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. 

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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!