Wednesday, June 15, 2016


June 4, 2016

First Reunion with two of my daughters
and grandchildren.  And my brother Jack.
Harbor House Cafe in Dana Point.

I have been back in the States now for about 7 weeks.
It's good to be back home, but I am overwhelmed at the moment with culture shock (anticipated, but a little tougher than I thought) and the big elephant still left to bite off...assimilating back into the USA.
I believe it was easier adjusting to Ecuador six years ago, than it has been to move back to the States.
It's been GREAT seeing my kids and grandchildren again!!!  That's the good part, and has made this transition all the more worth it.
I mentioned before that my three daughters (and five grandchildren, with a sixth one on the way shortly) and I have lived in four different countries for the last six years, but one daughter and family who were in England for 13-yrs also just recently repatriated back to the States, and I finally got to meet my almost 3-yr old British twin grandchildren (Isobel and Levi).

And I have had the chance to get reacquainted with my oldest granddaughter (Avery) who was nine years old when I moved to Ecuador, and is now so grown up since we last had time together.

"Little" Moments in life that mean a lot.

This is Isobel and Levi's first trip
to a Chucky Cheese.
They don't have them in England.
Such a joy to watch their joy. 

Avery's first prom.
So grateful to be here to
share in this moment.

The view from my brother Jack's home.
Where I landed for first few weeks.
The dichotomy between living in a small, rural coastal Ecuadorian fishing village for six years, and life back in the USA is vast –particularly since my initial landing pad was in Orange County, California.
The pace of life, the amount of material wealth, the well-manicured neighborhoods has found me baffled and bewildered.

  • The Sun sets in the wrong place (further north than I am used to).
  • The night time boat lights I see from Laguna Beach view are not "simple" fishing vessels.
  • Miss the roosters (honestly).  I miss those noisy little bastards.

I expected this to a degree, but I feel like I landed in the land of the “Jetson’s”.
Not to mention all the changes in technology since I last lived here.
Within the first few days of returning to States, I went to a Target store to shop with two of my daughters here in California, and various grandchildren.
The Target store was bigger than the town of Olón (and I used to breeze through Targets and Walmart’s with ease).
I was only shopping for a billfold and purse that day, but became near tears from the plethora of choices available.
And that was just shopping for a WALLET.

My "new" car.
So happy!
I knew ahead of me – quite quickly – was the need to buy a car, a USA smart phone, and a new laptop (to replace the 4-yr old Toshiba I’ve been using that has no working keyboard, and only one external working port – tough as a writer with those limitations) to launch this new journey.
To say that getting “up-to-speed” would be an understatement.
I began by buying a cheap Walmart “smart phone” (that is smarter than me, and still reading that instruction manual), than segued way into buying a car (I don’t know much about cars, but did a lot of on-line research to determine what to buy before purchasing one).  And happy with the car I bought from CarMax (and reading the instruction manuals on that as well). 
Feel like such a hick and rube.

One afternoon, shortly after I returned, I went to my Orange County storage area (which contains mostly sentimental stuff I kept, when I moved to Ecuador) to clean up files, and condense a little more).
The guy working there closed up early without realizing I was still in the storage complex. Nice guy. Not his fault; he did do final golf-cart run through, and didn’t see me dumping trash into bin in the very back of the complex.
When I went to gate to leave (around 5:25PM) the automatic locking gate didn’t open. Codes don't work on keypad after 5:30PM --- until 8AM....The storage guy had already locked the pad and left a little earlier.
The only number I had was the office number, but of course, no one was there.
No emergency number or ADT to call.
Was totally flummoxed...And I wasn't sure of my exact location address (though I eventually found it).
I was panicked!
And because of my claustrophobia, even though I was locked in an outdoor area, this triggered my brain to think I was dying of thirst, and of course, I had no water with me (which after six years in Ecuador, I am in habit of having on me, along with toilet paper – but not on me that day).
Didn't know whether to call Pizza Hut for delivery, and settle into my car backseat for the night, or call the police.
After about an hour of frantically calling any number I could think of (went back to my storage unit to pull the storage unit file to find any number that might help).
I finally called 911.
"Help! I am locked in a storage facility and I can't get out"...
They were really nice and understanding.
About an hour later, nice young cop came with key to let me meantime, I read my car and phone instruction manuals....
I was supposed to have beer and dinner with my middle daughter and grandchildren, and had to cancel/explain reason. I did get there later in the evening and we all had a good laugh.

However, I knew I could not afford, nor desire to live in Southern California again, and as soon as possible after buying the car, seeing kids again, taking care of business in California, hit the road for new destination...I think New Mexico is calling to me.

(Please note the date on this essay.  I wrote it several weeks ago, and only now getting it to post because of adventures -- should probably say "mis-adventures" on this journey to find a new home, but more on that later).

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Last Goodbye

May 30, 2016

I’m in the States now.  I have been back almost 6 weeks.
Leaving Ecuador was not a spur-of-moment decision. I had been planning it for some time.  After six years there, I was ready to come home. 

Mostly, I missed my family, though my three daughters and I have been spread out among four different countries for years (one on California, one in England, and one in Germany – and I lived in Ecuador).  However, my daughter in England recently moved back to Southern California with her family, after 13 years there…now just hoping my daughter in Germany will eventually return too.
I have five grandchildren (with one on the way in the next few weeks, in Germany) and I want to be closer to them to enjoy their formative years.
But it was tough, tough, tough leaving behind the little town of Olón, and all the friends made during that time – they became like family to me.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think about all of them, and miss them.

And to all the expats I have lifted lighters from:
Don't say I didn't pay you back.

(My contribution to one of the final potlucks)

The earthquake that happened just before I left was devastating and made it even harder to get on the plane to leave, knowing how really, really bad it was on the ground on the northern coast of Ecuador.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake happened on the evening of April 16, (four days before my scheduled departure) near the town of Muisne, about 3 hours north of Olón.

Taken just moments before the
earthquake hit.
Of course we felt it in Olón (my brother Jack had come down to help with the move, and he and some of our friends had just sat down to dinner at a restaurant next to the park) when the shaking started.  From our perspective, it started out somewhat slow, built to a large crescendo, and lasted longer than any earthquake I’ve experienced (25 years of living in California – Whittier, Northridge, Landers quakes to name a few). 
As the earthquake was peaking, we were able to run outside (keeping an eye on overhead power lines, and adjacent cement buildings under construction).  Others in Olón tell stories of not being able to stand up through it.  
Earthquakes are weird that way.
However, other than power outages, and some strong aftershocks, Olón escaped relatively unscathed.

Not the same can be said about areas near the epicenter.  Entire towns were decimated, the death toll is over 650 people, 12,000+ were injured, and hundreds of thousands of people are now homeless.
I personally know of at least three expat couples who live in the earthquake zone who lost their homes (a big shout out to Donald and Cheryl PaPania, Angie Wilkinson & family, Dave and Miriam Weaver – know that my heart and prayers are with you) and numerous locals who I still am not aware of their status.
My heart still bleeds for those affected by Ecuador coastal earthquake...yet what has been inspiring is to now watch how this little, beautiful, wonderful country and its people have pulled together to rebuild and regroup.
Please, if you are reading this, pray and support these efforts.  Ecuador is still a lovely, awesome, safe place to live and visit.

The other terribly rough part of moving back to States was leaving darling Daisy behind.
How much I miss her, dream of her, want to hug her again
But she never would have been able to make this transition back to the States.
She was about a nine-month old Olón beach stray when we adopted her, six years ago. 
She has run free all her life, rules her realm and everybody knows and loves her (locals, expats, and tourists).  She would have withered living in a more restrictive pet environment, and too old to make the adjustment.
Thus, I was extremely grateful for my friends Annette and Dan for agreeing to adopt her.  Though she’s a very independent and self-reliant dog, it is a BIG responsibility for them, since she is now older, and does require more regular medical attention.
My heart is forever grateful to Annette and Dan.
Daisy knows and loves them very much, and they love her…
And Annette, if you are reading this, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart about the way you handled the “last goodbye”.
You know what I am talking about.  You are a wise woman, and I miss you.

(Ummm…I was going to continue here about my “first hello” back into the States, but can’t quite figure out how to make that writing transition without making this post too long and perhaps disjointed, so following up shortly with another post).

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Cribbage in the Wind - Part 2

March 27, 2016

This week is “Semana Santa” and we’re entering into the end-zone of season finale during “high time” along the Ecuador beaches.
It’s been sort of a weird season this year; slower than usual. The potential “El Niño Phenomenon” that scared many otherwise out-of-country tourists has yet to have any considerable effect around the Olón area.
That is not to say its impact hasn’t been felt elsewhere in the world.
The Canadians’ currency situation diminished the usual number of visitors from there, and all the main-stream media stories about the “Zika” and other mosquito borne illnesses has frightened others.

However, many friends have been sick here recently with a virus (and in some cases, an underlying bacterial thing).  These folks have been horribly and miserably sick for about 10-days to two-weeks (high fever, headaches, aching, bronchial and sinus issues - and some report vomiting and diarrhea). 
It does not appear to be caused by mosquitoes…rather a flu going around the world, since we’re hearing from people in other countries that have it too.

The Olón beach packed with
Easter crowds.
Yet life goes on here in Olón.
Same wonderful town as always.
I love that the local people here live in the present.
They have taught me so much about being in the “now”.
The Olón beach is packed at the moment for Easter weekend with in-land Ecuadorian tourists.
Business is booming, and in Olón, our other big town party of the year is coming up next (first week or so in April).

One of the great things about living here is all the interesting people we get to meet -- from all over the world.
Olón has made many improvements to the town over the last year. 

Our new wide sidewalk along the Ruta.

New and improved soccer field
and sports complex

Bathrooms soon to be available in our
town park.

On the gringo front, a number of expats are now here permanently. 
Cyndy Wergin and her husband Roger Thomte have been a wonderful addition to our expat community.
They have organized volleyball games and also recently started a Cribbage tournament, which many of us are enjoying.

The current Cribbage Tournament is being held on Tuesdays, 1PM at the restaurant "360" atop Rincón de Olón.

Great snacks and fun during the
Tuesday Cribbage Matches.

A couple of weeks ago, Annette (and Dee) managed to put together a fun, last-minute surprise birthday party for Deb Anderson (tricky to pull off, since it was held at Deb and Cy’s place, for some pool time).
A “girls’” day with lots of laughs, good food and companionship.

Sneaking in to surprise Deb.

"Help!  Help!
I can't get up"

And then, I guess last but not least…the cat is out of the bag.
I sold my lot in Olón a few weeks ago, and am making plans to return to the States.
This is not a last minute decision, but one I have been gearing up to do for some time.
I am so grateful for the time I have had on this adventure here, but after six years, I am ready to come home.
I miss my family – probably the biggest factor that lures expats back.

It was not an easy decision, but the right one for me.  And I never thought that Ecuador would be my final “landing spot” anyway.  I figured 5-7 years here, and I’ve lived in Olón six (out of eight years).

But as the time moves closer to my departure, coming to terms with leaving this place I love so much, and saying “good-bye” to the wonderful friends I have made (locals and expats)…I find myself alternately veering from excitement to melancholy.
And scared. I don’t kid myself that the transition back to the States is going to be difficult, and probably more of a culture shock than the adjustments made when I moved here.

One of the first posts I ever wrote on this blog was called “Cribbage in the Wind” about the preparation of moving to Ecuador.  It was tough!
But I'm finding it tougher to leave here than I expected.

I will still be sharing some journal notes and posts here, as I make this transition. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Frisky Afternoons

February 22, 2016

It’s been a long time since I have written.  It is our “high and busy season” here now; plenty of events to write about, but just not opportunity to do so.

Daisy on a nighttime
holiday "worm-train"
2015 Olón holidays

I don't  think she liked it much, but 
was a good sport.
Photo courtesy of
Roger Thomte

A lot is going on now, but without a doubt, one issue that has preoccupied much of my time lately is Daisy’s health. She has been really sick.  For the last several weeks, she has been extremely lethargic, refused to eat, and could hardly walk because of her incurable degenerative hip arthritis (though she still had some frisky afternoon hours on some days).
About 5 months ago, I rushed her to Guayaquil vet when her hindquarters became suddenly paralyzed. They took x-rays, treated her for a few days, and essentially said that because of her hip situation, her comfortable days were numbered.  Since then, she has been on homeopathic bone supplements that considerably improved her condition until now.

It’s been painful to watch Daisy’s recent discomfort, and her local vet has been here for a number of house-calls in last few weeks to address/eliminate other infections she might be harboring (and to de-worm/ up-to-date her regular inoculations).

During her last “heat” cycle, she apparently did pick up a sexually transmitted condition, which local vet successfully treated with oral antibiotics and a couple of sessions involving a tube of medication inserted in her "miz" parts…
(This led to several…ummm….interesting phone conversations with local vet, when I would call him and say “ella esta lista para la manguera en su vagina ‘ahorita”…)
However, nothing seemed to help.  She was still listless, glazed eyed, and not walking or eating. I was convinced last week that she needed to be put down.  It was breaking my heart to watch her in that condition.
My friend, Annette (Daisy loves her and Dan to pieces) strongly objected going that route until Daisy had at least an exam with a Libertad/Salinas vet.
I think Daisy owes her life right now to Aunty Ann.
Annette and I took her to Libertad last Tuesday.  She has a few minor infections, but it is the hip condition that is the real problem (I had GYE x-rays to show the doc in Libertad)…there is no cure – can only make her comfortable until she just can’t walk anymore, quits eating, etc.  -- all of which was happening last week before we took her to city vet).  But he’s got her on anti-inflammatory/pain meds, and she has responded well since then.
Just no telling how long that will be effective.  A couple of months?  Maybe she can make it another year???? 
Her full panel blood tests came back negative for the tick diseases, but she has a minor ear infection and a skin fungus problem, which we’ll be treating.
For now, she wants to live, and vet basically says Daisy will let us know when she is ready to go.
Everyone around here knows and loves Daisy – locals and visitors.  She is probably the most recognized “celebrity" in Olón.  She’s a strong and determined girl, giving it her best shot, and sends her tail wags and licks to all.
I want to thank all you who were so helpful and concerned during that last Daisy crisis (especially Annette and Cheryl PaPania).

Daisy with napkin hat.
2015 Olón

Santa Lucia festivities
Photo courtesy of Roger Thomte

On a little more frivolous and light-hearted note, here are some pictures and comments on the annual holiday festivities around here.
There are a lot of parades and parties.
Circus food, fun and rides arrive.

One of the local pre-Christmas parades

Local school children from various nearby
towns treating us to parade band music.

“Season” kicks off in Olón around December 12th each year with the big 4-day “Santa Lucia” and town birthday party.  And of course, the annual Olón Orphanage Christmas Eve noon party for the kids, which is always special.
This year, I didn’t get any good photos of those events.
But to the side is a photo of a Nativity scene in Manglaralto. While I was trying to take night time photos of it, I realized that something was missing.
It was Baby Jesus.  When I asked a young and local nearby family about the reason for that, they explained that traditionally, Baby Jesus doesn’t “arrive” until the night of December 24th.
And, I suppose, amidst a much joyful and spiritual midnight local parade.
What a wonderful custom!  It is one that I (for some reason) was not aware of after all this time, though I imagine this is a ritual celebrated all over Ecuador.

Since then has also come the New Year, Carnival, and Super Bowl.

Ruta del Sol roadside effigies for sale.

The annual tradition of 
the boys playing "dress up"

New/Old Year's "orphans"
The week between Christmas
and New Year's, a tradition of
dressing up and begging for 
candy or change..
Somewhat similar to Halloween.

The bug/worm ride.
'fer sure - do it.

These aren't always as tame as 
they appear in this picture.
Especially at night when they are lit up.

Playa de James in Manglaralto is a chill place to hang out.  Best described as a great local pub, always fun and interesting clientele, and James serves up some killer dinners.
This year, Super Bowl Sunday, there was a fun and relaxed crowd at Playa de James.  Super Bowl and Carnival coincided this year, which led to a really fun evening.
After watching the game, there was (a now traditional) big foam fight between local kids and patrons of James.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Heat Stink

December 4, 2015

This last week has been hell.
Daisy has been “heat” for about ten days.
Daisy is an Ecuadorian beach dog that my ex-husband and I rescued five & half years ago.
I suppose she was about 9-10 months old then, had not reached sexual maturity yet (June/2010), and we took her to a local vet at the time to have her spayed.

Unfortunately, what we didn’t know then is that some vets here take “short-cuts” (or they are limited in their expertise) and he did not remove all her female parts.
She can’t get pregnant, though the lousy job the vet did still allowed Daisy to develop some impressive titties, and an appreciation for getting laid now and then.
Hence, Daisy experiences twice a year “pseudo heat” phases.
It is never pretty, can get extremely noisy, smelly, bloody – you name it.
The only way to counter-react/minimize this occurrence is to give her an “anti-heat” injection (as soon as recognized/possible) when she enters into this arena.
A few years ago, we took her to another vet to get a full hysterectomy, but she is not a candidate for that procedure because when he opened her up, he discovered that her ovaries are covered with sexually transmitted benign tumors which are adhered to other life-giving organs.

(A caution to others who are rescuing dogs – please make sure you use a qualified vet when spaying female dogs to avoid Daisy’s situation).

Normally, Daisy exhibits “pre-heat” symptoms in time for me to make sure she gets her shot.
It doesn’t totally eliminate the “love” cycle, but does minimize the duration of it, and she is much less receptive to the boys’ amorous advances.
However, this time Daisy gave no warning and went into full hussy mode within an hour in one day – too late for the hormone injection to be effective.
Also regrettable is that her chosen orgy den is in my old neighborhood of Jardines de Olón (where I used to own a home, and still own a lot) – which doesn’t sit too well with my friends and neighbors there.  After a few nights of loud gang-bang commotion in those backyards, one of my friends (who was understandably pissed) was able to lasso her away from the horde, and return her back home to me, where I have done my best to keep her inside.

What a nightmare!

Hope springs eternal.

At least 8-10 dogs have been lurking, barking, pissing outside my door for over a week now.
In particular, one huge German Shepherd has been persistent (he is bigger than Daisy, and Daisy weighs at least 50 pounds).  
Not only did he park himself out front, he periodically would fling himself at my door, scratching it while trying to bash it in…
I can tell you this was pretty unsettling – the first time it happened at night, I thought someone was trying to break in, and scrambled for the machete I keep around.

Daisy and I were trapped inside.
But of course, she needed to go outside for a pee now and then (on a leash).  Nearly impossible, while trying to hold onto her while throwing rocks at a bunch of aggressive and horny dogs in the meantime.

And Daisy wanted it too…oh yes…without the injection, she wanted it bad.  Argggg.

She broke off her leash a couple of times (collar slipped over her head) and took off with the gang.
The first morning she did this, I caught up with her at the beach.  At least nine dogs (that I counted, and the German Shepherd was particularly intimidating) were surrounding her/mounting her/fighting with teeth bared, as I waded in to try and slip the collar back on her neck while flinging sand in the other dogs’ eyes.
It was a scary situation…By the grace of God, none of these dogs retaliated by attacking me – because they only had one thing on their minds...
The dogs that weren’t trying to mount her were trying to hump me, evidently because her heat stink was on me too.
Despite the fright and the frustration, even then I could somewhat appreciate the comical aspect of the beach entertainment this hullabaloo was providing for bystanders (indeed – I noticed my buddy Jorge at the Olón Beach coconut stand doing his best not to laugh).
A few kind Ecuadorian tourists tried to assist, to no avail.  I called my friends Annette and Dan, who live nearby for help, and Dan showed up, wisely thinking to bring a big, sturdy walking stick with him to fend off the dogs.

Then ensued about an hour of Dan and I chasing Daisy and pack around town (locals enjoyed that show too), when Dan was finally able to catch and leash her.  We put her in his truck to bring her back home, but had to first “floor it!” up the Ruta del Sol for a while to lose the dogs chasing us, to throw them off the trail.

This photo taken about halfway through episode from “trapped inside”.
Daisy blissfully sleeping while dogs are loudly battering their bodies against front door.
Daisy is old enough to be somewhat deaf and/or was teasing that Germ Shep bastard outside who lunged at our door each time we tried to go out.

A few mornings later, she got off her leash again.  I caught up with her in Jardines de Olón, and was able to leash her, but only dared to take her as far as nearby Dan & Annette’s fenced in place (and only able to that because Dan thoughtfully lent me the BIG STICK to use, after her last escape to joust off Daisy’s suitors).
Daisy and I landed at their place around 11:30 AM.
I was tired, overwhelmed and sobbing…Thanks, Annette and Dan for the proverbial shoulder, and the much needed morning Pilsener.

As I write this, the worst is now over, and Daisy is almost back to her own self.

Photo taken yesterday.
This cute local "wee-bit" dog was a little late for the party…and well…just a leetle bit leetle also.  

(Some of these photos are from my archives, since I would have needed a few extra arms to capture some of the more recent “special moments”…and was not able to get a photo of that freakin’ German Shepherd).