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Four more days in Ecuador

Only four more days in Ecuador, then I take a 1:30 a.m. flight to Miami, then on to Phoenix. Have I mentioned how much I hate to fly? I think it’s become a chore for everyone these days….will my flight get cancelled? Will my luggage arrive with me? I have six flights in the next month, each with two checked bags containing pretty much all my worldly goods so it’s a big worry, especially since one of the flights goes through Heathrow where there’s already thousands of mishandled bags piled up. I do have travel insurance so I guess I’d get compensated, but I’d still rather have my stuff.

Look at the beautiful bacon & pork chops I got here! The Plumrose brand bacon is not cheap, around $6 a pound in the grocery deli. The pork chops came from the mercado and were $2.50/lb. Yum!

I haven’t been sleeping worth a darn since I got here and I don’t know why! Most nights I’m awake until 4 or 5 in the morning and sleep til 10. Ugh. Right before bed I take magnesium and melatonin but it doesn’t seem to help. I was wishing I had some Ambien but the last time I took that, I got up at 2 a.m. and wrote crazy emails to three people, and had no memory of it the next day! One of the lucky recipients was my doctor, who thought it was pretty funny when I explained. But he strongly advised not taking it any more.

There’s an ice cream store in La Libertad that sells “helado con queso”. Ice cream with cheese?!! I’m told it’s very good, some kind of sharp shredded cheese sprinkled on the ice cream. I’ll just take their word for it.

You know that Ecuador uses American currency? Yeah, isn’t that strange! You won’t see any dollar bills here though; they use gold-colored one dollar coins. These can be Ecuadorian or US minted. I was advised to bring small denomination bills with me so I brought lots of 1, 5 & 10 dollar bills. Some of the vendors looked a little skeptical of the $1 bills. And nobody here will accept any bills that are torn or really worn! I hear the banks have a day once or twice a year where you can trade your “bad” money for good.

My two week tent camping trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is still on…advance weather forecasts look good (no rain please!). I’m going with my bestest and oldest friend Cindy Carroll; we’ve been friends for 70 years! Cindy has not camped since we went to Alaska together in 1986. Most of the neighborhood kids used to often sleep out in a big old canvas tent in her back yard when we were growing up, with the older boys always trying to scare us half to death, but she got out of the habit when she grew up. Neither of us is looking forward to sleeping on the ground at this stage of our lives but it’s the only way we can afford to go, so we’ll endure and survive. I’m quite sure a video of us trying to get up off the ground would quickly go viral!

Kitty. So sweet when she’s asleep!
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3 More Weeks in Ecuador

Three more weeks here! I’m trying not to “wish my life away” but I confess Im anxious to start my New Real Life in Albania in September.

Look at the goodies I got at the mercado, all for $4.60! I also got a whole pork tenderloin for $3, ground round for $2.50 a pound and Dodie and I shared a whole beef tenderloin that was $4.50 a lb…$10.50 each for the whole big chunk of filet mignon! I already had some and there’s enough left for at least 4 thick filets. Yum!

Zucchini, 2 bell peppers, 6# tomatoes, carrots, broccoli and cabbage!

The internet connection in my room was out for over a week. Boy I didn’t realize how much I use it! I was able to get a wifi signal from one of the other rooms though, called the Sirena Room. It’s really cute!

The shower is on the other side of La Sirena!

I tried to call British Airways about the horrible flight change they assigned me. Like other airlines, BA has been having so many problems with cancelled flights, thousands of pieces of luggage piled up at Heathrow, etc. It’s kind of funny, their automated phone response is pretty much “Go away and don’t bother us right now”! The change is for the return leg of my round trip ticket so I just accepted the new flights on line, but I should be able to get a refund for trading a 4 hour layover in London for a 16 hour layover. I’ll see what I can do once I get to the airport.

There’s some kind of horrible bug that’s biting me (but apparently no one else!) It looks exactly like black fly bites, and they do have them here. I’m getting huge bright red welts with a white center that itch intensely for two days. Ugh!

Oh my gosh! Breaking news! There was an armed robbery that just took place less than 1/2 block from here, at the beach entrance! It was caught on our next door neighbor’s security camera. Two guys on a motorcycle pulled up to a guy sitting in a parked car, one jumped off with a gun, jerked open the car door and apparently took the driver’s keys and money, jumped back on the motorcycle and took off! The victim started running up the street chasing after the robbers. It’s crazy that this just happened right HERE!

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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?

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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.

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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

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

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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.

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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”
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Uncategorized

T Minus Nine And Counting

Oh me oh my! Only nine days left before liftoff; seven days til I leave here! I’m getting more and more excited….and sadder and sadder every day. Somehow those two should not go together, but that’s how I feel. I do wish I could just jump on down to Ecuador and skip that nasty expensive PCR test and the long flights. First a 5 hour redeye flight to Miami, then almost 4 hour layover, then a 3.25 hour flight to Guayaquil. And a two hour taxi ride to Ballenita.

I did get my transportation to Phoenix straightened out though, and I don’t have to take the Greyhound bus! Phew! Matt accepted a family practice position in an Urgent Care clinic in Hilo, Hawaii, so they are moving too! They are going to do a goodbye visit to family in Phoenix next Sunday and they’ll let me ride along. My best camping buddy Jeanne will meet us on the road and take me home with her, take me to get my PCR test on Monday, and drop me at the airport on Tuesday evening.

I am selling my car to Matt, either for his oldest son to take to college with him, or they may possibly be shipping it to Hawaii! It’s the only state I haven’t been to (got hooked on Alaska and went there 5 times instead) but maybe my car will make it. I suppose that doesn’t count.

I did a trial packing run the other day…bad news! There’s no stinkin’ way I’m going to get everything I want to take in one checked bag. So today I’m going through everything again, trying to winnow out everything but the essentials. I could pay the extra fee for a second checked bag, but then I’d have to pay it again when I return to Phoenix in August, and I don’t think my stuff is really worth that much.

In Ecuador they don’t have thrift shops. They use it until it’s unfixable or pass it along. So I really need to take my clothes with me. Besides, seems like all the Ecuadorian ladies really love to wear really tight spandex, which is definitely not my style! I can’t imagine spandex is at all comfortable in that 90 degree heat, either.

Last weekend Matt came over and helped me finish painting the back of the house. Even with my 10.5′ ladder I couldn’t reach the highest part of the gable end. He also helped me muscle the big solar panel and a couple of the heavier propane tanks into the shed. I also finally did some small carpentry projects that should have been done three years ago! I’m so glad I got all those outdoor chores done, as we’re now in the middle of 5 days of 50+ mph winds here. Being outside is just miserable. Except for packing and getting stuff stored away in the shed at the last minute, I’m actually done with projects.

I sold my darling camper yesterday, to a young couple of Canyonlands National Park employees. It was a great relief to get it sold, but I’m very sad about it. I sure had a lot of great trips and good times in the 13 years I had her. This leaving is different from the last time I moved to Ecuador in 2013, because then I knew I’d be returning to the US for a couple months every year, since my mom was still alive. So when I moved then, I left my car and camper with friends. This time if I do come back, I won’t have anything to drive or camp in. And actually if I do return just temporarily, I’ll probably fly back to Detroit where I still have lots of school friends, not to Phoenix.

I am also very sad to leave my rocks. Isn’t that crazy? But during the years when I was wandering around, I picked up a lot of special “good rocks”. For three years when I lived out of the car and camper, I carried probably 100# of rocks with me everywhere! They’re now surrounding my little garden spot. I am taking some good rocks with me, but just a small handful of really tiny ones, mostly agates. Funny how my past life boils down to a bunch of digital photos and just a few special things, all goofy. The things I can’t live without: a very small stained glass happy whale souvenir from Maine, and a plastic solar flamingo that flaps it’s little wings. This move takes the cake though, paring down to just one large suitcase and a carry-on bag of stuff! I am leaving a large suitcase in Phoenix, in case I ever do get to go to Albania, with cool weather clothing and a few other things that are hard to find there. I would get rid of about half the hot-weather clothes, as it’s only hot for about 3.5 months in Albania. (No real winter on the Albanian Riviera though).

As to the “where to go after Ecuador” decision, right now I’m thinking that if the situation in Europe is about that same as now, I’ll come back to Phoenix in August, do my dogsitting gig, then fly to Detroit and visit friends for a few weeks and fly to Albania from there. It’s crazy though, it costs about $300 more to fly there from Detroit than it does from Phoenix, even though it’s a couple thousand miles closer!

If I had to make a quick exit from Albania, I could take a ferry to Greece (Corfu) or Italy and fly somewhere else from there, if I couldn’t get to the airport in Tirana (two hours’ drive from Vlore). Still, it’s a bit scary.

If I’m too much of a chicken to go to Albania then, I can get a 90 day visa extension in Ecuador just by asking for it and paying $150. After that….90 days in Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia??? I really don’t want to be THAT adventurous!