Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Visit from Bernie

November 24, 2011

I have been in an “I’m going to have to kill someone today” mood lately… Most likely that will be Todd, who is in closest proximity. Poor guy.  Seriously, I’ve been riding a rocket-powered broom for the last couple of weeks. And the sound of my whining has been as grating (and as welcome) as a leaf-blower blaring early on a lazy, sleep-in day off…Which we haven’t had in a while, except for our recent Quito trip.

I took the chicken bus into Santa Elena and Libertad/Salinas yesterday to take care of some things while Todd stayed in Olon to handle other chores. And, for a change right now, I wasn’t complaining about my portion, because I thoroughly intended to reward myself with a meatball sandwich and conversation at Will & Wendy’s Hostal Aqui while I was “in town”.  

There is a group of Salinas expats and locals who are actively making a positive difference in our southern Ruta Del Sol area.   

Children from the
Olon Nursery School
The pot-luck Thanksgiving being held at Hostal Aqui this year will also be a fund-raiser for the Orphanage in Olon (located next to the church on the cliff point). In particular, expats Todd and Mary Freeman spearhead these efforts. For a $30 dollar commitment, one can adopt a child via a drawing of names.
I am going to quote several of Mary’s recent emails about this:

“Hi all,
While Will will be notifying all by text about Thanksgiving, we know some of you are not on his phone list. So.....The traditional Hostal Aqui's Thanksgiving dinner will be on Thursday the 24, beginning at 6pm. Will supplies the turkeys;, everyone else brings a traditional appetizer, side dish or dessert.
Anyone wanting to donate a bath towel can bring it to Will's.
If you like we can pick a name for you to buy 2 gifts...1 clothing and 1 toy approx $30 total. And /or Will is accepting contributions for their christmas dinner...he does turkeys, rice, beans, and desserts.
Have a happy Thanksgiving.”
M & T

Will let me draw early (since I’m not sure when we will have chance to hit the “city” again to shop). Blue index cards for boys, pink cards for girls.  I picked a blue one, and my new little one may have some special needs according to Will.
There is a 9-yr old boy in this orphanage who was conceived during an incestuous relationship (I’m sorry; there is no other way to say this). But more shocking is that he was chained to a tree outside for the first 7 years or so of his life, until he was rescued.  At first, according to Will, he was diffident and non-communicative, but has become affectionate and is learning to socialize. This child (who is “slow” – whether born that way, or as a result of his initial environment, or a combination of both is unclear to me) he now takes great pride in making his bed and carefully sorts his few clothes in the laundry room each morning.

And I’m complaining because I might be first in line to start a “Merry Maids” franchise in Ecuador?

In the meantime, we have “Bernie” the cat staying with us for a little while. Long story short – his owner lives in Curia, but has been traveling South America and the States for awhile, was suppose to be back by now, and it’s a little nebulous to us who is precisely in charge of taking care of Bernie until master returns. Bernie is a cool and healthy cat (a Manx), though at first, I was really, really irritated when he was dropped off at our house a few days ago….”that f’n cat is going right back up to Curia today!

Except I wasn’t sure how to get him there.  My choices were to hold him while riding on the back of German Mike’s motorcycle (hmmm…while getting clawed to pieces), or take the chicken bus (and I’ve seen some pretty strange sights on those, but don’t ever recall anyone getting on the buses hauling a mad cat), so I decided to call a taxi. Todd was in complete agreement, and was understandably confused when I drastically shifted my position to “keep Bernie for awhile” while waiting for driver to show up.

Our dog Daisy is pretty pissed about this decision. She rules the roost around here, but between us, she is SCARED of cats. Bernie is comfortable around dogs, but Daisy’s four feet sprang 2-feet backward at once when Bernie nosed near. Though I think the two of them will learn to tolerate each other during their sojourn, Daisy’s dismay is unmistakable.

Todd and I wish you a very blessed Thanksgiving. May we all count our blessings, because they are many, though we may not always perceive them.

Friday, November 18, 2011


November 17, 2011

The busy season doesn’t start until December, but - like last year – Todd and I have been going like banshees since the end of October, with lots of friends, family, and guests in town. And the pace isn’t likely to slow down until April, so we jumped on the chance to take a 3-day vacation in Quito last week to join my brother Jack and his partner Doug (“Big Deck”) for a side-trip while they are here.  Doug went to attend the International Living (IL) conference; Jack is always up for any trip (this is around his 7th visit to Quito), and Todd and I planned on some much needed R & R and sightseeing.

This is only my second time in Quito (I was there 4 years ago – briefly – on my initial trip to Ecuador, and Todd’s first time there).  Jack and Todd and I stayed at one of my favorite boutique hotels, that Jack introduced me to the first time: the Café Cultura, not far from either la Mariscal (“La Gringolandia”) or the Parque El Ejido. It is on the pricier side, and more than Todd and I would normally spend on a room, but we splurged, since we haven’t had a real vacation in several years. The original plan was to make the 8 to 10 hour scenic drive from Olon, but we ended up catching one of the many available 25-minute daily flights from Guayaquil to Quito (around $80 round-trip). No reservation necessarily required, unless one is on an inflexible schedule (if you are one of those, heaven help you when you come to Ecuador….).

The Café Cultura is a treat unto itself. Every room is creatively and uniquely different, every comfort is seen to and anticipated, the food and the dining room are great, and the staff is stellar. Not to mention the inviting common areas like the main lobby, and an intimate library/den (each with a cozy fireplace) where interesting guests from all over the world congregate and chat, many who are jumping off or returning from the Galapagos. For me anyway, the Café Cultura is a seductive place to hang out and relax, and if we never left the grounds – no complaint from us….Which we kinda ended up doing.

Yes, we had grand sight-seeing and various food sampling plans for our almost 3-day respite in Quito.  
Yes, we were going to take at least one of the many day trips out of Quito to shop in Otavalo during a weekday, or see the butterflies in Mindo, or gorge on leather in Cotacachi.
Yes, as soon as we unpacked, Jack and Todd and I headed to the “La Mariscal” district and Foch Plaza cafés for a few drinks, appetizers, and people-watching.
That was after Jack & I first dragged Todd to our favorite – if expensive – store in Quito – the Galeria Latina, (on Juan León Mera y Veintimill; if Maria Augusta is there, ask to have her show you around) to browse. Todd loved it, which is completely out of character (“who are you, and what have you done with Todd?), since he doesn’t like to shop.

And yes, Todd and I finally got to spend some time around “Old Town” (El Centro Histórico), with its Spanish Colonial flavor, old churches initially from the 1600’s, museums, and the Presidential Palace, among other things, with Jack as our tour guide. But it was rainy and cold day on the morning we made the 20-30 minute walk there from our hotel and we ended up ducking into one of the few places around that area to stay dry and quench our beer thirst with a few pricey Pilseners at the Hotel Plaza Grande.

We did tour the Iglesia de San Francisco with its breathtaking gilt-encrusted ceiling and baroque altar, and the attached museum, but because of the weather, did not see much else and Todd and I planned on returning the next day to poke around Old Town some more.

Did we get back to the Historic District to see more?  Nope.
Did we get to Equator Museum (“Inti-Nan”)?   Nope.
Did we take the TelefériQo cable ride up the Volcán Pichincha? Nope.

But probably the thing that is going to make my friends shake their heads in disgust…..Did we try any of the really great restaurants in Quito?
Well…no…because I discovered (just two blocks from our hotel) a Pizza Hut and ended up eating there not once, but twice. A true traveshamóckery, but – hey! – as a gringa who has missed some of her favorite Estados Unidos pig-out places after a year and a half, I couldn’t resist. That, and we were really enjoying just hanging out and relaxing at the Café Cultura.

We did have a great time, though it went too quickly. We returned to Olon to hit the ground running again, prepping houses for visitors and getting our friend’s Barb and Robert’s house in Curia ready for their permanent arrival later this week. We also helped my brother and Doug host a reception for the International Living tour group that inevitably comes through our area after one of their conferences. The power went out for an hour or two before they arrived, complicating preparations, but Todd and I took a short interlude that afternoon just to sit on our back patio and watch the colorful birds flitting around, and thought: “we don’t do this often enough”…..Another traveshamóckery.

*  Don’t bother looking up the word “traveshamóckery”. It’s not a word in any language. It is made-up word, and we have used it for years (combining travesty, sham, and mockery)....except I thought it might be more clear with the accent mark.