Cañar Update: Day 60+ and Still Quarantined

Dear Friends – We are at Day 60 (now 62) and counting, with a strict quarantine and curfew still in place in Cañar and in all of Ecuador. Here, even the dogs are sheltering in place. (Couldn’t resist! We pass these guys every time we walk into town. We call them “the rugs.”)

News on the street says this will continue until end of May, with slow opening beginning June 1. A national newspaper says the airport in Guayaquil will open on that date. Good news, though we’ll keep our distance from that city for years to come, I think. But we do have reservations on Delta Airlines from Quito on July 1. We’ve not yet paid for the tickets – as we can’t get to Cuenca with the cash, which the airlines are demanding in place of cards – “en caso de mortalidad” (in case we die) – but as of now we are planning on traveling Cuenca- Quito – Atlanta – Portland on July 1.

On the work front, I’ve been contentedly engaged with two book projects. Last week co-editor Andrew and I sent off the final ms. of the “Ana book” – (Tell Mother I’m in Paradise: Memoir of a Political Prisoner in El Salvador), along with 28 photos and illustrations, to the wonderful editor at University of Alabama Press. The book now goes into the editorial pipeline and will, hopefully, emerge as a Spring 2021 title. It has been a great experience working with Andrew and Wendi. Here’s a photo of Ana that showed up in the Spanish edition that we’d never seen – Ana at about 20 years. This will go into the new book.

The second project on the work front, which came to a halt with the quarantine, is the culmination of years of darkroom printing, scanning and organizing the negatives of a town photographer, Rigoberto Navas (1911-2001). The cultural department at the Municipality of Cañar has committed to printing the book of Navas photos this year, although the reality remains to be seen. But I’ve had fun making a mock-up – cutting and pasting photocopied images into an existing photo book. At least this allows me choose the photos and their sequence, and to show a good facsimile of how the final book will look. 

On the pleasure front, six words: cocktail, sunset, fireplace, drawing, flowers and dinner.

As wine grew scarce (it’s back!) Michael began a new custom of 5:00 PM cocktails: fresh orange juice, rum and fizzy water. This, in the big room with the fire, flowers and Michael, keeps me happy while I try to make a drawing/ watercolor that relates to the day. Sometimes it’s a challenge, sometimes it comes easy. Something it’s as mundane as Michael cooking a chicken…

…as dreamy as where we “would have been” in Spain if all this hadn’t happened. 

or as serious as keeping track of the numbers (until I couldn’t)….

Or as homely as going for a walk, running into a neighbor washing her carrot harvest and bringing home a few for a carrot soup that Michael claims he had never made before, and was absolutely delicious.

Speaking of Michael, he has been stalwart in fixing lunch and dinner for three “cuarentinadas” every day for two months, with another month to go at least. With limited options, we’ve been eating pork in its many iterations. There’s a butcher shop here called Piggi’s where he buys sausage, cutlets and a kind of re-constituted bacon that’s not really bacon. Paiwa and I love it! Plus lots of our garden vegetables (we’re sick of broccoli and cauliflower) and an endless supply of potatoes from our back field that Michael finds way to fix almost every night.  Here he is making gnocchi.

For sweets he’s kept us in a near-constant supply of zesty orange oatmeal cookies, which he devised as an alternative to orange cake that takes longer to bake and uses too much gas. (* Recipe at bottom of this blog). The only kitchen disaster has been our espresso machine is kaput. Michael makes campfire coffee every morning, but it’s not the same. We’re dreaming of finding a new machine in Cuenca once the quarantine lifts, although we’re having a hard time finding a source from the Internet. (Cuenca friends – if you know of a store that has domestic espressos, please let me know.)

And that brings us to…..

The Cañar Book Club

This selection above of “plague books” appeared on a website a couple of weeks. I tracked down the source, then lost it – but credit went to an antiquarian book store with participation of artist.

From our own faithful book club members, some good recommendations.

Patty in Portland: “Enjoyed Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson, Kerouac’s girlfriend who was in the thick of that time with the Beats. The Topeka School by Ben Lerner is worth a read. Tessa Hadley’s Late in the Day the best of the three of her novels I read. She has a dark side which can be pretty funny.”

Maya in Portland: “I’m now on pp 657 of the 1000 page, one-sentence Ducks, Newburryport by Lucy Ellmann, which I’m enjoying greatly. It’s oddly addictive. Essentially about how you live a private life as a woman/mother when you are so aware of all that is wrong globally and locally. Also very funny. Beyond that I found How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibrahim X Kendi to be worth reading. He’s very methodical about analyzing all the different ways people objectify blacks and use that, often unwittingly, to discriminate in one way or another.”

Liz in Toronto: Madeleine Miller’s Circe is great argument for mortality! I read Milkman, found it terrifying but compelling, a tour de force; also recommend Miriam Toews’s Women Talking.”

Joanne in Mexico: “Now reading a wonderful collection of essays by a young Irish writer, Sinéad Gleeson – Constellations.”

Char in Austin: “Just finished Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein, illustrations by Maira Kalman. Published in 1933, this new edition includes Maira’s delightful illustrations. I loved every word of her endless sentences that brought to life Paris at the beginning of the century.”

Sher in Santa Fe: “If you’re looking for a beautiful distraction, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is apropos of our times, as this gentleman is under house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow (1922). See how he makes use of his time!!”

Anne in Portland recommends: The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams.

Finally, my turn:  I can’t say enough about the riveting Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by New Yorker writer, Patrick Radden Keefe. As my words fail, I quote from the David Grann review: “Meticulously reported, exquisitely written, and grippingly told, Say Nothing is a work of revelation. Keefe not only peels back, layer by layer, the truth behind one of the most important and mysterious crimes of a terrible conflict; he also excavates the history of the Troubles, and illuminates its repercussions to this day.”

Did I miss anyone?  If so, please remind me, and keep your book news coming, dear readers. Until next time…

* Mike’s Zesty Orange Oatmeal Cookies

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly in one bowl:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 heaping tsp of baking powder

In another bowl mix:

  • 1 egg, 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil such as safflower or sunflower
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • finely grated rind of two unpeeled oranges with microplane. (If oranges are big, maybe 1.5 grated)

Beat the egg and salt with whisk, add brown sugar, beat again, add oil and beat again. Add grated orange rind and beat (yet again).

Pour the dry ingredients into the egg/sugar/oil/zest mixture, beat thoroughly.

Once everything is moistened, add carefully and mix throughout

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup raisins, well separated

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Carefully glob 12 piles of mixture onto greased cookies sheet, leaving space between each.

In oven, check after about 6 minutes for even baking. Should be done between 10-15 minutes; checking if browning around edges.

(Alternative: instead of grated orange rind, use 1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon.)








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8 thoughts on “Cañar Update: Day 60+ and Still Quarantined

  1. Love your notebook drawings! Congratulations on your book(s), Judy. Let us know if we can be of help with your tickets….we live in Cuenca. And I am going to make Michael’s cookies. Thanks for the recipe!

  2. Judy…your drawings are so charming!! The book on Cañar with the vintage photographs looks right up my alley! I love the idea of orange peel in the oatmeal cookies…I use chopped dates and walnuts in mine. And what a cozy scenario of cocktails, sunset and fireplace…as cozy as one can be under quarantine!

  3. Just finished An American Marriage, Tayari Jones. WOW…quite the story as the author takes us into the conversations and lives of the multiple characters. It brings up the very real and current issue of wrongly or unjustly accused people (in this case, African American) and how their incarceration impacts the life they started before they were jailed.
    Portland – beginning to enter the “Phase 1” of reopening. I went to Cannon Beach Saturday for a restorative 24-hrs that i could safely do from our family place without stepping foot into town. AHHHH…the sound of the ocean is good for the soul! See you when you return in July!

  4. Thank you Janice – you are always one of my first responders and I particularly appreciate your comment as you are an amazing artist.

  5. Thanks Shoshana – that book goes on my June book club meeting. Having a day at the beach sounds like heaven. We are dreaming already of our new favorite place – Sylvia Beach Hotel – will it be possible to spend a couple of night there in 2020? Yet to be seen…

  6. Judy, this is the BEST kind of blog!! Newsy, with a window into COVID life in another country–photos and drawings, recipes, project catch-ups, book recommendations and more! I especially love that you are including some shots of your journal. Taking a picture walk through your journals is one of my greatest pleasures when we have a catch-up lunch at Providore. This is a second best, given that you’re still so far away. Life seems to be looking up for your return to PDX!! xo Hugs. Nancy

  7. Jude, this is one of the very best . I loved all the news, the 6 photos that made
    up a Zoom sort of block about all that’s going on, and of course all of the art.
    You just get better and better. I remember us sitting in a plaza somewhere in Portugal
    you had just started water color. Now to go back together so you can paint the
    plaza with all the romantic buildings. 2021?
    Demian brings me lots of potatoes and I’m not sure what to do with them.
    I’ll ask Michael. I like his recipe for cookies. Thank you.
    The only book that’s worthy of your book club is one none of you will probably read.
    THE SWERVE by Stephen Greenblatt, National Book Award and Winner of the
    Pulitzer Prize. How the World Became Modern. (It’s),,, an adventure story about
    scholarship that locates the foundations of modern secular, scientific thought in the brilliance and heroism of our intellectual forebears.” (Fred bought it, of course.)
    Yip, one for the Quarantine. Nothing but time. It’s very engrossing.
    Love, Sister Char

  8. Judy, I look forward to the publication of your book on Navas and his photos. It
    merits publication as part of the Consejo Nacional de Cultura series. I have the fifth volume, Cuenca 1, and look forward to buying your contribution.

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