Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Domino Afternoons

September 28, 2014

Bob's send-off as his ashes were paddled into the ocean.
There were also a lot more people behind me when I took this pic.
And the sun made a glimmering appearance on the
horizon shortly after this was taken.
It is with a heavy heart that I begin this post about the sad passing of expat Bob Fountaine (a month ago) due to complications from a motorcycle accident. Bob was a massive guy in stature and in heart – truly a “gentle giant”.  
He was known as “Big Bob” around here. He was always a kind, smiling presence and the proprietor of Muscle Beach Gym in Montañita.
He leaves behind his bubbly and effervescent wife Michelle, and six kids.
We truly lost a great one. The huge turnout of gringos and locals for his memorial service was a testimonial of how greatly beloved he was around here and is deeply missed by all.

Bob Fountaine
Courtesy of his FB profile page

It’s that time of year here again when the “winter” gloom and drizzly rain have set in.  A lot of people actually prefer this weather after the December through March heat we experience – and we’ve had a remarkably sunny “temporada baja”, compared to years past.
Olón lies in a small coastal micro-climate that is usually wetter and cloudier from June to November than the more arid areas 40 km north or south of us, and it may come as a surprise to first time visitors that during this season a few warm clothes should be packed (I mean, really?...On the Equator?)
I, for one am wearing out a couple of comfy sweat pants and layered tops, but other folks are swimming and surfing on the beach.
It’s the kind of weather that invites sleeping in with a good book on rainy mornings, lazy afternoons playing dominoes with friends, or curling up with a good movie and a “to-go” pizza in the evenings.

A rather new Olón Italian place right around the corner
from my place.  Lovin' it!
Owners Plinio, son Cesar (pictured) and Plinio's
wife Nadia.

I’ve also been using this time to start seriously boning up on my Spanish.  Despite four years of high school español, and a number of years living here, I feel my language skills leave a lot to be desired. I still generally talk Spanish in present tense, and I’ll be damned if I understand half of what is said to me (the Ecuadorian coastal accent doesn’t help, and the fact that the locals talk so freakin' fast)…And the funny thing is, the longer I live here and toggle between two languages, the worse my spoken ingles has become.

I actually said to someone the other day: “Me go to house green yesterday” 

I’ve been using the Duolingo tutorial on-line.  It’s free, comes highly recommended from friends using it, and it’s fun.  I also like it because parts of the lessons include typing en español.
And even though I know I could “test out” to initiate my lessons at a higher level, I decided to start my program beginning with the very first course, because I think I’ve forgotten some very basic Spanish language concepts – oh, say the alphabet, for example – and things like the difference between tú (you) and tu (yours).

In the last month, there have been a few trips south into “the city” (Libertad/Salinas) with friends, running errands, taking care of business, and grocery shopping, but these are more about getting chores done than having fun. Since around the start of the year, Ecuador has placed an embargo on many imported food products (to stimulate Ecuadorian industries, I suppose), so many of the North American brands that used to be available are no longer on the shelves (i.e., certain mustards, pickles, soy sauce – the list goes on).  They were always more expensive, but at least obtainable.  Now it looks like we expats are going to be adding additional items to our wish lists for visiting friends and family.
The one thing that irks me is that I still see a plethora of Nabisco and Nestle brands everywhere…aren’t these same guys that want want to "privatize" the world's water supply ???   
Why are their brands still here?  This bothers me.

Nineteen plants purchased (including some small
fruit trees) for $20.50
A couple of weeks ago, a few girlfriends and I took a really fun day trip up north to Puerto Lopez (around an hour away, and a beautiful drive through portions of the Machalilla National Preserve).
I don’t know why I haven’t done this more often.  We had nothing more planned than stopping at a couple of plant places along the way, a nice lunch and some shopping in town.
I’ve never spent much time in Puerto Lopez (for some reason dismissing it as just a town to pass through for points further north) but I had a fun time exploring the city with friends who know it better than me, and we had a great time hanging out there.  I’m looking forward to going to Puerto Lopez more often.

On the way there, we impulsively made a quick detour into Salango (a small pueblo about 5 km south of Puerto Lopez) to see the archaeology museum located there.
It cost $2.50 each to get in, a wealth of information, very educational and not to be missed!
This museo is a real gem and worth the brief jaunt off the Ruta del Sol.
Salango (as well as most of this coast) has been continuously occupied for at least 6000 years, and the museum displays artifacts of these ancient civilizations, beginning with the Valdivian society (around 4000 BC) to the more recent Manteño culture (1500 AD), along with excellent exhibitions and information regarding its ancient mariner history.

A miniature recreation of the single-sale fishing rafts
used in the past, along with other artifacts.
(Sorry my flash interfered with this picture)

A boat that is currently being built on the beach,
just behind the museum.

And last but not least, I made a quick trip into Cuenca last week for several Thursday appointments (got in late Wednesday afternoon, and left Friday morning).  This is probably my 20th or so trip to Cuenca in the last couple of years, so I guess I’m sort of blasé about my visits there these days, but I always end up bumping into people I know, and that’s always a pleasure.
This time, while enjoying an in-between-appointments outdoor cappuccino (the weather was gloriously sunny and warm during my stay), I bumped into Sheila (“Ecuador Journey” on FB). It’s the first time we’ve met in person, and I enjoyed our chat.  Later in the evening, I met up for dinner with former Olón upstairs-neighbors Ben and Bibi who recently moved to Cuenca.
They turned me onto a great little Italian restaurant that is near calles Hermano Miguel and Juan Jaramillo (for the life of us, none of us remembers the name of this place, but I’ll post it as soon as we recall it).
Ben manages the Ecuadorian MLS platform site.

There are always some type of parades or festivals happening in Cuenca, and I witnessed one on Wednesday night around Parque Caldron that involved clowns.  LOTS of them (good thing I’m not scared of them).  I really don’t have a clue regarding the reason behind this particular parade, but I enjoyed watching it from a nearby outdoor café table at the restaurant Don Colón.  

I’ve probably passed this restaurant on the corner of Sucre and Benigno Malo scads of times, and never stopped.  I don’t know why, because it’s in a great people watching location, the service was friendly and fast, and the glass of wine and appetizers I enjoyed there (I went back on late Thursday afternoon too) were reasonably priced and tasty.  And in my opinion, Don Colón has the best French Onion soup I’ve tried anywhere in Cuenca.
I also bumped into/met Debby Plumlee Larsen (another FB friend) and her husband Tom on my first evening there.

I'm wrapping up this post with a picture (below) taken in Montañita a few weeks ago.

I always get such a kick out of the rubber chicken and pig "point-of-sale" hanging in front of the local meat market, and was trying to snap a picture of it when my buddy Scott Creasy photo-bombed it.

Too funny every time I look at this and
couldn't resist sharing it!