Saturday, March 21, 2015

Beer on the Beach

March 20, 2015

Olón is normally a mellow town; the locals are affable and relaxed.
The atmosphere is generally tranquillo, even with the influx of tourists that visit our beach on weekends and holidays during high season (now).
About the most raucous events that happen in our town are occasional pueblo parties in the park.
But last week an incident happened that caused quite a commotion around here.

A group of Colombian sports fans were in Guayaquil for a futbol event, and decided to come to the coast for a day or so before the game.  According to later newspaper articles, around 600 young men arrived in Montanita in 18 buses.
Evidently, some of them caused enough problems there (aggressive begging, large groups of Colombian diners stiffing the restaurant owners, some fighting reported) which led them to be chased out of there.
As a result, around 350 of these turistas ended up busing over to Olón later that night.
As soon as they arrived here in Olón, word went out over the town speakers “to be careful – extra vigilant – many  strangers/extraños are in town tonight.”
The locals were on guard.

While here, a number of them camped on the beach (not encouraged – in fact, I’m not sure it is even permitted, though I occasionally see tents on the sand) and they essentially overwhelmed the town. 
Unfortunately, there was a contingent of troublemakers amongst them who were causing fights, trashing the beach, harassing people for money, and there were reports of thievery and damage to some of our cabaña restaurants.
My friend, Mary Beckman (South of Zero) was visiting from Cuenca, and we wandered out the next afternoon to check out the situation.
Just as we got to the park, we witnessed the town folk of Olón (en mass) and police escorting the Colombians back onto their buses, and out of town.

It was quite an event to watch our locals walk these unwelcome visitors out of town, done forcefully, but calmly. 
I didn’t witness any fighting during this occurrence.  In fact, the Colombians seemed pretty placid as they were herded back onto their waiting buses.

I am so proud of mis vecinos y amigos aquí.
Viva Olón!
This isn’t a disparagement of Colombians.  Many wonderful Colombians live here, and visit our area. 
No doubt, that many testosterone-driven young men gathered in one place (and they could be from anywhere) can be a recipe for problems.

Meanwhile, in other news from around here…
A previously approved ordinance of the City Council of Santa Elena province that prohibits “the sale, promotion and consumption of alcohol on the beaches, plazas, cars, roads and other public areas of jurisdiction for recreation and tourism” was put into effect this week.
This includes most of towns along the Ruta del Sol (Spondylus), including Olón and Montanita.  Salinas is – for some reason – exempt.
The wording of the Spanish language news article is somewhat ambiguous and confusing, so many of us are curious to see how this will be implemented and enforced.

It’s a stretch of the imagination to think that beer on the beach would be prohibited around our neck of the coast.
I think that more than likely the muscle of the law is meant to prevent unlicensed vendors from selling alcohol, and may also be aimed at visitors who bring their own packed ice chests, and don’t contribute to the local economy by purchasing beverages and food from our licensed merchants.
For the record, as I write this today, the Olón cabañas are selling beer, the beach cocktail stands are open, and I observed folks strolling down Montanita's main street while hoisting Pilseners.  

Sunset on the Olón playa tonight
(Spring Equinox)
A group of dolphins were playing and jumping
just beyond the break, but my camera
wasn't quick enough to capture a photo of them.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bright Life Journey

March 4, 2015

Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez
I recently flew back to the States (first time in almost 5 years that I've been there) via Aeroméxico, on a $436 RT ticket from Quito to LAX. That is the cheapest ticket I've EVER seen between here and States, so of course, I jumped on it.
From Olón, I took a 3-hr CLP Executive bus to Guayaquil, caught a late afternoon hour-flight to Quito, and spent the night there to catch my early morning lift-off back to Southern California.

I stayed at Domenick Buonamici’s Quito AirportSuites, (in Tabela), which is less than 10 minutes away from the new airport. I paid a little extra to have one of the hotel drivers waiting for me.
It was a great place to stay (modern, comfortable, wonderful shower in my room), and I enjoyed a delightful evening chatting with other guests traveling through on their way to various destinations.

My Aeroméxico ticket required a 7-hr daytime layover in Mexico terminal on the way to Los Angeles.
Frankly, I was looking forward to that time, since one of my ulterior missions was to eat as much Mexican food as I could possibly shovel into my mouth during the trip. Even if it was pricey airport food while in Mexico.  You can pay in cash dollars at these restaurants and stores, but your change comes back in pesos, and good luck.
I broke a $20 at a couple of places, and the varying peso conversion rate when the change came back had me scratching my head a few times. But I did have some tasty tacos while there (which as near as I can determine, cost me as much as my next purchase of CFM shoes).
The other thing about transferring on international flights through Mexico is that one must go to baggage claim first, and then through customs and then re-check your baggage to your ultimate destination (which was conveniently located on the other side of customs on my daytime trip through there, but was up another level/little bit of a hike when I transferred in middle of the night on my way back to Ecuador).
All and all, my passes through Mexico City airport were pleasant…Actually, I spent more time in airports than I did in the air, on this trip.

Super Bowl Sunday at Jack's.
At least this year, I got to see the commercials,
including the one for Ecuador
I stayed at my brother Jack’s home in Laguna Beach for the two weeks I was there, and the time went by much too quickly!
I needed that trip. I miss my family, which is so spread out (one daughter in California, another in England, one in Germany - with assorted grandchildren in all those places) and it was wonderful getting together with old friends.
I’m disappointed that I didn’t get more and better pictures while I was there. For some reason, not many of my pictures turned out that well, due to either poor lighting or bad angles or I forgot my camera.

With my friend, Jean
Fun night!

The other priority was to clean up and condense my storage area and move my stuff to a smaller unit.
This was more grueling than I anticipated, and ate up most of my time the first week I was back.  I spent the better part of that week in a blur of sorting through boxes, some of which were easy to toss (“why in the hell did I save that?”) to some stuff that brought tears to my eyes as I either gave it away or pitched it.
But really, am I ever going to use all that camping gear again?  At least that went to my daughter Elizabeth and 14-yr old granddaughter Avery, who I hope will be able to enjoy it as much as I did.

The highlight of my trip was a mini-vacation that Lizbee, Avery, and Phoebe (a friend of Avery’s) took to Palm Springs the second week I was there.  We had a ball, and it was fun being around my old Palm Springs stomping ground again.
The weather was glorious and we stayed at the marvelous, retro Hotel Monroe, which has a great pool area, offers $3 vouchers for breakfast across the street at Rick’s,  and spacious rooms - a great little oasis in the desert.

Not one of my pictures of the three of us
turned out well, this time.
My favorite of us,
taken about 8 years ago
 at the Palm Springs street fair.
The last time I was with Avery, she was just nine years old, and now she’s grown into a beautiful and talented young lady with a bright life journey ahead of her.  And with more than a small pang of guilt, my heart ached, because I’ve missed so much of it by living far away.
And Lizbee, I love you.  Our lives became intertwined when you were 14 years old, and in all this time, I’m sure you have taught me more than I will ever teach you. What a wise, caring, loving woman you are! I miss and treasure all those comfy times we spent on that big brown couch.

My lovely granddaughter, Avery.
All grown up now.
Photo courtesy of Lizbee

The two weeks flew by.
I left Los Angeles at 6PM for my return flight back to Ecuador, arriving in Quito at 6:30 the next morning. Because of poor planning on my part, my flight from there to Guayaquil didn’t leave until 3PM. I tried to switch to an earlier departure – to no avail – so ended up spending a very boring and expensive day lurking around the Quito airport ($3 for a small bottle of water, $6 coffees, $15 for a Philly Cheese sandwich, one $13 minibar size bottle of wine – OH PLEEZE!).
Arrggg…  I’d rather pluck my eyebrows with a machete than repeat that long afternoon.

I’m especially grateful for having this chance to go back to see family and friends again. Hands down, being so far from family and friends is the most difficult aspect of living in a new country.
And I was curious to see what it “felt” like to be in the States again.
It was odd in a way. There were times when it seemed as if I’d never left, and other moments when I felt like a fish out of water.

My favorite Mexican food place in
San Juan Capistrano.
I pigged out here a lot.
I haven’t driven in almost five years, yet I discovered that driving the California freeways comes back like riding a bike. I became blasé about my morning full-throttle hot shower. I just naturally assumed every road, every restaurant, every well-stocked grocery store would be clean and efficient.
Then there were the times when I found myself scraping dinner remnants into the trash, because I forgot that sinks come with disposals. More than once, I found myself throwing my used potty-paper into a wastebasket, because…well…that’s just how we do it in Ecuador. My jaw dropped at the prices every time I went through a grocery store check-out, and my anxiety level rose from the faster pace of life.
I experienced something that’s difficult to put into words: I felt out-of-the-loop, detached and puzzled by certain USA news events, and in a few situations. 
In short, I underwent a weird “disconnect” that I still can’t quite explain.

I admit, I have occasionally toyed with the idea of moving back to the States – and still may, eventually. There is much I miss, especially family and friends.

Because it’s not exactly like living here is “paradise” either. 
Each day brings language difficulties and cultural challenges and frustrations. Each day also brings small triumphs.

But the longer I live in Ecuador, the more it HAS become home. Especially each time I have put my feet back on this country’s soil after leaving it.

I took this photo a few years ago
during a local surf tournament.