Cuba, Ecuador, Exploring, Travel

collecting houses

A traveler is a dreamer. A traveler rejects their comfort zone and longs for something different, for immersion in the unknown, for the chance to walk in the shoes of another.

In Cuba we talked about the possibility of one day owning a home there. We dreamed of finding the perfect spot, close to the malecón and the bustle of downtown, but also near friends and family. As we walked around Havana I started pointing out any house or apartment building that called my attention. “There is it, that’s our house!” I collected dozens of houses all around the city, and now in Ecuador as well, everywhere I go.

I’ve created so many lives for myself this way. Lives in which I’m living in the crumbling but majestic ruins of Old Havana, ones where I’m a campesina in the Andes mountains tending herds, lives in which I live in sprawling estates along the coast, fenced in by palm trees.

Meet my houses:

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Exploring, Travel

the revolution

Cuba is immersed in and absorbed by the Revolution, but it isn’t exactly what you would call revolutionary.

In even the quickest and more cursory visit to the island, visitors become well acquainted with its crumbling infrastructure, both shockingly lovely and startlingly outdated. Nothing is new; from the buildings in Habana Vieja to the cars and streets it feels like the very opposite of what many would imagine a revolutionary nation to be.

Despite its obvious abuses over the past 50+ years, Cuba has a certain love for its revolution, now so ingrained in the culture that even the most anti-Castro struggle to untangle it from lo cubano. Everywhere you look you’ll see the images that carry the weight and omnipotence of the revolution for its citizens- from government billboards to ice cream parlors.

Here are some of my favorite photos that display the government’s use of imagery to support and remind citizens of the benefits and ever-presence of the Cuban Revolution…and this is just a small sampling. Imagery of the revolution is everywhere, just as the political, social, and economic effects of the revolution have touched every aspect of the lives of Cubans.


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An agromercado in the 10 de Octubre neighborhood of Havana- a state-run market that sells fruits and vegetables. A Che Guevara portrait and quote in the back corner.


Camilo Cienfuegos- a Cuban revolutionary who fought alongside Fidel Castro and Che Guevara- keeps watch over the Plaza de la Revolución, and reminds citizens of his support for Fidel with the quote below his image.


The Habana Libre Hotel, in English the Free Havana Hotel. This hotel was formerly the Habana Hilton, until it was nationalized by the Cuban government after the revolution. Its name asserts that the Cuban Revolution- and nationalization of foreign entities- has made the country “free.”


A bakery [with the best sweets in the neighborhood, btw] in 10 de Octubre. A mural of Che Guevara against the Cuban flag decorates the side of the building.


“Long live the Revolution!” Revolution-positive street art near José’s family’s home in 10 de Octubre in Havana.


In English, “we will continue defending the Revolution.” Blank walls and billboards in Cuba often sport revolution- or government-positive slogans like this one.




Cuba, Exploring, Travel

Carley in Cuba

This week is CRAZY, as we have two groups of short-term volunteers here in Ecuador. Its a great change of pace and nice to be working on some different projects this week, but its making for what looks to be an 80 hour work week! I had planned on blogging this week, but it will have to wait until the weekend.

In the meantime, I’ve finally been going through my photos from Cuba from December and January, and wanted to share some of my favorites so far. More to come about my time in Cuba for sure!






Ecuador, Exploring

C & C

Chloe Gbai is the coolest human…you should meet her. No really, you should. Shes making her own major at NYU thats this cool combination of documentary film and social and cultural analysis, and I’m hoping she’ll invite me to be her date to the Oscars one day. She’s also an awesome, caring person that likes to talk about important things with me in fields in South America. Even though we only spoke Spanish to eachother for the first time last week, I appreciate that our friendship is woven in with Latin America, as well as eating good food, Jesus, and New York City. Last February I went to Buenos Aires to hang with her for a two weeks [research grant for my thesis? or extended vacation to hang out with Chlo? to this day I am still uncertain…], so this time she came to me, spending her spring break last week with me in Ecuador. She came right on the heals of two insane, tumultous weeks of spring break volunteers invading our home, so it was more than perfect timing to escape from Sangolqui with her and spend time in some of my favorite places in Ecuador.

It started in Otavalo, an indigenous town in the north of the country known for its insanely awesome market with all the awesome thing that you could ever want to own from Ecuador. Even thought it was my fourth time going to Otavalo [and likely won’t be my last…] I still managed to find something else I just couldn’t live without, and ended up buying a table cloth and a table runner for an apartment I don’t yet have…classic. Chloe took home the most ubiquitiously Ecuadorian object that there ever was– a cozy alpaca blanket with a llama-printed design. After spending our money on these most requisite of objects we headed to the volcanic crater lake of Cuicocha and hiked for a bit along the rim before heading back to Quito.



Next stop was the cloud forest of Mindo, where we spent time wandering and exploring the town in the pouring rain, eating pizza, and sleeping under mosquito nets.It was my second time in Mindo, and going back with Chloe made me fall in love with it all over again– two hours on a bus from Quito and you’re down the side of the mountain in a special little crevice of forest surrounded by hummingbirds and beautiful nature. The highlight was definitely ziplining– it was so amazing to be soaring high above the forest, even if I was praying the entire time under my breath and probably creeping out the guides.


Chloe’s time in Ecuador ended very unceremoniously with a very Ecuadorian occurrence– we both got food poisoning. It sucked, but I am thankful that it was only just for the last few hours of her time here.

It was really sad to see her go–I don’t think you all understand the level of my girl-crush on this awesome human–and I don’t like not living near her any more. Why can’t all the people that I love just move to one awesome place together? Until that happens [fingers crossed] adventures in Ecuador will have to do. Miss you already, Chlo!

Ecuador, Exploring, Travel

pics from up north

Almost a month later and I’m still in awe of our trip to the Northern Highlands of Ecuador… an amazing long weekend in Otavalo and El Angel that was definitely one of my favorite trips that I’ve taken in Ecuador so far. Right now I’m supposed to be planning my last English class of the semester for my students, but instead I’m looking through my pictures and day-dreaming about all our adventures. Enjoy these pictures!

motor boats in volcano crater lakes

motor boats in volcano crater lakes

my friend Squid (Sydney)

my friend Squid (Sydney) and I at Laguna Cuicocha… a volcano crater lake

lovely churches in small-town Ecuador

lovely churches in small-town Ecuador

El Angel Ecological Reserve... one of the most magical places I've ever been

El Angel Ecological Reserve… one of the most magical places I’ve ever been

frailejones...special cacti that only grow in the Reserve

rolling clouds and frailejones…these are special, ancient cacti that only grow in the Reserve

Polylepsis forest

Polylepsis forest

Ecuador, Exploring, Travel

Mindo is Lindo

After three long weeks of summer camp, we are finally done! Although camp was certainly a rewarding experience and we all learned so much, it was definitely a stressful few weeks…. so to blow off some steam we headed to Mindo, just a two-hour bus ride outside of Quito. Mindo is a tiny little town on the edge of the cloud forest that offers tons of fun activities and attracts a lot of visitors from Ecuador and abroad. Picture a jungle paradise, with lush, tree-covered mountains, exotic birds, and gurgling streams.

We stayed in an absolute paradise of a hostel called La Casa de Cecilia, which felt like a tree house nestled in the jungle. It was right next to a small river that was dammed into a swimming hole, and was surround by orange trees and palm trees. For as much as Mindo offers in terms of activities, I was just as content hanging out at the hostel and swimming in the river and reading my book in the hammocks. We slept under mosquitos nets and listened to the sounds of the cloud forest as we fell asleep.


river swims and hammock reads

river swims and hammock reads

(p.s.: Sydney and Catherine are asleep under there)

(p.s.: Sydney and Catherine are asleep under there)

For as much as love our home in the Valle de los Chillos, and going into Quito often to explore, it was so wonderful to get away from the city and from the normal pace of life we’ve been living for the past few weeks. I can’t wait to take further advantage of Ecuador’s absurdly cheap bus system and hostels and explore more of what this country has to offer!