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Tired and weary from five days of intense travel, I reached Cruzita, Ecuador with plans to touch base with the world via cyber cafe then literally crash at my friends’ HOSTAL CRUZITA.   Fishermen dotted the beach while awaiting high tide, and artisans peddled their wares along the street. With blinders on, I raced to the cybercafe then hurried back to the hostal.

Later that evening, Raul and Gina urged me to join them for dinner, and we passed the artisans again. Though I was still numb from too much travel, a part of me noted the attentiveness of one of the artisans.  Never one to sit back and hope for business, he postured to hopeful attention every time a potential client walked by.

Franklin is not your normal citizen of this planet! Several unique tatoes swirl across the planes of his face, and his close-cropped hair suggests a touch of compliance on one side while the other side juts skyward like a plumed bird ready for flight! One mammoth whorl of bamboo garnishes one earlobe, while the other displays a polar opposite. His rich chocolate eyes hint of wisdom gleaned from difficult trials, though his grand smile trumps all facets of his personality!

Several more interactions occurred before I slowed long enough to peruse his handiwork.  It was not his display that prompted my stop;  it was his code of honor not to ‘molest’ the pedestrians, though he was always hopeful and attentive.   I scanned the items then inspected them closer. “Inka,” he interjected as he proudly pointed his seasoned finger to the copper detail on one necklace. 

I was impressed!   I asked where I could find him the next morning; I wanted view his work in the sunlight and to learn a bit more about his life. He smiled and pointed across the street to a tiny tent on the beach !

All was quiet the next morning at Franklin’s tent. Several cooking utensils were nesteled beside one small bowl of dog food for his young puppy, “Torro.”  Here lives a man on a pauper’s budget and still cares for his dog; my respect for him doubled.

Franklin’s early years were spent in the Ecuadorian Andes, though he left home as a pre-teenager and has roamed Latin America ever since. He knows and loves not only neighboring Columbia, but also Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina.

Like a perennial plant whose survival is dependent on the seasons, Franklin spends a slice of each year in Cruzita. When the tourist season ends, the wind nudges him to a new location somewhere on the grand continent of South America. I am hopeful he will be still be in Cruzita when I return.

If not, the wind will bring him back when time is right.         – Z