View of Tungurahua
Taken from one of the bridges I cross when I walk the long way into tow, you can see how the volcano is nestled in the V of the Bascun River Valley.
Greetings from beautiful Baños! The past month has been a time of personal challenge. I’ve experienced a kind of “kerhthunk” as I feel my life shifting gears. One major change is that I sold my truck and am getting around on foot. It feels great to be moving my body -- at least an hour of walking each day. My clothes are fitting more comfortably (even if the scale doesn’t always register significant weight loss) and I no longer get out of breath on the uphill stretches. While trying to line up some private teaching (to earn a bit of cash as well as to give myself some sort of schedule) I’ve had a lot of time for introspection.
Over 20 years ago Shana worked up my astrological chart, and every few years she updates my current planetary transits and creates a booklet with interpretations (taken from the book Planets In Transit by Robert Hand) which offer insight into what the transits might mean for me in my daily life (for example if it’s a propitious time for new undertakings or if I should tread lightly in certain areas). Below are some excerpts
Flashback from last month's blog - I just got the photo. Breakfast on the rooftop terrace with a view of Virgin's Hair Falls.
from my latest booklet – they truly spoke to me during this time of transition.
“This transit produces very intense experiences in your emotional and personal life. Deep psychological changes are taking place that should not be ignored or swept under the rug. Most often this transit is experienced as a sort of identity crisis in which you begin to question what you are doing. During this period you will think about all the long-term trends in your life; you will not be thinking about trivial matters. You must recognize that some aspects of your life need to be questioned at this time, but don’t stand in one spot quivering about your life. Examine it and make whatever changes are possible and seem appropriate. This is a time of testing and anything that withstands the test will be better for it.”
I became “truckless” just before the rainy season ended, and inevitably each time I left the house to walk into town (just over a mile, straight downhill!) the rain would begin. Most often it was a gentle patter, but I soon
Crossing the River
The first few times I had some trouble getting up the nerve to walk across this semi-enabled bridge. Once I even rock-hopped across the river.
learned that it was best to find cover and wait out the occasional downpour which usually didn’t last long. The joke is that if you don’t like the weather here, wait five minutes – it’s so changeable that you can experience four seasons in one day!
One day as I was walking into town I followed a group of kids from the Technical High School below and discovered a great shortcut. The first time I crossed the river below on the semi-repaired bridge I did fine since the students were watching me and I wasn't about to chicken out inf front of them all. The next time, when I tried to do it alone I was struck by a wave of anxiety, so intense that I ended up climbing down the banks and rock-hopping across. I decided to try it again (it cuts 10 minutes off my walking time!) and this time after watching the fancy footwork of an older women carrying a basket of grasses I asked myself why the heck I was so nervous. I now cross the bridge regularly and the steep cobbled road up the other side is
By the time I made it across the first half (the wider wood bits) the bridge would be swaying - just to make the narrow stretch more interesting!
getting easier as I get in better shape!
I'm meeting lots of interesting folks as word gets out that I'm giving English classes. As of this writing I’m giving private lessons to: two little four-year olds (a boy & a girl); a small class of three women who work in tourism (one sells handicrafts, one is a waitress and one runs a travel agency); a Peruvian artist who has lived a year each in Miami & New York City, but never properly learned English (we plan to trade English lessons for drawing lessons); a middle-aged man who lived 15 yrs in Chicago area & Wisconsin - speaks excellent English but never learned how to write and wants to work on eliminating his accent; a class of 6 employees at one of the largest spas - three gardeners and three aestheticians (massage, facials, ear candling, ionized foot soaks, steam bath & mud treatments, etc).
Each group is interesting & challenging in its own way. My spa classes start at 7:30 a.m. and the spa is a 45 minute walk from Shana's place (fortunately mostly downhill).
Classroom at the Spa
Doctora Maria Augusta is the owner of the Spa and she's also one of the students in the class. I teach in a wonderful skylit dining area with rustic wood tables and stools.
I enjoy the early morning exercise, and I'm now making enough money to cover my meager monthly costs (barely). It’s definitely more economical to live without a vehicle. My current fixed expenses (health insurance, cell phone and internet stick modem) total about $150/month. I’m staying rent-free right now in Shana’s guest house (heavenly views of the volcano! – scroll down to the photos at the bottom to see some pictures taken from my doorway!), and food is not expensive if I eat healthy, fresh produce from the market and don’t go out too often (though there are great restaurants here!)
I enjoy walking along the streets of Baños, greeting familiar faces, taking in the details. A couple of cute signs I’ve seen lately: Bicicletas ½ uso (see photo below) – Half-used bicycles, hm, I’d like to know which half was used! There are two “all you can eat” restaurants – one has a sign that says “tenedor libre” (free fork!) and the other says “diente libre” (free tooth!) So many signs are riddled with apostrophes (used incorrectly!) The general feeling is that if you throw in a few apostrophes, it will look more
Half-Used Bikes For Sale
Which half was used? That's what I wanna know!
like English. I think that the whole town is suffering from "apostrophitis"!
I must share something I read in a local newsletter – someone wrote in encouraging the new mayor to get rid of some of the dead wood in the municipal offices – “These guys work less than Tarzan’s tailor,” the writer complained. Aw, one more joke – this one I heard while I was in Guayaquil getting the papers for my truck notarized. The notary offices are located on a street that’s obviously named after a foreigner, Calle Illingworth. The story goes that the cops were called in when a dead body was found there. The officer who was writing the report called out, “Hey boss, how do you spell Illingworth?” The chief scratched his head, thought a moment and then yelled back “Drag the cadaver to Avenida Luque!” (easier to spell, I guess!)
I’ve enjoyed spending time with my new friend, Mary. She’s “nesting” in her cute little house on the edge of town (stunning views of green hillsides, a huge waterfall and the top of the volcano!) She adopted an
On the Road to Mary's House
On this stretch of the Pastaza River the rocky banks narrow and the rushing water sculpts the black, volcanic stone. Breathtaking!
adorable 7 wk old Basset Hound, so I head up to her place for puppy love. I’ve also gotten roped into helping out with a few of her home decorating projects – it’s usually good fun! Mary bought a vehicle just as I sold my truck and she’s been extremely generous schlepping me around. Next week she’s taking Shana and me up to Pelileo (40 minutes from here) to take our drivers’ license tests. We went up last week but they just give you an appointment for the following week (argh!)
It’s been wonderful to spend so much time with Max (the boxer) during his golden years (he’s almost 14!) In the evening, when he gets back from his walk he enjoys a hearty bowl of “kibbles” (dry dog food in a variety of shapes and colors). Shana and I kept finding the pea-sized round green kibbles scattered all around. At first I wondered if he didn’t like the taste and I was impressed that he was able to eat around them. Then I solved the mystery – watching him closely my theory proved true – the littlest kibbles stick to Maxi’s
Hanging Bridge at El Sauce
Solo hike one day brought me to this dramatic suspension bridge. The steep rock walls draped with mosses were stunning!
slobbery, dangling jowls and then fall out as they dry off. Oh how I love that wacky sweet dog!
One afternoon when the sun was shining I heard what sounded like thunder and the realized that Mama Tungurahua was waking up. Over the past 2 weeks the volcano has been pumping out billows of steam and she gives off an occasional shudder (which rattles the windows & doors of my guest house) but no ash or lava flow…yet! When it’s been raining through the night the summit is covered with snow, which takes on a dappled gleam as patches of morning light slant across the eastern flanks. As the day progresses the fields of white decrease in size and the sculpted ridges of dark ash push through to reveal angular forms on the upper slopes. I find it so energizing to live at the base of this beautiful, massive force of nature.
One evening I took myself out to dinner – I wanted to try a new Tapa Bar in town. On the table was a copy of Baños Tourism Magazine – a glossy
One of classes I teach is held at a lovely local spa. This is the entrance to El Refugio.
publication filled mostly with advertising. The few articles inside had fairly comprehensible English translations of the various tourist activities on offer. One of the more popular extreme sports is called “Canyoning” – basically repelling down a gorge alongside a waterfall. They must have forgotten to submit the “introduction” text to their translator because it was clearly not of the level of English found elsewhere in the magazine. It was actually too funny to even have been translated by a computer program. Here are some tasty excerpts for your reading pleasure:
“Of the Tungurahua volcano effusions reeky have marked the destiny of a hiding place of Ecuador. An agenda full awaits you from the first day of their journey if likes their extreme sports. But if on the contrary, has never dared to challenge your adrenaline throwing themselves between two mountains supported by a harness this in turn pushed by the wind and gravity, it will be time liven up because it is a stormy and wet structure geographical compromised for flora and fauna. Blow up over mountains on a cable car of type gondola rudimentary or give up to the water generosity
Rudimentary Cable Car!
During Lily's visit to Banos, we took the "tarabita" cable car across the gorge and over the falls. Spectacular!
Now, didn’t that description convince you to visit Baños soon? I will gladly show you around! If you've read this far, please be sure to scroll down to the photos at the bottom...a few more of the volcano and a "Morci Retrospective" - remembering some good times I had with my truck! He will now be transporting mattresses and wool blankets for a small family business located an hour from here in Riobamba. I hope he gives Manuel and his three sons many more years of good service.
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