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!


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17 thoughts on “Settling In

  1. Happy to hear you have water now! I look forward to hearing more about Allison and her work! Hoping there might be samples of the music she collects!
    I just finished a lovely book by Colum McCann called “Transatlantic”. He is a wonderful writer whose book “Let the Great World Spin” is on my top 10 of books I’ve read in the last five years. His poetic Irish voice comes through everything I’ve read by him…gentle and strong at the same time.

  2. Hi Judy and Michael,
    How is it that you come “home” to Portland (your low-elevation home) and you’re here for about six months, and I don’t see you? Crazy, huh? Life has a pace that doesn’t always coincide with our other life plans. I’ll be back in Quito in March (at Colegio Menor) in Cubaya, and unfortunately it will be a quick trip. How could I come to EC twice in two years and not head your direction? Crazy, huh? I am going to Lima too – and another in-and-out trip. So goes it when it’s about work. But, next week Stephen and I head to CUBA…yes, a long-awaited trip and only 5 nights, so we’ll have to pack a lot into those days. Stephen is probably wondering how many cigars he can smoke in that period of time…I had (or have) visions of a cooking class…but still haven’t heard how/where or when I’ll be able to do that. So – I’ll continue to think about how & when our paths may cross beside our virtual communication….and send my best from a surprisingly bright day in PDX!

  3. I am loving “My Venice and Other Essays” by Donna Leon. It is written in the same vein as the Cañar Chronicles. Donna Leon is an American writer who has been living in Venice for thirty years or so. She taught English at a university near Venice. Her short essays are wonderful stories about Italy, Venice, Italians and Venetians, men and women in love, and the push and pull of lives in a City that is being loved too much. Even better, if you enjoy her writing, her celebration of opera, art and language, then you can start to read her twenty mystery novels that are really delightful: the adventures of Commissario Guido Brunetti, a Venetian detective. Commissario Brunetti is an astute observer of people and things; but he also has a wonderfully rich family life in Venice as well. The two parts of his life, public and private, are balanced in a wonderful way in this series.

  4. Hi Judy,
    Always a pleasant surprise in my ‘in’ box. Glad the water’s fixed! Hi to Michael – good job!

  5. As always, a delight to read about the latest goings in in case Judy and Michael. I think the book club is a great idea. I abandoned Elena Ferranti 2/3rds of the way through book 1. Yes, obsessive detail and terribly repetitive (she likes the clever friend, she hates the clever friend, she likes the clever friend, she hates…. Etc). Desperately looking for a new book with a cracking story and strong characters now.
    Oh and recommendations? Elizabeth is Missing. Superbly written sort of mystery from the point of a woman descending into dementia. Seriously, it’s exceptional. Love to you both.

  6. Michael, The prying eye of your omnipotent intellect always puzzles out any enigma that flummoxes ordinary mortals. Congratulations.Treat yourself to a beer–two beers!

    Judy, No surprise about Ferrante’s writing. Many book reviewers reflect your frustration. I’ve read some pretty amazing novels this year. Foremost is Anthony Marra’s “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.” I’d also include Paul Beatty’s “The Sellout,” and Valelria Luiselli’s “The Story of My Teeth.”
    Good luck with the book club.

  7. Jude, I will be in your book club. I read all three of the Elena Ferrante books. Would love to talk to you about them. For my lighter reading I have read the Louise Penny mysteries. Starting a new book called All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr for my trip to Germany this week. It has gotten good reviews. I recently finished a book called “These is My Words,” a story inspired by the diaries of a pioneer woman. It was quite interesting.

    We miss you guys. It passed through my head to stop over to see you today, and then I remembered 🙁 Alas. By the time you return Soren will have graduated from high school, and Zoe might have a driver’s license. She took me for a ride today, and is progressing steadily. We still haven’t fixed all our problems at the house, and I wish Michael were here to advise us. We are so lame when it comes to home owner stuff.

  8. I’ve read about this woman and now I’ll put “My Venice….” on my list. Also, now that Henning Mankell has died, sadly, we need a new mystery writer for Cañar. Donna Leon might be the one. Thanks Macon!

  9. Wellllll, at last, someone who feels the same about the sainted Ferrante as I do, although I’m happy for her success and I’ll probably read the third one too. Elizabeth is Missing goes on my list for 2016. Thanks, and fond regards,

  10. Thanks Janice. I’ll put Transatlantic on my list. I read Let the Great World Spin a few years ago – wish I could remember it as well as you do.

  11. Yeah I can’t believe we’re both in this country far away and can’t make contact. But let me know your March dates – I have to go end of Feb/beginning of March for Fulbright thing, so we might coincide. And enjoy CUBA – I was there in 1978 and have wanted to go back. Michael is fearful the food won’t be varied, so you must let us know.

  12. Nancy gave me A Constellation….” to bring, so it’s on my Cañar shelf. And I’ll put The Sellout and The Story of My Teeth (which I keep hearing about, on my list. Thanks for recommendations…

  13. HI Annie – Thanks for your recommendations – Louise Penny and These are My Words are new to my list. I’m waiting for All the Light….to be in paperback. And I’ve just started a novel you would love: “Euphoria,” by Lily King – based on Margaret Mead in New Guinea. Heard of it? Might want to take it along to Germany. A fast read – I’m trying to make it last…

  14. I can only imagine that your taking photographs of Michael — in real time, as he’s dealing with one his puzzles — must provoke the odd grumble or two… Glad that your camera did not end up in the water tank! Abrazos!

  15. Actually, he has been my favorite subject for years, and always participates in my docu-dramas. (well, OK, grumbling sometimes) In our early years, we made a series of photo-novelas – How Mike & Judy Met, Mike and Judy Get Engaged, and so on. I miss them…

  16. Hi Judy,
    Love the photos. I’m just seeing your first blogpost now- directed (reminded) to do so by an email from one of my favorite colleagues from St. Kate’s. I finished the second Ferrante book on the bus ride to Cuenca yesterday evening, relishing every detail of their friendship, but mostly riveted by the politics of class and gender. I imagine Elena as a Cañari scholarship student, moving between the informal, local lessons of everyday life, and the more formal, global lessons of the classroom. I barely made it through her first book, though. In fact, at 1/3rd in I had to switch to listening to the audiobook when commuting to work so that I could continue in good standing in my book club. Looking forward to more work together!

  17. Congratulations on your working relationship with Allison Adrian! No doubt, this will be productive for many, including the two of you and the community of Cañar. Thinking about you recording the 2016 Fiesta de San Antonio as you adjust to the altitude, etc., I admire your stamina and commitment.

    Preston keeps our well, cistern, and water purification system functional here at our house in the woods of central New York. We understand Michael’s consternation very well. Having two sources of water is a very good thing. Forty-five years later, I still am very grateful to be able to drink water from the tap, unlike those years in Ecuador. Having had intestinal parasites during that time and being treated for them 12 times, potable water will always be very precious to me.

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