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February 15th 2019
Published: February 26th 2019
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Arriving in QuitoArriving in QuitoArriving in Quito

No matter how many times I fly in, my heart always catches in my throat at the sight of the patchwork green hillsides as seen from above.
Fair warning...this will be a blog entry of many photos and not so many words. I'm trying to get it written and published before the next big event in my life...the arrival of my niece Tovah and her boyfriend Max in Ecuador. I'm so excited to show them around, but I need to sew up this chapter before starting on the next. It's been over two months since I got back home, and more than a little challenging to rediscover my peaceful rhythm of life.

As my plane circled over the green green Andes, my heart soared to be returning home. If you read my last two blogs about my loooonnngg visit in the US (over two months!) you'll understand a bit how exhilarated I felt to touch down again in my beloved Ecuador. In the first two months back I only managed to lose about 10 of the 15+ lbs I put on in the US... much easier to gain it than to lose it!! Long morning and afternoon walks with CiCi have definitely helped, along with avoiding bread and trying not to eat anything after 5:00 pm! In
Garage Sale BuddiesGarage Sale BuddiesGarage Sale Buddies

I hit the ground running as soon as I got back to Baños to prepare for the semi-annual fund-raising garage sale at the children's library
addition I've been swimming and exercising three times a week in the thermal mineral pools (5 minute walk from my house).

Arriving in Baños I had to hit the ground running to organize and coordinate the semi-annual, fund-raising Garage Sale which benefits the volunteer children's library (la BIB- Biblioteca Interactiva de Baños) that I have been involved with for over 10 years. Several of the folks who usually help me were not available, but I am grateful to the friends who showed up to lend a hand. It's a full week of work to prepare for this huge event! In the end all went smoothly but I was a bit frazzled by the end. And then it was up to me to drive the leftovers down to Puyo, (a city 1 1/2 hrs east of Baños on the edge of the Amazon Basin) from where the remaining clothes and shoes are flown, a few bags at a time, to an Achuar indigenous community deep in the jungle.

Shortly after my return I took part in a
December BirthdaysDecember BirthdaysDecember Birthdays

Carol and Pam hosted the group birthday gathering. All blew out the candles at once! The celebration was transmitted via internet to nieces and grandkids in Texas who were also celebrating December birthdays.
joyous celebration of of whom were celebrating December birthdays. Our gringo group of buddies all happen to be foodies as well, so every pot luck event is a gastronomical feast! Several times a month one or the other of us finds an excuse to host a luncheon and, weather permitting, we dine al fresco. Food always tastes better when eaten outdoors!

I've had a number of visitors and it's always fun to show folks around! I hadn't seen my old friend Victor in over 5 years. We met in 2003 at Alandaluz EcoLodge on the coast, but now he works in Guayaquil. We've kept in contact via facebook and he finally came to visit me in Baños with his mother Rosa in tow. It was a short, afternoon visit but wonderful to see him and his mom. Another friend from the coast, Sue, had since moved north of Quito to Cotacachi. When her daughter Tina came to visit they both came to Baños and we shared a lovely few days, including celebrating Tina's birthday with yummy cheesecake. I met a Canadian visitor, Lorraine, on facebook when she was
A visit from an old friendA visit from an old friendA visit from an old friend

I've known Victor for 15 years, but we hadn't seen each other in over 5 yrs. He brought his mama for a visit to Baños
seeking information about art galleries in Baños. We agreed that I would create a personalized tour for this delightful gal and we had a great time bopping around together for several days. It's always nice to see my fave places through the eyes of my visitors...keeps the experiences fresh and wondrous.

I made a trip to Riobamba (1 1/2 hours west) to deliver a secondhand laptop to my adopted sister and fellow teacher, Beatriz. She´s doing a long distance master's degree thru the University of Salamanca, Spain and the school where she works offered to pay half of the tuition if she could come up with the other half. I have loaned her the $$ she needed and she pays me back a little each month. This time I took a different route to Riobamba - a more direct backroad which was recently opened to thru traffic. It's not yet fully paved, but the distance is so much shorter that it was still worthwhile. Since it's not yet well signposted, I took a wrong turn which led me onto a stunning country road where an old man sold me
Lorraine at SauceLorraine at SauceLorraine at Sauce

A new Canadian friend - we met on facebook and she hired me to take her around Baños and environs for a few days. What fun we had!
a bucket of avocados for $2 (!) -- there were ten scrumptious "crocodile eggs" in all.

Another act of kindness (a friend commended me on my multiple mitzvot) was to help a friend take a tortoise down to La Finca de la Vaca on the edge of the jungle. Years ago I drove another friend, his mother and their turtle to the same place (it had outgrown its box on their terrace), so Patrick's Finca came to mind when Consuelo told me that the ministry of the environment had threatened to take away her husband's 30 lb pet tortoise. Our hope is that this guy will disappear into the wild as the other one did. La Finca de la Vaca is one of CiCi's favorite places and she was especially intrigued by the turtle!

Jean Luc and I were invited by our mutual friend, Patrick to have dinner on the house at his fabulous restaurant in Baños, Swiss Bistro. We shared a smoked trout appetizer (even yummier than lox, if that's possible!) and two types of cheese fondue
Fondue with Jean-LucFondue with Jean-LucFondue with Jean-Luc

Swiss Bistro is owned by my dear friend Patrick and he invited me and mutual friend Jean-Luc for a fondue dinner on the house. Guete & Merci!!
(exquisite!) Merci, Danke, Gracias & Thank you! I have such fun speaking a mix of all four languages with these two friends! I continue to receive weekly WATSU massages from Canadian friend, Tamasine at the warm pools located 5 minute walk up from my house. Life is good!!

After seeing my friend Flo's custom-built bookshelves, I got her carpenter's name and made contact with Leonidas before I even left for the states and drew up the plans for my new desk and shelving unit. Within a few days of my return to Baños he and I took a trip down to Puyo to buy the wood he'd need for the project. There's a military checkpoint in Mera to prevent people from illegally removing hardwoods and animals, so Leo and I stopped there on the way down to make sure we knew what kind of paperwork we'd need to ask for at the sawmill so that we could verify that the beautiful Chuncho hardwood was legally harvested.

We found semi-dry planks of the right dimensions at an even better
Leonidas at the SawmillLeonidas at the SawmillLeonidas at the Sawmill

My carpenter and I drove an hour and a half to Puyo to select the hardwood for my bookshelves and desk.
price than I'd been originally quoted. We had no problems transporting the wood up to Baños in the back of my truck. Over the next six weeks the wood finish drying slowly and carefully at his workshop in Ulba, the town next to Baños. Eight weeks later my shelves and desk were ready to be installed. I couldn't be more pleased with the quality of the work and how they look in my upstairs A-frame office/library/artspace!

To complete the upstairs room I've created a reading nook/sofa bed under the window which looks up towards the volcano. Digging through textiles I´ve collected through the years (blouses from Guatemala and Borneo, ikat macanas from Africa and Cuenca, an old hammock, Otavalo striped pants fabric, etc) seamstress friend and neighbor Pam helped me to conceive and execute the design for curtains, a large cushion cover, and pillows galore. Amazing work, stunning results!

I'd been trying for months to reach Francisco the bottle maestro - eager to continue work on my rooftop bottle wheel project. Come to find out that he'd lost
Massive BookshelvesMassive BookshelvesMassive Bookshelves

Eight feet high, six feet wide and three feet deep - my new shelving fills an entire wall and give me space to organize all of my books and teaching materials.
his phone and had to change his number but we finally reconnected and arranged for him to come back to Baños. Last time he stayed 4 days to complete the first two bottle wheels, but now his time was more limited. I had everything prepared (bottles laid out in the desired design, labels cleaned off, openings taped over to avoid cement drips), so this time he managed to complete the 3rd wheel in one long day (the finishing touches done after dark using my headlamp!) I'm very pleased with the results and excited for him to return in a few weeks to build a privacy wall on the other end of the terrace -- I already have the bottles selected and arranged in anticipation!

Since my return to Ecuador I've had a number of driving gigs, taking folks back and forth between the Quito and Baños. It's 3 hours each way and twice I did a turnaround, back to back 6 hours driving to and from the airport. I like listening to audio books when I'm driving alone, and enjoy chatting with my passengers when I'm not. I transported
World Textiles Reading NookWorld Textiles Reading NookWorld Textiles Reading Nook

Now my office, study, library, art space is complete. Many thanks to Pam for her sewing skills to help me carry out this dream sofa-bed corner! View of the volcano out the window.
several BIB volunteers and also some friends who came to visit those volunteers. Whenever possible I take advantage of trips to Quito to collect donations, make doctor appointments, or get my truck serviced.

I used to go to the Nissan dealer in Ambato 1 hr away, but they charge a ridiculous amount and actually messed up my truck while replacing the clutch. They broke open a rubber stopper that prevents odors from wafting into the cab. I took my truck back to the Nissan dealer twice to try to diagnose the problem: the first time they said there was no was just my imagination (running away with me...) The next time I went back with the same problem they told me to keep the air recirculation lever closed...that´s not a solution! My friend Michelle recommended her trusted mechanic in Quito, so I left my vehicle with Carlos. He discovered the problem but was unable to find a replacement part. I inquired at the Nissan dealer and they told me they could order it and have it shipped air freight and the cost would be $190 (!!) It's a
Pancho the Bottle WizardPancho the Bottle WizardPancho the Bottle Wizard

I finally got my bottle master workman back to continue the windbreak project on my rooftop terrace.
small black rubber accordion-like thing the size of a fist! SO, my niece went to work and found the ONLY one available in the continental US -- the price was $20 including shipping !! Thanks for your persistence Tovah!!

Since that trip to Quito meant leaving Scarlett with the mechanic for several days, I made a number of doctors' appointments and took taxis around the city. On the rare occasion that I have to drive at night, I've been noticing blurriness in my right eye. An opthamologist visit confirmed that I have a cataract and will have to have surgery. I've also been having some back and hip pain, as well as a rib that feels like it's perpetually out of place, so I met with a young chiropractor (recommended by several friends) and saw the traumatologist at my insurance's imaging clinic to get a complete set of spinal x-rays (which cost me $8.59).

A dermatologist froze off a pre-cancerous spot on my upper chest & the cardiologist cleared me for another year continuing on mild blood pressure
The Third WheelThe Third WheelThe Third Wheel

Far left is the most recently completed bottle wheel, each one more beautiful than the last. I may add one more, or I may not...
medication. My insurance covers the cost of meds provided I have an annual visit to the doc. Whew! That was a lot of doctor visits!! I continue to be happy with my insurance. I have $4.50 co-pay for each visit, compassionate and communicative professionals who take their time to explain everything to me. Since I wouldn't be able to drive after dilation (the next eye exam I needed before surgery) I had a friend from Baños drive me up to Ambato (just an hour from my home) to have the deep eye exam done. The opthamologist was SO good-looking - it was a shame I couldn't open my eyes much while dilated to admire the view. He had a nice, deep voice too so I was able to enjoy that aspect of my eye visit!!

In between all of my doctor appointments and follow-up visits I managed to have some fun. I met Rebecca Murray for lunch...a young Kiwi gal who'd just published a children's book about the Galapagos wildlife. Her enthusiasm and idealism reminded me so much of myself at her age on my first visit to Ecuador
Adventures with LupeAdventures with LupeAdventures with Lupe

YAKU - El Museo de Agua is an interactive museum located on the site of Quito's first water distribution plant. Many interesting exhibits.
in my late 20's. I spent an awesome day with my good friend Lupe, exploring the Museo de Agua, YAKU - a museum dedicated to water perched on a hillside high above the historical center. It's where Quito's first water distribution plant was located. We wandered the paths and worked our way down to the San Marcos artist district of the old town where we found a funky lunch spot owned by a guy from New Orleans. The house special was gumbo made with cuy (guinea pig - a delicacy here).

My old friend Jean Brown had just turned 70. She'd been my boss when I first arrived at the Colegio Americano in Quito in 1988. She still lives in the old town and since I'd missed her birthday party, I invited her to brunch. I faked her out by suggesting that we meet at a sidewalk café near a church plaza, but then I guided her around the corner for a buffet brunch at one of the most elegant boutique hotels in the city, Casa Gangotena. We enjoyed a long, leisurely visit in the elegant dining room, joking
Elegant LobbyElegant LobbyElegant Lobby

Good friend Jean turned 70 (she was my boss at Colegio Americano 30 yrs ago!) so I surprised her with an elegant brunch at Casa Gangotena.
that we'd each consumed our own body weight in smoked salmon!!

I had follow-up visits to the chiro and the traumatologist once the back x-ray panel was back. Ryan, the chiropractor walked me through the x-rays, pointing out areas of concern (severe scoliosis, a pronounced counter-curvature of the lumbar spine, osteophytes forming on the edges of the vertebrae trying to fuse the spine, and probable pinched nerves in the cervical area--most likely the reason I've been experiencing pain and numbness in my arms and hands). Both the traumatologist and the physical therapist gasped upon seeing the films and exclaiming that they couldn't believe that I was walking upright and not in severe pain. They said that based on these xrays they would expect a hunched-over 80 yr old woman to come hobbling in. Sooo....even more important for me to lose more weight, keep on walking, swimming, getting regular massage, stretching and doing yoga.

There are many more photos in this post, so please scroll down to view them, and click on next for even more. While taking friends (old and
Museo de AguaMuseo de AguaMuseo de Agua

Located high on a hillside above Quito's old town, the Water Museum (Yaku means water in Kichwa) offers stunning views!
new) around Baños and environs, I was again struck by the incredible natural beauty of this place where I live!! Seeing it all through the eyes of folks experiencing it for the first time keeps me from getting jaded and I nabbed a few of their pics to include here. My goal was to get this blog published before my niece arrived, but I actually just sent her off on her flight last night...soo the next entry documenting my amazing adventures with Tovah and Max should be hot on the heals of this blog...stay tuned!!

Additional photos below
Photos: 44, Displayed: 31


Posada de Maple in QuitoPosada de Maple in Quito
Posada de Maple in Quito

My pied-a-terre budget hostel in Quito...this time I stayed almost a week. On a quiet, tree-lined street this is the view from the balcony of my room.
How Does Your Garden Grow?How Does Your Garden Grow?
How Does Your Garden Grow?

Lush and beautiful! In just over a year my front garden has taken off, softening the look of the prison-like fence!
Marta and CiCi in the GardenMarta and CiCi in the Garden
Marta and CiCi in the Garden

The floripondio (trumpet flower) plant was started with just a twig. Now it's loaded with blossoms! Here you see sweet CiCi before her haircut.
CiCi and friendCiCi and friend
CiCi and friend

Here you see CiCi post haircut with her tortoise buddy Luis. She looks SO much thinner ... would that it were that easy to slim down with just a haircut!
Dream DeskDream Desk
Dream Desk

A two-seater desk (perfect for private lessons), ten feet long (room for all of my baubles and art supplies) and a killer view of the Bascun River Valley. Heavenly work space.
Posing with Vic and RosaPosing with Vic and Rosa
Posing with Vic and Rosa

Notice the row of public washing stones and La Virgen waterfall in the background!
Vicente the Volcano GuyVicente the Volcano Guy
Vicente the Volcano Guy

In a rickety shack beside his house 86 year old Vicente has samples of ash and lava rocks from each of Mama Tungurahua's eruptions

26th February 2019

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