Front of the House
Here's a view from the driveway - guava tree to the left, upstairs terrace above the kitchen to the right.
During my first few years back in Ecuador I spent 3-4 months a year at my cabana on the coast, but once I decided to sell that property I boxed up all my possessions. Each year when I go back to the states I bring down another suitcase full of stuff, and most everyone who has come to visit has also brought a bag. I left a few pre-packed carry-ons in an Atlanta friend's attic and one by one those have arrived. So, as my belongings accumulated I stored them in a big closet in Shana's guest house where I always stayed when I came to Banos. Last year I moved them down into a basement storeroom, and vowed that the next time I touched those boxes it would be to move them into my own place...and it was!!
This past spring before I headed down to the coast, I made arrangements to move into Mary's house after she moved back to Mexico. Mary had lived there for just over a year, so all of her furniture and appliances were relatively new. She sold me all of what I needed for half of what
Looking out onto the front garden where my clotheslines and hammock swing in the breeze.
she'd paid; it was convenient for us both to just leave everything in place. I moved my stuff to the storeroom so it would all be ready upon my return. I contacted the owner and had him arrange for the neighbor gal to give the place a thorough cleaning so when I arrived in June I was all ready to settle in!
The clothing and linens that had been stored for months had a musty smell, so I put my new washing machine to good use. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to line dry everything during raining season. As soon as I got it all hung out, a strong drizzle would begin. I ran out to gather it and draped it over furniture. After a few days I had to bite the bullet and take it into town, paying $1/lb to have it machine dried...and the laundry guy insisted on weighing it while it was still wet!!! So, I learned a lesson -- don't try to wash everything at once and wait until it looks like it'll be sunny for at least a few hours! When the sun is out and shining brightly, it's
Big, Bright Kitchen
I especially love the glass-front cupboards and the big window over the sink!
neat to watch steam rising off the clothes even as I peg them on the line!
As I unpacked my things, it was like opening presents! Some of the stuff I hadn't seen in almost 8 years - and truth be told when I left Atlanta so much of my "junque" was given away or sold at a garage sale, I didn't exactly remember what I still had! I realized that I'd acquired doubles of some kitchen supplies, so passed along the duplicates to friends who had recently moved to Banos and were scraping by with bare minimum. I loved seeing my fabrics and knick-knacks from all over the world, remembering where and when I'd obtained each item as I lovingly handled them and decided where to place them.
It was such fun to unpack my books and arrange them on the bookshelf in my office; this shelf of books I've read that I want to reread, these are the next ones to be read, here are books that I'll get to someday, etc. Amazing to have an office space that doubles as a second guest
So thrilled to have my books unpacked and a dedicated workspace with an amazing view!
bedroom! The view out the window over my desk is truly inspiring - an expanse of tangerine trees bounded on two sides by mature avocado trees; lush mountains in the background. The house is two stories, a full bath on each floor and a large sitting-room style landing at the top of the stairs. There's also an outdoors rooftop terrace off the upstairs landing and a work counter in the landing area that I hope to use as a space to create artwork.
I loved spreading out in the bright, spacious house and making it my own! Gorgeous green hillside views from every window, peaceful chirping of birds, fresh fruits right out in the garden. There are a dozen lemon trees (yum, fresh lemonade!), tree tomatoes (great for juices!), tangerines (it takes a lot of them to make just one glass of juice, but it sure is delicious!), guavas galore and the best avocados in the world - creamy, flavorful, heavenly! I could live on quesadillas with guacamole, and sometimes that's all I eat for days on end!
The village is called
View from my desk
Looking over my half acre of fruit trees on to the dramatic green hillsides beyond. Inspiring views!
Juive Chico - just a 5-10 minute drive to Banos. It has a real small town feel; I've started to meet some folks and they've been very kind and friendly. It almost felt too good to be true...and then I realized that it was! Every day, usually in the late afternoon, loud music with a booming bass and a strong beat would rattle the windows of my house. Even with ear plugs in, it was almost impossible to stay home. I found out that the neighbors right at the back of my garden had a "disco movil" - a mobile disco system complete with six-foot high speakers which they perched on their roof and directed at my house.
I went over to politely ask them to please turn down the music and immediately realized that these were not nice people. Their unfinished cement shell of a house had gaping holes where doors and windows should be, yet they had invested in this huge sound system. The twenty-something son made a move to turn down the volume when I asked, but just then his parents arrived and barked at me that they had every
The window over my bed offers green landscapes and sunlight for reading.
right to do whatever they wanted on their property. Who was I to tell them otherwise. I responded that I'd hoped that as neighbors we could be considerate to one another, but given their attitude I'd have to go see what the police had to say about the situation. "Go right ahead," they retorted, "they won't do anything!" I was afraid that might just be the case.
I asked some other neighbors about the loud family and they responded curtly, "They're not from around here." It seemed they wanted nothing to do with the whole situation. I suffered daily onslaughts of glass-rattling volume until I decided to write a polite letter requesting that they move the speakers down from the roof and turn them away from my house, towards their own. It seemed logical, since the music was for their benefit - not mine. When I brought the letter over the wife crumpled it up without even looking at it. "We can do whatever we want at our house!" she spat at me. I tried to reason with her, asking "So what if I decided to make a bonfire in the back of
Linens & Toiletries
Since I have no closets, I've used wicker shelving and baskets to store and display daily necessities.
my garden and the smoke went directly into your house every day?" "Go right ahead," she responded "do whatever you like on your property."
The owner of the house said he'd had nothing but problems with them -- cutting through his property, protesting when he built a wall saying it was over the line, running their water pipes through his garden. He'd just given up trying to communicate with them. So, I went to the Police station and asked if there was any sort of noise ordinance they could help me uphold. They were very helpful, gave me three different phone numbers, told me to call right at the moment that the music was blasting and assured me that they'd send around a patrol car immediately. I gave them my name and phone number and drew them a little map showing the path that led to the neighbors' property. The next weekend I had a friend visiting from Quito and the music started up before 8 am, so I called the police. Lo and behold the music stopped! I haven't heard it for almost a week. Fingers crossed that the peace holds!
The landlord left behind this funky headboard, and I bought a new mattress. Come visit! A comfy bed with private bathroom awaits!
My other neighbors are two houses owned by sisters who live in Quito and only come down a few weekends a year. When the owner subdivided his property to sell to them, the municipal government required that he donate a piece of the land to the village. On that wedge, just beside the front yard, they built a small Catholic church. My landlord is an Evangelist; needless to say that did not make him happy. A few weeks ago earth-moving equipment started to level the muddy patch between the church and my garden wall. Bit by bit, working together, members of the community built a children's playground with old tires. Nice, I thought. Kids screaming is at least happy noise...except when it's kids shrieking before 7 am when they come play in the park before school starts in the morning!
Then the park continued to grow - they used the metal supports of the garden wall to support the cross bar of the swingset and they hung another bar with hanging rope ladders. One day as I pulled into my driveway, the kids on the swings were
Big windows contribute to the spacious feel of the house. This area is an upstairs sitting room!
calling out "Hello!" "Hola!" each time they swung high and could see over the wall. OK, that's kinda cute. Then one day I was working in the kitchen and out the kitchen window I saw three kids walking along the top of the wall. I knocked brusquely on the window and wagged my finger at them - mean old gringa! The bigger kids have discovered the park and when there are teenagers swinging to full height, the supports of the wall seems to bend slightly, causing a "whoosh-whoop" sound with each swing. Oy vey - this community park might not be such a good thing after all.
The day before I finished my job at the hotel, I dropped a cash box on my big toe. Yowch! I yelled for the waiter to get me some ice, I sat down with my foot elevated and kept it chilled for 2 hours. It never really hurt much, and since the next few weeks we were on the beach I wore only flip-flops and bathed my foot in the sea whenever possible. I had almost convinced myself that I
Back of the House
Office and guest room windows as seen from the back garden. Steep green hills all around!
wasn't even going to lose the nail - and then I started going to the hot springs once I got back to Banos. Long soaks in thermal mineral waters made it clear that the nail was starting to detach. After procrastinating for another week, I finally went to see a doctor who advised me that I should have it surgically removed to prevent infection and to allow the new nail to grow in properly.
I'm a big baby when it comes to most medical things, and having a toenail pulled off is especially "oogy" (word borrowed from Kathy Bates's character in the movie version of Stephen King's novel, Misery). The doctor needed 4 novacaine shots before I was frozen enough (ouch, an injection right alongside the toenail) and from then on it was quick and easy. The gross part was changing the bandage every day for the next 2 weeks until the raw flesh stopped oozing. Finally it grew a tough enough skin that I could keep it open and at last go to the hot baths again. Now, 3 1/2 weeks after removal I can comfortably
Village church is right alongside the cement block wall surrounding the garden.
wear socks and closed shoes - but it's still pretty damned ugly! They say 6 months for the nail to grow back. What fun!
I think that the toenail removal was a shock to my immune system because as it was trying to heal, I came down with a cold that just would not go away. It started with a tickly throat, moved into sinus congestion that made it hard to sleep, then a wicked runny nose followed by vomiting, diarrhea & fever and finally a hacking cough which I'm still trying to get rid of, 3 weeks later! Whenever possible I spent a day in bed reading and watching movies, but during that stretch of time I had a string of visitors that I wanted to show around and spend time with - so maybe that's why the cold dragged on and on.
I had a great trip down to Puyo with Jessie & Suzanne (newly arrived American about my age who plans to open a B'n'B in the big house she's renting. The Sunday market is great for
Puyo is perched on the edge of the Amazon Basin. The weekly market is a gathering of rural folks - exotic fruits & veg Id never seen before!
people-watching. Puyo is the biggest town around and attracts indigenous villagers from far and wide. There are bizarre and beautiful fruits, handicrafts, and wonderful native dress to be seen. Jessie had heard about a Kichwa potter so we asked around and found her workshop. Amazing detail in the painting of the glazes, stories and legends about the human and animal shaped pottery.
Former student, Pauley, was just finishing up her 4-month stint in Quito working with the Ministry of Health. During her last weeks in country she had two pairs of friends come down, and they in turn came down to visit me. It was fun to host these lively young people (mid-to-late 20's - about the ages of my nieces and nephew). When the first friends came it was pouring down rain. We took a drive down towards Puyo, hoping to hike along some waterfalls but we found that the rivers had grown so much that the trails were closed. The hydroelectric dam was fully open creating massive flow and powerful falls.
We had better luck with the second set of friends. It was beautiful
The Rio Verde became a rush of churning chocolate after several days and nights of heavy rains. The hiking path was washed out so we just watched the river!
weather and we worked our way slowly down the Ruta de las Cascadas, stopping to enjoy the sights along the way. Pauley & Tal braved the Canopy Zipline across the broad river valley while Laura & I cheered them on. We enjoyed an elegant lunch and watched with interest as they erected a bridge across the Rio Verde - especially fascinating for Tal who is a structural engineer. I had to head back to Banos because I had more friends on their way, so I dropped them at a bus stop and they continued on down to the jungle.
My next visit was from Frank & Luisa. He's Dutch & she's British and they run a wild animal rescue center called Merazonia. Luisa is a vet and she came down as a volunteer 5 yrs ago. The rest is history! I knew them a bit, and got to know them better when they stayed at Mandala while I was working there. Frank's brother is a pilot with KLM and he was visiting with his family so they all came to the beach to chill. I ran into them in passing and invited them
Pauley, Tal & Laura pose with a cute taffy-puller. This sugar cane treat is a specialty of Banos.
to come stay at my new home...so they did! Great fun to "warm" the house with visits from friends!
Next came Beatriz - my adopted sister from Salango (the town next to Puerto Lopez on the coast). Bea's birthday was coming up and she didn't have any plans, no money and was feeling low -- so I invited her to come, saying that as her birthday gift I'd pay her bus fare and all of her expenses while here. She came on the night bus, arrived in the early morning, stayed just one night, then left on the night bus again - so we had two full days of adventuring! It was a big decision for her to choose to spend her birthday away from her family, and I'm pleased and honored that she came to visit me!
Between my toe and my cough I wasn't up for any long hikes, but we enjoyed the steam box (banos de cajon) spa treatment and went to see the African lions that just arrived at the Banos aquarium & exotic bird park (I guess there was no room
Beatriz came up from the coast and we celebrated her birthday weekend with some sightseeing!
for them at the zoo!) Together we baked a yummy, gooey brownie-cake and invited a few friends to join us in celebrating her birthday! The next visitor was my friend Lupe from Quito. She has often hosted me at her home and also at her sister's farm north of Quito so I was glad to be able to have her at my house! We took a long-ish walk through the new Parque de la Familia - a nice trail that climbs up to an overlook of the hydroelectric dam.
My last visitor this month is a four-legged one! Chiquita is a 9 yr old collie/shepherd mix who was adopted by Mary (who used to live in this house). When she needed to find a new home, I introduced her to Karie, an English teacher in Riobamba (about 1 1/2 hrs from Banos). Now Karie is getting ready to take a job in Quito so I agreed to dog-sit for her during the transition period. Chiquita knows the neighborhood dogs and feels right at home here. It's nice to have a pup, even if only for a little while!
Banos de Cajon
Beatriz still wears her mud mask as she poses near the cold plunge baths across from the steam bath wooden boxes with a great view of the Pastaza River.
So, for the first time in my life I have unlimited internet/wifi in my home. It's exhilarating, liberating and a little bit dangerous for me. I find I lose hours out of each day cruising Facebook posts and going down and down the rabbit hole - one site leads to another. However, it's been really useful for me to be able to research lodging for the two itineraries I've been putting together and so convenient to be able to do online bank transfers for the hotel deposits. The freedom to search and research has made me more reliant on finding answers online - I guess I'm finally entering the internet age (at least a decade behind most folks)!
So, tomorrow begins a new adventure. I'll be meeting the Simonello family in Quito and taking them around for the next few weeks. Then, as soon as they leave I'll be travelling with the Hughes family from New Orleans. Immediately after that I have another teacher training assessment to do in Quito and right on the heels of that job I'll be accompanying a group of Engineers Without Borders for 9 days of
Beatriz posing with this stunning, endless waterfall.
work on the ongoing water project. Whew! Two full months of exciting and well-paid work!
Please be sure to scroll down to see more photos of my garden and other cool stuff! Thanks for reading!!
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