Dear Lola,

The Chinese have this saying.  They say the frog sees only the sky from the bottom of the well.  We travelers are like this too, the way we travel two thousand miles to isolate ourselves in museums and preserved antiquity. 

I sense that what happens now, or is about to happen tomorrow, reveals more about our world than tumbled-down bricks and aged parchment.  To travel into today is to climb out of the well.

That's why I am writing you from the small town of El Valle de Antón, which sits inside a volcanic caldera, and which is sometimes known as ground zero for global extinction.

On Sundays, El Valle de Anton's open-air market fills up, and vendors come in to sell fresh fruits, decorative plants and artwork.  Among brilliant lilies and serpentine orchids, you will find that vendors offer hundreds of carved and sculpted yellow frogs on sale.  Many of these frogs sit hopefully on toadstools, looking at the sky.  Some cheerfully adorn ceramic cookery or sit in sexually suggestive poses.  Others are talking on cell phones or surfing the internet.