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Passion Fruit Flower
Perfection in nature
The Spanish word for love is Amor. Since my truck is a Chevy Luv I named him Amorcito or Morci for short. I was glad to have people with me when I finally drove out of Guayaquil. Eddie's cousin Rosita drove ahead to lead the way out of the city to the coast road, and I travelled with two riders I had met at the hostal; a Norwegian nurse and her Ecuadorian boyfriend. We all shrieked with joy as the ocean came into view, stopping for a fish ceviche on the beach!
It's hard to believe I've been on the coast for less than four weeks - SO much has happened! Almost every night I've been lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves crashing on the beach, and I've awakened to the same peaceful music of the sea. I've eaten shrimp at least 3-4 times per week (yum), have gotten dozens of bug bites, met hundreds of people, driven thousands of kms, reconnected with old friends, helped several travellers with their Spanish, and taught English at two different primary schools, one of which has named me their madrina (godmother).
I met Beatriz, directora of
Escuela 24 de Mayo, when I gave her a lift up the road. As you'll see in the photos, I was guest of honor (and staff photographer) at her school's annual "Swearing Allegiance to the Flag" ceremony, and two days later I went along on a field trip - hiking up the hill behind the school, where we had a picnic, each of the kids bringing one ingredient for the tuna salad sandwiches we assembled overlooking the sea. We had planned to walk down to the river for a swim, but the students all piled into the back of the truck, insisting it needed washing. So, I drove to a shallow bend in the river where they used empty water bottles and choice garments from my dirty clothes bag to lovingly caress Morci clean! Afterwards, they all frolicked upriver in a swimming hole, their unbridled joy infectious!
Beatriz often invites me to her house where I'm always treated to a delicious meal. I feel right at home with this family, cuddling with the smaller children in the hammock. There is a welcoming warmth, a sense of caring & values which embraces me with comfort & joy. I've been
helping Beatriz with her English (on the weekends she takes courses in EcoTourism at a University in Jipijapa, a town 1 hr north and the next closest ATM machine!). she's taken me to a nearby archaeological site and museum. Her father is a fisherman & has promised to take my Dad when he comes to visit!
The other school where I taught classes is in the nearby town, Puerto Lopez, where my friend Katharine is volunteering for a month. A new school bldg is under construction, so meanwhile 200 students are crammed into a passageway divided into six classes. There's one toilet behind a white board, so the teacher has to stop writing, move the board and try to keep teaching while the students listen, giggle, and gag at the increasing stench. Not an ideal teaching situation!
I've enjoyed giving Katharine some Spanish lessons and some teacher training tips. She observed while I taught her classes to get some ideas to encourage more interaction from the kids. We've taken a few adventures together, including a trip down to Montanita, the hippie surfer haven 45 minutes south. We also went up into the cloudforest region where Alandaluz
has an organic vegetable farm, fruit orchard and hundreds of acres of native bamboo. They have put in a canopy zip line and using a harness and pulley system we flew over the feathery cane fields looking down over the trees and crops. Exhilarating and magical way to enjoy nature!
I took the 2 hr drive north to Manta where there are banks that give cash advances. I was invited to eat local Viche at a new friend's home. Mariuxi prepared this rich peanutty soup loaded with crab, prawns, fish, plantain dumplings while I chatted with her boyfriend, Julio. He's been living in the US for 25 yrs and is considering selling his Car Wash business in New Jersey to return Ecuador and his beloved girlfriend who won't get in a plane! I remarked that he and I were probably meant to meet right at this juncture, to share our perspectives on American life versus this coastal lifestyle and rhythm.
To transfer data from my laptop I use a memory stick. I caught a virus at an Internet Cafe...you've gotta be so careful where you stick it in! Luckily, Mariuxi's cousin Guillermo has a computer business
field trip with the students
climbing the hill behind the school until we got a view of the ocean
and was able to cure my virus and install a new antivirus program (a computer condom!). Technology interface is not so very different from human intercourse. Makes you think....
The humpback whales come to this stretch of coast to mate and give birth, before heading back to the Antarctic in October. I went out in a 16 passenger boat for a whale-watching excursion. It's fascinating to see coquettish fin slapping antics of the females to attract the attention of the males, who respond with leaps and tail slaps to show their strength and prowess. The females are said to be quite selective in choosing a partner, and the male stays around to protect the newborn while it's nursing, 400 liters (100 gallons) of milk a day which the mama whale squirts into its mouth. That baby has to build up a layer of blubber to survive the voyage south.
Adventures in driving: dodging speed bumps, huge potholes, pigs humping in the road, burros carrying huge bundles of leaves, landslide washouts, burros dragging long bundles of bamboo, herds of cows drifting across the center line, burros balancing jugs of water, barking dogs chasing my truck, motorbike pulling
10 ft lengths of metal ribar (sizzling sparks on the road), guy on a bike pulling a cart containing a full sized refrigerator (watch out for that bump!), motorcyclist putt-putting up a hill pulling a trotting horse behind him...never a dull moment! The coast road is relatively good, with breathtaking views over the ocean and huge bare ceibo trees up in the hills. Not far from here there's a 2 mile stretch where shade trees meet overhead to form an archway- can't wait to cycle it.
Passing through small towns (lots of "sleeping policemen"- local name for speed breakers), I grinned at a man lovingly washing his horse in front of his house- like some guy out washing the family car; a group of old men playing cards on the waterfront boardwalk sitting on stumps of wood, the cards flying in the wind; the sound of the local Bingo game, a man’s deep voice calling out, interspersed with cheers for the winners.
I drove north 4 hrs to see Nicola, a New Zealander I met 17 yrs ago when Alandaluz was just beginning. I so enjoyed reconnecting with her and learning about the environmental awareness programs
she has developed in her town of Bahia de Caraquez. I am also fascinated by her recycled paper business (Eco-Papel) which now employs 10 women full-time! After crossing the bay on a car ferry, Nicola and I drove to her organic farm, Rio Muchacho. I had stayed there 3 yrs ago and at that time I gave Spanish classes to some of the German volunteers who were working there for a month. What a surprise when the following week, down in Puerto Lopez I ran into Uli, one of the German guys from those classes. He now lives in the Amazon jungle region and is establishing a nature foundation with a Eco-inn. Can't wait to go see him there!
Beach Encounters: just me and the birds skirting the edges of the waves for hours; a few scrambling crabs, and a pack of wild dogs who were jealously guarding their two pups. One beach doggy let me pet her, but none deigned to walk with me. A dead sea turtle, its greyish innards oozing out being devoured by dozens of vultures.
I have a new favorite beach, up north of Bahia stretching between Punta Blanca (a white limestone headland)
and Punta Prieta (a black volcanic cliff). The Inn at Punta Prieta is directly in the flight path for frigates, mostly females but a few males with their retracted red neck pouches (they only puff them out while mating). I loved seeing how they hovered in the wind currents, right outside the window of the dining room. A few pelicans flew by in perfect unison and graceful formation. Hard to photograph birds- they’re gone before my camera can take the shot (like with the whales).
The beach between Punta Blanca and Punta Prieta has delicate marbled designs, the dark volcanic sand swirling with the white sand, a rock or shell lodged on the shore making chevron designs. North of Punta Blanca at low tide I discovered hidden caves, isolated beaches, and watched groups of local fishermen using logs to help each other roll their boats up the beach to higher ground, a slow process. I'll be going back to this favorite beach of mine this weekend en route to Quito, where I will spend the next two months.
But here's my biggest news! I have decided to wait a year or two to build my dream
house, to sit back and observe the climate changes & see what El Nino brings this year of crazy weather. I'll follow the progress of the municipal project shoring up the estuary. Meanwhile, I seized the opportunity to buy a part of Alandaluz. I am purchasing a piece of land with 3 cabanas. I will live in the Casa del Poeta (named for Shakespeare - see me on the balcony calling for my Romeo?) and rent out the two curved ones as part of the Inn. It will all be administered by Alandaluz, and I should get an income of several hundred dollars a month, my portion of the rentals.
My casa overlooks my original piece of land. It has room to sleep 5 or 6 and as I type this they are beginning construction of a small attached kitchen. There's an open spiral staircase up to a loft area, a fireplace in the corner, lovely wood floors and walls with lots of windows that open to make the whole place airy and breezy. SO, dear friends, no need to wait until 08-08-08 to come visit! March '07 I will be coordinating a Yoga retreat, or come see
me any time!!
It's all happened so fast, but it all feels so right!! Keep in touch. xoJill
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