Destination: Ecuador

Attachment and Loss at 10,000 Feet

Attachment and Loss at 10,000 Feet Photo by heldr via Flickr, (Creative Commons).

Leigh Ann Henion often fears losing her past. When she met up with an 8-year-old girl at a festival in Cuenca, Ecuador, the last thing she expected was a lesson in living in the present.

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We Just Can’t Quit You, Quito

Last May, we noted that a $200 million renovation project in Ecuador’s capital was bearing fruit: crime was down, beauty was up and, according to some, old colonial Quito was worth more than a stopover en route to the Galapagos or Amazon. Today, the Los Angeles Times also reports on the city’s revitalization-in-progress. “Helped by foreign donors, the city now spends nearly $70 million a year restoring downtown landmarks,” Chris Kraul writes. “Recent projects include the centuries-old Jesuit La Compania, La Merced and San Francisco churches.”

Related on World Hum:
* In Cuenca, Ecuador, a ‘Spare, Unhurried, Bohemian Life’

Photo by L.Marcio_Ramalho via Flickr, (Creative Commons).


I Plan to Take My 9-Year-Old Daughter to Ecuador. Is it Safe? Any Tips?

Vagabonding traveler Rolf Potts answers your questions about travel

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Dark Days on Galapagos

Photo by mikebaird via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Unsettling news out of the Galapagos Islands: The BBC reports on the mysterious killing of 53 sea lions in the islands’ nature reserve. While poachers have been known to target the animals for their skin and teeth—prized ingredients in Chinese medicine—that doesn’t seem to be the case here, and park officials are at a loss to explain the slaughter. The tragedy hits the Galapagos at an uncertain time, with green groups warning that the islands’ unique ecosystem is suffering under a sharp increase in tourism.

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Where the Roads Diverged

After searching all her life, Catherine Watson felt she'd found home on Easter Island. Then she heard a whisper in her ear: Be careful what you wish for.

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Ecuadorian Airline Unveils In-Flight Lingerie Shows

And they say the glamour is gone from air travel. In the tradition of the Singapore Girls and Hooters Air, Ecuador’s Icaro Airlines has been parading beautiful women as in-flight entertainment via 10-minute lingerie shows on selected flights. “It was a surprise, really. A very nice surprise,” one passenger on a flight from Quito to Guayaquil told Reuters. “Before the trip was short, now it feels really short.” Reuters has the original video that features, among other things, leering men and at least one visibly uncomfortable woman. Not surprisingly, the video has multiplied across the Internet. (Via The Perrin Post.)

Related on World Hum:
* Singapore Girl: Icon, Anachronism, Winged Geisha and Pretty Young Thing
* The New Hot Job in India: Flight Attendant
* Lesson No. 1 of Hooters Air: It Is Awfully Difficult to Make Buffalo Wings at 33,000 Feet

Photo by abogada samoana, via Flickr (Creative Commons).


UNESCO Adds Three Sites to Danger List, Names Next World Book Capital

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has had a busy few weeks. Not only was it busy issuing a press release claiming no affiliation with the new seven wonders, during meetings in Christchurch, New Zealand, the group added the Galapagos and their surrounding marine reserve; Samarra, Iraq; and Senegal’s Niokolo-Koba National Park to its list of endangered World Heritage sites. Two more sites—the Royal Palaces of Abomey, Benin and Kathmandu Valley, Nepal—were removed from the Danger List.

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Quito: No Longer Just Stopover Country

Photo by Steve Makin via Flickr, (Creative Commons).

For years now, many travelers have stopped in Quito only briefly while on the way to the Amazon or Galapagos Islands, due in part to concerns over crime, writes Danny Palmerlee in the San Francisco Chronicle. But thanks to a $200 million restoration project in the city’s historic center, crime is down, beauty is up and, according to Palmerlee, Ecuador’s capital is now worth a visit in its own right: “Architects and restoration crews have completed more than 200 separate works, including the city’s cathedral; three historic theaters; the narrow, postcard-perfect street known as ‘La Ronda’; plazas; monasteries; churches; and entire blocks of colonial homes whose wooden balconies make Quito’s streets so picturesque.”

Heading…

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Nation Branding: What the World Can Learn From Spain, India and New Zealand

They’re “universally acknowledged to be the crown jewels in the recent annals of nation branding,” writes John Cook in the January 2007 issue of Travel + Leisure, the latest publication to address one of our favorite topics: how countries present themselves in an effort to lure travelers. Cook recounts success stories—Spain’s transformation from a “sleepy low-rent vacation spot for the British and German working classes to a hip, cutting-edge cultural destination” and New Zealand’s capitalization on its starring role in the Lord of the Rings trilogy—but, more interestingly, also examines countries with branding problems. Among them: Serbia, Ecuador and Kazakhstan.

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In Cuenca, Ecuador, a “Spare, Unhurried, Bohemian Life”

Thomas Swick wrote about a visit to the bohemian city of Cuenca, Ecuador in Sunday’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel. It’s a terrific story packed with people and conversation—further evidence that Swick practices what he preaches. “After only a few days in Quito I had heard so many good things about Cuenca that I walked to the AeroGal office and bought a ticket,” he writes. “From the stories I envisioned an Ecuadorian version of other places I loved—Guanajuato, Mexico; Coimbra, Portugal: Hue, Vietnam—graceful university towns with strong cultural roots that, in their small, condensed forms, are a kind of bottled essence of national character.”


Calvin Trillin in Ecuador

The September 5 issue of The New Yorker is billed as the food issue, but a couple of the stories would fit nicely into one of the magazine’s travel issues. My favorite piece is Calvin Trillin’s Speaking of Soup, which chronicles his visit to Cuenca, Ecuador to study Spanish and eat fanesca—“an exceedingly thick and hearty soup, heavy on the beans.” World Hum contributor Newley Purnell, who lived in Cuenca for a year, calls Trillin’s story “funny and poignant,” but he’s got a few quibbles.


Sex, Drugs and Fish Salad

Paul Theroux's new novel, "Blinding Light," features a travel-writing protagonist with a remarkable resemblance to the master himself. The result, writes Frank Bures, is unlike so many of his other literary efforts. It is, perhaps ironically, a good airplane book.

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A Million Years of Memory

In the Galapagos, Bill Belleville immerses himself in an environment that's part dream, part cradle of evolution

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What Happens When a Village Trades Mining for Eco-Tourism?

The 46 families of Junín, Ecuador are finding out. In 1997 residents of Junín burned down the local mining camp, ran its owners out of town and turned to eco-tourism. Thus far, according to New York Times reporter Edmund L. Andrews, it’s been great for the environment.

“Village leaders boast of being able to find 40 kinds of orchids, rare varieties of hummingbirds and toucans and at least the tracks of jaguars, pumas, tapirs and bears. Environmental guides now list the mist-shrouded forests around here as an official ‘hot zone’ of intense biodiversity,” he writes.

Economically, however, it’s pretty much been a disaster. Andrews adds: “[F]or all the effort to develop a new economy, Junín and other villages in this region remain impoverished and isolated…Only about three families here earn a living through ecotourism; the rest live largely through subsistence farming.”