Saturday, April 30, 2011

Go For a Ride?

April 28, 2011

Photo Courtesy of Sitara

We’ve been back in our house since around the first of March; we reserved the month to ourselves to enjoy being home for awhile, and it’s been a treat after almost 5 months of living in a rented apartment. It’s just nice to be in our own bed, putter in our own garden, take care of the little chores that all houses require, and be close to the beach again.

But during the busy season (which started for us in mid-October when we moved to the apartment) Todd and I did have many wonderful opportunities to meet and/or get to know better so many interesting people (locals and tourists alike).

Sitara, me, and docs
back in November

Back of Bubba's head,
Sitara and Joanie.
One gal that Todd and I became very fond of is Sitara. She is a Norte Americana, but has spent the better part of the last 12 years in Latin/South America, speaks the language fluently, is intelligent and independent, amply accomplished in several specialized fields of interest. She landed in Ecuador not too long after Todd and I moved to the apartment, and she and I struck up a conversation while sitting at adjoining tables in a Montanita café  one afternoon. She was looking for a place live for awhile, and ended renting a cute house in the same local neighborhood a few doors down from our apartment. We all became great friends (as she did with many people around here – a beautiful and generous woman inside and out).  It’s a little tough to write this now, because Sitara just left this week for the States to be with family for an indefinite time. There were several going away parties for her, and Sit, when you read this, know that you are missed (sniff).

Susanna and German Mike
at Sitara's going away party

Rene, artisan and owner of the
A man of many talents, who joined in the impromtu jam session at the party.
I don't believe they have a dedicated website, but the above link is very informative

Joanie and Bubba

Rene and Gloria

Viktors of Latvia
with Todd on the beach
We had a Latvian family stay at our house during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. They were a nice, friendly bunch, although at times there were a few language barriers. They didn’t speak much Spanish, we obviously don’t speak any Slavic dialect, but their English was pretty good and they were an enjoyable group to have around the neighborhood. Plus, they left a ton of great tabloids and books (including all three of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series – in hardback). Which would have been a bit more thrilling for me if they weren’t all written (we think) in a Finish dialect that not even German Mike (who speaks four languages, including Russian) can identify…But I think our book exchange library may now have cornered the market on this Scandinavian reading material in case anyone is looking for it.

Karen & Randy Kimbler
Me & Karen
(Finally, we get to meet!)

Karen, Randy, Chuck (he and his wife Nancy also write an
and Rox and Bob who live nearby, and write an
informative blog: "BobnRox"

We did have the house to ourselves for the first couple of weeks in December, and alternated between the apartment and our home, but generally enjoyed staying in Jardines during most of that time to relax and prepare for the onslaught of family, friends, and visitors arriving for the Christmas, New Year’s , February- April holidays. During that time, we had the pleasure of a visit from expats Karen and Randy Kimbler (from Northwest U.S. and now living in Cuenca) who came to stay with us for a day and night. Karen writes an entertaining and enlightening blog “Kimbler’s Exit to Ecuador that details their experience of moving to Cuenca, Ecuador, (I’m a fan) and I really looked forward to spending time with them in person. We weren’t disappointed – they were an interesting, intelligent, adventurous, open-minded couple to hang with.
We had a wonderful time with them, and we look forward to anytime we have an opportunity to spend with them next.

Chuck, Randy, and Karen

Robert and Barb

In January we had several different groups stay in our house (and other rentals that Todd offers) – all fun groups, and one family in our house were repeat customers whom we have enjoyed in the past. We also had a chance to get to know Barb and Robert, guests (and now friends) in our home in January during their adventure here, and they purchased a darling beach front home in Curia (the next town north of Olon) while they were here. More on that later.

February we had several easygoing and pleasurable couples from Canada staying together at the house,  They were also an adventuresome gang and spent time exploring various areas of Ecuador during their stay. They seemed to ease right into the Ecuadorian tranquillo lifestyle after a few days. Thank goodness, because in the 24 hours we had to prepare for their check in, everything that could have gone wrong…did... DID go wrong….I mean like the previous guests left a mess, the power was out for the 15 hours prior, and our apartment flooded with 3 inches of water around a half hour before they arrived. Once again, another story, but one I am still too traumatized to go into detail now.
There is a lot more I want to and will write more about the folks we got to know during this time, but for now, I’ll leave it at this.

No, that is not a cigarette dangling
from Daisy's mouth. It's a "chewy"
On a more current note, we have found a visiting vet for Daisy (Dr. Byron) that has just begun to see her on a regular basis, and we have a lot of confidence in him. She had a disturbing lip growth that he removed, he checked out her still intact female organs (despite being sterile now), and started the inoculations she needs. There are several other vets that make “house calls” to Olon that we can “vet” for (no pun intended), but we are happy for now with Dr. Byron’s qualifications and concern and care for Daisy.
She is also getting used to occasionally riding in a motor vehicle. The first time she had to get into an automobile was the night of the tsunami (when we took her with us to the hills), and it took both of us to lift her into the vehicle several times that night, much to her resistance.
Now, because we occasionally have use of “Big Deck Doug’s” truck, we have gotten her more used to “going for a ride” in the pick-up bed (not inside the cab).  She is starting to like better “going for rides", although we still need to lift her heavy butt into the pick-up bed every time.

No party is complete here without
music and dancing

One last dance, friend
Until we meet again.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dog is as Dog Does

April 11, 2011

Daisy never did much cotton to CAT while we were living in the apartment, although I admit I became quite fond of her scrappy feline calico presence. CAT just cracked me up. She loved to be held, petted, especially on her tummy, and loved to be held lying on her back (which in my experience with cats is kinda weird). We never let her in the apartment; she drove us crazy because she was so “talky”, especially at meal times.
CAT wtih one of
her relatives or friends
 One of the funnier things was that CAT got pissed that we were letting Daisy inside and CAT figured out how to open screen door to get in…much to Daisy’s chagrin.
CAT tried to buddy up with Daisy, but Daisy was having nothing to do with that.  I think Daisy is just a little scared of cats. In Daisy’s younger days, she loved chasing cats, but I’m guessing a few of them got in a few well-placed clawed nose swipes during her “let’s hound cats” learning curve.

Daisy spent most nights with us at the apartment (breakfast and dinner included), but couldn’t wait to get back to her “hood” every morning and loved hanging around with all the fun folks staying in Jardines de Olon during the busy season. And honestly, all of our visitors were great with her too… We tried to make sure that all willing guests had a bag of dog food around, just in case she came around looking for a snack.
For awhile we left her “official” food bowls at Big Deck’s house since family and friends were there for most of December through March during the holidays (while we were at the apartment). That’s Daisy’s usual favorite house to hang out at (when we’re not home), because she can keep a sharp eye out on the beach, especially for the rogue beach donkeys and cows that dare to come around and threaten our well being.  One kind guest mentioned that Daisy was the “perfect vacation dog”.  Daisy loves everyone and everyone loves her – she is the ideal neighborhood ambassador and mascot.  In particular, Daisy became extremely fond of “Big Deck” Doug while he was here, and those two became the best of buddies. She also became enamored with my little brother Jack, who played and petted her, and teased her unmercifully.
Daisy is a well mannered dog. She’s just plain smart and independent – she needed to be. By the time we all discovered her hanging around Jardines, I guess she was around 6-7 months old. She knows she is not allowed in anyone’s house, she’s not a “barky” dog nor a “lickey” dog (though we are still trying to teach her some manners about sniffing peoples’ butts). Our guests have been good about only feeding her from a designated bowl at mealtimes - she’s NOT allowed TO BEG at tables, though she is not above trying occasionally (STRONGLY DISCOURAGED WITH ANY DOG HERE – Daisy or not).  She doesn’t usually jump on anyone (she’d better not) except when she’s really excited to see someone familiar and missed them – and please nip that in the bud with a good knee to her solar plexus if she tries it. She’s a big girl, and doesn’t always know her own strength.

A while back, on a drizzly December day, Todd and I took a walk south down to the Montanita Point with Daisy, and found a coveted Galapagos turtle washed in (coveted because they are already usually dead  and the shell of these things are treasured…but before they are ready to use or display, a lot of nasty, smelly, elbow-grease  work required after the vultures get done).We hid it in some tall grass near a more or less empty  stretch of beach and went to retrieve it around a week later with Oswaldo’s borrowed wheel barrel. 
Vultures had barely started eating it and its head and legs were dangling by rubbery skin. It smelled awful when we lifted the carcass into the barrel. We got about 20-40 ft with it, and then decided the chore might be easier/weigh much lighter if we used a couple of sharp beach rocks to chop off few the superfluous flesh fragments. That was a mistake, because between the dead turtle smell and plethora of maggots in wheelbarrow, we both tossed our cookies. We ended up letting the corpse wash back out to sea and we are pretty sure our neighbors would be grateful to know that we didn’t bring it back here to “cure’ it in one of our empty lots.

Daisy protecting us from the dangerous paper mache dinosaur effigy we burned on New Year´s Eve.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Crazy For You

April 6, 2011

One trait that all Ecuadorians seem to share is ingenuity – it’s one of the characteristics I love most about them. They have an uncanny ability to forge through just about any difficulty with solutions that are truly creative, resourceful, and practical.  They really know how to make the most use of what’s at hand. 


This is especially true of many housing/road construction projects and car repairs I’ve seen, but also is evident in the many lovely ways their food (“comida típica”), culture and customs have evolved along this Pacific coastline which has been continuously settled for at least 5000 years.* Not to mention their broad knowledge and use of native plants for natural medicinal purposes.

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The rope in the forground is
serving as a temporary speed bump.

But the thing that tickles me most is how they manage and vie to squeeze as many folks as possible at any given time on one vehicle whether it’s a bus, taxi, or bike. The more affluent families own a motor -scooter and it never ceases to astonish me how many people they can squeeze on one.

From mid-October 2010 until the first of March this year, we sublet a friend’s apartment (east of the Ruta, on the calle de la lavenderia) while our beach house was –for the most part – occupied by vacationers during our busy season.  Generally speaking, it was a positive experience because we adored and knew all our local neighbors and liked the barrio, but it was an adjustment, nevertheless.
Most municipalities around here turn the city water off from around 10PM to 6AM (and sometimes for a couple of hours during the day) for conservation purposes. For those who have cisterns (as we do at our house), this is not an issue: water supply is continual and generally these interruptions go unnoticed, unless the electrical power goes out simultaneously, in which case pumping & heating devices are also neutered. 

Our apartment lacked a cistern and we were at mercy of the municipal water provisions. For the first couple of weeks, the kitchen faucet squealed loudly in any position we set it until we replaced the whole damn thing.  The advantage to that racket was that we always knew when the water came back on because of the fingernail on chalkboard sound emanating from the kitchen sink. In a way, the shrieking spigot noise served as an early warning system if one of us had accidently left a faucet turned on (you would be surprised how easy it is to inadvertently  leave a faucet turned to “on” position while the water is temporarily  “off”).
Then there was another night when I almost blew my head off - Wiley Coyote style -trying to light the unfamiliar propane oven.  Seriously, I am still trying to re-cultivate my eyebrows after that experience…. We were never able to take a decent hot shower there during our sojourn; it was waaaaay too small for the both of us; and the weather was crappy, cold, and unseasonably wet. ** We were essentially cooped up together 24/7 for a few months (but everyone around here was feeling that way by the end of November).

The street we lived on was perpetually muddy more often than not…. Almost daily we trudged through the muck (gloppy, sloppy, and slick as snot) to catch a bus, to do a load of wash at our house (outside utility room) a few times a week, and occasionally savor a hot shower at “Big Deck’s” temporarily vacant house (the one owned by my brother Jack, Doug and Pam, and a couple of other partners), or to take Daisy for a walk on the beach.
We bickered more than usual over our shared laptop time, whose trash turn it was, what or where to eat, and bathroom courtesies. ..And more often than not, we squabbled about which one of us was working harder to make this “dream” happen, because we were both working non-stop during this time and all too often in miserable moods.  My memory of this first “season” here is a blur of turnover preparation and cleaning activity, and Todd’s schedule was even more hectic. We were at least settled into one place for awhile during that time, without having to move around every couple of weeks. But I will admit, during this last Christmas season in particular, I envied my more settled friends who were enjoying snowy holiday traditions with their families.

In many other ways, we loved our time in that triplex apartment.  We saw an insane number of new, colorful birds in the more jungle environment (I put bread crumbs on our back wall early each morning to attract them and enjoyed watching them through the window while having coffee in bed), had more opportunity to converse in Spanish, met local people that we might not have gotten to know otherwise, and in general, had the chance to become more absorbed in the local community. And during the better times, because we were living much more simply, without a lot of material encumbrances or the usual taken-for-granted luxuries (like hot showers), we felt kind of like a couple of 19 year old kids sharing our first apartment (cinder block shelves included).

I mean, yes, we love our life here.  We live in a tropical ocean paradise (maybe not St. Bart’s, but still, naturally spectacular).  We get to meet interesting people from all over the world. We have a wonderful opportunity to immerse into an entirely new culture, and every day is a learning adventure.
But…but I would be remiss not to mention that moving to a different country causes considerable stress on even the best of relationships. Todd and I got married, moved to a new country, and adopted our new daughter Daisy within 30 days, so I suppose our more vociferous quarrels this first year are understandable. And yet, we have learned better how to shrug off the petty, handle with more humor and tolerance the delicate conversations and – this is my favorite – “only one of us gets to go crazy at a time”. ***

* According to most sources I know, but a knowledgeable friend of mine recently mentioned that he had read that possible Pre-Clovis artifacts have been discovered along our coastline.

* * The weather finally began to brighten in mid-December. Locals told us this was the longest, coldest winter in memory.

*** One of my favorite lines from a movie, but danged if I can remember which one.