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Published: April 24th 2017
Molly, Jack & CiCi
Dog-sitting and house-sitting for the folks who often take care of CiCi when I'm away. Sweetie pups posed beautifully for this pic!
A break from my typical dashing-around lifestyle -- it’s been really wonderful to be able to just hold still for a while. For more than 2 months I’ve stayed put, not driving more than the 3 miles from my house to town, 2 miles to the thermal mineral baths or to the next village to meet with one of my English students. I stayed over house-sitting at Carol & Kirk's gorgeous home (a mile from mine). CiCi came with me, joining their two dogs and two cats. When we returned home after 10 days I think she was happy to be an “only pet” again. Although these past months have not been filled with new places, they have been rich with pets & people - time with many friends both old and new.
I often took long walks with CiCi – giving us both some much needed exercise. Alas almost daily rains and my frequent sluggishness meant that we didn’t go out walking nearly as much as I’d intended. On our daily morning walks we’d often see the toothless neighbor man taking his cows out to pasture. It always made me giggle
View of my Nieghborhood
Juive Chico is perched on a mesa in a hollow. The tallest tree you see is in my front yard. To the far left you can see a burned hillside - a 9 yr old boy playing with matches. Luckily, it started raining after several hours of fire.
when he’d stumble along cussing at his bovine charges! One day the calf got stuck in some brambles and as the old guy leaned in with his machete to free the little guy, his pants fell down. He turned to look at me unabashedly announcing that he’d forgotten to put on a belt! One of my English students from the neighborhood, ten year old Pamela, sometimes joined us for an afternoon or evening walk, especially on the weekends when the barrio was buzzing with visitors and activity (volleyball, soccer, bocce balls). It turns out that Pamela didn't really need much help in English -- she just needed a new friend! Since her grandparents live near me she is often in the area visiting them.
I live in a small agricultural valley on the slopes of the volcano, Mama Tungurahua. Since the crater faces the other direction Juive Chico is considered a safe zone. My house is located on a plateau in a hollow (or "holler" as they'd say in Appalachia). It is a community of about 120 families -- houses dotted in the hillsides, orchards spilling out of crevices and ravines.
El Salado Mineral Baths
Hanging out at the hot springs with good friends. L to R - Consuelo (one of my English students), David, Jose, Walt, Gary & Jean
Most of the folks are involved in agriculture -- tangerines (mandarinas), tomatoes, tree tomatoes, bell peppers, babaco (like a big papaya starfruit) and more. I live right in the center of the village, so even though it's a quiet, peaceful area most of the time -- sometimes it's not!
Most days I go down into town (at least once) - to teach private language lessons, visit with friends, go to book club, work sorting donations, dine at a restaurant, go food shopping. My little neighborhood shop sells mostly chips and soda -- I buy my eggs there and an occasional ice cream bar. In these past 2 ½ months I’ve gone faithfully 3x/week to the hot springs and I thoroughly enjoy swimming and exercising in the delicious warm pools. Early every Wednesday morning Michaela and I do water aerobics together in the deep end and on Mondays and Fridays I generally go at around the same time so I often see the same folks there. Nothing nicer than relaxing in the mineral springs and chatting with friends.
I enjoyed receiving a steady
Clowning around with friends in the little black box theatre we created from a leaky garage enclosure at the Biblioteca Interactiva de Baños.
stream of visitors to my house! Andy & Michelle were back with kayaking friends - their friends stayed in my guest room and they slept with Rumi (the dog) in their recently converted Mercedes Sprinter Van. Dear friend Tamara returned (co-madre to Chaco, my previous pup). Armed with her newly minted master's degree in City Planning, she attended the United Nations Habitat III Conference in Quito. The daughter of some Quito friends is on a Fulbright Year and I enjoyed hosting another outdoor lunch with Heather & Leslie (one of her fellow Fulbrighters), Tamara & Purvee (one of Mama T's college friends who works for the UN High Commission on Refugees and whom I'd coincidentally met 3 yrs earlier when she was a guest at the hotel I manage). Conversation was lively around this table full of bright young ladies! I realized that I am quite often the youngest at a gathering of women friends, many of whom are in their 60's and 70's (and one in her 80's). Truly delightful to spend time with younger folks!
To escape the crowds during Mardi Gras (Baños is totally filled with tourists then!)
CiCi came along on the tarabita cable car ride, soaring over rushing rivers and waterfalls. She actually seemed to enjoy it!
Tamara and I drove down to Rio Negro to visit Delery & Vic's farm at La Palmera. CiCi has stayed there with them (and her doggie boyfriend Bones), and now it was time for me to finally see their place. On the way down to the farm we stopped for a few adventures, taking CiCi on the tarabita cable car over the river valley and driving across the river on a narrow bridge which was barely wide enough for my truck. When I recopied the directions that Delery sent I didn't copy them carefully enough and I went thru a gate onto a road that is 4 wheel drive only. I quickly realized that I was in BIG trouble. There was no way I was going to get back up this super steep gravel embankment without the help of a winch. None of the trucks with winches can cross the narrow bridge -- and the one neighbor with a winch on his jeep was an hour away, drinking in town with his buddies. A designated driver drove back to the farm with him, picking up several muscle-bound local boys along the way and after several very intense hours (and more
Happy Birthday spelled phonetically in Spanish! CiCi is the ultimate party dog!
than a few tears) Scarlett the truck was finally rescued. Whew! A little too much adventure for me! Petting CiCi helped to calm me.
I spent quite a bit of time at the BIB (Biblioteca Interactiva de Baños - our volunteer children's library) including a few gatherings around the bonfire. Karl's Dad turned 70 so we celebrated with a big pot luck "Japi Verdei" party. (Happy Birthday is one of the most difficult phrases for an English learner to pronounce, so we spelled it phonetically on the banner!) When there were no other volunteers I helped out with the children's program - every afternoon from 3:30 to 6:00 around 15-30 kids come to read and do art or drama activities at the BIB. Several times a week I would work sorting & pricing donated goods to get ready for our weekly Saturday morning BIB Bazar Secondhand Shop and prepare for our semi-annual garage sale (objects of lesser quality). The garage sales require a LOT of prep work, and they don't bring in as much revenue as they used to since we've been skimming the high quality donations for the Bazar. On
Waterfall near Puntzan
A pause during the 6-cable zipline adventure for a photo with friends beside a refreshing waterfall!
an average Saturday morning at the Bazar we earn about $300! Very important income for the Fundacion Arte del Mundo, the non-profit umbrella organization of the volunteer library.
Volunteers from all over the world find their way to the BIB -- over the years I've met young (and older) folks from Canada, Mexio, Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Uganda, France, Belgium, Croatia, South Korea and more! We had a visit from a US family who had volunteered 7 years ago with their adopted Ecuadorian son (who is now a man!). A group of us went on a ziplining adventure - an awesome experience -- gorgeous views even during the hikes between the take-off platforms. I especially enjoyed the superman flight - hanging horizontally with feet supported by stirrups...a sensation of flying like I sometimes have in my dreams. I'd been wanting to try this particular zipline route as two of the cables fly over the ravine beside the piece of land I've been considering buying...it was so interesting to see it from above. Since a dog attacked me up there last year, I've been lukewarm about the decision to buy this piece of
Walt & Gary
My musician friends played a benefit concert to benefit our volunteer children's library - La Biblioteca Interactiva de Baños.
land. In fact, I'm actually looking into maybe buying a little house a closer to town, just a few doors up the hill from where my dear friend Shana lives. We shall see...
My musician friends, Walt & Gary came to Baños (finally! Walt's been promising to visit for ages!) and they brought Ella Fitzgerald, the lively black labrador. I was still pet-sitting at Carol & Kirk's so I was able to turn my house over to them. They had agreed to play a "house concert" so I took it a step further and organized a benefit for the volunteer library. Marshia offered the living room / dining room space at Posada del Arte (her outdoor courtyard would've been nice too, but it was raining). About 30 appreciative audience members enjoyed a truly professional performance of Jazz & more with Walt on trumpet and Gary on guitar. At least half of the listeners enjoyed a delicious meal while relaxing among friends, so Marshia benefitted as well. I took Walt & Gary to some of my favorite gorges and waterfalls in between my private classes.
Spanish Student Jay
Jay is from Thailand, married to a retired American guy and after a few months of lessons with me her Spanish was almost as good as her English!
Since I was planning to stay in town for awhile I scheduled lessons with a number of language learners. Once I put myself out there, students seemed to find me! First there was Sherian, the daughter of a former English student. I had done an exchange (classes for massage) with her mom but Sherian decided that she wanted to study alone with me. What a delightful, motivated 15 year old! She's doing online self-study this schoolyear and is so disciplined and dedicated. Her homework assignments were always neatly completed including joyful drawings and doodles. It was such a pleasure to work with her. Sherian's folks run a guest house and one of the guests who was staying there long term also wanted lessons. Peter, a retired American is married to Jay, a fabulous Thai woman. Jay's English was strong enough that she was eager to improve her Spanish. Pronounciation was a challenge, especially L & R, but Jay is a determined woman and Peter claims that after our lessons Jay's Spanish was even better that his!
After yoga class I was out to lunch one day with the instructor
My French Student Kila
Judy's gorgeous granddaughter Kila. We held classes at the Cafe where she was renting an apt. She had keys so we got to use the space before it opened!
and three of the class participants were seated at the tale beside us. I overheard Kila's grandfather Ed ask her, "Where are you doing to find a French tutor in Baños?" My ears perked up, I raised my hand and stated, "I teach French!" It was a match made in heaven. Kila's father is an indigenous Siona-Achaur from deep in the Amazon and though he lives in New Jersey now, she and her sister come to Ecuador each year with her maternal grandparents. This year they stayed for several months so 16 year-old Kila continued her high school studies online. For the French course she felt she needed some oral practice and human input. I really enjoyed working with her 3 hours a week, following the well-designed online French course. Kila's Spanish was also quickly improving during this visit so, as her language learner confidence increased, we dovetailed the two languages creating mnemonics "hooks" for her in both languages. One might think that learning two languages simultaneously would be confusing but for Kila's bright and agile mind, one served as an aid to the learning of the other.
Kila's grandma Judy
Spanish Student Judy
Retired flight attendant Judy comes to Ecuador every winter for a few months. Her granddaughters' father is an indigenous (Siona/Achuar) from the Amazon.
was also my student. She knew a good deal of passive Spanish from previous visits, but since her husband's Spanish is stronger and he's more gregarious, she was seldom called upon to speak Spanish. We did some fun exercises to help activate her production of the language. All too often, however, we ended up chatting about our lives and adventures -- as a former flight attendant she had some great stories, especially about how the industry changed since she first started flying in the 60's. My other adult learner was a retired Ecuadorian nurse who recently married an American guy. She just got her visa to take a trip with him to meet his family in the US and she wanted to be able to at least greet and thank them. I had chatted with her only briefly at the hot pools up until she asked me to teach her English. I never really noticed her speech impediment in Spanish but as she tried to learn English her extreme self-consciousness about pronounciation became a huge wall to her learning. After a half a dozen lessons she bowed out, saying she'd learned enough for this first visit to los YUNI (United
English Student Pamela
Ten yrs old going on 17! Bright and precocious, Pamela loves to go on long walks with me and CiCi. Her grandparents live in my neighborhood.
A friend of a friend approached me to work on English with her daughters. I had only a few weeks left in town and I really urged her to find someone else, but she insisted that I came so highly recommended that she wanted only me. We went 'round and 'round to find a time that would work for us both and when I showed up on the agreed upon day it became clear that she hadn’t even told her daughter about the lesson. I've never seen such a spoiled teenage brat, throwing a hissy fit and treating her mother so disrepectfully. Without hesitation I spoke up and clearly stated that will only work with people who want to learn. Needless to say, I was out the door in a matter of minutes. Whew!
Good luck just seems to come my way. I was hoping to be able to rent out my house while I was away working on the coast. Sherian's mom had a guy come in looking for long term rental and she didn't have availability but passed along
To honor a rescue dog who saved many lives after the earthquake and then died shortly thereafter, this park has painted their benches. Looks like CiCi!
his phone number to me. Trevor was looking for somewhere to practice playing guitar and singing, somewhere that he would bother neighbors. As soon as he got up to my house he said, Yep! This is the place. He works online and my internet service is good enough for his needs (especially in the middle of the night when he prefers to work). We overlapped a few days in the house before I left for the US - a good chance to get to know each other and for me to point out the quirks of the house. The biggest perk is the little pyramid of avocados that the owner leaves on table each time he comes to harvest!
En route to the airport I stopped to pick up donations from 5 different places in Quito. I always laugh at the name of this one store in Quito - Charlestong! I recently saw another butchered American name, Whashintog! It's always common to see Jhonaton and Janeth (or Jhaneth or Jahnhet!) This graffiti on a changing room door at the hot baths, took me a few minutes to figure out, Lleini is
Baños's Newest Statue
Gary, Ella (the dog) and Walt pose with a faux bronze figure of Carlos Fiallos, musician and composer whose music plays from a speaker hidden in a nearby tree.
Jenny! Oy - creative phonetics. On the same door is a saying that never fails to make me grin: Say no to drugs because there is so little and we are so many!!! OK - enough silliness for now -- please be sure to scroll down to see more photos relating to this blog's stories. Thanks for reading!
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