This is my adopted Mom, her youngest daughter, and one of her many granddaughters. It's a family full of wonderful women! The photo was taken on my stairs the day they came to cure me!
Greetings from Hosteria Mandala where I am again filling in while the owners do some travelling!
Upon my return to Ecuador from the US, I took a taxi to Maggie’s house where my truck was stored during my visit to the US. Alas, it wouldn’t start but I had backed in so I was able to push it out. Once I did so, I saw a huge puddle of oil on the floor of the garage. OH NO! We should have put a diaper under Morci!! A kind passing taxi driver helped me try to push start my truck, but to no avail. We were finally successful jumping it with cables, and I drove over to Dean & Debbie’s to spend a few nights. The next morning Morci started, and I drove to a service center where they diagnosed a massive oil leak (duh!) and an almost dry radiator. We juiced him up so I wouldn’t have problems....but here I am 6 weeks later still trying to resolve the oil leak issue (now they say they’ll have to drop the whole engine to re-line the Carter ... whatever that all means!!)
I stayed in Quito for a few days
The newest member of the Mandala family is a 3 month old Great Dane puppy. He's going to be as big as a pony! That's Chaco's tiger toy cradled in his bear paws.
for some doctors’ appointments and to see the dentist. I had written ahead to some friends that I was looking for donations for a garage sale to benefit the Children’s Library in Banos (La Biblioteca Interactive de Banos). I ended up heading down to Banos with my truck FULL of boxes and bags of 2nd hand clothes, old electronics, kitchen stuff, books, etc. I also transported some more stuff down for my friend Shana. It’s great to have a truck...such a practical vehicle (except when it has phantom leaks and creaks). By the way, the garage sale netted $800 and the community loved the idea, so we’ll have a repeat performance in December.
After a few days in Banos (Scrabble, Hot Baths, Visiting Friends) I got ready to drive down to the coast (a 10-12 hour drive). I was planning to take a different, more direct route ... but was not sure about the condition of the road. I wouldn’t have minded travelling alone (I still have a few audio books to listen to) but I definitely prefer company on a long drive. The day before I was to leave, while having lunch at Swiss Bistro I struck up
Me & BonBon in the Garden
The archway of plants leads to the room where I'm staying while I manage the Hosteria.
a conversation with a nice British couple. Dave is a Scottish vet (he helped me understand what was probably happening during Chaco’s last days) and his wife Theresa (T for short). They were on their way around the world to finish up in Australia where they both had jobs waiting. Their itinerary was fluid (letting the trip take them) so they agreed to head down to the coast with me, and to sweeten the deal I offered them a few nights in one of my cabanas.
We had a fun few days; I enjoyed doing some cooking in my little kitchen, visited some friends, took them down to see the little school where I am godmother (the kids baked us a cake, each student bringing a few of the ingredients). While we were at the school, I realized that my pants had a huge rip in the seat (breeze on my behind!) I hurriedly dropped my new friends off at the bus and delivered Joe’s letter to Pepe without getting out of the truck, then hurried home to change. I was starting to feel ill, but I kept my lunch engagement with new friend Monica who owns a guest
Bruna and Julieta like to sleep cuddled together, especially when it's a bit chilly like during the garua (drizzly) season.
house beside Alandaluz. I felt sicker as the lunch progressed, and started to lose my voice. Monica loaned me some videos, which confirmed my plan to stay in bed that evening. I cancelled my dinner invitation at my adopted family’s house, but they came over to bring the fresh ceviche to me! Johanna brought along some Vicks, warmed it in her hands over a candle and rubbed it into my back and chest. She made a poultice using some old phone bills, and stuck it onto my back. We built a fire with the rest of my old bills and paperwork, and I settled into bed, watching the flickering of the flames through my mosquito netting.
I was supposed to begin work at Mandala the next day, but I still had no voice, and was running a fever so I stayed in bed for 2 more days, sleeping 14-16 hours a day! My Salango sisters came to check up on me and made me hot bitter orange juice with cinnamon stick. One of the waiters at the Alandaluz restaurant brought me kindling and firewood. Some neighbors stopped in to check up on me. I never really feel alone here!
Lalo likes to sleep with his head lower than his body. Here his is on the entrance steps, hiding the latitude and longitude notations. A hotel guest called him a majestic tiger!
My body was smart enough to clue me in on an important lesson -before and after a stint managing the hotel, I need to give myself at least 2 full days of doing nothing - just vegging and sleeping.
On the way to start my job, I visited Gladys & Galo and spent a few moments weeping beside Chaco’s grave. There's a beautiful rose bush in full bloom, and it seemed to me that each petal of each blossom represented a smiling Chaco tongue. Gladys and I hugged and cried. She told me about his burial - how she and Aurelio spent an hour cradling him as he slipped away and then made a ceremonial shroud with an old sheet. It was very cathartic to spend this time with Chaco’s Mama Gladys - I am so grateful he was well loved up until his last moments of life. I gave Gladys all of Chaco’s medications (I had just bought 6 months of flea & tick drops), his collar & leash, and his toothbrush (Yes, Chaco was a spoiled pup!). As I was gifting Chaco's belongings, his 14 yr old Golden Retriever buddy, Yoyo picked up Chaco’s food dish in
Bruna is the referee
BonBon brings out the playful side in the older dogs as well. They're generally patient with his puppy antics.
his mouth, claiming it for his own, and trotted off!
Back at Mandala, I settled into the rhythm of Hotel Management - remembering bit by bit all the myriad of details. I was glad that Maja & Aurelio didn’t leave for their travels right away so I could refresh my memory and ask some questions as situations arose…and they always arise! On any given day I have to bargain for seafood and oranges, order brooms and toilet paper, olive oil, arrange for the pick-up of a shipment of mascarpone cheese (we make our own tiramisu), deal with personnel issues, plumbing and electrical emergencies, a sick tourist who needs to get to a doctor (me as interpreter)- the list goes on and on! The cleaning supplies delivery truck had broken down and they loaded all they could into a little car, stacking toilet paper packs 8 levels high on the roof...very comical!
When the owners left on vacation, I requested that someone stay here with me to help with the care of the dogs. Pierre was on hand to walk the dogs and help out in many ways. He’s an early-30’s ex-professional rugby player from France and a delightful
Aurelio is bargaining for the best price. The fish and seafood vendors are always trying to rip me off so I've learned to hold a hard line on their prices.
young man. Since Pierre is the official dog-walker, they follow him everywhere! He likes to go out to the beach to meditate, but they don’t let him -they all follow and pester him, hoping for another walk. We’ve figured out how to help him sneak out a side gate so the dogs won’t know he’s left! Pierre and I have to give the dogs their weekly tick spray and monthly injections...absolutely necessary to work together.
One of the female dogs, Julieta, went into heat and it was beyond challenging to try to keep her isolated from the eager males. In the two weeks that the owners were away I had to deal with many disgruntled tourists. There were complaints about the barking and howling dogs (as a result of a female in heat). I almost slipped Lalo a few of my valium. I had more than a week of almost sleepless nights - keeping Julieta in my room while while Lalo howled through the night, tried to break down the doors and even broke the the window screen. Meanwhile, Julieta climbed up on the bookshelves and nearly escaped through the window. Once she slipped her collar and tore off
Enjoying the View
Looking out to sea from the restaurant terrace. These dogs run on the beach, eat well, and lounge around, reminding us all how to relax!
down to the beach to look for some action. Another time Lalo snuck up on me during a walk with Julieta (I thought he’d wandered up the road to visit his girlfriend in town). It was all I could do to keep these two 100 lb dogs apart. A waiter arrived just in time to help me separate them. Powerful forces of nature! Once the holiday weekend was over, we were able to keep from renting the guest rooms above the garage and we closed Julieta in the storeroom there.
Pierre was also of great assistance managing the various maintenance and renovation projects that Aurelio left in progress. I had more challenges, mollifying guests who complained about construction noise and the chemical smells of the varnish and fiberglass products. This is supposed to be low season (the humpback whales are just departing - one tourist said they’d seen only one whale, travelling south and it appeared that hehad his backpack on his back!) however, during the 2 weeks that the owners were out of town, the Hosteria was completely full for almost 10 days (national holiday, large tour groups, many walk-in backpackers). Not an ideal time to have multiple
Don't I look pretty on my bright pink cushion with my glossy gleaming coat?
construction projects in progress! But I’ve realized that there will always be someone finding something to complain about…like the Mexican family who was unhappy with the burro braying in the field behind their room. It ends up that this particular donkey belongs to the old gardener, Don Flavio. There’s no grass near his house so he rides the burro to work and ties it up to graze. Well, the ass was too vocal for our tourists!
And then, there’s the sweet puppy, BonBon. Aside from the fact that he chewed up my new Crocs Sandals after I’d only worn them once, he’s a complete and total love. Pure Great Dane, he was 3 months old when I met him, and he’s almost doubled in size in the past 6 weeks. “Growing like a weed” is the best way to describe it! What a sweet, gangly, goofy, lovable puppy. Definitely good for my spirit to cuddle with him daily! Just when it’s time to go to sleep he has fits of crazy puppiness and goes beserk! Like any young child, everything goes in the mouth. He was chewing on a pack of carbon paper and I was afraid he’d start
I'll soon grow into all this extra skin...you can almost see me grow as you watch. I eat 4 times a day to try to keep up with this massive growth spurt.
Even though there are stressful moments, I generally enjoy this job. I love the fact that there’s always something unexpected emerging. We had a hotel guest who played the violin beautifully and gave us a lovely concert. The strolling Mariachis can come to play provide they ask permission and exchange their coins for bills before they leave (we’re always scrambling for change here…the banks don’t even have coins to give us!) I continue to meet such interesting people every day, fascinating to hear everyone’s story - how the couples met, how they ended up coming to Ecuador, what led them to Mandala. There are quite a few honeymooners, and we’ve had any number of marriage proposals occur here. Good romance energy abounds….maybe I’ll meet my “media naranaja” (the other half of my orange) here. One of the hotel guests is trying to fix me up with an old flame of hers (the fire went out) so I’m emailing back and forth with a guy who has a cacao farm in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We’ll see…
Such interesting people of every nationality arrive every day. A couple who works for the UN High Comission on Refugees (there
Cocos y mas cocos
Just cut down from the coconut palms, I love the twisty, kinked stems. These young coconuts have a cup of sweet milk in each.
are over 35,000 official and over 10,000 unofficial Colombian refugees in Ecuador!), she’s Costa Rican, he’s Canadian and they met in Sudan; an Australian couple who lives in Mexico and did a house exchange with an Ecuadorian family, an artist who makes his tints with plants and flowers, a diminutive Egyptian man with his 6 ft tall Belgian girlfriend, a young Polish couple, a sweet gay couple, and the list goes on and on.
Especially on Ecuadorian holiday weekends there are lots of families with kids, and if I’m low on sleep sometimes my patience wears thin. My inner teacher reminds the children to say the magic words, “please” and “thank you” when they request a game or toy (every 3 minutes or so!) Directly upon the reception desk there are all kinds of puzzles, games, and noise toys…at times I think I’ll crack when I’m trying to figure up bills (12% tax + 10% service - 1% retention, etc) and someone’s noisily rolling marbles down the paddles or scraping the woodenThai frog to make it croak! Even harder to take if I’ve not slept well for several nights (OY!)
I arrived just at the end of whale
Bunch of Plantains
Also known as "verdes" (green ones) - Plantains are cooked and prepared in so many ways. I love them!
season. During July, Aug & Sept the humpback whales come up on the Antarctic Humboldt Current. They put on an amazing show for the tourists, leaping and tail-slapping. I especially enjoy the cool, breezy weather of this season. When I come back for my next stint at Mandala it will be Jan/Feb/March, the hottest time of year. When I sweat from dawn to dusk it’s even more exhausting! I’ve tried to get out and walk a few mornings a week. Since the sand fleas on the beach eat me alive, I go up and around the stadium with Lalo as my walking buddy. Just as Chaco used to do, he’ll nuzzle my hand from time to time as we’re walking along. I find when I do get a bit of exercise, I sleep better and have more energy. I appreciate the music of my IPod to keep a brisk pace going. Fortunately I rescued the IPod from Julieta’s bed before she did more than just gum it. She was mad at me for keeping her locked in my room, and she fished the IPod out of a basket where I had it stored. Cheeky girl.
One day I escaped
Hanging the Dolphin
After a much needed facelift (sanded and varnished) this wooden dolphin got rehung above the entry gate. The salt spray damages everything, so regular maintenance is a must.
to Manta (2 hrs north) for a manicure/pedicure/facial/leg wax, to visit the chiropractor, to sort out the billing for my phone and health insurance, to do the grocery store shopping for Mandala, and to pick up 25 stainless steel rods, 18 feet long. I made them retie them onto my truck 5 times before I felt they were secure enough, and even then the drive home was harrowing! I figured out how to creep slowly over the speed bumps on an angle so they wouldn't bounce too much, but even so I arrived back at the Inn shattered & tense. Sorta undid the chiro treatment benefits!
So, I survive this intense rhythm of work by taking a nap every day...even if I don't sleep at least I lie down and read or do some Yoga stretches. A good book I enjoyed this month: Saving the World by Julia Alvarez about the 1800's voyage of the smallpox vaccine, using orphans as live carriers. Fascinating the way it was interwoven with a modern day woman's life challenges. I'm now reading Corelli's Mandolin -- the movie was wonderful, the book is so well written, but it's a tough slog for me thru
"Gusano" Carnival Train
"Todo Nino Paga" -- Every child pays to ride this fabulous "worm" tram. Love the clown bathing in a barrel!!
some of the war descriptions.
I have a couple more weeks here, then off to Banos to visit with friends again. I have some potential buyers for my land whom I hope to meet with in Quito. I am continuing to seek donations for scholarship funds for the kids who have graduated from the little school in Las Cabanas de Ayampe and wish to continue their studies. I currently have enough for 4 kids to continue High School for the next year, but would like to sponsor at least one of the graduates from this year's class. Including bus fare, school supplies, and uniform fees it costs about $300 per kid. Can you help out? Let me know and I'll send you the address of my Atlanta friend who is depositing donations in my stateside account. Thanks for reading my haphazard musings.
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