Well, I’d no sooner published my last post on the contradictory relationship between President Correa’s new media law, cracking down on press freedoms while continuing to host Wikileaks’Julian Assange in Ecuador’s London embassy, when Edward Snowden popped up in Moscow, reportedly heading for Ecuador via Cuba. My favorite story of what happened next appeared in the Guardian, describing the two dozen journalists who bought seats on the Aeroflot flight to Havana, having heard that Snowden and his traveling companion, Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks, had checked into seats 17A and 17 B. I love imagining how the media folks anticipated the long hours they’d have with a cornered Snowden as he was compelled to answer all their questions. But as the plane taxied away from the gate, the journalists discovered that Snowden was not onboard. Instead, they found themselves stuck with one another on the 12-hour flight to Cuba – on which no alcohol was served, “much to the chagrin of the reporters, many of whom aren’t used to going half a day without a stiff drink.”
Latest news from Ecuador is that Correa is cooling off on the idea of granting Snowden asylum, party because he’s pissed off at Assange for “trying to run the show” from the London embassy. (Two (too) big personalities on the same stage?) At a press conference on Friday, the president declared that Ecuador would not consider an asylum request unless Snowden reached Ecuadorian territory, highly unlikely given that he apparently remains in transit hell in the Moscow airport.
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OK, enough of politics. Life moves by very fast when it’s lived in six-month segments. When I tell folks here I’m leaving Cañar in a week they say, “No es posible! You just got here!” When I let friends in Portland know we’re coming home, they say, “Really? It seems you just left!” I feel the same. In the end, our lives might go by in a flash but the landscape changes very little. Here is a lovely photo taken by a Peace Corps volunteer in 1970. In the background is Tayta Bueran, the flattop mountain that marks the continental divide. For the Canari it is a “cerro sacrado,” a sacred mountain.
And one of the same I took recently…
This is our eighth year of living in Cañar from January to July; and in Portland from July to December. Once here, I barely think about our Portland life until we get close to leaving; then I begin to anticipate with great pleasure everything that awaits in the north – friends, family, food, movies, home, garden, summer weather…. (It also usually begins to get very cold and windy here in June.) The same happens in Portland – I feel totally disconnected from our life in Canar. We don’t check in or want any news of problems (the house was broken into a few years ago, in September, and there was nothing we could do until we got here in January). But when it gets close to coming back to Ecuador, I get excited – the house, the views, climate, friends and projects, the no-car, no-TV, no-phone-calls life – and I can’t wait to get back.
Michael has his own emotional response to change, based on a profoundly domestic streak that binds him to place and routine wherever he is. “I don’t want to leave,” he said the other night to José María our compadre and caretaker. But then I hear him say the same in Portland, come December: “Let’s just stay here!”
One big difference in our two lives in how we take leave of our houses. In Portland we prepare it as if a guesthouse for a wonderful tenant who has come back at least five years now, clearing shelves, closets and personal tchotchkes, and giving our old Volvo a Cristo wrap in the driveway. In return, our tenant meticulously takes care of the house, replacing every broken cup, and leaving it just as we left it, with fresh linens on the beds.
In Cañar, we virtually strip the house of all belongings except furniture – wall art, rugs, linens, clothes, bedding, and pack everything away in two locked storerooms. I cover the bookcases, kitchen shelves and some of the better furniture with old sheets. On the last day, Michael shutters the windows and doors, leaving the house dark and closed up like a big box. Since the break-in, we have a 700-pound safe for my large camera and gear, and Michael has created an ingenious system for hiding his tools that I can’t divulge. José María and his family come once a week or so to water the plants in the patio. They also tend the surrounding yard of alfalfa and plant the field behind, so they are a consistent presence while we’re gone. We tell them they are not responsible if anything goes wrong, but of course they do feel responsible.
We leave Cañar next Wednesday, July 3, and I haven’t decided what to do about this blog for the next six months. Shall I suspend and take it up again next January, when we return to Ecuador? Or should I keep posting from Portland? Please let me know what you think.