A bit of art…

November 27, 2007

In a feeble attempt to generate some content for this blog (and research some of the things my parents can do, when I strand them in Quito for four days while I go and guide a mini tour) I have been attempting to be a little more cultural.

For example… one afternoon I went for a walk in Parque Caronlina, discovered the botanical gardens, a boating lake, running and cycling tracks, and those little areas for pull ups and balance beams like they have around Hyde Park in Headingly. Another day I went to El Banco Central, which is actually a museum filled with all kinds of Ecuadorian artefacts and yesterday morning I went to La Fundacion Guayasamín.

Oswaldo Guayasamin (1919 – 1999) is Ecuador’s most famous artist. His style is rather distinctive and some people find his work very disturbing (you can see a lot of it here on his website www.guayasamin.com). However, being the open-minded art-appreciating girl I am, I thought I should not pre-judge and should pop along and see for myself.

I managed to get there by bus, all on my own and not get lost (an achievement in itself for a girl who still hasn´t worked out North an south in Quito despite the huge hint of a volcano which lines one side of the city). Just 25 minutes from the house and 25 centavos , no problem. The Foundation is made up of 3 buildings, which actually used to be Guayasamin´s house and is perched high up in an area called Bella Vista Alta amid beautiful gardens and sculptures.

The three buildings showcase;

Firstly, his collection of Ecuadorian artifacts, which are very similar to what you see in El Banco Central; so lots of pre Inca (pre 1500) pottery, urns, and little fertility status, some carved bones, a little Inca gold (the Inca gold on display in El Banco Central is stunning and the absolute best I´ve seen), cooking items, mini Shamens and thankfully no shrunken heads (a popular item in the Amazon).

Secondly – and for my money, all 3 dollars of it; bargain – the best part, the central building houses lots of Guayasamin originals. He painted from very young and attended the Quito School of Art, and his works take on difficult subjects such as the identity of the country, it´s indigenous Indian population, it´s Inca and subsequent Spanish invasion and generally the incredible hardships endured by the people in war after war. A life long pacifist Guayasamin likes to show human faces and hands wrecked with pain, which he blames on “Los culpables“, a series of paintings including a generic depictionof a Military General and a President.

Anyway, all very interesting, although I was glad I´d read up on him first or I wouldn´t have got it quite so well. And infact, although the pictures are far from pastoral or in some cases pleasant even, viewing them at full size (most are a meter or more square in size), for real, was really excellent. They were hung well and I enjoyed looking at them and feeling their impact.

Also – and thank goodness I didn´t have a credit card with me, or today I´d be working out how to ship home a 600 quid oil painting – there was an exhibition of some woman called Beatrix something or other. BEAUTIFUL bright, large, oil paintings of meadows, trees and flowers. Pasted on without too much precision, but to glorious overall effect. Plants and skies in vibrant greens, blues, yellows and reds, the juicy oil standing off the canvas in thick chunks so generously had it been applied. Completely gorgeous and an interesting juxtaposition (others might say relief!) to the Guayasamin works.

 And finally, in the third building is the thing they call “Colonial Art” (1534 – 1820, ie Spanish time). Having seen a fair amount of this stuff in situ and in museums in Quito now, I can confirm that I am not a big fan of Colonial Art. Basically it´s stuff from Spanish churches. So cherubs, bleeding Jesus´ nailed to the cross and all manner of other alters and paintings of Saints. I may not be appreciating the skill and effort which has clearly gone into these pieces, but to me it smacks of a wealthy corrupt church and a Spanish conquest that did little for the indigenous peoples.  So I´ll say no more on that. 

I almost made it out of Guayasamin without spotting the gift shop… but then did and so bought myself (another early birthday present!) a small silver pendant unique to the Guayasamin Taller in the style of a flower that´s depicted in a series he did early on and therefore doesn´t have any pained faces of gnarled hands in it.

And there you go, that´s your cultural bit for today.

Finally must also say that I went to pick up my new hand made riding boots (copies of a pair of Sallys Uruguayan gaucho boots) and they are utterly gorgeous, soft brown leather, perfect fit for my feet and skinny calves. Am taking them riding tomorrow, try and break them in a bit. Went salsa dancing in them last night, and they didn´t do half bad.



November 24, 2007

Sorry for not writing more. Was musing on the walk up home from Mariscal tonight (land of bars and backpackers) what I could possible have to tell you that would be interesting or divertido.

I only came to the conclusion my concept of normal has shifted. Walking along pavements where kerbs can be a foot high, with cracked concrete, holes in the pavement, broken glass, jumps over building site debris… all the norm. Cars never indicate before a turn, you can’t tell by the way the direction of the wheels even where most are headed. Everyone runs to cross the big intersections, or you’d be there all day. All the boys are looking for gringas and all the girls look sophisticatedly bored with their companions. Waitress service is occasionally acceptable, though more often than not appallingly slow… The frogs croak loudly outside the window, everyone honks their horn, outside the houses the guards sit in their 2 foot square 7 foot tall huts, with the little windows, watching tiny screen tvs. I continue to get poked in the eye by tree-shrubs of around 5 foot high and regularly am surprised when what was sunshine turns into cloud and I get rained on again in the afternoon. I even have my own little corner shop which I pop into now and again – after the long slog up Colòn hill to the flat – and buy a slice of delicious chocolate cake; and across the street is the burger and fries hole in the wall place where I have just bought a small bag of chips.. really good chips, but rubbish quality ketchup.

This is all normal for me now. A friend said to me the other day, you’ll never go back to work now you know. I hadn’t really thought that, and I would very much like to go back to work… I don’t think 10 years of learned habits are going to be that easy to get away from honestly. Plus I´ll want to buy things and will have to work again to earn money. But it got me thinking, I´ve been here almost three months now (visa renewal next week) and I still have a year to go. It feels fabulous, there´s so much to look forward to; my parents visiting, going down to Argentina, travelling in May and again in October and visiting Uruguay and who knows where else, hopefully seeing some of the top quality polo being played in Buenos Aires in November. Who knows… as Phoebe says, the world´s my shellfish.

So, that´s why I haven´t written, I´ve slipped into a new norm; norm for me at any rate, and I just haven´t felt the same compulsion to write to you all. I haven´t wanted to bore you with the same stories. Give me a little while and when I unearth some nugget of gloriously interesting or incredibly fanciful information, you will be – I promise – the first to know.

In the meantime, off-air so to speak, feel free to ask me about my lovely friend Xavi from Barcelona, the slime-ball Hanvel and my plans for Christmas.

Abrazos y besos  xx 

Torros Bravos again

November 13, 2007

Went up to the bulls again this weekend. Plenty of pictures on flickr… and more to come from Sam’s camera. Competition was a bit different to last year and we stayed longer. So we saw idiot men and women with capes running infront of angry hoof pawing bulls, men riding wild bulls (!!!), and the usual displays of lasso-ship. Some more skilled than others, it depended on how drunk the contestants were.

A few people got sent flying – one girl with a poncho, got knocked over by the bull, but she did have heels on, I ask you, and the band had to beat a hasty retreat as one bull tried to break through the fencing. One little boy came in as part of a team of 3 to lasso and turn a bull over, and unfortunately caught the bull with the with the first swing of his lasso… unfortunately because the bull was bigger than his pony and after hanging on valiently as his other male relatives tried to take the lasso from him, the bull proceeded to charge him and he fell off. (His mum didn’t let him back in the ring. He must have been about 7 years old).

Not much else to tell, the lack of public bathrooms and people ducking behind cars was as normal. And Sam is a rubbish guard-person, she doesn’t tell you until they’re virtually on you that people or cars are coming. Ecuador doesn’t really have festivals like Glastonbury… but by the time we left we were all picking our way through mud, avoiding drunk idiots. Very unfortunately Patricio wouldn’t leave with the rest of us, he had his drinking head on, and today he’s sporting a black eye and swollen lip – as a gang of youths beat him up on the walk home. It that happens every night of the week in Leeds, but it’s still disappointingly sad and pointless.

Highlight of the bulls yesterday for me was some guy who’d come up with two beautiful greys to promote the Fiestas de Quito (which celebrate Quito’s independence). Festivities include Spanish Bull Fighting (which I won’t be going to see) and Shakira (who I also won’t be going to see). Anyway, he ponced about very impressively doing some ‘alto escuela’ dressagey stuff. It certainly wasn’t perfect and it pelted it down with hail stones for half of his performance, and actually the horse did have some blood on it’s flanks afterwards from his spurs, but I did enjoy it. Compared to the small horses with overly aggressive bits, overdeveloped neck muscles… under their necks, which is bad… being ridden at times by drunk men, (one horse was definitely lame, uncomfortable or had a back problem), I didn’t think the grey was doing too badly.

Anyway, you know where to go for the pics. More to come… Sam has some beauties of me with a trophy for lassoing and a random vet called Ramiro who took a shine to me.


November 13, 2007

From now until I leave in Feb, tours are looking manic. I’m guiding two week-long private tours on my own as well as some random days on other tours. I wouldn’t normally be that nervous except that my guests on one of the tours have their own Wikipedia entries… Lord / Baron Colin Hollick and Lady Hollick.

Colin Hollick was Chief Exec of the United Newspapers until 2005, and is credited for the Express Newspaper changing it’s long held Tory allegiance to New Labour and Blair. I can’t really do his career justice here, so I’d recommend reading the Wikipedia entry or just googling him (there’s plenty material to go at!).

His wife, Baroness Sue Mary Woodford-Hollick, has worked in TV directing World in Action… and among other things is now on the board of English National Opera, and is a member of Tate Modern Advisory Council.

So… if anyone’s got any ideas what we can talk about for A WEEK… please… please… let me know!!!! 

Town and Country

November 13, 2007

In the recent weeks of relative relaxation as Sally gallops gung ho across the beaches of Uruguay, Sam and I have made our own entertainment.

In Pintag, this has taken the form of performing life saving injections on Antares (one of our horses) who had a deep wound which became infected on his hind leg; Patching up Vardelise (another horse) after Henry (yes, another horse) had bitten his back and back end to bits, finally forcing Vardelise to jump unsucessfully through a barb wire fence and shred his front legs; And avoiding sunburn in blistering heat and hail stones and lightening – weather out here is bizarre.

Just back from a ride in poncho de agua and hail stones 

In Quito, entertainment has been a bit more… social. Between thunder storms and rain, obviously.

Sam and I were invited to lunch at Alexandra’s, our cleaner, house. We took a bus ride for about an hour to a less salubrious part of Quito, to an unfinished apartment block, where Alex and her family occupy the 3rd floor. The apartment itself is very nice… a lot nicer than Sam and I were expecting after the bus ride and walk to the flat. Tiled floors, newly painted walls, TV and video, pink-girlie bedroom for the ten year old, Ruth and suitably blue and smelly bedroom for the boys in their late teens.

Samantha at Alex's house 

Sadly why is it always the way when you really want to be a good guest that your host serves you something you don’t like to eat?

We had some chicken broth thing which started off luke warm and then got colder. I forced and gagged it down with a few sprinkly crisp cruton things. Chicken and rice was fine afterwards. I took pud – a supermaxi special lemon cake. Nice.

After we’d been through the family photo albums… and oooed and aaaahed at all the wedding pictures and naked children in the bath pictures, a bottle of wine was opened (a gift from Alex’s last employer, which I must remember to replace when I leave) and thimblefulls passed around.

Ater a while some more family showed up (4 or 5 generations worth). I didn’t manage to work out who they all were, as I was in the loo when they arrived and so didn’t have to kiss and mucho gusto each one of them. It wasn’t long after this that the dancing began. It was about 7pm, dark outside, (still raining), the big light’s on in the lounge, family are lined up on plastic chairs around the edges and suddenly half the room’s up and jigging around.

and a bit later... dancing... 

Following a couple of hours of cringe-worthy embarassment, captured on the family camcorder (!!!!!), we made a dash for the bus. Nice afternoon though. Alex was really sweet to invite us.

Got home and sprucing ourselves up in the bathroom to go out on the town… guess what I found in the bathroom…

Yup, it's our very own scorpion

And moving on, quite literally… I’m going to Argentina on February 27th. Tickets bought and paid for. Los Potreros all set to meet me in Cordoba airport at stupid o’clock in the morning.   

Can’t wait