I’m OK – Again

Nearly three years ago after the last big (7.8) earthquake here, I posted something immediately to let you know I was OK.  That earthquake was felt very strongly and traumatically by me, and I did have damage afterwards (see this post and subsequent ones).

I’m figuring if you hear “Ecuador 7.5 earthquake” on the news, you will be checking in with me again.  I’m thankful to report that, although nearly as strong, this earthquake was far from me, and pretty far from civilization in general (it was in the Amazon jungle, near Peru).  Friends closer to it in my favorite city of Cuenca felt more strong shaking, but nothing damaging.  I did feel it, however.  Ironically, I’d woken up early and was lying in bed praying when the shaking began.  It lasted quite long and felt similar to how the big one started 3 years ago.  Just as I finally decided to head down the stairs, it stopped.  (We had another earthquake that felt as strong to me just 20 minutes after.  I assumed it was an aftershock, but it was actually a 5.5 near Guayaquil, which is milder, but closer to me).  I knew by the way it felt and the duration, it had to be a large one.  So I immediately checked the earthquake site and saw where it was and how strong.

We’ve been relatively “tremor free,” since the frequent and long series of aftershocks finally calmed down from 3 years ago.  But I guess it’s time for things to heat up again. 😬  Just a reminder of the times we are living in.  Speaking of the time just before His return, Jesus said: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” (Luke 21:10-11)  Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Gail’s Guest Perspective

I’ve asked all my previous guests to write their reflections of their visit and my life here.  Both Deanna and Dana graciously obliged me, and now here is Gail’s guest perspective on her trip:

After five years, I was returning to Ecuador to visit my dear friend Mary.  When I left, her Spanish was limited and now WOW!  I was impressed with how well she speaks with all the locals.

She has built a very nice home with a great beach and mountain view from her roof-top patio. You can enjoy your morning coffee while lying in one of her roof-top hammocks.  Where else can you share a just out of the oven (built on a bicycle) “pan de yucca” while exploring downtown Puerto Cayo.  When Mary lived in the states, she did not cook very much and now she serves you gourmet meals.

She shares her daily Ecuador life along with meeting her very nice circle of ex-pat and Ecuadorian friends.  Buses, taxis and of course walking are her modes of transportation, and a couple of times you will find yourself a little out of your normal comfort zone.  But rest assure it is safe and fun.

Mary and I have always shared a love of coffee and food.  So needless to say we sampled and ate our way through the cities we visited.  She gives you, as she calls it, “A taste of Ecuador,” and does a fabulous job.  Mary is a great tour guide and knows the history of her new country.  What a great way to sitesee Ecuador – my own personal tour guide!  I had an adventure of all the senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and most especially, taste.  Mary shows you both the coastal and mountain regions of Ecuador.  I went 14,000 feet above sea level through the Caja National Park.  I left with a better understanding of why she loves her new country.

Repeat Performance – Part 2

This is a continuation of my previous post about the visit from my friend, Gail:

DAY 6:  This day was set aside to rest and re-pack.  We again started out on the deck having coffee in my hammocks.  Afterwards, I served Gail another scrumptious breakfast.  She really took the “rest” assignment of this day very seriously. 😂

DAY 7:  Another day that started very early – our taxi picked us up at 6:45 a.m. 😮  He drove us the 30 minutes to Jipijapa, where we bought tickets and waited about 30 minutes for a bus to Guayaquil.  That trip was 2.5 hours.  Once at the terminal, we made a “bee-line” for the bathroom (pun intended – although our friendship goes back 25 years, you know Gail is now a co-worker “bee girl” too).  Then I bought tickets for the next leg of our trip.  Again, just about a 30 minute turn around and we were back on a bus and headed on our 4 hour journey that would take us through the Caja National Park and to Cuenca.  I had packed a sack breakfast/lunch for the trip.  But just after we had both pretty much eaten our fill, the bus driver stopped to let a food vendor on (one of the great things about bus travel in Ecuador is, depending on the route you are traveling, you can sample a plethora of goodies along the way).  As I heard the vendor calling out what he had to offer, my mind said no until I heard one item.  It was a large, thick slice of sweet plantain, battered and deep-fried.  I immediately called him over and bought one for us to share for $1.  I told Gail, “Welcome to the Ecuadorian version of the Texas State Fair!” 😂 (For those who aren’t familiar, our state fair has developed a long-standing tradition of coming up with some of the strangest deep-fried food items you cold ever imagine – for a past list of some of them, click here.)  Gail just thought she wasn’t hungry any more – she almost had me flag him down to buy another one before he got off the bus!  Needless to say the “cola” (which means “tail”) was a hit. 😋

The drive through the National Park was foggy and rainy most of the way, but that was OK, because due to our early departure and the altitude change (you climb to 14,000 feet in less than an hour!), Gail couldn’t keep her eyes open.  We eventually descended to our 8,000 feet altitude and the beautiful city of Cuenca.  By the time we taxied the short distance to our hostel, it was right at 9 hours from when we’d left home.  We briefly settled in to our lovely, spacious loft room at Hostal Latina, in the heart of the historic district (where I’d stayed the last time I was there).  We then headed out a short walk for an early dinner at a predetermined restaurant, where we made a meal of sharing and sampling several local food items.  Afterwards, we stopped briefly to buy bottled water for our stay and made it back to our hostel before dark.

DAY 8:  In the morning, we wandered a short ways until we found a suitable breakfast spot.  After our “inclusive” breakfast (which usually consists of an egg item, bread item, juice and coffee), we both decided we needed more caffeine (in Ecuador, you don’t get refills on coffee).  Since the first coffee was just OK, we wandered a little farther to a proper coffee shop for a cappuccino.  Once we were well fueled, we headed to the main park/square to catch the city bus tour.

They had now made the bus tour a “hop on/hop off” tour (previously it had only been a driving narration with one stop at the scenic overlook).  So we took advantage and got off at the first stop, a park and church area I wanted to show Gail.  We wandered around a bit and bought a bag of one of our local fruits that I wanted Gail to try from a street vendor lady.  We then waited for the next bus on the brochure schedule – that didn’t come. ☹️  We wandered around some more in the shops in the little area, still hanging around close for the next bus – that also didn’t come. ☹️  I know Ecuador, and if they didn’t sell any tickets to the tour, it would be like them not to run the bus, regardless of the fact that other people might have gotten off and waited for the next one to come.  Fortunately we had only gotten off at the first stop, so we just walked back to the main square, where we explained to the attendant selling the tickets what happened.  She then informed me that although the bus driver had told me we could only board a red bus, we could also board a yellow bus (we did see one yellow bus go by).  At that point, we just decided to get back on at the beginning and ride the tour all the way around.  It was a beautiful day and we got some great photos:

We got off the bus at the next to the last stop, the shopping mall in the modern section of Cuenca.  I had been by it before, but never inside, and wanted to see what they had in comparison to our mall.  We shared a light lunch, then briskly walked around all of both levels.  Afterwards, we grabbed a taxi and headed back to the historic area, to explore a few more places I wanted to show Gail.  One was the Sombrero Museum.  Cuenca also makes straw hats using the same palm material harvested in our province of Manabi.  But their method isn’t quite the same, and Montecristi generally produces a finer quality weave and more traditionally made Panama hat.  However, the hats in Cuenca are quite beautiful.

I also wanted to show Gail one of the largest markets in Cuenca.  This is the real deal of open air stalls (rows and rows of them) for buying produce, meat and whatever else you might need.  And we also saw something I’d never seen before – an area where all the little old “medicine women” were practicing their art.  Various people from the very young to old were receiving treatments of being “beaten” with herbs, having ointments rubbed on them, etc.  I’d heard about these people, but had never actually seen it practiced in person.  It was quite a site for a “first-world” person to take in.

At the end of our wandering, we matched up with Chris & Kelly (mentioned in my holiday post), the volunteers at my development for December.  In January, they traveled to the Galápagos Islands for two weeks and then Cuenca for two weeks (but are now back at my development for the month of February).  We got to see the lovely Airbnb they were staying in, then all went for a Thai food dinner at one of my favorite “bucket-list” restaurants.  We had a lovely meal and visit, and walked back to our hostel a little after dark (feeling quite safe in the well-lit and still bustling historic area).

DAY 9:  We started out at another breakfast place and then again had our second coffee in a different cafe.  Afterwards, we met up with Chris & Kelly again for a walking tour of the historic part of Cuenca.  This tour is relatively new, and it was the first opportunity I’ve had to take it.  It’s offered free (with hope of gratuity).  When we first arrived at the meeting spot shortly before the designated time, we thought it might just be a handful of us.  But as our guide arrived, the crowd suddenly gathered, and our group swelled to at least 30 people!  Our guide did a wonderful job giving the tour in both Spanish and English.  Ironically, the tour pretty much covered a walk through the streets and areas that I’d taken Gail on the previous day. 😂  But with it were additional stops and so much added information I did not know.  I learned a lot about the history and culture of Cuenca.  In summary:

  • Cuenca is the 3rd largest city in Ecuador and is currently around 500,000 people;
  • It was colonized by the Spanish in 1557 – the man who founded it was born in Cuenca, Spain.  In the same year, the original cathedral was built in the adobe colonial style (it is now a museum);
  • Prior to it’s colonization, there were two indigenous people groups living in harmony in the area – the pre-Columbian Cañari people, who worshiped the moon, and the Incas, who worshiped the sun.  Eventually the Spaniards forced the local people to become Catholic, so that is the religion of most people today;
  • In 1739, the first French colonists arrived. These combinations are what contribute to the mix of adobe construction and Spanish/French colonial architecture (much of which has survived and is continuing to be restored);
  • The republic of the city started in 1880 and this was the year the “new” cathedral began construction.  It took 100 years to complete and holds 10,000 people standing;
  • Most of the wealth of the city during this time frame came from the export of the Panama hats, as well as other food exports (like chocolate).  There were also a lot of imported building materials brought from France.

The tour lasted approximately 2.5 hours and unknowingly, but fortunately, ended right near the spot I had pre-arranged to meet two other friends for lunch.  Although the tour was longer than I’d anticipated, we were only 5 minutes late for our meet-up time.  Lunch was at another one of my bucket-list restaurants, the Sunrise Cafe.  Originally opened by an Australian couple, but now owned by an Ecuadorian man (who wisely kept the food and formula the same), this place is loved by local ex-pats and visitors.  It has a huge menu with a plethora of “comfort food” items that are always tasty and generous.  They also have a wonderful and long-standing staff that the customers have all grown to love.  Everyone I’ve sent there always comes away loving it and my friends, Claire and Lynne, who both live in/around Cuenca, had no hesitancy about meeting up there.  I was grateful Gail had another chance to meet some of my precious friends.

After lunch, Gail and I spent the afternoon doing our final wanderings (my favorite pastime in Cuenca).  We weren’t super hungry for dinner, so decided to just wander around and eat whatever we wanted, wherever we wanted.  We stopped first at a little place that I had discovered on my last trip, but this time was closed.  However, my friends Lynne and Claire informed me it had only moved to a new location and expanded.  As fortune would have it, the new location was on the opposite end of town from where it used to be, and now literally right around the corner from my hostel! 😃  So we tracked down the Altisimo Chocolate Shop & Cafe and spent quite a few moments just drooling. 😋  We then decided to share one of their carrot cake desserts.  Afterwards we wandered on.  Later, we ended up inside another little courtyard that we’d gone through on our walking tour.  It was just off the main city park, right next to the cathedral.  Inside were several shops and restaurants, and we decided to have our next meal at a little French bistro.  We shared a traditional French hot gruyere cheese and mushroom sandwich, and then an apple tart with ice cream for dessert. 😮  By the end of all that, we were ready to wander on back to our hostel and revel in our subsequent carb and sugar comas. 😂  Below are a few more photos taken during our final afternoon of wandering:

DAY 10:  The fabulous menu and wonderful ambiance of Altísimo didn’t leave our thoughts.  So we decided to alter our original morning plans for an early departure, in order to go back for a leisurely, full and scrumptious breakfast (and the coffee was so good, we even had our second cup there. ☺️)  After splitting their shrimp, spinach and cheese omelette and an order of French toast (made with their own housemade bread), we were well fueled for our 4 hour bus journey back to Guayaquil (and each with a scone to-go).  We bid farewell to our lovely host, Jorge, and taxied to the bus terminal, where we caught the next (frequently leaving) bus.  The drive through the Caja National Park was more clear and Gail was more alert, so she really got to enjoy the breathtaking scenery.

Once in Guayaquil, we took a taxi to check in to our pre-reserved room at Hotel Livingston (the only place I’ve ever stayed there and it never disappoints).  We then walked the short distance to the Mall del Sol.  The only things worth seeing/doing in Guayaquil are only if you are stuck there and need something to do.  It’s really just a very big, commercial city.  So Gail really didn’t miss doing anything exciting by our delayed departure.  The mall was a good place for walking and stretching our legs after sitting half the day (and we even indulged in a 4 minute chair massage for $2 each).  It also provided a plethora of choices for dinner, and most importantly in Guayaquil, being in air conditioning!  We enjoyed a tasty, healthy wrap sandwich for supper, followed by some McDonald’s french fries. 😂  We then walked the short distance back to our hotel, to be back before dark and an early-to-bed night.

DAY 11: This morning was a 3:30 a.m. wake-up alarm and 4:00 a.m. taxi to the airport. 😮  I accompanied Gail the short ride and helped her get checked in.  We then stayed out in the unsecured area and had a bite to eat and coffee until time for her flight to board.  Airport security in Guayaquil is easy-breezy, and the walk to the gate very short.  So at just 45 minutes before her flight, we gave our final hugs goodbye, and I watched her disappear through security, until the next time we see each other again.  I then grabbed a taxi, headed to the bus terminal and bought my ticket.  And poignantly, my bus pulled out at precisely the time of her flight departure – 6:32 a.m.

DAY 12:  Rest and reflect on priceless shared memories forever! ☺️

So that’s the full summary of our awesome time together, but stay tuned in the next post to read Gail’s guest perspective of her visit here.  Convinced yet of the fabulous time you will have if you come see me?  So the touring reservation calendar is wide open – what are you waiting for?! 😉

Repeat Performance – Part 1

In my last blog post, I alluded to the fact that I had an upcoming adventure I’d be reporting about.  No doubt the highlight of any year for me is when someone from “back home” comes for a visit.  On my first birthday after moving to Ecuador, my good friend Deanna and her friend Kristy, blessed me with a visit for just 3 days, so I would have some “home folks” to celebrate with me.  The following year, my long-time and dearest friends, Amy and Melanie, left behind their families and comfort zones, to come for 5 days and get a taste of my life here.  Then a few years later, my good friends, Dana and Mike, decided to visit me for a full 10 days.  But this year, I had my first repeat guest!  Well, sort of…

Most of you know the story of my friends, Gail & Jefferson, who flew with me when I first moved here, to help with the travel and transition.  Their presence was an invaluable blessing to me!  But I was in such a state of shock and overload, not to mention experiencing everything the first time myself, that I had nothing to offer in the way of showing them around.  So I was THRILLED when Gail decided to save up her airline points to come back for a chance to get to see and experience the life I’ve made here.  (Her husband, Milton, decided to stay behind to hold down the fort and tend to the cats, but we hope he’ll join us for the next visit!)  When we began planning the dates, I told her she had to give me at least 10 full days, (not counting travel) to get the full overview tour.  I’ve actually gotten rather good at guest visit itinerary planning, so it wasn’t hard to work out a good, balanced schedule for us:

DAY 1:  All flights in from the usual travel route come later at night, and then it’s a 3 hour car ride from the airport.  Gail’s flight was even later than expected and due to that, as well as a few other “technical difficulties” (aka taxi flat tire), we didn’t get home until around 2:00 a.m.  So the first day is always planned as a “rest and recover” day.  This included fixing her a scrumptious and filling breakfast, followed by a pedicure “en casa” (courtesy my regular pedicure lady, Monica).  Then shortly afterwards, a brief and easy stroll up the beach to a special spot, for a scheduled hour-long massage to work out all the travel kinks, while listening to the ocean waves. ☺️

DAY 2: After our rest up day, this day was one of our “full on” excursions.  We were outside waiting for the bus at 6:30 a.m.! 😮  But this was strategically timed to arrive in Manta at my favorite French bakery just before they opened.  We practically had our noses pressed to the glass when the owner showed up with all his pastries to open the shop. 😂

Following breakfast, we boarded the city bus that took us the perfect route through town for me to narrate the “Manta highlights” tour.  We exited on the opposite end of town from where we got on, at the relatively new bus terminal.  Here, I showed Gail just how far we’ve come from the terminal I bused to my first four years (although she never got to see the original to really appreciate the contrast).  After a brief walk through of the mall area, we grabbed a taxi and headed to the nearby town of Montecristi.

I love this town for several reasons, and have taken every previous visitor there to experience it (so view those blogs listed above for more details).  We had a great English speaking guide for a visit to the museum area, and I learned even more about some of the specific history and culture of Ecuador (Montecristi is the birth and now burial place of one of Ecuador’s most famous and influential presidents).  We then went down into the town for a light lunch at one of my favorite cafe restaurants, followed by a stroll through the shopping area for purchasing all the wonderful handmade, indigenous items available in Ecuador.  Most specifically, Gail wanted to buy Milton an authentic Panama hat.  The name Panama hat is a misnomer, because the original and authentic Panama hats (worn by the workers on the Panama Canal) are painstakingly handmade right here in Montecristi.  We received a good orientation about the history and quality of this incredible wearable art, and Gail found the perfect hat for Milton’s head.

After shopping, we returned by taxi the short 15 minute ride to the Manta bus terminal, and then repeated our route on the city bus, stopping off at our new mall.  I again wanted to show Gail the incredible progress that’s been made since I first arrived (although as I said, she didn’t get to come to Manta on her first trip).  It was also the perfect place for her to buy some Ecuadorian chocolate and tea to take home.

After our mall excursion, we grabbed a taxi and headed to our chosen dinner spot.  Gail at first questioned why I was taking her to a hotel for dinner.  That is, until she saw the view and tasted the food!  The Poseidon Hotel is no doubt one of the best places for food in Manta, but the view is second to none!

After dinner, my friend Edwin and his lovely wife Mercy, picked us up for taxi service home.  You might remember that we helped Edwin purchase a new vehicle following the earthquake, so he could continue his business and support his family.  Since then, a mechanic friend of his wanted to take on the challenge of restoring his crushed vehicle.  Edwin told him to “knock himself out” and in his spare time over many months, this man fully brought Edwin’s car back to life!  He still has and uses both vehicles, but we rode home in the original car that was damaged, which is now good as new!  (I’m so sorry we didn’t get a photo for you. 😔)

Believe it or not, we asked Edwin to stop (because it was right on our way) back at the French bakery, for us to pick up some desserts to take home.  He was more than happy to oblige.  So not only did the owner get to see us first thing in the morning, but also last thing before he closed. 😂

DAY 3: We slept until whenever and then had coffee up on my deck in my hammocks, spending a leisurely morning just chatting and visiting.  Around noon, I called a taxi to take us in to Puerto Cayo for lunch at one of my favorite beach restaurants.  Then we strolled back into the town and met up with my friend Teresa for introductions and a visit.  We ended up walking around just a bit and then sitting in the covered sport court area of the town square.  Positioned here, we got to observe the local “day-to-day life” activities all around us, and much to my delight, a never before seen vendor of “pan de yucca” (bread made from yucca/cassava root flour) came up with his little portable oven cart.  This is always one of the bucket list food items I want people to try while they are here, and we got some giant, yummy rolls hot out of the oven (4 for $1).

Eventually we walked the old route I used to travel back to my rental property, stopping briefly at Teresa’s front gate to drop her off.  Her husband, Terry, arrived home from fishing just as we were saying goodbye, and Gail got to meet him as well.  We then walked a short distance down to the home of my friend Sam, who lives just across from the house I first rented when I moved here.  Gail had met Sam back then, and it was neat that they got to see each other again 5 years later.  We took a walk through his gardens and up the hill behind his home, for easily one of the most breathtaking views in Puerto Cayo.

Afterwards, we walked back down the road past various friends’ houses (including my second rental), and cut over from there onto the beach, where we strolled the rest of the way back to my house, catching a sunset view just as we arrived.

DAY 4: We were again out fairly early to catch the bus a little after 8:00 a.m.  This time we were headed the opposite direction (south) to my favorite hang out town of Puerto Lopez.  We had actually been taken there during Gail’s first visit, and I was surprised how much of it she remembered and was able to recognize the progress and improvements.  We started at one end of the “malecon” (boardwalk/road along the beach) and walked all the way down to the pier on the opposite end, taking in the sites and food along the way.

We started viewing the sites around the beautiful hostel at one end of the malecon called Mandala.  It has cabins nestled inside exquisite gardens, and is quite a peaceful spot.  We then made our way to our next destination, breakfast at Hostel Victor Hugo.  We wanted to eat light, so shared a traditional breakfast of scrambled egg and “bolon de queso,” which is a ball made out of mashed plantains, cheese and spices that is lightly fried.  We then wandered our way along, stopping in my favorite local specialty items shops, and eventually got to the pier, where we enjoyed the peace of watching the boats and hearing the water – and not much else.

Finally, we retraced our steps not quite halfway, to my favorite place for ceviche, Cabaña D’Chuky.  The owner, Diego, and his wife make absolutely the best ceviche in Ecuador and arguably the whole world (Gail definitely agreed).

After a quick stop into town to pay my internet bill, we grabbed a taxi and were headed for our afternoon outing to Agua Blanca.  This is another spot I love and like to take my guests for various reasons – it’s now a preserved national park and ongoing archeological excavation, but is also the home of an indigenous community of people that have lived here for centuries.  After the museum, archeological and nature walk tour, we indulged in the natural mud skin treatment and therapeutic spring fed sulfur pond – it’s really quite a refreshing way to spend an afternoon!  Afterwards, we met our taxi, who then brought us all the way back to my house.

DAY 5: Today was another take it easy and visiting day.  We tried to catch a bus, but he intentionally passed us right by. 😤  Oh well, I needed for Gail to be able to enjoy the obligatory back of the truck ride with my favorite taxi guy, Olimpio (it’s a guest right of passage).  He came for us in a flash and a short 10 minute ride later, we were at the home of my good friends Bill & Elaine, and my goddog Tag.  Gail had met them both her last time as well, because just a few weeks before I arrived they had rented the upstairs unit where I first rented downstairs.  She knew immediately when she met them back then that she was leaving me in good hands. ☺️ It was great for her to get to see them again, as well as their completed (at least stage one) home, and meet Tag as well.

After a few hours of visiting, we strolled through their community to the restaurant I love to frequent there, South of Zero Cafe, owned by Tom & Karen, more friends of ours.  We enjoyed meeting up with more friends and having lunch.  Then we all moseyed over to the small pool in our friend Rick’s area, where we joined even more friends, and spent the rest of the afternoon floating and visiting (and in Gail’s case, napping as well).  Around 5:00 p.m., one of our friends kindly offered to drive Gail and me back home, so we didn’t have to call a cab (see, there is a reason that bus passed us by – Gail HAD to have a chance to ride with Olimpio!)

Great photo of Gail with Olimpio in the road by Bill & Elaine’s house. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any other photos of the day. ☹️

So that sums up the first half of Gail’s visit.  But stay tuned for my next post with lots more of our fun adventures to come!

Post-Holiday Post

As I’m sure is the case for many of you, my holidays are kind of a blur at this point. I wanted to write something before now, but several things precluded me from doing so. However, I wanted to at least do a brief recap of my holidays before much more time goes by.

Christmas Eve, my best friend here, Elaine, hosted her 3rd annual “come one, come all” pool party out at their development. Our local ex-pat community is no longer the small little group we once were, so this is her answer to hosting all who want to, to gather in one spot for Christmas. She sets up tables and decorations, and everyone brings an appetizer to share. And of course, we are just at the beginning of our summer season, so we swim – just because we can! 😜 It was a good turnout this year and a good time was had by all:

Click on any image to bring up the slide show with captions

Christmas Day, Elaine and I had roped our friend Rick into hosting us at his house. We had said we’d cover all the cooking, but Rick wanted to make his first turkey. And of course since it was at his house, he extended the invitation out to several more of his friends (which are friends of ours too). But then the power went out at midnight Christmas morning at their development! So true to life in Ecuador, Rick came up with Plan B and put the turkey in his neighbor’s gas barbecue grill (good thing he’d invited the neighbor to the party 😂). Then an hour later, the power back came on. He proceeded to transfer it (rather precariously) into the oven. Then an hour later, the power went back off, so he again put it back in the barbecue. I rode out there with our friends Rick (another one) and Veronica. Rick #2 is a professional chef, and they are soon to open a restaurant here (we are all very excited!). At first he wasn’t so sure about this barbecue turkey idea, but when he saw it and later carved and tasted it, he (and we) all agreed it was one of the best turkeys we’d eaten! So despite no power all day until just about the time we were finished eating dinner, it made no difference to our group of around 14 people. For roughly 6 hours we visited, laughed, swam and ate a lot of fabulous food (everyone brought at least one dish). Plus it was a real “coming of age” time for Rick – hosting his first Christmas gathering, cooking his first turkey, and after two years of living here, not coming unglued by a power outage (did I happen to mention his entire working career in Canada was for the power company? 😂).

New Year’s Eve we again followed our tradition of going into town for the village festivities. We started with dinner on the beach, followed by our “friend crawl” of walking through town and stopping at the homes of some of our friends to visit. We then went to the big dance area, to enjoy a little pre-midnight salsa. And finally, we burned our purchased effigy/viejo dolls in the street, along with all the rest of the local families. Our taxi retrieved us at 1:00 a.m., with all the rest of the village just getting going. New Year’s is one of the biggest holidays in Ecuador and the party lasts until around 5:00 a.m.!

Unfortunately, the week in between these two holidays ended up being rather intense. Very long story short, my dear friend, Fatima, (mentioned recently in this post and many others), suffered what we later learned was a ruptured brain aneurysm on Christmas Day (although none of us knew it at the time). They were preparing to come to our gathering when it happened. Her husband took her to the hospital, but she was misdiagnosed and sent home. It wasn’t until the next day that she fell unconscious and was taken back to the hospital.  By the time they diagnosed her and did surgery, it was nearly 48 hours from the event. It was a very rough and scary week for all of us who love her. Not until we finally got word the day before New Year’s Eve that she was awake and talking, could we give a collective exhale and hallelujah! She is still in the hospital recovering and it will be a while before she is back to “business as usual,” but thanks to a LOT of prayers, at this point she’s doing amazingly well. She, her family and I would very much appreciate your continued prayers for a speedy and complete recovery.

So that’s a wrap up of my holidays – but stay tuned for a report of my next adventures. 😉

Powerful In Any Language

Recently, my long-time and dear friend, Deanna, resurrected a challenge that she made to me 5 years ago – for us to join together in memorizing a beloved Bible chapter in Spanish.  This same dear friend made a profound impact on my life many more years ago.  At that time, I was reading the Bible almost daily, but using various published topic based books and studies.  She challenged me to just read the Word with no specific study agenda, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me through it what He wanted to teach me.  As a result, my life has never been the same.  Although I tried many times previously to read the Bible through in a year, I always fell off.  But I then devised a way to break it up in easy to process sections, with breaks to give time to catch up if I got behind.  As a result, I’ve read through the entire Bible many times since then and have learned so much more just letting God teach me through reading His whole word and not just bits and parts.

When I first moved here 5 years ago, Deanna suggested we memorize Psalm 27 together in Spanish.  She knew this was a beloved chapter for me for so many reasons, and I had memorized it in English many years earlier.  I started trying, but just could not get myself through it.  Looking back, I think it’s because I was so overwhelmed at the time trying to learn so many other new things, that my brain just could not add one more.  Also, being so unfamiliar with the language, few of the words and grammar made any sense to me, so it was like trying to memorize sounds with no meaning.

But not long ago, Deanna asked if I wanted to give it a try again.  I agreed and we each chose the version we wanted to use.  I chose the NVI (Nueva Versión Internacional), because I had learned it in English in the NIV (New International Version).  She decided to join me in using the same version.  Memorization has never come easily for me.  It takes a lot of effort, but I know it’s well worth the effects once I’ve finally “hidden the Word in my heart.” (Psalm 119:11)  It was easier this time, now that I have a better grasp of the Spanish language.  Also, it taught me some new words in Spanish and really helped me work on my “I will” and “He/She will” verb conjugations. 😉

So without further ado, here is Psalm 27, recited by me, by heart, in Spanish (and my friend, Luis, told me it was perfect!).  The English translation is written below the video.  The Spanish NVI wording is a little different than the actual English NIV version, so I translated the Spanish version, so you can better understand it.  (And Truman, my friend, this one especially is for you ☺️!)

Psalm 27

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
     Who will I fear?
The Lord is the bulwark of my life;
     Who can intimidate me?
2 When the wicked advance against me
     to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and adversaries attack me,
     it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Even when an army besieges me,
     my heart will not fear;
even when a war breaks out against me,
     I will maintain the confidence.
4 One thing I ask of the Lord,
     and it's the only thing I pursue:
to live in the house of the Lord
     all the days of my life,
to contemplate the beauty of the Lord
     and recreate myself in His temple.
5 Because in the day of affliction
     He will guard me in his dwelling;
under the shelter of his tabernacle He will protect me,
     and He will put me on high, on a rock.
6 He will make me prevail
     in front of the enemies that surround me;
I will offer sacrifices of praise in His temple
     and I will sing psalms to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, my voice when I cry to you;
     Take pity on me and answer me.
8 The heart tells me: "Seek his face!"
     And I, Lord, your face I seek.
9 Do not hide from me;
     do not reject, in your anger, this servant of yours,
     because you have been my help.
Do not desert me or abandon me,
     God of my salvation.
10 Even if my father and mother abandon me,
     The Lord will receive me in His arms.
11 Guide me, Lord, in your way;
     direct me on the path of righteousness,
     because of those who lie in wait for me.
12 Do not give me over to the whim of my adversaries,
     for false witnesses rise up against me
     that breathe violence.
13 But one thing I'm sure of:
     I have to see the goodness of the Lord
     in this land of the living.
14 Put your hope in the Lord;
     have courage, take cheer;
     Put your hope in the Lord!

Sunday Morning Birthday!

The tracks I saw leading from the water to Lisa’s house (please try to ignore the trash – it was the one month we didn’t have volunteers here to clean the beach)

On my morning beach walk about two months ago, I paused in front of my neighbor Lisa’s house to notice some tracks that I quickly recognized were from a sea turtle. I’ve seen the familiar tracks a handful of times along the beach, signaling that a pregnant female had swam ashore that night to lay her eggs. The tracks are then covered by the next tide, so if you don’t see them right after, you will never know it happened. As I followed the tracks up the bank where they converged (one set leading out of the water and the other back down to it), I found the pit! The eggs were well covered, but you could see the slight difference in the area from the rest of the sand. I quickly sent a text message to Lisa. She went out shortly after, surveyed the spot and marked it with stakes (as they do in other places along the coast where they know there is a turtle nest). In the subsequent weeks, she kept an eye on it to make sure dogs and birds stayed away. From what we read, the gestation period could be anywhere from 40-70 days (depending on the moon, tide, temperature and various other factors) and they can lay between 80-120 eggs! So we were watching, waiting and hoping we might get to see our little babies hatch and make their way into the ocean (although this most often happens during the night).

The nest that Lisa marked with stakes – you can see the difference in the sand from the rest of the beach around it

After 67 days of waiting, our baby sea turtles hatched today! Fortunately, our high tide was at 4:42 a.m. with sunrise at 6:09 a.m. While getting her morning coffee a little before 6:30, Lisa looked out to notice the disturbance in the sand pit and called me immediately to come down. (Thankfully, I’d forgotten to put my phone on airplane mode last night, which is my normal custom). Apparently most of the turtles came out in the dark at the high tide, but we got to watch the last few hatchlings making their way to the ocean. Thanks to Lisa for sharing her awesome photos and video – my phone battery died as soon as I got there. 😔


You can click on any photo above, to open a more close up version of the gallery.  Also, here are a few videos of the exciting event (your can hear commentary from me, Lisa and our neighbor Wayne in one of them).

Sunday morning is always a day I stop to reflect on Jesus’ resurrection and our new birth. What a perfect day to also be able to witness this marvel of creation!

For more information regarding sea turtles and their nesting/hatching habits, here is a good website: https://conserveturtles.org/information-sea-turtles-general-behavior/