Sunday, April 30, 2017

Zoo - I live in one! #AtoZChallenge

Someone told me it's all happening at the zoo. 
-- Paul Simon

When I wrote my first post for the A to Z Challenge, I did not know the what the remaining posts were going to be about. While blogging about my life in Ecuador for the past month, I realized that I live in a zoo. A natural, wild, amazing zoo!

Throughout the month, I introduced the following zoo residents: (click link to open post)
  1. Blue-footed boobies
  2. Humpback whales
  3. Iguanas
  4. A Monkey
  5. Owls
  6. A Frog
  7. Sea Turtles
No zoo is complete without water and I wrote about natural tide pools and Gary Vance providing drinking water. In the gift shop, there is the Tagua palm nut. The zoo sky is filled with glorious colors at sunset.

There are many more residents in this zoo still to meet. 
White-edged oriole
Puerto Lopez, Manabí, Ecuador
There is human adventure in the zoo to talk about, too, like whale watching with girls from the Olon Orphanage.
Girls from the Olon Orphanage whale watching
Puerto Lopez, Manabí, Ecuador
I will share more about the earthquake recovery efforts and anything else Mother Nature tosses our way.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed what you read in April, I hope you come back for more from my Ecuador zoo life. I will write a weekly post similar to the ones you have been reading. The first comes out on Monday, May 15. Suggestions are welcome - please add them in the comments :)

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What are some of the animals in your zoo?

If you are visiting from the #AtoZChallenge please include your blog link in a comment so I can check it out. Thank you for joining me for an amazing month!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Yuletide at the Olon Orphanage #AtoZChallenge

The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others' burdens, easing others' loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of the holidays. -- W. C. Jones

December 24 is my favorite day of the year. I spend it at the Fundación Santa Maria de la Esperanza Orphanage, or Olon Orphanage, as it is called.  The children give a performance for donors and volunteers who have assisted them throughout the year. It is their beautiful way of saying thank you.

Here are some highlights from the 2016 performance.

Nativity Reenactment

Mary and Joseph, seeking accommodation

Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus are visited by shepherds


Synchronized dance routine


A 2016 new addition was a concert! Musical instruments are being donated and expats who live nearby are giving lessons. A lot of practice preceded this day, the girls' first public concert.
First ever concert for these budding musicians
(accompanied by some of their music teachers, standing)


After the incredible performances, each child receives a backpack filled with gifts.
Performance over and gifts in hand
means it is time to relax

Happy with his backpack
and his new kite is being assembled, too

After many hugs and some tears, we visitors leave. It is time for their Christmas meal, which we collaborated to make and deliver prior to the performance.

What is your favorite day of the year?

If you are visiting from the #AtoZChallenge please include your blog link in a comment so I can check it out.

If you would like to help with the ongoing food needs at the orphanage, please go to Food on the Table.

Related post: Olon Orphanage

Friday, April 28, 2017

Xanthophobia, Xenoepist, Xyzlacatosis #AtoZChallenge

The author suffered from xyzlacatosis. 

Merriam-Webster publishes a list of user submitted new words & slang in their open dictionary. They remain there until they make it into the dictionary. Three words beginning with X caught my eye.

First I list the submitted word with definition. Then I use it in a sentence.
    • One of the primary colors on Ecuador's flag and national fútbol team is yellow. If you suffer from xanthophobia, Ecuador may not be the best place for you.
Yellow shirts are common in Ecuador
  • xenoepist (noun) : someone who speaks with a foreign accent
    • With my native US accent, I am a xenoepist in Ecuador, whether speaking Spanish or English.
  • xyzlacatosis (other) : struck with knowledge that there are few words in the English language beginning with x, y, and z
    • I suffered from xyzlacatosis while looking for a topic for this post.
Can you identify with any of these?

If you are visiting from the #AtoZChallenge please include your blog link in a comment so I can check it out.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Water. Clean Drinking Water #AtoZChallenge

Drinking tap water in coastal Ecuador is a great way to get parasites. Or worse.
-- EJB

A few weeks after the April 16, 2016 7.8 Ecuador earthquake, Tennessee pastor Gary Vance arrived in Puerto Lopez. He had a suitcase full of water filters and a plan - provide clean drinking water for those who needed it.
Clean water welcomed in a tent camp
Photo courtesy of Gary Vance
He offered to install a water filter for the Olon orphanage. We went there the next morning. Gary installed a filter and trained a thrilled staff on maintaining it.
Water filter installed at the Olon Orphanage
Photo courtesy of Gary Vance
Gary spent the rest of that trip traveling, making contacts, and installing filters in tent camps and communities throughout the earthquake damaged area.
Filters installed in a camp
Photo courtesy of Gary Vance

Gary was already planning his return trip and negotiating bulk filter pricing before he flew home. He founded the Tears2Water charity to "quench the thirst of victims of the earthquake devastation in Ecuador."
Gary's suitcase full of filters is behind him in this photo
Photo courtesy of Gary Vance
Gary has made six trips to Ecuador since the earthquake, spent 88 days in country, delivered 1000 filters, and documented over 5000 people who have gained filtered water.
Clean water!
Photo courtesy of Gary Vance
He trains local partners who install filters and train communities on proper use.
Filter installation
Photo courtesy of Gary Vance
Each filter provides enough water for 100 people per day. Small communities may only need one filter for all of their clean water needs.
Buckets with filters attached
Photo courtesy of Gary Vance
Elizabeth (pink shirt) training people on their filter buckets
Photo courtesy of Gary Vance

Bringing new filter bucket home
Photo courtesy of Gary Vance
Gary's seventh visit is in a few weeks. It won't be his last. Donate HERE to help.

Did you ever begin a small project that turned into a passion?

If you are visiting from the #AtoZChallenge please include your blog link in a comment so I can check it out.

Related posts: Earthquake, Post-Earthquake

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vegetable Ivory - Tagua #AtoZChallenge

Thinking in generations also means enabling our young to have a decent standard of living. 
-- Paul Tsongas

Tagua, sometimes called vegetable ivory for it's resemblance to elephant ivory, is a nut from the Tagua palm tree. The hard white inner nut can be carved and polished like ivory.

Artists carve it into jewelry, figurines, and many other products. My friend Marianne Fry in Puerto Lopez has been designing and exporting hand-carved Tagua products for 18 years through her company, Feel Good Exports.

Each piece is hand crafted by artisans living in remote areas. These products afford families an opportunity to make a decent life for themselves who could otherwise be living off the land or separated. Without this Tagua work, one parent may move to a different town or country to earn money. 
Hand-Carved Tagua Figurines
Baúl de Tesoros, Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Hand-Carved Tagua Jewelry
Baúl de Tesoros, Puerto Lopez, Ecuador
Marianne and her husband, Abdullah, own the Baúl de Tesoros (Treasure Chest) gallery in Puerto Lopez. They feature Tagua as well as products from artists throughout Ecuador.
Wall hangings and purses made in Ecuador
Baúl de Tesoros, Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Metal figurines made in Ecuador
Baúl de Tesoros, Puerto Lopez, Ecuador
Is there an export from your area that is relatively unknown?

If you are visiting from the #AtoZChallenge please include your blog link in a comment so I can check it out.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Underwater Endangered Testudines (a.k.a. Sea Turtles) #AtoZChallenge

The beach is in our blood. Everyone in our family returns to the beach instinctively, just like the sea turtles.
-- Sandy Archibald

Four sea turtles species live off the coast of Ecuador. Green Turtles, Leatherbacks, and Olive-Ridley are endangered and Hawksbills are critically endangered. People are working to improve their numbers and chances of species survival.
Sea Turtle
Isla de la Plata, Manabí, Ecuador

Sea turtles live the majority of their lives in the ocean but are born on beaches. Female sea turtles return to the beach where they were born to lay eggs. Each egg nest is marked to prevent human damage.
Each nest is marked with caution tape and
a sign identifying it as a turtle egg nest.
Santa Rosa Beach, Manta, Manabí
November, 2013

Volunteers with the foundation Oceans 2 Earth, Machalilla National Park, and people living near beaches monitor nesting areas. They record and mark the nests.

People return when the eggs are expected to hatch. They count the babies as they run to the ocean. They also ensure that the baby turtles run toward the ocean. They sometimes run inland by mistake. Humans help turn them around.

Adult sea turtles are frequently seen near reefs just off Isla de la Plata, where groups snorkel after touring the island to see blue-footed boobies.

Sea Turtle
Isla de la Plata, Manabí, Ecuador
The Machalilla National Park veterinarian maintains the Marine Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Puerto Lopez. Injured turtles receive care until they are healthy enough to be returned to the ocean.

Humans are responsible for the majority of turtle injuries, including cuts from boat propellers, plastic ingestion, and fishing net damage.

Have you seen turtles in the wild?

If you are visiting from the #AtoZChallenge please include your blog link in a comment so I can check it out.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Tide Pools in Puerto Lopez #AtoZChallenge

“Despite the sea being wild and the waves rolling away from the shore, the tide always returns.”
― Katherine McIntyre, By the Sea

The Puerto Lopez tide pools are a popular family weekend destination. Kids can swim in the ocean without worrying about being swept out to sea.
Puerto Lopez, Manabí, Ecuador
(Click on photo to increase size)
During low tide, the pools are naturally protected from waves by large rocks and a curved southern shore.
Puerto Lopez, Manabí, Ecuador
Crystal clear water warms while the tide is out. Tiny fish enjoy a temporary reprieve from larger prey.
Puerto Lopez, Manabí, Ecuador

As the tide starts coming in, everyone packs up and heads home. At high tide the rocks are covered and the tide pools disappear until the next low tide.

Where do families near you swim?
If you are visiting from the #AtoZChallenge please include your blog link in a comment so I can check it out.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sunsets near the equator #AtoZChallenge

“Are you dreaming? Stop dreaming; come and watch the sunset, it is better than all the dreams!” 
-- Mehmet Murat ildan

Sunsets near the equator come and go quickly. A few minutes after the sun begins coloring the ocean and sky, it has set. Dusk lasts a few moments, then it is dark.
November 9
The sun sets almost perpendicular to the horizon instead of diagonally as seen closer to the north and south poles. The further north or south you go from the equator, the longer a sunset will last.
March 12
The north and south movement of the sun throughout the year is quite evident near the equator. These pictures are from the same hill in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador throughout the year.
August 5
Thought I would add one sunset photo from the beach.

How long is your sunset?

If you are visiting from the #AtoZChallenge please include your blog link in a comment so I can check it out.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Reinventing a 2.4 km beach front boardwalk #AtoZChallenge

I want to run the beach’s length, because it never ends.
--Deborah Ager

Ecuador recently reinvented the Puerto Lopez malecon (beach front boardwalk). From beginning to end, construction covered a two year period. The 2.4 km malecon is completely upgraded and unrecognizable from it's former self.
New malecon from Victor Hugo Hotel
April 2017

A deteriorating road, crumbling sidewalk, and no public restrooms. That was the old malecon.
Old malecon from Hotel Pacifico
December 2011
The project included two new bridges, many public restrooms, and countless bricks. Power lines were buried, trees planted, playground equipment and streetlights installed. The paved and rutted road was replaced with a brick road and a bike path.

Experts in several engineering specialties and heavy equipment were brought in from around the country.

Everything was labor intensive. Much of the cement was mixed manually and hauled by wheelbarrow.

Each bridge had it's own team of engineers and workers. The amount of rebar used on each bridge was impressive.
Bridge footing construction
November 2015
Bridge construction
July 2016
Walking across completed bridge
October 2016
The entire length has a walking / biking path
April 2017
My husband shot a 7 minute video in November 2016 from the north end of the malecon to the south end.

Has your town or neighborhood undergone a major construction project?

If you are visiting from the #AtoZChallenge please include your blog link in a comment so I can check it out.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Quick stories - Rare Frog, Heated Toilet, Happy Snake #AtoZChallenge

“If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.”
― Mark Twain
Rare Frog
We saw a cool frog in Puerto Lopez. Took some photos. Figured we'd see more like him over time. Did some research. It is a rare Ceratophrys stolzmanni (Pacific horned frog) found only in Ecuador and Peru. Haven't seen one since.
Ceratophrys stolzmanni (Pacific horned frog)
Heated Toilet
Our friends rented an apartment. The owner assured them that there was hot water (many homes in Ecuador have only cold water). Turns out he had installed a hot water heater for the building's only incoming water pipe. There was no cold water.
    Happy Snake
    Some friends were mountain biking in Machalilla National Park and came upon a snake. They stopped and took cell phone pictures, getting close for better shots. When they shared their photos, they learned they were lucky the venomous snake was not in an irritable mood.

    If you are visiting from the #AtoZChallenge please include your blog link in a comment so I can check it out.