Yesterday (July 30, 2019) a lone howler monkey loitered for barely a minute – but long enough to confirm it was there!

“…Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one…” Thoreau, from Walden

When I posted the above quote two weeks ago, Thoreau’s words nailed how I felt. “Several more lives to live,” was especially true. Unsure exactly what was in the future, I felt there was no extra time for dragging my feet – even though I loved that GPS spot at Poza Honda.

Because I treasured the flora and fauna – and neighbors, I felt it was time to move forward. Staying there, I would witness and document the deforestation, the decline of not only birds but also bees, yet I needed to be where I could visit with authorities and interact with activists and like-minded people who share my concerns for the health of our planet. If art played any role in my future, I needed better studio settings as well as options for showcasing my work. Poza Honda was the carrot on the stick, my ‘Johnny’s Garden,” where I hope to sink deeper roots in the future.

Starting with a blank kitchen, the first priority was ‘Stage One’ for the kitchen. A maestro and his assistant helped for two days, and I worked day and night to prepare the artwork before sealing it beneath a few layers of protective varnish.

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Kitchen ‘Before’  “She recycles things,” Melissa told the carpenter the week before.  (The painted boards on the floor were first a window at Casa Loca, then a drawing table.  Now they are part of the counter!)

Two slideshows best show the two-days’ worth of work:

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A small area, most likely designed as a wash room, (areas for incoming and outgoing water and also with drain in the floor) would better suit me as a work area for art and a reading/conversation corner. After the kitchen, this area would be the next project. I did what I could, as well as hung paintings. Ah, it’s good to get them out of protective wrappings!

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“Next project” – Kitchen is to the right….

Life had a grander plan, and less than a week after the kitchen was barely ‘in service,’ and with other areas awaiting attention, Melissa’s baby arrived on July 22nd! Almost a month early, Edward Johir Sanchez spent the next week in the ‘Neo-nato’ section of the nearby hospital, and Melissa ‘camped’ with me at the apartment. She was allowed three visits per day, each lasting almost three hours. The last visit for each day stretched from 8:30 pm until 11.

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Melissa and Joselo – viewing high water at the dam – March 2019

When her husband Joselo was at the Poza Honda finca, I accompanied her to the hospital. With one or two books tucked into my bag, I treasured the quiet time for uninterrupted reading sessions! When Joselo visited, he helped with projects in the apartment between visits to the hospital and taking care of paperwork for the baby and hospital. Most interesting, however, was trying to blend my own style of cooking with their traditional ways. Melissa had never eaten cooked oatmeal! I cooked an oatmeal/quinoa mix, simmered with diced ripe plantains and cinnamon. The traditional way to prepare oats is by blending into a sweetened drink! She seemed happy to experience another option!


Photo from several years ago:  “ManaSissippi” – a skillet experiment that is now a preferred way to cook eggs for company. Green plantains provided a crispy bottom later, scrambled eggs with cheese was the middle layer, and a tomato salsa provided color and more flavor.

Green plantains are used almost daily in Manabi Province cuisine, and at times I asked Melissa for instructions. The results were often comical, yet we have enjoyed new culinary inventions! I also learned their secrets for cooking extra-flavorful lentils. Their list of ingredients contains two extra that I did not use: not only oregano but also green and ripened plantains! They sampled my evolving blend of options, including Mana-ssippi. Each meal was announced with a warning, ‘Comida loca/Crazy food.’

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“Madura’ and ‘Verde’ Plantains

This past Monday morning I drove Melissa to the hospital then returned to the apartment. A ‘maestro’ would be fine-tuning the water lines (another story!) and Melissa would take a taxi back to the apartment at noon. “Lunch will be ready when you return,” I had told her, so I was busy in the kitchen when she walked through the door. Turning to greet her – and to ask about her morning, I almost collapsed when I saw the bundle in her arms! The baby! What a heart-swelling moment!

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Joselo arrived about an hour later, and as soon as we finished lunch, a proud ‘gringita chofer’ drove them back to Poza Honda. We reflected on my dream (see: Put a Woman in Charge) and agreed it was fitting that I first saw them with a little child in my dreams, and now as a witness to that child and its homecoming, which included an extended family at Poza Honda.

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Like precious puppies awaiting the master’s return, lovely Valentina and Daniela were sitting outside of their home. They dashed to the road, oohed and awed at the sight of the newcomer, and we then drove the short distance to home base.

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From February – Neighbors Alex (far left) Valentina (middle) and Daniela (right)

After watching them enter their home with their precious newborn, I then walked to my house with expectations of seeing the Scarlet-rumped Caciques and the nest they have been tending. Indeed, the Caciques also celebrated new hatchlings! Ah, but that’s another story, which will follow this one as soon as I can pull it together!

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