As I’ve mentioned before in my About page, the original target audience for my blog was for my friends and family back home to be able to follow my adventures in Ecuador. I am grateful to all who stay in touch and keep up with some of the goings on in my life here.
But I really thrill when I get the opportunity to share that life with people in person! When I first arrived, my friends Gail and Jefferson came with me, and stayed 4 days to help me transition and get settled. Then, on my first birthday here, my good friend Deanna and her friend Kristy, made a huge sacrifice to 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 spouses and four kids (each!) to come for 5 days and get a taste of my life here.
So this year, it was a real treat when my good friends, Dana and Mike, decided to visit me for 10 days! I first met and got to know Dana and Mike separately many years ago at the church I attended back in Dallas. They didn’t really know each other, and I’m the one who introduced them some time later. Never mind that I was simply referring Mike to Dana to paint her house after he did such a great job on mine. I certainly wasn’t expecting there to be a wedding as a result! But they’ve now been happily married for six years, so this year they decided to visit me as a belated anniversary trip (they got married on 1/11/11 – there’s that number 11 again!) They are also the friends who invited Charcoal and me to move in with them for the five weeks between my home sale and moving here. The last time I saw them was the morning I left for Ecuador.
Their Friday, February 17, departure started out a bit bumpy. The flight from Dallas to Miami was cancelled due to mechanical problems, and the next flight did not allow for them to make their connecting one. Fortunately, there was one more flight that night leaving Miami for Guayaquil. Their 11:00 p.m. arrival became 2:30 a.m.! I’d hired my taxi friend Jo at first, but she couldn’t make the time change, so Edwin came to our rescue. We arrived at my house at 6:00 a.m., minus three bags that got left in Miami. 😦 Two of them contained left behind items they were bringing for me, and one was all Dana’s clothes. She borrowed some of mine for three days until the suitcases were finally delivered on Monday afternoon.
DAY 1 – They slept in until noon, we enjoyed a late and leisurely breakfast, took a walk around my neighborhood and spent time catching up. Later, we had dinner at the beach bar/restaurant next door to my development, where they got to meet several of my local ex-pat friends.
DAY 2 – We had our own Sunday morning worship and communion service together, then called my local taxi driver/friend, Olimpio, to take us out to Mirador San Jose so they could meet Bill, Elaine & Tag. We spent the day visiting, swimming in the pool, the guys played beach volleyball, and Elaine fed us dinner, before Olimpio picked us up and took us back to my house that evening. (It should be noted that this day, a Sunday, was the presidential election in Ecuador and all citizens were required to vote. No alcohol sales or public drinking was allowed for the entire weekend! There was no clear percentage winner, so a runoff election between the top two will be held next month.)
DAY 3 – We took an early morning bus to one of my favorite hang out towns, Puerto Lopez, where we enjoyed an authentic Ecuadorian breakfast, walked around, and they did some shopping. Then we grabbed a taxi and headed for the nearby local indigenous community of Agua Blanca. I’ve previously reported on visiting here, first with my friend Sigrid, and next with Amy and Melanie. I’ve since been with other ex-pat friends, so this was my fourth visit. We toured the museum, Dana bought jewelry from the local ladies, then we hiked the trail back to the sulfur pond for our natural spa treatment. We spent the entire afternoon there and took a taxi home that evening.
DAY 4 – Mike was hoping for an opportunity to go fishing, so I contacted my friend Terry, who frequently fishes with local Ecuadorian friends. He agreed to plan an excursion for them. That morning, we walked along the beach and into town in the area where I once rented and where Terry & Teresa live. We stopped to visit my friend Sam, for Mike & Dana to meet him and see his bed & breakfast and beautiful gardens. It had started to rain while we were there, but once at Terry & Teresa’s house, the guys made the decision to continue with their plans. Teresa, Dana and I spent time visiting, then walked into town to show Dana the square. She wanted to support the locals, so bought a few things at each of the small stores. Then we walked on to the main beach area and had lunch. When we finally made it back to Teresa’s house, the guys had just returned. We said our goodbyes to them, then went back to Sam’s for a little more visiting. I had taught Mike & Dana our “31” card game, which Sam loves to play. So we played a few rounds with him, before walking back home on the beach. When we got home that evening, Dana’s pedometer watch said we’d walked 20,000 steps – that’s 10 miles!
DAY 5 – This day was another early start, as we caught the first bus to Manta, where my friend Edwin then put on his tour guide hat for us. We started the morning at my favorite coffee/breakfast spot, Dulce y Cremosa. Then Edwin drove us around Manta, showing them the various places I’d requested they see. This included my usual shopping area, a drive through the earthquake demolished tarqui section, the port and ship building area, and a stop at my SuperMaxi grocery store, so they could see what that is like.
Then we headed on to the town of Montecrisit, which among other things, is the birthplace of one of the most famous and influential presidents of Ecuador, Eloy Alfaro. It is also the place where the famous “Panama” hat is actually made. I had been to the museums several times and understand more each visit, but it was great to have Edwin explaining the history in English.
After the museums, Edwin dropped us at the church and went on his way. We walked through the town, shopping at the various artesian markets (and of course, Mike bought a hat). Then we caught a bus back to Manta and did some more shopping in the newly built and relocated tarqui (where in one section, all the stores are made from railroad car containers!). Finally, we went to one of my favorite nice restaurants for dinner. Edwin and his wife and youngest daughter then picked us up and taxied us back to Puerto Cayo.
Stay tuned for the final post, with more of our travel adventures, including Carnaval, and lots of pictures!