After working from dusk until the god-forsaken madrugada everyday for $4 an hour these past six months, Ryan and I quit. Enough is enough, and since I had recently suffered several childlike breakdowns that consisted of "No! I can't. I simply can't teach anymore. I have nothing left. I CAN'T!", we knew it was probably time to cut the cord and say goodbye to English teaching for a while. It wouldn't have been inappropriate for me to follow these embarrassing tantrums with a food stomp or a Ghanaian arm flap that I learned from my frequently upset toddlers, and in order to save our relationship and our sanity, we opted to take a much needed vacation.
We left cold, wintertime Cuenca for a nice, relaxing vacation in Parque Nacional Podocarpus in the South of Ecuador. Camping is one of our favorite past times, and usually we have enough equipment and planning to get us by in the US - even if we do end up hiking through several feet of snow in light zip-off pants and sweaters. Ecuador presented a bit of a predicament in regard to preparation. You see, my generous sister had brought down a duffel bag full of our camping gear when we met in Viva Mexico for Easter break. We ended up with: a tent, my sleeping bag, Ryan's sleeping pad, a stove, a lantern, Ryan's hiking shoes and a pooper scooper kit. What we did not end up with was: Ryan's sleeping bag, my sleeping pad, fuel for the stove, and my hiking shoes. Where those things have escaped to, I do not know, but if they're reading this: Please, come home.
The adventure began before we even left. We had a list of items we needed to find and very little expendable income to buy these special items in a country where almost no one ever camps. Ever. And if they do admit to camping, it doesn't take long to realize they spent the night in a cabin in the woods with several amenities, such as bed frames, mattresses and hinged doors, that we couldn't fit in our backpacks. We did, however, found a light sleeping bag at the local grocery/clothing/music/drugstore/sporting goods/department store for a decent price and even a pad to go along with it! Eventually our frugalness caught up to us though, and we opted to share the one bag and the one pad that we already owned. Fuel was the most essential item, and of course, the most difficult item to find. We went all over town, trying to find it in any store that might carry things even vaguely related to camping. Our search came up dry, so we had to make a new plan. We'd have to carry pre-made food.
Long story short, we ended up with bologna sandwiches, sliced bread (the first loaf of bread not made by us or a mom-and-pop local bakery since coming to Ecuador), good gouda cheese and a package of mayonnaise. Plus, tons of granola that we made in bulk a few days before. And my idea for bringing a bag full of homemade pancakes ended up with fermented flapjacks. Oops.
Background: We haven't had meat in forever. Especially lunch meat. Especially meat that isn't really considered meat by most people (B-O-L-O-G-N-A).
This clustermess of a meal plan ended with full and upset bellies but enough energy to last through the trip. By the way, our bologna had a third name, it's oh-my-god-I'm-sick.
So we made do with what limited resources we had, and we headed out into the Amazonian rainforest to have a simple, non-eventful vacation. Or so I thought . . .