Saturday, May 9, 2015

High Times in Olón

May 7, 2015

I know it’s been a long time since I last wrote.
Our “high” season on the coast runs from around New Year’s until this last weekend, (the first day of May is an official Ecuadorian “Workers’” holiday – similar  to the State’s “Labor Day” 3-day weekend).
Following New Year’s, hordes of tourists come to the coast during this time, and the holidays of “Carnival” and “Semana Santa” (the week before Easter) are particular crowded.
In the meantime, traveling circuses come through, and small local town parties kick into gear (Olón has a really fun annual April town-park fiesta).
And this season certainly went out with a bang.

Because of a storm off the coast of Chile, our Ecuadorian shoreline experienced some unusually high waves and incoming tides for several days last weekend.  There were predictions of 25’ (25 feet) wave faces, and powerful inland winds, so we were braced (and the surfers were chomping at the bit).
The biggest waves sets I saw were around 12-footers (based upon my unpracticed eye), but I missed being on the beach during the highest tides (the peak was predicted for 3AM last Sunday morning), though I heard from many friends along the coast who witnessed mammoth waves much larger than I viewed.

Along with the colossal breakers came the “King Tides”.  King Tides occur a couple of times a year, and are long, slow, somewhat shallow water tides that wash into shore much, much further inland than normal.   Maybe say 30-50 feet further or so? They generally last for a couple days.
We experienced a King Tide a few months ago – reportedly the largest in the past 18 years – and last weekend’s surges were bigger/longer/higher.
I have heard and seen some pictures of a few coastal zones where these waves and tides caused some damage and beach erosion in certain areas, but here in Olón, I don’t think the effects were too devastating.
Included are some pictures I took last Saturday afternoon, as a "King" high tide was making its way in.

Carnival (“Carnaval”) was in mid-February this year and relatively tame. It was not nearly as crowded as in years past. I think this may have been because we had such a humongous throng of people here for Christmas and New Year’s, that many folks decided to forego the beach (at least ours) for this celebration.
I had just returned from a quick visit to the States, and I house-sat for at Doug and Pam’s Jardines de Olón beach house during that weekend, but it was pretty much a non-event.

Selection of the assorted grains
for sale at one of the local
vegetable stands 
during the week before Easter 

The week before Easter -- “Semana Santa” --  is another big spring holiday here, and we get many tourists visiting the coast, typically tranquil Ecuadorian family groups.
A soup called “Fanesca” is the traditional meal served in Ecuadorian households during Holy Week.  It is a complicated and time-consuming dish to prepare (using a number of ingredients, including twelve types of beans and grains – representing the twelve apostles of Christ, and salt cod, symbolizing Jesus).
I have never tried to make it, but click on this link for one Fanesca recipe.

Friends Forever .
(Daisy going incognito under the baseball cap).

I think the most entertaining fiesta during “season” is the annual Olón town-park party in April.  There are always lots of rides, and many food/clothing/toy vendor booths.  Not to mention several nights of music and dancing till the wee hours of the morning (usually starting around 11PM to midnight).

Note the child sleeping in the hammock
while the game was being played.
One of my favorite "carny" games at the park this year was a ring toss to encircle a coin or bill with rubber donut-shaped disks (Fifteen rubber disks for a DOLLAR)...Board was seeded with mostly 50-pieces, and disks thrown from behind a fence boundary.
Winners get the money they snag.

One night, I actually succeeded in landing donut-shaped rubber-ring-thing onto a $20 bill.
I don't know who was more surprised. The guy running the game or me.

Looks innocent during the daytime,
Which it isn't.
Only laying in wait.

I rode this.
Scared the bejeezuz out me:
Number one because it was a fun and scary ride,
with maniacal "conductors" swinging the pendulum 

high and fast.
Everyone;s feet came off the floor in my "cage"

from anti-gravity effect.
Probably not regularly inspected for safety either.

I honestly don’t know how the locals find the stamina to party all night like they do (I have never made it past around 2AM on any of these), but they sure have fun!

In the last month, I have made 3 different trips to Cuenca for dental work (the dentist I use and trust is located there).
I have always had dental and gum issues (that I still smoke cigarettes doesn’t help, but I have cut back).  This time, I had a front tooth "floating around".
My dentist asked me if there had been some trauma to the tooth to cause it to become so loose, but the most aggressive and aggravating thing I could think of was a can of pistachio nuts I chowed down on awhile back.
I needed bone grafting done in several locations (and a periodontal gum operation) in my mouth. Over the years, I have had just about every conceivable  dental work done -- a lot of awful things done in my mouth (don’t touch that…), but lemme tell you….that procedure(s) HURT.  Going into those gum surgeries, I did not fully appreciate just how painful the recovery period would be, especially since adequate pain medications are either not available or nearly impossible to obtain in Ecuador.
What was not painful was the cost.  Including consultations, dental procedures and operations, my cost was around $400.  I’m guessing this would be more like thousands of dollars in the United States.
So I have spent a lot of time in bed recently, with stitches in my mouth, gumming through yogurt, (my mouth was so swollen and black and blue, I looked like I walked off the set of “Planet of the Apes"), but the work is finished now and I am on the mend.

And last but not least, I finally got a fence installed around my Jardines de Olón lot, and it looks great.

Scott Gould and crew did
 a GREAT job on this fence!