“We warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how.” Paulo Coelho- The Alchemist
Manabi Province/Jama Ecuador
Friends Cynthia, Luis and Pedro agreed to make a very-fast trip with me to the coast on Tuesday to check on Casa Loca, to visit with friends who are enduring difficult times in the Jama area, and to listen to what’s in their minds and hearts. We hoped to return to Mindo with a better idea of what was needed and share that information with others who might be able to help. Leaving before sunrise, I reached my first road block only a few minutes after leaving the property!
Five or six cows were sleeping in the road; several reluctantly moved out of the way after I rolled closer and closer while blowing the horn. Others played ‘possum and remained in place. After five or more minutes, I got out of the truck and found a remnant of a tree limb. I whacked several of the stubborn cows on their rumps and demanded, ‘Get up!’
My friends were ready when I reached Mindo, and our first stop was about an hour later near the town of San Vicente Maldonado. Peter had recently attended a 2-week appreticeship at Cenba, a bamboo processing center that produces an alternative to using lumber from trees. The stop was an eye-opener for Cynthia and me!
We drove about another hour, stopped for breakfast (and coffee!) then resumed our pilgrimage to the west.
A few tents began to appear about thirty minutes east of Pedernales, and our moods turned a bit more somber as we reached the outskirts of the city.
I took few photos, as I don’t like to photograph mankind’s misery. What struck me most were the wide-open views through the coastal hub city, where before the buildings obstructed those views.
After checking on Cynthia’s interests near Don Juan, we stopped at La Division to see friends Nely and Ramon. Nely was in Manta, but Ramon share details about others in the area. After a light lunch, we rolled on to see Casa Loca. While I was visually inspecting the integrity of the roofline from afar, Cynthia quickly spotted the obtuse angle of the palm-thatched ramada on the side. Friends had warned me that more of the yard had sloughed into Rio Jama.
The channel is now very far from the house – on the inside curve and far side of the river. Perhaps the rainy season and fast currents played a role in altering the channel.
Inside, the house appeared sound and intact, yet I later said, “It appeared that anything breakable in the house had participated in a cumbia-merengue competition!”
We gathered a few items to take back to Mindo and quickly moved on to more important tasks, like seeing people in the area and listening to their stories.
My friends in the little community of Verdum were not at home, but the neighbor said that she’d let them know that I stopped by to see them. On the outskirts of Jama, the local clinic/hospital appeared to be in fair shape. (Last year a rotating shift of doctors and nurses treated a large majority of locals in the dengue/chikungunya epidemic.)
Several friends’ homes were marked to be torn down; how does a family relocate when there are few options for new housing? We stopped to speak to several people who lived near Hostal Ciragan, and then we parked with hopes to see my friend Gloria, who owns the hostal.
Gloria looked as lovely as ever, and the pristine and inviting hostal offered visual and emotional comfort. After sharing her stories of the earthquake, she pointed to one of the room-number signs that I had painted for the hostal. She said that made her think of me most every day — and added, “That was the grade of the earthquake, a seven point eight.”
My friends at Hostal Palo Santo were not so lucky. Luchi was away from the hostal when we stopped by to see him, and Fernando was working in Cuenca to make money for repairs to the hostal. Their mother (and my friend) Nieve greeted us and explained that she and her mother were living in one of the hostal rooms that did not receive much damage. Most of the hostal, however, needs more than a few tweaks.
Nieve showed my friends Peter and Luis a few of the damaged buildings, and we discussed different possibilities for helping with repairs. I asked Nieve what might help most, and she said, “Men. They need people to help with the repairs.” She also agreed that money played a huge role in repairing the damage and moving forward.
Nearby there are make-shift ‘tents’ that looked quite cozy tucked into the temporary settlement. The covered outdoor kitchen area served their needs, although there was little space for prepping or serving. Cynthia and I agreed that it’s amazing how many Ecuadorians master the art of cooking in very basic areas, but they do it well and with grace!
Needing to return to the property, I will close for now and return this weekend with the next chapter.
Thank you for listening, and for caring.