Being hospitalized in Ecuador

I try to look upon everything that happens to me as an adventure.  Not worrying, but only trusting that “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose”.  I believe these words and cling to this promise so with most everything that happens, I learn to flow with it and realize that although the road isn’t easy….it’s covered.  There is so much comfort in that!

When I found an abnormal spot on the side of my tongue over a year ago back in the states, I was told to watch it, however it was most likely due to hormone changes in the female body.  I accepted it as “great…nothing going on here” and pretty much dismissed it.  As to “watching it”.  How does one do that when you move to a 3rd world country, and are trying to learn to live day-to-day and learn the language and get through life?  I guess a spot on my tongue wasn’t top priority for me.  That is, until it start to bother me.  Around June or July I believe (after seeing a local doctor to treat for obvious infections etc) I was referred to Dr Leon who is an oncologist in Porto Viejo which is a city about 25 miles from Crucita.  He took one look at the tumor and said it was cancer. Dr Leon has over 40 years experience in medicine with over 25 years experience with treating cancer.  So he’s seen a lot.  He explained the first step was a formal biopsy, but then we would do surgery to remove the painful tumor.  Much to our surprise, the biopsy revealed no cancer!  However Dr Leon still had doubts and said that during surgery another biopsy would be taken to ensure.  He explained that they would be cutting out a tiny portion of my tongue and I would regain all feeling and have no problems with talking, eating, tasting etc.

Surgery was scheduled for September 7, but Doctor Leon had indicated he was going to move it up to get it taken care of sooner.  That never happened, but in retrospect, I now know why.  🙂  The surgery was to be between 1/2 hour to an hour-long and my total stay in the hospital was two nights total.  They want you there the night before surgery as well.

Surgery time was upon us and everything is so confusing.  Dr Leon speaks very little English and staff speaks no English.   We were blessed to have at times Matt from Fundacion La Vida and our friend Omar with us for some appointments but not all. IMG_9159So he remainder of everything that is done and said is left to my imagination.  Which isn’t always good, because sometimes I have quite the imagination.  I wondered if when they put me under if they would have me count backwards.  Would it be in English or Spanish?  These are the types of thoughts that plagued my brain.  They laid me on the very skinny table and fitted me with a properly sized oxygen mask and I saw a man insert a medicine in my IV and within seconds I realized, this is it.  No counting.  I was out.

I believe I went in to the operating room maybe around 8:30.  By the time I came out it was 12:30-1.  Slightly more than the hour they predicted, however they also dealt with “slightly more” than they thought they were.  The doctor said that he saw cancer cells under the scope and they decided to cut further to ensure that it was removed.  Another biopsy was taken and results will be back shortly.  In addition they went into my throat and I woke up to a 5 inch slice on my jaw line where lymph nodes had been removed as well as a drainage tube inserted in my neck.  I remember waking up to a horrible headache.  My tongue completely numb and my neck completely numb.  Pain was very minimal throughout the whole process other than the head ache when I woke up.   My surgery quadrupled in time and so did my stay in the hospital.  I was there 4 nights.

My experience at Solca was great.  The hospital is well-known throughout Ecuador with 5 locations throughout the country.  The hospital I was in was the regional hospital for the province of Manabí.  The staff is professional and friendly and I can’t say enough about Dr Leon who made some important decisions during my surgery to go more in-depth and take it to the next level in order to ensure my health will be completely renewed.

The hospital is very clean and rooms are constantly being swept and mopped several times a day.

We also saw some rooms without patients being completely disassembled with all beds in hallways to ensure a proper sanitation of the room.  My bedding was changed daily.   All equipment is modern and clean and from a lay person’s standpoint, all proper precautions are used to ensure that disease is contained and not passed to other patients.  The liquid diet I was on was fantastic.  I wish I knew what they served me (when I asked, of course it didn’t ring a bell) but one morning for breakfast I was served a delicious warm liquid custard type food with what tasted like a slight cinnamon seasoning.IMG_9184  It was almost like a light version of pumpkin pie before it was cooked.  Yum.  Their soups were wonderful.  I would have to say in spite of the fact that this was hospital food, it was some of the best darn hospital food I’ve ever had!  I’m extremely grateful for the care I received at this hospital and would have no hesitations of recommending this facility to anyone.

I also want to touch on the differences.  I call them differences because that’s simply what they are.  Our American culture is different from Ecuador.  What we find “unacceptable” is perfectly normal here.  So I want to talk about them as I find it interesting, but in no way is this meant disparaging toward this culture and country.

  • One thing I had noticed even prior to the hospitalization, during my doctor visits is that the woman’s bathroom does not have toilet paper nor soap.  You must bring your own, or learn to drip dry.   Also bring your own hand sanitizer.   While the bathroom in my hospital room did have a soap dispenser with soap in it, there was no toilet paper.  We needed to go purchase some at a local tienda across the street.  There was a sheet and very nice blanket (all in plastic…had been sanitized) however I did not have a pillow.  Thankfully I brought my own.  Towels are available upon request however there are no wash cloths.  Bar soap and shampoo must be brought from home.
  • Everything here is paid for in advance.  There is no billing per se.  You settle your debt immediately.  Prior to surgery, the doctor said I needed blood work, a chest X ray and I needed to see a cardiologist.  This is all done on your own.  You find the facility to go to get this done.  Sometimes it can be done directly at the hospital, but other times it cannot.  He may give you recommendations on where to go to get this done, however it’s up to you to go find a place to do it and bring the results back to the doctor.  All medicine that the staff uses on you during your stay in the hospital is purchased up front.

    The doctor will write an order and you go to the pharmacy (take a number like at the deli dept back home) and they will call your number and fill your order.  All medicine including syringes etc are in a plastic bag that you bring back to the medical staff so they can administer the medication.  Prior to surgery we were told I needed a diaper and a pair of support stockings. IMG_9167 How fun is that!!  Well the pharmacy didn’t just sell one diaper…go figure.  My roommate bought a pack and let me use one of hers.

  • Another huge difference (but then again maybe they DO do this in the states??) was that several times in the middle of the night, the staff comes in abruptly using their “outside voices” and flipping on the bright fluorescent lighting to do simple tasks.  There is no hushed whispers or gentle lighting.  At 11PM, they do their staff rotation and I swear it reminded me of a Wal-Mart oo rah-rah staff meeting as they all come in talking loudly, flipping on the light, giggling and telling jokes.  And almost as quickly as they come in, they leave.  I thought of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz when she said:  ” My, people sure do come and go quickly around here.”
  • Dave was asked on more than one occasion to help transport a patient from the stretcher to the bed, something you would not see in the states due to liability issues.  lol  Also…privacy issues are non-existent.  They don’t have HIPAA laws here and people will crowd around when you are making appointments or paying and able to hear all the details of your stay, the cost etc.  This is also true in the hospital rooms….no privacy as to what is ailing you or what needs to take place.  Your room-mate will most likely get a full earful of the exciting details.
  • We also found that the staff and even patients are good with having their pictures taken.  Dr Leon even motioned for Dave to come by and take a picture of the inside of my mouth.  They love this!  And often will pose!  You never know….maybe they are the next Ecuadorian talent that has gone unnoticed!
  • It seems that all patients have a relative or friend with them at all times also.  They encourage people to stay with you as they are the “runners”.  Any medications that are needed, they are responsible to go get them.  Helping with bathroom and showers falls on your  loved one as well.  Of course settling the bill needs to be done at the hospital and this will need to be handled by them too.  Although there were no cots or extra beds the first 3 nights, Dave was able to sleep in my hospital bed right with me.  Close quarters, but they allowed it none the less.  The 3rd night in the room, an Ecuadorian woman came in accompanied by her two adult daughters.  I’m struck with emotion as she was loved on and cared for by her girls.  Kissing her and stroking her hair.  Helping her to the bathroom and overall making her comfortable.  Not calling in nurses to assist, but doing their best with their mom on their own. IMG_9191  I’ve noticed that this is quite the norm here in Ecuador where children are extremely loving to their parents/grandparents.  It warms my heart to see the level of intimacy displayed.  This says a lot about the people of this country.

Earlier on I mentioned that Dr Leon was going to move up my surgery instead of waiting until the 7th of September.  Well that never happened and I was good with that, but now I know why it stayed the date it was.   As we were checking in, I saw a gringa trying to communicate with the office staff and was having some difficulty.  Our friend Omar who is fluent in English and Spanish was with us and of course offered his assistance.  He was able to give her some instructions including the fact that she needed to buy a diaper (we still laugh about that).  After completing our paperwork, we were told that the room was still not ready for check in and that we were free to go get something to eat across the road.  Upon eating lunch, we see Sandie there next door at the pharmacy trying to buy a diaper but having some difficulty communicating.  She just wanted 1 diaper but apparently you can’t buy just one diaper.  Omar helped.  She came by and said she obviously didn’t need six so she gave me one from her pack.  Oh joy!  I told Sandie….”just how a girl wants to spend a beautiful afternoon….diaper shopping….and sharing with friends who may be in need.”.  We laughed.

After lunch, we headed back up to Solca and the room was ready.  They directly me all the way down the hall to the last door on the left and who do I see waiting for me in there?  Sandie!  She was my room-mate for the next two nights.  What a delight!  Her and her husband Tom live in Bahia (about an hour up the coast from us) and have been here for several years now.  It was wonderful having someone to joke with and laugh with.  Some of these things you just have to laugh about.  Like the diaper thing….still kills me.  Sandie has a great sense of humor which I love, but the most precious of all is that she is a believer in Jesus Christ!  Woo hoo!!!  Instant bond!  She mentioned that her pastor and a couple of others were stopping by to pray with her and I felt the Holy Spirit feeding my soul and comforting me and saying “it’s all good!  I’ve got this covered!”   What a time of fellowship….I couldn’t stop smiling.  The most touching part to me was I felt God hugging me.  The odds of having a gringa in my room with me were not good.  But have a strong Christian sold our for Christ room mate was only icing on the cake!  So I took this entire September 7th date as a divine date of the Lord who knew all along.  In the mean time, I’ve met some more beautiful Christian believers from Porto Viejo and feel blessed beyond measure.  God gave me the perfect room mate who I will know for all eternity as a sister now!  God is in control….Our ways are not His ways.  Wait on Him.  These are truths that I cling to these days.

Bottom line…no one wants to be sick.  But, would I trade my Solca experience for a different one?  NO WAY!  Life is wonderful when God is in it and I don’t have to worry about the details.

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August 8, 2017

Weekends are fast becoming my favorite time here!  Saturdays we have been visiting (with Cristian and Lissette) various families in the neighborhood.  Just popping in to say hi, reminding them of the children’s church the next morning and handing out cereal bars to the kids.  We visit a variety of neighborhoods, many of them quite poor.  Most families are very gracious and pull up plastic chairs for us to sit on to visit.  Others are more leery of this church thing but seem thankful for the invite for their children.

One thing that is obvious is that Cristian and Lissette truly care about the neighborhood children.  They are so dedicated each week by opening up their home (their garage area) for this little children’s church.  We are also hoping that more parents will start to come.  Currently we have about 6-8 regular moms.  Still working on the guys….but in time.  🙂

Once a month we have a Birthday Sunday for all children’s whose birthdays fall in that month.  They are honored in front of the rest and have an opportunity to earn “money” by answering questions related to the lessons that month.  Then they can spend it at the “store” for  trinkets, toys, crayons, markets etc later on. Children's church “Money” is also earned other Sundays as well so everyone has a chance to earn dollars.  We sang a Spanish style Feliz Cumplianos and we also enjoyed birthday cake!  This is nice especially for those whose birthdays may not be celebrated as much at home or perhaps the families don’t have the money for a present or party.

Lately we (as a team) have been meeting after the kids and parents leave and have our own small meeting and prayer time.  Even though the language is still a slight barrier, the friendships are becoming strong with these precious people.

This past Sunday was extra special as we had a chance to partake in the Lord’s supper together (reflecting upon the Lord’s death) but we also decided that we would enjoy a real meal together afterwards.  A new friend, Michael, is from Peru and he volunteered to make a Peruvian meal for us!  Peruvian food is much spicier than Ecuadorian food.  He made a salad with boiled potatoes on top and then a delicious sauce drizzled over which consisted of cheese, chilis and milk.  We also had sliced tomatoes with a lime dressing as well as pan fried chicken with a curry type coating.meal

Just fantastic!  I brought dessert and decided to bring chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal cookies.  This was a first for most of them and it was a hit!  Cookies aren’t big here in Ecuador, so having cookies other than the standard ones in the store (shortbread and wafer type cookies) was very intriguing to them.  I told them next time we would have peanut butter.  Peanut butter in cookies???  They couldn’t hardly believe that.  Here….peanut butter is mainly for cooking.  For example, viche is a popular soup dish with a peanut butter type dumpling.

After the meal Dave volunteered to clean up all the dishes (they were paper plates).  Cristian looked a bit confused and said “but they’re paper”.  I grinned and then Cristian and the rest burst into laughter.  They are getting used to Dave’s humor more and more.

Soon after that Cristian’s Venezuelan friends showed up to play futbol that afternoon.  So we had people from 4 countries (Venezuela, US, Ecuador and Peru) all in one place.  Of course we had to take a photo!4 countries

We also took a walk in the neighborhood where our friend Javiar said casually, “Hey Dave, I like that shirt you are wearing.”  Dave said, “Do you want it?”  “Sure” said Javiar.  So…Dave walked back through Los Aranales shirtless getting a few stares.  I joked with Javiar that the folks in the neighborhood was going to think that Javiar was a real bully walking back down the road with Dave’s shirt on and Dave with no shirt on.

August 4, 2017

Since I’ve been sick, I’ve started looking seriously into preventing illness and/or curing illnesses naturally with food or oils.  It makes a lot of sense to me.  If we ate raw foods the way God intended rather than processed foods, would we be healthy again?  I think so.  Ecuador is a perfect place to transition to eating and be healthy because I don’t have all the temptations at my fingertips like I did in the states.  There is no Taco Bell or McDonalds or Burger King in my town (or even close that I know of) so I can’t fly through the drive through anymore as I’m out and about to satisfy my hunger.

So the fact that I either have to prepare my own food or eat at a local restaurant (which typically serves fish or chicken with rice and salad) eliminates a lot of the battle for me.  But I have recently also started implementing things in my diet.  I’ve heard of natural supplements before but truthfully didn’t care too much either way because I “was healthy” and really didn’t want to be bothered with the expense or discipline.  But now of course is a different story when it’s you that has the health problem.  So the last several months we’ve been talking with a local friend that believes in a supplement called Moringa.  It is grown locally in Ecuador and the particular Moringa that he uses is grown between Guanaquil and Salinas on an organic farm (hasn’t been farmed with other crops and no residue with pesticides etc.).  Our friend, Walter, is a strong believer in Moringa and claims that he’s been completely healthy for the past 20 + years from taking it.  In the past he had suffered with diabetes and other health problems but was able to go off all his medication by simply adding this to his diet.  I started researching it and decided to try it….what did I have to lose?

http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-benefits-of-moringa-oleifera#section5

I take it daily after a good meal whether breakfast or lunch, but not supper as it gives energy and may cause you to stay awake at bedtime.  I take a level teaspoon and mix it in either juice or yogurt to try to mask the taste which is bad.   According to research, it’s helping many things in my body that I can’t testify for sure however I will testify to the fact that I feel much better and my tumor on my tongue has shrunk!  I believe Moringa had something to do with this.

The 2nd supplement I introduced about 6 weeks after starting Moringa was Frankincense oil.  My friend gave me a bottle!  Which is like gold!!  So I was extremely thankful.  I use Frankincense (a tiny drop) directly on the roof of my mouth and press my tongue to the roof of my mouth at least once or twice a day.  It tastes bad but I suspect that many things that are good for you do taste bad.  In fact, if it tasted good, I would be leery.  Just me….I’ve been taking the Frankincense for about a month now.

frankincense

Just yesterday, my nieces turned me on to intermittent fasting.  I’ve always been extremely scared of fasting because at one point I had fasted for 3 days straight and got extremely weak.  It was an exhausting experience (the purpose was Spiritually related which I’m sure had a lot to do with my exhaustion though).  So since then, I’ve decided that eating is good and fasting isn’t for me.  But intermittent fasting is extremely do-able.  This link has some great information on the subject:

 

The type of intermittent fasting that I do, is for 14-20 hours only.  So it is not hard at all and the benefits make perfect sense to me.  My purpose for intermittent fasting is not to lose weight but rather for cell renewal.
“A lifestyle of fasting may involve an individual eating for a period of only 4-8 hours in one day. A 20-hour fast may involve eating food between 3pm and 7pm each day. This regular intermittent fasting lifestyle allows the body to produce ketones in order to fuel the entire body. The 20-hour fast may be optimal for individuals with the diagnosis of cancer, but may otherwise be incorporated into your lifestyle using a 16 to 18 hour fasting period.”    https://thetruthaboutcancer.com/ketogenic-diet-weakens-cancer-cells/  And, if it’s not what it seems (benefit wise) it certainly can’t hurt anything.  It’s good to give your stomach a rest.

I’m not into fitness workouts at all (just walking everywhere) so my health and wellness changes need to be small changes and obtainable goals.  Time will tell as to what difference this is making overall….but in the mean time I’m happy with the changes that have occurred already.

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

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!

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.

 

This is Ecuador

Our friends Jill and Sy asked if we would like to go to the Botanical Gardens, get some Chinese food and do a bit of shopping on Friday (day after Thanksgiving).  With a slight twist of my arm, I readily agreed.  After all, our internet was still down from Thanksgiving and the power was out now.  With the power out, showers are not possible due to the water pump operating on electric.  So a sponge bath it was!  It wasn’t the first time nor will it be the last I am sure.  And in a pinch when my hair isn’t at it’s best, I just put on a hat and some cute earrings and pretend like I planned it that way.  Such is life in Ecuador!  There’s a word we use here (usually along with a smile) when things are a bit off.  That word is TIE meaning “This is Ecuador”.  Once you’ve experienced life in any 3rd world country, you understand completely. 

They picked us up at 10 and we headed into Porto Viejo to begin the day’s adventures. 

Since traveling to Porto Viejo is not a daily occurence, we try to do as many errands as possible as well.  So the first stop was to buy Dave a bus ticket to Guayaquil for Monday to continue the Visa process.  As soon as  Dave got out of the vehicle, we saw immediately that there was a problem with the right front brake because it was smoking.  As Dave went into the bus terminal to purchase his ticket, Jill motioned for some help from across the street.  We just happened to be parked across from a Yamaha store.  A little old man came and tried to help us release the brake since it had seized up, it seemed to loosen up a bit but not totally. For his efforts he was paid “enough for a coke” per his request. img_5698 Sy decided to get it to a mechanic as soon as possible through a recommendation of a taxi driver they know from the area.  The mechanic took a look and since it wasn’t seized at the moment determined it was fine but “just don’t put aqua on it to cool it down”.    Good to know, I guess.  Bound and determined to carry on with our day as planned we were on our way to the Botanical Gardens.  After going through the front gate of the gardens, we again smelled and saw the smoke coming from the right front of the car.  Sy decided that we will go ahead and enjoy our walk through the gardens but after lunch he would need to have a different mechanic take a serious look to avoid other potential serious issues. 

The gardens, which are part of the technical university located next to the gardens, were beautiful.  We saw many interesting and colorful plants, flowers and even some animals.  Our private tour guide showed us a large termite nest, a boa constrictor (free to roam throughout the gardens), several smiling turtles, as well as a variety of birds. 

Jill was not a fan of the snake being allowed to roam free, but she as well as the rest of us managed to make it out all in one piece.  Overall the gardens are a beautiful, tranquil place to visit and there was no admission charge.  I would love to go back during the summer season which is coming up here in the next few months and see what changes occur. 

On to the next part of our day which was lunch at the Chinese restaurant called Ming Yuan.  The food was delicious, the portions were large and the atmosphere was nice.  The bathrooms were some of the cleanest I’ve seen since moving here which is always appealing to me especially in a restaurant.  Weather true or not, my theory is if the bathrooms are clean perhaps they keep the kitchen equally as clean as they prepare my food.  The atmosphere was similar to back in the states with real furniture (not the plastic chairs which are typically seen in restaurants), air conditioning and the usual Chinese decorations like a fish aquarium and bamboo plants.  Chinese food here is definitely not quite the same as back home, but this was  close enough.  I enjoyed fried rice, soup, chicken and veggies and Dave had a pork dish.  One thing that was different was there wasn’t the usual Chinese banter in the kitchen, I’m pretty sure everyone there spoke Spanish.  The owners went out of their way to make us feel welcomed and comfortable.  I’ll be back again I’m sure!

Next on the agenda was getting the vehicle to a mechanic prior to shopping.  The mechanic shop was very modern and comparable to US standards with a small air-conditioned office which all four of us sat in while waiting for the diagnosis and repair.  We were there for a couple of hours while the mechanics would hop on their motor bikes trying to find the right parts at the various tiendas (stores).  Porto Viejo was hit bad in the April earthquake so many of the tiendas have been displaced and are located in different areas temporarily and in some cases permanently.  The verdict finally came in that the correct part for the Blazer was in Manta (which is about an hours drive away) but they would put on a temporary part that would work fine for the time being.  You have no idea how hard it was for this simple solution to be  communicated to us in Spanish.  While we all know some Spanish, the words or maybe the pronunciation of the words were just not clicking for us.  The people in the shop were not very animated either and kept repeating the same thing over and over again pretty much the same way.  They did try writing it out for us, which helped some.  Sometimes a bit of animation, drama or gestures helps to ease communication,  which is what Dave and I often resort to.  In the end we learned that the temporary fix would take about an hour, but they would need to come back next week once the part was available to permanently fix it.  The good news is that labor is very cheap here so often times a day’s worth of work at the mechanics shop will cost the customer about $20 or so.  The parts can be the pricy items, but in this case, their part will be around $25.  Jill, Dave and I decided we would take a cab over to the SuperMaxi shopping area where we do the bulk of our grocery shopping.  They also have an office supply store, a hardware store, toy store, pharmacy and a home store in a modern indoor mall setting which is very handy!  Sy would come by to pick us up when the vehicle was done.

We were able to check some things off our shopping list such as new pillows with colorful pillow cases for our new chase lounge chair, dust mop, extension cord,  pots for plants as well as a couple of sweet little flowers to bring home. 

I’m a sucker for pretty plants, just like my mom and sister!  The plants in the hardware store were imported from the US and maybe are considered seasonal here, although I’m not quite sure.  I bought two small marigolds hoping they will hold up outdoors even with the high salt content in the air.  I also bought a colorful pepper plant and an African violet for indoors.  I would have purchased a poinsettia, however a small plant was around $13 so I had to pass although I love having them during the holidays.  The other plants were very affordable and I’m anxious to see if they will thrive this close to the beach.  Many plants/flowers cannot live close to the ocean due to the salt air as it burns them up.  So far I know that periwinkle and geraniums hold up quite well and I’m hoping that the marigolds do the same. 

The shopping center was bustling with people for black Friday shopping which they have a small version of here in Ecuador.  The mall had a beautiful nativity set and Christmas tree set up as well as some fun activities for children with a painting area.  I would say it was a perfect amount of décor, pleasant really.  The commercialization of the holidays has always been way too much for my taste back in the states, so not having it here has been enjoyable.

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Sy picked us up after shopping and we were on our way home although the traffic was crazy.  It was probably because of the busy shopping season, but also because it was Friday night.  Driving out-of-town last night was just another reminder of how I’m not too keen on having a car here at this point.  Driving in Ecuador is similar to other foreign Latin American countries we’ve visited.  The biggest hurdle being that there are no lanes and even if there were, no one uses them.  You drive wherever there is room on the road and use your horn quite often!   We made it home safe and sound though and although the day wasn’t exactly as we planned it, it was an adventure none the less.  Thanks to Jill and Sy for letting us tag along!