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South America » Ecuador » Centre » Baños
June 16th 2019
Published: June 23rd 2019
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Chocolate Fondue Anyone?Chocolate Fondue Anyone?Chocolate Fondue Anyone?

For the re-opening celebration many local restaurants provided food and drink. My dear friend Patrick who owns SwissBistro sent these cuties to serve choco-dipt strawberries to all!
A hectic few weeks gearing up for the Grand Re-Inauguration of the BIB, the volunteer children’s library where I’ve been helping out for over 10 years. In an effort to better utilize the facilities, we re-opened as the Centro Cultural Arte del Mundo (Art of the World Cultural Center) hosting more movies and theatre and offering more classes and workshops, in addition to the children’s library program (Biblioteca Interactiva de Baños) and the Secondhand Shop (BIB Bazar) that I run as a fundraiser.

















I spent quite a few days walking all over town asking restaurants to donate trays of food for our opening day celebration and hitting up business owners for prizes for our big raffle. I hadn’t realized how many people I’ve come to know fairly well over the years. Every single person I approached said YES! We gathered donations from over 30 local businesses! Almost everyone in town has heard of the BIB; most know a child who has benefited from the after-school program in the past decade.













Grand ReOpening!Grand ReOpening!Grand ReOpening!

Centro Cultural Arte del Mundo had a re-inauguration party! Our new and improved Cultural Center houses the volunteer children's library where I've been volunteering for the past decade.


A new mayor and municipal administration just took office and a friend arranged for me and Karl (BIB administrator) to meet with the new guy in charge of culture and tourism. Ends up that his daughter was a BIB kid in the early years! An upshot of this connection was that on the day of the celebration the municipal loudspeaker vehicle drove all over town (twice!) announcing our Re-Opening celebration. Apparently radio announcements at noon and rolling speakers are the best way to get the word out here in Baños!















There were hundreds of people, some of whom had never been to the BIB before. We'd lined up plenty of food and drink including chocolate fondue and microbrew beer. There was live music and even free plants, offshoots from my neighbor´s huge garden. I was seated at the entry gate, greeting folks and encouraging them to buy raffle tickets at $1 each (all in all we sold over 700 tickets!)















I was also the announcer for the raffle drawing,
Raffle Fun!!Raffle Fun!!Raffle Fun!!

I was the announcer for the Gran Rifa -- our big raffle with fabulous prizes! I called on kids to pick the numbers from a clear plastic bowl so everyone could see!
calling upon kids in the audience to pick a number from a clear plastic bowl so everyone could see the process. We had a total of 29 prizes to give away including dinners for two, spa treatments, free pizza, original artwork, a microwave oven, a basket of handmade soaps, pet sterilization surgeries, a ride on the local 'rhino' tourist tram...you name it!















It was a lively crowd, all were excited about the possibility of winning something great. My 'high school drama club/teacher of adolescents' persona kicked in and I kept everyone on the edge of their seats as a slide show flashed behind me on the big screen with publicity shots for each of the donors. After all the prizes were distributed people crowded around to tell me what an amazing show I'd put on. "You were on FIRE!" "You belong onstage!" It was quite a rush!















I'm enjoying doing more teaching, now that I’m holding still in Baños. I have a beginner´s English class for two sisters who manage
Spanish Conversation ClassSpanish Conversation ClassSpanish Conversation Class

A fabulous, fun group of expats who want to improve their already fairly fluent Spanish. I use a technique I've enjoyed through the years, recording spontaneous conversation to create course content.
a hostel. We do a trade-in exchange for lessons I get a weekly massage (ahh!!) There’s a university student who lives in Ambato (one hour away) but comes to Baños every Saturday for her church youth group meeting so we do an hour of English first. Damaris is studying Physical Therapy and she is an excellent learner, a delight to work with!















Twice a week I meet with my group of Ex-pat friends who want to improve/perfect their Spanish. We use the tape recorded conversation technique and there’s plenty of laughter and silliness. Several of them have lived many years in Ecuador but never formally studied Spanish, just sort of picked it up. Now to give structure to their knowledge, address fossilized errors and improve fluency. For the next month I’ll also be teaching beginning Spanish to a friend’s grandson who’s here visiting from the US, and his uncle who recently moved to Baños.















Over the past two months I’ve enjoyed a few short excursions out of town. While my
Bus SchedulesBus SchedulesBus Schedules

One afternoon I drove a tourist around the outskirts of Baños and when I dropped her at the bus terminal she took this picture of me!
old friend Marianne was visiting from the coast we took a day trip down towards the the jungle. Puyo sits on the edge of the Amazon basin and she came along to buy some carved balsa birds for her gallery while I went with my carpenter to buy wood for our next project…a free-standing pantry for my kitchen. The wood is drying at his workshop and construction should begin next month (or the month after...it's been super rainy and windy here!). Fun to work with him to design the two-door cupboard exactly how I want it, deep shelves in the doors for bottles and cans, a built-in spice rack and customized shelving.















At a hotel that's owned by my friend Marshia (Posada del Arte) I've left fliers offering my services as an English- (and French-) speaking driver for tourists to visit areas in the environs of Baños and down to the edge of the jungle. Once I took a family from Quebec around for a few days. That's also how I met Julia four years ago when she was first considering a move to Ecuador.
At Pacha Mama RestaurantAt Pacha Mama RestaurantAt Pacha Mama Restaurant

Julia and the owner pose with the clay dish used to cook their famous Pato al Lodo (duck in mud). It was here that I bought a dozen succulents for $1 each!
She now lives in Cuenca and recently came up to visit Baños again. We had fun toodling around. I really enjoy her enthusiasm and curiosity (she was sociology professor). Perhaps we'll travel together again someday somewhere.















This time when they contacted me it was a 75 year old North American woman, travelling on her own. We spent the afternoon visiting waterfalls and gorges in the nearby vicinity of Baños. She was a real character, that’s for sure. I think she'd been travelling on her own for quite awhile and was a bit lonely...she never stopped talking and I heard her entire life story (many parts of it twice). I enjoy meeting all kinds of travellers and showing them some of my favorite hidden gorges and waterfalls! Aside from earning a few tankfuls of gas, taking folks around keeps me from getting jaded -- their delighted reactions to the amazing natural beauty reminds me to never take for granted this magical place where I live. That's why I implore you, dear friends and family to come on down and visit me!! Your chariot awaits....

Succulent ArrangementsSucculent ArrangementsSucculent Arrangements

These delightful additons grace my covered rooftop terrace (which means I need to remember to water them!)














When I went with Julia to Pacha Mama Restaurant (specialty duck cooked encased in mud/clay) there was a display of succulents for sale. Now I'm not much of a gardener, but it's pretty hard to kill succulents and there are so many stunning varieties! SO, $10 later I walked off with 10 plants and my terra cotta planters are now brimming with beauty. I also picked up three hearty bougainvilla plants which I'm hoping will climb up over my front fence someday and cascade down in a riot of brilliant color!















Other than the plants, not a lot of home improvements to report. Just outside my kitchen window there's a makeshift counter top made from an old door. It hides my gas tanks from street view and is a handy place for my compost bucket. For over two years I've tried to keep it dry(ish) with pieces of this and that (marble, floor tile, an old window...) but I finally decided to have a thick piece of glass cut to cover the
Tile CollectionTile CollectionTile Collection

For decades I've been picking up tiles wherever I travel and now these will be displayed under glass on an outdoor table made from an old door.
whole surface, nicely rounded edges and corners. This new glass top inspired me to dig out my collection of porcelain tiles (yes, yet another of my collections -- gorgeous tiles gathered from countries all over the world!). The tiles fit perfectly in the hollows of the door and the glass top protects them nicely while showcasing their beauty!















Since she doesn't get lamb on the coast, Marianne was hankering for some and she asked around at the market and found a woman who sells whole leg of lamb. Twice while she was here we cooked succulent lamb with roasted vegetables. Mouthwateringly delicious! I hosted a few other luncheons as well (scroll down and click next to see photos)...I enjoy preparing special foods and presenting them artfully, using my favorite serving dishes.















So, Swiss Bistro is our favorite 'treat ourselves to a nice meal' restaurant, and Shana and I usually go there at least once a month. About 45 minutes from Baños the same delicious menu is replicated at La Finca
Mmmm....Lamb!Mmmm....Lamb!Mmmm....Lamb!

While Marianne was visiting from the coast she discovered a vendor at the Sunday market who sells Leg of Lamb and fixed me a mouthwatering meal!
de la Vaca in the village of Cumanda, right along the Pastaza River where there used to be a penal colony. Since it's quite jungly there, it tends to rain a lot so on a Sunday I'll call the owner, Patrick, in the morning to ask if he thinks there will be sunshine. He has created a swimmer´s paradise there, harnessing the crystalline water of a smallish river and creating exquisitely beautiful swimming pools.















I'd been down to Cumanda for a visit several times while the pools were under construction, and once when they were completed but it was too cloudy and cool. The water is brisk, the pools are long... perfect for an energetic swim on a sunny day. Finally I got to indulge on a warm day and it was heavenly. Shana was hesitant about descending the irregular stone steps to the pool area, but she was happy to hang out and wait while I enjoyed a lengthy swim before lunch. I worked up quite an appetite!















Speaking
New Fave Swimming SpotNew Fave Swimming SpotNew Fave Swimming Spot

Alongside the river Patrick has crafted natural pools. Refreshing (bracing!) since the flowing water comes from snow melt not too far away!
of swimming, I continue to enjoy my visits to the hot springs complex located 200 meters uphill from my house (less than a 5 minute walk!) I manage to go twice or three times a week. If I'm up before dawn (it does happen, I tend to be a very early riser!) I head up to the thermal baths to watch daybreak. It starts getting light around 5:55 (all year round) and the baths open at 5:00 am. There's something magical about floating in warm water, watching the darkness give way to deep blue which ever so gradually progresses to faded denim, sometimes shot through with twisting rays of lighter blue. As I stare, mesmerized, running through my brain are the word of Carlos Castaneda, "Twilight is the crack between the worlds." It's a mystical feeling to focus on the 'vees' of the mountains, looking east towards the Amazon Basin and sense cover of darkness lift and the approach of daylight crawl towards me.















In case you haven't caught on by now, I love to swim! It's such a complete, gentle exercise with a meditative
A Heavenly Swim!A Heavenly Swim!A Heavenly Swim!

The lap pool is perched right beside the rushing river -- breathtaking scenery!
quality. Swimming in the warm pools offers a womb-like relaxation. Even with as much as I enjoy my swims, I was starting to feel twinges of pain in my right shoulder. I tried different strokes, but the pain was bothersome enough that I couldn't do laps. As I paid more attention I realized that the shoulder was causing me other issues. I had to hold CiCi´s leash with my left hand and I was experiencing zings of pain when I combed my hair or put on my bra or fastened my seatbelt. When the discomfort started to interfere with my sleep, I finally accepted that I ought to see a doctor and find out what I could do about it.















So, I made an appointment up in Quito (3 hours away) to see a traumatologist and I also managed to get an appointment with a dermatologist -- a rash by the corners of my mouth has been going on for months and the psoriasis on my elbows has been acting up with more consistently (it used to only come and go along with my Crohn´s
Bascun River beside Salado BathsBascun River beside Salado BathsBascun River beside Salado Baths

The rushing of the river soothes the senses as one soaks in the hot springs (to the left). Alas, more often than not there's loud music drowning out nature's sounds.
symptoms). I decided that while I was going to the doctor, Scarlett (my truck) should see Carlos the mechanic and get a few things worked on. It's not easy to park my double cabin pick-up securely in Quito, so it's actually more convenient to just leave her at TecniAuto while I'm in the city!















Well, the news from the docs was not good...so now we get to the song lyric reference in the title of this blog entry! The dermatologist said I have moderate rosacea and it's progressing (constant pink cheeks, broken blood vessels, and the rashy patches). I had a taxi driver help me find the shop in Quito where they sell the specialty creams that were prescribed (three of them at about $25 a pop, of course not covered by my insurance). The derm doc also said I should avoid drinking hot drinks and eating spicy food (I seldom do either anyways) and that I should stay away from saunas, steam rooms, and the thermal springs. Well that ain't gonna happen...I made a deal with myself that I wouldn't stay in the hottest
Flying over the Pastaza RiverFlying over the Pastaza RiverFlying over the Pastaza River

Just past San Martin Gorge, overlooking a dramatic bend in the Pastaza River, they´ve installed these "photo-op" wings. Yup, I had to do it!
pool for more than 5 minutes at a time and wouldn't put my head underwater.













The ultrasound report on my shoulder indicated both tendonitis and bursitis plus a lesion to the rotator cuff (el manguito rotador - new Spanish word for me). He said NO swimming or I'd risk damaging the pulled tendons further. The doctor also prescribed 20 sessions of physical therapy (which is covered by my insurance) and applying heat morning and evening. I found a gal here in Ecuador who makes seed-filled heating pads (including lavender, eucalyptus and other fragrant stuff) so I made a bank transfer into her account and she sent it to me via ServiEntrega (a national UPS-like service).













I did my first 5 sessions of physical therapy with Mayra, the sister of a massage therapist friend of mine...but I realized that she was only using electro-stim and heat. She admitted that her ultrasound machine was broken and she hadn't managed to get it fixed. So I asked around and found the other physical therapist in town. Well,
Cici and her Lamb BoneCici and her Lamb BoneCici and her Lamb Bone

Nestled in the Wandering Jew (wandering ME!) CiCi beds down for a chewing session!
she had just gotten a job in the municipal bldg (a plum post) so her husband Luis was taking over the business. He's not a physical therapist but she'd trained him to use all the machines so for the next 15 sessions I had infra-red magnet therapy followed by electro-stim and heating pads and finally ultrasound and laser wands applied to the area.













Luis is a pleasant fellow but I have to confess that my favorite part of the hours and hours spent in his clinic was loving on his goofy, sweet female boxer named Pupa. I told Luis that it's not only FisioTerapia I'm after, it's also 'PupaTerapia'. She comes over and leans against me while I'm receiving treatment, rests her big goofy head in my lap, stares up at me adoringly with those big, watery eyes peering over her smashed-in nose. I usually go for treatments first thing in the morning, and sometimes I'm the only one there but often there are two or even three other people receiving therapy. Mayra would play horrible music videos on her little TV, but at Luis's I have
Succulents!Succulents!Succulents!

I've never been much of a gardener, but you really can't go wrong with succulents. I now have them in pots all around my garden. The goose girl is an old family heirloom.
the pleasure of watching (or just listening to) Two and a Half Men and Big Bang Theory. I consider them to be the dumbest sitcoms ever made, but for some reason they are supremely popular here (in your face humor?). They are even worse in Spanish because the dubbed voices are like caricatures of the real actors!















SO, the addition of an hour of daily therapy on top of my teaching schedule keeps me busy. I continue to run the BIB Bazar secondhand shop at the Centro Cultural Arte del Mundo. It's even more work since we've reopened in a larger space at street level (we used to operate out of a narrow upstairs classroom space). I'm thankful to Flo for helping me once or twice during the week with preparation of merchandise, set-up and display. We've had a steady flow of clothing donated from local families, and on my recent trip to Quito I brought down all kinds of donations. I'm headed back up to Quito this week to collect another truckload of stuff...a friend is getting divorced and will be moving out of
Via al SaladoVia al SaladoVia al Salado

Heading up my street, this is the view that greets me as I approach my home (just ahead on the right). When Mama Tungurahua is clear my heart sings!
her huge apartment, offloading a ton of stuff!! It means more work, but also much-needed income for Arte del Mundo! This is volunteer work that is very gratifying, especially when I see how thrilled the local residents are with their purchases of quality goods -- (most of the donations come from the US).















SO - that's about it for this entry. WAY more pictures than text and though I try to line up the photos with the paragraphs that describe them, there are many more pics that I just couldn't NOT include so PLEASE scroll down and also hit NEXT to see all of the fotos that go with this diatribe!! Thanks for reading and please drop me a note. I really enjoy hearing from you!


Additional photos below
Photos: 37, Displayed: 33


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Out my Front GateOut my Front Gate
Out my Front Gate

A group of Indigenous Women walking down from the Hot Springs. All sorts of people strolling past my gate, and horses galloping by too!
My Garden GateMy Garden Gate
My Garden Gate

The trumpet flower (Floripondio) is in heavy with blossoms and the volunteer flowers are climbing nicely up the fence (softening the prison-like appearance of the black metal bars).
Tungurahua VolcanoTungurahua Volcano
Tungurahua Volcano

The Floripondio (Angel Trumpet) in the foreground is the Brugmansia family (a cousin of the Datura) and is purported to be toxic. Don't fall asleep beneath it or you might never wake up.
Las JuntasLas Juntas
Las Juntas

At the confluence of the Chambo River (left) and the Patate River the Río Pastaza is formed and continues on down into the Amazon Basin.
Posing at Las JuntasPosing at Las Juntas
Posing at Las Juntas

Overlooking the junction of the rivers, the rock face lays testimony to the power of the rushing waters.


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