2012 Fieldwork in the northern Ecuadorian Andes
Sunday July 29, 2012: Flight home.
The flight home was accomplished in two segments. First, there was a two hour flight south to Lima, Peru. We had an hour layover, went through security again, had our carry-on luggage searched by hand, and boarded another plane for the eight hour flight to Los Angeles. This was a four-movie flight. I watched Contagion, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, W.E. and most of Pretty Woman, while George watched two Harry Potter movies, The Pirates of the Caribbean, and the flight map.
We are home! Our luggage arrived on the same flight we did! We are now luxuriating in the world of hot water and electricity available 24/7. Toilet paper can be flushed down the toilet. It's culture shock.
Saturday, July 28, 2012: Good bye, Hacienda.
I didn't want to get out of bed this morning. Is this my last day in Ecuador? Or will we return another time? George and I have spent 9.5 weeks in Room 8; 16 weeks total at the Hacienda Guachala. That averages one month a year or 8% of our time over the past four years. How many other people can say that? Finally, the urge to take photos of the ten llamas grazing outside our window won out. I got up, finished packing, and waited for the bus. The chartered bus to take the fieldschool students and staff to Quito came at 9:50 am. They lifted our duffles to the top of the bus and tied it on top. By 12:30 pm, we had checked into the El Arupo Hostal and were looking for a place to eat lunch.
Friday, July 27, 2012: Packing Day.
The contents of the lab were moved into the Don Diego's bodega. The plastic crates full of supplies and artifacts were stacked high and covered with tarps. Then the room was locked until next summer.
There was a program wrap-up this afternoon where the cultural and archaeology groups summarized what they had learned during the fieldschool. One group reported on the state of health care in this rural region where the majority of the people live below the poverty line. In 2011, there was one doctor in Cangahua to provide care for 20,000 people. There are five doctors providing care in 2012. There are often long lines of people waiting whenever the clinic is open. The clinic is only open during business hours from Monday to Friday. There is no care available on evenings or weekends, except at the hospital in Cayambe. Most people can't afford the commute to see a doctor during the hours the busses are not running (7 PM to 5 AM daily). The goal is to have one doctor for every 2,000 people 24/7.
Another problem is medical supplies. Although basic health care is free to all Ecuadorian citizens, the government does not provide enough resources to care for the number of people that visit the clinic. Most of the medical supplies come from NGOs. They have shortages of everything -- equipment, supplies, and medicines.
The community plans to add four or five rooms to the clinic next year. They would like to use these rooms for a Jambi Huasi (Link to Otavalo's Jambi Huasi). They would offer traditional and western medicine in the same clinic. Katheryn Mauer, of Foothill College, would like to explore this topic with a feasibility study and regional health assessment next summer.
The archaeological emphasis was to dig as deep as possible to see different cultural layers. In many areas, they did not find any culture prior to the Inka. Sam said that Pukarito is yielding more Inka artifacts than any other archaeological site in Ecuador. Was Pukarito a major Inka center on the empire's frontier? There was a big burning episode. Could this have been the ritual closing of Pukarito by the Inka? There is so much more to be learned from excavations at Pukarito. The excavations in the south pasture of the Hacienda (AKA the llama field) found some La Chimba Type Pottery from about 700 BC. Sam and Chad brought in several Ecuadorian ceramic experts to verify this.
Cristobal and Gaby came by during dinner to thank us again for the microscope. Gaby plans to use it in the school they run at the hacienda. They gave us a jar of agave syrup that is made at the hacienda. This syrup is what people used for sweetening before sugar cane was introduced to South America. Cristobal and Gaby hugged us and invited us back to Ecuador. "You always have a friend in South America."
The festival of San Pedro is being held in Buena Esperanza. The festival begins with mass at 4 am, consists of a variety of actiities during the day, and ends with a community-wide dance most of the night. We could hear the music and home-made bottle rockets going off untill the small hours of the morning. Although we were repeatedly invited by several community members, George and I decided we needed to pack our bags and get a full night of sleep.
Thursday, July 26, 2012: Complete reports and artifact processing.
The title about sums it up. It was a GIS day for me. I extended some maps by having the units portrayed as points at scales above 1:1000 and as rectangles when zoomed in.
I traded George's microscope to Cristobal (the son-in-law of the hacienda's owner) for some ICP-MS sized pieces of obsidian from an extremely remote secondary source that has not been documented or analyzed. It would take a week by pack train to reach the area because there are no roads into this region. I think I got the better part of the deal.
Tonight there was a barbeque dinner of sausage, chicken, and steak for the entire project at the hacienda. This was followed by a huge bonfire in the plaza. I expect the students and younger staff members will be partying until late. I need my sleep...
Wednesday, July 25, 2012: George is a Hero!
Gaby, the project photographer, had her Windows 7 computer AND her backup external disk, infected with the Recycler virus. This virus makes the files on disk "hidden" to the Windows Operating System. The files can be seen using a Terminal window on a Macintosh. George copied over 100 GB of Gaby's photos from the infected drive to a clean disk. Then he will reformat the disk to remove all data including the virus. The final step of copying the data back to Gaby's external disk will occur tomorrow.
The virus propagates to any external disk, thumb drive, or SD card plugged into an infected computer. George is now tracking down and recovering data from the cameras that are also infected. George is quite the hero for his successful battle against the computer virus.
Excavation has ceased. The emphasis is on finishing the documentation and backfilling the excavations so the locals won't have big holes in their landscape. The effort in the lab is to wash, catalog, and pack all artifacts in the proper boxes.
Eric returned from Quito with the signed letters from the INPC that allow us to take our obsidian samples out of the country. Yeah!
Tuesday, July 24, 2012: Quito and the INPC.
George and I awoke at five AM and caught an 5:35 AM commuter bus to Quito. We were carrying my obsidian samples, Sam's carbon samples, and Vanessa's ceramics in my big Rick Steves foldable bag. Our destination was the Instituto Nacional Patrimonio de Cultura (INPC) in Quito. We had signed letters from Sam, as well as inventories of everything we wanted to take back to the United States. We took a taxi from the bus terminal to downtown, then waited in an Internet cafe for an hour and a half for the project's 9 AM appointment. Eric, Oscar, and other project members were already there when we arrived 15 minutes early. The INPC counted the obsidian, photographed it, sealed it for export, and gave us back our samples. We were to return at 3 PM for the signed letters. The carbon and ceramics would be ready later in the week.
George and I walked over to the Hostal El Arupo and booked a room for next Saturday night. Then we took a taxi to the Instituto Geografica Militar (IGM). I purchased a digital version of the Oyacachi topo map. The taxi from the IGM dropped us off at the Abya Yala bookstore, where I did some serious damage. However, I am rich -- I have unread books to enjoy.
We walked to George's favorite restaurant in Quito. The food at Rodriguez' was great, as usual. Finally, it was time to wander back in the direction of the INPC. We were told that Eric's and my letters were prepared but not signed. The director was in an all-day meeting. Perhaps if we could come back tomorrow...
George and I took a taxi back to the Quito bus terminal, rode 90 minutes back to the Cangahua turn-off, where we connected with another bus that dropped us off at the hacienda. We were gone almost 12 hours. It was a very busy day that involved 3 buses and 4 taxis. We feel confident about navigating public transportation in Ecuador. With busses and taxis so plentiful and inexpensive, taking public transportation makes sense.
Monday, July 23, 2012: Pukarito.
Sam took George and I to Pukarito to see one of the sites I analyzed in my thesis. They re-opened the units three days ago. They have dug an region much wider and deeper than in the previous excavations. It takes a ladder to climb down into the room-sized hole. Amber has found that the layers are jumbled with no clear context. With this new data, levels 1-3 are not clearly Inka while levels 4-7 are Cayambe. This contradicts the previous excavation reports. Oh well, my findings were based on the best data available at the time. New data means new interpretations and possibly new conclusions. My primary finding, that there was an abrupt change in obsidian sources, still stands.
The XRF was packed up for the field season. The device worked as advertized for only two days. The rest of the time, it only measured the light elements through Fe. The device wasn't very useful for our purpose of meansuring obsidian and ceramic composition because the diagnostic elements are Rb and Sr. The XRF finally stopped working, period. It appeared like the device was experiencing gradual X-ray tube failure.
The day (and most of the night) was spent selecting, packing, and documenting samples for export. Eric plans to take out about 500 pieces of obsidian from a number of different sites. Sam is bringing out samples for carbon dating. Vanessa is bringing out the ceramic samples she wanted to XRF, but couldn't due to equipment failure. And I plan to bring out 45 pieces of obsidian from Pukarito. I plan to continue my master's research, since I seem to have raised more questions than I answered.
Sunday, July 22, 2012: Power Outage.
Today we experienced the fourth power outage since we arrived at the hacienda. These outages have affected the towns of Cayambe and Cangahua as well. Today's outage lasted from noon to about 7 pm. It might be related to the high winds in the region. The winds were estimated to be about 70 mph in Chumillos this morning. Speculation is that the wind blew some power lines down.
The weather at the Hacienda was pleasant today. I spent most of the day working on GIS. When my computer battery ran low, I switched to preparing Pukarito obsidian for export to the US. When the sun went down, I just laid on my bed and talked with George until dinner time. We were served a hot meal by candle-light (the hacienda stove runs on propane).
Saturday, July 21, 2012: The Minga.
While the students enjoyed a cultural anthropology outing, it was just another work day for the staff. Staff members either excavated or joined the mingas in Chumillos, San Pedro, or Buena Esperanza. A minga is a community work session. I spent several hours picking up trash from the side of the road in Buena Esperanza. Others cleaned the weeds out of the drainage ditches that line the road. Everyone in the community shows up at a minga to share the work, food, and drink. One crew does the heavy digging for about ten minutes before someone gives the order and a new crew takes their place. With so many people available to help, the amount of work each person has to do is small. "Many hands make light work."
The minga was a chance to talk with the women of Buena Esperanza. They shared their food with me. I had never chewed on sugar cane before. I brought small bags of Costco trail mix to give to them. They knew what peanuts, raisins, and chocolate were. They were unfamiliar with the cashews and almonds, but were interested in tasting them. Many people thanked me profusely for helping. They invited me to their fiesta next Friday and Saturday.
I was tired after the Minga (to put it mildly). I laid on the bed and listened to "The Romanov Prophesy" by Steve Berry. Somehow, I drifted off to sleep for several hours. George filled me in on the story line that occurred while I was sleeping.
Friday, July 20, 2012: Stone Block Study.
George and I examined the stone blocks used to build the mill behind the Governor's house at the Hacienda. They are rectangular and nicely finished. We are theorizing they might be reused from an earlier structure. Microscopic examination indicated there are two types of stone blocks: a blue-gray stone with larger vesicles and a finer pale to rose gray stone with few vesicles. Now I am conditioned to look for stone blocks that are different from the river rocks used in local construction, I am seeing the fine rectangular blocks in more places.
George and I also worked on a georectifying a surveyors map of the Hacienda. The photograph we used as a base map was was slightly compressed in one dimension, causing the map to be skewed. We took another picture of the surveyors map with a different camera (my red camera) and the problem was solved.
Thursday, July 19, 2012: Lab Work.
The day was spent in the lab. My main activity was drawing and photographing sherds from Pukarito. The XRF measures the lighter elements but fails when the voltage is raised to measure the heavier elements. Vanessa is using the XRF to characterize the paste of various ceramics. Tonight, I plan to lay on the bed in front of a roaring fire, drink Coke Zero, and watch a video on my computer.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012: Laundry Woes.
I spent the morning counting, weighing, and assigning catalog numbers to artifacts. It's a boring task. To me, its like zen. It gives me time to think of other things. It's soothing and restful. The afternoon and evening were spent helping George make a georeferenced map of the Hacienda.
George wanted me to send my laundry up to Cangahua to be washed with the rest of the project's laundry. No way! I'm not letting go of this week's laundry until I have received last week's laundry back. I am not going to give them everything except the clothes on my back.
This afternoon, George found our missing laundry at the Convent in Cangahua, where most of the students are staying. At that point, I relented and let go of this week's laundry. When you have as few sets of clothes as I brought to Ecuador, clothing becomes precious. One needs to be very careful...
Tuesday, July 17, 2012: Hitching a ride to an Ecuadorian Dentist.
George and I were waiting for the bus to Cayambe when a car exited the hacienda driveway. The woman asked if we were headed to Cayambe. I said yes. She replied, "Get in and I will drive you there." On the way, we had a nice conversation. She owns a restaurant, a pharmacy, and a flower business in Cayambe. She loves to visit New York City to go shopping. She wanted to know why we were in Ecuador and how long we were staying. She drove us right to a dentist's office!
We entered to find the waiting room and dentist's office empty. The dentist entered the room behind us, introduced himself, and asked what we wanted. The office was immaculant. The dentist used sterile tools. He seemed to know what he was doing. He fixed George's tooth for $30.00. Afterwards, we went to the Gran Aki for food, the school supply store for more quad notebooks, and the bakery for empanadas.
While we were walking down a street in Cayambe, a bus driver waved at us through an open bus window and yelled "Guachala." That's where we are staying. I guess we are getting known around town. We do stick out due to our height, our clothes, and our poor Spanish. The locals have been incredibly nice to us. I can't imagine a tourist to the United States getting the sort of welcome that we experience every day in Ecuador.
I spent most of the day in the lab cataloging artifacts. George didn't have too much to do until Chad asked him to make a drawing of the Hacienda property, fences, and structures.
The cat was sitting on a picnic table outside the dining room when I arrived for dinner. She clearly let me know she appreciated the food. Linda asked if she could have some kibble to feed the cat in the morning. Linda eats breakfast earlier than I do. She reported that the cat meowed this morning until I showed up for breakfast.
Monday, July 16, 2012: Mindo.
It rained hard overnight. When we awoke, we packed for a wet, muddy trip back even though it was only drizzling by 8 am. The Rick Steves bag came in handy. I used it as a backpack liner to keep everything in my backpack dry. A hard rain will soak through canvas.
The receptionist at the El Carmelo said that June through mid December are the dry months. August is very busy because many workers have the entire month off and schedule their vacation for that month. September through November are dryer and hotter than July. In January through May, it rains every day and often they have no sun at all. He also added that February is the best time to visit the Ecuadorian beaches.
By 10 am the sun was shining. The dirt road was beginning to dry out. We walked the 0.8 mile back into town, bought a bus ticket, and waited at the pizza place across the street from the Mindo bus terminal. We arrived at the hacienda in time for dinner.
The staff welcomed us back warmly. They folded our towels like butterflies and left them on our bed. The cat acted like she was starving. She ate about three times the normal amount of kibble, the steak from one plate and the chicken from another plate.
Sunday, July 15, 2012: Mindo.
It's my 60th birthday. I awoke in a treehouse in a tropical forest, took a long, hot shower, and washed my hair twice. My nails are clean and I'm wearing clean clothes. What could be more wonderful? George is here with me!
The treeshouse sways slightly in the wind and when someone walks around. I can feel George climbing the stairs to the door. When I lie in bed, it feels like I am being gently rocked.
Our room rate includes a buffet breakfast of watermelon, scrambled eggs and ham, pieces of pork in a tasty sauce, a seasoned corn-based food similar to grits, croissants, and juice. After eating, we went into the lobby to try out the internet. For some reason, George can connect to the Wifi network on both his iPod and computer, but I can't. I updated my blog by transferring the HTML file to a thumb drive and uploading it on George's computer. Even when we travel light, we forgo clothes and toiletries in favor of electronics. We are nerds!
At 11 am, we met in the lobby for a tour of the butterfly and orchard gardens. Afterwards, we took a forty five minute hike through the forest. Our guide described what each tree was used for in slow Spanish so I could understand and translate for George. The path was about a foot wide, muddy, with a steep dropoff into a canyon on one side. Although it was not hot, the air was humid. My glasses fogged up, sweat rolled down my face, and I was getting tired. The guide held my hand and led us up the steps that had been hacked into the mud. The scenery was gorgeous -- trees, ferns, orchids, vines, and butterflies in the tropical forest. Finally, we reached the top to find a large level area that led to a dirt road. We encountered horseback riders, cows, a donkey, and several pigs on our way back down this gentle, dirt road.
We had lunch in the El Carmelo dining room. The afternoon was spent napping and writing a manual on how to use Geotrans to perform batch coordinate conversions. This procedure is tailored for the Pambamarca Archaeology Project (PAP). PAP coordinate conversions are more complex than in other regions because the locations can lie on either side of the equator.
George's Spanish is improving rapidly. He has acquired a vocabulary appropriate for our circumstances (e.g., "no like", "matches", "firewood", "toilet broken", "steak with sauce of lemon and mustard", "the check, please"). He speaks mostly in single words. I understand much of what is spoken, but my speech is woefully deficient. I can use the proper tenses if I have time to think about it (i.e., writing), but speech occurs too rapidly for me to get the grammar right. I plan to improve this by taking third semester Spanish this fall.
Saturday, July 14, 2012: Mindo.
This is the three-day travel weekend. The students are all headed to different locations, accompanied by staff members. We are packing very light, since everything should fit in our laps (Imagine a space smaller than the center seat on Continental Airlines). There is space below the bus for suitcases, but stuff in these compartments, as well as in the shared area above the seats, has a tendency to get "lost." Therefore, we carry little with us and lock things up in our PacSafe, or as we call it, our "Quito Cage."
We got up at o'dark thirty. The sky was dark. There were no lights anywhere. We navigated by flashlight out to the road in front of the Hacienda. One vehicle stopped for us, as if we were hitchhiking, but when we did not run after his truck, he drove off. Within 15 minutes, a large slab sided vehicle stopped for us. In the complete darkness, it appeared to be a bus. George, I, and another adult got on. I spoke with the driver after paying the fare. He said he was going from Cangahua to Cayambe, but he would let us off at the Panamerican highway. The bus was completely dark inside, so I could not see if there were any passengers. At the stop, the bus driver pointed out the location across the highway where we could catch the bus to Quito. As the bus drove off, I could dimly see the side of the bus in the glow of its red tail lights. It was a yellow school bus!
The sky was pale pink and gray when the second bus arrived in Quito. We had long enough to use the banos before catching a third bus to Mindo at the La Ofelia terminal. We arrived in Mindo about 9:30 am. The total fare for about four hours of travel was approximately $4.00 a person.
Mindo is a tropical valley in the in the cloud forest at about 4500 feet. This is still the Andes. The eco-system is called the "eyebrow of the mountain." It is a transition zone between the jungle of the rain forest and the higher sierra. As I see it, it only rains part of each day in the cloud forest and almost constantly in the rain forest. The air in Mindo felt warm, humid, and very thick. It feels different to breathe "thick" air after being higher up in the Andes.
We walked down the dirt road to the "El Carmelo" eco-lodge. They take American Express. We are staying in a treehouse for $70.00 a day, including breakfast. I was delighted to learn that they had installed WiFi in the lobby since Patti and I were here a year ago. That means we will not be off the grid this weekend.
After a short nap, we hiked into town for lunch. There we met the Neffs and their 15 year old son. They arrived in Mindo on a later bus, had already had lunch, and had yet to check into a different eco-lodge. The restaurant they recommended was "El Tigrillo," the same one that Patti and I ate at each day last year. George and I had a pizza lunch. Afterwards, we explored the three-block town, bought some juice, chocolate and empanadas, and headed back to our treehouse. It was time for another nap!
The ideal clothing in the highlands is not the same as in the lowlands. In the highlands, one needs to dress in layers because the weather changes so frequently during the day. This includes gloves, hats, and a jacket for the cold and wind. The ideal fabric is cotton, because it is durable. In the tropics, one needs a rain coat and synthetic materials that dry quickly. Fortunately, we brought both to Ecuador. When its cold, we pile on the layers and wear everything we brought. In hot weather, we wear a light shirt and lots of sunscreen.
Friday, July 13, 2012: The XRF is flaky.
When measuring elements with a higher atomic number than Iron, the XRF gets an X-ray tube error. Vanessa skyped with Bruker in the US. They can't find a reason for it. They said that the XRF is flaky above 6500 feet. Bruker also advised that we should never turn the key off. That's not safe, since the device generates X-rays. Somebody worked some magic and the XRF started working again. We all hope it will still be working on Monday, despite our almost 9,000 feet elevation.
I spent the day drawing ceramic sherds found at Pukarito. I am also taking pictures of the sherds with my camera and at 10x and 60x with the USB microscope. Other people were cleaning and cataloging artifacts. There wasn't much need for a go-fer, so George took it easy.
We have been eating dinner with a 17 year old boy from the Netherlands. He is staying at the hacienda for three weeks while working as a volunteer in the flower plantations. He has been helping with organizing birthday celebrations and presents for the employees. He said the company was taking its employees on an eight hour bus ride to the beach the weekend, because most of the workers have never seen the ocean. The stories he tells are much different than the NGOs who say the flower plantations oppress the people. I will listen to all sides and gather information before forming my own opinion on the subject.
George and I will be taking the bus to Quito and then to Mindo tomorrow morning. We will be off the grid for 3 days while we stay in a TREEHOUSE in an ecolodge (www.mindo.com.ec). I'll also write up more of what has been happening the last few days. I have been so busy...
Thusday, July 12, 2012: Quito and the Replacement XRF Cable.
George, Vanessa, and I took a bus to Quito to the DHL facility. It cost $101 in customs duties and fees to get the XRF cable. When we got back, Vanessa installed the cable and got the XRF to operate successfully.
We took the Cangahua-Cayambe bus from the hacienda to the Panamerian Highway. The driver beeped his horn three times to signal the Quito bus to wait for more passengers. After paying our fifteen cent fare, we ran across the Panamrican Highway and hopped on the waiting Quito bus. This segment of the trip took one hour and 20 minutes for $1.25 fare. The bus delivered us to the Ofelia bus terminal.
Then we caught a cab to the DHL office. There was no problem picking up the package. We opened up the cardboard box, sifted through the popcorn to extract the cable, then returned the packing material to the DHL representative. The trip home was a mirror image of the trip to Quito, except that George and I stayed on the bus all the way to Cayambe. There we went to the school supplies store to pick up pocket-sized quad notebooks for thirty cents, the bakery for empanadas (yum!), and the Gran Aki for chocolate, cokes, and granola. Finally, we took the bus back to the hacienda, made sandwiches in our room, and rested a bit before returning to work.
Quarters and dimes are not something one throws into a jar. Coins are your bus fare. Bus lines are not government entities. The owner of the bus buys into a cooperative that has a license to run specific routes. Each bus owner decides when his bus is full enough to start the route. There is no fixed schedule, but the busses are frequent and inexpensive. It makes little sense to own or rent a car. If we need to go someplace off the main bus routes (for instance, Oyacachi), we rent a camioneta and driver for the day.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012: GIS.
The studnts took a day off from excavation to do some applied anthropology. The morning, was spent touring a flower plantation. In the afternoon, the students visited the Bonvida Women's Cooperative in Buena Esperanza. I tagged along on the second trip. Susann worked in the flower plantations for 9 years before she started her own business. An NGO taught her how to raise cuy. Later on, she started growing organic foods to sell in the Cayambe marketplace. I took some great pictures of her guinea pigs and her newborn puppy.
The people who work at the hacienda think that cats are "feo" (literally "ugly"). The cat can push the doors open and wander into the dining room and kitchen at will. The hacienda cat is painfully skinny becuase she only eats what she hunts. So I bought a bag of kibble for her.
My work today was transforming hundreds of GPS locations between the Ecuadorian coordinate system (PSAD56) to the worldwide system (WGS84). I also made screen shots so I can document the procedure.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012: Lab work.
Ana Gonzalez is teaching me how to draw ceramics in preparation for making Adobe Illustrator drawings. I'm okay at the profile drawings, but lousy at the 3D tilted drawings. I hope if I practice enough I will improve.
While the students dug square holes, Chad and Sam drove into Quito to visit the Ecuadorian cultural ministry (INPC). They took a bound copy and a PDF of my thesis to give to the Ecuadorian Government.
The XRF cable is in Guayaquil going through Ecuadorian customs. Hopefully, we will have it by the end of the week. That will mean two weeks of XRF time lost during a four week fieldschool. In addiion to XRF-ing Pukarito ceramics and obsidian, I'd like to do more exploration of the obsidian sources. One month in Ecuador a year really isn't enough time for everything I want to do.
Monday, July 9, 2012: Lab work.
Today was the first day of excavation for the students. With the eucalyptus trees harvested on Molino Loma, the project plans to excavate other parts of the hillside above the hacienda looking for more Inka colcas. They also plan to excavate inside the old church at the Hacienda (the lab is in the new church), at the base of Pukarito near the good agricultural area, and a new site found on last Wednesday's survey (July 4th). This new site is being called Eric-land (after Eric Dyrdahl), until someone comes up with a better toponym.
I spent the day in the lab, taking photos and measurements of selected Pukarito ceramics. The toy USB microscope is working out well. Based on my experience with it, I might purchase a good USB microscope in the future. It would have to have a good working distance, a stand, a method of orienting the microscope to different angles on the sample, built-in measurement, and polarization. I find that 60x is sufficient to examine particles of temper. The depth of field at 200x is so limited, it is almost useless. So, based on this experience, I would go for more working distance and possibly less magnification than my previous market survey requirements. Vanessa is purchasing a Dyno-Lite USB microscope for the archaeological project she will be working on in Greece next month. She will tell me how it works out.
Sunday, July 8, 2012: Lab work.
The students spent half a day in the lab learning about ceramics typologies. Then they were free to take a nap, work on their homework, or attend the fiesta in Cangahua. I suspect the latter was most popular.
I slept for 13 hours after yesterday's hike. I don't feel sore; I just need lots of sleep to recover from intense physical activity. The altitudes of up to 13,000 feet could have been a factor in my exhaustion.
I spent the day in the lab consolidating my notes from the various obsidian collection points. I washed and dried the obsidian, and placed them in labeled plastic bags. I discarded some rocks that turned out not to be obsidian. In the afternoon, I converted the collection points from WGS84 latitude/longitude to PSAD 56 UTM Zone 17S and plotted them on a 1:50K topographic map.
The church is shaped like a cross. I was working alone in the largest room of the church when I heard some rustling and grunting from one of the arms of the cross. There was a mama pig, with a broken rope around one leg, and her babies rooting through the trash bags. They were making a big mess of things while they extracted the banana peels. I shooed them out and closed the side door of the church. Later on, when I was bagging and tagging my obsidian artifacts in the horse pasture beside the church, the pigs visited again. They were sticking their noses in my carefully sorted piles of obsidian. Those pigs were so insistent. I had to cover my obsidian groupes with my body and push them away with my hands. By the way, these pigs don't "oink", they grunt.
The weekend is over. I don't feel refreshed; I am tired. I'm out of both diet coke and chocolate. The wind is howling throught the Eucalyptus trees. It really isn't that cold, but it sounds miserable outside. On the bright side, I got my laundry back.
Saturday, July 7, 2012: Yurac Pacca Obsidian Source.
The students went on a field trip to the Cochasqui archaeological site. Afterwards, they had the choice of going to Otavalo or attending the bullfights in Cangahua.
George and I hired a 4x4 camionetta and driver to take us accross the continental divide to Oyacachi. I asked the driver to take us to the end of the road 10 km to the east of Oyacachi and wait for us to walk back. He agreed in Cangahua. Once we arrived in Oyacachi, he stopped at an intersection in the middle of town. He pointed at the muddy dirt road and refused to drive any further. We got out and walked. Later, he passed us carrying passengers on the same road he said he would not take his truck on. He kept changing the agreement we made before we initially hired him. We agreed on 4 hours waiting in Oyacachi. He changed it to two hours waiting, unless we paid him "mas dinero." I was mildly worried that he would leave us stranded in this no-cell-phone-coverage valley. However, I knew in a day or two there would be a bus coming from Cangahua.
We collected a lot of obsidian in stream beds, in piles of road-repair materials beside the dirt road, and in potholes in the road itself. We explored the abandoned town of Maucallacta (sp?). This was the old town, before the government moved the town to its present location on higher ground because it was repeatedly flooded. In forty years, Maucallacta has really deteriorated. The roofs were fallen in, some of the stone walls had fallen down, and tall grass was reclaiming the hillside. Some of the graves beside the remains of the church were quite recent -- two people died in 2010. They were in their 70s and 80s. I guess if one makes it through the first five years of life, then life expectancy is similar to developed countries.
On the way back, we stopped at a quarry near the continental divide. We found some pieces of obsidian in a streambed beside the road, north of the quarry. Subsequent analysis indicated that this source was Yurac Pacca.
As we entered Cangahua on the way back, we were traveling on a cobblestone road that was barely wide enough for two vehicles. A motorcyclist moved into the our lane to pass but the road was blocked with two camionettas passing each other in different directions. It looked like the motorcycle was going to hit us head-on. At the last minute, he plunged his bike between the two vehicles. He hit us as well as the other truck. The motorcyclist straightened up his bike, and gunned the engine to get away from the two angry camionetta drivers. There were some scrapes on both vehicles. The motorcyclist lost his tail light and part of his fender. I'm glad that "mas dinero" was driving instead of George.
Friday, July 6, 2012: GIS demos.
The students rotated in 8 groups through 8 stations, learning about lab work and excavation. Ryan and I gave demos of ArcGIS using maps of the local region.
I was so tired and cold that I took a nap in the afternoon while the students went to the equator (2 km from the hacienda) for a geoarchaeology presentation.
Thursday, July 5, 2012: The students hike to the top of Quitoloma.
Climbing Quitoloma is a traditional rite of passage that occurs the first week of each field school. The Inka built a huge fortress on this summit surrounded by three ten-foot high earthen walls. This area is uninhabited today, but there are the remains of over a hundred structures inside this fortress.
Today the students hiked to the top of this 12,400 foot mountain, while the bus waited for them on the ancient Inka road at about 12,000 feet. A landslide occurred as they were headed back to Canhahua. First, two trucks plowed through the new deposit of mud. Next, the bus carrying the exhausted students tried to follow and got stuck. It took two hours of digging and pushing until the bus started moving again.
I've climbed Quitoloma several times. Neither George nor I had any reason to put our bodies through that torture. I spent the day in the lab sorting ceramics. I was pleased to learn that Bruker is sending a replacement cable for the XRF. I hope the spectrometer will be functional early next week.
The last "over 40" student and her 15 year old daughter decided to pay extra to sleep at the Hacienda instead of with the younglings in the Convent. The hacienda has hot showers, free Wifi, and zero nightlife, which suits us nicely.
This evening, the staff gave a short talk about their research topics to the students. I prepared a few slides and talked about obsidian sourcing and least cost analysis.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012: I broke the XRF cable.
I accidently bent the pins in the cable between the serial port on the XRF and the USB port on the computer. The manufacturer isn't answering their phone because it is the fourth of July. I am hoping that Bruker can quickly send us a replacement. DHL says it takes 24 hours from Miami to Quito and 48 hours from any other location in the US to Quito.
The students are learning survey techniques by looking for new archaeological sites between Cangahua and the hacienda. Only Vanessa and I are in the lab today. I am checking the boxes of artifacts. Most are in good order except the ones hastily packed at the end of a field season and those packed in 2005. Vanessa is trying to piece together an Inka arrybalo (a large pitcher for serving chicha: corn beer). George is riding the bus to Cayambe to get more project supplies. For example, Segundo, the night watchman needs a flashlight.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012: Lab - Pukarito Ceramics.
I spent the entire day in the lab. There was a large crew of people who went through all the boxes of artifacts, checked their tags, and verified everything was filed correctly. Siobahn and I selected about 100 diagnostic sherds that were representative of the forms and surface treatments from the Pukarito ceramic collection for detailed analysis.
About 4 pm, I was finished with my other duties and could start using the X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer (XRF). This instrument measures the element concentrations on the surface of an object, in terms of parts-per-million. This device is different from those I have used previously. It is a Bruker Tracer IV-SD. I am experimenting with various calibration files to get readings for samples that have been previously tested at other labs. George insisted I quit at 6:00 pm because it was dark in the lab. I was the only person there, trying to update my lab notebook with a flash light. (This is because all the desk lamps and some of the extension cords "dissappeared" from the locked storeroom between summer 2011 and now). In any case, I am really jazzed. I enjoy playing with toys in a lab.
George took the bus to Cayambe to buy supplies. When he arrived at the Gran Aki, his pocket that formerly held about $15.00 of project money was empty. It must have been picked. George won oodles of brownie points by bringing me two Nestle's chocolate bars and a large bottle of Coke Zero.
Monday, July 2, 2012: Student Orientation.
I spent the morning in the lab collating the handouts for the students. The papers included tutorials on how to dig square holes, how to write up excavation reports, how to do archaeological drawings, different types of soils, Spanish and Quechua archaeological terms, useful phrases in Spanish, history of the region, and maps of the local region. I had my back turned when this foot-high pile of papers dissappeared and a bag of apples, bananas, and pastries appeared on my desk. I suspected, and later verified, that George was responsible for this exchange.
I met a woman about my age traveling with three teen-age girls while we were staying in Quito. In the 1970s or 1980s, she studied with Frank Salomon, one of the pioneers in Ecuadorian Archaeology. I invited her to visit our site. Today, she and the girls arrived in a taxi from Quito. I took them on a tour of the hacienda, hiked up to the archaeological site of Molino Loma, and discussed the activities of the field school. They seemed very interested in attending the field school next year. I explained that the requirement is to have a high school diploma (because the fieldschool is taught as community college courses). However, there are two moms attending with their 15-16 year old daughters. This is in addition to the staff members who brought their son (he is moving out of his parents room into a home stay with a host family). The project directors bring their children, ranging in age from 2 to 8. There is fun here for people of all ages.
The students spent the day in orientation. There were several hours of health, safety, and introduction to the region in the morning. Then there was an activity where the students had to find the post office (in Cangahua), the internet cafe, the soccer field, locate the oldest grave in the cemetary, ride the bus to Cayambe, find the grocery store, find a bank with an ATM machine, then return on the bus to the Hacienda by 3 pm. Then, they had a tour of the lab. Around 4 pm, they had to take the bus back to Cangahua. There was an optional Spanish language class at 5 pm. Dinner was served at 6 pm. Lecture on the history of the region was planned for 7 pm. Afterwards, they had the choice of partying or sleeping. The students are kept busy.
Sunday, July 1, 2012: The first students arrive.
The morning was spent fixing up the lab. In the afternoon, George and I took the bus into Cayambe to corner the market on heavy duty extension cords and "cheaters." The Inti Raymi celebration was in Cayambe today. There was a parade, with political loud speakers blaring. I noticed a huge color billboard of President Correa, smiling and waving to the people. Traffic was not as bad as it was yesterday in Cangahua.
I spoke to an economist who teaches at Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Ecuador (PUCE) in Quito. He said that Ecuador makes great strides in development when the cost of oil is high. They spend the money on roads and infrastructure development. When oil prices drop, they settle back into their pre-development days. They haven't been able to make the leap to an economy that has boom and bust cycles independent with the price of oil on the world market. He said the best thing a person could do to help Ecuador's development was to spend time in the country and teach English. If students can learn English, they can get scholarships to get training in more developed countries, and bring their knowledge back to help Ecuador. He also ruefully noted that these people need to have good paying jobs waiting for them in Ecuador, or they will not return. He had great hopes for the planned Technology Park to provide those jobs.
The first bus load of students arrived about lunch time at the convent in Cangahua. There were no activities scheduled for them. We went to Cangahua to meet the students at dinner time. Afterwards, there was a staff meeting where jobs were assigned. George is Senor/Senior Fix-it, while I am working with Vanessa in the lab. They advised everyone about the "George Rule": Staff members are not allowed to be intimate with the students, except for George. They noted that the Neff's, who brought their 15 year old son, were grandfathered in under this rule.
The last group of 18 students should be arriving about 1 am in the morning.
Saturday, June 30, 2012: Travel to the Hacienda Guachala.
After breakfast, we walked across the plaza to the cathedral of Santo Domingo. This church was much larger than the Society of Jesus. It had tons of gold leaf, but the colors were balanced with more statues and paintings. The church was also much lighter inside due to the windows. Mass was being celebrated. There were also people praying at the many shrines along the walls. It was a very busy, active church. Fresh flowers were everywhere.
We checked out of the Hotel Real Audiencia, said our good-buys to the quaint colonial district called Old Town, and took a cab to the Mariscal District. The project staff was meeting at the Magic Bean to travel to the rural region where we work. The staff bus scheduled for 11 am left a half hour late. The Pan American highway is being widened. The construction caused some delay, so we got to Cangahua about 1:30 pm.
Today is the big day of the Inti Raymi festival. The plaza in front of the church was filled with people dressed in their finery. Family groups were dancing circles while moving through the streets. The bands played San Juanito stype music as the multitudes of people danced in their family groups. The ladies were dressed in traditional Kwichua clothing, while the men wore furry chaps, Inti masks, and carried whips.
The bus couldn't get through this crowd, so the driver unloaded our luggage and returned to Quito. We had to walk up the hill through the crowd, doing the bag-drag in time to the music. The cooks served us lunch in the building where most of the students would be staying - La Coventa. This dormatory-style building is located across from the Cangahua church. Most of the students as well as the younger staff members will be staying here in Cangahua.
After lunch, the staff split up and tackled different chores to get the field school ready for the students. George and I took a camioneta to the Hacienda Guachala. This is a Spanish hacienda that was established in 1580. We are staying in room 8, where we stayed in 2009. It used to be a horse stable. However, it has been renovated. George and I both highly recommend staying at the hacienda. This is our fourth visit.
We helped set up the lab. After dinner, I was so tired I went right to bed and slept twelve hours.
Friday, June 29, 2012: Sightseeing in Colonial Quito.
After a fantastic ten hour sleep on a firm, non-saggy, extra wide king size bed, we awoke to a beautiful, partly cloudy day. The morning was spent running errands. We took a cab to the Instituto Geografica Militar to purchase topographic maps of the Cangahua / Oyacachi region. We visited the Santa Maria grocery store to buy bottled water, purchased minutes for our prepaid phone, and stopped by the Super Maxi in search of their wonderful cloth bags (unsuccessful). We steered clear of the Abya Yala anthropology bookstore. I still have a reading backlog of the books I bought there last year.
We had to take cabs everywhere. They are rather inexpensive (most fares are $2-$4 dollars). Drivers twice refused to take us from the Mariscal to Old Town beause there was too much traffic at that time of day. We did find a cab eventually. In the future it would be better to stay in the Mariscal District, where everything is closer and we can walk.
After lunch it was naptime. When I awoke from my nap, my welcome-to-high-altitude headache was gone! I needed the nap for jet lag as well as the altitude. Quito is at an altitude of 9300 feet. I live at sea level, so I get out of breath with minimal exertion. This should go away in about a week as my body creates more blood cells to adjust for the thinner air. Until then, I need to drink lots of water and take it easy physically.
We decided to follow the guide book and go for a walking tour around Old Town. We saw many stately, well-maintained colonial buildings, cathedrals, and huge plazas. We walked by the president's palace. It's a block long, two story white building with a balcony running the length of the building -- perfect for giving speeches to the people standing in the plaza. We went inside a cathedral called the Society of Jesus that was constructed of sooty/dirty stonework. It would be an impressive building in my home town, but it was rather nondescript compared to the other colonial buildings in downtown Quito. The interior was incredible! The walls and cieling were covered in gold leaf and old masters paintings Everything glittered. It felt like sensory overload. There was too much gold here to be fully appreciated. Although the building only had a small street presence, it seemed as large as Westminster inside, and far more ornate. Construction began in 1609, and it took almost 150 years to complete.
We took a cab back to the Mariscal (AKA Gringolandia) for dinner at George's favorite restaurant in Quito. Rodrigo's has expanded since last summer. Last year it was a small rooftop Mexican restaurant where we could sit outdoors at wooden picnic tables and watch the pedestrians at Foch Square. Now its a trendy place with loud music, at least three inside dining rooms, modern art on the walls, and fancy table cloths with matching chair covers. The food is just as good as we remembered it.
The field school staff had a meeting at 8 pm at Uncle Ho's (That's Ho Chi Minh for you younglings who have attached a different meaning to the word "ho"). That's when I got the news that the project was going to have a portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer this summer. The political unrest, elections, and Egyptian government reluctance to grant excavation permits caused an archaeological dig to be cancelled earlier this month. As a result, a conservator and an XRF were available for our project in Ecuador. The instrument arrived in Quito in working order, but the computer that controlled the XRF was DOA. That turns out to not be a problem because both Vanessa and I have the software on our personal laptops. Among the topics we discussed over a beer at Uncle Ho's was how we could use the XRF in a ceramics study. I am SO JAZZED! This is going to be a great summer!
Thursday, June 28, 2012: Fly to Ecuador.
Three hours after I hit the sack, the alarm went off. Sara dropped us off at the airport before 4 am. The flights to Miami and Quito were uneventful. I really appreciated the dinner served on LAN airlines. After a full day of travel, it was a delight to fly on an "old style" airline with food and movies included in the fare. I watched a romantic comedy about two guys attracted to the same girl: "This is War."
When we arrived in Quito, the arrival hall for immigration was packed. That means wall-to-wall people and standing room only. We were on an escalator headed down into this crowd. The people below saw us coming, but there was no place for them to move. We ended up piling into them, trying to walk back up the escalator, running into people coming down from above, and getting pressed in from all sides. Shouts rang out, alerting the authorites. They acted quickly by stopping the escalator and roping it off from the top so it could no longer be used to enter the immigration hall. New people getting off of planes had to walk down the steps. In spite of the huge crowd of people, it only took us an hour to make our way to the front and get our paperwork to enter the country.
We took a cab to our hotel. The cost was $10. There has been a lot of inflation since last year.
This time, we are staying in the colonial old town instead of the tourist district. The Hotel Real Audencia is more luxurious than the youth hostals we are used to. The building dates from the late 1500s. The Real Audencia was an administrative body that had political, religious, and judicial control over the region of what is today most of Ecuador, northern Peru, southern Columbia, and parts of Brazil from 1562 to 1822. It has been nicely renovated. The hotel is in the center of Old Town, located right across the street from the Santa Domingo Cathedral and its plaza.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012: Packing day.
I did some last minute errands before leaving town (e.g., go to the bank, stop by the post office, pay bills, call credit card companies). I didn't finish packing until after midnight because I was having trouble keeping my duffle under 50 pounds. I finally put the 6 pounds of theses for the Ecuadorian Cultural Ministry in George's suitcase and left the leathermans (or is it leathermen?) at home. I'm still bringing a microscope, trowel, a couple hundred plastic sample bags for use in Ecuador, several lab notebooks, and miscellaneous archaeology equipment. I've got 4 sets of clothes and 8 sets of underwear and socks. Clothing, shampoo, and toothpaste can be purchased in Ecuador. Electronics, Oil of Olay SPF 30, and Costco trail mix are scarce in South America. I packed accordingly.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012: Graduation Day.
At 3 pm today, I completed all graduation requirements for an M.A. in anthropology (archaeology option). My advisor read and approved my thesis on Sunday. The university thesis reader signed off today, after minor format revisions. All paperwork has been completed and filed.
I really don't feel any sense of relief. I would compare this to running a marathon and the finish line is still out of sight. I can't take time off to catch up on my sleep. I have to keep moving. In 36 hours, George and I leave for Ecuador. It's time to start packing.