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Published: September 26th 2019
Hey Mom! We made it to Quito! Here we are with Jill at the airport!
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.....(cue David Bowie!) If you recall from my last blog (I know, it was over 2 months ago!) we held a grand re-opening of the Fundación Arte del Mundo which houses the volunteer children's library where I've been volunteering for over a decade. Well, the biggest change is that the foundation has closed down.
There are a number of reasons that the BIB's 11 year run has come to an end. The building we had been renting was crumbling around us...right after $500 worth of plumbing repairs, the walls literally started seeping moisture. There's a termite issue and some of the floorboards are getting "mushy". The popularity of "voluntourism" has skyrocketed in the past 5 years, as has the number of volunteer opportunities. We chose not to sign on with one of the volunteer placement agencies who court young volunteers and their parents, assuring that they'll be looked after, include medical evacuation insurance, etc. These agencies charge exorbitant amounts to those who don't have the wherewithall to find a placement on their own....and they, in effect, have grabbed up many of our potential volunteers.
In addition, the
craziest donation yet!
these puffy yellow suits came from the storeroom of a film company that did publicity shoots...any guesses about what they might have been advertising?
British guy who has been administrator of the Foundation (Arte del Mundo) for over 10 years announced in January that this would be his last year in the job. Then he got offered management of one of the most popular hotels in town, a job which he started training for in July. We looked for a replacement, but it's a job that really takes up most of your life and pays very little, so it's no surprise that we weren’t able to find a suitable administrator candidate.
In the end we agreed to legally transfer the non-profit foundation to an Ecuadorian English teacher who will continue with the free children's library and after-school program in her town of Pelileo, 30 minutes away. So instead of the BIB (Biblioteca Interactiva de Baños) it will now be the BIP (Biblioteca Interactiva de Pelileo). Rosa is hoping to receive volunteers, much as we did, so we also gave her all of the beds and bed linens, art supplies, tables and chairs, books and bookshelves.
You may remember that I ran the secondhand shop, a fundraising activity that has kept
June & July Birthdays!
Several of the last group of BIB volunteers were far from family on their birthdays, so we included them in our semi-annual gringo bday gathering.
the BIB afloat since voluntourism has decreased. I've criss-crossed the country collecting donations and run the "recycled fashion boutique" that earned an average of $1000 per month! For the past 6 months BIB Bazar has occupied a larger, streetfront locale which has resulted in me putting in a minimum of 30 hours weekly to keep the shop running. SO....that's found time for me! More later on how I'm re-investing that gift of time.
The leftover donations and Bazar accoutrements (hangers, pricing supplies, clothing racks, etc) were donated to a group of Venezuelan refugees who hope to start up a business here in town. The UN High Comission on Refugees (ACNUR is the Spanish acronym - Alta Comisión de Naciones Unidas para Refugiados) is working hard to manage Ecuador’s huge influx of Venezuelans who have been starving in their own country. The country director of UNHCR, a young Spanish guy, has decided to use Baños as a model community, organizing gatherings and activities which encourage acceptance and support, holding the town up as an example for inclusion.
Months ago I accepted a driving job, escorting two young
Dusk over Quito's centro historico (old town). Dining on the balcony of Café Mosaico at sunset (anochecer o ocaso) as the last of the evening light fanned out over Mt. Pichincha.
Canadian sisters from the Quito airport to their volunteer site in the jungle, an hour beyond Baños. I met their mom via facebook, and set her mind at ease that I would safely transport her treasures (she's Brazilian and like all good Latin mamas was worried about her "babies", aged 18 and 23!) As soon as I scooped the girls up at the international terminal, we took a photo together which I sent off to their mother that very night! Since they arrived at 11:00 pm, we stayed at a hostel close to the airport and the following day we drove four hours to Mera stopping for lunch in Baños along the way. Merazoonia, the animal rescue sanctuary where they were going to spend the next month, is a very special place located at the end of a long gravel road, so the last bit of the drive was bumpy and dusty...and then I had to continue back home to Baños!
I met the girls a month later to drive them back up to the airport and we decided to get an early morning start so we'd have time to explore Quito a
Chimborazo y Carihuairazo
Early morning departure for Quito, 45 minutes from my house I take the back road between villages and this breathtaking vista looms into view.
bit. We had a wonderful time wandering around the Historic Center. I love to show people around this beautiful colonial area (the first ever UNESCO World Heritage Site). These gals were delightful visitors! We had dinner at one of my favorite spots sitting out on a terrace at dusk and watching the old town lights come on, one by one. creating a twinkling sea amidst the red tiled rooftops. We stayed at the same hostel again since I had to get them to the airport at 4:00 am!! After I watched them successful check in and walk through the security gates I went back to the hostel for another hour of sleep, then an invigorating swim and a delicious breakfast before heading up to Quito.
When I drive to Quito from Baños I try to leave early in the morning. That way I avoid a lot of the bus and truck traffic and I increase my chances of getting a clear view of the mountains. The Panamerican Highway follows the Ruta de los Volcanes (Volcano Route) and one morning in particular I had breathtaking views of Mama Tungurahua in my rearview mirror, and
Tasty Turkish Treats
On my visits to Quito I connected with old friends. Jean was my boss at Colegio Americano in 1988! Here on first outing after hip replacement -- delicious food, great company!
both Chimborazo and Carihuairazo straight ahead of me. It's a sight that truly does take one's breath away!
Since I knew I would be in Quito these two times a month apart I was able to schedule medical appointments, truck repairs, visits with friends and some final donation pick-ups. My friend Betti who lives 2 hrs N of Quito came down and met me for an overnight at the hostel. On both of my Quito visits I was able to spend time with my old friend and former boss, Jean. She was the head of the English department at the Colegio Americano when I taught there from 1988-90. Jean was recuperating from hip replacement surgery so we spent a few days playing backgammon and cribbage to help her pass the time. By the second visit she was more mobile and we had a scrumptious Turkish lunch together.
You may remember that I took a trip down to the jungle to buy wood for my new pantry. The carpenter needed several months to dry the wood, but the wood was finally ready once the rainy season gave
Peek in my NEW Pantry!
Leonidas is an incredibly skilled woodworker and we created this design together. Like an oversized, non-refrigerated fridge for storing non-perishables. I love it!!
way to sunnier days (and crystal clear volcano views...scroll to the end to see pics of Tungurahua Volcano!). Leonidas is a true artisan and the resulting "food closet" did not disappoint in the least! He successfully executed deep shelves in the door to store spices and canned goods within easy reach. The tall, ample shelves hold an amazing amount of stuff, leaving my countertops more free of clutter.
So, I moved my refrigerator over to place the wooden "fridge" pantry beside it, but in so doing my fridge blocked the light switch...I had to execute a bit of a contortion act (which challenged my healing shoulder) to flip the light on and off. To empty the defrost drainage receptacle (a weekly necessity) I had to pull the fridge out and crawl behind it. Thankfully, my handyman Marcelo made quick work of moving the switch (el interruptor) and lengthening the drain tube so both are more easily accessible with the new kitchen configuration!
Early next year my kitchen will be remodeled and reconfigured again when I pop out the front wall to have a large dining room built. It will have
Holds an amazing amount of stuff. Much needed storage for my kitchen!
two glass walls to take advantage of volcano views. I've been working with an architect (the brother-in-law of an American gal I met when I was working at the hotel) and he drew up a plan that meets my specifications and presented a budget that works with what I have to spend at this time. It's really exciting and I'm hoping it will be completed in time for my 60th birthday celebration in February.
On my last trip to Quito the mechanic installed a sturdy used bucket seat (from a Rover!) to replace my not so supportive Nissan seat. It had obviously been designed for someone Japanese, and I simply do not have a Japanese physique. It was twisting and causing my back problems. The new seat is rather worn beige leather, in shark contrast to the rest of the dark grey seats. Since my truck's interior was starting to show wear (after 7 years of heavy use!) I had the idea to reupholster the seats with denim.
The town of Pelileo was all but obliterated in big earthquake in the 1960s, and when
Flowering Arupo Tree
Scarlett (my truck) and I were visiting friends near Quito at their home in an elegant gated community in the valley of Cumbaya (aka Cumba-York -- for its slick shopping malls, posh restaurants, etc).
it was rebuilt it became the center for blue jean manufacturing (plenty of running water nearby to pollute with demin processing chemicals).When I went up to Pelileo to look for fabric I had to ask around a bit...most of the manufacturers only sell 100 meter rolls of fabric! Finally someone guided me towards a shop that sells smaller pieces and the owner dug up the last bit of a roll of heavy, dark blue denim; 10 meters, exactly what I needed, which he sold to me at $4/mt...a bargain!
I asked around town in Baños and found the most recommended upholsterer (tapicero). We agreed on a price ($90 to do both front and back seats). As is par for the course here, he didn't show up on the agreed upon day - even though I'd left him a deposit to hold the time slot. He'd been offered a job up in Ambato (an hour away) and didn't hesitate to stand me up so he could take it. When he finally answered my calls we agreed upon a day the following week. He assured me that if I left the seats with him on
Scarlett's New Blue Jeans
Time for my truck to be re-upholstered. I bought heavy duty blue jean material and the upholsterer (tapicero) did a great job!
a Thursday afternoon it would all be done by Friday evening. I left my truck with him while I went to teach a class and he removed all of my seats and installed an old, sprung driver's seat so I could get the truck home for safe-keeping. Of course it was not ready when promised, but I had shuffled my schedule to allow for an extra day without needing to use the truck. Saturday am Scarlett's newly covered seats were installed while I went out for breakfast. He did an excellent job and even used red thread for some of the top stitching. Scarlett looks spectacular in her new clothes!
While in Pelileo I purchased a mannequin with the idea of baubling her. I've had my art space all set up for a number of months now, but hadn't yet sorted through my baubles or dived into a project yet. As you can see from the photo, BABS is coming along nicely. It will be an ongoing project - with all of her curves I have to lean her this way and that and wait until the glue has set on one part
Babs the Baubled Babe
I bought this lovely green mannequin bust with the express idea of baubling her. For months I've been collecting and sorting beads, buttons, bits and bobs and I finally set up my art space again! She may take months to complete!
before starting to work on another area. When I finally have a free stretch of time to escape to the art space upstairs, I know that several hours will fly by before I know it!
Every day the sun comes up around 6:00 am and I've gotten in the habit of getting to sleep by 10:00 and waking up at daybreak. Sometimes I get up to the thermal baths before dawn, but more often it's 7:00 or 7:30 before I get going up the hill (a 5 minute walk) to the hot pools. As my shoulder has become less painful, I've been able to exercise and swim for at least an hour two to three times a week. I've also resumed yoga classes two mornings a week, and CiCi takes me for a walk twice a day, usually one longer walk (20-30 min) and a shorter (10 min) walk in the evening (I'm usually pretty tired by then!). I'm so blessed to live in a place that's surrounded by natural beauty and the walks up towards the base of the volcano feed my soul!
Awake Before Dawn
At 5:55 a.m. this was the view through the window over my desk. A breathtaking dawn sky (amanecer o alba en español)
So, with more free time I have more time to take care of my health. I've also started voice lessons once or twice a week. I'm learning a lot about music and the yoga breath is definitely helping me with the breathing exercises my voice teacher has me doing. I haven't tried to learn something new like this in a very long time, and I'm slightly dismayed to discover that my mind is not as elastic as it used to be. Putting together scales (solfege) with hand symbols for each note has proven to be quite challenging for this aging brain! I continue to work with several private students, but have given myself permission not to take on more language lessons. I'm jealously guarding my time at this juncture!
I still play Scrabble with my friend and neighbor Shana at least once or twice a week and I must confess, Words with Friends takes up a fair bit of my time each day. I play against old friends, cousins, my siblings...and when I wake up WWF is like my morning meditation. When CiCi does her morning stretches it reminds me to get down
CiCi's Singing to YOU!
She loves to nestle in among the wandering Jew vines alongside my house. She looks so freckle-y with her summer haircut!
on my yoga mat and I try to do at least 10-15 minutes of stretching each morning. Somehow, the morning hours slip away - and I have class at 10:00 am four days a week (2 yoga 2 teaching English). So, my life of leisure is pretty filled up!
I'm looking forward to visits from several friends in the next few months and planning to spend Xmas and New Year's eve on the coast. If all goes well my dining room will be under construction by mid-January. Exciting things on the horizon! If you're reading this, I hope to have a visit from YOU too! Nothing I love more than sharing this amazing country with visitors....so get your butts down here! (please) Don't forget, if you scroll down there are about a dozen more photos to view incuding the stunning Mama Tungurahua in all her glory!
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