Saturday, August 20, 2011


I'm frankly at a loss as to how to summarize or even talk about the trip to Galapagos, which we took Aug. 3-16 in honor of our 25th anniversary and Abby's 21st birthday. There are some who might say no humans should visit the Galapagos, in order to protect its pristine status, but I'm pretty impressed about how well the Ecuadorean government is limiting access to the island chain, which bears some resemblance to Hawaii, both in volcanic origin over a plate hotspot, and in the NW-SE diagonal of the chain (Galapagos, though, is a mirror image of Hawaii, in that its youngest island is in the northwest, vs. Hawaii in the southeast). Visitors to the islands must have a guide at all times, even hikers planning an overnight camping trip or sport fishers who do not plan on landing on the islands at all.

Iguanas, penguins, blue-footed boobies, land tortoises, frigate birds, and sea lions all are fearless of humans, and even allow hikers to come relatively close to nesting areas - the government is more strict about keeping tourists away from turtle nests, albatross mating areas, and the like, than the animals are on their own. It's a lot easier than you might imagine to see a boobie mating dance, a mass boobie flight, etc. We explored the islands on zodiac boats that were launched from a midsized Xplorer ship.

The people of Galapagos (a few tens of thousands of citizens that live on one of four populated islands) worship Charles Darwin for his work with the HMS Beagle that led to Origin of the Species, and there's even a statue to him on San Cristobal Island. Plenty of caps and T-shirts said "EVOLVE!" and "Join the Evolution Revolution." Since the islanders have to be concerned about rising water levels, there is no questioning about the reality of global warming. In short, Republican candidates for the U.S. presidency would be ill-advised to visit Galapagos, they'd be laughed off the islands.

Visiting Quito was an adventure as well. The city is in a bowl of Andean peaks at 9000 feet, and has plenty of mountain attractions nearby and Spanish colonial architecture within the city limits. Had a particularly good time seeing the modern art museum for Oswaldo Guaysamin.

I was a little worried that President Rafael Correa might be creating a personality cult of the Chavez/Morales variety, but no such worries. Most Ecuadoreans appreciate his efforts to maintain social safety nets at a time when global economies are collapsing, but few citizens will hesitate to tell you that Correa is long-winded and full of himself, too. The president doesn't seem to be too interested in self-aggrandizing in the manner of Hugo Chavez. And he looks like Stephen Segal with a crew cut, which brings to mind more of an Ah-nold jock bravado than anything else.

Indigenous artisans are given a lot of space in Quito to set up market shops and hold protests when appropriate. It was interesting to discover that Quito was one of the few large cities in South America without a true shantytown on its outskirts, though there are certainly poorer sections of town.

I'm posting two poems from the trip, one on the sleeptalking and dream sequences on discovering palo santo trees, the other on coping with the women of Pachamama Alliance, who sort of monopolized the Cafe Cultura hotel with lofty talk about "teaching" Amazon indigenous groups on spiritual practices. Gag me with a spoon. Below the poems, I've embedded one of six videos of Galapagos (also one of Quito) which are on YouTube. I embeded #1, you can check the others in order....


The world presents itself as lovingly incoherent
Clothed in today’s architecture that is yours,
all yours.

The garden variety of sleeptalk
is the slurred syllabic
born of anger or fear
from deepest pontine dream.

Today’s architecture is that rarest of subspecies.
The conversation of prefect diction
devoid of semantics, dancing in syntax.

Is the luggage in wet storage?
Couscous kesskess keeskees kohskohs
The dodo, the bellringer went to town

Embrace each syllable, leap to fricative stop.

Today’s architecture of the waking is the hill that bristles
with palo santo tree.
Rub the region of damaged bark,
breathe vigorously the remembered liquors
as you learn the common parentage of palo santo
and frankincense tree.
Intoxicating vapors bring forth epiphanies
of Balthazar, Melchior.
The momentary slurred syllabic allows the briefest memory
of the statement that consciousness enfolds,
“The traders also called it sandalwood.”
Perfect diction awaits.

The world presents itself as lovingly incoherent.
Clothed in today’s architecture that is ours,
all ours.

Loring Wirbel
August 13, 2011
Copyright Loring Wirbel 2011

Cafe Cultura lobby, sans Pachama

Pachamama Annoyance

With, at best, partial apologies to Pachamama Alliance

And who am I to choke on womanfire power,
awakening the dreamer,
monopolizing the lobby,
declaring that one more Amazon venture
will convince the Kichua to unlock the simple
spirituality that is theirs to share,
while the passel of white women head north
to fill dozens of social science journals.

Kill me, my snark makes me evil,
I tell Fernando,
who agrees he'd rather suffer untold male-dominant lunkheads
than this coven of faux-feminist pomegranates
burning Café Cultura in sage,
swelling in syrup of sincerity.
"And the karaoke," Fernando adds,
"well, you don't want to know."

Loring Wirbel
August 18, 2011
Copyright Loring Wirbel 2011

Here's the first of the six Galapagos videos:

No comments: