The Ocean Gives and Takes

In the 2 years I’ve been here, I’ve been warned over and over to be careful swimming in the ocean. The waves get really big. The currents are strong. There are riptides. But it’s also beautiful and people don’t let that keep them out of the water. I’ve been told, if you’re in trouble you wave arms until a sufista or someone on the beach sees you and swims over with their board to help you to shore. But this informal kind of vigilance sometimes fails.

This week in Olón, two children were pulled out by the current. No one saw them disappear into the waves. No one heard them call for help. No one saved them. Continue reading

The Drag Queens of Manglaralto

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The New Year celebrations here in Ecuador include 3 days of mischievous hijinks leading up to the 1st. Some of you Catholics out there may know of the “Massacre of the Innocents” feast days. The king Herod heard about this baby king of the Jews upstart in Bethlehem, and when the magi double crossed him and didn’t give the baby Jesus, he went on a rampage and killed every kid in town under the age of 2. So goes the story…

To mark the date, kids here dress up as red devils carrying spears with bells jangling from their ankles, and run around poking people and demanding your pocket change. I suppose it’s to represent the angry murdered children. Think of Halloween, but all the kids are dressed as demons, they attack you in the streets and restaurants instead of at your home, and take your money instead of candy. But after dark, things go a little differently.

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Somewhere along the line, this tradition seems to have evolved into something more bizarre. At night Continue reading

RUFF RUFF RUFF!

It’s 6:30am on a Saturday morning, and you are snug in your bed, sleeping off the imbibitions of the previous night.The distant sounds of the ocean are soothing your slightly pressurized skull. You’re dreaming of dancing salsa in the arms of a hot chico in the rain. And then this sound blasts you out of your happy oblivion:

“RUFF RUFF RUFF! RUFF RUFF RUFF! RUFF RUFF RUFF RUFF RUFF!”

What you are listening to, my friend, is a cover of the song “Jingle Bells”, apparently made witty by the fact that is being sung by a man imitating a dog. This charming holiday rendition is being blared from a series of horrible quality speakers on poles that are  interspersed throughout the town. Think yard speaker systems from Shawshank Redemption or Schindler’s List, or any movie with a prison/camp.

If you’ve spent any length of time in Montañita, Manglaralto, or many other villages in Continue reading

Barefoot Running Advice from Dr. Dad

I hate running. I hate everything about it. I think that running is tedious and stupid. But now I run. So what kind of idiot would participate in a sport that they actively hate? Well, I also deal with constant blackouts and brownouts, washing clothes and dishes by hand, and cold showers. Part of living in Ecuador requires learning to live with things that you always hated. No power? Buy a bunch of candles, and forget any ideas of stocking up on food to store in the freezer. Staring at a mountain of dirty laundry with a sinking doom feeling in your stomach? Get grifota, put on some good podcasts, roll up your sleeves and just zone out and do it. It can actually be quite a zen experience once you get over the Am I really, I mean really, about to wash all this with my hands? thoughts that are going through your head. Have to take a shower in freezing ice water? Sorry, I have no help for you there. I’ve been taking cold showers for 1 year, 10 months, and 1 week and 2 days, and I despise them just as much today as I did the first day I got here. There is no getting used to cold showers. The dread that comes over you as you stand under the shower head, waiting for the piercingly frigid water to hit your poor unprotected and vulnerable body never goes away. Oh the horror…

Continue reading