Father’s Day in Crucita

Today was a special day in Crucita at the little church.  Typically the church consists mainly of children as well as 8-10 moms that regularly attend.  As of yet there are no fathers and we thought that being that it was Father’s day, it would be a great excuse to invite fathers to come along with their families to church today.  Yesterday Dave and two other men walked the neighborhood inviting dads to come to church.  We had previously discussed that  if 5-6 came, that would be great.  I was praying for eight thinking that was a big request.  But to our surprise and delight, we had 12 dads show up with their families!  It was a beautiful thing to see them break away from their normal routines and spend family time.

Today Dave had a chance to speak to them through a fine young interpreter, Sarah.  He gave them a message of hope and explained how their responsibility in their family is so great in setting an example to their wives and children.  Of course he also presented the amazing message of salvation which is available to all people of every tribe, people and nation.


The day included music and even some of the guys joining in with clapping!   There were also a few fun games one of which needed 4 or 5 volunteer dads along with one of their children.  Dads and kids were separated and the kids were asked questions like what are their favorite foods or what is your birthday.  The dads were challenged to see if they would answer correctly!  This isn’t exactly the easiest thing when you are in front of an audience and are put on the spot!  Some did good and some not so good but it sure brought a lot of laughs especially to some of the mom’s faces.  There were also wheel barrel races which involved dads and their kids (the wheel barrels) picking up an object with their mouth and bringing it back.  It definitely involved arm strength, but some of those little fellows are pretty strong!

Everyone was also given a special snack of meat balls, pastries, and juice.  We had a such a great turn out, we ran out of food.

But Lissette and Kenya calmly whipped up some more pastries by hand and fried them up.  No worries….and the people patiently waited to be served.  In the mean time, Christian ran out to buy more food and ended up getting “corviche”.   It was my first experience with corviche and I’m not going to lie, I was a bit nervous when I was told it had fish in it.  But…..it was delicious!  This is a food common in this region in Ecuador and has fish, plantains and peanuts.  Put a little sauce on top and voila!!  Muy Rica!



We are so thankful for all the neighborhood folks who came today and put a smile on their families faces and we pray that some of the fathers will return.  Most are fishermen and their schedule is completely dependent on the ocean and what’s available for fishing at any given time.


Happy Father’s day to all the special men in my life as well.  My husband, my father in law, my daddy in heaven and other family/friends who are fathers.  We love you!


Children’s Day

Recently we were introduced to some new Ecuadorian friends here in Crucita who moved here about a year ago from Porto Viejo to follow God’s call to start a Christian ministry for the children in Crucita.  They offer a safe place for kids to go on Saturday afternoons from 3-6 as well as Sunday mornings from 10:30-12.  Recently some of the mothers have also decided to join the fun!

Today was an extra special day to celebrate kids called Dia de Ninos with over 120 neighborhood friends coming to the event!  It started off with each child receiving a breakfast of batido (similar to a milkshake or smoothie) as well as a pastry roll.  There was music, prayer and a special speaker who told them several stories relating to faith.  He asked for actors and actresses to help out as he explained the story of Jesus healing a little girl as well as two blind men.  (The blind men took their jobs very seriously…keeping their eyes tightly closed.)

In children’s church each Sunday, the kids and parents alike are awarded “money” to spend in the church store.  By participating and answering questions related to the teachings that day, they are able to earn store dollars which can be cashed in on certain days.  Well today, they had a chance to cash in!  What an excitement there was.  Some of the merchandise included things like socks, toothpaste, coloring books, books, fun jewelry and other trinkets.


Mother’s day

Today is Mother’s day of 2017 and we have been in Ecuador for just over 7 months.  I’m not going to lie…I was already slightly feeling a bit sorry for myself at the beginning of the week thinking about how I will be without my children and my mother this year.  But shortly after that I received a message from a friend of mine Rosie, who works with people with disabilities here in my area of Ecuador.  She asked if I would like to help her put together some baskets of goodies for the mothers of the families she works with.  I’m so glad she contacted me!!  Instead of sitting home and feeling sorry for myself (which I would have done) I had the tremendous privilege of getting a peak into the lives of these people here whose need is unbelievably great.

We were able to deliver groceries to about 15 families today and let them know someone cares for them!  Soon after we started on our way, it started to pour out, so many of our visits were done in the pouring rain, trudging through mud and thankfully not getting the vehicle stuck in the mud.  My next door neighbor Sandy graciously agreed to drive us around all the way from La Boca to Los Arenales.
All of the mothers are either disabled themselves or are caring for disabled family members.  Some disabilities are mental, some are physical and some are both.  Today I saw poverty unlike I have never seen before.  Many of the homes we delivered groceries to are off the beaten path, are made of bamboo, have concrete floors (some dirt), and windows open to the outside (no glass or screens).  Most furniture consists of a few plastic chairs which the families eagerly brought out from other rooms to offer us a seat.

One woman is elderly and is caring (by herself) for 4 adult children who are all blind.  One family of four (mom, dad and two small babies) live in a tiny one room house the size of a walk in closet.  One adult mentally disabled son is helping care for his elderly mother who is not able to walk or sit up.  One woman is caring for both her mentally handicapped teens by herself as her husband has passed.   One woman is completely bedridden and is cared for by her daughter in law who also cares for 4 small children.  These are only a few examples of the homes we visited today.

I am struck by the kindness of the Ecuadorian people all eager to pull up a chair and invite us to sit down with them in their home. Some even reciprocating by offering us coconut milk fresh from the coconut. All very thankful for the food and the short visits.

I was also struck by the kindness of my friend Rosie for giving of herself so tirelessly and allowing me to tag along side her.  Rosie is also Ecuadorian, has two jobs and 3 children of her own she cares for along with her husband. I’m amazed at her giving attitude and her desire to help others out even though today would have been a perfect day for her to take it easy herself.  God bless you Rosie!

The mothers I had a chance to meet today were amazing strong woman who keep going even though some days I’m sure they don’t feel like it.  It was truly a beautiful Mother’s day!


Dave and I recently had an opportunity to visit other parts of Ecuador via bus.  Our friends Yvonne and Chris, who are on the final legs of their stay in Ecuador, agreed to dog sit while we were gone.  As a result, we were able to truly enjoy traveling without having to worry about our girls!

Because Dave had to go to Guayaquil anyway to complete more steps in what has become a lengthy Visa application process, we started our travels in Guayaquil.  Guayaquil is a very hot city with similar temperature to Crucita on the coast but without as much breeze.  We stayed within walking distance to the historic downtown which is also right near the newly constructed river walk covering a distance of over 2 miles of walking.

The river walk is a fantastic place for all ages and includes children’s playgrounds and rides as well as a ferris wheel which from the top allows you to see great views of the city.  There are also beautiful gardens and coffee shops as well as other places to eat both fast food such as McDonalds as well as more fine dining.  The area is also very secure with plenty of city workers as well as security officers patrolling.

Because of our location, we were within walking to museums, shopping and restaurants.  We were able to view both the historical museum and art museum as well as take the double decker city bus tour which lasted a couple of hours.  We have found city bus tours to be a convenient way to see the city but also a easy way to get some beautiful photos both of the architecture as well as fun people watching shots!

We visited the famous Penas lighthouse which was over 444 steps up the side of the hill leading to even more steps up the lighthouse which allows panoramic views of the area.  The winding stairs leading up the hill takes you through quaint village streets with children playing, men lounging in hammocks, those who are sweeping sidewalks and watering plants.  Normal life really.  However they see tourists climbing the stairs to the lighthouse on an ongoing basis, smartly taking advantage of the long trek by selling cool drinks and snacks.

Also while we were visiting the city, we saw several demonstrations due to obvious disagreement with the recent presidential elections.  Our hostel happened to be right in the middle of the street which was closed and lined with armoured trucks as well as riot police waiting to be summoned should they be needed.  One interesting thing I saw which I thought was also very humorous was a vendor making a killing selling snacks to the riot police.  They were all lined up conveniently and were a captive audience and no doubt hungry!  There was also a vendor that was able to sell a shoe shine for one of the police lined up.  What a way to sell your goods!IMG_6960

The next stop was Cuenca located in the Andes mountains.  The bus ride included beautiful mountain scenery but also included hair pin turns and  a few heart thumping moments as the bus barrelled around corners zig zagging through the mountains.

Cuenca is a completely different climate and was a comfortable 70’s during the day with the sun out, it was lovely!  Not too hot and not too cold.  In the mornings and evenings however, the temperatures drop dramatically to the point where you need a coat or thick sweater and of course shoes and socks which we had not worn in over 6 months.  The feel in Cuenca is very cosmopolitan.  Such a wide variety of people from traditional Andes dress with the woman wearing knee length skirts, knee high socks, and black hats; to college students with gages and dreadlocks; to businessmen; to woman with jeans and below the knee leather boots and sweaters and much more.  The feel is familiar to a visiting a larger city in the US.

There is amazing ethnic foods such as Chinese, Thai, Italian, Mexican as well as real red wine served in a real wine glass as well as amazing coffee shops with pastries.  We took a city tour to Turi which is a mountain with breathtaking veiws overlooking the city.  My favorite thing about Cuenca was the “normalcy” with the amazing dining experiences.

We stayed in a simple but clean hostel  for $22 per night and in addition there was a breakfast offered for an additional $2 each which included eggs, toast, and coffee.  The pricing on other dining was more expensive than what we are used to on the coast but would be similar to what you would pay at Applebees for example but much much better quality both food and expereince.  So a good steak dinner would cost about $13.  I loved our visit in Cuenca, however the weather was not something I am ready for again having just left a cold climate in WI.

Our next stop was a one night visit to Riobamba where we were catching a bus to Banos the next morning.  We arrived in Riobamba mid afternoon and stayed in a hotel called the Tren Station which was right across from the train station (imagine that).  There are tours available in between Quito and Guayaquil  and the scenery is supposed to be spectacular however due to timing we opted to not do the train this time.  Riobamba had a more reserved feel to it as compared to Cuenca.  I didn’t see many tourists there at all and the feel was a bit off for me but we were able to walk to the main park and people watch as there was a festival going on.

A good breakfast was included with the price of the hotel and while eating I witnessed an interesting site outside the hotel.  A man was selling some type of breakfast juice which isn’t unusual, however I noticed whenever he poured a glass of his homemade juice, he used a butter knife to cut through the liquid which appeared to resemble a thick egg white consistency.  I also noticed people taking a drink of some liquid ahead of time and then having the man fill their cup with this thick substance which was also hot.  I later found out that he was serving some type of drink with what appeared to the insides of an aloe plant (which gave it the slimy texture).  I also heard that the “shot” ahead of time was a different natural drink that is extremely medicinal and good for the body.  The local Ecuadorians loved it and were lined up to get this drink as many of them appreciate more natural remedies for ailments as well as natural foods to stay healthly.

I didn’t try it, but looking back I wished I had.  Overall the weather in Riobamba was cold such as 40-60s.

We left for Banos the next morning which was just another short one hour bus ride.  Banos is a big backpackers/tourist destination and reminded me of a mix between Door Country and the Wisconsin Dells back in my home state of WI.  Since Banos is a tourist town, there were many many shops with souveniurs, and home candy made from the local sugar cane.  They pull taffy while attached at one end from a hook.

Many of the tourists there were younger and physically fit looking for hiking, rafting and other adventures.

There are backpacker’s hostels on nearly every street corner and depending on what you are looking for, you can pay anywhere from $6-$40 a night for a hostel.  We opted Hostel Carolina which included a nice sized bed as well as a private bath and breakfast included in the morning for $34.  Excursions are available in rock climbing, rafting, ziplining, waterfalls tours and even tours to the natural hot springs.  The weather can be quite cold although we had a beautiful sunny day to explore the town and again took the double decker city bus which included a ride to several waterfalls and ziplines as well as an amazing waterfall called Pailon del Diablo.  It was a long walk to the falls but the view was beautiful!  We did a lot of walking even as “non-back packers” and my feet were sore by the end of the day.

The food is delightful but not as fine as Cuenca.  Banos is overall a beautiful place to visit.  Though wonderful, one day was enough for us.

That was going to be the extent of our trip this time, however in analyzing the route back we discovered that to go back by way of Guayaquil which is how we came verses going back by way of Quito (which we had not yet seen) was not that much of a difference in terms of travel time.  A new Ecuadorian friend from Crucita had casually commented on one of my facebook posts to “come visit them in Quito”.  So we decided to take her up on the offer!  What a pleasant part of our journey!

Her and her family were so incredibly gracious and offered us to stay in their beautiful home with them (we stayed two nights).  They took us to the highlands area which showed us yet another completely different landscape of Ecuador.  Quito itself is in a high altitude with weather being cooler overall and at this time of year raining most every afternoon.  It is a large area of many different suberbs and smaller neighborhoods everywhere you turn.  The weather in the Quito area is quite diverse in itself with the valley areas being 10-15 warmer than the city.  Some areas consistently get more rain than other areas within the greater area.  To get to the highlands we traveled even higher by car  and were prepared for very cold weather.  If I had to guess it was maybe in the high 30s, but still not as cold as we are used to back in the states.  The highlands reminded me of the mountainous areas in Montana or Wyoming with beautiful
fields, lush grassy landscape and fields stretching between the hills.

We drove through a national park area where there were wild bulls, a large variety of birds, deer, rabbits, llamas, alpacas and the very protected and revered national bird, the condor.  We did see a couple of them from the distance and they were spoke about by our tour guide friends very excitedly.  We would be driving along and all of a sudden Gustavo would point and say “condor, condor!!….never mind, it’s just an eagle”.  Of course in the US, we are just as excited about seeing eagles so it was very interesting so see the excitement when seeing their national bird!  We were also able to see some condor nests in the rocks.  The highlands are beautiful and serene.  We saw wild horses as well as domestic horses with some of the local more indiginous people riding on them with their beatiful traditional hats and ponchos draped over their shoulders.  We would have never known this area existed without the help of our friends Gustavo and Patricia!  Our visit with them was priceless and they were some of the best hosts we have ever had.

Ecuador is a beautiful and diverse country.  Our travel experience was amazing and overall we felt safe while traveling by bus and enjoying the local people.



Life is precious

Today was an exciting day to witness baby turtles hatching and scrambling towards the sea.

It was beautiful to see them head for the ocean with no mama there to tell them where to go.  They just knew.  Their lives are sweet and fragile and I know that percentage wise many will not survive the unforgiving ocean with its predators searching for their next meal.  Regardless, life is beautiful and to have the privilege to see this was amazing.   At times, the waves would get so close to the babies within centimeters, but not quite enough.

The next wave would take them head of heals into the water topsy-turvy to start their new life and adventure in the sea.   As the babies reached the water, I could hear shouts and claps from the local children.  And then as quickly as the excitement of that turtle reaching the water was, it was over as the ocean drew them in.

Ironically at the same time this was happening, I looked up and saw a funeral procession on the Malecon.  I couldn’t help but wonder who this person was and what their life was like.  Their loved ones respectfully carried the coffin down the street as is the custom in Ecuador.  While others sang beautiful songs in mourning.

All life is precious and we never know when it ends here on this Earth.  I’m reminded just how fragile our lives are.  For turtles, it may only last seconds or minutes.  Or it could last for many years.  Likewise, as humans we never know when our time on Earth is over either.  This past week, a friend from WI passed away.  He was only in his 50’s.  The week before, another beautiful young mother and wife that I know from WI passed away in her 30’s.

I’m reminded to take advantage of each day on Earth that I have.   I’m reminded to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving.  I’m reminded to count my blessings.  I’m reminded to be ready to meet my Maker at a moment’s notice because life is precious and we never know how much longer we have here.

It’s a Dog’s Life


Moving to Ecuador was not only a transition for Dave and I but also for Audrey and Lilly, our dogs.   Where we are located, in Crucita, there are so many street dogs and beach dogs without homes that we have to be very cautious about where we allow them to be outside of our home.  We live in a single family home on the beach with a fenced yard which is absolutely wonderful for them in terms of going in and out to go to the bathroom.  Our doors are always open and they are free to roam in and out at will which is fantastic.  But for the most part they are not outside of the property which is a bit restrictive compared to what they were used to.

We choose not to walk them on the streets at all mainly because their behavior is not the nicest toward other dogs.  They like to bark and make a lot of noise which would bring all of us trouble I’m afraid.  We do walk them on the beach though, and it is especially nice during low tide when we can put a nice distance between us and the areas where the fishing boats are (this is where many of the beach strays live).  We always have them leashed because it’s so unpredictable when a dog may come running out.  There are no dog parks here to let them run free.  We are also not able to take them for car rides anymore which is something they loved back in the states.  We have however been able to take them for a couple of rides on the local tuks tuks, which they seem to enjoy quite a bit!



Lilly is part shihtzu and requires regular grooming.  We were able to find a groomer that will come to the house which is very convenient!  She plugs her shears in outside and Lilly gets a groom right on the patio!  If I were able to ask Lilly what she prefers, I would bet she likes the grooming here as opposed to going to the “spa” back home.  I did miss the other parts of the treatment that we got back home like getting ears cleaned, bath, anal glands expressed (I know…gross) and a cute bow, but overall the groomer here got the main job done.

Groomers are often trained veterinarians here as well, which ours was.  We were told prior to leaving the states that Audrey (our dachshund mix) had a bad tooth that should be removed.  We asked the vet/groomer to take a look and she didn’t think it needed to be pulled however she did recommend a good cleaning to get tartar off.  We opted to get both girls teeth cleaned the following week.  As a result we were able to get some experience with veterinarian services here as well.

Since teeth cleaning requires some local anesthetic, we were instructed to not let either dog eat or drink prior to 9PM the night before.  When the vet arrived to do the cleaning, she had also brought an assistant with her to help with the process.  All of this was again done on the same patio as the grooming.  The dogs were administered the anesthetic and teeth were cleaned all in the confines of the home which is wonderful!

What isn’t as wonderful is that as owners, we were involved in the process which was a bit nerve-wracking.  Each dog handled the anesthetic completely different.  Audrey who is usually the most mild mannered was the first to be done and her body shook throughout the process (which lasted about an hour) of getting her teeth cleaned .  After the procedure which involved bleeding gums, she was laid on a towel to let the medicine wear off while Lilly was next.  Lilly’s body reacted quite different and she was very relaxed and limp throughout the process.


Both dogs had lost control of their tongues and the way we knew they were starting to come out of the anesthetic was their tongue slowly went back in place as they gained control.  Audrey was crying and moaning and it sounded horrible.  She kept also trying to walk and get up but she couldn’t as she was so disoriented and unsteady.  I had to hold her down from trying to get up so she wouldn’t hurt herself.  Lilly didn’t make a peep and seemed content to stay put until her antistatic wore off.

Dave and I were both very relieved when the dogs were back to their old selves again!

Since we’ve only been here a short time, I’ve yet to find out about shots and what if anything is recommended differently here in Ecuador for them.  They were completely up to date when we left the states, so I still have time to learn this as time goes on.

Flees and ticks are quite prevalent here and we found a natural exterior preventative to rub on them every two weeks to protect from bites.

They are great little watch dogs for us and are able to stand on the balcony and look over if anyone comes to the gate so they keep us alerted at all times!

They also love chasing the little geckos that scurry around the yard at lightning speed!

We had brought some of their good quality food with us which we have just recently run out of.  So going forward, we have decided to feed them a mixture of homemade food (rice, carrots, some garlic- which also helps keep insects away, liver, gizzards, chicken) with some dry dog food that we have found here.

Audrey has always been a fan of the warm weather (always in the 80s here) and even still looks for patches of sun to soak up.  Lilly prefers the shade but has more fur!  Overall, I think they approve of their new home and have settled nicely in.  And of course mom and dad most likely wouldn’t have even made this move without them!



There’s the good, the bad and the Reality.

It has been almost three months that Dave and I have moved to Ecuador.  A land that we had never visited before.

A sense of normal is settling in and now I’m finding that things that once fascinated me that I couldn’t believe I was seeing are very common place to me.   This is a beautiful place to live and extremely affordable especially for ocean front living!  At the same time, this is not the US and it is not a resort in Mexico.  There are things that are common place here that I’ve never seen back home and I’m sure there are many more experiences yet to come.  I wanted to write about a few things we’ve experienced so far.

There are many  stray dogs here in Crucita.  Recently a spay clinic was set up to spay any female dogs for free which is wonderful, but certainly not the final resolution to the stray problem.  The dogs are full of tics and mites and mange.  All are looking for food and for the most part are quite non aggressive unless they belong to a territory such as some of the beach dogs.  They don’t want any other animals (like our two small dogs) in their territory and send off warnings to stay away.  But the street dogs are simply walking along looking for a morsel.  Some are too tired to run, so they walk sluggishly or lay on the side of the street napping.  Yesterday it warmed my heart to see a worker at a restaurant slip out the side door and feed (and even pet) one of the strays with food that would be tossed out.  We gave him a thumbs up when we saw that.  Understandably though, the restaurants don’t want to feed the strays or they will be hanging around begging for food and disturbing the customers.

We also see pigs tied to trees getting ready to become food to feed the family.  It was told us that each family is allowed by law to have one pig on their property at a time.  One day I heard some squealing happening and I imagine that was “the day” the family got their food.  Today we saw two goats trotting through Las Aranales.  I’m sure they have a place they below, but they were on their own today.

At the end of our street we saw chickens being plucked by two woman.  Chicks can be purchased quite inexpensively here to be raised as food for families.  So it’s not uncommon for families to have them in a small yard in the back of the house right in town.  The chickens do taste quite wonderful here and of course there are always fresh eggs.

The streets here are mainly dirt although there are a few block or paved streets.  The main street in Los Aranales(which is named calle Diciembre 25th) is paved, but filled with potholes.  The tuk tuks (or motor taxis) know right where the bumps are as they maneuver all over the rode to create the least uncomfortable ride for their customers.  Rides cost 50 cents per person pretty much wherever you want to go in the area.  Although vehicles mainly stay to the right, there are no real lanes here.  Passing other vehicles is common place and you hear a lot of people blowing their horns.  This is done out of courtesy as they pass someone rather than impatience or anger like in the states.  Most of the roads do not have sidewalks and you need to walk in the dust and dirt to avoid traffic.  Buses and motorcycles whiz by within inches of hitting you it seems!  Often you will see families on a motorcycle, with the baby in the front.  The driver is required to wear a helmet by law, but no one else is including the kids.  market

This is the time of year I am told it gets quite warm and I’ve definitely felt a change in the humidity level.  It does no good to take a shower if you are walking any distance as you will soon be filled with salt, sweat and dust.  My hair is no longer a cute sassy cut (or at least I thought so) with highlights, but rather tied up or put back with a headband or hat to stay out of my face and keep cool.  My hair constantly feels dirty mostly because of the salt in the air.  Should I keep it really short?  That is a serious consideration right now.

There are no grocery stores in Crucita, but rather tiendas which are tiny family stores that typically you do not go in, but instead tell the owner what you want and they pass it to you through the bars.  Not all tiendas have the same things and may have one item one week, but not have it again for a long time.  Tiendas are for purchasing mostly dried goods such as chips, bread,  laudrey soap etc.  Or at least that is what we mainly purchase there.  The normal grocery store where you shop with a shopping cart, they play music and there is air conditioning is about 45 minutes away from here.  Since we do not have a vehicle, we typically take the public bus in and it will take about one hour twenty minutes to an hour and a half to get there ($1.50 each).  Then you need to get back, so if you have ice cream or other frozen items it’s best to hire a taxi for $12.

It’s possible to get by without having to go to the large grocery store, as you can get what you need here for the most part.  Chickens are sold on the side of the road hanging up with the vendors waving away flies.  The market here has all sort of fruits, vegetables and meat.  Again, the meat is not what you are used to seeing as it is unrefrigerated and hanging by hooks in the market.  Typically I see the carcass of the animal with the fur on it hanging along side.  I’m not sure if that is there as an advertisement to what type of animal it is or if people will buy them.  They will chop the meat up with machetes over blocks of wood.  No plastic gloves are used to put your meat in the bag and money is collected from the same individual.

Sometimes power outages are frequent.  Knock on wood, we have had very few of them over the past couple weeks, but prior to that it seemed every couple days the power would go out.  When that happens, there is no internet connection either.  At times the power can go out for quite awhile such as 12 hours or so.  Most of the time, it is a short period of time…but when it goes out, you never know when it will go back on. We were without internet recently for 3 days.  During that time, we cannot use the water either because the water pump is electric.  So we have water set aside for times like this just to take a sponge bath if needed.  Our drinking water is never from the faucet anyway, so drinking water is always available even during power outages.

So there you have it folks. This is our new reality that I wanted to share.  We do not live an American lifestyle for the most part (although some folks here choose to do this).  In writing this, I wanted to paint a real picture of life here so that people back home do not assume we are living a resort style beach bum life.  Or anyone who wants to visit, knows what they are visiting!  We love it here but it is different than what some might think.