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Published: April 28th 2018
Two months after buying the house, my neighbor Mama Tungurahua was pronounced dormant by the local vulcanologists. Nonetheless, there are signs and evacuation indications all over town, this one 2 blocks above my house.
As I dive into this March and April blog entry, let me start by saying "It feels so wonderful to be fully healthy again!!" A full month of challenges to heal after the stubborn kidney stone was removed from my body. I was supposed to need an internal catheter for just 2 weeks, but during the 2nd week a blood clot formed and I finally understood the extreme pain that everyone kept talking about. Sharp, severe pains began about 9:30 pm. I took a hot shower, then a cold one but by midnight the agony was so intense that I called Jean (who had driven down from Quito with me in case I needed help) and asked her to drive me to the hospital. I spent about 2 hours in the emergency room with IV painkillers, passed the clot in the ER restroom, went home, slept a few more hours and then felt right as rain!
I called my urologist that morning and she informed me I'd need to keep the catheter in a 3rd week. She gave me clearance to go ahead with the driving gig I had scheduled, touring with
CiCi says HI!
With her cute little crooked teeth and perpetually dirty beard, she's my little sweetie...such good company!
the sister and brother-in-law of some good friends. Dra Lopez said I could take longer drives if I felt up to it, provided I drink a bottle of water each half hour and stop to pee every hour. The eventual removal of the catheter was a bit of a drama...due to problems with insurance coverage we scheduled it at a public hospital (old, crowded but fine) and used an injection for pain and local anaesthetic gel (in lieu of more costly anaesthesia). Alas, I had serious internal inflammation and the catheter had shifted so I suffered an hour of razor-like probing...trusting it would all be over soon I gritted my teeth and made it thru.
Two days after the catheter came out I developed a urinary tract infection which my doctor treated with daily amikacina injections (like liquid fire) that the Red Cross nurse slowly and carefully administered into alternating butt cheeks. In spite of her best effo bruises lasted 3 weeks! We caught the cystitis right away, so within a week all was normal again. After a final round of blood and urine tests the doctor declared me
Long Drive to Cuenca
Stunning views, impossible greens...I'd have liked to stop and take photos every 15 minutes, but I would never have arrived. Driving alone I'm less likely to stop for pics.
100% well and at that point she told me that my case had been quite serious and I'm very fortunate to have healed as well and as quickly as I did with no apparent damage to my kidney or urinary tract. My next trip to Quito I did some chasing down of insurance and hospital records and got them into the right hands so I was able to get reimbursed over $900 of my $1000 guarantee within 5 weeks of the surgery. If I had left it in the hands of my insurance company and the hospital billing office it would have been months before I saw any $$.
Even before the catheter was out I took a long-ish solo drive (six hours) to pick up more donations in Cuenca. I had an ulterior motive for this trip...I had purchased a secondhand stove (bigger and posher than my previous cooker, and with a top grill in the oven!) and had to pick it up from the seller in Cuenca. She helped me load it into the back of my truck and we put the shiny oven door right up
Liven up the Party
As the anniversary party was getting under way, I was giving someone a tour of the library and I raided the kids' imagination corner for hats and wigs. Volunteers obliged!
against the truck bed's back window for security. We packed boxes and bags of donations all around and secured everything with a rubber tarp over the top, strapped down with bungee cords. It wasn't until I drove off that I realized that the mirror-like oven door was reflecting into my rear-view mirror, making it look like traffic in front of me was backing up towards me...very unsettling. Since my back window as completely blocked anyways, I just flipped up the mirror which was of no use.
I had company on the return trip from Cuenca. My friend Regina rode with me to Baños to meet up with her old friend Jerry who was renting my front house for three weeks. (Regina had helped me set up the rental). It was a beautiful day for the drive - impossibly green hillsides;very little fog as we traversed the highest mountain passes. Lively conversation made the hours fly by. One image which will always stay with me (wish I'd stopped to take a photo) was a huge truck piled high with enormous bundles of fist-sized radishes. As I drove past
Garage Sale Prep
Priscilla (seated) and Julie helped me sort through huge bags of clothing, shoes, purses and linens! At least a half a dozen volunteers pitched in during the week leading up to the sale.
they were being splashed with buckets of water, ostensibly to keep them fresh for the trip to market.
Even after the long drive back from Cuenca, I had enough energy to attend a 50th anniversary party for Jean & David, Karl's folks who come to Baños for several months each year to escape dreary England winters. It was a wonderful gathering filled with good friends, good food and much joy. Regina has been a huge help collecting and storing Cuenca donations, so I was giving her a tour around the Biblioteca (children's library where I volunteer). As we were marvelling over the collection of dress-up gear in Imagination Corner, I had the wacky idea of grabbing hats and wigs and passing them around to everyone at the party. The mood was enlivened as we all got a bit silly!
Barely a moment to catch my breath and it was time to begin preparing for the BIB's semi-annual fund-raising Garage Sale! For an entire week before the sale we unload and sort through all of the donations
Virginia & 2 Fernandos
Wonderful visit from Virginia (she's the cousin of a good friend's cousin; one of my dearest friends in Guayaquil) and her son & grandson (both named Fernando)
that had been accumulating over the previous months. Our secondhand store, BIB Bazar, is open every weekend, but a few times a year we hold an all out sale of the merchandise that wasn't deemed fit for the upstairs upscale shoppe. So many items to clean and price (and sometimes figure out what the heck it was). Aside from a dozen huge bags of clothes there were shoes & handbags, linens & kitchen stuff, toys & office supplies, broken appliances & electronics items and so much more! An ever popular event in Baños, the long hours of hard work prepping and setting up paid off with a huge rush of buyers. In the first hour and a half of sales we made well over $500. Not too shabby!! As had become the tradition, everyone who helps out is invited for lunch after the sale. This time I arranged for my friend Filippo to make us several huge pizzas - he charged me about half of what they usually cost! It was a yummy way to celebrate the fruits of our labours!
One advantage of living in Baños is that
Such a Fun Family!
I met Mario & Melissa over 10 yrs ago on the beach near Alandaluz. Since then they've lived in Malaysia & Bali and now have a wonderful, silly son!
it's a place that everyone wants to visit! In the weeks between when Jerry left and my new rentor was due to arrive I was able to host several sets of visitors. First there was my dear friend from Guayaquil, Virginia along with her son and 12 y/o grandson (both named Fernando) who were visiting from Florida. Working around my busy schedule we managed to find time to share some meals and do some sightseeing together. Over the years Virginia has hosted me a number of times at her home in Guayaquil and also at her beach house in Ballenita. I was glad to be able to return the favor! She's been living in Florida with her son so I hadn't seen her in a long time! It was a pleasure to getting to know the Fernandos - I do so enjoy spending time with adolescents. It's not that I miss teaching them, but checking in now and then with young teens is a joy. Actually I am teaching French to a 13 year old girl right now, and also to her mother. Valentina is a beginner but her mom is fairly fluent - she studied formally about 15 years
My Wee Boyfriend
Sweet Joaquin was so cuddly and affectionate!
ago so we have a lot of fun in class, dredging up and polishing her rusty spoken French.
My next set of visitors were Melissa and Mario and their wonderful son Joaquin. I met M&M over 10 yrs ago on the beach and we knew we were destined to become good friends. This fact was solidified when they were sent to Malaysia (Mario works for the Ecuadorian consulate) and I gave them Malay lessons before they left. Melissa ended up substitute teaching at the Int'l School of Kuala Lumpur where I worked from 1991-95. While they lived in SE Asia Joaquin was born and I'd only met him briefly at their home near Quito in the past year since they returned to Ecuador. He was always a bit shy with me, but that all changed when he came to visit me and CiCi in Baños! I had SO much fun with this delightful family (as you can tell from the attached pics). We wandered around town, ate and played and laughed and enjoyed each other's company. Six year-old Joaquin warmed right up to me and became my very special buddy.
Breakfast al Fresco
With former English student, Esther and her family. Just returned from living in Spain, great to spend time with her kids as they grow up!
I also had a quick visit from former student Esther and her family. I taught her English when I lived on the coast...at the time she was married to Henry, an American man who has since passed away. Her son Michael had just started walking when I met her and I was present at her daughter Mary's baptism. They've been living in Spain for the past few years, and seemingly suddenly, the kids grew up! They are now charming young adults and I enjoyed getting to know them. I have never lived in one place for so long before, and it's a satisfying feeling to be able to watch friends' children grow and mature.
In between my work at the BIB, teaching French and receiving visitors, I've also been teaching two conversation classes. In grad school I discovered a teaching technique called Community Language Learning, using a tape recorder to create short conversations with small groups of learners. I now use this method to teach conversational Spanish to a handful of sixty-something expats who have recently moved to Baños. I also
Tamasine is Back!
And the garden is looking better than ever! So very grateful for this dear friend's help in making my house a home.
teach an English class to 3 Ecuadorians and a Colombian who all work in tourism. I turned the dining room of my front house into a classroom and I'm really enjoying teaching again.
Since my new rentor advised me that he wouldn't be arriving until the middle of April, I scrambled to get some work done on the rental house. I had a second water line installed (so one of us wouldn't lose hot water in the shower any time the other flushes the toilet), I had both rooms repainted, a little roof repair done, installed a shelf alongside the desk and had the wood floor sanded and waxed. Tamasine is back in town (this time for good...hooray!). Until she could move into her new apartment she stayed with me and worked in the garden and also sanded down and oiled the wooden window and door frames (a labor of love since she adores working with wood). She finished painting some blue trim on the side window (tricky work with planks of wood balanced between the window sill and the neighbor's cement wall!) and she also gave me weekly Watsu floating
Great to have artist friends...Camilo is a Colombian jeweller who came over to help me with my long envisioned mosaic project...the first of many I'm sure.
massage in the warm mineral pools right near my house. Ahhh!!!
For over a decade I've been collecting shells and smooth, flat beach stones, all the while dreaming about the mosaic I'd make with them - someday, somewhere. It was finally time to delve into my ample stock of beach booty. I spent several evenings sorting stones by color, size and shape and visualizing how they'd come together into a design. The sorting of mosaic fodder was sort of like the reverse of doing a jigsaw puzzle!
My jeweller friend Camilo had agreed to come help me with the assembly of my imagined mosaic. I had the materials all ready, so working together we created something really beautiful in just a few hours. I now have a magical mosaic stretching along both sides of the walkway leading up to my front house. I really love the idea that natural "jewels" from the coast adorn my front stoop on the eastern slopes of the Andes!
Another unique house art idea that has been percolating
This guy has done bottle work for my friends at their hotel, Black Sheep Inn. He agreed to travel 4 hours to come work for me for 4 days.
for awhile finally came to fruition. When I first moved into the house a friend "gifted" me a huge metal and wooden spool that held the fiber-optic cable when faster internet came to Baños. The metal ends were removed and soldered up (standing up) onto the corner ledge of my upstairs terrace. Some of the wood planks were refinished and made into the new shelf in the rental bedroom. Friends of mine who have a hotel high up in the mountains (Black Sheep Inn in Chugchilan) have amazing bottle windows all over their place...so the last time I was visiting them I asked if they'd loan me their maestro (artisan workman).
I communicated with Francisco via cell phone text message for several months before we finally managed to coordinate his trip to Baños (1 hour hiking & 4 hours by bus from where he lives). I offered to cover the cost of his transport, pay for his food & lodging and we agreed upon a daily wage. A skilled bricklayer earns $25 per day here and when I suggested that he hemmed and hawed a bit and told me he'd actually
Bottle Window Advances
Using just colored bottles, cement, and the metal wheels from a spool that had fiber optic cable we created a magnificent work of art!
earned more than that at his last job as a construction foreman...$28/day! In the end I paid him $140 for 3 1/2 days of hard work and he was very pleased! The hostel three doors up from my house charges $8/night and the manageress, Roxana agreed to prepare Francisco's breakfasts and dinners for $3 each. I fixed lunches at my house.
Francisco seemed to really enjoy the challenge of the job I had laid out for him. The day before the bottle maestro arrived, David (12 yr old son of my cleaning gal) came over and helped me sort through all of the bottles I'd been collecting for the previous 8 years. He carried all 30 boxes up to the terrace from the bodega (storeroom) down below. David had actually removed most of the labels from these hundreds of bottles. Opening each box was like opening a gift! I separated out the blue, green, and transparent bottles and laid them out on a quilted blanket in the corner of the terrace, measuring how many I'd need to fill in the concentric circles of the metal frames. The finished project far exceeds any idea
With the sun shining through the colored bottles, this view rivals the rose window at Notre Dame Cathedral!
I could have imagined. In total we used about 110 bottles to complete the project...I still have hundreds more left for the next bottle wall creation(s)!
My new rentor arrived as planned with a truck full of his stuff and his dogs in tow. CiCi has two new canine playmates, right next door. Sally (black Shepherd mix) and Paco (silky soft Chihuahua mix) moved in with their doting daddy, Mark. The dogs all get along really well and love to run and play up in the hills above my house. Alas, they also egg each other in epic bark-a-thons (especially right at dusk). I can only imagine the bow-wow sing-alongs that occur when neither of us humans is at home to calm them down! Going for group walks (sometimes twice a day!) has gotten me out to exercise more, so I'm sure we'll make an effort to keep it up (the pups will insist that we do!)
This blog entry has a dozen more interesting photos, so please do take the time to scroll down and click on next to see them
CiCi's New Buddies
Sally and Paco have come to live with us. Their Daddy Mark is renting the front house on my property. So far, the kids are getting along famously!
all. If the caption cannot be fully read, just click on the pic and it will appear in its entirety. Drop me a comment or a message if you have the time. I love to hear from my loyal blog-reading friends! The next two months are filled with visitors from faraway, and travel adventures to go with their visits...so stay tuned!
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