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New Year Adventures

I spent several days with my family in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador. I live in Quito with my husband and 11-year-old son. My two oldest daughters live and work in the U.S. Christmas is one of the few times we see each other during the year though we always look for ways to get together more often.

As I was writing this, it was raining. I wondered where the monkeys were hiding, especially the big fat one and the smaller ones we had been watching swing from tree branch to tree branch. My daughters took pictures and videos of them. They were really amazing and we never tired of watching them play and eat the bananas that the resort owners gave them as a treat.

There were also lots of insects. The annoying kind and the fascinating kind. They were all amazing and we were mesmerized by the strength of the ants as they carried tiny leaves and other debris to their queen.

On New Year's Day we went to the Cavernas de Jumandi. I am not an extreme sport person and I'm not enamored of camping in the great outdoors. I respect and admire nature, but from a distance. However, this is my year for being ambitious - succeeding at whatever goals I set for myself. And one of my goals is to conquer my fears or at least to confront them. So, although I was wary of spending an hour underground in caves used by the indigenous tribes of the area to hide from the conquering Spanish armies, I faced this fear and plunged ahead. Wow! What a truly amazing experience.

We swam through a small laguna, squeezed through cave walls and crawled through even narrower passageways. Our guide was constantly warning us to watch our heads, our backs and our shoulders. We had head lamps to help illuminate our way and to make sure that we didn't unknowingly step into a water hole, which I did once. The water was crystal cold and refreshing. On our way out we had to climb up a stair of uneven rocks and I did it! What made things much easier for all of us was that the rocks were never slippery so we felt relatively secure as we clambered around the cave. It bares pointing out that our young guide was barefoot.

On New Year's Eve we ventured into the town of Archidona to join the traditional festivities of the quema del año viejo (burning of an effigy representing the old year) and some dancing. The band sang songs in Spanish and Quichua, one of the indigenous languages of the region.

On our trip back to Quito all I could think about was that in two sleeps I would be heading back to school. Although I had done a lot of professional reading and writing, I had not done any planning. That would happen in bits and pieces over the weekend. Instead of worrying, I decided to enjoy my family and relax.

Here's to a wonderful New Year replete with ambitious projects and experiences to conquer our fears.
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