Good luck and with love,
Josh & Lynsey
|The South of America||
In May, 2014 Lynsey and I moved back to the US. We've spent a lot of time since talking about this decision, constantly trying to dissect it, make sense of it, process it. We still don't have a single answer as to why we left, and in the end we departed with the same feeling we had when we arrived: something in our guts. The things we miss about the country and our life there are too many to list - heck, just read the blog and you'll get a good idea. We now live in Seattle, Washington. Life here is different and, as we did in Ecuador, it feels like we're learning to live and be happy all over again. The re-entry process has been slow, but we're trying to be patient. Ecuador taught us a lot about simplicity, and applying those lessons here seems to be our greatest challenge. Regardless, the impression Ecuador has left on us is irrevocable. I hope that some inspiration lies in these words to go and find out for yourself. When your gut tells you it's time, be ready to listen.
Good luck and with love,
Josh & Lynsey
“Chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains.”
In this case, I was chasing an angel. While there's much to report these days, I thought I’d start with a fine little tale about a well-traveled ring and how it finally made it to the place it belonged.
"Los Andes son como una mujer"
("The Andes are like a woman.")
-Juan Andres, an Ecuadorian friend from work, sharing some local male insight
"Zack, you've got to get down here," and the wheels were set in motion. Zack and I don't travel together unless hiking boots and a harness are on the packing list, so we expected no less than an adventure on this trip. He arrived Friday, and our plan was to hit Ruccu Pichinca (15,406 ft.) Saturday, Cerro Imbabura (15,190 ft.) on Sunday, and attempt Nevado Cayambe (18.996 ft.) on Tuesday night. The first two went off without a hitch, almost too smoothly. The last, and the subject of this photo-tale, turned out to be 36 hours of intense highs and lows that only a glaciated peak over 5,000 meters on the equator could provide. Here's the story...
"Let the beauty of what you love be what you do."
For the holiday break this year we headed back to Vilcabamba, a small gringo-outpost in the south of Ecuador. Our specific destination in mind was one of our favorite spots in all of Ecuador - the cabins of Rumi Wilco. A small nature reserve just outside of town, Rumi Wilco is owned by two kind biologists who have made it their life’s work to run and operate an eco-lodge and reserve (with hiking trails, etc.). Lynsey and I find ourselves at our most relaxed, and our best, at this reserve and figured it was probably the best place we could bring in the holidays. Disconnected from it all, it took a moment of stepping back to get a glimpse of which direction to step forward.
“Ver el esfuerzo y sacrificio de personas que luchan por su propia cumbre, y no hay mejor escuela para la vida, que la propia madre naturaleza.”
"To see the effort and sacrifice of people who fight for their own summit, and that there’s no better school for life than Mother Nature herself."
- Fernando Campoverde, Ecuadorian Mountaineer and Club
Sangay guide reflecting on why he loves mountaineering.
For those of you that don’t know the first half of the story, Lynsey and I attempted the summit of Cotopaxi last December. If you’d like to read the original entry, you can find it here. To recap, we basically encountered a “perfect storm” of shabby equipment, unprepared lungs and legs, frozen hands and feet, and indescribably sickening digestive gas (from me, to be clear). We didn’t make the summit, and left knowing that we had underestimated the mountain. Nearly a year later, I was resolved to make a return, prepared this time, and see what was in the cards for me in the slopes of this icy giant.
“I tramp a perpetual journey.”
― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Friends, family, and readers, hola de nuevo! Time has flown since our return from the U.S. in August, but in the good kind of way where a steady, fulfilling routine gives way to a stream of days and months. Though rains made Cuenca grey through most of September and October, a streak of sun has now found us, intense and beautiful at 8,000+ ft. to warm the days before the chilly nights. News abounds on the work front, adventure front, future front, and just the everyday life front. Yup, it’s just life now in Cuenca.
"If you have built castles in the air,
your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.
Now put the foundations under them."
-Henry David Thoreau, Walden - This quote is dedicated to Lynsey and the well-designed castles she's steadily building as we speak.
With one year under our belt, we came back to Cuenca in early August after 5 weeks back in the U.S. It already clear that this year will unfold very differently from the first, and will build the bridge into what comes next. Here are some snapshots, thoughts, and news (big and small) about the beginning of the continuation of our life here in Cuenca...
Over three days moving through the quiet mountains I took lots of photos, and had plenty of time to let my mind wander along with my body. Below are a few snippets of thought inspired by the place...
Day 1: Route-finding
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”
– Miriam Adeney
Five weeks showed us many sides of our mother country, though of course no single experience could ever begin to encompass the bird's nest of complexity that is “America” (North America, ehem, the U.S. to be exact). In our hearts it was family and friends that brought us "home," longing again in some way to feel familiarity as opposed to the constant newness and challenge of Cuenca. Our sensory appetites also had desires that swirled around in our minds as we had entire conversations with people about “what we're going to eat” along with the unrivaled beer choices that awaited us. Finally, at the end of July we arrived at O'Hare International Airport at three o'clock in the morning, exhausted and excited, to the warm smiling face of my father. We were back.
"School's out for summer!"
With the end of the school cycle, Lynsey and I, like most teachers I know, were fine and ready for a little escape to recharge our batteries. Lynsey had just finished her first full school year, no small feat, and we both had officially fulfilled our original contract at the school. A year ago we might have said that it would be now that we may come back to the U.S. That, of course, is not how things have turned out. The people and landscapes of Ecuador have charmed us, and left us with a curiosity and an itch that there is much more to learn.
So, what I'm dancing around here is the fact that we were more than happy to get out of Cuenca for a mini-vacation to the southern regions of Ecuador - made even better with no immediate prospect of work responsibilities waiting for us when we get back. We decided to visit Vilcabamba, a small town with a reputation that precedes it, and from there venture into the mysterious Podocarpus National Park.
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