A trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

Cute pairIn May, Kelly and I took an amazing two and a half week trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands in South America.  We spent a little time in the capital city of Quito, but otherwise we were off enjoying the jungle lodge in the cloud forest of Mindo, exploring the Galapagos on a small boat that was our home for seven nights, enjoying whitewater rafting, volcano-heated hot baths and great food in the mountain town of Banos, and checking out the sprawling and lively markets of Otavalo.

The photos and videos I've posted on Flickr capture some of the experience, and while the trip held too much adventure to describe here in great detail, I'll hit some of the highlights below.  (You can also go back and read individual posts written during the trip.)

Our trip was a nice combination of planned itinerary (primarily, the week-long stay on the boat M/Y Eric to tour around the Galapagos) and "wander around once we get there" mode.  The Lonely Planet Guide to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands provide indispensable for the whole experience, from helping with food to lodging to cultural experiences and everything in between.  We were also visiting in advance of the heavier tourist season, so we were able to get into most any experience without advance reservation.

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The Galapagos

Hi there! We're back at our "usual" hotel in Quito, preparing for our final week in Ecuador. It's pretty wonderful to be back on land after eight days on a boat - more about that in a moment.

Our time in the Galapagos islands was phenomenal. Words here won't do justice to the things we saw and experienced there, and even the tons of photos and video we're bringing back with us can't fully capture it.

But a few highlights:

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Lierre Keith's The Vegetarian Myth

The Vegetarian Myth coverLierre Keith's The Vegetarian Myth is one of the most important books ever written about food and the sustainability of the human species. It is at once deeply personal, overwhelmingly provocative, and academically sound as it calls into question all of the stories we have ever been told about where food comes from, what kind of food we should eat (especially in the context of veganism and vegetarianism), and what impact our food choices make on our bodies and the world around us.  And that's just the core themes; Keith deftly weaves together food politics with economics, religion, culture, misogyny, masculinity, feminism, media issues, peak oil, liberalism vs radicalism, and so much more.

In short, if you think about what you eat, how it got to you, and the issues of nutrition, morality, politics and spirituality come with it, it is paramount that you encounter what The Vegetarian Myth has to offer.

My full review continues:

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Meat Twice a Week

Sesame BurgerTwo years ago about this time I blogged about my resolution to give up soft drinks, which I'm glad to say I've successfully continued for a second bonus year, despite it having no noticeable positive effect on my health while making me an outcast at all of those cola-centered social gatherings. And despite the bottles of Dr. Pepper that people sometimes leave sitting around me, sometimes even in my own fridge.  But I digress.

For now I'll skip over last year's resolution - which failed miserably - and bring you to my 2009 resolution, which is to eat less meat. Specifically, I'm trying to eat meat at no more than two meals per week. This is a revised plan of attack from past attempts to try an all-vegetarian diet, which I eventually decided wasn't tenable for me.

Without getting too far into the food ethics involved in meat-eating (which are nonetheless important and deserving of further treatment), I thought I'd note why I'm doing this, and how it's going so far: Continue reading "Meat Twice a Week"

Derrick Jensen's Thought to Exist in the Wild

5F2FD5EE1A8911DA.jpgI have a lot of memories of visiting zoos as a younger person. There was the time my Boy Scout troop had an overnight stay at the Cincinnati Zoo, where we had behind-the-scenes tours of the habitats and infrastructure that made up the place; I was amazed at the intricate facades created for zoo visitors. Another summer at the same zoo and I'm about to start drinking my red cream soda during a field trip lunch break, when a bird poops directly into it from a tree overhead. I remember feeling frustration and resentment that this creature had invaded my personal space so - now I laugh at the irony of that resentment, felt so strongly against one who was just answering the call of this artificial shrine to come observe animal life, poop and all. And most recently, standing with my nose and right hand pressed up against the glass at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, apologizing to the once-grand and beautiful Gorillas on display there for the noisy people, the cheesy layout of the captivity, the life stolen from them. "I'm so sorry," I mouthed. "Please forgive us."

I've had plenty of conversations about why most zoos maybe aren't such a good thing, about what they symbolize, what they mean about who we are as a people and a culture. But until I read Thought to Exist in the Wild: Awakening from the Nightmare of Zoos by Derrick Jensen and with photography by Karen Tweedy-Holmes, I hadn't really explored that symbolism and sense of concern in any depth. And to that end, the book is a thought-provoking and eye-opening treatment of the subject.
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I was attacked by a vicious gang of raccoons

I was sitting on my back porch, typing up notes from tonight's first orientation session for the Wayne County Time Bank, when I saw a black furry thing approaching fast from the left flank. I thought it was a cat at first because a cat had approached from the same vector just 10 minutes earlier. But then I noticed that this cat was not a normal cat, but a piebald creature with a huge arching back and a long pointy snout. And then I noticed that it was not a cat at all, but a killer raccoon.
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Goodbye, Misty the Cat

011 7AOn Saturday, February 24th, my cat Misty died after the cancer she had been struggling with had become too much for her to handle. It was a loving and peaceful death, and she was buried near one of her favorite spots in the yard.

Misty had a long life - upwards of 16 years - and was a wonderful companion throughout. I never thought of myself as a "cat person," but I inherited her from other family members and she grew on me. She didn't always have the warmest disposition when you encountered her at first - in recent years I think she had forgotten what her "nice meow" sounded like, so every entreaty or remark, even the happy ones, were done in the tone of a kitty with better places to be. But she made friends with strangers quickly, wasn't afraid to look a little silly in the name of effective and comprehensive play-time, and always knew when it was time to cuddle up. And bless her heart for tolerating my experimentation with various gadgets that were meant to make her more comfortable - the automatic litterbox cleaner, the battery-powered timer-based feeding contraption, the elaborate windowsill lounging surface structures. I think she sensed my good intentions all along, even if she didn't share my enthusiasm. 🙂

If you want, you can make a donation to 1-800-Save-A-Pet.com in honor of Misty - they help homeless pets all over North America to get adopted into loving homes like the one she had.

Goodbye, Misty.