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Published: October 13th 2017
A Farewell Walk
One glorious morning just before moving CiCi and I took a long walk to say good-bye to some of our favorite Juive Chico neighborhood spots.
So I've had the photos for this blog entry uploaded for weeks but I have't had the time (or inclination) to sit down and finally write and publish it. Right now I'm at a hotel beside Quito airport. Every time a plane flies over I think it's the volcano rumbling! I am here to meet four volunteers from Engineers Without Borders whose flight arrives at midnight. I've spent too many hours waiting to pick folks up in the middle of the night, so this time I decided to have the hotel pick them up and I'll spend a few hours writing and go to bed early(ish). Tomorrow I'll drive them up to the village of Malingua Pamba where they are working on an irrigation project. Now that I'm not at home, maybe I can get a little focus and perspective and write about my move and my new house.
When I returned from working on the coast I had three weeks to pack up, which meant I could take my time and box things up bit by bit. While substitute managing the hotel I squirreled away the boxes which hold a dozen tetrabrick milk
Bye Bye Rental House
In the background to the left behind the biggest tree and beside the pinkish church is the two-story white house with a green roof; my home for the past 2+ yrs
cartons; small, strong, clean and perfect for packing. I flattened them and brought about thirty boxes to Banos to pack my books, photo albums, teaching materials, mosaic fodder and other heavy stuff. I also drove up from the coast with a queen-size pillow-top mattress that my friend Diane was getting rid of. Those 30 boxes, all the same size, are now being used as the temporary base for the new mattress...functional creative storage.
During those last few weeks in the rental house CiCi and I took long, nostalgic walks through the neighborhood and along the orchard roads. I will miss Juive Chico, a tight-knit community which welcomed me for over two years. I felt touched by the kind comments of some of the neighbors, thanking me for helping their kids with their English homework and telling me that they'd grown to trust me and that they'd miss me. I will certainly miss all the free avocados and the lovely views on my walks with CiCi. As I was packing to leave, I didn't realize how much I'd miss the spacious house -- I'd accumulated so much stuff and now had to decide what
I Will Miss You!
Avocados galore in the fertile plateau/valley area where I lived. I will certainly miss the pyramids of avocados left on my table by my landlord who came to harvest.
would come to the new house. I've been collecting bottles (interesting shapes, all colors) for several years, and the landlord told me I could continue to store my 25+ boxes (over 300 bottles!) in the bodega/laundry room of his house...but just for another month! Time to get ready to build my bottle wall!!
I got the keys to my new place in mid-Aug and I didn't have to move out of my rental until the end of the month so I put Shana's handyman to work fixing and scraping and painting and getting the small back house move-in ready. Marcelo knows carpentry (replacing a few rotted floorboards and refitting a door), electrical (adding outlets and moving light switches and fixtures), and plumbing (hooking up the calefon hot water heater, fixing leaks and more!). As soon as he finished scraping and fixing the flaking ceiling it became clear that the flat rooftop terrace was filtering water down to my digs below, SO the agreed upon solution was to put on a clear plastic rooftop. Marcelo's son Jorge drew the design and soldered the metal posts and beams; installed in just five days it doubled
Lighter furniture, full drawers, boxes and bags all made their way to the new house prior to the actual moving day. A huge thank you to so many friends for your help!
my living space. The entire project including materials and labor cost me $1500. My new covered rooftop terrace hosts a web of clotheslines, a hammock and a strategically placed sofa, perfect for volcano viewing.
Since the new house is less than three miles from my rental I was able to move things across little by little. On Aug 30th Pam and Carol helped me bring all of my clothes, some in suitcases but most in drawers. We also moved the smaller, lighter furniture including my dresser (sans drawers) & the long table for my kitchen counter. I asked my landlord if he'd take my huge kitchen table in exchange for the long, narrow one and he agreed. With a few pieces of furniture in place I was able to arrange my closet and get my kitchen somewhat unpacked before the arrival of the big furniture. Since I didn't have to hurry I was very organized in packing and preparing. I moved the fridge & oven shelves in advance, as well as the stove grills and burners. I used duct tape to secure the fridge and stove doors which made the big move easier.
there goes the bookshelf
Thanks Karl and others for your help during moving day!
August 31st was the final move. Karl rode up with William in his big water delivery flat bed truck. William brought along an assistant and several of the neighborhood kids pitched in as well. Everyone arrived right at 9:00 am as planned, William pulled the truck in close to the house, dropped the sides and began to artfully load the truck. He stood the mattresses against the cab, balanced the chairs atop them, maneuvered the fridge, stove and washing machine, against them. The large pieces from upstairs (armoire, bookshelf, desk, bed) were handed down from the terrace. The whole process, loading, driving the 3 miles and unloading took less than an hour!
The Speedy Internet guys said they'd be coming at 10:00 am and (wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles) they were right on time. I met them at the rental where they took down the antenna and disconnected the router and then they followed me to the new place. By noon of Aug 31st I had internet at my new house and my gas stove was hooked up and ready to cook. It couldn't have
My Stellar Moving Crew
William (left) brought his flat bed truck and he and the neighbor's son David get ready to receive the next piece of furniture being lowered from the terrace.
gone more smoothly! I had thought out what was to go in the tiny A-frame house up front (one room upstairs, one room downstairs), and which things I really needed (and would fit) in my glorified studio apartment at the back of the lot...I say glorified because there is a wall between the bedroom/office and the kitchen - and it's a decent sized kitchen at that (although it has no cupboards or drawers!) The washing machine was hooked up several days later and within a few weeks I'd bought a hot water heater. It felt good to have hot showers after a several weeks without.
I had an extra double mattress so I decided to leave the feet off the bed base and stack two mattresses on top of it. It's a nice height, but I do feel a bit like the princess and the pea! (NOTE: Since I started writing this paragraph I have gifted the extra mattress to my former neighbor/cleaning gal, Cristina). She helped me put the feet back on the base and I'm glad to be back in a normal bed; just as well since the dbl mattress arrangement
Standing on the rooftop terrace you can look across to the upstairs of the A-frame. I actually bought TWO small houses!
felt a bit mushy and shifted if I sat on the edge. I asked Marcelo to remove the door between the bedroom and kitchen and the bathroom door as well. It's just me here (although I've since hung a fabric curtain for a semblance of privacy in the bathroom).
When I first saw the house from the outside I told my friend Shana, unless it's totally disgusting I'm buying it -- mostly because of its privileged location. Aside from being three doors up from Shana's house, it's surrounded by green hillsides in the Bascun River Valley. I had only seen the inside of the house once briefly before making the decision to buy it. I decided that it could be rescued from the uglies. To my immense good fortune a Canadian friend who's been living in Colombia decided to come down for an extended visit. Tamasine, a master gardener and painter, moved into the front house and has helped me immeasurably...working tirelessly, helping me make a multitude of decisions. She never laughs at my wacky plans, in fact we find that we've often come up with similar ideas!
ByeBye Prison Fence
By weaving bamboo and branches into the black metal fence we softened the "jail-like" look of the front yard.
The first order of business was to soften the look of the prison bar fence by weaving in strips of bamboo and tree branches. We had Marcelo cut the metal bars off all the windows and remove the low metal fences which were serving no purpose in front garden. One of those fences has since been flipped to be used vertically as a security gate for my bodega/storeroom (pics in my next blog). There were hideous New Orleans style street lamps on cement posts in front garden -- they had to go bye-bye (yard sale fodder). Peeling orange and pukey green paint, and where it was peeled off moss and mold was growing. I asked around about renting a power washer -- none to be found so I made a few calls and drove an hour to the nearest big city, Ambato. The local Home Depot (Kywi) had an industrial power washer for $180 -- I am now the proud owner of a pressure washer (hidrolavadora) ! Who'da thunk it?? Miraculous cleaning of all surfaces of the house (thank you Marta! you are a wizardess!) Cement surfaces brighter, and the first step of preparing for new paint!
View from the Balcony
That's Tamasine hanging out on the upstairs balcony admiring the view of Mama Tungurahua volcano on a crystal clear morning!
Tamasine painstakingly and lovingly prepped every surface to be painting -- scraping, sanding, smoothing...and then everything got painted with a moisture and mold barrier primer (like a rubbery fine coating smoothing the palette). I will surely feel infinitely grateful in 15-20 years when the house still doesn't need repainting! We plucked a vinca flower from the planter and took it to the paint store to match the blue for the window frames. The bright orange and mud brown (gak) of the back house where I'm living got painted in the same three colors as the front house (a deep wine color, buttery "Alegria" beige and a periwinkle blue). I promise pics of the newly painted house in my next blog, but in the interest of getting this blog finally published and sent off, I'll stick with the "before" photos that are already uploaded for this entry.
When I moved in, the garden was non-existent -- in the front yard the previous caretaker had kept fighting cocks in basket cages -- the dirt scratched right through to rock! Tamasine and I found a huge dump of rich soil
Tamasine scrapes and sands, wearing an eruption mask and my swim goggles! Her hard work has transformed the facade!
from a landslide on a curve in the road up above town. Several trips to fill a dozen or so huge lona sacks, then arranging with Fernando (one of the hardware clerks) to buy his cuy poop (guinea pig fertilizer!) and coordinating transport of said "waste product" needed to amend the soil -- and the garden was ready to receive a multitude of plants gifted from Michaela's and Shana's gardens. Most of them are taking well and I have a bumper crop of stinging nettles and chamomile too!
The yard between the two small houses is all cement except for one sorry-looking lemon tree. We did a stinky one-time fumigation (yuk) and pruned back sick branches and now (less than two months later) there are dozens of lemons and it's become the social center for hummingbirds (hi Mom!) I had Marcelo destroy and remove a huge, ugly cement block bench and there is now a small garden plot of wandering Jews (wandering me?) planted along the wall where the bench used to be. I've had to drive out to the city dump twice to get rid of all the construction waste! Amazing how
Old House Collapses
So I harvest the ancient clay roof tiles. The plan is to line the tops of my walls with them, hopefully helping to protect the murals I plan to have a friend paint.
much scraped off paint weighs when it fills up plastic trash bags!
On the shortcut road between my old rental and my new house there's an old house that began to collapse after a heavy rain and I had the wacky idea to "harvest" and use some of the ancient terracotta clay roof tiles. I loaded 20-30 heavy curved "tejas" into my truck on each of a half-a-dozen trips -- most arrived intact -- some did not. The tiles now line tops of each wall on both sides of my lot and also encircle the base of the lemon tree. As much as possible I'm trying to use recycled stuff in the house fix-up...it's not only that I'm cheap, but also that I love the feel of older things and get excited about finding new uses for formerly used objects. Having said that, I've certainly dropped a chunk of change at the Banos hardware stores. I'm a regular customer in at least 5 or 6 of them. One thing I've noticed (that I find to be rather sexist) is that at virtually all of the "ferreterias" (independently owned hardware shops) the young to
New House Walkies
A two minute walk up the hill from my new house and we get to amazing hills and river valleys where CiCi can run off-leash. Hooray!!
middle-aged female clerks/cashiers all wear tight, low-cut blouses. I suppose it's the same reason that auto repair places advertise with scantily clad women...consider who is their main clientele...
From my newly covered rooftop terrace there are spectacular views (and great bird-watching) in every direction. I share my back wall with the volunteer quarters at Carol's organic farm. A Canadian woman who's lived here for decades, she accepts WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms - a specialized "voluntourism" niche). Her gardens offer a lovely view to the west, and there are lush green hillsides everywhere you look. From my terrace I can watch the sun rise through the V openings of the mountains which drop down toward the Amazon basin. I see the colors of the sunset as the valleys to the west light up. Since my street is along the high ridge of a river valley, I get a glimpse of the town down below and of course there's the spectacular Mama Tungurahua volcano. It's been two years since her last eruption and a vulcanologist friend tells me she's most likely going to remain dormant for decades now.
View from Rootop Terrace
New roof creates a fabulous viewing room, hammock hangout and clothes-drying loft up top. CiCi likes it too!
The thermal mineral baths (El Salado) are a 5 minute walk up the hill and I try to go 2-3x a week. I meet a friend for water aerobics, swim laps, do exercises and stretching, or just hang out and chat. Some interesting conversations spring up as you're bathing together in hot pools! When one woman commented that I look like I could be Donald Trump's sister, I told her that unless we changed the topic of conversation, the water would soon be boiling!! Aside from being an amazing gardener and painter Tamasine is also a gifted massage therapist; in exchange for staying at my place (in addition to all the work she's been doing) she has also offered me weekly Watsu water massage. It's basically Shiatsu in the water -- as I float with a pool noodle supporting my knees, Tamasine reaches under and finds pressure points while I'm weightless and relaxed. She also swirls me around the warm pools resulting in deep side stretches and gentle spinal adjustments. It's a most amazing massage experience -- almost like returning to the womb!
I hope I haven't bored you too much.
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Marcelo had a lot of work repairing water damage, treating mold, spackling, cementing, and more!
I'll close for now and send this edition off into cyberspace. Next week is my Huasi Pichai Housewarming Party. 'Huasi' is Kichwa for House and 'Pichai' means Cleaning -- so it's now my challenge to give the still-under-renovation house a good cleaning before receiving friends for a joyful gathering. Next blog entry will have lots more house pics and photos of the big bash (expecting around 50 people!) To see some "before-and-after" photos, scroll down to the end and click next. Thanks for reading. Drop me a note if you feel so inclined!!
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