My Patchwork Career

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February 8th 2017
Published: February 17th 2017
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Unkempt MannequinsUnkempt MannequinsUnkempt Mannequins

Seen in a posh boutique on a street corner in Baños - Lovely display, but one gal has a receding hairline, the other seems to have a boobie issue.
WoW! Is it February already? January just flew by - well, I was busy working most of the month. Just after New Year's I had to renew my driver's license. Since it was the first day of operations at the DMV, the program for the online test had not uploaded yet...I had to wait for THREE hours! To stave off boredom I copied all the contacts and numbers from my six year old Nokia cell phone, scribbling them on every bit of scrap paper I could find. Little did I know how grateful I'd be to have those numbers because the next day my phone died, just before I was heading down to the coast. I couldn't make the solo drive without a phone so I bought a cheapo cel. During the weeks I was working at Hosteria Mandala in Puerto Lopez, I had the waiters enter all the numbers into my new phone during their free moments.

I'd not worked as substitute manager at the beachfront hotel in over a year and a half so there was lots of new stuff to learn. Mandala now takes reservations through and accepts credit cards,
Mandala's New FacadeMandala's New FacadeMandala's New Facade

Since the waterfront walkway was completed, the front fence of Hosteria Mandala was also redone. The openwork of the leaping dolphin design allows from maximum beach viewing from the terrace.
two big changes which entail a lot more administrative work. I hadn't been there before during January (the hottest season) and I was sweating profusely as I tried to learn all I needed to know in just a few days before the owner left. I was so grateful for the portable fan I'd brought back from the US with me! It took a couple of days to hit my stride, but once I did it felt great to be back behind the reception counter. The hotel was very busy - full of Argentines and Chileans on their summer break, Canadians escaping a harsh winter, and folks from the US fleeing Trump Inauguration Trauma. There was a wonderful Swiss family (three sweet little kids) who stayed for over a week and when they tried to leave their rental car wouldn't start -- I was able to successfully jump their battery with Scarlett the truck!

Among the hotel guests was a couple who had taught at Colegio Americano in Quito before I did (I was there from 1988-1990). We knew dozens of people in common! They have lived in Ecuador all these years in a
Dog Walker Dog Walker Dog Walker

The mornings I had free I usually too a long walk on the beach with the dogs - a guest shot this photo of the four of us. Low tide reveals magical shells & stones!
small town near Guayaquil. - I hope to visit them in Milagro one of these days. There was an American couple, living in Cuenca and the wife recognized me - I remembered her too when she reminded me that we'd met while lunching at the same restaurant in Saraguro several years earlier. WoW! A lovely Canadian couple had first come to Mandala when I was working there in 2014 - they are retired international teachers and we had a special connection then which was renewed when they returned for a visit. They invited me to stay with them at their home in Cuenca, which I have since done.

I didn't have much free time so I was only able to visit with a few friends. On the way up the coast I stopped at Pat's house and she loaded me up with donations and downloaded audio books. The following week we had lunch in town at a new Italian place. I managed to escape one morning with Marianne & Abdullah to our favorite swimming hole, the Agua Blanca sulphur lagoon. Ahh!!! And of course we chowed down on the delicious local corviche (fish
The New MaleconThe New MaleconThe New Malecon

The waterfront walkway is finally complete - and thank heavens they didn't touch the palm trees! Here the dogs are parading on the new paving stone pedestrian and bicycle lanes.
and plantain dumplings with peanut paste and spicy sauce). As in the past, I could order off the menu anything I wanted to eat while working at Mandala. It's an ample menu - amazing food - a challenge for me to eat healthy meals and not gain weight.

Most mornings I walked for an hour on the beach with the dogs. The last time I had worked at Mandala there were five big dogs, but two of them passed away in 2016 so it was just Carbon, Julieta & their daughter Xanga. Occasionally I'd wear my swimsuit and we'd got for a dip. Juli just likes to lie down in the surf, Carbon won't go in past his armpits, but Xanga goes way into the waves with me, leaping and jumping like a dolphin in the deliciously warm water. Emerging from the sea Xanga would roll in the sand (doggie burrito!) and then, when she laid down to dry on the terrace she'd leave a dog-shaped pile of sand! On our beach walks I'd always stop to collect mosaic fodder- small greenish stones, interesting shells, gifts from the sea. This time with the
Puddles of DognessPuddles of DognessPuddles of Dogness

All three dogs just loved hanging out in my room! And I loved their company (except when Carbon woke me up with his fragrant farts!)
dogs, away from the hotel, is essential to my emotional well-being when I'm working so hard and such long hours.

The dogs always wanted to come in my room, whether I was napping or turning in for the night. Fortunately, it's a large room - enough space for three huge dogs to spread out! On the whole, they stayed calmer through the night when they were inside with me (not reacting to everything that moves in the garden) and for the most part they didn't interrupt my sleep. Xanga liked to lean up against my bed frame and when she would turn over it sometimes felt like a mini earthquake. And Carbon would cut some wicked farts - imagine being awakened by a poopie stench! Caring for and loving on the dogs is definitely one of the best parts of this job!! CiCi didn't come along with me this time because I had to head right up to Quito for another job. She will be with me when I return to Mandala in May for a 3 month stint

Time to drive back up over the Andes, this
Glorious CascadeGlorious CascadeGlorious Cascade

A pause en route back up the mountains to snap a picture of this amazing waterfall (if you can see my armpit in the side view mirror does it count as a selfie?)
time headed for Quito. I took the most direct route, which of course is the one that the trucks and buses take. I hadn't gone this way in years and was told that there were now passing lanes all along the way- keeps you from getting stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle on the steep uphill stretches. I had forgotten about the beautiful the waterfalls all along the way...breathtaking!

Just as I was approaching the interchange with the Panamerican Highway I was pulled over for speeding. I had been passing a semi-truck in the passing lane on a curve and had not seen the speed limit sign that indicated a drop from 80 to 60 km/hr because of the curve -the sign was hidden behind the truck. I was clocked at 83 km/hr and the cop advised me that he could put me in jail for three days for that infraction. Having been stopped by cops at least a half a dozen times in as many months, I've learned to read their body language to see if there's a way to get around a fine. Much as I hate contributing to the corrupt system of bribes,
My Quito DigsMy Quito DigsMy Quito Digs

When I am working in Quito I always stay at Posada de Maple (my pied-a-terre in the big city). This visit my room included a charming terrace overlooking the tree-lined street.
it would be worse to lose my license - you start with 30 pts and they lop off up to 10 pts each time. I asked the cop if there was a way to settle the fine there and then and he acted all shocked, saying he could lose his job and he had a family and blah blah blah. As his pen hovered over the blank ticket he told me he was going to help me out this time and it was up to my good will whether I gave him something for his kindness. Oh jeez! Semantics! $5-$10 does the trick, but I feel dirty paying off the police!

I arrived in Quito a day before my next job began so I had scheduled several doctor appointments and blood tests. I've had a chronic eye infection and I was glad to have the opthamologist tell me it was just an allergy, nothing more serious. My blood tests were all good and the scar from my operation is fully healed. I continue to have discomfort from the wound on my foot from the injury nearly a year and a half ago. It especially flares
Like to Lick ItLike to Lick ItLike to Lick It

Whenever I'm scraping a bowl, CiCi comes up and bumps my leg with her nose, letting me know she'd be glad to do the pre-rinse lick-off! I sure missed my baby while I was away working!
up when I have to drive long distances. When I'm in Quito I almost always stay at Posada de Maple, a friendly hostel with a parking spot for Scarlett. I leave my truck and take taxis most everywhere. Quito traffic is awful and parking my big truck in next to impossible! It's always interesting to chat with taxi drivers - I found out a lot about the upcoming elections here, and I often learn new driving shortcuts around the city.

My job in Quito was to assess an TESOL Certificate Training for English teachers. I've been working as the TESOL assessor for 6 or 7 years now so the report writing process has gotten easier. I observe two half days of the intensive course, chatting with the trainers and interviewing the participants. It's always interesting to meet the folks who decide to take the course - many aspire to stay and work in Ecuador so I keep in contact with some of them. I ended up driving down to Cuenca with one of the participants after she came to visit Baños. I got the report written and set off to collect donations from friends in
Pre-Birthday LuncheonPre-Birthday LuncheonPre-Birthday Luncheon

Some friends were visiting from out of town (three separate groups) so I decided to combine them all (very diverse folks!) for a luncheon in the garden.
Quito before returning to Baños. Picking up stuff is a great excuse to visit friends! In one day I visited three friends who have black labs! Ramiro's dog Rex is a love, I had lunch with the Rule family and their mischevious Tristan and I stopped to chat with Walt and his rambunctious girl Ella. Between my luggage from the coast and all the donations I collected, my truck was pretty full!

I was so happy to see my CiCi pup after over three weeks apart. Many thanks to Kirk who sent me photos of her from time to time, like the pic of CiCi standing between his two big cats saying, "I'm tired of these felines, I want my Mommy!" We unloaded and sorted the Quito donations, had a super successful day of sales at the BIB Bazar. I caught up on Scrabble with Shana, went to the hot spring mineral baths (ahhh!!!) and while I rented out my truck for 4 days to a friend moving down to the coast, I stayed home and cooked up a storm! I was expecting a lot of visitors so I made all kinds of finger foods
Hanging OutHanging OutHanging Out

Carby & Juli enjoyed relaxing on the spare bed in my room. Such sweet pups!
(like my famous Jewish Mexican Sushi - lox / cream cheese / asparagus rolled up in flour tortillas and cut into bite-sized pieces). I hosted a luncheon in the garden (the weather cooperated!) for friends visiting from various places. It was a hodge-podge group of folks and everyone enjoyed meeting and sharing a meal in a beautiful setting.

The very next day I headed down to Cuenca (6 hrs drive) to pick up more donations. The gal from the teacher training course rode down with me and the time flew by with lively conversation and good music. A Peruvian couple who collects and stores donations invited us to join them for lunch, since we were rolling into town at midday (early start means you get on the road before the trucks and buses!) I stayed with my new friends in Cuenca, the couple who stayed at Mandala...what wonderful people! Eileen insisted I take a soak in the big jacuzzi tub off their bedroom...she didn't have to ask twice! In the middle of a day filled with donations pick-ups, I scheduled a lunch so I was able to see a few friends. After winding my way around Cuenca
Guest Book ArtworkGuest Book ArtworkGuest Book Artwork

The cover has a lacquered layer of percebes shells (like tiny bivalve crabs) which assembled in mosaic form resemble monarch butterfly wings. Art inspires art and tourists leave drawings & poetry in the book.
I returned to Baños with my truck heaving with donations!

So, I've been busy busy sorting and pricing and getting ready for the next BIB Bazar Saturday. Many thanks to Julie (who likes to iron), Priscilla (who's willing to mend) and Flo who helps with pricing and display. Sad to say good-bye to Pat, the marketing whiz who used my truck to move back down to the coast. During all the donation prep I began giving some private lessons (English & French) and I turned 57. My birthday was kind of a downer this year - I was sick with a cold, my computer crashed and I had a $500 repair to my truck -- but I'm claiming the lovely lunch as the start of my bday and in a few days another luncheon to celebrate the BIB Bazar will also celebrate my birthday! Thanks for reading.

Be sure to scroll all the way to the end to see more pictures of the Mandala dogs.

Additional photos below
Photos: 14, Displayed: 14


Dusk on the Dining TerraceDusk on the Dining Terrace
Dusk on the Dining Terrace

Julieta and Carbon are waiting for dinnertime.
Mobiles & WindchimesMobiles & Windchimes
Mobiles & Windchimes

The more you look, the more you see. The reception area at Mandala is filled with unique toys and games, noise-makers and works of art.
Carby SmileCarby Smile
Carby Smile

Carbon is a big love of a Great Dane! I really bonded with him on this last visit. Cuddling his huge head in my lap -it's the size of a small dog!

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