Not Your Average American has moved!

What did you say?

What did you say?

As my media files started to approach maximum for the free website here at, I had to make a choice about where to host Not Your Average American. The change should be practically seamless but just in case you’ve lost me, click on the link:

The blog should still show up in your reader if you’ve followed me on WordPress. I will be transferring email subscriptions this week. Or you can visit the new blog and follow me over there!

You can also keep up with Not Your Average American at Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr


Happy Reading!


Earthquake in Quito

Yesterday, as we were sitting down playing Settlers of Catan, the table began to shake. At first, I thought it might have been a restless teenage son but quickly I began to realize it was much more. The building jerked, a plate or two fell, and as the robber danced on the game board, we all jumped up to find a safe place to stand. It was an earthquake.

I have experience with earthquakes. Living so many years in California it would be impossible not too. This quake was not the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. It was shorter and not as strong. But we didn’t know that at first. We had no clue how far away the epicenter had been. And we all wondered if it might have been one of the many volcanoes in the area sending warning.

As the shaking settled and we gathered our wits, we all headed for electronic equipment to share the news, find out the magnitude and the damage, and to put on shoes. The latter was my idea. I was afraid this was just a precursor and wanted everyone ready to walk out the door if need be.

We knew from looking outside that this was a dangerous quake… the valley below had turned into a cloud of dust and it was my husband who said landslides. And he was right. North of the city, a vehicle was covered by falling debris but the driver escaped unharmed. Friends of ours were evacuated from apartment buildings while structures were checked for damage. Bridges were closed for a short time. The airport stopped flights for about an hour. Traffic was snarled all over town. And the dust cloud to the north and in the valley below Cumbaya kept growing larger and larger while all of this was going on.

Dust rising in the distance from the 5.1 earthquake that took place on 8 August 2014 near Quito, Ecuador.

Dust rising in the distance from the 5.1 earthquake that took place on 8 August 2014 near Quito, Ecuador.

The BBC reports three deaths from yesterday; two workers and a young child (it is common for children to play near their working parents) were killed by falling sacks of rice. Four quarry workers are still missing in Catequilla, after a landslide in the region. And this was “only” a 5.1 on the Richter scale.

Since yesterday afternoon, we have felt several aftershocks. There is something unsettling about the earth moving without warning, even when you know several small quakes are a good sign that the earth is releasing pressure slowly. It makes a large quake much less likely. But tell that to our bodies that are now primed to jump at every wiggle and shake, whether it be my knee hitting the desk a little hard, a strong wind hitting the side of the building, or an actual earthquake.

My mind keeps wandering back to the third floor of the Student Union at San Francisco State University, glass walls shaking as if they were about to shatter, people scattering to the four winds looking for shelter, a woman screaming “Get away from the glass, get away from the glass” and my heart pounding while my head tried to wrap itself around the disaster happening around me. It’s a memory I would prefer to do without – the panic, the lack of control, the inability to do much more than wonder how much stronger the shaking will get. A small quake here in Quito make me remember 1989 almost like it was yesterday.

La Hueca de Cantuña

Owner and host of La Hueca de Cantuña - Marcelo Mendez

Owner and host of La Hueca de Cantuña – Marcelo Mendez

Just across the Plaza San Francisco is a small, unassuming restaurant that would be very easy to pass by, but it would be a mistake. It stands in an ancient building, faced with stone quarried from the slopes of the Volcano Pichincha, built when Quito was a colony of Spain, about 500 years ago. The top floor of the building is painted a sunny yellow trimmed in white, and the roof is traditional red tile. Facing the building, the restaurant occupies the second doorway from the right. Outside is small sign advertising their name, La Hueca de Cantuña, and the offerings of the day. Lunch is a mere $2.50 if you buy the menu del día. It’s what most of the locals will be eating! But you can choose from other offerings as well, including a speciality of the house, yamor, a drink made from seven different types of corn. It is usually only found around Otavalo and then only in September.

This local treasure is where my husband and I find ourselves eating breakfast on many a Saturday morning. My favorite dish? Humitas, a type of corn bread steamed in corn husks or banana leaves, but scrambled or friend eggs and bread baked with fresh cheese aren’t half bad either. The juice is always fresh pressed. Marcelo and his family take pride in using the freshest possible produce and ingredients, all without chemicals or additives.

The coffee is uniquely Quiteño – cups of hot milk or hot water are brought to the table where a small cruet holding a liquid looking something like balsamic vinegar is used to flavor your beverage. It’s actually essence of coffee, thick and dark like syrup. You can make your morning cup of joe as strong or as weak as you like.

Humitas and coffee - a great start to your day in the historic center of downtown Quito.

Humitas and coffee – a great start to your day in the historic center of downtown Quito.

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Best Bird Shots from Bellavista

Our most recent trip took us to the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve and we took so many great photos… here are a few of our favorites.

If you prefer a slideshow, just click on one of the photos.


First Impressions of Quito, Ecuador

We’ve arrived!

Life is still a little crazy but a few days ago, late in the evening, we landed in Quito, Ecuador. The first thing I noticed was the smell of ozone, a dryness in my nostrils from the high mountain air, and a sense of relief that we are finally getting started on this new adventure.

The new airport, only about 6 months old, was crowded with Ecuadorians returning from vacation and tourists from the United States arriving for theirs. Despite the crowds, lines moved quickly, bags arrived in a timely manner, and we were soon on our way into the dark Andean night.

We drove for about half an hour through quiet and well lit city streets. It was a little surreal to see the capitol city looking so still and calm, even at midnight. Businesses were all shuttered with heavy metal doors and window coverings, homes hidden behind tall concrete walls, and few cars were out on the streets. Our other experience with South America, Buenos Aires, taught us that night life is muy normal. Obviously, that’s not the case here.

We were greeted at the hotel with hot towels to wipe our hands and faces and tall glasses of orange juice to help us hydrate. It’s not just the long international flight that will dehydrate the body but the altitude, a grand 9,300 feet. In fact, Quito is the second highest capitol city in the world. In order to adjust, it’s important that we drink lots of water and be careful with how fast we start exerting ourselves. So far, so good. We’ve had the slight headache that passes with more water and a little ibuprofen but nothing more.

After a great night’s sleep, we awoke to a gorgeous morning and a beautiful view! It’s one of the few pictures I’ve taken so far… we’re still figuring out the local layout and haven’t taken out the cameras so far. But as our comfort level increases and we figure out how not to look like nosy tourists and more like interested travelers, I’ll have more to show you.

The Volcano Cotopaxi as seen from our hotel window late in the afternoon.