Visit to Zaragoza

When I met José Luis at Ankoor and Roopal's wedding in Detroit, he suddenly had the idea that I should visit Zaragoza during the "fiesta del Pilar", which takes place every year in October.

I indeed liked the idea of visiting Spain, meeting José Luis family and friends (for the first time) and most
importantly of course, to see José Luis again.....
So I did take a week off from work and travelled to Spain from October 9 - 15.
It was quite an intensive week, meeting loads of people, sightseeing in Zaragoza surroundings, attending the procession of the Pilar, going to the bullfights, eating and drinking and eating and drinking again!
The time did pass very quickly but it was definitely a very good experience and I would like to say thank you very much to the parents, the sister and family of José Luis, who made me feeling really welcomed and did all they could, to pamper me.
Of course a big thank you goes to "mi amor" as well, who invited me to his hometown and whom I really miss a lot now!! Let's hope that all works fine and we will meet each other again at the end of December in Argentina.....


Otavalo and Laguna de Cuicocha

Otavalo, about 3 hours north of Quito is famous for it's colourful local artisans market, which takes place every Saturday. Together with Laura (the program director of Nuevos Horizontes), her family and Marisol and Emmy (two other volunteers) we made a day trip to Otavalo and also stopped along the way at Laguna de San Pablo. Unfortunately the weather was quite bad and it was so cloudy and misty, that we could not even see one of the several volcanoes surrounding Otavalo.
The weather got a bit better in the late afternoon, when we visited Laguna de Cuicocha. This lagoon is cradled in a collapsed volcanic crater and is more than 200 meters deep.


Baños, known for its thermal baths and the many beautiful waterfalls surrounding it, lies about 4 hours south of Quito. I was visiting Baños for a weekend and really liked the idyllic town at the foot of volcano Tungurahua (which last erupted in 1999...)
Unfortunately the weather wasn't really as sunny and warm as expected on I did not only get wet in the spas and near the waterfalls but from the rain as well!
Baños is also famous for its milcocha, a delicious chewy taffy (Toffee) and caña de azucar (chewable sugarcane), which unlike the cuy (roasted guinea big/Meerschweinchen!!), I did try and liked it a lot.

La Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the earth)

About 20 km north of Quito lies Mitad del Mundo, where the equator line passes through and it is quite a feeling to stand with one foot on the northern and the other one on the southern hemisphere...
I was lucky enough to spend the night of September 23 at Mitad del Mundo, witnessing the Equinox, that moment in time when the center of the sun can be observed to be directly above the earth's equator. This event only happens twice a year, on March 20 and on September 23....

Mitad del Mundo with the equator line and monument

Witnessing the Equinox at Mitad del Mundo on September 23, 2007


Guarderia "Casa del Sol"

For the last six weeks I have been working as a volunteer in the Casa del Sol, a nursery for kids between one and four years old. Most kids are of single mothers that have to work to make their living and the foundation running the nursery takes care of the children for a symbolic amount of 3 USD per month.
In the same building we also run a mensa for school kids who stop by for their lunch and can do their homework here afterwards.
I usually start my work at 08:30 and arrive in the nursery, where we currently have between 30 - 35 kids. At 09:00 the kids get their breakfast and afterwards we split them in three groups and depending on their age they can play or have to do same tasks such as puzzles, drawings, singing etc.
I usually look after the youngest group, where we have about 10 kids between one and two years. At 11:30 we have lunch and afterwards all the kids have siesta and take a nap. I was quite impressed to see how all of them go to sleep on some big mattresses, some need a bit more cuddling than others but usually they all fall asleep quite fast!

When the kids are asleep I usually go downstairs to the mensa and help handing out the food for about 40 - 45 schoolkids between 6 and 11 years. I eat with the kids and after lunch they can spend about 2 hours with us doing their homework or playing. After 15:00 when they have left I go upstairs to the nursery again and play with the little ones again, until the last ones are picked up by their mothers at around 16:30. Then it is time for me and my colleagues Elsa, Pilar and Margarita to go home as well..... believe me, the first week I was dead after such a day surrounded by so many kids, in the meantime I am quite used to it!!

The organisation running the Casa del Sol was founded by Mrs Schaefer, a German lady that has lived in Ecuador for more than fourty years. In the meantime Mrs Schaefer (who is almost 70 years old now but still very active and fit) runs four nurseries in Quito and she also opened a textile workshop where young girls can make an apprenticeship as seamstresses. Mrs Schaefer is supported by an association in Germany and they are always looking for donations and volunteers for their projects.
If you are interested to learn more about Mrs Schaefer's activities and the association, do not hesitate to contact me.

La Casa del Sol

Comedor for the schoolkids where they get lunch and can do their homework

Guarderia for the small kids between one and four years

"my babies", the group of the one to two year's old that I usually look after

Siesta time after lunch


Welcome to Ecuador

After the wedding in Detroit I was continuing my trip to Quito, Ecuador, where I arrived on Wednesday, September 5.
I was picked up at the airport by Caty, my host mother and Gloria, the administrator at Nuevos Horizontes, the organisation that is organizing my volunteering work here in Ecuador. I immediately felt very welcomed and almost at home in Quito.
Quito, Ecuador's capital and second largest city (after Guayaquil at the coast) has about 1.5 million inhabitants and lies on about 3000 meters above sea level. The city stretches along the floor of a high Andean valley and is flanked by several volcanic peaks. The historical center or the old town as it is called, has loads of churches and colonial buildings and was declared an Unesco World Heritage Site. Only about 20 minutes walk from the old town is Quito's new town, a totally different world with a mixture of high rise buildings, commercial shopping centres, hotels, restaurants and bars.
I live in the north of Quito in the modern new town with my hosts Caty and Eduardo. Caty has two daughters who visit frequently and Alejandra, the younger one actually lives in the same building complex just across the square.When I arrived both Carolina (the older daughter) and Alejandra were pregnant, in the meantime Caro has given birth to her baby daughter Manuela.

My host family

Emilia and Manuela, the daughters of Carolina Carolina, the baby and Caty

The Classics, the band in which Eduardo plays the drums

myself, Emmy (a volunteer from Denmark), Eduardo and Caty

Alejandra, Emilia and Clarita (the dog)

Impressions of Quito


El Panecillo
La Compañia

Plaza Grande

Quito from Cruz Loma (4100 meters) Monastery and Plaza San Francisco