While many baby boomers are downsizing to a simpler retirement lifestyle, photographer and writer Judy Blankenship and her husband Michael Jenkins took a more challenging leap in deciding to build a house on the side of a mountain in southern Ecuador. They now live half the year in Cañar, an indigenous community they came to know in the early nineties when Blankenship taught photography there. They are the only extranjeros (outsiders) in this homely, chilly town at 10,100 feet, where every afternoon a spectacular mass of clouds rolls up from the river valley below and envelopes the town.
In this absorbing memoir, Blankenship tells the interwoven stories of building their house in the clouds and strengthening their ties to the community. Although she and Michael had spent considerable time in Cañar before deciding to move there, they still had much to learn about local customs as they navigated the process of building a house with traditional materials using a local architect and craftspeople. Likewise, fulfilling their obligations as neighbors in a community based on reciprocity presented its own challenges and rewards. Blankenship writes vividly of the rituals of births, baptisms, marriages, festival days, and deaths that counterpoint her and Michael’s solitary pursuits of reading, writing, listening to opera, playing chess, and cooking. Their story will appeal to anyone contemplating a second life, as well as those seeking a deeper understanding of daily life in the developing world.
Judy Blankenship is an award-winning photographer, writer, and editor. She is the author of Cañar: A Year in the Highlands of Ecuador, and her photographic exhibition, The Cañari of Southern Ecuador, traveled to museums, universities, and cultural venues across the United States, Canada, and Ecuador. With Cañari colleagues, Blankenship has collaborated on several documentary projects with the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, including photographs, videos, audio recordings, and a bilingual Quichua-Spanish book.
This is a compelling memoir about creating a life in another culture. . . . Blankenship offers fascinating perspectives on the indigenous Andean world from her stance as a writer, a photographer, and, as the book progresses, an honorary local. . . . The book will definitely appeal to general audiences eager to learn about contemporary Ecuador, and it will draw readers curious about the day-to-day reality of creating a life in such a different environment. People who want to escape the confines of a single cultural viewpoint will also find inspiration here. We come away with a sense of the profound differences and inequalities in the world, but also of the many ways that friendships transcend our divides.
~Joanne B. Mulcahy, author of Remedios: The Healing Life of Eva Castellanoz, and Birth and Rebirth on an Alaskan Island: The Life of an Alutiiq Healer
"where we are" by Gerald Locklin
1. Planting a Tree for Plinio
2. On Becoming Property Owners in Ecuador
3. How Much Will All This Cost?
4. Construction Begins, Poco a Poco
5. "You're Going to Live Here?"
6. The Lives of the Workers
7. Carnival: Sins and Repentance, Abundance and Reciprocity
8. Sticks and Stones, Mud and Horse Manure
9. We Become Padrinos . . . Again
11. Putting Out Fires
12. Personae non Gratae in Ecuador:(or) Why We Went to Peru Last Week
13. On Becoming Residents of a Foreign Country: (or) "Just Go Get Married Again!"
14. Leaving Cañar
15. The Return
16. On This Day a Year Ago
17. Reality Sets In
18. The Devil Is in the Details
19. A Short History of This Place
20. Moving Day
21. The Wasipichana
22. The Mysteries of the New House and a Mother's Visit
Stay connected for our latest books and special offers.
We live in an information-rich world. As a publisher of international scope, the University of Texas Press serves the University of Texas at Austin community, the people of Texas, and knowledge seekers around the globe by identifying the most valuable and relevant information and publishing it in books, journals, and digital media that educate students; advance scholarship in the humanities and social sciences; and deepen humanity’s understanding of history, current events, contemporary culture, and the natural environment.