Over the Andes...and back again!

Ecuador's flag
South America » Ecuador » Centre » Baños
September 2nd 2016
Published: September 8th 2016
Edit Blog Post

Volunteer Children's LibraryVolunteer Children's LibraryVolunteer Children's Library

The Biblioteca Interactiva de Baños is such a special place! Here are the volunteers posing with the kids. Before the French scouts arrived, I stepped up to volunteer for a couple of weeks.
In the month since I published my last blog entry, I've been a driving fool! When there's a chance to earn $100 for a day of driving, I take it! In the past month there have been many opportunities -- three times to Quito to pick up arriving travelers (3 hours each way), two trips to Puyo to give visitors a taste of the jungle (full day adventures), twice to Cuenca to collect donations (6 hrs each way) and twice down to the coast, to Puerto Lopez (8-10 hours each way).

I haven't taken many pictures, but have borrowed some from the four French volunteers who came to work at the children's library. A year ago some French scouts volunteered and when these four gals heard about their Baños adventures they started saving up to come themselves. Carla, Mathilde, Anne Sophie & Alice are from a small village in France and have known one another since childhood. Now 18 & 19 years old, having just finished their first year of university, they teamed up for a month of 'voluntourism' in Ecuador. I met them in Quito when they first arrived and we also shared
French ScoutsFrench ScoutsFrench Scouts

front to back: Alice, Anne-Sophie, Mathilde & Carla
fun adventures in Puyo and up at 'the swing at the end of the world' by the Casa de Arbol. As you can see from the attached photos, they are delightful young women and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them (and practicing my French!)

Another driving adventure was to act as driver for acquaintances of a friend of mine. Linda & Scott from Fresno CA wanted to see A LOT of Ecuador in a short time, so I met them in Latacunga (1 1/2 hrs NW of Baños) and we dropped down to the coast with a visit to Quilotoa en route. High in the Andes (at almost 14,000 ft) Quilotoa Crater is a collapsed volcanic cone, now a stunning lake nestled in a deep caldera. After a brief visit to the crater we made it down to the coast just as the sun was setting but didn't reach Puerto Lopez until after dark. It was so nice to be back at Hosteria Mandala, but this time as a guest. One day I took Linda & Scott to Los Frailes Beach & Agua Blanca Lagoon in Machalilla National Park. The next day
Silly ScoutsSilly ScoutsSilly Scouts

Full of joy and wonder, these gals!
they went whale watching and to visit Isla de la Plata, so I had free time to reconnect with a number of friends. My good friend Marianne has opened an art gallery in Puerto Lopez, so I brought her a few of my seashell mosaic frames as well as artwork from some other artist friends.

Linda & Scott & I left Puerto Lopez for another l-o-n-g day in the truck, driving all the way to Cuenca. I was proud of myself for finding my way through Guayaquil without getting lost. I have now successfully crossed that huge, confusing city several times -- in both directions! Once in Cuenca I dropped my clients off at their hotel which was unfortunately located right in the middle of a construction zone. Cuenca's old town center is all ripped up for work on a light rail project, so we had to drag their suitcases over several blocks of rubble. I was staying with good friends Nancy & Chuck and I had a full schedule of donation pick-ups for the next day. Once again, thanks to the generosity of expats (some of them leaving Cuenca for good), my
Carla at QuilotoaCarla at QuilotoaCarla at Quilotoa

Breathtaking Quilotoa crater -- great foto op!
truck was heaped to brimming!! My last night in Cuenca we all had dinner together. Over yummy tapas N & C shared with L & S their experiences of moving to Cuenca and living in Ecuador.

All too soon, it was time for another run down to the coast - this time to help my adopted 'sister' Beatriz move up to the sierra. Her fiance Juan is from Riobamba, which is just an hour from Baños, so we'll be practically neighbors! I picked up Juan en route and we had 8 hours together in the truck to get to know one another. He had been working as a chef at a hotel on the coast when he met Beatriz, but is now getting ready to open his own place (a snack bar) in his home town. Many years ago his father built a house in San Luis, a cute village just outside of Riobamba, so the young couple (actually not so young...she's 32 & he's 37!) will have their own place to start out their life together.

The Ministry of Education approved Bea's transfer from Puerto
La Ruta del SolLa Ruta del SolLa Ruta del Sol

Hammock vendor along the coast road
Lopez, but since the coast has a different school schedule than the Andean region she had to scurry from one job to the other with no vacation time! I was painfully reminded that Beatriz has never lived anywhere but the tiny fishing village of Salango when I saw how terribly inept she was at packing! I had to convince her that we wouldn't be able to take her fridge, and then the first suitcase we went to load was dripping with ink from the external printer cartridge well she packed alongside clothing and tablecloths. OY!! Once we got everything squeezed into the truck bed, she realized that her purse was buried in the middle so we were forced to excavate to reach the house keys she had to leave behind. It was a huge challenge for me to keep my cool, especially since we were hurrying to get an early start.

Less than an hour into the drive we had a flat tire (I actually heard the air hissing out -- a big nail!); only then did I discover that my deep mud adventure with the last group of volunteer engineers had lifted
Juan & BeatrizJuan & BeatrizJuan & Beatriz

My adopted sister, Beatriz with her fiance Juan. I helped them move Bea up from the coast to Juan's house in Riobamba (just over an hour from Baños!)
my rear bumper in such a way that it was impossible to remove the spare tire. Then and there I knew that we were going to need help so I asked Juan to flag down a passing vehicle. The very first guy to come by, a small transport truck, stopped to help us. The driver was very direct, "I'll help you if you pay me $10." Sure! Good to be clear right from the start. He agreed that we couldn't access the spare, so after removing the flat tire he drove it to the nearest town (we were less than 10 km from Jipijapa), brought it back all patched up and put the same tire back on. As soon as I got back to Baños I had the bumper repaired so now I can reach the spare if needed! Whew!

We were racing daylight, trying to get to their house before nightfall and it looked like we were going to make it until traffic backed up on a curvy, mountainous part of the road just over an hour outside of Riobamba. After about 45 minutes we saw a tow truck drag off a
Sightseeing with visitorsSightseeing with visitorsSightseeing with visitors

I enjoyed the afternoon with my goddaughters from the village where I worked with the Engineers without Borders. I got 'drafted' into being a godmother so now I get hit up for $$ on a regular basis!
smashed up bus; once we started to move we saw the huge truck it had crashed into. Really nasty accident -- one of those images you wish you could un-see! After dropping them at their new home and briefly meeting Juan's mother & stepdad I continued on to Baños, carefully picking my way along the unlit highway for the last hour of driving, exhausted after and long and eventful day on the road. The flashing brights from oncoming vehicles were blinding! The newest part of the road had big reflective arrows and cat's eye road markings which really helped, especially in the areas of heavy fog. I made it home safely, but really do prefer not to drive after dark!!

I had a delightful visit from my goddaughters Jeaneth & Blanca. I have kept in contact with this family that I met while working with the volunteer engineers high up in the Cotopaxi region. Jeaneth is now married and I got to meet her new baby girl, not quite one month old when they came to Baños. I treated them all to lunch and we drove around sightseeing. They decided to stay on
A Visit from my GoddaughtersA Visit from my GoddaughtersA Visit from my Goddaughters

Blanca (in yellow) her sister Jeaneth (with newborn baby girl tied on back in pink blanket), her 2 yr old son Adrian & her husband Franklin.
and visit the zoo, so we left their backpacks at my friend Berta's sugar cane stand (right near the bus terminal) and I dropped them off by the zoo. I guess I should have expected it...just as we were all saying good-bye Blanca asked me for money for her new school uniforms since she'd be starting high school. "How much do they cost?" I asked naively. $200?!! I had $40 left in my wallet and handed that over and told her it was all that I could offer right at this time. It gets expensive being a godmother (madrina)!

So, where is CiCi during all of these comings and goings? She loved riding along with me on one of the trips to Quito since I only had to pick up one passenger, my new friend Carol, and her huge box of wall art she was bringing from home. When I went away overnight CiCi spent time at Del & Vic's farm with her best buddy Bonez. Sometimes they all stayed at my house, but usually they trampled through the mud and thorny bushes at Finca La Palmera near Rio Negro. Needless to say,
Curious CiCiCurious CiCiCurious CiCi

aka, CiCi the dirty dog! She just loves to get into everything. CiCi has been having so much fun with her buddy Bonez at his muddy farm near Rio Negro, 45 minutes E of Baños.
CiCi took a few showers with me this month! She's a bit hesitant to come in at first, but once the warm water soapy massaging begins she just leans up against me and settles into the ritual.

In the past month I've kept busy with the BIB Bazar -- Jody was away so I did both set-up & sales during the same week I was helping out with the kids in the library every afternoon...not a pace I'd like to keep up for very long! I did a recycled art project with the kids after sharing with them my collection of recycled art from Africa and other places around the world. The kids love dress-up activities so one afternoon we pulled out the costume rail and groups of 8 kids had 5 minutes to disguise themselves as a character. The other kids picked strips of paper with questions written on them,and asked each costumed child about their character. Inspiring creativity is the goal, and we had lots of fun in the process. My years of experience as a middle school teacher helped me effectively manage a room full of thirty kids aged 6 to 14
Joyful ShoppersJoyful ShoppersJoyful Shoppers

Saturday morning shopping at the BIB Bazar is a social event. Look far left and you can see me behind the checkout counter!
- but after 2 hours with them I felt grateful to be retired from full-time teaching!

Our BIB Bazar charity shop continues to gain popularity in Baños, and each week we top sales of the previous week -- especially with all the primo donations I brought back from Cuenca last time! We have our regular customers, but also new folks coming along every week, calling their cousin or son-in-law to tell them of some jacket or shoes or backpack that would be perfect for them. Some of these folks just love to haggle and see how far they can push me to lower the prices. Whole families arrive and spend an hour or more browsing..., it appears that we provide entertainment for one and all!

As I frantically type the last paragraphs of this blog entry, I am in Quito getting ready to have surgery. I passed all my tests (blood, urine, EKG) and am deemed fit to cut open. The growth that has been increasing in size and is encapsulating my left ovary will soon be gone. I will most likely lose the ovary as well -
Intense ShoppersIntense ShoppersIntense Shoppers

BIB Bazar has several dozen regular customers who come every Saturday to see what's new!
but that's ok - I'm not using it! My doctor will do everything possible to leave the other ovary intact - important for production of hormones. There's a blood test called CA125 that can detect cancer. When we ran it in Nov 2014 it came back negative and we repeated it again this week...still negative! Whew!

I've known my gyno/surgeon for 8 years and feel very comfortable with him. The other day I asked if he ever feels nervous or scared when he's going to operate. "All the time," he responded honestly "and that's how it should be. It's serious business!" I really like and trust the guy, which of course allays my fears! I've only had to stay overnight in a hospital once before, when I had a cyst removed in Mexico in 1984. Again it will be just one overnight (peridural anesthesia) At least a dozen friends have stepped up to help me out in any way they can. The outpouring of love and caring from my facebook friends has been amazing. I feel totally enveloped in positive energy and just know all will go well with both the operation and the recovery. That's it for now -- catch you all again when I'm tumorless!!


16th September 2016

How are you?
Please let us know how the surgery goes, bug hugs!

Tot: 2.904s; Tpl: 0.071s; cc: 11; qc: 70; dbt: 0.0644s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 2; ; mem: 1.5mb