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the island, visitors become well acquainted with its crumbling infrastructure, both shockingly lovely and startlingly outdated.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, 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!

Ecuador, Exploring, Travel

chasing waterfalls at Condor Machay

This isn’t my first time in Ecuador, but I’m certainly seeing it with new eyes. Almost exactly two years ago I spent about two and a half weeks travelling through Ecuador before heading to Buenos Aires to begin my semester abroad, and my experiences in this beautiful country were so wonderful that they compelled me to move my life here for the next year.

I feel so lucky to now be able to experience this beautiful nation in such a deeper way than I did as a tourist. Not only am I becoming a part of a community here, but I have the opportunity to delve beyond the guidebook recommendations and really explore. If there is anything that I feel blessed with now its time. Time to reflect on and experience the things in front of me rather than snapping my pictures and moving on to the next must-see.

Time blessed me yesterday with a day off from work, so we took an hour-long ride in the back of a friend’s pickup truck deeper into the countryside of the province. We sought out the hiking trail to a waterfall named Condor Machay, hidden somewhere in the forest near Cotopaxi National Park. Only about an hour and a half outside of Quito, Condor Machay is truly off the beaten path; we bounced up and down in the back of the truck as we flew through the mountains and pastures. Asphalt soon disappeared into worn and misshapen paver stones and then into dirt paths. When we finally arrived at the starting point of the hike, we plunged into the forest and twisted and turned by the river for an hour until we finally came to a clearing, the power and majesty of the waterfall spread out before us.


The hike itself was a delight, but I was slapped in the face by the beauty of its conclusion at this wonder of nature. In the middle of nowhere was this hidden gem, this unrelenting surge of power and beauty that defies words and guidebook explanations. No guidebook tells of Condor Machay, no guidebook recommends jumping in the back of a pickup truck with ten friends and a dog and off-roading to a hidden hiking path. There’s still a lot of tourist attractions I look forward to visiting, but I am so thankful that this year means going deeper with Ecuador.



mountains and pastures on the truck ride home from Condor Machay