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Published: August 10th 2017
CiCi joins the pack
Carbon & Xanga welcomed a new little pack member. CiCi and Xanga love to wind each other up!
As many of you know I usually spend part of each year working as substitute hotel manager on the coast of Ecuador. After last year's earthquake and the ensuing drop in tourism, the owners didn't travel much which meant that I didn't have work here in 2016. I came back to help out for two weeks in January and now I'm here for three months, along with my baby CiCi. As of this writing I'm well into my third month working here, and haven't yet managed to publish this blog which gives you an idea of how busy (or lazy) I've been. The first month was pretty chill, but the past 6 weeks have been non-stop, with the hotel filled to bursting! Fortunately, I've been feeling great during this busy time -- but early on I had a tough patch with my health.
A few weeks after I started working, I was putting on some shorts (fresh from the laundry) and suddenly felt an electrical zing in my thigh. I quickly pulled them off and found a half-dead stunned wasp, right in the crotch area of the pants. He was as surprised as I
Scarlett on the Boardwalk
When the Mandala parking lot was full, Scarlett slept on the street oceanfront!
was! Almost instantly my entire inner thigh started to pulse and ache. I took some benadryl, sprayed on alcohol and hoped for the best. It got very red and swollen, but didn't bother me too much while I was working the next day. The following morning my inner thigh was hot and hard and painful. I went to see Mrs. Jesus at the pharmacy and asked her for a cortisone injection. That did the trick - in just a few hours the swelling had gone down and my leg was much better.
The next day, however, I started having really sharp pains in my left side. They continued on and off for the next few days, sometimes so intense that I couldn't breathe or speak for a moment. I was visiting with some friends one evening, two of whom happen to be retired nurses and they thought it sounded like I was passing a kidney stone. I contacted a chiropractor friend who recommended a homeopathic remedy and an herbal tea (chancapiedra). Swimming really helped to ease the pain. At the same time I tried visualizing a miniscule stone (like a grain
Path to my Room
Lush gardens reveal new surprises every day. Sleeping to the gentle sound of waves interspersed with birdsong.
of salt) leaving my body. A few more days of less intense pain and it was done. I guess I got off easy - they say men suffer much more passing stones, if that is indeed what it was.
Almost right after the suspected kidney stone, I got a cold - a head cold that filled my sinuses and as it drained made my throat feel like I was swallowing razor blades. Knowing that my body does not fight infection well, I had brought along azithromycin. I started taking it right away, hoping to stave off worse complications. The day after I finished the course of antibiotics, the congestion dropped to my lungs, causing a tight painful cough. At night I kept myself awake with my wheezy breathing (harmonizing with the buzzing of the mosquitoes which managed to get inside my net). All the while I kept working, hacking away and running a fever. Every minute I wasn't in reception, I was in bed. One day I had to call my colleague and beg him to start his shift early so I could get back in bed.
Out of Breath
Nebulizing at the community health center -- not feeling too great at all.
Someone suggested I go to the local free health clinic where, fortunately there were only a few people waiting ahead of me. I was examined by a doctor, given a cortisone injection and then hooked up to a nebulizer machine which opened my bronchial passages, allowing me to breathe more fully. I went back in the afternoon for another nebulization session and they told me to return the next day. They prescribed an effervescent tab which help to break up my congestion and helped me to expectorate. My coughing became very phlegmy and at times I felt like I was choking. When I went back to the clinic the following day there was a several hour wait and I was told that the doctor who had seen me was no longer there so I couldn't be treated since he hadn't left any instructions.
Sick and frustrated, I went in search of a real doctor and I found Doctora Lizbeth, a young woman from Guayaquil who had just opened her practice. She diagnosed an acute bronchial infection, prescribed two inhalers, a different antibiotic and told me to stop the
On the Beach
A memorable walk with Nate & Ang and baby Darwin. Too bad Darwin was not feeling too well.
fizzy phlegm tabs which were indeed choking me as my bronchial tubes constricted. Within a few days I was feeling much better, and Dra Lizbeth ended up being important the following week as well. Nate (nephew of my good friend Walt) had come to visit Mandala with his uncle, wife Ang and toddler son Darwin who had a mishap while exploring the gardens. It seems a plant poked him in the eye. Worried young parents recently arrived in Ecuador, I acted as their interpreter (and Jewish Mama) thru the ordeal. After a few days they went back to Quito to see a specialist who discovered a bit of a leaf lodged behind the eyeball -- so lucky there was no damage to little Darwin's eye!
Same as every time I've come down to manage the hotel, I have the best of intentions to eat healthy and exercise regularly. I injured my shoulder during my first yoga class and it hurt so much during the second class that I haven't been back. For awhile I was swimming two mornings a week in a friend's pool but lately it's been cool and drizzly
A Piece of Paradise
Eternally grateful to Susie & Paul for allowing me to exercise and unwind with twice weekly morning swims in their breathtaking ocean-view pool.
and my work hours have gotten longer and more intense. Many mornings it's up to me to go to the market to do the fruit and vegetable shopping. I have, however, consistently managed to take the dogs out for an hour-long walk on the beach a few times a week, dependent on if low tide coincides with my free time. All that bending down to pick up stones and shells must be doing something for my waistline!
On every beach walk I collect tons (well,hundreds of pounds) of shells and rocks and driftwood. I have all these plans of how to incorporate them into mosaics in my new house. Those swimming mornings in Paul & Susan's hilltop pool were heavenly -- a few meditative hours of dreaming about my house and how I want to fix it up. I am so so eager to get back to Banos, full of ideas and imaginings even though I've really only once seen the inside and only one of the two little houses on the property! It may sound like the purchase was impulsive, but I've been looking at this house from the outside
Every beach walk with the dogs yields a myriad of colored rocks...I imagine the flower box mosaics I'll make at my new house!
for over 4 years (since a for sale sign first appeared, then disappeared from the gate). One night I had a dream that I was touring the inside of my new home and kept finding secret passages and storerooms.
I definitely had less free time than I thought I would, but I did manage to reconnect with old friends and even make a few new ones. I spent Mother's Day with my adopted family in Salango, the next village south. I wanted to bring a cake but all three bakeries in town were sold out by the time I got off work and was heading over there, so I went to the new, posh grocery store (TIA) and bought an ice cream cake that we had to eat quickly since there was nowhere to keep it cold! One night I invited my favorite waiter, Freddy, and his beautiful family out for pizza (his eldest child, Yibely, is my goddaughter) and on his birthday I took the whole family down the coast to Montanita (they'd never been).
I shuffled my schedule so I
Paola turned 40 and we all gathered at Ancora to celebrate her special day!
was able to attend a luncheon for a friend's 40th bday. It was also a farewell party for her as she set off on a solo journey along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I was invited to several community dinners, one featuring Thai food and another with amazing Indian cuisine. Since I only had to work at night twice a week, I could escape for a few hours to have dinner out with friends. At the end of the day, though, the best food in Puerto Lopez is at Mandala, so more than a few times I invited friends to come have a meal with me here at the hotel.
I managed several excursions to the Agua Blanca lagoon, one of my favorite swimming spots. On my first visit I made the mistake of believing the guy who told me that the river was passable and my truck got stuck in a hole. In the process of pushing me out, Marianne hurt her back (cracked vertebra) and my front license place disappeared. A friend joked that after the next big rain I should look for it on the beach when
Truck Stuck in the River
Very grateful to this pushing posse (esp Marianne who injured her back in the process!) Alas, the next day I realized that my front license plate was gone...major hassle to replace!
the river breaks through the estuary! It was a bit of a hassle to do all the paperwork to replace it -- new plates, new numbers, new vehicle registration, inspection, lots of forms and processes to pay for -- but amazingly I was able to do it all here in Puerto Lopez
I had a visit from my adventurous Quito friend, Lupe, and we spent a morning in Agua Blanca working alongside a Canadian archaeologist on the site of a house he is uncovering. Luke has created an opportunity for tourists to experience the excitement of discovering the past. As we gently removed layer after layer of soil, there emerged parts of the adobe walls and the edge of a clay skillet. Using trowels and brushes we worked slowly and carefully -- exciting stuff!! Lupe and I also drove down to La Rinconada and tried the famous $10 lobster meal (looked better than it tasted - see photo below).
Some friends who live in Cuenca planned a visit to the hotel during my tenure as manager. While they were here
When Lupe came to visit, we joined Luke's dig for a few hours. It was a really cool experience!!!
I got away for a morning and we went up to Los Frailes Beach, one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Ecuador. The hike up to the mirador lookout point is well worth the effort! Another afternoon I drove with them to the next village south, Salango, where there is a wonderful archaeological museum. We visited my adopted family and they rode along with us up to a hilltop mirador with views of the coast looking south. Gorgeous! To finish the afternoon's explorations I introduced them to corviche, what I like to call "a hand grenade of deliciousness"- it's made with green plantain dough enveloping peanut paste and a slab of albacore tuna or a handful of shrimp, then fried and served with a salad of spicy shredded veggies. So tasty!!
I did take a few trips up to Manta (the big city an hour and a half north of here) to do some banking. I had to cash out my term policies and transfer money for the purchase of my house. Marianne and I had chiropractor visits and I had to do some shopping for the hotel; things
A Visit from Good Friends
Chuck and Nancy live in Cuenca and they arranged their busy travel schedule so they could come stay at Mandala while I was working. So nice to see them.
we can't get in small town Puerto Lopez like coconut milk for making ice cream, decent aluminum foil, imported bottled wines, tonic water, and good quality beef. To celebrate the purchase of my house I invited two friends out for lunch at the nicest restaurant in Manta, Martinica (yum!)
There were two more sets of friends whose visits overlapped. Tamara, who is doing earthquake relief work 5 hours north of here up the coast, came for a few days with a new beau at the same time that Mary was here with her daughter Amy. Mary & I taught together in Scotland in 1985, when Amy was 11 yrs old! I'd seen Amy and met her hubby once in Chicago, but it was wonderful to see them both again, albeit briefly. All 5 of us went out to dinner at a posh restaurant that's only open on weekends. What a wonderful evening! Then Tamara stayed on by herself for a few more days which overlapped with a brief visit from a former student. I'd taught Eva in Atlanta when she was an 8th grader; now she's almost 30 and is herself
Off to the city dump in the owner's beast of a truck full of dead palm fronds. One more more fun aspect of my job!! (thanks for the great pic Nancy!)
a teacher. Since I had to work I loaned Tamara my truck and she showed Eva around.
My job at the hotel is never dull, always varied! One morning found me driving the owner's beast of a truck to cart off dead palm leaves. The trip to the dump was quite an experience! I arranged to have new uniforms made for all of the staff, oversaw the gardener's duties, and coordinated the refinishing of the chonta wood deck. I had to arrange for the generator to be shipped to Quito for repairs, and then live with the tension of running the hotel without back-up electricity...lying awake at night imagining 65 guests having to flush toilets with buckets if the water pumps didn't work! Fortunately, the power didn't cut out during the almost two weeks we were generator-less. I dealt with broken water pipes, the computer in reception repeatedly crashing, arachnaphobic hotel guests, and host of other fun challenges!
But the best part of my job, as always, is meeting cool people from all over the world and hearing their stories. When there's
Future Fruit Salad
Several mornings a week it fell to me to do the shopping. The fish gets delivered to the hotel, but each day we buy fresh fruit and veg at the market.
a lovey dovey couple I sometimes ask how and when they met. There was the Chinese guy and the German girl who'd met on a tour in Washington DC. Several gals who came to stay were taking a break from a TESOL English Teacher Training course - headed for jobs in the Middle East. One woman had just come from a volunteer month in Quito training therapy dogs for handicapped kids. A Swiss guy wrote ahead to say he was planning to propose to his Ecuadorian girlfriend (they communicated in broken English) and asked if we could arrange for flowers, champagne and candles...which we did. At the table next to them was a couple (US/Ecuador) who'd just gotten married the weekend before. Love was in the air.
When all of the guests were couples and adults it was wonderfully calm at the hotel, even when it was quite full...but as soon as there were more than 2 or 3 children the whole atmosphere changed. This was the first time I'd worked during whale season and the hotel was packed with the average stay of 2, 3 or 4 nights. A lot
One of my many extra jobs - coordinating the purchase of fabric & the measuing/sewing of uniforms for 18 employees!
of turnover, a lot of check-ins and check-outs, so many families, a lot of work! The kids all loved CiCi and I loved hearing their little voices calling her name all the time! A fully bilingual French Canadian family stayed longer so I got to know their 3 kids a bit better. As other families came through they played with both French and English speaking kids. Sometimes when the little ones were messing around in the music room upstairs it was hard to concentrate on answering the dozens of emails in different languages!
They say that speaking foreign languages can help stave off Alzheimers -- I should be in good shape as I had to switch regularly between Spanish and English and French and German. I had to remember whO spoke which language, i'd be writing in one English, have to answer the phone in Spanish and then immediately change to help someone in their native tongue. The French tourists were pleasantly surprised that I could speak French and virtually all of them complimented me on how well I spoke...especially surprised to find out that I'm American.
Still Cleaning up at Midnight
Ana Rosa, buried under pots and pans, doesn't look too happy.
I don't know if I'll have this hotel job again -- now that I'll own a house and hopefully run an Air BnB, I may decide to stay closer to home. Each time I say NO, this is the last time I'll do this, I end up accepting another stint. It's such challenging work, but also very gratifying. I love the place, I love the owners, I love the staff and I love the dogs. If not for that, they couldn't pay me enough to compensate the hard work and number of hours I put in...even when sharing the position with two other people! It's all consuming. Please scroll down and click for more photos ... of the dogs, of local friends, of Puerto Lopez. Thanks for reading and send me a comment or message, I love hearing from you.
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