January 19

Quito—After an uneventful trip back from the coast to Quito, the college group and the Skinners, (minus Ruthi, gone to get a decent haircut, and having been on this cool trip before), met to take a ride on El Teleferico. This great cable car was constructed by the Swiss a few years ago. It is a 6-person car which takes folks up the side of the volcano Pichinca which tops out at13,287 ft. It takes about 10 minutes to reach the top at 3,286 ft. and it is really interesting to see the vegetation change as higher altitudes are reached. There was a great view of Cayambe and several other volcanoes, all snow-covered (something the folks back home may be unable to fully appreciate during this horrible winter of ’11). At the top, Quito lies before you, surrounded by a line of some 7 volcanoes, simply breathtaking. It makes your heart beat faster in amazement; or it could possibly have been that altitude, us having started the journey at about 10,000 ft! There are many hiking trails which give different perspectives of the city view, as well as horses for rent for those who don’t dig on high-altitude hiking. It is so spectacular, you consider never leaving, until the cold starts to seep into your very marrow. If you are ever in Quito, Ecuador, Sud America, this is a treat not to be missed!

In the afternoon, we visited the artist Enrique Estuardo Alvarez. He works in a truly lovely old colonial property owned by an arts foundation in Cumbaya, one of the lovelier neighborhoods in all of Quito. Cumbaya puts one in mind of any town one might encounter in Southern California, complete with the obligatory KFC and Mickey D’s.Kentucky Ecuador Partners brought Enrique to our state in 2003 for a show of his paintings at the Lexington Public Library, and workshops at UK, EKU and WKU. Since then, his success has been phenomenal, and prices for his paintings have skyrocketed. He did a public works project in Ecuador called Faces of Ecuador, where billboards of his paintings were placed along the highways. He was also selected by Absolut Vodka to design a bottle cover which was then transferred to black leather jackets, sold only in Switzerland. Technically, his new work is as good as it gets, very cutting edge as well as political. He continues to do Faces of Ecuador and these works evoke a strong emotional response from all who see them. All the students bought books of his work and postcards with reproductions of his paintings.
We had a farewell dinner with the kids (students) at El Cielo QuiteƱo, a restaurant providing a view of the entire city. At night, it is a heartstopper. This is their last night in this wonderful country. They are headed back to ice, several inches of snow, freezing temperatures and a new college semester, to begin on Monday. Via  con Dios. We were privileged to know each and every one of you. The Skinner clan was a little sad to see this terrific bunch head home, but we have too much planning to do for our dental work in Tena to even be allowed time to cry.

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