Ecuador's highest peak peeked out from the clouds to keep me company for awhile on my drive down to the coast. A fond farewell to the Andes....for now!
The past month's travels included: Baños to Quito, Quito to Panama City, Panama City to Los Angeles, LA to San Diego to LA - Los Angeles to Panama City to Quito - Back to Baños and then a solo drive over the Andes down to the coast. I am now working again in Puerto Lopez. After holding still at home for several months (see previous blog entry) it felt good to do some moving around and I'm glad to have a regular schedule. I am sharing the hotel management work with two others, so I actually have some time off to walk on the beach with the dogs, take yoga classes, go out to dinner with friends and do lots of reading!
The evening before I flew to the US, I arranged to have dinner with a few friends in Tumbaco (not far from the airport). The word got out and friends invited others and in the end we were 8 people – some of whom hadn’t seen each other in years (even decades!) Great Italian food (thanks for the recommendation Annie), several hours of visiting and catching up. One friend commented that it felt like a very
Fried Egg Poppy
Seen at a nature center near San Diego.
special occasion, even better than a birthday!
That night I drove to a family-run hostel near the airport (Saint Mary’s Tababela) where they allowed me to park my truck (now loaded with donations) in their secure carport. After I had a quick sleep in one of their comfy guest rooms, their daughter gave me a lift to the airport at 5:00 am.
I almost always travel with COPA Airlines, a subsidiary of Continental/United with their hub in Panama City. Connections are usually under 2 hrs and in-flight service is friendly and efficient (and the food is actually edible!) I love the seat-back movie service on the PTY to LAX leg – I can usually watch at least 3 films so the time flies by. Video gorging is not a bad thing when you’re tucked into a window seat!
Upon arrival in LA, the line for immigration was over an hour long! Just what you want after many hours of travel...NOT! I started playing with some kids in line behind me and we pretended we were in line for different rides at Disneyland. Then, after making it through the automated Passport reader
The Card Shark
Dad and I spent hours (and hours!) playing cards together...a great way to enjoy each other's company. We enjoyed sitting out on the terrace of his lodgings.
machine, I had to wait in two more lines! I got tagged to go through the Homeland Security line, standing behind a group of scared-looking Middle Eastern folks wearing head coverings. They got led off for questioning in a private room and I was called to the counter and asked about my activities in Ecuador before being waved through.
Fortunately there was no waiting to pick up my rental car & not much traffic on the freeway so I arrived at my lodgings before dark. Since my sister was renovating her bathrooms, I spent the first week at Siri & Kamala’s AirBnB. I was exhausted from a full day of travel but this lovely young couple was on hand to welcome me and we instantly engaged in lively conversation. They explained that their home was cannabis friendly and offered for me to share in any that I found lying around (and there was plenty!). My first visit to LA since marijuana has been legalized...bizarre to be so casual about smoking grass -- seems like now there's almost more stigma around smoking cigarettes in California!
Their 1926 house is an island of tranquility tucked between
A small outbuilding garage is transformed into "The Space Shift" where busy LA folks escape their daily life for Kundalini Breath Work and Sound Baths
the parking lot of the original Bob’s Big Boy restaurant (dating from 1949) and a series of newish white high rise condos. Theyve built a loft living space for themselves in the attic and they rent out two beautifully appointed rooms on the ground floor. Thick wooden doors with original crystal knobs, super soft bedding, a built-in desk looking out over a secret garden seating area. Very comfy but I was soon to realize, not very tranquil.
My room was right beside the kitchen (early morning smoothies in the blender) and directly next to the back door (thudding of the doggie door flap dozens of times per hour). Their big screen living room TV backed up to the wall at the head of my bed and was usually on until 11 pm or later. Almost every night there was a gathering in the back garden which served as a ante-room to The Space Shift – a magically transformed garage where they taught yoga, held healing seminars and more.
After a few days there I decided to participate in Yoga Galactica, a session of Kundalini Breath Work/Trance Chanting/Crystal Bowl & Bell Sound Bath – all
Although my Dad's memory is fading, his math mind is sharp as a tack! We played literally hundreds of games of Cribbage!
enhanced by cannabis edibles (delicious chocolate nut treats). The space was draped with rich Indian fabrics, glittering with tiny white lights and laid wall to wall with yoga mats spaced about 2 inches apart. Every spot was taken (reservations only, recommended $20 donation) and I found it hard to “get into the groove” with so many bodies so close by.
I did try some of the breathing exercises and must have been doing it somewhat deeply as my ribs were sore the following day. More often than not, however, I had my eyes open, watching as this group of LA folk stepped out of their day-to-day life into this retreat of sound, light, breath and trance music. Siri & Kamala produced all the music live and I wanted to watch them rather than close my eyes and flow with it. I felt like an anthropologist practicing heuristic inquiry – a participant/observer in a very foreign culture!
The house where I was staying was only about a mile from where my Dad lives, but my first day I decided to drive over to visit him and was almost involved in car crash. A block after
Celebrating with Dad
A wonderful birthday celebration for my Dad's 91st. Great to be with family.
setting off, I paused at the intersection to let a pedestrian finish crossing. If I hadn't waited for him, my rental car would have been obliterated by a huge black hummer with tinted windows that blew through the red light on the main road. If he hadn't reacted quickly and jumped back, the pedestrian might have been hit by the speeding vehicle. My heart was still pounding when I stopped at the next light; two gals who had seen the whole thing pulled up alongside me, rolled down their window and said, "Good driving back there!" It was at that point that I fell apart, heaving and sobbing. Deep breaths, welcome to LA!
I spent a few hours with Dad every day, playing cards or Scrabble, exploring the lounges and common areas on different floors of his building. Since he lives in a secure memory wing he can only leave the locked area when he is with a family member. The podiatrist comes right to their floor, treating the residents in the TV lounge. A cathechist comes to them to offer mass and communion. There's a small outdoor area where Dad and I liked to sit and
The Birthday Boy
Claire's preschoolers created his crown!
play games when it wasn't too cool for him. Great weather during my visit - bright and sunny but with a fresh, cool breeze. The air quality was good; as my plane landed I could see the mountains clearly and from the top floor of Dad's place there were crystalline mountain views. Every time he looked out at them he commented that growing up in flat, grey Brooklyn and he never dreamed he'd see the California mountains! I remarked that these weren't nuthin' compared to the majestic Andes!
Dad and I went out for lunch or dinner most every day (the food where Dad lives is barely palatable to me, although he doesn't complain). He loves Chinese food so we often went to Happy Panda (fast and cheap) or occasionally to PF Changs (a more elegant experience). Eating out is a nice way to spend time together and I think that the stimulation of being around other diners is pleasant for my Dad. He does sometimes get anxious when he's away from his familiar environment, commenting that he wouldn't know how to get back if he were alone; I assure him that I will always be with
Peacock in a Tree
At Laura's chicken farm, several majestic peacocks have taken up residence in her yard. They like the lower tree branches.
him. Sometimes we'd go for a meal on the main floor of his building, hobnobbing with the residents of the independent living apartments. One time we were playing cards while waiting for our meal and two spry older ladies came over to introduce themselves. They asked if I'd recently moved there (me?) and wanted to know why they hadn't seen my Dad around before. Once I explained that he lived on the second floor, their expressions saddened and one said to me, "I know what you're going through."
I took my Dad for a dentist appointment and also to several doctors, trying to solve a stubborn earwax problem. My sister diagnosed it correctly when his hearing declined suddenly and his primary care doctor (who makes house calls to his floor!) prescribed special drops to soften the wax. After a week of drops the wax build-up still couldn't be removed, so I took Dad into the office where they tried warm water irrigation to budge the sludge. Nothing doing. We then got an appt with an Ear Nose and Throat specialist who was able to suck it out with a mini ear vaccuum. So, on the day before
This Old House
Soon to be a work of art- my artist friend, Shana will be inspired to start drawing again as I've comissioned her to draw me this house!
his 91st birthday my Dad's hearing was magically restored. In the ENT waiting room Dad started flirting with a 94 year old woman who it turned out was deaf!
My sister had met Laura on a cooking tour in Tuscany and decided that Laura and I should definitely meet. We became facebook friends and I finally got to meet her in person in LA. I went to visit her at her chicken farm/home in a valley 1/2 hr from Claire's house. She was just recovering from Easter, the busiest time of year for selling eggs! Laura and I took a long walk with her dogs through desert-like hillsides while we chatted and got to know each other. I was especially fascinated by peacocks who had settled in the trees in her front yard...they just arrived one day and made themselves at home. A few days later Laura came over to Claire's house and the three of us had a lovely, lively dinner together.
I escaped LA for an overnight visit with friends in & near San Diego. My old friend Shoshanah who now lives in Alaska was in So. Cal, meeting her birth mom
I didn't manage to get a picture of us ladies at lunch, but here's one shot of the dining room at Hacienda Manteles.
for the first time, so I got to meet her too when we all went out for lunch together. I had a quick visit with Joan (80+ yr old yoga teacher friend) at a Nature Preserve where she'd just finished teaching a class. I spent the night with Stacy and Kyle at the posh ranger house near the State Park where Kyle works. We stayed up chatting until the wee hours of the morning. Stacy and I have known each other since we were teenagers, We hadn't seen each other in several years and we're both good talkers! Garage Sales and brunch with Michelle before heading back up to LA. Big mistake to travel on a Sunday afternoon -- it was 3 hours of bumper to bumper traffic. As I sat there listening to smooth jazz on the radio I thought to myself, I'd rather drive 10 hours over the Andes than stare at tail lights and breathe exhaust for 3 hrs on a California freeway!
I arrived back in Baños just after Shana's 77th birthday but even before I left for the US I'd begun planning a surprise birthday luncheon for her. I wouldn't tell her
My New House
I can hardly believe! I put in an offer on this little A-frame house and it was accepted! The ReMax realtor has helped the transaction go smoothly!
where I was taking her, but she figured it out as we headed up the mountain behind Patate, an agricultural community 1/2 hour from Baños. Lunch was at Hacienda Manteles, where I'd worked teaching English to their chef as he interviewed for a job on a cruise ship (he got it!). What Shana wasn't expecting was that 4 other friends were joining us there; they hid behind a pillar as we entered the elegant dining room and then jumped out, Surprise! It was an elegant ladies' lunch complete with chocolate cake and a stroll around the lush gardens.
I had only a 4 day turnaround between arriving back in Baños and heading down to the coast, but aside from Shana's Bday there was another important milestone in that brief space of time. I managed to view the house for sale three doors up from Shana's. I told Shana that unless it was absolutely disgusting, I'd pretty much decided that I was going to go for it. It was even better that I expected, with good possibilities for fixing it up. Everything fell into place, the realtor was forthcoming about offers that had thus far been rejected by
Jill's New Digs!
The mustard colored low building in the back will be re-built to become my home and I hope to rent out the upstairs & downstairs rooms in the A-frame.
the seller, assuring me that if I offered $1,000 more he was sure they'd accept it. I scrambled to gather the deposit $$ -- they guy sub-letting my house was able to pay me in advance directly into my US bank account -- so on the way down to the coast I stopped in Riobamba to leave good faith money with the realtor who assured me they'll be taking down the For Sale sign. The sellers agreed to wait for full payment until late June when my funds become available. When all goes so smoothly, it was meant to be!
No doubt you'll be hearing lots more about the house in upcoming blog entries. Right now I'm working at Hosteria Mandala, the hotel on the coast where I've filled in as substitute manager once or twice a year for the past decade. CiCi came with me and so far so good (except for the wasp sting I got yesterday) But more about all that in the next blog. Scroll down for a few more pics. Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear from you! Jill
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