Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ja Ja Seesters

March 14, 2013

It has been a very busy few weeks, with lots of events going on, and with fun friends and interesting visitors passing through.
Carnavale has come and gone.  It was crazy here as usual, but I don’t think it was as crowded as last year.  My friend Davida Julian and her honey Tom came for a visit during that time.  Davida owns property in Montanita, currently lives in Pennsylvania, but looking forward to moving here permanently.  Davida and I first met a couple of years ago, we haven’t seen each after that, but have kept in close touch since then. It was fun to see them!

Carnavale crowds
Olon Beach
Tom and Davida
Photo Courtesy of Davida

One of the gringo nights at
Ojas in Olon
The expat community along our area of coastal Ecuador has grown considerably over the last couple of years.  There are regular gringo get-togethers now (usually on Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons), thanks to the dedicated efforts and coordination of expats Heather Austring and Deb Anderson, in particular.
Solid friendships have been forged, helpful information has been exchanged, and we have a good time together.  Todd and I don’t make it to all of them, but always enjoy ourselves when we do go.
Last Saturday, a bunch of us went to Deb and Cy’s house (near Las Nunez/before La Entrada) for a “March Birthdays” potluck. The potlucks are always fun, with delish food.

Cy and Deb
Photo Courtesy of Deb

Wicked dice game happening
March Birthdays Pot Luck
Photo Courtesy of
Heather Austring
A couple of weeks ago, eleven of us local gringa friends rented a van to go to Libertad/Salinas for a girls’ day of shopping, gabbing, and eating.

We were each picked up at our homes by our driver, Miguel – a saint – and began our late morning arrival in Libertad at the Buen Aventura Mall Plaza and split off into small groups to explore the mall/area/maze of street tiendas for an hour or two.
A little breakfast nibble at Heather's
Ayangue home on our way there.
View of Ayangue Bay
from Heather's balcony
Shopping around the
Buen Aventura Mall area
Photo courtesy of Heather
After that, we headed to “Luv N Oven” on the Salina’s Malacon for lunch (most of us ordering the tender and tasty filet mignon and killer mashed potato meal).  By the time the waiter got to me, I was a little worried that he was going to say “sorry lady – the person before you just ordered the last steak”, but I would have ordered the plate anyway, for the mashed potatoes alone.
It was a fun and delicious and well-lubricated- lunch. Afterwards, several small groups wanted to break off to finish “city” errands, with a couple of gals holding down the fort at Luv N Oven as our final van-ride-home rendezvous point. Most of us made it back in plenty of time to enjoy late afternoon drinks with local Salina’s expats that just happened to show up there for an early dinner.
Bumping into the
Salinas expats

A great time was had by all, except for maybe our driver, Saint Miguel, who patiently stopped and waited for a bunch of happy-hour laughing women make a few pit stops on the drive home, and who kindly and gently rolled each one of us off the van into the waiting arms of impatient pets or husbands sometime after dark.

A week before that, friend Deb Anderson and I took a chicken bus expedition to same area. Todd and I don’t have a car and really don’t miss having one because most errands to Libertad/Salinas are easily “do-able” on the $1.50 coastal buses to Libertad/Salinas (plus taxi fares once there).  The chicken bus trips can sometimes be grueling by the end of the day, returning home, loaded down with purchased items. But it’s good to know the “How To” ropes on this one for some measure of independence without owning a vehicle in our area. 
Deb and I laughed our heads off silly that day – but that’s a whole ‘nother story…
Famished and thirsty after the chicken bus ride there, a brief troll through Buen Aventura area, and a quick stop into the black hole called HiperMart in El Paseo Mall, we were on a mission to find the good Mexican restaurant we had heard of in nearby Salinas. We caught a cab from the mall to get to Salinas to find restaurant (visions of tacos and margaritas dancing in our heads). We had the name of the restaurant, we knew sorta where it was at in Salinas, and our initial cab driver assured us he knew right where the restaurant was.

NOT EXACTLY…He searched fruitlessly, going around in circles until Deb and I decided it had to be “near here” and hopped out to find it on foot. Out of cultural politeness, Ecuadorians will never tell you they “don’t know”, with their best intentions meant to be helpful.
Two cab rides later (and an accumulated twelve blocks walking in between) to find said Mexican restaurant, we found it!
Maybe not the best planning on our part, since it was the Tuesday after Carnavale, but most everything was closed. After we were melting into the sidewalks from the heat, crabby from hunger, a pint low on beer, and asking advice from the local crack-ho for “best place to eat around here? (ahem,  Deb… who deserves at least a little credit for asking la pregunta  en español), w
e were finally directed to Lov N Oven for a delightful afternoon before heading back home on the chicken bus. 

A few days after our girls’ shopping trip, the Salinas gals planned a trip to the San Vicente mud baths. A few of us gringas from here hired a driver and joined them. I think a good time was had by all.
This IS NOT a fancy place. A $2 entrance fee at the door gives all day access to the mud pit, swimming pools, and mineral spring (massages are extra – around $5 for either the mud or the aloe vera massage).
An all-day pass to the vapor room is $3 – get it.
I think it’s worth at least one visit to San Vicente Baños, if you have the time, and if you are not too squeamish.

Team Salinas
I only took a few pics that day – none of us look good covered in dried mud – with the exception of the statuesque Ukrainians (currently staying for a couple of weeks in Olón, as guests in Sarah’s house – our old one) who we happened to run into that day – and they were having a great time too.
The Ukrainians
Totally unfair to look
this good in mud.

*For more on the mud baths, see “A Load of Lodo”.