Friday, May 22, 2009

Adventures in Venezuela and Ecuador

I am going to try to post several updates to the blog all at once or in close proximity so hopefully this all won’t be too much all at once.  I can’t believe I haven’t updated anything since March 28. Well that just goes to show you that the longer you are in the mission the more occupied you are.   It has been almost two months and we have been on the road again and changed apartments.  (Yes, we moved from our little tiny apartment on Calle 100 to a lovely 2 bedroom (with a real kitchen) apartment closer to the office (not that we spend much time there) but it really is wonderful.  This first blog has a slide show of our new area.   This is a much older part of the city with old homes and hotels and buildings dating back over 200 years and also some really new and modern buildings mixed right in. 

 We also spent 10 days in Venezuela and 11 days in Ecuador.    So there will be slides shows about our time in those two countries in coming blogs.  I can tell you that I could live here in Bogota or in several other parts of Colombia but Venezuela is a different story.  The members of the Church were wonderful to us and we had some great experiences with them but the people on the street are very suspicious of Foreigners and not very friendly.   The cities that we were in were depressed looking and dirty,  not lively like it is here and in Ecuador.  Also Venezuela is very, very, very expensive.  We are trying to implement a new way to get the audit trainings done in Venezuela because of the travel expenses and conditions.  The hotels (even the ones that we paid exorbitant prices for) were dirty and not in good repair.  We were in one that had 4 elevators only one of which functioned.  Notice, I didn’t say worked.  That is because when you pushed the button to get to the 2nd floor it took you to the 3rd, and when you pressed 3 you got 4.  When you pressed 1 you did get 1 so there was no way to get to the 2nd floor in the elevator. One of the 3 broken elevators had its door open on the ground level and the  chamber was stuck between floors.  The 2 other broken elevators had huge plants in front of them.   Enough about Venezuela, suffice it to say that it was not like our first trip there which was ok except for the one internal flight we had to take.   I will put up some pictures and hopefully a map because we were all over the place. 

Let’s move to happier matters.  Ecuador is an absolute wonder.  If you are going to come down to visit only one country in South America I would suggest Ecuador (it is less expensive than Colombia and Colombia is much less expensive than Venezuela and Ecuador uses US currency for its national currency).  We just got back from 11 days in Ecuador (From Quito to the Coast and then back to Quito and South and then back to Quito).  This is our 3rd trip to Ecuador.  The first was to Otavolo and points North with a quick trip to Manta and the Second was to Guayaquil.   There are wonderful things to see and do and I will do a blog about our 11 days in Ecuador with pictures as soon as I can.  I hope to include pictures of us standing on the equator and balancing an egg on a nail and volcano’s, volcano’s, volcano’s.  Also a walking trip through the rain forest to a water fall and a visit to a butterfly sanctuary,  and a gondola ride to over 13,000 feet  (up 4000 feet from Quito) to see two volcano’s a little closer and look down on the city of Quito (which stands for Center of the World) about 4000 feet below us.  We will also take you inside the Presidential Palace (the Ecuadorian White House) and into a Church that is totally covered in the interior in gold – I saw more gold than any one person should ever see.  I now know where a big bunch of the gold that the conquistadors took from the peoples of this area went.  For just a preview look at this. 

Yes, everything you see that looks yellow is 23 carrot gold leaf, very thick gold leaf.  The only thing that looks yellow in this picture that is not gold is the floor between the two rows of benches.   The floor and the benches are wooden and reflect the brightness of the gold all around them.   We were not allowed to take pictures inside so this is scanned in from the our ticket to get inside ($1.50) and I also bought some postcards with more pictures.  This is one of 26 different cathedrals in Quito from this period.  This one has the most gold and is classically Baroque.  It was started in 1605 and completed in 1765.  Much of the exterior including all of the ornamentation of the exterior was carved out of volcanic rock.

Enough for now.  I will add the movie of our apartment as soon as I get a better connection