A celebratory month!


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South America » Ecuador » South » Cuenca
March 4th 2008
Saved: December 5th 2014
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Hey there sailor boy!Hey there sailor boy!Hey there sailor boy!

He looks a bit green around the gills! My new man friend...the strong, silent type. After this hug I had flecks of marine blue paint stuck to my arm all day!
Greetings fr0m the h0t seas0n here 0n the s0uth manabi c0ast! Th0ugh we have had a a few g00d rainst0rms at night (last night's was p0werfully terrifying...thundering which rumbled the h0use, blindingly bright lightning strikes very nearby) the days have been m0stly h0t and sunny, 0ften reaching 90 degrees fahrenheit. Sunsets have been m0re amazing than usual, and I've made an eff0rt t0 get 0ut t0 the beach and enj0y them alm0st every evening. I am grateful f0r the ceiling fan i had installed last year, but we've had a series 0f p0wer 0utages, - eighteen in the past m0nth, each lasting between 3 minutes and 30 h0urs! As I type this, I have my battery 0perated mini fan directly p0inted at me!! I have less than an h0ur 0f battery left 0n my lapt0p, and I'm being challenged in each sentence by a c0mputer virus aftereffect... I can't type 0s, y0u'll n0tice I have t0 use ZER0s! My 0 key has ceased t0 functi0n, but n0w and then when I tap it (as I 0ften d0 aut0matically) it starts t0 type lines and lines and full pages 0f small 0s, and I can't get it t0 st0p! 0o0o0o0o0o0Y!!

Chaco and his two MommiesChaco and his two MommiesChaco and his two Mommies

He´s such a lucky boy, spending time on the farm with Tamara, at his beach house resort when he´s with me. Everybody who meets this guy falls in love with him!

S0 many things I'm still getting used t0....First time 0ut my d00r in the m0rning, I have t0 walk with my arms 0ut in fr0nt 0f me and d0 a karate ch0p m0ti0n t clear away the masses 0f spider webs that f0rm each night. Paper clips and safety pins rust, envelopes stick themselves shut, anything leather gets furry, and electronics need to be babied and kept covered or behind glass. Joys of oceanfront living!
I have als0 learned certain 0f my fav0rite walks need t0 be av0ided after a light rain. The soil devel0ps into what I have dubbed "gr0w tall mud". As I walk, the mud builds up 0n the s0les 0f my sh0es and keeps sticking t0 itself s0 that I actually GR0W 2-3-4 inches! Then the mud dr0ps 0ff 0f 0ne she s0 I need t0 limp ar0und until the 0ther f00t levels 0ff. I had a funny mud adventure when I SLID back t0 my truck after swimming in the Agua Blanca Sulphur Lag00n. It was a d0wnhill sl0pe and I was just wearing flip-fl0ps. After my first "slip & slide", I was laughing upr0ari0usly when Tamara called, "D0n't fall again" just as I fell
Another type of mudslideAnother type of mudslideAnother type of mudslide

Gooey, slimy mud down my back and leg. The look on my face says it all!
a 2nd time. Luckily, I had my trusty camera 0n hand, as I always d0! (see ph0t0)


I've been really enj0ying my teaching the past m0nth 0r s0. I'm back at several places I've taught bef0re, but I have a few new students as well. F0r each 1 hr class sessi0n I have with her, I´m sure that Karol spends at least 2-3 hrs studying 0n her 0wn. As a result she's picking up English s0 quickly it's amazing! I had previ0usly taught French t0 her husband Jaibel, and have taught English t0 her 7 yr 0ld daughter Camila. N0w it's M0M's turn! I'm als0 teaching beginning French t0 a 19 yr 0ld l0cal girl wh0 was away at University in Guayaquil, but came back h0me when her grandfather became very ill. She already kn0ws a fair bit 0f English, and has als0 studied German, s0 she kn0ws h0w t0 learn language...and in just 4-5 less0ns she's at the level my middle sch00l students w0uld have needed a full semester t0 attain. It's especially gratifying t0 w0rk with these tw0 yung w0men wh0 are s0 m0tivated and willing t0 put f0rth s0 much eff0rt. 0ne day my English
Escuela 24 de Mayo GraduatesEscuela 24 de Mayo GraduatesEscuela 24 de Mayo Graduates

The go all out for graduation! Caps and capes and white gloves! Here I am with the graduating class of the little school where I am the ¨godmother¨.
classes at H0steria Mandala were interrupted when hundreds 0f Frigate Birds flew 0ver and perched 0n the p0wer line. Arriving 0ne by 0ne their c0mbined weight b0wed the wire l0wer and l0wer and finally pulled d0wn the w00den p0le supp0rting it. My English less0n with Mandala's Italian 0wner, Aureli0, c0ntinued as we dr0ve t0 the l0cal Electric C0mpany 0ffice and inf0rmed them 0f the d0wned line. In order to get to soem of my classes I´ve had to wade thru knee-deep mud and drive up steep, gravelly washed out roads. What I go through for my students!! I do like teaching at people´s homes; it takes care of potential punctuality issues (hora ecuatoriana!).


February was a m0nth 0f celebrati0ns, starting with the graduati0n 0f six 7th graders fr0m the little sch00l where I am the g0dm0ther. Five 0f the six will c0ntinue their studies at vari0us nearby High Sch00ls. Last year's graduating class 0f 7 had 0nly 0ne student c0ntinue studying (the teachers' y0unger sister!) It has been quite a year f0r the sch00l, in part thanks t0 d0nati0ns fr0m many 0f y0u wh0 read my bl0g regularly. This little c0mmunity run sch00l is h0ping t0 c0mplete the
After Gladys Mary´s BaptsimAfter Gladys Mary´s BaptsimAfter Gladys Mary´s Baptsim

Esther and her 4 sisters had a great time decorating the house. A celeestial ambience, fitting for our princess.
fiscalizati0n pr0cess by next year at this time. As a fiscal sch00l the g0vernment c0vers the teachers' salaries and als0 pr0vides staples f0r sch00l lunches. In 0rder to apply f0r fiscalizati0n, the sch00l must h0ld a title t0 the land where it is situated. In the pr0cess 0f learning ab0ut this, the teachers f0und 0ut that the current sch00l is a c0mmunity bldg, and that n0 0ne in the area h0lds a title to their own land. S0, a pl0t 0f land was d0nated and a title 0btained and a new sch00l bldg is being c0nstructed. Materials were d0nated, and I helped transp0rt them in my truck (alm0st sinking it in the river 0ne aftern00n as we gathered gravel!) I've agreed t0 assist the sch00l financially, c0vering the teachers salaries´and transport costs f0r 0ne m0re sch00lyear. In the next few weeks, watch f0r a letter requesting y0ur d0nati0ns t0 help us 0ut. If y0u did n0t d0nate the last time ar0und and w0uld like t0 be 0n the newsletter mailing list, please let me kn0w.


The next celebrati0n was the baptism 0f the daughter 0f 0ne 0f my English students. Esther (age 26) is married t0 Henry (age
Gladys Mary newly baptisedGladys Mary newly baptisedGladys Mary newly baptised

Often, during English class Esther pauses to breastfeed this lovely little angel.
62). He's an American, retired merchant marine. It's always fun teaching Esther as she c0mes 0ut with quirky expressi0ns in English that she's picked up fr0m her husband! Their l0vely little girl, Gladys Mary, was baptized in the bamb00 church in the nearby village 0f Puert0 Ric0. That was during the 30 hr p0wer 0utage, s0 the church gl0wed with hundreds 0f candles. I was the 0fficial ph0t0grapher, and the candlelight gave the pictures a special light.


A week bef0re my birthday, Michelle flew in fr0m San Dieg0. She and I had met 0ver 15 yrs ag0 when she was v0lunteering at a Vietnamese Refugee Camp where I br0ught my Malaysia students 0n a field trip. Supp0sedly because 0f increased v0lcanic activity fr0m Tungurahua, her flight (due t0 arrive midnight) did n0t c0me until n00n the f0ll0wing day! Since I was there in Guayaquil waiting, I t00k my truck t0 the Used Car L0t where I'd b0ught it. Ever since it had filled with water during the river debacle 2 wks earlier, it had never dried 0ut c0mpletely and 0ften smelled like a wet diaper after it had been cl0sed up and left in the sun. S0- I
2 graduates & 2 bday girls2 graduates & 2 bday girls2 graduates & 2 bday girls

From left: ME, Beatriz, Juliana (Mamá), Johana. Beatriz & Johana are the teachers at the school, and have been attending university every weekend for 5 years. They finally finished their ecotourism course!
paid a guy wh0 w0rked there $25 t0 cmpletely dismantle the interi0r. He t00k 0ut the seats, pulled up all the carpeting, washed it all and left it in the sun t0 dry.


The delay 0f Michelle's arrival meant we had t0 hightail it back t0 my place (st0pping 0n the way at my fav0rite bakery t0 pick up a huge ch0c0late cake I'd 0rdered). We were hurrying t0 attend a party, celebrating c0llege graduati0n 0f Beatriz & J0hanna (the sisters wh0 are teachers at my little sch00l), the high sch00l graduati0n 0f their br0ther Alex, and their m0ther's birthday and my birthday. We carefully wedged the cake in the back seat, propping it with bags and boxes so it wouldn´t smush. It had t0 be an ern0rm0us cake t0 fit all th0se names and festivities! It was special t0 be with my ad0pted family, but I d0n't particularly fancy the style 0f party they enj0y here. Set t0 start at 8 pm, f0lks begin sh0wing up 9:30 0r 10:00. The music was deafeningly l0ud -- imp0ssible t0 have a c0nversati0n. They didn't even start serving f00d until after 11:00! Especially after having d0ne a l0ng drive that
Sweeping South Manabi CoastlineSweeping South Manabi CoastlineSweeping South Manabi Coastline

Same ocean as in San Diego, but the coast looks a bit different, right Michelle?
day, it was way t00 late f0r me! And what a scene t0 dr0p Michelle int0 0n her first day in Ecuad0r!


The next day, Michelle and I dr0ve 2 hrs n0rth t0 Manta t0 meet an0ther friend at the airp0rt. I was meeting Debra f0r the first time in pers0n - but we had been c0rresp0nding via email f0r ab0ut 6 m0nths. (she first made contact with me after reading my blog!) C0ming fr0m drizzly 0reg0n, Deba was eager t0 visit a sunnier part 0f the Pacific C0ast, and als0 t bring b00ks t0 c0ntribute t0 my ad0pted sch00l. The kids were 0n summer vacati0n (c0astal sch00ls have Feb-March 0ff, in the mtns it's July-Aug) but we sent the w0rd 0ut and we had 15-20 kids c0me f0r a mini-less0n. I taught a s0ng and Debbie gave her gifts. Very nice!


That same aftern00n Michelle and I br0ught Marg, an early 60's great-grandm0ther frm Canada al0ng with us t0 fly 0n the can0py zipline at Cantalapiedra 0rganic Farm. My Dad still has the fame 0f being the first pers0n ver 80 t0 s0ar 0ver the bamb00 f0rests and fruit 0rchards with a harness and pulley,
River CrossingRiver CrossingRiver Crossing

No, I didn´t wet my pants...just the flowing river splashing up my thighs. It´s all good adventure.
but Marg was the 1st great-grandma t0 try it! The river was high, we weren't able t0 drive all the way up t0 the farm; we had t0 wade acr0ss it and hike up. Then, t0 cap 0ff the day we went swimming in the Sulphur Lag00n near Chac0's 0ther h0me in Agua Blanca. A very active and fulfilling day in many ways!


Michelle and I set 0ff 0n a driving adventure, d0wn t0 Cuenca -- all0wing 2 days t0 make a drive that sh0uld take 7-8 hrs under ideal circumstances. Well, we had t0 take maj0r det0urs due t0 r0ad cl0sures, and it t00k us the full tw0 days! In the Cuenca area, we visited museums, indigen0us markets, hat w0rkshps, h0t baths, an 0rchid farm, and much m0re. We enj0yed the 0rnate c0l0nial architecture which is s0 well preserved in Cuenca. We shared a special bday dinner with l0cal TV and radi0 pers0nality Carl0s 0ch0a (he's the l0ngtime partner 0f my dear friend D0ris S0lis). We stayed in a family-run rustic cabana c0mplex al0ngside the river. The 0wners, Humbert0 & Maria prepared a beautiful bunch 0f bday fl0wers f0r me! While in Cuenca I t00k my truck
Birthday dinner with CarlosBirthday dinner with CarlosBirthday dinner with Carlos

We are toasting with canelazos, hot cinnamon and cane liquor shots. Yum. The meal was followed by a local dessert with a spiderman candle stuck in it!!
in f0r service as the starter was getting less and less reliable. A new Chevy s0len0id w0uld have c0st 0ver $500, but the guys f0und a used part f0r me f0r $40! Kn0ck 0n w00d, it's been w0rking great (but n0w I have an 0il leak and a l00se muffler - more vehicle expenses on the way) The drive back up t0 Guayaquil fr0m Cuenca was really hard 0n my vehicle. Heavy rains had caused peril0us r0ad c0nditi0ns - unexpected r0ckslides ar0und every curves, massive fl00ding in the banana gr0wing l0wlands, huge impassible mudslides. In 0ne village we waited 45 minutes as they tried t0 sh0re up a bridge that was at risk. We later learned that it washed 0ut 2 hrs after we cr0ssed it! We made it t0 Guayaquil, and even had a few h0urs t0 expl0re the waterfr0nt bef0re I had t0 take Michelle t0 the airp0rt.


I had barely g0tten back int0 the swing 0f teaching again, when I learned that Shana was c0ming d0wn fr0m Quit0 t0 visit f0r a week. I l0ve having visit0rs and was really glad that Shana w0uld be here, but it was hard t0 divide my time between
Cañari Indigenous MarketCañari Indigenous MarketCañari Indigenous Market

I love the ornately embroidered skirts that the women wear up in the mountains. The color and movement of a marketplace always entrances me!
what I wanted t0 d0 (spend time playing Scrabble and visiting with my guest) and what I had t0 d0 (teach classes in t0wn!) It all w0rked 0ut fine, but I was exhausted fr0m leading a d0uble life!! I n0w kn0w f0r sure, I need t0 suspend classes t0 play h0stess.


Chac0 and I had a fun day, swimming in P0za Azul with my ad0pted family. It's a seawater p00l, f0rmed at low tide by the v0lcanic r0ck f0rmati0ns al0ng the beachfr0nt by Salang0 Island. It was gl0ri0us t0 fl0at in the b0uyant, salty water. Chac0 had fun swimming with me. In recent weeks I've als0 enj0yed swimming in the sulphur lag00n, in the 0cean, in the river, and als0 in the swimming p00l at Alandaluz. We got the room with a big, deep bathtub in Cuenca and several times I´ve reserved the jacuzzi up 0n the hill 0verl00king Pt0 L0pez! This Aquarius LOVES to be in the water.


If y0u think it was irritating reading ZER0ES instead f 0s, imagine what a challenge it's been f0r me t0 type this...00000h yeah! I´d love to hear from you! Drop me a note. Jill



Additional photos below
Photos: 23, Displayed: 23


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Michelle at Ingapirca Inca RuinsMichelle at Ingapirca Inca Ruins
Michelle at Ingapirca Inca Ruins

This is the finest example of Inca stonework in Ecuador. Ingapirca was excavated and reconstructed in the 70´s.
Perilous road conditionsPerilous road conditions
Perilous road conditions

Major washouts and mudslides narrowed the road to a single lane (or a half a lane!) without any notice. It was a stressful drive to say the least.
A surprise around every curve....A surprise around every curve....
A surprise around every curve....

And out of nowhere there´s a volkswagen-sized boulder in the road! Never a dull moment.
My birthday flowers!My birthday flowers!
My birthday flowers!

A beautiful birthday surprise from Humberto and Maria at Cabañas Yanuncay near Cuenca. My bday felt really special this year, and lasted almost 2 weeks!!
Swimming in Poza AzulSwimming in Poza Azul
Swimming in Poza Azul

What a magical spot...a tranquil seawater pool forms at low tide among the volcanic rock formations on the south end of Salango beach.
Birds on a WireBirds on a Wire
Birds on a Wire

This was just the start....there were literally hundreds (maybe even thousands) of birds on this power line, stretching for several blocks!
Arroz Marinero for the Masses!Arroz Marinero for the Masses!
Arroz Marinero for the Masses!

Mamá made seafood rice galore...enough for the 100+ people who came to the late nite LOUD party!
A friendly kitchen lizardA friendly kitchen lizard
A friendly kitchen lizard

Lizards are my friends. I don´t mind cleaning up their little poopies, as long as they keep eating my flies and skeeters.
Indoor ClotheslineIndoor Clothesline
Indoor Clothesline

Trying to dry laundry when it rains day after day can be a challenge. I especially liked this indoor laundry display (complete with a Woody doll in the back!)
Pig NosePig Nose
Pig Nose

Nice camera angle. Need I say more?
Best Seat in the House!Best Seat in the House!
Best Seat in the House!

During the graduation, a fund-raising raffle was held (for a cell phone). There wasn´t enough room for everyone inside, so these guys had a creative solution.
Great way to usher in sunsetGreat way to usher in sunset
Great way to usher in sunset

This photo was taken by Tamara at Playa Escondida last Dec when we went there with Chaco so he could visit his doggie family. Most days I try to be by (or in) the sea at sunset.


Comments only available on published blogs

7th March 2008

Best J0urnal Bl0g
Just s0 y0u d0n't feel bad we will resp0nd with 0's t00. Great fun t0 see and read ab0ut y0ur life in Ecuad0r. Especially t0day as we have 8 inches 0f sn0w here in Arkansas. We have been 0n that r0ad to Cuenca s0 can imagine h0w r0ugh it must have been. We h0pe y0u keep enj0ying the g00d adventures. Enough of that 0 stuff. It is too much work! We just got back from visiting Kristina in Guyana- a great trip, but our camera was stolen (in Miami) so no pictures to share. We needed a new camera anyway.
8th March 2008

Dr. Dull says Hello
I continue to enjoy your life....I would love to be doing something like what you are doing. JOHN
14th March 2008

Rain, Mud and Beyond
Hi you adventuresome wench! You have more moxie than I would have with the spider webs, lightning and mud up the ying-yang. I like the lizard part tho. What an amazing life you lead. I'm sorry I didn't get to you in time to wish you a happy birthday so I'm wishing you a late one now. I have a clipping about the volcano; Ecuador volcano erupts: 3000 flee. The o' thing is funny. Makes your letters look creative. Take care and keep the blogs a'coming. Love you, Trudy
18th March 2008

Congrats all around
hey jill, happy (very belated) birthday! and send my congratulations to Beatriz por terminar su curso en ecoturismo!

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