(Mindo Ecuador) – Many locals tell me that the extreme rains we’ve been receiving are due to the El Nino weather. When the road along Rio Cinto almost washed away, Barbara and I were part of an impromptu “Minga” where locals work together for the benefit of a community project. After about fifteen minutes, we were able to drive through the ‘rock bridge’ that crossed the washout.
“Hummingbird teaches us… what has happened in the past, and what might happen in the future is not nearly as important as what we are experiencing now. It teaches us to hover in the moment, to appreciate the sweetness.” Constance Barrett Sohodski
Mindo Ecuador – Barbara’s visit is zipping by way too fast, but we stay busy with many creative tasks. The sun peers from behind the clouds for a few hours each day, and we work on various outdoor projects until the rains run us inside! We then switch to other projects – like creating signs for the trails!
(Mindo Ecuador) – An impromptu meeting redirected one of my afternoons last week, and I embraced the opportunity to work with a small group of students that are preparing for an art competition. We met this past Tuesday, and they will bring sketches to the next meeting on Monday!
Every single student is precious, and they all seem thrilled that I will be helping.
This week’s Timeout is short and sweet, and will hopefully be delivered to your doorstep via ‘Publish later’ option. Barbara arrived this past Saturday, and – aside from lots of rain – all’s fine at beautiful Rio Cinto. (It was nice of the otter to drop by and say “Welcome Back!”)
More next week! Z
“I think you lied to me,” she said as they swam to the shallow end of the private lake. “You told me that story just to pull me away from my friends and take me here… They are probably catching lots of fish in the river right now…”
“I promise, I told you the truth! Just wait and you’ll see for yourself!” Continue reading
Birds, birds and more birds! This is the Backyard Birdcount Weekend! Give your feathered friends a voice and put your backyard on the map! Yesterday I counted a few, and today I’ve been in transit, but tomorrow will be dedicated not only to identifying each species, but also to counting howw many drop by to say, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”
This is the Backyard Birdcount Weekend! I hope that many of you will give your feathered friends a voice and put your backyard on the map!
Thank you for your enthusiastic feedback on the last post! The Neotropical otter is called a “Nutria” here in Ecuador, and it visited for just that morning and has gone back into hiding. It must be playing tag with the cormorant, which returned and is again gobbling the tilapia! By combining photos, audio extractions of camera videos and music snippets, I found creative ways to tell the story via Windows Movie Maker 2012.
Today I am in Quito, and sitting across the table from me is our very special friend “Hummingbird” Barbara, who arrived from Panama this morning! We are about to travel to Mindo, and tomorrow we’ll try to document as many birds as possible there on my friends’ property.
Here’s a bird that landed near the house yesterday. Can anyone help identify this raptor?
It will be fun to swap bird stories later this week!
Here’s the link to the “Get Started” page for the birdcount:
Something was out there.
My breathing paused while my eyes switched from the well-thumbed Birds of Northwest Ecuador to the reflective waters of the pond. Subtle ripples confirmed that something was there, though there were many possibilities.
The masked water tyrants were nesting again, and they often patrol that section of the pond. I did not think that those birds were responsible for those ripples.
The white-ringed flycatchers were absent this week; their nesting cycle ended when the small bush holding their life’s work toppled into the pond during heavy rains. Hopefully the fledglings had fled before the nest’s baptism. Maybe they relocated to a favorite perch, the red ginger at the edge of the pond.
A striated heron stops in every so often, though it usually perches on dead limbs and waits in stealth mode. I quickly dismissed the heron from my list of suspects. Cute little swallows gather insects while practicing touch and gos during the last few hours of each day, but this was a sunny morning. Swallows were also quickly ruled out.
Ah! The blue-winged teal! They stopped by for a visit in December. Maybe they were back? Their presence added a touch of grace to the landscape.
The neotropical cormorant had been absent for a few days, thank goodness, as it gorges on tilapia throughout the day. I checked its usual spot – empty – and shifted my eyes to the mirror-like waters. Most likely the cormorant had returned. If so, it would surface soon.
My eyes darted to new ripples along the grasses, and the swift movement jolted me into action.
(Mindo Ecuador) – The rainy season has definitely returned here in the cloud forest, and the rain guage has ‘caught’ at least 20 inches of rain since the new year began! The rains continue to purge the normally-tranquil Rio Cinto, that has lost its temper twice and roared as it passed (in its bounds) through the valley.
On Tuesday the sound of traffic returned, and I drove to town with no problems. A very large landslide had been cleared, and the municipality deserves recognition for their prompt action. I did not take my hands off the wheel in order to photograph the mud and muck!
Between rains, the days are beautiful and the mornings often seem as if rain is the least-expected item on the day’s menu. By noon or one, the clouds return, and light showers prompt a change in plans.
Mindo, Ecuador – The little Burrito Laptop displayed a stubborn temperament yesterday and refused to respond to any keyboard prompt. Photos were waiting to be uploaded, and stories were waiting to be shared, and I could open pages via touch screen, but nothing else worked! A cybercafe helped me connect to the world and send a fast email to say, “I’m fine – all’s well aside from lots of rain here in the cloud forest.” I am learning to dodge the roadblocks the computer places in my way and can do basic typing. Pardon the generic presentation of this and future posts!
Drive with me past Rio Cinto and examine the range of the moods!
My drive to town was a bit longer than norm this week; I stopped and photographed Rio Cinto’s rare bad mood, and then braked for a great photo session with two toucans that foraged near the road. Continue reading
“The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length the middle-aged man concludes to build a wood-shed with them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Urcuqui Ecuador – Sarah Dettman invited me to visit Urcuqui over a year ago to look at a renovation project of an old adobe property. Sarah and her husband Eloy planned to convert the space into a coffee shop with an apartment on the first level and the owners’ living quarters on the second floor. This past March between Semana Santa and a friend’s wedding, we drove to the site and tossed around creative ideas.
The name of the cafe, Arbol de la Vida, provided endless ideas for artistic touches, and Sarah and another friend Linnda visioned a giant tree on the wall to greet people when they stepped into the cafe. Beyond that wall was a neutral area between the bathrooms, and we discussed hanging a framed painting of a tree in that space.
When I returned this past week for a three-day “Time for Art!” session with the family, I was pleased to see that grand tree already taking shape on the adobe wall. The maestro had fashioned a believable tree trunk and limbs from parts of trees, and the effect was strong and powerful.
My eye went next to the blank wall between the two bathrooms, though there was one little-but important obstacle in the way of placing a painting in that space. The light switch had been placed dead center in the wall. Only a few seconds passed before I suggested a creative compromise: “Let’s paint a big tree and design the light switch into part of the tree… “ Sarah gave me one of her classic, “Are you sure about this?” looks, and I added, “It could be its belly button!” and then she looked even more doubtful. I asked if there was a remnant piece of plywood or some kind of building material that we could use…. (No, but they would buy something) Added to the shopping list were about 100 tiny mirrors…
Three or four coats of white paint later – and after tossing around ideas with Sarah, I began painting the ‘whimsical’ ceibo tree. Sarah and family were working on a mosaic project in the loft area that overlooked the main area where I was painting. As their mosaic grew, so did the tree.
After the basic form of the tree was finished, next came the deep blue swirls of color, painted ‘just wide enough’ for the little mirrors. I worked late into the night so that it would be ready for a protective water-based acrylic sealer the next morning. (Sarah’s first task of the day!) Although I slept later than everyone else, it was still fun to witness their reactions to the finished painting!
After coffee, everyone glued mirrors to the swirls of color, which gave the tree a more-powerful presence. The maestro, who was working in another area, fished the wires through the painting and secured the panel to the wall.
The finale, of course, was placing the light switch and confirming that it worked! The tree represents the combined energies of all who helped, and hopefully it will radiate that good energy to all who pause to admire it!
The ‘normal’ lens on my camera malfunctioned several months ago, so all photos are taken with the lens used for bringing far-off subjects closer. I stood on the scaffold to take a few photos then took a few more from the loft. With or without a final group photo, everyone was pleased with the results!
(Imagine a group of smiling faces here!)
*The title of this post came from another impromptu project, ‘It Started with one Light Pole.” Hmmmm; I wonder what will come next in this series!
Returning to Mindo after a challening week, I was pleased that I had just enough time to send an email to say, “I reached home plate,” upload photos for the Timeout post, and walk to the church – less than one minute away. Over the past month, I had often touched base with the world via internet as Leon Rodriguez, known to a few extranjeros as George/Jorge, had been practicing for his upcoming piano recital at Hostal & Restaurant Caskaffesu. Although he performs each week with the popular group of Andean artists (Tribus Futuras), this recital would be his local debut of his beloved classical piano.
Still garnished with holiday-season flowers, the church provided a perfect mood and backdrop for Leon’s music. Luis Alban and Susan Hillman accompanied via guitar on the opening, then weaned the spotlight to Jorge.
For the next hour, Leon captivated all as we sat rapt in wonder as this gentle man shared his gift with us.
Works played in the recital:
Ponchito al hombro – Carlos Bonilla Chavez (Ecuador)
Coqueteos – Fulgencio Garcia (Colombia)
Fon- ron – Ernesto Nazareth (Brazil)
Prelude in C sharp minor – Gnosseinne No 3 – Erik Satie (France)
Moment musicaux No 3 – Franz Schubert (Austria)
Maple leaf rag – Scott Joplin (United States)
Locally, Leon plays with the group Wed – Saturday evenings at Caskaffesu in Mindo and also gives private piano and voice lessons.
One can reach him via Facebook or email:
Mindo, Ecuador —- I am about to attend a concert but wanted to wish you all a Happy New Year and to share a sneak peek at a project from this week in Urcuqui Ecuador.
While waiting to leave Quito and its congested traffic, I snapped this image of effigies, sold to burn away the old year and bring in the new. I plan to make my own mosquito effigy and burn away the chikungunya and dengue baggage!
I’ll be back perhaps this weekend.
Being offline most of the time, I usually scan the subject of emails to get a gist of what’s happening in other parts of the world. Headlines of a tornado that hit near Clarsksdale Mississippi got my attention, as I once lived in Clarksdale and several other Delta towns in that area. John Ruskey at Mississippi River Dispatch/Quepaw Canoe Company sent this report to his subscribers this morning:
Christmas Eve Eve Tornado
Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No 328
Posted Monday, Dec 28, 2015
We’re Okay, but Here’s How to Help
“Thanks to everyone who has been calling or writing in concerned about how we’re doing after the Christmas Eve Eve storms, one of which produced an unusually long-lasting tornado that swept a diagonal path 145 miles across northern Mississippi into Tennessee, reportedly staying on the ground the whole way. We are okay in Clarksdale, but outlying areas in the county got hit hard. Homes and airport were damaged near Clarksdale; emergency crews said about 25 homes are severely damaged in Coahoma County, and many more have minor damage. An entire subdivision was wiped out in the Bellevue area. No loss of life reported in Coahoma County, but nearby Benton and Marshall Counties got hit hard with multiple deaths reported.
Several of you have wondered how to help… Thank you! See below news story from CNN for ways to help those who have suffered:
Mississippi communities destroyed: Mississippi was hit just before Christmas and many injuries and deaths were reported. The governor has declared a State of Emergency. Many communities have been damaged and in many cases, families have been left homeless. If you want to help, the Mississippi Emergency Management has ways to donate or volunteer on their website. The small towns of Holly Springs and Clarksdale, Mississippi, are among the hardest hit. The Mississippi Red Cross is providing shelter, food and supplies and you can make a donation here. If you live in the Holly Springs area you can drop off aid at the Eddie Smith Multipurpose Center, 285 North Memphis Street and in Clarksdale at the Civic Auditorium at 506 East 2nd Street.
Direct Relief is sending medical supplies to the region and is just one of many organizations getting ready to respond.
The tornado was visible from the Hopson Plantation, the Shack Up Inn, and must have come across the Sunflower River somewhere south of there, maybe in the Dublin/Roundaway area. Clarksdale narrowly missed being hit by the tornado. It passed within five miles of town. But nearby communities were hit hard. Belleview especially, we’ve heard that 25 houses were destroyed in the county and many more damaged. And the rain was torrential. We got 6 – 10 inches of rain in a short intense burst of storms, and now all the fields and drainages are full of water, and the Sunflower River rose 10 feet in about 6 hours on Christmas Eve morning, and is now flooding big time, the highest its been since 2011 I think, judging by the muddy water creeping across the parking lot at Quapaw Canoe Company.
Update from John around noon Dec 28th, 2015:
1) I just got a report of one person died in Coahoma County as result of the tornado (details forthcoming)
2) Sen Robert Jackson shared this report from Quitman County: “We also have many families who lost their homes in the Marks area as well and need your prayers and assistance. Call Don Green at Ms Delta Council for Farm Worker Opportunities. 662-627-1122.”
More from John: Mississippi River Forecast- The entire Lower Mississippi and Middle Mississippi River Valleys have been experiencing heavy rainfall in these same storms, with flood walls being closed and the big river rising above major flood stage in St. Louis, and forecasted to crest around 48.5 in Cape Girardeau on Jan 2nd (which is at record height — as high as it got in the catastrophic floods of 1993!). The forescast for the Lower Miss is not as dire, 57 feet at the mouth of the Ohio River (Cairo, IL) on the 5th of January. (This is 17 feet above flood stage in Cairo), but it is expected to crest at 41 Memphis (7 feet above flood stage), at 43.5 in Baton Rouge on Jan 19th (8.5 feet above flood stage) and at 17 in New Orleans on the 20th (which is alarmingly high — the levees protect NO only up to 20 feet).
Whew! 2016 is going to be an interesting year on the Lower Miss!
For more photos of the Lower Miss and more reading, go to http://www.rivergator.org
The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
is a service of the Lower Mississippi River Foundation
Clarksdale, Miss ~ Helena, Ark
John Ruskey/ RiverGator.org
Quapaw Canoe Company
Lower Mississippi River Foundation
291 Sunflower Avenue
Clarksdale, MS 38614
Short and sweet, this post spotlights some of my favorite ‘red’ images as I extend my best wishes to all of you for a wonderful holiday season. Thank you for your support for my drawings, paintings, whimsical art and for my epistles, stories and serious writings as well.
For those who have time to venture back to old posts, here’s how my Ecuadorian friends observe Christmas in the town of Jama. (Manabi Province/Ecuador)
Now let’s turn back to more images in red! Continue reading
Most every morning I awaken with a plate-full of dreams still lingering in my psyche. They war at times with lucid thoughts, and I question, “Where do these thoughts come from?” (Perdon, but “from where do these thoughts arise,” just doesn’t flow well!)
This morning a cyber headline from last week played over and over, much like a banner running nonstop across a viewing screen. “Monsanto charged with Crimes Against Humanity” and I wondered just what crimes are named or if it was a headline to prompt visits to the site. Without being online for the ease of a search tool, I decided the most-obvious reason might be connected to Agent Orange and its use in the Vietnam War.
In 2011, Bob Ramsak of Piran Cafe wrote about his visit to “Thanhxuan Peace Village, or Lang Hoa Binh Than Xuan, an orphanage, school and clinic in Hanoi set up specifically for victims of Agent Orange. It was also the last time I sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star before an appreciative audience.” Continue reading
Now that I am living in the cloud forest near Mindo Ecuador, I am distanced from urban areas and spend most of my time in blissful solitude. Every so often someone will ask, “Aren’t you scared?” or “Don’t you get bored?” or even “Are you sure you are happy out there?”
Sometimes I smile (smirk?) and reply, “I’m not wired like most…”
Even when very young, I preferred the sky as my roof and a fallen tree as my chosen furniture, and I’d seek out my favorite places in the woods and sit for half an hour or more before moving to another area. I craved the hushed quiet of the wilderness, though the nuances of subtle sounds filled my hours with joy. The wind whispering through the trees provided the most-constant soundtrack as I admired and inspected wildflowers that dotted the landscape. I learned to stomp on the ripened fruit of the ‘Maypop,’ and I sometimes tweaked my attention to a sudden splash in the water, which might have been a fish or a snake or a falling limb. I explored the thickets for Brer Rabbit, though I always failed at sneaking up on prehistoric-looking softshelled turtles basking on sun-drenched banks.
As an adult, I adapted when necessary, but I have always been my best when alone with nature. My senses come alive, and I merge with the subtle rhythms. Years ago when I spent a month in the city, I asked my birding friend, Michael Godfrey, “If I feel starved for connection with nature, what must the Indians feel when they’ve transplanted to the concrete jungles? How do they survive?”
Michael’s reply was a sobering one, “They don’t. They die a little each day from soul rot.” Continue reading
Todays assortment of images reflect my response to Otto Munchow’s post, “Let the Sun In.” A gifted photographer and teacher, Otto stated, “Light is one of the most important factors that influence the quality of a photo.” He followed with, “There is no such thing as bad light, only suitable or not suitable light for whatever you are trying to express. ” His post offers pointers for photographing in the harsh mid-day light.
As I read his post, I thought of the ‘Plant Rescue Garden’ (pictured above) at my friends’ property in the cloud forest near Mindo. During certain hours, the sun stretches its fingers into the deep shadowed area and showcases several of the plants. The light is very dramatic, and I almost always reach for my camera and try to capture what makes it so special. Just how many photos does one need of the happily-transplanted bromeliads, begonias and orchids? For me, they serve as reference photos for those rainy days when I’m housebound and looking for inspiration for paintings.
“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others…for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received and am still receiving.”
― Albert Einstein, Living Philosophies
This quote from Einstein’s Living Philosophies prompted me to pause and consider my life, the lives of my friends and loved ones and the casual strangers we meet each day. I pondered every man-made article ‘built upon the labors of people both living and dead’ in the room around me. I wondered about the nameless people that affected my particular point in life at this very moment. Who whacked the bamboo that now serves as the walls of this cabanya? Was the hard work of construction mixed with sweat and shared laughter as the workers saw the vision take form?
My Life in the Foothills has Passed Away – Babs (Barbara Beacham) was great at hooking me every so often with fiction stories that I thought were true, so I first thought this might be another one of her masterly-written short stories. I quickly realized that the post was written by her grief-stricken husband.
Barbara was a gifted photographer and loved sharing the beauty of nature with her readers. She had a sense of humor and was a tireless cheerleader, even when my online time dwindled to sporadic visits to her posts. She was also an artist in the kitchen – a true Renaissance woman.
In August, she participated in the Butterfly Safari and requested “… let us land at that spot on that quiet lake, near the lily pads and reeds to watch the flitting around of the very colorful dragonflies.” She even gave a positive ‘Flip Adviser’ testimonial regarding the landing!. .. “I loved this trip! All the colors in so many places. Thank you for hosting and allowing all of us to board the magic carpet. Hugs to you chica for also making it to the lily pads! ^..^ P.S. The landing was not bad at all!”
I missed seeing her late-August post written while she was recovering from pneumonia. Today Was a Good Day.
She revealed to us in September more details of her battle. She said to me, “How bout when you leave the coast you make a trip up here and I can hop on the magic carpet. I think sitting in the warm water off the coast somewhere in your neck of the woods, or close by, would be very relaxing.🙂 Are you game? ^..^”
A very dear and brave woman will no longer grace the WordPress community with her unique and always-positive presence. Goodbye, dear Babs. You will be missed, and perhaps you’ll tag along on some of the magic carpet journeys as an invisible copilot.
I extend my deepest sympathies to her loved ones.
“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.”
― John Steinbeck
(Ecuador) Allow me to introduce you to a new watercolor study, inspired by an artifact in the Bahia de Caraquez museum. I don’t think it reflects the emotion of contempt, but it seems happy and makes me smile.
Several years ago I was allowed into the Museum’s special glassed room filled with artifacts. A guard accompanied me while I admired various pieces and was allowed to photograph a few. The director of the museum has given me permission to return to this room so that I can capture the likeness of artifacts that the public never gets to see. This precious artifact (above) is one of my favorites.
Now that we’re receiving afternoon rains in the cloud forest, I work on the gardens in the mornings and switch to art when the rain chases me inside! This past week I even remembered to take a few photos while I worked! (Although I do not like working from photographs, I will be able to adjust colors when I return to the museum for another work session.) Continue reading
Let’s start with a few birds that highlight every day I am on Jim and Julie’s property!
About a 30-minute drive from Mindo is the hub of “Los Bancos.” I was there last week to pay the car tag fee for Jim and Julie. After an hour’s wait in line at the bank, I was told, “The system is down,” and was dismissed.
I stood there with mouth agape, pondered my choices, and quickly decided, “I’ll go to the Mirador Restaurant and not let this bother me!”
Patricio, the owner of the Mirador Restaurant and Cabanas, has great hospitality skills and always has time for his guests. Not only is the food exceptional, there are stunning views to the valley below as well as an ever-changing cast of birds that visit the feeders near the tables.
Patricio’s nephew greeted me and said, “I saw you in the bank. That was a long line!” He could not help with suggestions for paying the tag fee, but Patricio came along and assured me that I had all month to pay it.
“I’ll try again in another week,” I smiled, then sat at a table near one of the bird feeding stations. Continue reading
El Matal/Jama Ecuador – Around 4:30 this morning, after peering into the pre-dawn seascape from my balcony perch at my friends’ home, I tipped downstairs and wondered whether to awaken Lesli or Becky or both. If I knocked on Becky’s door, the dog might start barking, so I tapped lightly on Lesli’s bedroom door.
“It’s here,” I said as if I were a child announcing the devil peering through my window. Or perhaps a dragon or some malevolent creature from a Stephen King novel.
Becky opened her door. “Are you OK?” she asked.
Seasoned veterans, they’ve learned the nuances of sounds that the ocean makes as it gauges its daily appetite. “It’s OK right now. We would hear the sound of the bags if they were falling.”
“But it looks like it’s reaching Paul and Cinzia’s house. It’s —“ I felt so silly, but my friends turned on the outside lights, which confirmed that the bags were in place. We stepped outside and stared quietly at the waves.
“What time is it?”
“I think around 4:30, “I sheepishly replied.
Becky checked the tide charts and said we were about half an hour from high tide.
Lesli, in her dry sense of humor, stated, “We’ve got a rookie in the house.”
We wondered what Linda was experiencing, as the municipality did a lot of work/rearranging the toppled rocks in the area near her home and Pat’s.
“Leroy and Shirley seem to be getting more water today,” Leslie stated, and we peered in the other direction as the water found its way back to the sea.
I don’t know how one can face this night after night, week after week, month after month – wondering if the next set of waves will break through the weakening defense. Some of the waves reverberate through the ground and shake this well-built home. How does one deal with the emotional and physical fatigue without having combat training?
Yes, this rookie tips her hat to the stoic ones who have been enduring this for two years. May today bring news of hope.
El Matal/Jama Ecuador – You have witnessed (via photos and posts) the Pacific Ocean slowly devouring the front line at El Matal. We have watched the ocean crack the swimming pool – and then take more bites with each high tide at Pat Godkin’s home. I am pleased to introduce you to Pat via a story she wrote in September. Here’s Pat:
Is it too risky to invest in Ecuador?
One retiree’s cautionary tale
As a single woman with no pension, I was understandably nervous about retiring early and building my beachfront dream home in a foreign country.
Over the years, I had casually researched several countries, mostly in South America because of the affordable beachfront, great weather (below the hurricane belt!), breathtaking scenery and wonderful people.
As I neared retirement age, I decided to attend a seminar hosted by International Living in Quito, Ecuador. I fell in love with Ecuador, its natural beauty and its people.
The seminar was great. I met a lot of likeminded people. I was pumped! In addition, I was completely bowled over by a couple of American Developers who were selling beachfront property at the seminar. They were experienced builders and as their website promised – they would take me from start to finish. Eureka! My prayers had been answered! I immediately put a down payment on a lot.
Look how pretty it is (was, but more about that later!)
I was still working in Canada but couldn’t wait to start construction.
Fast forward, two and a half years – shell of a house, empty Ecuadorian bank account, unfinished development, two Ecuadorian lawyers and countless visits to the Fiscale (similar to our district attorney) – I was feeling more than a little naive and more than a little disillusioned.
Not willing (or smart enough) to give up on my dream, I cut my losses, found a new builder and (sort of) finished my house (lesson number 327 – don’t build a house when you live in another country or you might be very, very surprised and not in the good way).
I moved into my house February 2013. I was “all in”. I easily obtained residency and paid approximately 10,000 to ship my furniture/effects from Canada. I was here for the long haul!
Amidst all these adventures, there was some chattering about beach erosion – no worries – normal erosion is 1-2 meters a decade my research told me! “The ocean takes and it gives” everyone said. Relax, breath – so what if you are losing approximately 15 meters a year – it will come back!
Fast forward September 2015 – without a miracle (government intervention) there is a very strong likelihood that our houses will be in the ocean in the next several months. It’s not giving back. And it’s no longer pretty.
There is little sympathy for *rich gringos* (especially from the much smarter gringos who didn’t build on the coast) and I get that, I truly do. There are a lot of people with much bigger problems in Ecuador.
However, this area has so much potential and there are people and companies poised and ready to invest millions of dollars. The economic spin off and employment it would create is enormous.
An eminent Ecuadorian Coastal specialist has said Geotubes would not only protect this stretch of the coast, they would also bring back the beach. And although it is prohibitively expensive for the handful of us living here, it is a small investment for the municipality to make with huge returns.
The municipality is *protecting* the little fishing village next door by putting massive rocks, which seem to be sinking as fast as they can bring them in (exactly as the Coastal specialist said would happen) – it is not a good solution. In addition, the rocks have caused the direction and energy of the waves to change and we are being hammered with unprecedented ferocity.
We have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours trying to protect our properties. We have written countless letters, visited countless ministries and they all seem to agree that it is up to the municipality to protect us. It’s not happening. We are slowly running out of steam. Morale is at an all-time low. We are out of options.
Sadly, we are invested in Ecuador, but Ecuador, in particular the Canton of Jama, is not invested in us.
Update Friday, 24 October 2015
Things always seem worse in the dark. High tide was around midnight last night but the waves pounded the pool and my deck for at least two hour prior to high tide. My neighbour and I stood on the deck and marvelled at the amount of water coming at us. And then we turned, bumped into each other and starting running – what was that noise? Ah, and so it begins…
At this rate, it could be days before the house suffers the same fate.
Above story shared by Pat Godkin, El Matal-Jama-Ecuador
Postscript from Lisa: It’s very serious here; the ocean took big bites from other properties last night. The mayor has been here, and hopefully as the Sudden-Death Hour approaches, he will find the resources to save this area.
El Matal, Jama, Manabi Ecuador
My friend Dady and I visited El Matal late yesterday out of concern for the property owners at El Matal. The waves were dramatic, but it seemed that the worst was behind for this month.
This morning a friend wrote to say, “We got slammed last night…” so I am sharing a few images from this morning and will be back with more updates. Continue reading
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
The multi-layered and ongoing crisis at Playa El Matal (Ecuador) often reminds me of character studies in literature. The ocean’s change in temperament dominoes in many directions and affects many classes of people in the community. I’ve witnessed arrogance, apathy and denial as well as compassion, integrity and diplomacy. The homeowners display amazing inner strength, though like battle-weary veterans, they are running on reserve energy and little sleep and are in need of some much-needed rest.
Each person has his or her own breaking point, and no one knows how much reserve strength is left as the ocean continues to build toward the highest tides at the end of this week. There have been unselfish gestures prompted by empathy and compassion, although there is an undercurrent of sadness and sorrow.
The following photos illustrate the seriousness of this week’s tides. Continue reading
I have learnt silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers… Kahlil Gibran
Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. — Kahlil Gibran
“Yow!” I mumble each morning when I step from the bed. “Yow, yow, yow, yow” is my morning mantra as I hobble ducklike across the room. By about the sixth step, I remind myself that the ankle pain will be gone in five or so minutes, and for the rest of the day my body will feel ‘normal.’
Attempting to hold the hairbrush, I struggle to detangle my rapidly-thinning hair. My fingers feel like lobster claws, and I remember my Aunt Lulu’s deformed hands. I hold the brush with a loose grip and ponder bobbing my hair to ease the morning struggle. (Is there a barber in the house?!) A new style would not affect the hair loss – each day a week’s worth seems to slough as my thick hair turns into my mother’s. I also think of those who lose their hair thanks to chemotherapy, as I have a token sample of one of the side effects.
I can thank chikungunya for the painful joints and hair loss. Every single morning, I ponder those who suffer with pain all day every day – and night. I always think of the quote from Kahlil, and yes, these challenges have been great teachers. My struggles seem quite tiny compared to others’ – like the escalating crisis at Playa El Matal.
“Water runs to the sea. If an obstacle — such as a dam or a levee — prevents water from flowing where gravity would send it, then the water’s mass and potential energy builds. The greater the force applied in an effort to block water from its natural flow, the greater will grow the mass of water so blocked, and the greater will become the potential power of its energy.” RISING TIDE – John M. Barry
El Matal/Jama – Ecuador) A week ago friends visiting from the UK said that they’d like to visit Jama again, and asked if I’d like to go with them.
“Of course!” I beamed, and we enjoyed a mini trip to Jama, Casa Loca and El Matal. John and his brother Barry experienced Manabi Province’s breakfast of encebollado (Yum yum!) then willingly participated in a late-morning Playamart shopping spree. They not only are great Playamart shoppers but are also great set designers as well!
I rewarded my assistants with a second culinary experience of the day – Corviche, which is a bit like a hushpuppy made from grated green plantains with a fish or shrimp-filled center. At fifty cents each, the just-made finger-sized fritters made the perfect appetizer to sustain us until our late-afternoon seafood dinner at El Matal.
After the corviche break, we switched beach locations and drove to nearby El Matal. I warned my friends, “You won’t be getting a tranquil Playamart shopping experience here. What we experience will not be pretty.”
“The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour. Then there is least somnolence in us; and for an hour, at least, some part of us awakes which slumbers all the rest of the day and night… ” Henry David Thoreau
(Mindo Ecuador) – The expectations of the morning always nudge me from sleep quite early. Some mornings a sharp “thud” announces that a bird has slammed into the window, and I dash to look for the victim. Other mornings I slowly awaken and peer from the windows as if to expect Jack Frost to be visiting the tropics! Then there are mornings when I sit on the porch and watch the hummingbirds fight for dominance over the feeders. Their first drink of the day is as important as that first cup of coffee is to many people!
This past Wednesday, I noted the ripples in the pond and assumed there were fish feeding on insects. Having seen the ripples for several mornings, I put on my outdoor gear and took a dawn walk to the pond. Yes, fish were feeding on the surface, and I chuckled as they spotted me and scampered for cover beneath the vegetation!
I admired the vegetation on the old footbridge and wondered if it should be removed/transplanted to the plant rescue garden. The strangler would surely overtake the bridge one day, but perhaps that’s a decision that the next owner should make!
Wanting to check the route around the upper end of the pond, I decided to go pick a few lemon mandarinas. Ten minutes later as I inspected various plants, a large raptor soared overhead. “Wow! that wasn’t the laughing falcon!”
Let’s hurry down the trail and see if it’s still there!
Shhhhh. Be very quiet and look up in that old bromeliad-filled tree!
I continued to take photos as I returned to the house. Once the osprey was in pure morning light, it was difficult to photograph.
Ah, but I could trek up the hill behind the house and hope for a very close shot from a much-higher vantage point!
… and to think what I would have missed if I’d stayed in bed a while longer!
It’s her sparkling eyes that I’ll remember. A lovely woman cherished by many, our dear Martita Brito passed away on Saturday, October 3, 2015. Marta embraced life with infectious enthusiasm, and she seemed to pull energy from the earth and radiate it out through her touch, her smile and her eyes. She often put others first and herself last, and she spread a large swath of sunshine wherever she went. Continue reading
(MINDO, Ecuador)The view of the bamboo was as lovely upside down as it was right-side up! I am in town to get a few supplies and head back to the property before dark catches me on the road. Will be back next week, but wanted to send a smoke signal that all’s fine in the cloud forest!
Enjoy the song (below) and a sample of photos taken this week.
(Mindo-Rio Cinto- Ecuador) Last week’s Timeout for Art was published through the magic of “Publish at a later date” option, so I was immersed in the cloud forest when “Timeout” rolled out last Thursday morning. Suspecting that my buddy-support system might be worried, I drove into town this afternoon to buy a few supplies, check emails and return before dark.
Your comments gave me grand smiles, and I’ll be back online at the end of the week to properly thank all of you. Ann, I’ll dust off the magic carpet and catch those magical full-moon-eclipse beams for a fast kitchen makeover! Karen, thanks for your beautiful comment – you are an extremely-talented artist, and I’m glad that my unique life gives you such pleasure!
Photos won’t upload, emails won’t open – the internet keeps ‘dropping’ the signal, so I’ll publish this and scram home just ahead of the rising moon! After a restart, it would not connect to any network. I selected, “Cannot Connect, Help” and was given this message: You are not connected to the Internet. To get online Help, which shows you the latest help content, you need to be connected to the Internet.”
Thanks again, everyone! See you at the end of the week, weather and internet permitting!
“When women come together with a collective intention, magic happens.”
Mindo Ecuador – Cutting a few old boards to custom fit the sink area of the kitchen, Barbara and I enjoyed a 2-day Timeout for Art this past weekend. We took turns with the hand saw then checked to be sure the boards fit the spaces. After being sanded, the boards were then prepped with white paint. Mixing paints to match the yellow and green kitchen tiles, we sat on the front porch and painted while hummingbirds critiqued our progress. Adding cup hooks and an under-the-counter light helped pull together a photo-worthy kitchen!
Step inside and join us for a cup of coffee; or perhaps you’d prefer a cup of hot chocolate instead?! Continue reading
(Playa El Matal/Jama/Manabi/Ecuador)
“It’s like a war zone,” I said more to myself than to my friend Barbara as we approached where the entrance to Coco Beach Village once stood.
The cluster of palm trees that anchored and framed the classic postcard view was no longer there. A lone sentinal remained, and its leafless trunk stretched skyward like a tattered symbol of a battle-weary war zone. Its neighbor across the concrete wall leaned dramatically toward the ground as if to echo the posture of discouraged homeowners.
The last time I walked this section of beach was in late June (photo above), and seeing the accelerated damage twisted an invisible knife in my stomach. The changes in June were alarming, and I stared in numbed silence as Barbara and I walked the same route two months later.
Flash back to February 2014, two months after the residents living on the beach first sounded the alarm. (See: It’s Devastating) There’s a vast difference between the people who observe the daily changes and those who second guess that feedback – yet don’t step onto the battlefield and witness those destructive waves from the front line.
One of those front-line people is a Pat Godkin, who allowed me to use her photo from when she first purchased her lot and slowly watched as her dream slowly evolved into a nightmare.
“If we know exactly where we’re going, exactly how to get there, and exactly what we’ll see along the way, we won’t learn anything. ”
― M. Scott Peck
(La Concordia Ecuador)- Several years ago while riding a bus from the cloud forest of Mindo to the Pacific coast, I spotted a simple tin-roofed home with a variety of baskets displayed out front. The sight intrigued me, and I watched with wistful eyes each time I zoomed past in transit.
This past week as Barbara and I drove from Mindo to the coast, I watched for the “House of Baskets” as we reached the ‘rotunda’ at La Concordia. We parked just past the house and crossed a primitive footbridge that delivered us to the yard. Two smiling women immediately greeted us, and Barbara and I stepped into a beautiful cultural exchange.
Never sure if I’d be targeted as a tourist willing to pay twice the normal price, I bashfully asked, “Quanto cuesta?” and pointed to one of the larger baskets to define a starting point.
Mindo Ecuador – My friend “Hummingbird” Barb calls my friends’ property a bird sanctuary. Join us in a cyber birding tour and let us know if you agree with her description! Sometimes words are an intrusion, especially when watching birds, so we’ll save the stories for another post!
A little music might be appropriate if we keep the volume low!
Standing at the arrivals gate, I held a sign that said, “Hummingbird.” – Many of you will know what this means! (The following photo was taken when she helped design the magic carpet; we had just finished painting the hummingbird for her home.)
Yes, my dear friend Barbara flew in from Panama last night and will be helping with various tasks in Mindo. I handed her a new pair of work gloves last night, and we’ll purchase the mandatory boots in Mindo! It will be fun to see what creative projects we tackle while she is here; for those interested, here’s a link to my friends’ property: A Little Bird Told Me
Speaking of gates, the all-seeing eye that watches over Casa Loca did not do the best job while I was in Mindo. My friends on the farm were trying to make the ‘bridge’ easier to use, but the workers forgot to clean up when finished! Continue reading