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.

 

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Giving thanks on Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving and we are without internet.  I’m hoping to have it up by this afternoon since I have a tentative Skype date with my family (mom, sister, brothers) back home.  I emailed my sister Lin yesterday and we arranged for 3 central but then added in a second email this is providing we have internet.  So, it may or may not happen.

I’m learning to not depend on the internet which is a very foreign concept for me in my past life in the US.  Since I try to be thankful always, not just on Thanksgiving, I thank God that I have the opportunity to type this out on a computer while sitting on my patio and watch the beautiful Pacific waves roll in with fishing boats all anchored patiently waiting for their catch in the distance.

Our neighbors, Jim and Cat, who are both retired truck drivers from the states are without power.  I feel horrible for them because they have been having serious power issues ever since they moved in just a week prior to us.  They are renting the large house next door which is owned by the same couple that owns our beach house.  Unfortunately, for the past couple of weeks, their power has been out almost as much as it has been on.  Daily, it seems, we’ll get a call from Jim asking us if we have power.  Most of the time we do, but they do not.  Since it is common here for the power to go out, they like to know if it’s an area wide thing, or specific to their house again.  Being that these properties are owned by the same people, the internet is basically shared and when their power goes out, our internet goes out.  So, we have been without internet for the vast majority of the month, yet I’m very thankful that we have power.  We are hoping that their problem gets resolved quickly or they may need to relocate to a different property.  Not having power affects so much more than not having lights.  We take for granted that we will have a refrigerator and freezer functioning properly without fail, but obviously lack of power is something serious for food storage when you are in a warm climate.

Today, being Thanksgiving, we were supposed to share a Thanksgiving meal with them at their house, but at this point that has been cancelled.  I was hoping they would come here as I am making two small chickens but they are staying home and sitting this issue out and hopefully getting it resolved.  I’m planning on mashed potatoes/gravy and a version of green bean casserole.    I say this because I was not able to find French Fried onions which is what makes it so yummy.  So, I will improvise and use fresh cut up green beans, mushroom soup from a package and hope it tastes good.  I was able to find Campbells Mushroom soup here as they keep some things on hand for the gringos however you pay gringo prices then, and in the case of the soup it was over $2.50 a can.  So, no thanks I will make up mushroom soup from a package and hope for the best.  Their other dry soup mixes I’ve had the opportunity to try are quite tasty, so I have no reason to believe the mushroom soup won’t be just as good.   

I haven’t been able to find frozen pie crusts here and since I don’t even own a pie pan, making my own crust isn’t going to work.  So, we will not have pumpkin pie or pecan pie etc.  Instead I’m making a peach crisp and hoping it turns out. Since there’s no internet, there is no real recipe, so in times like this you make something up.  I used a large can of peaches which I cut up, an Ecuadorian Torta mix and poured melted butter over the top.  My simple version of peach cobbler. 

I have much to be thankful for though including the ability to cook in our gas oven and stove top.  I’m also very stoked about sitting out on our upper patio on our new wicker chase lounge chair.  We purchased it in Monte Cristi two weeks ago at a reasonable price.  Monte Cristi is known for their wicker furniture (all hand crafted right there in their tiny shops), Panama hats (yes, they come from Ecuador) and hammocks.  The wicker furniture does not come with cushions as those need to be purchased or in our case custom ordered separately.   We were able to locate a tailor in the same town who makes cushions, and we ordered a cushion with outdoor fabric in blue, white and green.  Last night he delivered the cushion to us, which was lovely but was the wrong colors.  In my broken Spanish, I explained that we ordered it in blue and he said no this is what we ordered.  However, Dave had the foresight to take a photo of the pattern when we ordered it, which we were able to show him.  Poor guy looked like a puppy with his tail between his legs because he knew at that point he couldn’t argue.  He is going to make a new one and deliver it two us with the correct fabric next week.  He told us that he ordered the fabric and this is the color that arrived.  I told him I was very sorry, but I was expecting the blue as well.  No problem…it will be re-made.  In the meantime, we are very much enjoying the cushion on our wicker furniture which we hadn’t been able to use for the last couple weeks. 

Since beginning to write this, the neighbors have declined coming for dinner as Cat has been upset about the electrical situation and they want to hang tight in case there is a change this afternoon.  Our friends Jill and Sy are coming over though last minute and I’m glad we can share a meal with someone as I’m cooking plenty of food. 

The potatoes are prepped and brining in salt water, the green bean are snipped and ready to go and the two small hens are in the oven.  In Ecuador, the chicken parts which are packed in the body cavity include the gizzard, liver, head and feet.  I’m very used to the gizzard and liver, but the head and feet not so much.  So, we are delivering a Thanksgiving meal of two chicken heads and 4 feet to the stray beach dogs which will gobble it up (no pun intended) in no time. 

It is a gorgeous sunny day here in Ecuador, dinner is on and we have so much to be thankful for!  Even though we are not having the normal meal with our family as we do every year with turkey, stuffing, the fixing and so many varieties of pies; we are having a meal none the less.  Reflecting on the old hymn, “Count your Blessings” is a great reminder of how we should be always regardless of our circumstances. 

The Simple Life

It has been just a couple days short of us living in Ecuador for a month now.  Life has become in so many ways very simple as compared to life in the United States.  Some people may find it boring because we are so accustomed to being entertained non stop or having our schedules filled to the brim.  As I reflect on life in Ecuador as compared to my previous life in the US, I like to think of it as simple.  I’m truly enjoying the lifestyle though it takes some getting used to for sure.  I can suppose that someone who thrives on business and activity may find it rather difficult to live here, but even then I believe if that person would take a step back…they may find they like it.

Examples:

  • Today was water day in which a big water delivery truck came to fill up our cistern.  Cistern water is not our drinking water, but only our washing water.  The fill up cost was about $35  and we think it will be a monthly occurence but that of course depends on our water usage.  Occasionally the town will turn water on to the homes and it will trickle in a little at a time, but my understanding is that it has not been even close enough to sustain the average household which is why it is fairly common to have it delivered.
  • Drinking and cooking water is delivered by a lovely woman named Margaretta on her bicycle/delivery cart for $1 for a large 5 gallon bottle.  We go through a bottle every couple of days or so.
  • Food is readily available at the local tienda which is nearly on every corner.  They are very similar to small walk up gas stations in the US, but they have most everything you would need in a pinch in small quantities. Bakeries and pharmacies are also very easy to find in any town.  For larger quantity shopping and purchasing things like flour, sugar, salt etc, we go to SuperMaxi in Porto Viejo.  It takes some planning for sure and there are much fewer choices in terms of products but we aren’t lacking that’s for sure! img_5429
  • Church is very simple and I love that.  Yesterday we had the privilege of attending a tiny church (maybe 15 adults and 25 children) which was located in a concrete building in the middle of rice fields.  Voices echoed due to the concrete and there was no glass in the windows but it was lovely and the presence of the Holy Spirit was there!  Several times we heard chickens and roosters crowing and saw and occasional bird fly through the building.  The people were lovely and welcomed us to their small group though we were foreigners from the US.  It was simple, but it was powerful.
  • We have a wonderful cleaning lady, Lucita.  Just for the record, she comes as part of our rent…typically I clean my own home as a matter of choice.  🙂  Lucita uses mainly  vinegar and water to clean and everything sparkles when she’s done!  It’s so uncomplicated.  I always felt stressed shopping even for cleaning products when I had choices because there were just too many!  Choices are wonderful, but maybe I’m wired to live where there are fewer.
  • Transportation although less convenient than driving whenever and wherever you want is way less complicated for us as well.  At this point, we have opted to not have a vehicle so we walk or we hire a tuk tuk or we take the bus!  All of which are extremely affordable here.  We don’t have car insurance or gas to pay for and there’s no maintenance!img_5326-copy
  • Paperwork (on real paper) is important here.  It’s important not to lose it because whatever you need is most likely not stored in a data base somewhere or easily pulled up on a computer.  If a bus ticket is purchased, the receipt/ticket will be on a piece of ordinary paper (probably hand written) that needs to be presented if you are to ride that bus.  If you lose it, it’s not good.  Again…simple.img_5428
  • We have gotten to know so many wonderful people.  And get this…it’s not presumptuous or rude to just show up at someone’s house.  I remember years ago, relatives or friends stopping in at my parent’s house unexpected.  My mom always had banana bread or something she could pull out of her freezer to serve them if that happened, but no one thought a thing about visiting unannounced.  Today it is almost considered rude.  Not here.  In fact, if a visitor shows up, most likely you are happy to see them!

Living in Ecuador is very reminiscent of life in the United States years ago where life was slower, people knew their neighbors, and nothing happened fast.

Life here is different.  There certainly are so many benefits, blessings and conveniences to living in my homeland, don’t get me wrong. But so far, here in Ecuador, life has been more simple.  I think I’m going to like it!