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

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

Xanthophobia, Xenoepist, Xyzlacatosis #AtoZChallenge

The author suffered from xyzlacatosis. 
-- grab.com

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

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

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.

    Wednesday, April 19, 2017

    Post-Earthquake makeshift camps #AtoZChallenge

    "Living outside is crappy." 
    -- Cheryl PaPania, Don Juan, Manabí, Ecuador

    Easter Sunday marked the one year anniversary of a massive 7.8 Ecuador earthquake. I described my experience the night of the earthquake earlier. Today is about a group of people I met 12 days after the quake.

    Our friend's car had been in the shop, ready for pick up, when the earthquake hit. The car was at her mechanic's shop in Manta, an hour and a half north. His family and building structures had survived and after 11 days he proclaimed the roads passable.

    Some of us collaborated to bake and purchase food and drinks for those we would meet on the drive. When we left for Manta, our car was filled with individual bags of food, juice boxes, treats, and toys for kids.

    The makeshift camps that we stopped at were a few blocks from the mechanic. One was built on a wide sidewalk where the people had managed to bring bed frames to lift their mattresses off the ground.
    Raised beds provided some protection from rain
    Manta, Ecuador April 28, 2016
    The other makeshift camp we visited was in a sandy lot. April is in the rainy season. It rains at night, turning the sand lot into a mud lot.
    Donated billboard tarps were used as shelters
    Manta, Ecuador April 28, 2016

    We asked if they knew about the official tent camps. They did. Their current location was within line of sight of their uninhabitable homes, which still contained their belongings. They would not move to the official camps because they could not watch for looters.

    They were receiving regular drinking water delivery. The men were going every day to distribution centers to obtain donated food.

    Each time we returned, we tried to anticipate their basic needs but always missed something obvious.  For example, one time they asked for bras and diaper rash medication, which we had not thought to bring.

    The problems staying where they were instead of the official camps were numerous. The primary one being lack of sanitation.

    By May 6, people in the camps were getting sick. They needed more help than we could provide. An acquaintance contacted someone he knew with Doctors Without Borders who arrived at the makeshift camps the next morning.

    As of April 13, 2017 approximately 3,600 people are still living in tent cities. The Ministry of Housing has built 22,513 homes nationwide and 11,816 more are under construction.


    Tuesday, April 18, 2017

    Olon Orphanage #AtoZChallenge

    "If you want to celebrate a happy occasion, do it by helping those who are in need"
    – Mohith Agadi

    Fatima greets us with hugs at the entrance while shifting the young boy she is holding to her other arm. We make our way to the boys' dormitory. Fatima gathers all of the boys together and explains that they are about to receive a special performance.

    My friend Dori-Ann’s 14 year old daughter, Catie, pulls out her violin and plays Disney songs. The boys are all silent, listening raptly to every chord. When the concert ends, the boys all gather to give Catie hugs and thank her for playing.
    Boy's dormitory in foreground
    Montañita in background

    We are in the most loving place you hope to never live as a child. If you live here, it means that you have no other home. If you live here, Fatima is devoted to you all day every day and has dedicated her life to help improve yours.

    Fatima walks with us to the girls' dormitory and Catie repeats the concert. The response is the same – lots of hugs and joy. Later, as we leave, Fatima thanks Catie profusely and asks when we will return. We schedule a makeover day for the teenage girls.

    Makeover day is a blast. Dori-Ann brought hundreds of makeup samples from her business in Canada for this day. The girls pick the colors they want to try and help each other with application, following Dori-Ann’s tips. When one realizes she does not like her chosen colors, she washes her face and starts over.
    Focused on getting it just right

    A few younger girls try to join in but the teens politely explain that they are too young for makeup.

    Dori-Ann provides professional haircuts to any girl who wants one. Catie and I help where we can - primarily, we listen and talk. The girls want to know all about Catie’s life in Canada. They are fascinated to learn that she is adopted.

    By late afternoon, the girls look great and have had a fun day. We feel privileged to share in their joy.

    I love days at the Fundación Santa Maria de la Esperanza Orphanage. It sits on a cliff between the towns of Montañita and Olon, Ecuador.
    Some of the orphanage
    buildings above Olon beach
    I always leave with a heart full of love and renewed understanding of what is important in life. Fatima and her team are doing great raising children who arrive at varying ages with disparate backgrounds. I am grateful she welcomes me and my friends into their loving home.

    Many foreigners who live in or visit the area check one bag for ourselves and one for the orphanage when we fly into Ecuador. The government covers some costs for running the orphanage. The rest come from donations and fund raisers like Food on the table, which is still short of it's goal.

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

    Monday, April 17, 2017

    Nurturing Owl Parents #AtoZChallenge

    "Then nightly sings the staring owl, Tu-whit; Tu-who, a merry note."
    -- William Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost

    A pair of burrowing owls built their home adjacent to our driveway in Puerto Lopez. During the first few weeks, when anyone walked or drove past, they flew away.

    They slowly began remaining at the entrance to their home and monitoring us instead of fleeing. Soon cars, trucks, mototaxis and motorcycles drove by while they held their ground. They guarded the entrance, ever watchful.
    Burrowing owl pair adjacent to our driveway
    Puerto Lopez, Ecuador
    One often hunted while the other guarded the entrance.
    Burrowing owl guarding entrance
    Puerto Lopez, Ecuador
    Walking down the driveway one day, we realized that there were three of them! Their baby had come out of the burrow and was almost the same size as the adults.

    Over the next few weeks, the parents took the young one flying further and further from home. They went hunting together and out for nighttime jaunts. In no time, the baby was off on his own.

    They were good, nurturing owl parents.

    Have you watched wild creatures raise their young?

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

    Saturday, April 15, 2017

    Monkey on my head #AtoZChallenge

    "The responses of the baby monkey are very similar to those of a human baby."
    -- Harry Harlow

    A monkey climbed all over a guy in the courtyard. A woman fed it pieces of banana while she touched it here and there.

    The monkey ran over to some dogs, climbed all over them, raced back to the guy. It was on top of his head in a no time. Bite of banana. To the dogs. To the man's head. Rinse, repeat. So much energy!

    My husband and I had stopped for lunch at Coco Solo Lodge near Cojimies. We were receiving quite a show with our meal! After lunch, we asked the woman about the scene. She was a veterinarian. The Lodge had asked her to come and do a check up.
    Monkey on man's shoulders while vet does check up
    Coco Solo, Cojimies, Manabí, Ecuador
    The baby mantled howler monkey was found nearby with it's deceased mom the day before. He was only a few days old. They were bottle feeding him and would keep him as wild as possible. They hoped a nursing female could be found to adopt him.

    While we were talking, the monkey continued racing around. At some point, he ended up in the woman's arms. I asked if I could hold him. Once she established that I had on no lotion, makeup or other products that could harm the baby, she let him climb on me.
    He scampered up on his way to the highest location
    He went straight to the top of my head and started kneading my scalp with his baby soft fingers. His cool, rough tail wrapped around my neck, providing added balance. 
    Once on top, he settled in
    As we left, we thanked them for taking care of the little orphan. I hope he's running around in the trees today with some friends, having a ball.

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

    Friday, April 14, 2017

    Latitude Zero #AtoZChallenge


    "With the possible exception of the equator, everything begins somewhere."
    -- C. S. Lewis

    I expected to see big signs the first time we drove across latitude zero. Not Las Vegas big but tourist photo spot big. I thought we might have a countdown as we approached.
    We were northbound from the southern hemisphere traveling along a coastal road. The GPS told us we had crossed into the northern hemisphere but there were no signs. Except for one in front of a home at latitude .007.
    Sign in front says Latitud .007
    Mr. Bond was not home
    We spent a few hours exploring then turned around to head home. Driving south, we finally saw a sign!
    My first time at the equator
    "You are passing the equatorial line"
    It was exciting to be standing at the equator. Some day, we will probably visit the big Middle of the World monument near Quito where you can balance an egg on a nail. 

    For us, it was enough to know we crossed it. And a sign confirming it was nice.

    Have you crossed the equator? If you have, was there a sign?

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

    Thursday, April 13, 2017

    Kinder Eggs - Contraband #AtoZChallenge

    I imported illegal goods into the United States. Chocolate Kinder Eggs.
    Kinder Eggs I got
    in Ecuador
    Top is unopened
    Bottom is opened

    Ecuador is a major exporter of chocolate. One chocolate candy sold here is the Kinder Joy Egg. I mistakenly thought they were from Ecuador because I never had seen them in the US.

    Kinder's web site explains the eggs as follows.

    Kinder Joy: is an experience for kids taste, heart, imagination

    Kinder Joy is the only product that combines the tastiness of a milky cream and a cocoa cream, with two crispy wafer-balls and many new & surprising toys


    When I was looking for treats to bring to the US for grandkids, nieces and nephews, I bought a bunch of Kinder Eggs.  I brought them back and everyone enjoyed them.
    Tasty goodness on left; small toy on right

    Unwittingly, I imported a banned substance. I was lucky my luggage was not searched. Apparently the small toy inside is considered a choking hazard.

    The eggs are popular around the world. Not in the USA. US Customs and Border Patrol seized 60,000 of them in 2011.

    A Canadian couple was threatened with a $2,500 fine per egg while entering the US. A Canadian woman had hers confiscated at the border. A reporter´s friends had theirs confiscated and were fined $1,200 per egg.

    Have you ever accidentally brought illegal substances to another country?

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

    P.S. If any US Customs and Border Patrol agents are reading this page, it is fiction. I would never actually import a banned substance into the US.