Friday, December 23, 2011


Sleep! Am I drugged? Adjusting once again to the altitudes and attitudes here in Ecuador, or just letting my body and mind rest after 3 and a half months of being constantly “on” while in the US?

I worked up at the house yesterday, and came down to my “town quarters” at about 2 PM to eat and fetch my telephone. I lie down on my bed ostensibly to give some rest to my right knee which has been very bothersome since my work in New Mexico, and promptly dropped off into one of the longest and groggiest naps I have ever taken. I wake up some three hours later, not sure of where I am, not even sure if I am really awake, alive or dead. The only thing I´m sure of is that I want to return immediately to the sweet oblivion of just a few moments ago. I roll over, and sleep.

This morning, more of the same. Deep deep sleep, intensely real dreams, and waking not knowing once again where I am, who I am. I dozed back off, but only for a few moments, and then forced myself up to make coffee. The coffee has done its job, for now, but I will sit here and type a little longer before hiking up the hill.

It is a luxury that I appreciate – the luxury to listen to my body and to let it rest when it wants or needs to. Not that I (my thinking part, my work ethic part) want to sleep my days away, no, there is far too much to be done here and I would miss too many interesting sights and sounds for that. But on occasion, de vez en cuando - - damn, it feels good.


Despite all appearances of a laid back and responsibility- free lifestyle I have a lot on my mind. Obviously the house – lots of finish work still to do, some nagging but not serious problems with the roof, and the necessity of furnishing the place, at least a little, remains. What will I buy, what will I build?

Either way means several trips to Ibarra.

A bigger concern even than the house is the question of my visa, which expires in mid February 2012. I have some options, all of which will require a lot of friendly persuasion and leg work, and none of which are worth pursuing during these weeks preceding Christmas and New Years. Just like in the US, very little gets done during this holiday time of year.

The small matter of how to earn a little bit of a living and provide for my old age is something I´d rather not discuss at the moment.



Ah, the evening´s reward for a good day. A room temperature Coca-Cola made palatable by a few onzas of cheap scotch (namely, Grant´s). No ice cubes though, dammit. Even more luxurious, a bag of salted and shelled peanuts that I bought while in Ibarra the other day - - now all I need is a football game, and a TV.
I woke up this morning fresh as a daisy (I think I am over the sleeping sickness) and then killed an hour while I hemmed and hawed over making another trip to Ibarra. The argument between my virtuous side and my avoid work at all costs side got hot and heavy at times and finally the responsible virtuous side scored a rare and stunning victory by declaring out loud “haul your lazy bony ass up to the house and get some work done.”

So that´s what I did. Indoor plumbing connected, drains working. Check. Kitchen and “living room” painted. Check. (well, almost. I´ll finish it tomorrow, promise.) I even plundered around in the muddy garden, picking beets and a few leaves of spinach. The beets go to a neighbor and the spinach goes to my salad.


It´s fiesta time in Cahuasqui which means a lot more people and noise than normal. (“Normal” meaning not many people and so quiet at times you can hardly believe it) Family and friends of family visiting from Ibarra or Quito, usually spending a few days and nights out here in the campo before returning to their busy city lives.

Something I have noticed here, and also in Ambuqui when I lived there, is that these city visitors tend to treat the little towns as their own private playground. “Oh how quaint! Let´s drink a jabba of beer and then race our cars up and down the street at 3AM while blowing our horns!” or “Oh how quaint! Let´s now park our cars and drink another jabba of beer while listening to reggaeton and 80´s American pop music at a volume that will wake the dead for miles around!” or “Oh how quaint! Let´s drink yet another jabba and play with our car alarms at 5 in the morning to see how many different kinds of sounds they will make!” Notice please that there are a few common threads here, namely beer, noise, and cars.

Beer (or insert otro tipo de licor here) and noise I guess have always been and always will be part of the Ecuadorean social landscape. Cars of course have been around in Ecuador for a while too, what is changing and changing rapidly is how many cars. In the short five years that I have been in Ecuador, it seems that the amount of privately owned cars has grown at an astonishing rate. I have no data to back this up, just my own eyes and ears, sitting in a noisy traffic jam in Quito or Ibarra, or watching from the window of a bus the proliferation of late model automobiles.

Except for during the fiestas we do not have many cars here in Cahuasqui. I would venture a guess that there are 20 or less cars in town, and most of them are small pickup trucks. There are also 8 to 10 furgones, or larger trucks, that are used for transporting agricultural produce to Ibarra and Quito, and locally used to haul rock, sand and stone, etc. So it was easy for me to notice that 2 of my vecinos in town had recently purchased vehicles. Both are used, one is a nice little 2 wheel drive white pickup truck manufactured in China, and the other looks to be an 80´s vintage Toyota LandCruiser, 4WD of course.

Now I want one . . . But then I would never get any work done . . .

And to be fair, the nuisances mentioned above occur (thankfully) very infrequently, and to someone less sensitive and more tolerant then me would probably not warrant a strenuous complaint. Yet it is a happy day when the visitors go home, all their basura is cleaned up, and we return to the normalcy of quiet days and nights interrupted only by a shoed horse clomping along the pavers, pealing church bells, and occasional civic announcements from the local authorities.

(The photo above has nothing to do with this post. It´s one of my favorites, two young girls who live in a small community at about 4200 meters in la provincia Bolivar, where I was working last year. As for the last photo, the big chicken on top of the big Suburban - - a few folks liked that one! It´s from this past summer, in Hatch, New Mexico.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

a los tiempos . . .

Let´s see - agosto,septiembre, octubre, noviembre, y la mitad de diciembre - - a long time without posting. Hope one or two of you are still listening, let me know!

18 diciembre 2011

I was getting ready to go to Ibarra this morning, thinking that it would be a nice way to spend my first Saturday back in Ecuador. Not to mention that I could pick up a few hardware items, do a little grocery shopping, and meet my friend Sarah for a cup of coffee, since she was coming up from Quito to visit her in-laws.

I called Sarah to make sure we were still on, and to suggest that we meet earlier than 3 PM, the time originally planned for. She answered the phone, apologizing profusely - - Roger I am so sorry I could not meet you yesterday, blah blah blah . . . I said no worries we are going to meet today right, Saturday? Sarah says - - Roger, yesterday was Saturday, today is Sunday.


I had been wondering why it seemed so quiet around town this morning.

It´s not the first time during my nearly 5 years in Ecuador that I have lost track of the calendar, and I expect and hope that it will not be the last.


My recent 3 month trip to the U.S. was mostly a success. The only serious blip was the heart attack my brother Dave suffered while I was up in New York City visiting with my daughter Anna on what was to have been my last night in the states. I spent the evening haggling with the airline and sending emails to friends in Ecuador who were expecting me the next day, and on Monday I lugged my ridiculously excessive luggage back down Anna´s 5 flights of stairs, grabbed a cab to Penn Station and then caught a bus back to Baltimore. My nephew Ian met me with his truck at the bus- stop, we loaded the luggage and then headed off to the hospital where Dave had undergone a quadruple bypass that morning.

I stayed in Baltimore for a week, running errands for David and visiting him in the hospital, but mostly nagging Ian with reminders that he was going to have to step up to the plate for the next few weeks at least to make sure laundry got done, food got bought, etc. etc. When I finally left for Ecuador on the following Tuesday, Dave was back home, doing well, and as we drove to the airport I gave Ian just a little more friendly nagging and told him that I expect a visit from him before too long. I hope he takes me up on it someday.


It is good to be back, even if I don´t know what day it is. After 2 very easy and pleasant flights, first from Baltimore to Atlanta (a stupendously clear sky and we followed the Appalachians all the way down to Georgia from Maryland) and then the 5.30 PM ride to Quito, I arrived just before 11 PM local time. The paperwork (passport, visa) was easy, as was the luggage check and exit. It was by far the most relaxed arrival I have yet had coming into Ecuador.

My friend Gabby had said she would meet me, and she did, along with her aunt and niece. It was the first time I had ever been met at the airport - - and by 3 lovely women, to boot. We taxied over to the small apartment where Gabby lives with her mother, Silvia, (essentially at the very end of the runway) and as always when they have visitors Gabby and her mom slept in Gabby´s bed and I slept in Silvia´s. I used to argue about this arrangement, but it gets me nowhere, so now I just appreciate the gesture and the firm mattress.

Although anxious to return to Cahuasqui I decided to stay the following day in Quito. Gabby and I bussed into el centro where she had some errands to run, and then we spent a few hours wandering around looking at Spanish schools. My son Joe is coming to Ecuador in January and he may take a few weeks of classes - - - and it wouldn´t hurt for me to consider doing the same. I certainly get by with my hackneyed Spanish, but I´d like to, and should, take it to the next level.

We visited a few schools, liked some more than others, and then got back to the house just in time to watch championship soccer, where Ecuador´s equipo, Liga, lost badly to Chile. Oh well.

The next morning, after another good night of sleeping on Silvia´s comfy mattress, I got on a bus to Ibarra and then to Cahuasqui. By 3 PM I was home.

I´m going to do my best to post again before the new year . . .