Peace on earth?

Dear Friends: I’ve had a hard time coming up with a holiday message this year, so I’m going to start with a huge thanks to all of you who’ve donated to the Cañari Women’s Scholarship Fund. In my November fundraising letter, I noted that we have twelve graduates. But once back in Cañar, I went through our files and discovered we have, in fact, sixteen graduates – in fields from medicine, law, nursing, accounting, dentistry, psychology, nutrition, tourism, to communication. (You can read the letter here.) Plus eleven women are currently studying at state universities, including in architecture, engineering, gastronomy and medicine. (Official thank-you letters with tax # go out later this week, but it’s not too late. If you’d like contribute, you’ll find that information below).

One of the hopes for our program was that graduates would return to their communities or the region to work as professionals. And it is a great satisfaction to see this has happened. (Cañari women tend to stay close to home and marry within their communities.) In my daily rounds in town, I might walk by Pacha’s dental office (left), or run into Obdulia who works as a psychologist at the nearby Asilo de Ancianos (home for indigent elderly)
(right) or see Mercedes’s white hat bobbing in the window of her law office off the square. Luisa, recently graduated as a physician, is working at the local hospital. Here she is with her first post-delivery exam.

Juana, a 2015 graduate in veterinary medicine, has just won a scholarship for a master’s degree in Mexico. She leaves in a couple of weeks and it will be interesting to see where her life takes her. The fund supports our graduates in master’s degree programs up to $3000 over two years. Juana marks the third scholarship women to take advantage of this benefit.

(OK – If you’d like to contribute, you may send a check to: CWEF at 2147 NW Irving St., Portland, OR 97210, or use PayPal here.

Christmas in Cañar

This being our first time to spend the holidays in Cañar I didn’t know what to expect: relief at being away from the U.S. Christmas hustle? (Not to mention the year’s disappointments and fears for the future?) Pleasure at being in an environment we know well but with new schedule and customs?  We don’t count ourselves as Christians so the holiday has no religious significance for us. But the experience has been decidedly mixed. Although we enjoyed the quietness we craved on Christmas Day, I was surprised to feel a bit bereft as I walked into town and heard fiestas and family gatherings going on around me. I’d neglected to arrange anything or let friends know we are here, so we were not invited to anything and no one stopped by. Rather pathetically, we marked the day with Michael rearranging his wood pile and I completing (not very successfully)  an on-line sketching exercise.

 Skype calls to my sisters and son and grandsons helped, and emails from friends in Portland and elsewhere, but I’ve learned a few things for next time. (Note: Michael will have a hard time signing off on any of these.)

  • Make definite plans for Christmas Day
  • Make the rounds of friends in Cañar to let them know we are here
  • Do something thoughtful for others, such as make cookies (ha! – that’ll be me)
  • Invite folks to our house
  • Take a trip to the coast or Amazon, like so many others
  • If we choose the above, make sure we have bus tickets ahead of time, as travel is difficult during the holidays.
  • Maybe stay at home in Portland.

We do have a big event coming up that I will write about next week. Año Viejo (New Year’s Eve) will be a festival of processions and masks and effigies and bonfires to burn all the rubbish from 2016 and prepare for 2017. We’ve already bought a Trump mask and Michael plans to make a monigote – an effigy. You can guess his subject.

The Cañar Book Club

I’ve received many great reading suggestions from friends I want to pass on, along with their comments. If I’ve forgotten any of your titles, please send again. Also, combing the end-of-year “best of 2016” books has provided ideas for my 2017 wish list.


  • Once Upon a Time, Marina Warner (the history of fairy tales)
  • Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood
  • Even Silence Has an End, Ingrid Betancourt writes about her six years as captive of FARC in Colombian jungle.
  • All That Man Is, David Szalay (beautifully written fiction on nine different men in various international locations)
  • Unseen City, Nathanael Johnson (intense exploration of how nature flourishes in urban habitats)
  • The Sympathiser, Viet Thanh Nguyen (the story of end of Vietnam war and lives of refugees in years after fall of Saigon)
  • The Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi (confronts us with the involvement of Africans in the enslavement of their own people)

2017 WISH LIST. Looking it over, my guess is I got the majority of these titles from the New York Times list or Guardian Bookmarks (in blue).

  • Days Without End, Sebastian Barry
  • Commonwealth, Ann Patchett
  • Before the Fall, Noah Hawley
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien
  • The Gloaming, Melanie Finn
  • Iza’s Ballad, Magda Szabo.
  • Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, Arlie Russell Hochschild
  • Climbing DaysDan Richards
  • THE LIFE-WRITER. David Constantine. 
  • REPUTATIONS. Juan Gabriel Vásquez. A slender but impactful Colombian novel about a political cartoonist who re-examines his accusations against a politician
  • STILL HERE, Lara Vapnyar.  follows the intertwined lives of four immigrants in New York City as they grapple with love and tumult, the challenges of a new home, and the absurdities of the digital age.
  • THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. By Colson Whitehead. (Winner of all sorts of award and birthday gift to my son Scott)
  • THE VEGETARIAN. By Han Kang. This novella in three parts is both thriller and parable. The winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize.
  • WAR AND TURPENTINE. By Stefan Hertmans. A masterly novel about memory, art, love and war, based on the author’s grandfather’s notebooks.
  • WEATHERING. By Lucy Wood. This poetic debut novel, set in a damp house near a roaring river, explores the relationship between mothers and daughters.
  • IN THE DARKROOM. By Susan Faludi. … a rich and ultimately generous investigation of her long-estranged father, who suddenly contacted her from his home in Hungary after undergoing gender-reassignment surgery at the age of 76.
  • WHEN IN FRENCH: Love in a Second Language. By Lauren Collins. New Yorker staff writer married to a Frenchman, writes a very personal memoir about love and language, shrewdly assessing how language affects our lives.
  • WHITE TRASH: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. By Nancy Isenberg. A masterly and ambitious cultural history of changing concepts of class and inferiority..




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17 thoughts on “Peace on earth?

  1. Hola Judy — and Michael:
    Feliz Año Nuenvo …I have lived in Southern Oregon in Talent near Medford for several years, Portland before that.. Meant to give you context but maybe this help more to jog your memory — I and student/volunteer (with Global Volunteers, I think the name is ) Elias (who was born in Ecuador in Tulcan / adopted baby) came for an overnight visit 1.5 years ago, probably, to Cañar — We stayed overnight at the downtown Hotel Cañar (one of the coldest nights in my life) Maybe you have a vague memory of our visit. Elias is at a small college in his 2nd year now in N.C.
    I had arrived in Cuenca January ’14 from Quito because I had lost my PUCE teaching job there and wanted to do more outdoor life and possibly find work in Azuay…Loved reading your book written years ago on my first trip to Azuay in 2010. Anyway, through a bunch of connections, we met up and Elias and I enjoyed the visit with you at your house for a couple of interesting hours of conversation with you and Michael.
    I am on your listserv and get your interesting photos/ blog posts. Today I just posted on Pay Pal for a second year $25. donation to your wonderful women’s project. Can we talk sometime ? S. Schloth

  2. Hermana Jude! Love hearing about all the graduates! What an amazing thing!!!
    So proud to be part of it. Here, just the lazing around week between Christmas and
    New Years – lots of planning (projects! writing!) Glad to see 2016 go with all of it’s bizarreness in politics, and losses of so many (Debbie Reynolds this AM, following her daughter – what a talent she was! ) So, onward into 2017, trying to stay positive!!
    Missing you and Michael! xoxos

  3. Hi SUsan – Yes, of course I remember you. And Elias. I’m glad to hear he’s doing well in college. And your payment came through just fine. Thank you!
    I assume you are back in Cuenca now? You are welcome to visit me here in Cañar any time, and I do come to Cuenca every couple of weeks. We could meet for coffee…Next time will probably be second week of January.

  4. Yes, a strange week this is – stores closed, people traveling, kids on vacation. I’m trying to get work done too – learning LIghtroom app for one. For sure it will be good to say goodbye to 2016, though 2017 scares me…

  5. Happy 2017, Judy & Michael!
    Enjoyed, as always, your latest post, and was reminded that I hadn’t yet donated to the very worthy cause that you sponsor in Canar. So I rectified that situation thanks to PayPal.
    News from the Bourgault family is all good: son Michael was declared cancer-free after tests the week before Xmas. Talk about the best Xmas gift EVER!!
    Will visit Portland from mid-May to mid-June 2017, so perhaps we will run into each other. Fondly, Mel

  6. Judy y Miguel, As you know, we share your convictions about Xmas, and so more power to your irreligious notions. Christ and capitalism are a bad mix. Any special feelings or activities that accrue to this commercialized day are potentially available every other day of the year. Buy Nothing Day is our favorite. Easier on the credit card, too.

    Nancy and I observed our usual born-again pagan rituals by hiking on the Oregon Coast, swilling the local micro-brew, and eating a basket of artery-hardening fish’n’chips. We missed you guys and the great Christmas Day hikes we’ve done with you. This year, we climbed Neahkanie Peak. We ogled the old growth Sitka spruce and were mesmerized by the shining gray-blue sea and the nature-made networks of rivers and green fields. We met a few like-minded people who felt it more fun to scramble across scree than to rot in front of the TV with their in-laws.

    Banish any holiday angst and enjoy to the fullest extent Ecuador’s temperate pleasures. You’ve put yourselves in a sweet spot where you’re not subjected daily to the sociopathic rantings of our fascist clown-elect. Be thankful for that. Tell Michael to pop open another brew and to keep the home fires burning. –Bruce

  7. Happy New Year! Tell Michael we have the real thing here that he can throw into the fire. He doesn’t have to settle for an effigy.

    Recently my lust for reading returned. I have 10 books lined up next to my recliner. Each evening I read a single page in each – sometimes 2 – and put them back one by one. I should be finished with most of them and ready for new volumes by this time next year.

    This is the pleasure I look forward to at the end of my day. Each has something to say. And during quiet moments I take out the memories and enjoy them over again. These books lie peacefully in my mind like sister stories with no jealousies. Sometimes the memory is better than the reading. Sometimes the books talk amoungst themselves.

    I have another book next to my bed that I am beginning to read again. It is too beautiful to let lie. You don’t look at a painting just once. I read that one a paragraph at a time.

    In my basement library I have 10 more books with prominent bookmarks that I pick up each day. Sometimes a verse, sometimes a page, sometimes a short topic. Only a bit each afternoon.

    21 altogether. Some at the beginning. Some toward the end. Some I will never finish. All are my friends.

  8. Mel – can’t tell you how happy we are to hear that you had a great Christmas gift with the news about Michael! I look forward to seeing you in Portland mid-June (but we hope you want to come back for a longer stay later in the year – maybe????) Happy New Year!

  9. Ha – I can always count on you to send an upbeat message. We would have loved to take the Christmas Day walk with you, and we certainly look forward to other walks come summer. Meanwhile, we’ll do our best to keep the home fires burning in Cañar and have a productive 2017. Love to you & Nancy

  10. Alan – Please send some titles of those 21 books…. Are they all previously read? We need to know what brings you such pleasure.
    Happy New Year (and hibernation with books) to you too.

  11. I’m sorry to hear you felt off kilter on Christmas. I would bet you’ll be really happy you’re there tomorrow. Those effigies! And, you have inspired a project for me tomorrow – build an effigy to burn. I had almost forgotten a promise I made to myself that we would enact this terrific tradition in the U.S. I like the cathartic idea of writing things you hope to leave in the “año viejo” on strips of paper, stuffing them inside the effigy and burning it all to the ground. I think we’ll pass on the dancing “viuda” tradition though give them a few cents from us if you see them…sending love from the U.S.! Also – I sent a donation through Spencer’s PayPal. Thanks for the reminder!

  12. Hey, you know about some Año Viejo traditions here that I don’t – the burning strips is brilliant – I’ll make some today – but the dancing widow? Tell me about that one. And I’ll watch for her tonight in Quilloac. Thanks for the donation. I’d never seen Spencer’s last name before and was befuddled for a few minutes.

  13. Happy New Year
    I’m really looking forward to visiting you in about a month. I of course have lots of planning to do before then. I’ll send a check to the women’s scholarship fund before I leave. What a great project.
    Connie Whelan

  14. Reading pleasure 2017
    Books next to my recliner:
    1. 1776 by David McCullough A gift from Chris & Lauri On page 11
    2. Nothing Like It In The World – the men who built the Transcontinental Railroad by Stephen E. Ambrose A gift from Chris & Lauri On page 18
    3. The Great Unraveling – Losing Our Way in the New Century by Paul Krugman Paulette found the book. On page 43
    4. YUGE! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump By G. B. Trudeau. A gift from Paul & Marijah On page 24
    5. A History of the World in 12 Maps by Jerry Brotton A gift from Chris & Lauri On page 266
    6. The Other Slavery – The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez A gift from Amanda & Marcus On page 18
    7. La caída del héroe – La verdadera historia del general Ketín Vidal por Carlos Paredes Found at Piscataway Library book sale On page 14 (Had to begin again because I forgot important details when I was sick.)
    8. World War II – The Defining Moments of the War that Shaped the 20th Century. A gift from Aidan. On page 22
    9. Eating Culture – An Anthropological Guide to Food by Gillian Crowther On page 102 (Joan Gross told me about the book, and Paulette bought it for me. I took a break from the book while I was feeling my worst.)
    10. Brain Games – Lower Your Brain Age in Minutes a Day A gift from Aidan On page 109 (For months I couldn’t solve any. Now I spend 5 – 15 mins. a day on one, then turn the page. I come back to the puzzle later. Few are finished yet.)
    11. Next to the bed is El sueño del celta por Mario Vargas Llosa A gift from Paulette On page 39 (I read it a paragraph at a time; sometimes repeat the same paragraph several times. I’m reading for the 4th time because it’s so beautifully written.). In the basement:
    12. DICTIONARIO ETIMOLÓGICO Y COMPARADO DEL KICHUA DEL ECUADOR Tomo I Por Manuel Moreno Mora Gift from Barby Halverson On page 145, tho I read in no order
    13. If the South Won Gettysburg by Mark Nesbit Found at the Piscataway Library book sale Will pass it on to a friend when I finish it. On page 113
    14. The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long Found at the Piscataway Library book sale. On page 157. I read an entry a day, usually just a few lines.
    15. Dylan Thomas Collected Poems Found at the Piscataway Library book sale. On page 4. I read a few stanzas, often the same ones over and over.
    16. Mark Twain – Letters from Earth. Found at the Piscataway Library book sale. On page 37
    17. Beowulf – Howell D. Chickering, Jr. Found at the Piscataway Library book sale On page 48. I read 10 lines, usually the same ones over and over.
    18. Dictionary of Etymology – The Origins of American English Words By Robert K. Barnhart A gift from Chris and Lauri. I’m up to ‘alimentary’ reading a column a day
    19. Great Maps of the Civil War by William J. Miller A gift from Paul and Marijah On page 7
    20. Aspectos de la arqueología en la region de Cañar por Angel N. Bedoya M. Gift from Barby Halvorson On page 13
    21. Diccionario del Folklore Ecuatoriano por Pablo de Carvalho Neto Gift from Barby Halvorson On page 379 reading in no particular order
    These are the books I’m limiting myself to this year. Unless I finish one, then it will be replaced. I will give an accounting of progress in December.

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