and the eight-day fiesta – most of it at 11,000 feet – is rigorous to say the least. I usually photograph one or two days. This year I worked one day, on Saturday, when the community gathered at the church for a blessing of their tiny saint (about 8 inches tall) followed by a procession through the town and into the country to the house of the prioste, this year’s host of the saint. There, while the saint rested in his special room with candles and incense…

San Antonio w candlesoutside there was dancing of the vacas locas, music by different groups, and the crazy antics of clowns called rukuyayas

2 efigiesvaca loca kid  rukuyaya rukyaya dancing.

Finally, around 4:00, the host community served a meal to about 300 people. Incredible. A pampamesa, or “table in the field”  is just that: for a communal work day, fiestas, even funerals, women bring warm food wrapped in baskets or shawls on their backs, and at the appropriate moment, they sprinkle it along white cloths laid on the ground. Usually a mix of small bits of chicken or roasted pork, but mostly potatoes, corn, beans – the basics of the Andean diet. People sit alongside or stand behind if it’s a large crowd, and slowly eat bits and pieces until full. It’s a wonderful way to serve a big crowd, without utensils or dishes. Here you see only mote, boiled corn, while we wait for the good stuff.pamomesa

This year I had the pleasure of working with a partner – Allison Adrian, an ethnomusicologist from Minneapolis who has come for six months with a sabbatical and Fulbright to research Cañari and Saragureño music. During the long day, she recorded in audio and video, and I with photos. I can see we are going to work beautifully together. Welcome, Allison!Judy _ Allison


Finally:  announcing the CANAR BOOK CLUB

Scholarship program progeny in Judy's book cornerI’ve been a big reader since childhood, but I’ve never been in a book club. I asked to join one once, but the group was already well established and the members felt they couldn’t integrate another person. I understood. So I’m going to create my own Canãr Book Club, and I invite you to join. I’ll report on what I’m reading and you tell me what you are reading, what you recommend, what you think. I’ll put this at the end of every Chronicle so those who are not so interested can leave off!

At the moment, I’m in book two of the “Neapolitan Novels” by Elena Ferrante: The Story of a New Name.  I started and finished the first one in October on a lightening trip to Ecuador, when I had many flights and many hours of reading. The second book is going slower, and with only 30 minutes or so of reading at bedtime and early morning, I find I’m growing impatient with the pace and obsessive, almost suffocating, details. This morning I picked up Dear Life, Alice Munro’s last book, and it was like a breath of fresh air to read one of her short stories. I remember discovering Munro when I lived in Toronto, and thinking, “How does she do it?” It looks so easy. Inspired, I tried a story of my own. Hmm, silly thought, not so easy, trying to copy a genius.

Stay in touch!


Cañar Redux, 2016

Dear Friends:  Here’s the view out our bedroom window on January 3, the day before our flight to Ecuador. (This is a color photo, by the way)view window

By January 4, the first snowstorm of the season had turned into a treacherous ice storm. We decided to spend the night in an airport hotel so we’d be sure to catch our 6:00 AM flight. No taxis available, not even Uber, so a friend drove us, slipping and sliding, to the Holiday Inn, where we spent a brief night. Next morning, our flight to Los Angeles was cancelled – no apology, explanation or friendly reroute. Once we reached Dallas on an alternative flight, our plane to Miami had already boarded and we had to sprint about 20 gates to make it as the doors were closing. In Miami, Cuban sandwiches and beers and a Cuban coffee restored us before a delayed flight to Guayaquil, where we arrived at 2:30 AM. With our bags! As we headed for customs, I looked with pity at the large crowd around the “lost luggage” window. 

Enough of this January travel chaos! Two years ago, we were stuck in an east-coast storm that caused all our flights through DC and NYC to be delayed or cancelled. After an expensive night in a crummy motel near JFK, we arrived a day late. We’ve decided that next year we leave in November.

After a few hours of sleep in Hostal Tangara, at 85 degrees, with noisy air conditioner off and chirping crickets in the room, we woke to this:

arch guacamayasP1110640  P1110637

(OK, the macaws were on the wall of our room, painted by Lucia, the hostel owner.)

After breakfast and naps, we ventured out into the hot humid air for our ritual crab soup, crab ceviche, patacones and ice-cold beers in an open-air restaurant on the Malecon Salado, the seawater canal near our hostel. This has been our routine for years, and the place always reminds me of my mother, who came to visit when she was 87 and loved it. She bought a CD from the guy who was fake-playing his panpipe. crab cevichewaterworks

January 6:  After another night in the hostel to recover, things move more smoothly. A good driver with a vehicle with seatbelts that work gets us to our gate in Cañar in a mere three hours. The house looks much as when we left it in July. This is the dry season, so the yard is scruffy, and inside the house is dusty and cob-webby, but this climate – dry and cool year-round – is kind to a house like ours, made of wood and mud and straw. house first vewInside, the macho aloe lords it over the patio, bigger than ever, and I complain to Michael, as always, that it needs to be taken down to size. As always, he resists. And by the swallow-like birds that flit in and out (through an open space between glass and tile roofs), and seem to feel right at home, I suspect there is a nest or two hidden there.patio first vew

We follow all our usual arrival rituals, including the uncovering of San Antonio, the patron saint of Cañar who keeps watch over the house.  uncovering st anotnio san antonio alone

And then, Michael’s first fire, first beer and his favorite Oscar Peterson on the CD player.  Ahhh, we are at home in Cañar.M. first fire2