Milestones

A week ago, Venus passed through the Earth’s view of the sun.  This happens every 125 years.   The whole day had been cloudy and Captain thought for sure this would keep us from seeing the eclipse.  As the sun neared the horizon, the clouds thinned a bit for a picturesque sunset.  Just before the black spot left the sun’s surface, we were able to look directly at the sun. Venus’s rare journey through the sun must be of significance.

Captain and I are approaching our first month anniversary here in Ecuador.  It has taken me this long to finally not feel so foreign.   My skin is bronzed, interaction with others in more natural, and my Spanglish is improving.  Ecuadorians still see me coming for miles!  Of the thousands of people we’ve encountered along the coastal villages, I am one of three blondes.   Most everyone stares at us and I am not sure why. Is it that rare to see a gringo in their village? Are Captain and I that fun to watch? Maybe they just want to see what the Americans are wearing! At first it was so awkward to be stared at by so many eyes but I have been able to shake this feeling-people are just curious, I suppose.

Captain and I have reached a milestone in Rosetta Stone and moved on to learning ‘Friends and Socializing’.  The previous unit was past and future tense which is what I find most difficult in the Spanish language.  Immersion has been a great challenge and Rosetta Stone has provided us with a solid foundation of the language. Words are often very similar; sometimes you can add an “o” to the English word and it becomes the Spanish word.

With that said, we don’t leave home without our Spanish-English dictionary.   On several occasions an Ecuadorian will make a point to recognize it.  I never know if they are mocking us or impressed but I say, “dictionario es necessito!” Going to the market is my favorite opportunity to practice Spanish.  As we go down our list of items, we make an attempt to learn all the words.

After a week of squeezing the tube to nothing, toothpaste could not be forgotten on the next trip to “la tienda”.  Rosetta Stone surely taught us this word!  Captain and I recalled the words for teeth and brush.  With our gestures and broken Spanish, the grocer made her way to the shelf.  She pulled off a red, white and blue box of toothpaste.  I asked her how you say toothpaste in Spanish and she replied, “coal-gah-tey”. Captain and I both repeated, “coal-gah-tey”.  We smiled proudly as a new word was added to our vocab. Captain reached for the box and I noticed the brand, Colgate.  Apparently, that is how they say toothpaste in Spanish.  Colgate.

This week I woke up to find a hole eaten in the crotch of my favorite panties. “What did this?!” I sobbed.  I do not advocate the killing animals but whatever did such a thing was going To Die.  After finding incriminating evidence throughout the apartment a mouse trap was written on our list.  Below, you will see our only option at the local hardware store for a trampa de rato.

This is a homemade-Ecuadorian, medieval-style torture trap.  Its appearance as a headstone is not a disguise; it is the True Destiny of any creature tempted by the bait. We have wondered what capital T-D might stand for. Total Decapitation? Thoroughly Destructed? Terribly Dead?  Imagine setting this thing!  Tremendously Dangerous!

There was a yelp from the kitchen.  I walked in to find Captain with two hands on the trap, white knuckled and sweat beading on his brow. His grip was slipping and I thought for sure his fingers were soon to be Totally Destroyed! It was intimidating being close to this shoddy contraption, let alone, placing my fingers near the jaws of death to set the it. But this was a two-person job and I had to act quickly.

The trap was set and I pulled my fingers away.  Captain, handling it as if it were an explosive device, eased the trap to the floor. I backed off fearing the reaction of the trap if it was set incorrectly.  Whew-we did it! The bait was in place. It wasn’t long before the sharp clap of the unloading spring echoed through the apartment.  “Timely Death!” yelled Captain and confirmed the culprit as a fat rat!

The past month in Ecuador has been my first experience living in a third world country which has challenged my positive attitude.  This is also a period of exponential growth for Captain and me as we begin the next chapter of our lives together.  With the day’s subtle shift I had went to bed with a different perspective. Could this have been Venus’s influence?

The next day began with a fresh outlook. I prepared my sacred space for my daily yoga, tuned in and became lost in the chant.  Within the mantra, I heard the low hum “Luuuuuuuuu-nnnnnnnnaaaaaaaa”.  God, is that you? No, it was not God. It was my worst meditative nightmare.  “Hey hey hey!”   Agent… He’s baaacck! The last we’d heard from him was 5 days ago when he called our landlord to tell us he had “The Perfect Property.”  He claimed he was going to email us about it “right away.”  We anticipated that email for 5 days and it never came.

Agent was heading to Atacames to “run an errand”. He’d rented a car for the week. Who knew? A Chevy Spark but blue, and not nearly as new.  A women in Atacames is selling her jungle tour business. Though there is no beachfront property, I was curious to see it.  Agent’s plan was to be an interested buyer, view the property AND get the tour at his favorite price-free!  We had no other plans for the day so I said, “let’s go!”

We needed to get a few things around and told Agent we’d meet him at his place shortly. I packed our day pack with water and a snack. Captain grabbed some extra cash and used the moment for a quick shower.  I was in no hurry stocking us with the basic necessities of running an “errand” with Agent. Captain and I are learning this is always an all day event!

We stepped out to the beach and began walking toward Agent’s place. He was spotted in the ocean doing hand stands with some lady.  Captain looked over at me and said, “Let’s not go with him to Atacames today.”  After having a vivid flashback of running errands with him last week, I quickly agreed.  What were we thinking? This time Agent would be in the driver’s seat of the Old Spark. Who knows what may be but it will surely be a mess…

Because Atacames is north of us and the jungle tour is south of us, Captain and I decided to stay in Same and Agent could pick us up on the way to the jungle property.   We wanted to hear more about The Perfect Property so we said if the jungle tour didn’t work out, we all would meet for pizza around 5. “This is it guys.  This is the one you are going to buy. I know it,” he said. We have learned to not believe anything he says so we didn’t get our hopes up to high. Either way, the next day we were viewing a property that we were actually interested in!  Jungle/Beach/Waterfall!

Entertained with Agent’s ADD, Captain and I shot the breeze with him as he prepared for his trip to Atacames.  I mentioned our distaste for the supan bread and he told us all about his “favorite” bakery in Same.  We had yet to go so Agent insisted he drive us there…at that very moment.  Agent’s impulsive plans always make for an interesting day!

Because the bakery was closed, we stopped at 2 different places that sell bread. We also went to the store in Casablanca, got the tour of old-town Same, and stopped to flirt with every woman in Agent’s path. What should have been a 1 minute trip to the bakery turned into 25. After returning to Agent’s place after the extended excursion, Captain and I laughed being reminded why we weren’t going to Atacames for the day.

As 5 rolled around, Agent was nowhere to be found.  We enjoyed big beers at the pizza place and had the opportunity to practice our Spanglish with the owners.  Agent was not there at 5 and he didn’t show up for the next 2 hours.  We were not the least bit surprised.  We found out later that he didn’t get home until 2 in the morning! Thank Goodness we didn’t go with him to Atacames!!!

The next morning, we found a hung-over Agent late for his appointment in Esmeraldas.  He was supposed to be pick up the seller’s “Representative” and “Real Estate Agent”.  Because Esmeraldas is an hour north and The Perfect Property south, again, Agent was going to pick us up on the way back through.   A few minutes past eight o’clock, Captain said, “I am going to walk down there and see if he had has even left yet!” Sure enough, Agent was “on the way out the door”.  We chilled the rest of the day and laughed how we might not even see The Perfect Property today.  They did show up but not until 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

If you can imagine Agent’s haphazard demeanor, surely you can understand why I was sure to wear my seatbelt while riding in his car! He usually drives in the left lane and then swerves all the way to the right for oncoming traffic.  He believes he can pass at any time. “The other guy always gets out-of-the-way.” He drives way too fast for the rural roadways and squeals the tires through every curve.  “It’s not me, guys…it’s the tires.”

I wonder what he is watching while he is driving because every speed bump is hit at his ludicrous speed. The hit we took was so fast and unexpected, Old Blue caught air.  Everyone hollered as our heads crunched the car’s roof and came down just as hard, numbing our tailbones. Captain and I aren’t the only ones who were aware of Agent’s horrible driving.  After the first speed bump, The Rep kept his eyes on the road at all times.  He braced his body, clinging to the “Oh Shit Handle” and warned Agent of every hazard thereafter! My favorite was going over the speed bumps in town.  With four grown men and a little lady in the weighed down Old Blue, we bottomed out over every speed bump we didn’t ramp.

All of a sudden Agent began swerving the car back and forth then yanks the e-brake, stopping the car in the middle of the road.  I had no clue what was happening… He gets out of the car with a puzzled look on his face and walks around Old Blue.  “Why is this car sounding funny?  Did I hit something?”  Yeah man! Like 7 speed bumps at full speed!  Captain says, “Oh well, man.  It’s a rental. You got the insurance, right?” I knew the answer to that question.  Agent’s favorite price is free and he not about to spend $125 he isn’t required to!

With the help of several backseat drivers, we made it safely to our destination. From the main road there was a mile hike to the property.   We were welcomed by hundreds of butterflies sipping on the nectar of the numerous fruit trees. Along the coastal cliff’s edge the land had a perfect cleaning for an orchard, pasture and garden.  There is no water or electric but an unfinished, three-story cement structure stands on the property.  A river has etched its way through the cliff’s rock creating a beautiful property line. During wet season, the stream surely turns into a waterfall as it reaches the cliffs edge.

The showing was not complete until we saw the property from the top of the structure.  Out of the overgrown grass, The Rep lifts a 12 foot homemade ladder made from bamboo.  I wouldn’t have thought twice about the climb until I saw that ladder.  The rungs were ‘secured’ with twine and it looked as though the disintegrating rope was the only thing keeping it together.  “Ecuadorians use these homemade ladders every day, right? If the thing did give out, a  two story fall couldn’t be that bad, right?”  After overcoming all the anxious thoughts running through my mind, up the ladder I climbed.

As I neared the top of the ladder, my face brushed against a clump of earth clinging to the top rung.  The only thing I could think about was getting off that ladder; I was the least bit concerned with a little dirt smeared on my face.    The Rep warned me to steer clear of the bee hive.  “What? This is a beehive? Oh my God. I am allergic to bees!!!  Thanks for the warning man!” As my face is inches from the hazard, the anxious thoughts begin again.  I see me going into anaphylactic shock and Agent driving like a mad man to get me to the far-off hospital.  If nothing had killed me yet, the drive surely would.

The four men followed behind me. The Rep then pulled the ladder up to the second floor and insisted we check out the view from the top.  The building has a 9×9 foot hole in the 2nd and 3rd stories for a future staircase.  The Rep positioned the ladder near the hole on the second floor and leaned it against the edge of the 3rd floor opening.  “Ladies first!” As I quickly calculated the risk factors, I opted out of the top view.   Falling onto solid concrete from a 3rd story would probably be the death of me. A few of the men were hesitant but with the collective peer pressure, they all climbed to the top.  Once they all made it, I reluctantly followed the group. I focused my thoughts on the ladder staying intact, kept a tight grip and didn’t look down!

We saw the vast jungle for miles and the Pacific Ocean to the horizon.    The beach was reminiscent of the Oregon coast, ancient volcanic remains with huge rock formations and lush green forest to the edge of the coastline.  I may have enjoyed it more but I my anxious mind knowing I still had to climb down kept me from enjoying it entirely!

We have over a month left in Ecuador and are ready to start exploring the coastline for property.  We must venture out and see where the Universe leads us.  Captain and I plan to take a boat ride and see the lay of the coastal land.  Who knows, we may have just found our next paradise…did Venus introduce us to our next love?

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