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Two more days until we leave Quito

Two more days until we leave Quito

The story of my 2007 Ecuador adventure continues. This is a letter I wrote home about my last days of school and homestay in Quito, Ecuador.

For the rest of the Ecuador story, go here.

Before I show you the letter, let me show you some roses. In Ecuador, roses are an industry and they are shipped all over the world. On the street, they cost a dollar for a dozen.

roses on the street in Quito, EcuadorRoses on the street . . .

2014-03-18-IMGP0813SFW. . . and roses in my homestay room.

Dear family and friends,

Look at how the time flies. I haven’t written a letter for a few days. I should try to do that now, although I never know where to begin.
1.  I am SICK of homework. Enough already. Tomorrow is the last day of four weeks of Spanish classes. I know more than I started out with but I have miles to go to be anywhere near as good as Rolf is.

2014-03-18-IMGP0814SFWCelebration on the last day of school. Local fruits.

2014-03-18-DSC00137SFWView of Cotopaxi from the school

 2.  Salsa classes have wrapped up. Eleven classes and five instructors. Again, I know more than when I started. Easy to say, since I knew nothing to begin with. When I get home I want to sign up for classes, maybe for ballroom dancing. I like line dancing, but I like this “partner” dancing too. So many dances to learn, so little time.
3.  I am sleeping well, or at least better than I was four weeks ago. I no longer really hear the car alarms. They love car alarms in this country. At the Mitad del Mundo (equator) there was an amusement ride for the kids (niños). It was a ring of little cars, going round and round, and each had its own unique car alarm.
4.  I’m getting better at crossing streets. The cars seem to speed up when you set your foot in the street.
5.  I am more used to living with a homestay family. The other night, I was finishing my homework at the dining room table and watching TV at the same time. My family never turns off the TV. So it’s me and the ten-year-old Feorella watching TV and doing homework. The 67-year-old is playing solitaire with real cards. And the son (Feorella’s dad and the homestay mother’s son) is polishing silver. The other two students (Switzerland and Germany) are out having cervezas. I’m watching this B movie that has voice-over in Spanish. It’s weird watching it. Of course, the lips and the voice do not sync. And I’m thinking, this movie is using some devices that I have seen before. Maybe all movies (especially B movies) borrow devices. And then it’s getting to the end of the movie (which I am following even though it’s in Spanish) and the Swiss student comes home and tells me that it’s called FORTRESS and he saw it in English and it’s just as bad in Spanish. At the very end of the movie I realize that I have seen it too, only my brain is so fried I didn’t remember.
6.  What else. I like this little neighbourhood: Gringolandia. It’s really called Mariscal Sucre. I know how to find the school, the laundry, the internet, and four restaurants for lunch. And a really good tailor. Rolf needed a tear mended so his shirt would last the rest of the trip. I had already mended the other side of this shirt in Canada. The tailor fixed the new rip, and redid my repair, so that you’d never know the shirt had torn, and he charged $3 for this major craftsmanship. He works in this little hole-in-the-wall place with an antique sewing machine. An old guy. Muy amable. Very friendly.
7.  Tomorrow is Friday, and as I said, the last day of classes. Then early on Saturday morning, we catch a cab for the airport and head out to the Galapagos, about 1000 miles from here. We go from about 10,000 feet to sea level and I’m hoping I can breathe better there. And I’m hoping the heat is not going to be a problem.
8.  It’s weird living in all this noise. Car stereo bass throbbing, the music in the internet café, the car alarms, the band across the street, the endless milling people, the horns. I really like this internet place, La Sala. The other night, the city blacked out and it was strange to suddenly have it quiet in La Sala. There was no power for about twenty minutes and they lit candles. Candles and computers. That’s Ecuador.
I’ll check in while I’m in the Galapagos.
Buenas noches!

The Equator and Fakery

The Equator and Fakery

This next Ecuador installment is about our January 2007 visit to la Mitad del Mundo, the middle of the world, the Equator. 

We stood on the equator on Sunday, both of them.
The bus ride from Gringolandia takes about 90 minutes and we only had to transfer once. On the second bus, Rolf gave up his seat to a young father holding a baby. Then Rolf moved to this wide bench near the front of the bus, and as he was approaching, the ticket-taker dusted it off for him. I’m not sure, but I think the ticket-taker appreciated Rolf giving up his seat. A bit later, Rolf asked the driver what CD was playing. (Rolf’s Spanish is muy useful.) The driver took the CD case, pulled out the insert and gave it to him. On the way home, Rolf found the CD for $1.50, the usual bootlegged price.

Now we are at the Equator. They have built a big monument with N-S-E-W markers. The monument contains an interesting museum about the many indigenous tribes in the country. It seems each river valley has its own unique tribe with its own unique language. Since there was no communication between the tribes, it’s easy to see how the Spaniards conquered them 500 years ago. Today, many of these tribes speak Quechua as well as their own language and many of the men speak Spanish for commerce. Some of the less civilized, very remote tribes only have their own language.
In the museum, we learn that in 1736, a bunch of French scientists figured out where the equator was and somewhere along the line the Ecuadorian government built this monument for tourism. Lots of little restaurants and souvenir shops grew around the monument, and now each Sunday, locals and tourists from all over the world visit the place to see the indigenous dancers and hear the bands. It’s an ongoing fiesta.


Now here’s the part about the fakery. Before our visit, one of the teachers at the school told us that the monument is built on a fake equator line. Apparently, a private person figured out that his house was on the “real” equator—as calculated using GPS. And now this place, called Inti-ñan — Camino del Sol, is running competition with the traditional place. We found it down a dirt path a short distance from the French calculation. At Inti-ñan, they claim that the French scientists got it wrong in 1736.

And they did get it wrong, but given their instruments, they were close. The monument is built 240 metres south of the true equator.


However, Inti-ñan is not on the true equator either, although the guides are happy to tell you otherwise! This place is still 130 metres south of the true equator but whoever is running Inti-ñan does a great job, even though this “real” equator stuff is a hoax.

fake equator
At any rate, on the day of our visit we bought into the hoax and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. This miniature museum has its own collection of artifacts and the guides are excellent. Our guide was born in New Jersey and moved here with her parents when she was nine. She has a slight Spanish accent.
Her job is to show us all these “experiments”. That should have been my first clue. We are either on the equator or we are not and there is no need to “prove” it. And especially no need to prove it several times.
First, our guide tells us about the centrifugal force of the earth turning. She says that if you are right on the equator, the north and south forces cancel each other out. To demonstrate this, she takes a movable sink, puts it on the equator, fills it with water, puts the bucket under it, and pulls the plug. The water goes straight down. No swirling. Then she moves the sink six feet north, fills the sink again, and this time, it swirls counter-clockwise. (Much as a hurricane spins counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere.) Move the sink to the south—only six feet away from the equator, and the water swirls clockwise.

The second experiment involves an egg. Our guide tells us that you can balance an egg (raw) on the head of a nail on the equator because the centrifugal forces are pulling equally on it. She does the balancing. It’s difficult, you need to be patient, and if you can do it, you get a certificate. Rolf does it, and he gets the certificate.
I don’t understand the third experiment. It’s called the resistance test. If you hold your hands locked over your head, and she tries to pull them down, she can’t. But when you stand on the equator, she can. Of course, she may be trying harder for the equator example.

We are also told that we weigh one kilo less at the equator because the earth bulges at its centre and so you are further from the gravitational force. However, like many weight loss programs, the effect is transitory.

The last thing she shows us is not an experiment, but an experience. You know how you can walk heel to toe with your arms out, and it’s, like, no big deal? Apparently, on the equator, a lot of people can’t. Because they sense (your inner ear senses) the centrifugal forces pulling. The more likely reason for this is the power of suggestion.

But I believed all this, and I wrote my son Kyle an email about it.

The next day Kyle wrote back:

In the latest email, you both told me about the swirling water on opposite sides of the equator. The theory behind that is called the Coriolis Effect. The Coriolis Effect works on the fact that because you’re further out from the centre of the earth on the equator you move faster than someone north or south of you because they are moving around a smaller radius.

Therefore if you were to throw an object straight north or south it would appear to curve in relation to the ground, but not enough that you could detect it.

The effect is very small and the swirling water effect is a trick.

If the water in the sink is spinning in one direction initially as it drains, the effect is amplified and you will see the water begin to spin in that direction. I read on a website about how they do that trick they showed you on the equator.

When they move the sink to the other side of the line (that could be anywhere, this trick even works in Canada) they rotate the sink in one direction or another. If the sink is not perfectly round, as they turn the sink, the water gets a little push in the direction they want it to spin. So if you were facing with your back to the line, then turned with the sink to your left in order to take it to the other side of the line, then the water would spin counter-clockwise when you took the plug out.

This is the site that explained it to me if you’re still confused.

As I read this website, I discovered I was not the only one being misled. It turns out there are lots of tourist traps around the world, that are near the equator, that claim to be the “real” equator. For example, Nanyuki, Kenya.

And so it looks like we got snookered but it is Such a good show, and I’m sure it provides some good business for the locals.

If you would like to see a picture of where the true equator is, this traveller has one of Latitude 0.00000


Have you ever stood somewhere on the equator? Have you ever stood between two states or two provinces? Have you ever been taken in by the swirling waters?
(For the terminally curious, you can read all of my Ecuador stories by clicking on “Ecuador” in the TAGS.)



In my last Ecuador installment, I talked about the bike ride on Cotapaxi. When we finished that ride, we loaded into the Land Rover and headed for Quilotoa.

Quilotoa is the name of a pueblo, a volcano and a lake.
We arrive on the Saturday after a long drive from Volcan Cotapaxi. Besides Rolf and me, there are three other couples—two from England, and an Irish Swiss combo. The others think we are cool, being so old and doing this. Actually only two of the couples are in their twenties. Johnny from Ireland is forty-five and Patricia is in her thirties.
I am muy cansada, very tired, after my bike trip. We are in the back of the Land Rover with two of the couples. The other couple rides up front with the driver. Our guide, Fernando, is in the back with us. There are a few photo op stops. Then about 6:30 pm, just after sunset, we roll into the tiny pueblo of Quilotoa, at about 4000 metres (about 13,000 ft). Here the average daily temperature is 9 to 12 Celsius. I think it goes lower at night, but not to freezing. There’s no snow but it’s windy.
We take our packs—day packs—into the big room where we will all be sleeping. I have brought my night gown, fresh socks, toothbrush and paste, comb and sun block. I’m wearing my convertible pants (which will only be converted in the Galapagos), a t-shirt, my MEC long sleeve shirt with all the pockets, my MEC purple fleece, and my MEC Gore-Tex jacket, as well as MEC head band and mitts. MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) marks you as a Canadian the way maple leaves used to.
This casa (house) has many rooms as it has been added on to over the years. The roof is tin, and so there is a thatch mat strung up under the roof. Otherwise the condensation would drip on you at night. There is also electricity. The wires are laced through the thatch and the light sockets are not attached to anything. They dangle there, and the light browns out about every fifteen minutes.

There is also running water and flush toilets—with the usual “put the used paper in the waste basket instructions”. This is due to low water pressure. There is also Hot Water—which is advertised as “hot water 24 hours”. This means an in-line water heater. I skip the shower. We all do. And anyway, the drowned moths in the shower stall just don’t work for me. I keep my eye on the huge spider on the bathroom wall while I am using the facilities.
I can even wash my hands after. There is this tiny sink down the hall. A pipe drains away water, and over the sink another pipe comes out of the wall with clean cold water. But don’t drink it or use it for brushing teeth. This high mountain area has a water problem so they have built a big underground reservoir and they have water trucked in. You’d think they’d move but they have no options. They own this land and that is all they own. Up here, they raise sheep and each day they take them down to the lake for water. More on the lake later.
These are the indígenas (indigenous) that you see in the Andes pictures. They all wear those felt hats that don’t blow off in the wind, like my Tilley hat does. The women have a “uniform “ which is the hat, the colourful shirts, the black skirt that goes to the knees, the white stockings, and the black shoes with inch heels that look like they belong to a conservative business dress. The woman’s long hair is pulled into a pony tail and wrapped with multi-coloured strings. A scarf is worn over the mouth and nose to keep out the cold.
Enough of description. Now it’s supper time and we are in another big room, the main room of the house. It has a tiny stove throwing tons of heat. The German shepherd dog, Rambo, is next to the stove with the two cats. The men and the women are sitting around talking to Rolf (he was here two years ago) and the guide Fernando (who was also Rolf’s guide two years ago). The rest of us are experiencing serious culture shock.
But then we have dinner. We are sitting at one long table, and a group of students from Boston University are at the other long table. The students are here for a six month semester of immersion, studying Spanish and other subjects as well, like micro economics. Our guide serves us dinner which was prepared by the indígenas in the big kitchen. Soup, spaghetti and your choice of meat sauce or tofu sauce, followed by a tiny dessert of sliced banana and pineapple. You can buy agua (water) or tea for 50 cents. Or cerveza for a bit more, and the beer comes in super-sized bottles.
And here’s the thing. There is something about being with a group of people when you are tired, cold and hungry, and borrowing toilet paper and asthma inhalers. You bond very quickly. You learn about what the Colombian countryside is like, if the trek up Machu Picchu is worth it, and what it’s like to take a bike tour of Ireland. You tell very strange jokes and talk about how your bowels are performing. It’s not your usual dinner conversation.

Meanwhile the American students are having their conversations. The children play cards by the fire. Rambo the dog looks for attention, and Rolf teaches Roberto and his wife and a bunch of their kids how to use a video camera. (Rolf gave them our old Canon video cam. I took some footage of the lesson.) They are all mega happy.
About ten, it’s bedtime. A young boy stokes the fire in our room. Two young indígena girls are looking at the photos on Chantal’s iPod. Then we settle under layers of blankets. It’s hard to fall asleep because my legs are aching, but at least I can breathe. Rolf has trouble getting enough air. He has to think about breathing. And overnight, Michelle develops full blown altitude sickness with headache, vomiting and diarrhea.

We wake up about 6:30 am and dress quickly because the fire in the stove has gone out. Breakfast is buns, very hard margarine that has sat on the table overnight, raspberry jam they make, scrambled eggs, and milky oatmeal. Now we are ready to go to the lake.
The volcano blew up near the end of the 1700s, and now a hot spring feeds the lake in the crater. Andy and Chantal, Patricia and Johnny, and Rolf hike down with Rambo the dog. Steve stays up to look after his girlfriend Michelle. The guide Fernando stays as well. I stay because the hike down into the crater is 900 metres and my knees would not make it. And even if I did make it down, I don’t think I would have been able to hike back up. It’s almost a kilometre of climbing and every time I try any elevation, I am out of breath.
I do go down the trail a little way, with the sheep and the boy shepherd. Then I stand and listen and it feels as if I have stepped through a time portal. The mountain is silent, like a sleeping giant, waiting to erupt again. The rim is jagged from the blast over 200 years ago. The water in the crater is green and inviting. If you swim near where the hot springs feed the lake, you are warm.

I take my time and climb back to the top, then I walk along the path at the edge of the mountain. The wind blows over a bleak land. An indígena woman in traditional dress passes me. She is collecting some kind of greens that look like weeds to me. In the distance I hear what sounds like those pan pipes, but that’s not what they are. It’s an old man whistling, out walking with his dog.
Around 11 am, a big tour bus arrives, downloads the sightseers, and they stand by the fence above the crater and take pictures of each other. Watching the tourists, I feel like I know, like I understand something, that those people on the tour bus will never know. They have not eaten with an indígena family and slept in their house.

I’m not doing a very good job of describing this. I’m afraid it’s one of those things you have to experience.
And now it’s about noon. Rolf has made it back from the lake. The rest are still down there swimming. Our guide Fernando drives Rolf and me to the top of the first big hill and we start a downhill part of the bike trip. This portion of the bike trip takes us over several valleys and past the tiny dwellings of the indígenas. They live all over the hillsides, probably the same way they have lived for over a hundred years.
After about an hour and a half, the other bicyclists are passing us. The Land Rover and Fernando, on his bike, catch up with us. Michelle with the altitude sickness is sleeping in the front. Chantal wasted herself climbing up the 900 metres from the crater lake so she is sleeping stretched out in the back. Fernando asks how I am doing. I err on the side of caution and end my biking for the day. Rolf goes ahead. The driver and Fernando load my bike, and I climb in the back. The Land Rover ends up following behind Rolf for the rest of the trip, so I am going the speed of his bike, and snapping dozens of photos. Fernando stays with Rolf to make sure he gets up the last big hill, and then he goes ahead.

As we descend to lower altitudes, Michelle revives. About 3 pm, we end our trip. We have a roadside picnic, take groups shots and exchange email addresses. Then we load back into Land Rover. Along the way, we stop to let Johnny and Patricia break off from the group. They don’t want to go back to Quito because they are travelling further south. Same with Steve and Michelle who break off a bit later. In the back, Andy and Chantal, and Rolf and I listen to Fernando’s stories and tell some of our own. And finally we reach Quito, tired and hungry but full of new experiences.
Rolf and I finish off the day at Tomates with pizza that tastes very Canadian. I feel like I know the world a little better and love Canada even more.

Have you ever visited a place that is very different from your home? Did you find it overwhelming and extremely interesting at the same time?

Cotopaxi Bike Trip

Cotopaxi Bike Trip

Last week, with the weather so cold in Calgary, I decided to write about a warmer climate and my 2007 trip to Ecuador. It’s still very cold in Calgary—at the moment minus 20, with a wind chill of minus 29. (That’s – 3 and – 20 Fahrenheit, respectively.) And so, back to Ecuador!

Cotopaxi Bike Trip

I think I’m hitting my stride and settling into Ecuador. This past weekend we did a trip with the Biking Dutchman—a business that has been running for 15 years here.
We met at 7 a.m. on Saturday outside the Magic Bean. They had two Land Rovers with bicycles loaded on top. The Americans (embassy and air force guys) were going for the day trip. We were in the truck with three young couples going for the whole weekend.
Day 1 of the trip was biking down Cotopaxi mountain. This is the beautiful snow-covered volcano we can see from Quito. Apparently, the thing has not blown up for a while, a hundred years or so. There are ways of telling when it might blow but someone said that the government does not like releasing info like that because it’s bad for the tourist business. When asked about the safety of the trail, our guide (who has a degree in ecotourism) told us that the main danger was the volcano. But hey, you might as well go out while you’re having fun. (I said that, not him.)

We are only biking down from the parking lot, not the top. The top is for mountain climbers, and you don’t go into the cone because of the fumes. Anyway, the parking lot is about 14,760 feet and I am feeling dizzy. Quito is about 9,350 feet so I have not acclimatized yet.
Our guide gives us our bikes. We’ve already got helmets. Some of the Americans have knee and elbow pads. They plan on whisking down. Our guide checks each bike, tells us how the gears work, how to hold on to the brakes, with just 2 fingers. It’s cold and windy up there. Soon the 16 of us are ready, and off we go.
Two of the girls decide against the trail right at the start because the volcanic soil is soft and slippery. I figure, we’ve travelled about three hours to get here, I might as well try.
The Americans disappear down the trail, but I take my time. And if I had known that squeezing brakes was so hard, I would have done some hand exercises before trying this. Yes, I know you are supposed to cruise down, but the ruts are quite deep, the trail is steep, and I have never done this before. My hands are soon tired and cramped, and I need to use all four fingers to brake. After about an hour and a half our guide tells me I have to ride down in the truck to the meeting point. I feel like a failure.
At the meeting point, the other driver is busy repairing bikes. One of the Americans blew a tire. Another popped a fender. Rolf broke a chain. After everything is repaired, we continue down the mountain.

Since it’s a flatter part, I try again. With one vehicle following me all the way, I make it to the lunch place. The guys cheer when I finally arrive and the two girls in the truck are proud of me. One of them says she doesn’t think her mother could have done this.
We have an excellent lunch and I figure out that food is one of the main attractions of mountain biking.


Cotopaxi as seen from the air

There are three other women on this trip, all in their twenties. Patricia (Switzerland) has been travelling about six months, is acclimatized and fit. She rides the whole way. Michelle (England) starts to ride after lunch, now that it is not so steep. But Chantal (England) decides to stay in the truck because she is having some stomach problems. Feeling more confident, I continue riding after lunch. I still have to keep stopping to flex my hands, because they’re cramping from all the braking. And then finally, I get to a part that has a hill.
I had been following Rolf and our guide, but at the hill, I need to get off and push the bike up. In Canada, I can do this—climb a steep hill, one step at a time. I know my legs are strong enough, but I’m breathing really fast. Step, step, step. By now, our guide has come back down the hill on his bike and is following me up. I tell him poco y poco (little by little) as I continue to walk the bike up, and breathe fast. I don’t want to stop. I want to get to the top. Step, step, step. I know I can do it.
But it turns out I can’t. I get to the top, stop walking, and stagger. Next thing I know, the guide is getting me to sit by the side of the road. He takes off my helmet and I flop down on my back, breathing very fast. I can’t get enough air—it feels like I’m breathing through a straw, and I’m wheezing. He makes me sit up. Then I hear Chantal’s voice.

The truck has been following me and she’s still with the truck. I hear her say ”inhaler” and I try to tell her I’m not asthmatic. A second later, I’m puffing on her inhaler, and I can actually feel the tubes in my lungs expand. Suddenly, I can breathe again. It’s a very strange sensation.

Our guide says, “altitude”. I sit there for a while and gradually my breathing gets more normal. Then I realize that I’m shaking, though I don’t feel cold.

The guide says no more biking for me today. I get in the truck, sitting in the front with the driver. The guide tells me to loosen my belt. He loosens my shoelaces. Somebody gives me something sweet and wraps me in a down jacket. My resting heart rate is 120.
I don’t remember much of the drive but a little later, the Biking Dutchman (who was on the mountain with another tour) stopped by to see how I was doing.
Finally, I stop shaking, even though I don’t remember feeling cold in the first place. I say to the driver “no necesito calor” and he turns off the heater. When we get down to the parking lot, the gung-ho Americans are packing up for the day. Rolf gives me a hug and says, “don’t worry, you’ll ride better tomorrow”. He doesn’t know I sort of fainted and I don’t have the breath to tell him.
On the drive to Quilotoa, our guide tells us they get all kinds of reactions to altitude. He keeps checking to see if I have a headache but I don’t. I’m just very tired.
And that was my bike trip down Cotopaxi.

Do you enjoy bicycling? How about mountain biking? Have you ever reacted to altitude?

snowflake from photos dot com

Monkey as Villain

Monkey as Villain

In Calgary right now, it’s -19 degrees Celsius (-2 Fahrenheit) and with the wind chill that makes it – 27 and – 17 respectively. It’s cloudy with flurries and north winds. What can you do in the dark days of February but dream of a warmer climate?

And so, for the next few posts, I will go back in time (2007) to a trip we took to Ecuador where, unless you are climbing Cotopaxi, you don’t need to worry about the cold.

considering Point of View considering Point of View  considering Point of View

Monkey as Villain: considering Point of View

The Yarina Lodge near Coca, in Ecuador

The Yarina Lodge near Coca, in Ecuador

Rolf and I are on a tributary of the Napo River at the Yarina Lodge in the Ecuadorian rainforest. We study Spanish and then hike on the trails or float on the lake or river with the naturalist, observing the endemic plants, animals, birds and insects. There is a small reserve near the Lodge where injured animals recuperate until they can be reintroduced to the jungle.

A Spider Monkey lives in one of the enclosures in the reserve and lets Rolf pet its hand and tail. Rolf asks our Ecuadorian guide, Eduardo, why the monkey is still at the reserve and not set free.

Eduardo says the police brought the monkey here. It was a pet and it is illegal to own this species as a pet. They tried to release it but since it has become domesticated, it will not leave.

“Why not let it roam freely?” Rolf asks. “Even if it only stays at the reserve near people?”

Eduardo tells us that didn´t work — because the monkey was taking tourist things, like sunglasses and cameras, and the tourists did not appreciate this.

Rolf reacts to this information with disdain for the tourist. “Since the whole point of coming to the jungle,” for him, “is to play with the monkeys.” (Rolf has always related well to small animals and children.) Rolf casts the tourist as villain and sees the imprisoned monkey as wounded hero.

I attempt to enlighten Rolf. I say, “Let´s pretend you´re a writer and you want to create a scene where you can understand the distress of the tourist when the monkey steals the camera.”

Rolf says the tourist should not leave the camera lying around.

I agree and try again. “But let´s try to see this from the Point Of View of the tourist. How would you write a scene where the tourist is the hero and the monkey is the villain?”

Rolf is adamant that this is the tourist´s fault, the monkey is blameless and it is not possible to see this in any other way.

Which is why Rolf is not a writer.

The hero and the villain are flip sides of each other. Until you can rewrite the scene from the “villain’s” point of view, casting him as hero, your villain is just so many words on the page.  Not real.

The next time you are stranded in a flat scene, try the role reversal. Change your villain into your hero, write an event that portrays him that way. Become him.  Be the elderly grandfather (tourist) who has saved for years to make this trip and who treasures his photos far more than that camera, and who sees his memories grabbed from him by a marauding pest.

There are at least two sides to every story. Even if you only write in one POV, create several scenes where the plight of your villain makes your reader sympathize.

And don´t bother trying to explain the concept to a non-writer. 🙂

snowflakes from photos.com #452594187
monkey from bigstockphoto.com #237552055

A trip to Banff with my sister

A trip to Banff with my sister

My sister Rolie touched down at the Calgary International Airport at about 1:30 on Friday afternoon. She’d been traveling for 30 hours, coming from Saudi Arabia via Amsterdam, but no problem, she wanted to go directly to the Mountain Equipment Co-op because, well, she’s a traveller, and she needed to top up her supplies.

After two hours of checking out tents, bike carriers and various articles of clothing, we headed for Starbucks and a caffeine boost. I finally got her home after seven, and she crashed about eight.

She was ready to go again early the next morning. We headed for Banff National Park where our first stop was the Bow Falls.


Rolie and Suzanne at Bow Falls

Of course, we got our picture taken, like all the other tourists. She wants to come back to this spot sometime, and canoe from here to Canmore. It’s doable. A popular beginner trip.

From Bow Falls, we walked to the Banff Springs Hotel where we had reservations for their famous brunch. We ate for two hours, sampling just about everything. Here are a few of the offerings.2013-10-15-P1040623adjSFW


Then it was on to the Sulphur Mountain Gondola for a trip up the mountain and a stroll along the boardwalk to the Cosmic Ray Station. Sounds like the set for a great fantasy, right?


Suzanne & Rolie on top of Sulphur Mountain

Since we were so high, there was snow, and Rolie was excited to see snow. (No snow in Saudi Arabia.) We sat up there for a long time drinking hot chocolate and catching up.

Then we headed down the gondola and Rolie paid for the standard tourist picture of us suspended over the Rockies. We cruised Banff Avenue for a couple hours, picked up a few souvenirs, and then even though it was only 5 degrees Celsius , we sat outside for lattes and people watching.


A perfect October day in the mountains.

Have you seen snow lately?