Categories
Ecuador La Libertad Ecuador Uncategorized

Just Hangin’ Out

I’ve been staying home as the national strike continues; we are worried about possibly getting caught up in flash mobs/lootings. But so far things here have been pretty peaceful.

The stores are running out of produce and other goods! A couple days ago Dodie ventured out on a quest for produce and did pretty well! She got me 4 tomatoes, 4 bell peppers, 2 biggish avocados & 4 kiwi, a few fat carrots and a small container of blueberries, all at for $10… exhorbitant price but I think at this point I’d pay just about anything for some fresh food! I was down to just some romaine.

We ordered some nuts (pistachios, cashews, walnuts & almonds) from a guy named Freddie Nutz! I’m not sure if that’s his real name or not. He delivers, but when?? He’s 3 days late already.

Today I had my favorite taxi driver Frank help me buy a cheap cellphone. My regular phone only works here when I have wifi and I want to have a way to call someone if I am out on my own and need help. The cheapest one they had was a tiny $28 Nokia that’s only good for phone calls, no internet capabilities. I’m hoping this phone will also work in Albania. Then I had him drop me off at a supermarket, as I was getting desperate for some items.

Wow, there was hardly any produce! I did get a couple avocados but that’s all. No celery, lettuce, carrots, green beans, lemons. No milk, cream, butter or eggs, no meat except for some whole chickens. Lots of other shelves were empty as well.

Annnnnd…now I can never show my face at Super Aki again! I was looking for peanuts, and they don’t put them with the walnuts and almonds. So I looked it up on my translater app, and it came up with a word I wasn’t familiar with. I asked a stocker guy where they were and he didn’t understand the word either. So I looked up “nuts”. Before I realized what I was really seeing, I asked him where the “cojones” were! His eyes got big as saucers and I said, “OH! No no no!” I quickly looked up peanut butter and got the correct word “mani”. We both laughed but he seemed a little fearful….

Here are Before and After photos of our Keeper. He was starving, with severe parasite and mange infestations and had something terrible wrong with his legs when they picked him up off the street. They got him all cleaned up and Randy exercised his legs in the pool a lot. Now he’s a handsome healthy dog! It’s quite an amazing transformation.

And here’s our lovely little Bella, she’s my favorite! Soooo sweet and cuddly!

There’s a mysterious lump that keeps appearing in my bed! What on earth could it be?

Categories
Ecuador

Staying Home

Lately I’ve been mostly staying home, as there’s a national strike going on here. People all over the country are protesting inflation and high rates of crime and corruption. The roads leading in and out of all the biggest cities are blocked so people, food & goods are not moving.

Here on the peninsula it’s been pretty calm but grocery stores and the booths in the mercado are starting to run out of fruits & produce.

We were thinking about going to the mercado today but decided to stay home.

The longer the strike stretches out, the more it’s possible to get flash mobs of looters or protesters, and we sure don’t want to be in the middle of that! I am out of some fresh produce but have plenty of meat and salad fixings, so I’m fine. The last national strike back in 2019 went on for 11 days and got violent in Quito. This one I think is in it’s 6th day, and so far President Lasso has not responded to the strikers.

Last night we all went out for Father’s Day dinner at a nearby bbq place. They had run out of two of the items that were supposed to be part of our dinners….but the price was the same. In Ecuador they cut meat differently. In the US, meat is cut against the grain. Here they cut with the grain, so the pork ribs we had were 1/3″ thin slabs of meat about 3″ wide, with the end cuts of the rib bones showing along one side. It was good but that’s the second time I’ve been out to eat in a week, and it’s not that cheap here anymore. I’ve got to quit doing that! My omelet & coffee last Wednesday ended up costing over $12 with tip, and last night’s meal with a water was $11. It wouldn’t be so bad if I was able to eat everything included, but staying on Keto pretty much means eating just the meat or protein and nothing else. So I’ve had my fling, now I’ll be a good girl again and stay home and cook.

There are some people who live here during the week but go to their homes in the barrio on weekends, Jessica and her daughter Jessie, and Dairiana. They stay here so they can have clean clothes for school and nutritious food. The girls are really sweet! They used an online translator to make Fathers Day cards for Randy, whom they consider to be their unofficial godfather. Here’s a photo of the girls. Jessie is the tiniest 10 year old I’ve ever seen, and Dairiana is 12. They’re the best of friends and often run around here holding hands.

And here’s a photo of Randy, Dodie and I with one of our favorite taxi drivers, Frank. I look like I’ve been sucking lemons. Hmmm, Frank has kind of a diabolical look on his face…what is he planning??

Boy I’m really glad I don’t have to fly anywhere right now; there’s no way to get to Guayaquil!

And have you seen the messes at the airports, especially London? Thousands of cancelled flights, huge piles of unsorted luggage, pure bedlam! My flights to Albania go through Heathrow so I hope they’ll have everything sorted out by September. Meanwhile, I’ll just stay nice & tranquilo here in our little paradise.

Categories
Ecuador Salinas Ecuador Uncategorized

Bird and Marine Sanctuaries

Big adventure yesterday! Randy & I went to the mercado early. Look at all the stuff I got for $4.50! A big bag of beautiful tomatoes, a giant zucchini and two avocados. I also got some pistachios, walnuts, blackberries, blueberries, more of that delicious swordfish and some chicken breast. (no flies!) I wonder how these chickens are raised, are they free-range? Factory farmed? There’s no point in asking because Ecuadorians are famous for telling you what they think you want to hear. They don’t consider it lying, just making you happy. Unfortunately I guess not many people buy pistachios here; they taste like they’re about 20 years old! And maybe they are. Oh well, live and learn.

Then Dodie, Randy, their godson Marco and I all piled into Frank’s taxi and went to a bird rescue center in Colonche (about an hour north), to celebrate Marco’s 13th birthday.

We stopped for lunch at an oceanfront restaurant called “My Bar at the Beach” I had chicken soup. The chicken part was in one large chunk, complete with bones, so had to be cut up. It had noodles in it but I was able to eat around them. Marco got this really impressive seafood rice dinner with a huge whole fried shrimp on top! It was a work of art!

Then we continued on to the bird sanctuary. This breathtaking barn owl was the first thing we saw upon entering. Wow! We actually got to pet it!

L to R: Janis, Dodie, Randy, Marco & Frank. I forgot the owl’s name.

Then we moved on to a demonstration of some raptors in flight, and walked around looking at all the other hawks, eagles, more really cool owls and a small petting zoo. I loved the owls best! These are all birds who have been injured. If they can be rehabilitated, they are released back into the wild.

The birds in this enclosure all had leather hoods over their heads to keep them “tranquilo”.

Then on the way home we stopped at a small marine rehabilitation sanctuary in Valdivia. Also pretty cool! They had some aquariums with seahorses, lobsters and some spiny urchins, penguins, pelicans and blue-footed boobies, a couple really big tortoises and other turtles.

This guy was massive!

On the way home we passed the New York Mets Motel, which Frank says is a “motel de amor”…three hours for $10! BYO partner.

Then we went to the jeans store in La Libertad, only open on Saturdays, to get Marco some new clothes. I got a $10 long- sleeved tee shirt for the cooler days coming up. The biggest size they carry was a men’s Large, which barely fits me! (I wear a women’s small or medium shirt size in the US). Ecuadorians are tiny!

Thanks to Dodie for all the photos!

Categories
Ecuador

Everyday Life at Casa Blanca

My little casita (which is huge by my standards; the bathroom alone is nearly as big as my whole house!) is pretty upscale. The stove is an induction model which requires special pans. It took me three lessons from Randy before I really learned how to even turn the darn thing on! You press and hold your finger on one button and it lights up four choices of burners. Another press and hold and that burner turns on, and then you push to make the heat setting higher or lower. Well I thought I understood it but I guess I wasn’t holding my finger down for long enough, because it wouldn’t respond. Then I’d end up jabbing it repeatedly, saying “Come ON, you bastard”! That never worked. Even now when I go to use the stove I feel a huge sense of triumph when it does what I ask….me, Supreme Master of the Universe!

I also had trouble with the dryer. I got instructions from Randy but no one was here when I went to do laundry. I was sure I followed his instructions but no matter what buttons I pushed, I couldn’t get any heat! It just kept using cold air, and my clothes never got dry. I was afraid it was going to be like the stove deal and I’d require remedial schooling! I gave up and draped my clothes all over the compound to dry. When Randy came home I confessed and then found out that the propane tank for the dryer was empty. I was SO relieved that it wasn’t my fault!

The kitchen has granite countertops. I don’t like them! I already broke a large drinking glass just by tipping it over. So I went and bought a couple more glasses ($.87 each) in case this gets to be a bad habit.

Here the garbage man comes around every day! It’s surprising that this level of service happens in such a poor developing country…..where in the US do you get daily garbage pickup?! The trucks constantly play a loud recorded song so you can hear them coming and run out with your garbage. That way, it doesn’t sit on the street for the hungry street dogs to tear apart. I don’t know the words to the song, something about “Bring me your basura”. It’s one of those tunes that sticks in your brain and you can’t get rid of, like the chicken song or the Macarena.

It’s often very overcast here in winter. Most days you’re lucky to see an hour or two of sunshine. Anywhere else, you’d swear it was going to start raining any minute, but here it seldom rains in winter. But the temperatures are good, mid-70’s every day and a few degrees cooler at night. I definitely brought the wrong clothes. I swear when I lived here it was fiendishly hot every day all year! But I guess I just thought so because I was encased in an extra 100# of fat. I’m cold all the time now! I brought just one fleece shirt, which is too warm, no long sleeve shirts, and only two pair of long pants. Inside the casita the temperature stays a constant 78-79° which seems plenty warm enough, but I pretty much keep a little fleece blanket over me at all times. Weird.

Categories
Ecuador La Libertad Ecuador Salinas Ecuador Uncategorized

Danger!

I know a lot of you are wondering why I don’t just stay in Ecuador. It would make sense in a lot of ways…I already have friends here, I know where to shop and kinda know my way around, and do speak some rudimentary Spanish.

Well I’ve been avoiding the elephant in the room…. it’s become very dangerous to live here. Sadly, Venezuelan drug gangs have moved in and apparently bribed the high ranking police to do nothing about their activities. There are now lots of rapes, robberies and other violent crimes being committed at gunpoint. A lot of it is in the capital city of Guayaquil, but it’s also here. In Ecuador, only the police and criminals have guns.

And it’s not just gossip or vague rumors, it’s happening to people I actually know! One of the teen girls who lives here during the week was robbed at gunpoint for her cellphone, right here on our own little beach. And last week, an expat’s adult daughter was on the main street going past the beach in Salinas when a gang member opened fire on a rival across the road, and she actually felt the bullet whiz past her head. In broad daylight!

I had envisioned myself taking long walks on the beach every day but now I’m afraid to go, except on the weekends when there are families there. I’m pretty sad about that. When I lived here before, I rode the bus nearly everywhere but now it’s not safe; I have to take taxis. I feel especially vulnerable….if you were a thug, which would you choose, an Ecuadorian who might make $350 a month, or a well-dressed skinny old gringa?? I may as well paint a bull’s-eye on my back! At least that’s how I feel, anyway.

I guess this kind of thing is becoming more and more common all over Latin America.

So that’s why I’m still planning to go to Albania. It’s cheaper than Ecuador and very very safe. There are no bars on the windows; that oughta tell you something! The expats in my Facebook groups all agree that they feel perfectly safe walking around at any time of the day. I guess there is some unwanted male attention at times but I really doubt that will be a problem for me, unless someone has a Grandma fixation!

Categories
Albania Ecuador La Libertad Ecuador Uncategorized

Mercado Trip

I did book the beautiful Airbnb in Sarandë, Albania from September 11 until April 1! It’s beachfront but up on a steep hill so probably a five minute walk to get beach access. It’s a corner apartment so there’s amazing full sea view from the whole front plus a side view, just what I was looking for! In Vlorë, anything with even a sliver of a sea view was $600 or more, WAY up from when I was looking in March. The deal I worked out was €450 for the 20 days in September, because that’s still considered high season, and €300 a month (about $321 US) after that. It’s within walking distance from a large grocery store, pharmacy, restaurants and bars, and the local bus comes right by the building. My landlord’s name is Boguljub….I have NO idea how to pronounce that. He lives in Serbia but there’s also a local co-host.

Here’s the link: https://abnb.me/Jhy0Uzzcvqb

I went to the mercado in La Libertad with Dodie yesterday morning. It’s a massive rabbit-warren of hundreds of tiny booths. You could spend all day there just looking around! The mercados in Salinas, Paute and Gualaceo, when I lived there, were all contained in big buildings, though there was also a weekly outdoor market in Paute where people would bring produce and livestock to sell. It was funny to see people walking around with a cloth sack containing a wildly objecting live chicken or two! They sold everything there… puppies, kittens, lambs, pigs, calves, goats, canaries…

There is also a big building nearby containing the fish market, with lots of individual booths. I was on the hunt for fresh swordfish, and I found some! It was very expensive, a whopping $5 a pound. In comparison, Mahi-Mahi is only $2.50 a pound. At home in AZ, swordfish is about $15 a pound if you can find it….and it wasn’t pulled fresh from the sea yesterday, either. I got 2 1/4 pounds for $10. They also had beautiful fresh shrimp, both farmed and wild. There are lots of shrimp farms around here. And weird stuff like octopus and baby squid.

I got some really nice thick pork chops for $2.50 a pound….mind you, this is pastured pork, not factory farmed. Five lemons for $1, five vine ripened tomatoes for $.30 each, a pound of huge blackberries for $1.50, a big bunch of broccoli for .$25 and a big wedge of cabbage for $.10. SCORE!

Categories
Ecuador Uncategorized

Around The Peninsula

I went with Dodie the other day as she ran some errands.

This is part of the mercado…eggs or chicken, anyone? No extra charge for the flies.

We are making a big trip to the mercado on Wednesday. Everything is much fresher and cheaper there than at the supermarket, though I’ll take a hard pass on the chicken, I think!

We also went into one of the barrios. Dodie & Randy don’t just rescue needy dogs & cats, they rescue people too. They have formed a nonprofit foundation called Ecuador From The Heart. Please give if you can! https://ecuadorfromtheheart.com

When Covid hit, Ecuador did an extremely hard lockdown. Dodie got permission to go distribute food in the barrio and they help the young people get training and education. A bunch of young adults got EMT certification, a group of single moms learned how to cook corn dogs, french fries and onion rings and sell them every Sunday in the barrio. Donations also allow people to get free food if they can’t afford the $1 price tag. They’ve been cutting the dogs into 4 pieces so a family can all have a little bit of a treat for just $1. This past week each of the moms took home $16 total after expenses! That’s a HUGE boost in income for people whose normal monthly income is about $50! They also have programs for seniors.

Here are a few pictures from the barrio. I didn’t want to be too obvious about taking photos. Most of the shacks are made of bamboo but there are a few cement block homes. The square cement boxes are sewer hookups, almost finalized, and running water is not far behind! Again, thanks to the foundation! I saw one motorcycle while I was there but not a single car except our taxi.

I’ve never seen such a gigantic avocado! Even the small ones here are bigger than the avocados at home. I bought one of the smallest for $.35.

Categories
Ecuador La Libertad Ecuador Salinas Ecuador Uncategorized

Casa Blanca at Playa Cautivo

After the long ride and stressful day yesterday, today is muy tranqilo, thank goodness! I’m just laying around reading my book in paradise.

Here’s where I’m staying… it’s amaaazing! It’s about 1/2 block from the beach. It’s not visible from here but I can hear it! The sea here is always filled with 30 or more ships that are waiting their turn for the fuel docks nearby.

Playa Cautivo

Casa Blanca was a thriving B&B until Covid hit. Ecuador clamped down really hard on movements in the first year of the pandemic. There are five beautiful little casitas; three are bedroom & en suite bath, one has a little kitchenette and mine is the only one that has a complete kitchen. It’s so nice to be able to cook anything I want! I am eating pretty much the same as I did at home, though I’m getting more and more anxious about not having a scale to weigh myself. Is my belly getting bigger??? I used to weigh myself daily!

It’s very tropical here, with passion fruits hanging from vines, and even a banana tree over near the pool, complete with a bunch of bananas! There’s lots of beautiful greenery.

Lounge area and entrance
One of the cute casitas
Plumeria

The first dinner I cooked here was Trumpeta, Trumpet fish. It was very good, much like cod. They sure look weird though!

Trumpet fish

I haven’t been to the open air mercado market yet, I went to a big supermarket because I needed all the basics. The produce was super cheap! Bell peppers 9 to 16 cents, a giant bunch of broccoli $.30, fat funny-looking carrots $.27, packaged lettuce $.68. On the other hand, the cost of some things made me recoil in shock…like $6 for a very small package of chia seeds, which I eat every day, and $6 for a tiny jar of coconut oil or avocado oil. If it’s made in Ecuador it’s really cheap but anything imported is super expensive, including things from China. There aren’t any Dollar Tree type stores here; if you need a kitchen implement it’s gonna cost at least $3-5.

The carrots are short and fat but delicious

Categories
Ecuador Uncategorized

Fun with Notaries

I sold my car to my doctor/friend Matt. When he went to get it titled, they told him the car was still titled in NC! I was already on my way here so I had to figure out a solution long-distance. Oy! I had turned in my NC title and applied for an AZ title when I moved to AZ. I got the new camper title back but didn’t notice that I didn’t get one for the car. When I knew I was going to sell the car, I went to the DMV office and they said I didn’t need the actual title, I could just fill out a Transfer of Title form. So that’s what I did, not knowing that AZ had dropped the ball. Well now we’re in this big mess with a very tight time schedule because Matt needs to ship the car to Hawaii by June 30, and NC automatically holds title requests for 15 days after receipt!

How embarrassing! When I got here I downloaded an NC Duplicate Title request. It needed to be notarized so I had to hire a facilitator to help me do that. The first notary we went to insisted that we present an identical copy of the form, translated to Spanish. Not just the words, but someone would have to design a whole new identical form, which would take about a week and cost $200!

The facilitator had a notary friend in another town though, who said she’d do it without a translation. We went there and I discovered that in Ecuador they don’t notarize on the document, they do a separate sheet and staple them together. I got that and we sent it out via air to a friend in NC who’s going to add the money order and Next Day Air it to Raleigh. I also sent a Power of Attorney form so when the new title comes to her, she can assign it to Matt and Next Day Air it to him

But the more I thought about the Notarization being on a separate sheet, the more I wondered if it would be accepted. I called DMV, with the requisite seemingly endless Hold, and sure enough, it needs to be notarized on the document.

The only place to get that accomplished is at the US Embassy in Guayaquil or Quito. I was able to get an 0730 appointment for today and arranged for an English-speaking taxi driver to pick me up at 5 a.m. and drive me to Guayaquil.

If you assume like I did that employees at the US Embassy would speak English, you’d be wrong. There were two other people who also had 0730 notary appointments. First a woman came up but only spoke Spanish. We waited and finally a man came who blithely said they were not doing notarizations today, please come back on Tuesday and you don’t even need an appointment, come any time! Whoa! One man left, the other man said it was crucial that his document get notarized today, and I explained that I’d spent $100 on a taxi and drove two hours to get there and that I couldn’t come back on Tuesday. Another long wait and finally they let both of us in!

You have to go through a couple Security checkpoints, carry no metal, no keys, no phone on you. They have you remove & keep all your paper money and identification on your person. Boy I’m glad I wore pants with pockets because I had an embarrassingly huge gob of money, as I’d been told to bring small bills to Ecuador! I don’t know how I would have held it all in my hands. Pass through a thingie like they have at the airport while they x-ray purses and wallets, and you turn off your cellphone and they take all your stuff and give you a locker key. You sit and wait until called, then they do all the paperwork and then send you down the hall to pay the fees. It cost $100 for two notarizations! Then you bring the receipt back and wait again. They call you up and you hand them the receipt and go wait again. A man called me into the Interview Room and I had to put my hand in the air and swear everything on the document was true, and he stamped my documents….at last! Then we went to DHL and sent another air package to NC.

It took over two hours just to accomplish those two things! All in all it cost $350 to get the correct notarizations sent to NC. But it’s finally done and maybe now I can relax and enjoy my stay here, at least until I have to start worrying about receiving the new title back in time to get it to Matt. I know that’s going to take at least three weeks

Tomorrow I promise I’ll send more photos of this beautiful amazing place.

Categories
Ecuador Uncategorized

I Arrive In Ecuador

On Sunday I had a nice drive to the Valley with Matt and his 10 year old daughter Eva, where we were met by my friends Jeanne and Jim. Saying goodbye to Matt was really hard but not as much of a snot-fest as I had feared. I was a big girl and didn’t cry too much. I’ve never ever had to say a truly final goodbye to anyone I really cared about before. Matt’s family is moving to Hawaii in July.

They kept me for a couple days, took me to get my $150 PCR test for travel and a couple other places, then dropped me at the airport on Tuesday evening. I’ve never experienced this before..NO LINES at the check-in counter or Security! Weird. So that meant I had 3.5 hours to wait for my 10:30 pm flight. Then a 4 hour overnight flight to Miami, a 4 hour layover, and another 4 hour flight to Guayaquil. Somehow I always manage to have the longest hikes between airport gates! My first flight was at Gate #29 of 30, and in Miami I had to go from Gate #1 to Gate #60! Good thing I had plenty of time, as it took me over an hour to get there; I had to stop and rest multiple times. My carry-on bag and underseat daypack were both very heavy.

Upon arrival in Guayaquil, I ran into difficulty. The Immigration guy was NOT going to let me into the country! He kept paging through my brand new passport and kept asking if I spoke Spanish. He went and consulted with 5 different people and after about 1/2 hour, finally a woman came over and said the problem was that I’d spent two years here and had been away for seven years, and my Residency permit had expired. Yeah, so what…..you can’t ever come back to visit?? I told them I was here for just 81 days. Honestly I don’t know what the big deal was, but they finally stamped my passport and let me in. Phew! Boy I was sweating bullets; I was sooo tired, and in no condition to be sent back to the US on the next flight out! There was no problem finding my luggage, they were the only things left on the baggage carousel, and there were no lines at Customs. Thank goodness Denice and her taxi driver were still patiently waiting for me.

They took me to Dodie and Randy’s wonderful Casa Blanca at Playa Cautivo. It was a B&B until Covid hit. It’s amazing! My casita has a large bedroom,full kitchen and bath. Just outside the door there’s a covered porch with comfy sofa, and lots of other lounge areas & hammocks over near the swimming pool too.

There are 4 dogs and 8 cats here, plus an outdoor aviary with lots of budgies, lovebirds and a couple cockatiels that’s right outside my door. Lots of very cheerful chirping! And I have my very own kitty, who is able to come & go at will unless I keep the screen door locked!

Kitty “Destiny”