Festival of Happiness

Ah...what a gratifying feeling. I wish you could all be here to see the smiles that your donations, put on the faces of the Children of playas, Ecuador. 

           Roger with opening words 

We collected your funds, but  the real matriarch of this project was Carmen. She is native to Ecuador and a real beauty of a person.  The first time I saw her walk into the room,  I felt it.  She is one of those people, that lights up a room.  I love conversing with her. Although, I speak but a few words of Spanish and she speaks Spanglish, we seemed to understand each other.  She is a doer, and as Roger puts it, when she does something, she goes all the way. She proved this to be true in her success in organizing this fundraiser.  Being a writer herself, she contacted her colleagues who have written children's books and purchased 100 copies of books with various titles. 

Ecuador authors get very little for their writing efforts.  The publishers give them a certain amount of books to sell and they receive no royalties for books sold in stores. Also, Ecuador is not a reading culture.  Therefore, the fundraiser supported the authors in selling their books and the children in promoting literature and an expansion of their imaginations. 

             Carmen and Roger

The event was held at their B&B. Carmen set up a whole program with a puppet show, Yoga with Annie Bananie, readings from a couple of the authors and an opportunity for the children to read out loud, to fellow listeners.  The money donated by Ecuador's, Canadian friends, was a seed that grew into a beautiful afternoon, with stories, and a journey into the imagination.   The authors read their own words with passion. Although, it was in Spanish and beyond our comprehension, the chuckles and smiles from the crowd, let us know, the pleasure that was being felt. 

    Piedad and Sonia, authors

              A magic carpet ride

On our yoga story, we flew on our magic carpets, to a mountain where we could see the sparkling stars and brought the light into our hearts. In the jungle we made a Forrest of trees and became the lungs of the Earth. Oh, It was pure magic. The children's smiles were priceless.  This is what I truly love, to do. I love to fall into the moment where everything drifts away and I become at one with what I am doing. This came to me, as we moved through our story, our actions sycronised, our imaginations as one. 

             The giving of books

Once the activities had ended, we gave each child, a book and a bag, that contained an apple and a chocolate.  The smiles were contagious. In gratitude, children and parents gave us kisses on the cheek.  I was so filled with good feelings that I had a lump in my throat,  emotion was bubbling over.  So much joy came to playas and it's children on that day, so much goodness was spread. 

Thanks to all that gave.  You extended yourselves to others and your charity made a difference to a small community of children and authors, in southern Ecuador.  Next year, we hope to make our  way to Burma, where we will spread more Canadian goodness.

                 Team Canada 

We are now at the Quito airport, waiting for our long journey home.  I hope you've enjoyed our stories, and hope you keep checking in 😊. Ciao for now and thanks again. It's been great collaborating with you all.

Also, a big thank you, to Carmen and Roger, for all the hard you put in to maker his happen!

Eggs on a Shelf

There are lots of things that I love about travelling. One if them is when it breaks my concepts of how life should be lived, or how things should be done. Let me share one with you. This morning. I went to the grocery store to get syrup for Tyler's birthday breakfast of French toast.  It looks like any small grocery store in Canada, clean with shelves stocked with food and such.  To my surprise a shelf is allocated to eggs, this shelf is not refrigerated, it is a normal shelf that also holds canned goods. Now, in Canada we would never think of stocking our eggs on a shelf, without refrigeration.  So, today, I learned that eggs do not need to stay cold,  to stay good. 


The Passing of Time

              Zoe's sand memoir

The days have rolled by and we find ourselves with 2 nights left. Like most things, this is bitter, sweet. It's sweet because the kids are missing their friends and school, which is great. There is nothing like a little backpacking to learn the gratitude of home. It's bitter, because although I look forward to seeing the cute little faces at daycare, I could keep travelling. It's in my blood. I inherited my sense of adventure from my dad, whom I love very much.  Thanks dad, I love this passion for adventure.

         Iguanas in downtown Playas

I have to be honest and say that the last couple of days have been hard, parenting days. The kids have been giving me a run for my money, and running circles around me, as I try every possible tactic to discipline and reign them in. Sometimes as a parent, I am left feeling powerless. Now, if you're a Parent, you might be able to relate to this, or you might not.  This morning I had, had enough of the disrespect and fighting, and we had a family meeting.  It was a great talk, where we shared our feelings and came to a reasonable understanding of our feelings. Sometimes, things need to come to a head, before we recognize that we need to have a heart to heart. Things have been running smoothly ever since, well maybe with a few hiccups.  In this I recognize a valuable lesson in learning how to move through conflict, to sit down and identify our feelings and learn how to express them.  All our time together has brought us all closer, even if there were times of annoyance and frustration.  After all life is but a series of ups and downs, it's a matter of learning how to deal with these ups and downs, with grace and dignity. 

                Hanging by the sea

Yesterday, we went on a boat trip to a nearby island. We saw dolphins, pelicans, boobies (type of bird) and other unfamiliar bird varieties. I must share with you a sad reality that exists right here on this land, and  it is the one of, garbage. In certain areas it looks like a landfill sight. The beach we visited yesterday was lined with garbage that rolled in with the tide. Plastic bottles, plastic bags, candy wrappers and undistinguishable things that have been warn down by the sea.  

              Garbage filled beach

Ottawa is such a clean city, which makes it easy to forget the impact our waste creates on this planet that we share.  For me seeing the beaches and street corners spoiled with garbage, hit home. This planet we live on, is utterly beautiful. It supplies us with the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breath and the beauty that sings to our soul. It gives us so much and yet we rape it of it's generosity.  I could go on but will save you of my rant. 

                        Playas taxi

Tomorrow is Tyler's birthday and also the fundraiser. Carmen has been working very hard at putting it all together. Two of the authors of the books will be here and also the press. The event is titled, "The Festival of Happiness".  We look forward to sharing the fruits, of your generosity. 

                 I love sand dollars



               6 am waiting for the bus

We are now on the coast if Playas. Our journey here was hot, long and confusing.  The bus rode through the Andes mountains, which are absolutely breath taking. We were as high as the clouds and slowly wound our way down to Guayaquil a big, dirty, tough city in the south, where we needed to take our connecting bus, to the coast.

 The station was what  jay would call, " a shit  show".  There was a swarm of unfriendly faces, smiles hiding behind neutral expressions. We were the only gringos (foreigner) in the crowd, like 5 fish, lost at sea. 

It was an airport of a bus station with at least 3 floor levels of buses, coming and going. Spanish is the national language and hardly any English is spoken. So when we purchased our tickets by speaking charades and miming, we counted our lucky stars, that we bought the correct tickets. We were escorted to platform 53 by a man wearing a security jacket, he was the friendliest of the bunch.  

Guayaquil is a place where you keep track of your bags and valuables or you risk getting ripped off. Save for getting on the wrong bus and nearly missing the right one we made it to Playas. 

Playas is a fishing village and a weekend destination for Ecuadorians.  It is rustic and reminds me of my travels to Indonesia with dusty roads and garbage filled streets. It's definitely not your Disney vacation and that is exactly what I love about it. It is real life.   My children are experience a genuine way of life. They are noticing that not everything needs to be polished and perfect looking. There are different ways of living and a great approach to life is living from the heart. 

Zoe and Owen took our travel day in stride, with no complaints. After nearly 2 weeks of travel, it seems like we are finding our stride. Part of me wishes, we had more time on the road. I could do this for another 6 months, even a year.  I would love to show them the world but that is my gypsy blood talking, which I must keep to a simmer. 

We are staying at Chantal's (a funky mama), dad's guest house. It's a great place for us to hang out. The rooms are great with a kitchenette and the kids love the hammocks. Owen has found a love for playing euchre and Zoe has been making clay animals. 

Roger and Carmen own the guesthouse and are helping us with the fundraiser.  They purchased 60 books, abacuses and another math facilitator for the
 local kids.  On Thursday we will meet the children here and a couple of the authors.  It's going to be great fun and I cannot wait.  

Tomorrow we are off on a boat ride to an island and will hopefully see dolphins. I love the wonders of backpacking.  It's an adventure into the unknown, and  I am always reminded, that things unfold as they should. 

I leave you now with pics of street meat. Appetizing, I know. 


Adrenalin Rush

We spent our last day in Banos with a great big splash of fun. With wet suits,  helmets, and life jackets on, we hopped in a blow up raft and made our way down some class 3-4 rapids. I've experienced white water rafting down the Gangees, in India but nothing like this. The tumultuous waters jostled us around, picked  us up and threw us down.

Before the adventure our guide gave a fast food course in how to paddle like a team, what to do if you fall out, and more safety tips.  Our guy called us chico's (guys) and had great energy. I was very nervous about the kids going on such an adventure but we were very well taken care of.

We paddled down the pastaza river which eventually runs into the amazon.  Zoe and Owen both took turns sitting at the front of the boat with their feet sticking out and hanging onto the straps.  I held my breath with each wave that jumped over their heads. Zoe flipped off the boat and thankfully was able to hold on. Her face was priceless, between fear and excitement.  

We returned to our hostal on a high of excitement.  It was so much fun. I can now scratch white water rafting off of my bucket list.  I did not have my camera with me so no pics for his one. 

Instead, I leave you with these pictures of jay and I's adventure at the spa. For $6 we got a hot box steam treatment. 

It is a process of sitting in these boxes for 10 minutes then getting splashed with really cold water and then back in the hot box.  The last cold water treatment we had to sit in cold water. This had me giggling. 

It was super fun to try something new. Afterwards. we felt so relaxed and happy.
Tomorrow morning, we head for the beach and the second phase if our fundraiser which I am totally stoked about. I am so grateful for all of your donations. It feels so good to be backpacking, with a purpose of really giving back to the community.  Travelling always reminds me of all that I have, to take nothing for granted and to live from the heart in a spirit of giving to others. Jay is my example of living with a generous heart. He is as generous and kind as they come and I am so grateful for him in my life. 

I leave you now with a happy heart. Thanks for checking in and reading about our travels. I hope life is good in your world 




ECulture shock comes in waves of ups and downs.  Today, Zoe and Owen were stating that Ecuador was boring.  You might imagine that this reaction was a little shocking to Jay and I.  From our vantage point, they have been having a blast, so this exclamation was disappointing.    I turned to our friend google for some insight and wouldn't you have it, symptoms of culture shock are as follows:
-thoughts of home
- critisizing the culture and how they do things. 

This fit Zoe and Owens profile. Last night Owen was critisizing how the tribe people built their houses, out if wood. He was saying that they could do a better job
By adding tiles (critisizing culture). There was more but it is suffice to say that culture shock is still lurking in our family. 

This morning I read to symptoms to the kids and Owen smiled as he saw himself in the description.  

There is so much learning to be done on a trip as this, and sometimes an overload for their young minds. I love them so much. The biggest asset to this trip so far is the strengthening of their friendship. Everyday, I see them bonding and getting closer and it makes my heart sing. 

We are now in the beautiful valley of Banos.  The mountains loom over us and it's like getting a great, big, green mountain hug. I have to tell you, that I am loving the landscapea of this country. Everywhere you look, you see green beauty from trees, mountains, to multicoloured flowers and flowing water. Banos alone boasts over 60 waterfalls and a canyon with a river that runs through it. It's definitely eye candy and let's not forget that the people are so kind. 

Banos is a Mecca for adventure sports from zip lining, rappelling, bungee jumping, white water rafting and more, there is something for everyone.  Today, we went zip lining, through the canyon. It was Owen and I's first experience and so much fun.  Jay, Zoe and Tyler have all zip lined at Lafleche in the Gatineau hills. We got suited up with harnesses, clips, gloves and helmets.  I have to admit that I was a little nervous about letting my kids glide over a metal cable that hung hundreds of feet above ground.  All that said it was awesome!!!

We took lots of videos which I cannot upload to this blog, so that will just have to wait. I hope you are all doing fantastic. I see from Facebook that it's still winter over your way. Hang in there, spring is just around the corner, right?

Anaconda Tribe

We just got back from one night in the jungle.  We stayed with the Sacha Wasi tribe, along the Puyo river. Our thatched roof huts were simple,with a bed and mosquito netting, nothing less, nothing more.  Our guide had 2 names ; Richard (guiding name) and Cooquitoto ( indigenous name). For the sake of simplicity, we will refer to him as Richard. 

Our first adventure was  a 6 km walk to a waterfall. The trail was thick with foliage, mud and the heat of the day. Our rubber boots sank ankle deep. and  upon release made a great noisw of suction. Richard asked us to be quiet, so as to not scare the animals.  It was virtually impossible for us to do this.  The fact that we are city people rang through the forest with our every footstep. The walk was arduous with lots of steep inclines and slippery slopes. The effort had our hearts beating and our shirts soaked with sweat. There was a moment where we paused in discouragement. Every step felt like an eternity, the waterfall far out of our reach. 

 I put my mind forward into the task at hand. I approached the walk like I would a meditation. With every step I felt the Earth beneath my feet. I opened my ears to all the sounds of the jungle; the insects, the birds and yes, the sound of boots squishing in the mud. My vision became aware, of all the different shades of greens, the beautiful colours of flowers, the moss clinging to trees and rocks. The jungle is amazing in its expression of life. It vibrates in so many ways and it touched me deep within. There is a feeling of healing that can be found among the foliage and trees, there is peace and tranquility at the centre of the sounds and smells. 

At a certain distance in our trek, Richard stops and asks us to wait.  We stood and waited, appreciating the rest.  He returned with a handful of fruit that reminded me of rambutan. He twisted them open to reveal small red seeds. The seeds were not edible but face paint.  He first, took Owen and Drew warrior lines along his cheeks and forehead. We were all blessed with the jungle fruit paint and the anaconda tribe was born. This gave us strength to move on and we found our inner warriors. Hope returned and found renewed faith in our mission.  We would become successful in attaining our goal to the waterfall.  Richard also used his machete to craft Jay a walking stick. 

In time with perseverance we began to hear the sounds of cascading water.  Another, twenty minutes and we stepped down into a river.  There we set down our backpacks, hid behind trees and put on our bathing suits.  We walked up the stream which was waist deep. Our boots filled up with water, the biggest soaker, ever. Our passage was a long corridor with walls of green foliage clinging to the walls of rock. Sunshine made its way through creating beams of sparkling light. If ever, I have seen Eden, this would be it. The sound of the waterfall was loud, and we soon put our boots aside and swam   and at  this moment the waterfall greeted us in all it's glory. It fell from meters high into a beautiful pool of water, an oasis.  A tree grew near the centre which gave us a great jumping point into the centre of the waterfalls bubbling water. It was a moment of ecstasy, of amazement and beauty. When Owen gets excited he flaps his arms and there was some arm flaps, for sure. 

We arrived at our village, famished. Our cook made us the greatest soup, chicken and rice. We ate with great hunger and appreciation.  That night we slept under the refuge of our mosquito nets, our bodies heavy with the exhaustion of our efforts of the  day. 

The next morning we woke up to the sounds of the jungle and a canoe adventure. Our dug out canoe sat the five of us and our navigateur comfortably. The boat rocked back and forth with the force of the rapids. I held my breath as I feared tipping over with our camera gear. Owen scared me with his jerky movements and restlessness. We made it down without tipping over, thank god!  

Richard waited for us on shore and we walked to another village with a panoramic view of the puyo river. We walked up steep steps and again found our hearts beating in our chests.  The view at the top was amazing.  Zoe most enjoyed the tree swing that swang over a cliff.  After I tried it my legs shook with adrenaline. Zoe did it over and over again. If it were up to her we would still be there and her swinging. 

Now we are back at Jean and Nancy's, taking it easy. The kids are tired and sun logged and that comes with some whining. Anywhere we are in the world. there is always some moments where I need to find my reserve of patience or lack thereof. 

Tomorrow, we leave Puyo and head towards Banos where we will find more adventures. Stay tuned!



When writing the Art of Giving post, I forgot a detail. Let me say it here, as a little teaser to the story.  When all was done at the village, and our gratitude expressed, we made to leave but the villagers stopped us. They wanted to show their appreciation with a gift. They wanted to give Something to Owen. Nancy translated for us and the gift was a live parrot!!! Owen wanted to bring him home but we had to explain tonhim that there was no way to bring the cute little green guy home.  Instead, we held him and said thanks.  What an experience!


The Art of Giving

This post is in honour of Diane Boudreau, my mother. Ever since I can remember she has been donating her time and money to people less fortunate than herself. I remember Soeurette from Africa whom she has been sending money to for years and there's  the Santa Claus fund that she volunteers for every Christmas. Let me not forget, all the times that she has helped me with funds, buying me clothes and helping my family out. She has a heart of gold and so it wasn't a surprise when she donated $100 to our fundraiser.  Her request with the money was that we use it to help the community   where   her cousin lives and where we were to visit.  Here is our story of spreading my mother's joy of giving.

We are in Puyo in the pastaza province, which is at the edge of the rain Forrest. It's a small community of 60,000. Jean is Canadian and married to Nancy who is native to Ecuador.  Jean, my mothers cousin has lived here for 5 years. Nancy teaches at a local school and he works for 3M.  Although, jean is my second cousin. I have never met him. They are graciously hosting us in their beautiful home and have been driving us around, showing us the awesomeness of this country. Yesterday, we went to the jungle where we walked on a very wobbly, falling apart, walking bridge and saw monkeys, parrots, multicoloured flowers and so much more. We are lucky, we are blessed and having so much fun!

Today, we took my mothers $100 and bought bags of rice, sugar, salt and cooking oil. We delivered some of these goods to a family that's really struggling. This family lives in a guard shack with very little and is in survival mode. The mother left the father with their 2 children and he is struggling to stay afloat. We delivered them their food and they were so appreciative. It felt so good to give. Thanks mom for giving us this opportunity to deliver your good will. 

    Our next stop was an indigenous village about 20 Kms from Puyo. The road to get there  was bumpy and not well maintained.  The village itself was small with about three huts.  The people live off the land and sell sugar cane for their income. It's somewhat of the same story that we see with tribes around the world and Canada's First Nations, they are left behind and struggling. 

When we drove up, families started gathering one by one.  They received the food with great gratitude and we were invited to stay and hang out for a while. We got to see their simple way of living.  The children watched us with their big brown, innocent eyes.  Although, we speak very little Spanish, we communicated through gestures and smiles. 

Eventually, we were guided down to a path that lead to the school house. The building was a small hut about 20 by 10. It had 15 desks and not much more. The children sat at the wooden desks and the adults stood around.  I loved this moment. It was for me the moment of the trip. We shared English songs and they shared their native songs. The smiles on those faces and innocence in those eyes, tugged at my heart. 

There is something special about these people, who have no electricity, who live off the land and in the thick of the rain Forrest. A few meters away from the school flows 3 rivers, each river has a name and is said to have different healing properties. 

Zoe and Owen had such a special time as well. Owen stated that it was the best place he had ever been to. I love that my children are getting the fact that not everyone has an iPod and even electricity. I love that they are experiencing life outside of Canada.  In fact this has been great for Zoe and Owens friendship. At the start of this journey they were bickering a lot and just today, I noticed them laughing and playing like they use to. They were even singing in the car on the way home. I have not heard them sing together in a very long time. Sometimes, I feel like I am doing a good job of parenting my children, and today is one of those days.  

Mom, we thank you for the gift you gave to this little village in the jungle. It was so much fun delivering the food and befriending the villagers. They say that a source to happiness is giving from the heart and today, I got that. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am so blessed. 

Tomorrow, we leave for a jungle tour.  Stay tuned. 



On the bus towards puyo, the edge of the amazon. The bus is like a greyhound, big with comfy seats. The scenery of soft,  rolling mountains is breath taking. The vegetation hugs the mountain side like quilt patches of different shades of green.  Bungalows, a Farms and plantations dot the hills. Grey Clouds heavy with the promise of rain loom above. I love taking local transport and watching the world go by. I read the Spanish signs trying to decipher their meaning. I watch the people walk the streets: selling food, chatting, waiting for the bus and life unfolds like it does in every country.  People are people and whatever race we belong to, we want the same things; happiness and health. Everywhere around the world we work, we eat, we sleep and have our worries and our joys. 

There is a phenomenon that happens on the bus that I am not sure of its purpose. Locals enter at different stops and stand in front of the bus and talk to the audience in transit to wherever.  An older man came on and talked about his madre (mother), 
Padre (father) and familial. I got the idea from bits of his conversation that he was asking for money to help his family.  The passengers   donated money and he got off at the next stop and a young man came on. He wore a shiny Adidas jacket and sunglasses. He presented himself as Luis. He began what sounded like a sermon. Ten minutes into it people are answering questions in unison, laughing, exclaiming: "Si amigos". He showes crystals and pendants and I was not sure what he was saying but he spoke with passion. It would seem like he was selling something but I was not sure about that. I wish I could have understood what he was saying.  It was one of those travelling moments where you are on the sidelines, not really understanding what's going on.   Zoe sits with me and was not sure what to think about him. It was a good moment to discuss non-judgment. 

As we descended the mountains our ears popped and we got beautiful views of waterfalls, rivers and landscapes. We arrived in Puyo safely. Our huts in the jungle are cute. This morning we woke up to an orchestra of birds and insects. How lucky we are to be in this land of lush green beauty. 

At the moment my traveling companions are sleeping and I sit on the terrace absorbing the sounds and smells of the amazon. Wow!  I am so grateful to be here with my family.