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Published: April 21st 2019
After cataract surgery I stayed with friends near Quito where I was cared for by three year-old Darwin and his two tiny pups, Fiona (left) and Zanzibar (brindle boy).
Hello Blog Readers - thanks for being here! Some of you have been following my blog since I first began in 2006. Thanks, Madge, for insisting that I keep folks in the loop of my life in Ecuador. Here I am, twelve and a half years later with 145 published entries. I'm still at it...and you're still reading!
To explain the title of this entry I need to tell you that the past month's activities and travels were overlaid on a backdrop of recovery from cataract surgery. There were complications and it's been a journey. My experiences during recuperation had me looking at the semantic and more esoteric connotations of the words SIGHT and VISION. Allow me to start by saying that, for my part, I am eternally grateful to the vision
aries who had the foresight
to merge science and technology creating the high-tech surgery that restored sight
to my right eye!
On a long hike with CiCi one day last week I had an epiphany -- the word cataract is widely used to also
Jessica and family
A week with Jessie, her sister Lisa and her niece Taira. Lovely ladies all!!
mean waterfall. A cataract in the eye is a clouding or fogging of the eye's natural lens or, as it was explained to me by my doctor, a dense gel that forms and "cascades" down the lens. Can you visualize this? If not treated in time the gel will crystallize and cause blindness. My "catarata" was still viscous which made removal easier, but the fact that I'd had laser eye surgery for vision correction in 2002 complicated the calculation of the correct lens to be inserted once the cascading cataract was removed.
I said good-bye to Tovah & Max to the airport and the next morning I had an eye doctor appointment. To my surprise the doctor wanted to schedule the cataract surgery in three days' time -- before everything shut down for the Carnaval holiday. OK, I decided, let's just get this over with! So I asked my dog-sitter to stay on and arranged to stay in Quito, allowing time for pre-surgery blood tests, cardio work-up, and lens calculations. Everything went smoothly; I was taken in for surgery, given an IV sedative and woke up with
Exploring New Roads
I generally use what I call "the human map" when travelling unfamiliar areas, stopping to ask locals how to find the next town. Taira wanted to see it on the paper map too!
a patch on my eye. The first few days post-up friends brought me lunches at my hostel and I laid low, listening to audiobooks and keeping my eyes closed a lot.
Nate & Ang took an Uber up to they city and Nate drove my truck to take us all down to their home in the valleys below Quito. For the next few days I had fun with 3 yr old Darwin and we cuddled with their big, goofy dogs - Fiona and Zanzibar. One day I went to the grocery store with the family and, perhaps exacerbated by the fluorescent lighting, my vision
quivered and wavered. I couldn´t even see
what was on the shelves and panicked a bit...what would it be like if my eye didn't heal properly? Six days after surgery I was given the all-clear to drive myself back down to Baños.
Ideally, recuperation from cataract surgery should take about a week. Months earlier my friend Jessie had scheduled me to drive her and visiting family the whole length of
My Sleeping Quarters
You can see why this amazing guest room is used for yoga practice. Spectacular views on 3 sides!
the country, down to Vilcabamba near the Peruvian border where she lives. When I agreed to the surgery date I was allowing for 12 days of recovery, ample time to heal before setting off with Jessie. Unfortunately, things don't always work out as planned.
The morning of the day that I was due to meet Jessie a follow-up eye appointment revealed that the laser incision was not healing correctly. It's possible that when I bent over or picked something up during the first week of after surgery, the forming scar tissue was pulled in such a way that the incision folded over on itself. I was told that the doctor would now have to go back in to put a stitch to repair the incison, which is like a jagged red line on the eyeball hidden by the eyelid.
SO, I met Jessie, sister Lisa, and niece Taira at the airport and drove them to Papallacta Hot Springs Resort an hour away, but rather than staying with them I returned to Quito where I
The Sleeping Inca
Mandango mountain is a focal point, visible from most places in Vilcabamba and the surrounding valleys. See the profile of the sleeping Inca?
was taken back into the operating room. This time I was given only local anesthetic drops -- no IV sedative -- and I have to say that the sensation of a huge needle poking into my eye was one of the most terrifying and bizarre experiences of my life. In hindsight I probably should have waited to have the surgery until after this driving gig!
The following morning my dear friend Jean drove me in my truck back to Papallacta and she took a bus back to Quito. From there Jessie took the wheel and I rode along as a passenger in my own truck. We made our way to Puyo, down the eastern side of the Andes and modified our travel plans a bit so I could spend two more days recuperating while the gals explored the edge of the Amazon Basin. We continued south to Zamora on roads that I'd not travelled before. The stretch between Zamora and Loja was stunning -- even more waterfalls than the Ruta de las Cascadas near Baños. We arrived in Vilcabamba in time for the weekly organic market shopping
Wrap-around terrace completes these outrageous digs!
amid throngs of aging hippies clad in tie-dye!.
I spent a few days in Vilcabamba catching up with old friends and visiting favorite places. I thoroughly enjoyed staying in the luxurious, quirky home where Jessie has been house-sitting for several years. The room where I slept doubled as a yoga studio with a huge, curved wall of windows overlooking lush, mountainous countryside. The rest of the house had whimsical mosaic touches and ample terraces with breathtaking views.
After relaxing a bit in Vilcabamba I continued north to Cuenca where a great number of North American retirees have settled. I rolled into town just in time to for lunch at the home of Peruvian artist friends. Alberto and Maite are both accomplished painters and their home is a stunning gallery of their work. More often than not when I drive to Cuenca I arrive right at lunchtime and am invited to join their family. This time it was the joyous celebration of their son's 19th birthday. A delicious, typical Peruvian stew was served and for
Dinner with Cuenca Friends
Jane was the Bay Area neighbor of a former Malaysia colleague of mine and Julia and I discovered that we have Atlanta connections when we met in Baños a few years ago!
dessert I brought pastries from the French bakery in Vilca.
One Cuenca friend collects and stores donations for me. Over the past months Regina´s garage had been filling with leftovers from Moving Sales and discards from regular donors. On my previous collection trips I've had to run all over town arranging for pick-ups from individual homes. This time I had only a few stops to make since most of the goodies were gathered in one place. I organized a luncheon at the vegan Chinese place, Good Affinity, to connect with some friends, introduce them to one another, and to collect their contributions. A Quito friend's mother-in-law lives right up the block from this restaurant so after lunch I was invited back to her elegant penthouse for tea. Whereas my Cuenca visits are usually fraught with stress, dashing around and trying to squeeze everything in, this time I felt calm and relaxed.
The couple who usually hosts me in their home was out of the country, so I contacted another friend. I had stayed at
View frm Julia's Terrace
I loved staying at Julia's luxury condo...and the views over Cuenca rooftops are stunning!
Julia's posh condo once before and again she opened her home to me. Two of the three nights I was in Cuenca Julia and I went out for dinner, once with a friend of hers and once with a friend of mine. I was glad to see Jane again, the former neighbor of a former colleague of mine. I met her a few years back when she was first considering a move to Ecuador and she spent a few days in Baños. Now she's settling into life in Cuenca. She and Julia discovered that they had a lot of interests in common...I suspect their friendship will blossom. OK, I confess, I'm a matchmaker at heart!
As I drove the six hours back to Baños, my truck packed to the gills, I was aware that my vision
wasn't fully back to normal. Although my eye was feeling a damn sight
better, I was still having the 3D movie effect. Don't get me wrong, I was safe to drive...my excellent vision in the other eye more than made up for the weirdness of the operated one. I contacted the doctor and
Cascadas - Cataratas
The road between Zamora and Loja was a route I'd not traversed before. Stunning waterfalls, one after another!
she told me to come up to Quito the next day to see
her in her private clinic (on a Sunday!).
SO, the day after the long drive home from Cuenca I had to get back in my truck and head to Quito (3 hours each way). I've had to drive to Quito so often lately that it doesn't even feel like a long trip. I load an audiobook onto my Ipod and I'm good to go! The roads are excellent and I know them so well now -- I have my favorite peepee and snack stops to break up the journey. And I never tire of the breathtaking Andean views...most volcano sight
ings in the early a.m. Afternoons traffic starts to build up a bit more and once I finally reach Baños my house is a sight
for sore eyes!
Again the doctor just numbed my eyeball with drops and reached in to carefully snip the stitch which was pulling, creating a misshapen surface on my eye and causing astigmatic vision. Less bizarre than
Driving Home From Quito
You never know what you might run into on the Panamerican Highway!
having a needle come at me but a strange sensation nonetheless. As soon as the stitch snapped I felt a sort of release and my vision
shifted slightly. Unfortunately the doctor was unable to remove the stitch because I still had some swelling. Even though she tried to snip it off as close as possible, she warned me that I would likely feel the point of the stitch, a feeling like when you get grit in your eye. Despite assurance that the stitches should dissolve, this supplementary one did not.
That pointy bit caused me constant agony. Struggling not to rub the eye, I repeatedly washed it with sterile drops but the poking sensation was infuriating. Then, 3 days after the stitch was snipped I started having swelling in my eyelid. It would puff up so much by the afternoon, it looked like my eye was a half-mast. Then at night it would ooze and drain and I'd awaken with my eyelashes crusted shut. It happened again the next day and,afraid of infection, I contacted the doctor who told me to drive back up to see her
A Serendipitous Luncheon!
I was in Puyo acting as medical interpreter for a friend and former friends and neighbors from when I lived on the coast just happened to be visiting the jungle!
right away. By then the swelling had decreased and the stitch was quickly and easily removed. It turns out that the spiky end had been scratching my cornea and my eyelid had puffed up to form a protective cushion. The human body is truly amazing!
A new friend, Tina, has been in Ecuador for over a year but has not learned much Spanish so she asked if she could hire me to come with her to a gynecologist appointment in Puyo (1 1/2 hrs east on the edge of the Amazon Basin). I agreed with some trepidation. Tina supposedly had an appointment IESS hospital, Ecuador´s public medical facility. It ends up she didn't have an appt, a fact we didn't discover until spending an hour getting her vitals taken and another two hours trying to get a word in each time the doctor's door opened to call another patient. The doctor was overworked, harried, hassled and downright rude. We could see
we were getting nowhere so we finally gave up waiting after three hours, with Tina admitting that there was NO WAY she wanted that
A group of friends gathered in Shana's back garden to celebrate the power washing job that Jerry did! It was so sunny we hunkered under the hibiscus bushes!
During the long wait at IESS I got a text message from a friend who lives on the coast but happened to be visiting a mutual friend, Patrick who has a camping facility in Cumanda, half-way between Baños and Puyo. We were able to coordinate a meeting for lunch at El Jardin, my fave Puyo spot. Esther was travelling with Agnes, another Puerto Lopez friend I hadn´t seen in years. It was so nice to see them both and visit with their kids whom I´ve known almost since they were born. They are now 10, 12, & 13 and are delightful pre-adolescents--watching them dance around the restaurant was a sight
to behold! This is the longest I've ever lived in one place; the years just seem to run together. Watching my friends' children grow up reminds me of the passage of time.
There was a guy renting my front house for a month. Jerry is the friend of a friend who also rented from me last year. He enjoyed helping out in the
Grillmaster at BBQ
Thank you to Karl for grilling up our garden lunch! Pictured here with his wife Priscilla and his mum n dad, Jean n David.
garden (yay!!) and he's also a master power-washer. SO, in addition to weeding my yard and Shana´s too, he also power-washed all of the pavement at my house as well as at Shana´s. The back part of Shana's garden was growing mossy & slippery in the shady areas. To celebrate the freshly cleaned pavement and to thank Jerry for his work we threw a garden party, inaugurating her covered grill area.
My rentor left in time for me to get the house ready for another visitor. Jeaneth Flo Otto was just 10 years old when I met her. The first time I saw her she was caring for three younger siblings while her Mom worked in the fields and cared for the animals. Her family was living in Malingua Pamba, the village where I worked with the Engineers Without Borders water project for more than a decade. Now Jeaneth is 22, has two children of her own and is pregnant with a third. I was happy to be able to host her family at my home, particularly because they were coming to Baños for a special reason.
Emily & Adrian on CiCi's Bed
My goddaughter's children, ages 3 and 5 found CiCi's daybed to be the perfect toddler sofa!
Every year during lent thousands of pilgrims walk to Baños for La Caminata del la Fe (the walk of faith). The Virgen de Agua Santa (virgin of the holy water) is credited with many miracles. The main road is closed to vehicle traffic from 6 pm until 8 am (big hassle) while the faithful undertake a 25 mile walk from Ambato to Baños, visiting seven crosses along the way. It's a major annual event! Jeaneth came ahead on the bus with her two little ones and her husband and three siblings arrived at 6 am after having walked 11 hours! There I was at the butt-crack of dawn fixing breakfast for the whole gang! The two sisters soaked their feet in warm water and I gave them flip-flops to put on so they could rest their weary feet!
As you probably know, I've been involved in fund-raising for our volunteer children's library -- La Biblioteca Interactiva de Baños (BIB). The past six months have been a struggle to make ends meet. I took a
After Walking All Night...
Breakfast for my goddaughter, her children, her siblings and her husband when they arrived in Baños at dawn after making a 25 mile pilgrimage.
hiatus from running the secondhand shop, BIB Bazar. (I was in the US, then travelling with my niece, then having eye surgery!) There have been fewer volunteers come to stay (they pay $10/day to participate in the children's program and receive lodging, use of communal kitchen and laundry facilities, and discounts on tourist activities and Spanish classes. When there's a steady stream of volunteers it definitely helps with monthly expenses (rent, water, electricity, internet, etc). but recently there have been hardly any volunteers at all.
For 10 years the library has squeaked by, barely making it from month to month. Sometimes an unexpected cash donation comes in right when we are in dire need, or a group of volunteers shows up out of nowhere. The board of directors of our non-profit, Fundación Arte del Mundo, has been largely inactive. We administrators and volunteers all have busy lives outside of the BIB, so very little has changed over the years...it's like we've had tunnel vision,
just struggling to make it financially from month to month without enough energy left over to make major changes.
New & Improved Bazar
Our shop is now larger, brighter and has clouds painted on the walls to cover up the water damage!
Along come two retired sisters from Texas with visions
of grandeur; visual
izing how much more the BIB could really be. It's true that the locale is seriously under-ultilized so we held a series of brainstorming meetings and about ten more friends stepped up to share their ideas and help start to make major revision
s and changes. Our name is now the Centro Cultural Arte del Mundo and in addition to the after-school children's library and activity program, the BIB Bazar secondhand shop, and our black box theatre, we plan to host a Tourist Information Centre as well as classes in French, Spanish, Theatre, Music, Dance, Yoga and Cooking. We've set our sights
high for many more activities and hopefully they will all come to fruition.
A major goal is to involve the community more, so now we are busy seeking sponsors, first for our grand Re-Opening Celebration mid-May which will include a giant raffle. SO, several of us are out hitting the streets, making contact with business owners (starting with the ones we know personally); asking for a
Scores of shoppers thronged the racks. In just a few hours we earned $951...a new Bazar record!
tray of appetizers or drinks or a service to raffle off (like spa treatments, free dinners, a night in a hotel, etc). Since most folks here in Ecuador don't want to cough up a monthly sponsorship fee sight
unseen, the Grand Re-Opening sponsors will be featured to show other prospective sponsors what it's all about. A lot of planning, a lot personalities to navigate but hopefully a positive outcome.
A big change has been the location of the BIB Bazar....before it was upstairs, somewhat hidden away in a courtyard. Now it's street level in a space almost twice as large with big windows out to the street, bright lighting, and a bathroom/fitting room. Flush with donations from my pick-up in Cuenca the first day the Bazar re-opened we earned over $900 ... wow!! In three weeks our sales have netted over $1500, enough to cover our next month's expenses. Hopefully, we'll be able to keep quality donations rolling in as fast as they're flying out the door!
For years I've been collecting bottles and
Making progress on the bottle wall.
carefully stashing away the most beautiful and unique ones. All the while I've had visions
of how to use them to maximum effect. I managed to get my bottle maestro back to Baños (he brought his whole family this time and made a little vacation of it). The work went quickly and smoothly -- this creation was easier than fitting bottles into the metal wheels. It also helped that, per his suggestion, I laid out the bottles the way I envision
ed the finished wall and took a photo This way Francisco had a sort of template to work from.
The plan was to create a half-wall that would provide me some privacy from the neighbors' yard without blocking my view of the volcano. In my mind's eye I imagined a row of bottle bottoms, a line of bottles in vertical position and the most unique ones laid horizontally, forming a wave on the top. I am absolutely thrilled with the results... my bottle wall turned out even more stunning than I had envision
ed! Please scroll down to see
additional photos, several more of the wall and a
Bottle Wall Layout
Thanks to Max for help taking a panoramic photo to serve as guidance to the maestro (my bottle master)
few silly ones as well. Thanx for reading.
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