La Bella Crucita – 12/20/2018

A quiet drizzle this morning with drops falling nearly silently from the railings outside.  Perhaps today we’ll have a new air conditioning unit and determine what happened with the laundry unit.

The usual breakfast except sauteed mushrooms and onions added to the plate.  Quien no sabe, the crab, is outside.

“I wish he’d give us a chance to get to know him and he us, don’t you Jackson?”

“Oh, but then you’d have to change his name, Nilla.”

Just about 10:30 AM and Kleber  confirms that the unit has arrived and will stop by around 11:00!  We hope the installation and repairs to la maquina won’t take long.  The drizzle has stopped weather conducive for another adventure once Kleber finishes his work in the house.  Perhaps up to Portoviejo Road, the same road we’d take in case of a tsunami.

Kleber has been called away on an emergency and sends a co-worker to install the new air conditioner unit and look at the washer/dryer.  The new air conditioner requires a bit of banging and some tape.  The compressor on the roof is an easy replacement.  La maquina is another issue and in order to reproduce the overflowing event, has to run an entire cycle.  Of course, the ‘bad behavior’ is not reproducible – yet.

After 2:00.  Plans change, and instead we head out to Fremas.

“Nilla, it’s closed and it’s almost 3:00!”

“Yes, I’ve noticed that things aren’t open when they’re closed Jackson.”

“No Nilla, things are closed when they’re not open!”

“That’s not the same thing.”

“Lets go down the malecon toward the south.  We haven’t explored that direction much.”

“We’ll go walk down, get a bite to eat and walk back and maybe by then Fremas will be open.”

“That’s a reasonable thought Nilla.”

“Hey, look at that, a certificate of occupancy, issued in June after the earthquake in 2016.  It says that it’s safe to occupy the premises after passing both an interior and exterior inspection.  I wonder why the building is still closed up?”

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“Don’t know Nilla.”

“But look over there, isn’t that a cute snowman?”

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“That’s what I call creative recycling Jackson!”

A delicious lunch at Las Alas Delta and a walk back to Fremas, which is still closed.

Back to Ramblas.  Our new friends, Brian and Jim come in too.  Jeff offers us some sweet crackers and we sit and chat.

“Look at that sunset Nilla, isn’t it beautiful?”

“It really is, Jackson.”

Time to go back to Las Dunas and relax for an hour or so before going to bed.

“Tonight we’ll have air conditioning!’

“What a cool thought Jackson. It’s been a challenging beginning here in Crucita, but things are getting better and the people are so nice.”

“Nilla, where are you?”

“I’m right here.  Where are you?”

“Over here.  We’ve lost power!”

“Where’s the flash light we bought at the HiperMarket the other day?”

“Over on the kitchen counter, by the Advent calendar.”

“Got it!”

“Does this mean no air conditioning?”

“No air conditioning, no internet, no water, no lights, no security cameras, no blogging, no nada.”

“Numero tres!”

“Trace what Nilla?”

“No, tres, as in, ‘uno, dos y tres’, you know, number three.”

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Power restored at 9:45 PM.

La Bella Crucita 12/19/2018

The second warm night of sleeping.  We notice that there are no clocks in the house!  Clearly an indication that time is NOT the essence.  Shopping list revisions, time for a simple breakfast in our kitchen – cafe con leche, pan y queso – coffee with milk, a little bread and a slice of cheese. The milk available locally, comes in a box and is not refrigerated, 150 calories/cup and skim milk is almost non-existent In the major super markets we may be able to find 1% milk but then it becomes an issue of 30 to 40 minute return trip home.

Because we consider our excursion to Portoviejo a significant shopping trip, we have arranged Jean Carlos to pick us up at 10:00 AM, wait while we shop and bring us back to Las Dunas.  Otherwise there are plenty of Crucita-Poroviejo buses, an experience that will wait for another day.

A crab ‘greets’ us at the back door – well, not really happy nor greeting us, and promptly scurries behind the propane tank, which does not have a volume indicator.

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“Nilla, what do you think we should name our back door quest.”

“Why don’t we call it ‘Quien No Sabe’, Jackson.

“What kind of name is that – ‘Who does not know’?

“Well, do you think the crab knows anything about us?”

“No, probably not.”

“There you have it then.”

We definitely don’t want to run out of propane in the middle of Christmas dinner.  The only way to tell if is near empty is to lift it – the weight being the indicator – per Russell.  The problem is how to determine that, when one does not know what the tank weighs empty?

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“Propane weighs 4.2 pounds/gallon.  You do the math, Jackson.”

“But what does the tank weigh?”

“Why don’t you ask ‘Quien no sabe?”

“Very funny, Nilla!”

Jean Carlos arrives early!!  Impressive.  After reviewing the list, decides it is better to go to Manta rather than Portoviejo, and as we prepare to leave, we discover that Amarita’s keys were in the front door all night!

The Crucita-Manta road traverses farm land – growing rice, peanuts, coffee, plantains, bananas, melons and various other fruits.

The kapok trees along the road appear as if they could come alive at any moment, the weird shaped trunks with outstretch branches and fingers ready to grab the passerby.  Before 1900 life jackets were made from cork and balsa wood and then about 1912 the the flotation devices were filled with material from the kapok tree.  The material was also used in mattresses and insulation.  Nowadays the life preservers are fill with plastic foams such as polyvinyl chloride and polyethylene.

The HiperMarket is crowded and seems to have everything we need on the list except potholders.  Toys, housewares, garden supplies, automotive, furniture, etc.  A perfect place to go Christmas shopping for a practical gift.  One of the most helpful employees is locating items on our list is a deaf mute.  Seven percent of larger business’ work force must be disabled per Ecuador’s disability law.

Unpacking, organizing and storing purchases takes about an half an hour.  Text to Kleber to let him know we are back and one to Amarita about the keys.

Amarita is apologetic and will be by on Friday – meanwhile we have to watch next door – air it out, and replace the rugs when dry and possibly put the furniture back.  Kleber hasn’t had much luck with the new air conditioner unit and offers to come by to at least look at the washer/dryer this afternoon.

“What’s the point – better to resolve two failing mechanical problems with a single visit and wait until tomorrow, don’t you think, Jackson.”

“Absolutely.  There are places to go and people to meet.  Let’s go for a walk!”

Up towards the jetty, the opposite direction from our previous sojourns, and a search for the protected areas where sea turtle eggs have been carefully ‘planted’ in the sand.  Each nesting area is clearly marked with an identification number of the nest and the date the nest was discovered.

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A collection of fishing boats, seeming waiting to return to the sea, is most likely the place we have to return to purchase freshly caught fish.

We turn around and head back towards Ramblas for more tuna and meet two gentlemen, one from Canada, the other from the United States, neither of who speak Spanish and have resided here for at least five years.

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While seated and looking across the street toward the Pacific, a funeral procession passes by – flower car followed by the musicians and then the casket carried on the shoulders of six men and numerous town people trailing behind – a quiet, respectful and loving display of sorrow.

Jeff leaves and shows up later with two guava pods – “we’ll enjoy them later”.

“They’re odd looking, don’t you think, Jackson, like long seed pods?”

“But delicious, just wait!”

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Back at Las Dumas it’s time to open today’s Advent window.

“Nilla, the window is up and to the left.  Hop up on my shoulders and reach it.”

“Jackson, hold still!”

“Watch my ear!!”

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It’s early still, but we’re tired.  There are more plans for tomorrow provided that we’re not waiting for the air conditioning unit and laundry repair.

 

 

 

La Bella Crucita – 12/18/2018

It was warm sleeping last night despite the floor fan.  The steady surf providing a mariner’s lullaby.

This morning about twenty or so fishing boats just off the coast gathered together in what we assume is the best spot; it’s hazy but the surf is gentler than yesterday.

The malecon is decorated with holiday hanging, a magical transformation since last night.

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Cafe con leche and rolls for breakfast at the Marinero Restaurante.

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Once nourished back to Fremas Comercial which is open now.  Basic food stuffs, some hand towels, spices, limes, papel higenico, paper towels and a face cloth.  The remaining items will have to wait until the trip to Puertoviejo.

Our first ride on the trimoto returning to Las Dumas with the groceries.

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The TV remote is still missing.  On our return there is a text message from Russell – the air conditioner is going to be replaced at some time this week – apologies for the inconvenience.  The replacement will occur a la hora conveniente for sure, knowing the “manana nunca viene”, “talvez, quizas” – all expressions of “vamos a ver” – “let’s see”, “whenever”, no rush.

Russell informs us that the remote has been missing since his last visit.  A button on the bottom right side of the TV will turn it on and then the cable box remote will control the rest.

The washer/dryer combination is more like thorough washing, damp drying.

“Nilla, look what I found in the back yard!  We can come hang out here with the laundry!”

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Hanging out to dry – this is no fun, we’re not the laundry!!!

The limes have to be washed in a solution of water and Kilol.  Instead of using the bottled water, boiling the water for 15 minutes and then allowing cooling before the additive drops will work just fine.

Although some places in Quito and Cuenca tap water is safe to drink, here on the coast it is not.  Fruits and vegetables need to be washed in solutions containing Kilol, Vitalin, concentrated grapefruit extract, plus or minus vinegar and lemon juice.  There are many suggested formulas but, we’re keeping it simple.

In the afternoon, it’s time for a walk – we leave another small load in the laundry machine and take off down the malecon.  We notice evacuation signs in case of a tsunami.  Since 1906 there have been four tsunamis, the tallest of which reached 6.1 meters.  Most of the tsunamis have occurred along the northern coast shared by Ecuador and Colombia, however the last earthquake triggering a tsunami warning with significant loss of life, happened in 2016, a 7.8 magnitude quake, the strongest in decades, with a major impact in Manta, Portoviejo and Guayquil – hundreds of miles from the epicenter.  There was no tsunami, deaths were related to building collapse.

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Fishing boats are still off the coast. A solitary sandpiper explores the sands looking for a tasty morsel and a lifeguard sits on his perch looking over the beach and sea.

 

On the way back we stop at Las Ramblas, a sushi bar, for a little refreshment and meet Joffre who is very friendly and informative.  Two girls arrive and order micheladas, both beer-based beverages with local fruit.

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There is a beautiful creche along the walkway on the malecon.

 

Once back at Las Dumas we notice water coming from the front door!  The laundry machine has overflowed and flooded the utility room and the apartment next door.  There is little we can do except contact Russell and text Amarita.  We don’t have keys to the apartment – unplugging the washer/drier does not stop the continuous water – closing the hot and cold shut off valves finally stops the flow.

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What’s going to happen next?

Again texting to Russell and Amarita – with minimal response, Russell is probably at work and Amarita may be away from her home and WiFi.

A call to the Kleber, the maintenance person,  the same one that was here yesterday. He is aware that the washer/drier is on the fritz and will look at it the same time he comes to install the new air conditioner – whenever that may be, he’s waiting for the unit to be delivered.

Others in the complex seem nonchalant about our trials – as these sorts of occurrences are bound to happen matter-of-factly.  While in the U.S. we expect things like this to happen in threes.

Amarita is waiting for her husband to come home from Puertoviejo and come to survey the situation – in about an hour’s time.

Dinner.  Back to Las Ramblas for some sushi.  Jeff and Jonathan are chatting at a table outside and are glad to see us return.  Tuna tataki, tuna cruda and Osaka roll are delicious.

Tito and Amarita are standing outside the property when we return.  They have opened up the apartment’s front sliding door allowing the water to be pushed out onto the sidewalk.  The rugs are draped over the small wall adjacent to the apartment.  After explaining what happened, Amarita tells us not to worry, there’s a warranty on the machine if it needs to be replaced.

Doors left open airing out the apartment and the utility room coupled with moisture is an open invitation for opportunistic six-legged critters. Mmmmm.

Rather than wait until the air conditioner and laundry machine issues are rectified, it is decided that tomorrow we’re off to Portoviejo – a text to Dina and confirmation from Jean Carlos for 10:00 pick-up is the plan.

 

Chapter 17 – Quito to Crucita 12/17/19

Up even earlier than yesterday.  The front desk forgot the wake-up call but it really doesn’t matter.

The Wyndham shuttle service is on time and once again we are back at the airport, this time without any travel problems, business class – rapid checking in of luggage.

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The flight to Manta is short.  The cloudy skies obscure any view of the mountains below.  Manta airport is basic, a luggage carousel that looks as though it will break down at any moment and, the use of the ‘sanitarios’ requires leaving the secure area with security guard permission to allow re-entry.  It is a provisional airport.  New plans are underway for construction, an artist rendition displayed on the wall just outside by the parking lot.

Jean Carlos’ taxi awaits.  A well-maintained vehicle.  He offers to transport us to Manta or Puertoviejo when we want to go grocery shopping at the ‘super mercado’ later on in the week. Road signs clearly indicate routes to various towns and include distance in kilometers, taking the guesswork out of land travel for those unfamiliar to the area.

Manuel one of three security staff is by the gate at Las Dunas when we pull in and Amarita arrives about twenty minutes later with her husband to give us the keys and orient us to the property.

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We have the wiFi code and are able to use WhatsApp for calling and texting as well as access to the internet.

 

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Washer/dryer combination
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We have cocos!

 

Amarita has some essential food items on the kitchen counter – coffee, milk, sugar as well as paper napkins and trash bags, just in case we decided not to go shopping today. The air conditioner is not working in the main bedroom upstairs and Russell is contacting the technician to come take a look.

After unpacking it’s time to explore, get some lunch and purchase some other groceries available at the local market,  Fremas about 3/4 of a mile away.  A good walk.  Lunch at Las Vegas Restaurant consists of is a large portion of lightly battered sword fish and ocean shrimp, ‘chicharones’ – yummy and filling.

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Fremas is closed.

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If we didn’t want to walk back we could hale a ‘trimoto’, they’re everywhere, but after sitting around in airports and on various forms of transportation (some with wings and others that think they have wings) the walk back to Las Dunas is the healthier choice.  We’ll eat out for breakfast tomorrow.

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The HVAC technician (suppose you can leave out the H-heat, as that is not a concern here) arrives.  Very nice guy.  The search is on for the circuit breakers without much luck, and necessitates a call to Russell who advises us to try up on the rooftop deck – and there is a small box, exposed to the elements – eureka!

Despite cleaning the corroded connections, the unit is still not functioning and the compressor is suspect – so tomorrow will be another day.

Close to 6:00 PM and sunset, time for a ‘bocadillo’, a little snack.  After introducing ourselves to Benny, we walk down the ‘malecon’ to Isabel Restaurant for some ‘pescado a la plancha’, lightly battered, flat, fish with some white rice (the rice grown locally in the province) – nothing seems to come in a small size.

 

“Nilla, it’s been a day and then some”

“You knew that it would take about a week to settle in. You haven’t traveled as much as I have.”

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Once you accept the ‘dicho’ ‘Expect the unexpected, then nothing can be unexpected’, Jackson.”

Chapter 16 – Aruba to Ecuador 12/16/2018

Up very early, not a creature is stirring – just a mouse and a small teddy bear.  Off to the airport and through immigration and security without any problems.

To the gate – gate two in plenty of time.  Then what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a gate change and flight delay.

“What do you think Nilla, will we make the connection in Bogota?”

“Shouldn’t  be a problem as long as we leave by 11:30 – ‘Avinunca’.”

A little warm cheese sandwich and beverage on a short flight – pleasant.

Bogota’s airport is a large international airport with moving sidewalks and signage indicating how long it will take the average person to walk from one gate to the next.

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On the electronic flight listing in Bogota, we see that our next flight to Quito is already boarding – how can that be?

Rushing to the opposite end of terminal one, a crowd is gathered around the check-in desk.

The flight AV111 is canceled – or as ‘Avinunca’ prefers to explain, delayed, delayed considerably – to 3:30 and the gate is located at the other end of terminal one. Many unhappy passengers.

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“Jackson, we have a coupon for Dunkin Donuts, Burger King and some other fast food joint.” Avianca tries to appease unhappy and potentially hungry passengers.

“I’m not really hungry Nilla. There’s a line at food court anyway.”

Another passenger advises us that there is indeed a Dunkin’ Donuts nearby! And behold, there is no long line.  The cafe con leche is delicious!

Back at the newly designated gate, number 34 – the posting indicates a departure time of 2:30 to Quito – we might make the flight after all!

“Good thing that one of the Ts speaks Spanish, Nilla.”

Information is at a premium and sparse at best.  The departure time is a guesstimate, but as 2:15 PM comes and goes and no boarding, it’s clear that we will not make the connecting flight in Quito – not with having to claim the luggage and go through aduana and imigracion.  The issue also becomes apparent to ‘Aviunca’ and walkie-talkie conversations are volleyed between supervisors and gate staff.

We are assured that we will be issued new tickets for an 6:00 AM flight on Monday, December 17th and arrangements for an overnight hotel stay in Quito will be made.

Calls to Hotel Balandra in Manta to cancel our reservation, call to Dina about the change in taxi service and call to Amarita to advise her that we will be arriving in Crucita much earlier Monday morning.  All are gracious and understanding and even the hotel clears any charge for the late reservation cancellation!

Business class should be soothing – but we still don’t have tickets for tomorrow’s  flight.  The ticket agent comes on board and assures us once again that a representative will meet us in Quito and give us the tickets and hotel voucher.

A tasty little lunch and the flight a little over one hour, a glimpse of a snow-capped mountain as we approach the new Quito airport.  The Andes are impressive, more impressive than the Rockies.  Mariscal Sucre International has all the amenities that an international airport should have.  It is the busiest in South America.  The new airport, built in 2013, is located on the Oyambaro plain near the town of Tabalela, about 11 miles east of Quito.  The new airport is operated by Quiport under a concession agreement until 2040.  The airport handles more than six million passengers annually, one million of them tourists.  Tourism is increasing by about 3% yearly.  The old airport could not accommodate larger planes and became unsafe with one or two flights every year overshooting the short and narrow runway. At the insistence of the president, the new airport retained the name of the old one, and the site of the old airport is now a park.

There is no representative to meet us – we are instructed to go through immigration and baggage claim and then go upstairs to Avianca to inquire about the tickets and hotel voucher.

The line at the ticket counter is short and with only a short delay we are issued tickets for the 6:00 AM flight to Manta, given a dinner coupon, and hotel voucher and escorted to the Wyndham Hotel transfer van for the short five minute ride.

The staff at the Wyndham are friendly and very helpful.  They contact Avianca for dinner voucher approval for the buffet in their restaurant.

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The corner room looks out over the highways serving the airport and allow for watching incoming flights.

 

“Nilla, I’m exhausted!  While the Ts go downstairs for the buffet, lets call it a day!”

“Amen!”

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The Ts also call it ‘done’ after contacting Dina confirming the flight information and Amarita about our arrival time at Las Dunas.

Chapter 15 – Aruba 12/15/2018

“Tomorrow is the big travel day Jackson.Do you think we’ll be safe?”

“According to Numbeo, the world’s largest user contributed database providing up-to-date data about cities and towns worldwide, in the beginning of 2018 the United States ranked 36th and Ecuador 39th and, more recently this year, the United States ranked 47th and Ecuador 42nd – the higher the rank, the higher the safety level.”

“So, I’m sure that it’s important to use common sense and be aware of your surroundings.”

“That’s exactly right Nilla.  Just like when we’ve traveled anywhere before.  Look what happens back at home, in Lowell and even small towns like Methuen!”

“I imagine crime is greater in the major cities such as Quito, the capital, and Guayquil, the largest port.  Ecuador wants tourism – there is even a long-term tourism project along the southern coast the locals call ‘Balsamaragua’.  If there were a major crime problem, people wouldn’t want to come visit.  We’ll be staying in Crucita, 25 miles from Manta and 17 miles from the province capital of Portoviejo.  Crucita is the most visited beach destination in Ecuador.  There are ongoing improvements in the infrastructure – four lane highway and more reliable internet and cable TV, essential for visitors.”

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“Looks like it might be a busy day in Oranjestad, there’s a cruise ship coming in, so beautiful from a distance.”

“And romantic!”

“Not necessarily from an infectious disease perspective.  Closed community, great opportunity for a bacterial or viral outbreak.”

“That’s why we wash our paws (hands).!”

“Back to reading Nilla – we’ve got to get to the chapter about the coast!”

IMG_3185“We’ll finish this chapter while the Ts are down relaxing at the pool.”

Ts, back from the pool, and time to go to the business center to check in for our flights tomorrow.

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“This is great, almost as good as being back at the office.”!

 

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“Nilla, stop monkeying around at the terminal, this is important stuff!”

“Oh, Jackson, you and the computer!”

“Have you bothered to notice all the Christmas decorations?”

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“Of course I have!”

“The ones in the lobby are really wonderful and guess what, no SNOW.”

 

“Enough with the pictures, time for lunch.”

Ohhh, what’s this I hear, we’re going to the pool!!  The iguanas, oh no!”

Chill Jackson.  Don’t you remember the sign?

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“But I’ve still seen them crawling about poolside.”

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“The Ts will keep us safe I’m sure.”

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SP 50 – special protection, anit-fade cream and, hydration

“Our last day here.”

“We’ll probably return, si Dios quiere.”

“You practicing your Spanish Jackson?”

“What better time to do it?  That Duolingo lesson stuff is paying off.”

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Rose and Jander, the best!

“Italiano tonight?”

“Si amore.”

“Delicioso”.

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Back to La Cabana.  Laundry, repacking.  Anticipation and excitement.

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“The message for us this evening – ‘chill'”!

A little karaoke and then off to bed.

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Good night La Cabana – we leave you tomorrow – a big day awaits!

Chapter 14 – Aruba 12/14/2018

“Oh boy Nilla, we’re going to the beach!”

“Looks cloudy to me Jackson, it might rain.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll be sitting under the palapa and won’t get wet as along as we get there before it rains.”

“Don’t you think we should stay in the room and read about Ecuador?”

“So now you’re all excited and want to read the guide!?”

“It is an adventure after all.”

“Sure enough Jackson, it’s raining, got too get under the palapa!”

“It’s just a sprinkle, get settled and we’ll read the next guidebook chapter.”

“Are we going to go to Quito?”

“Not that I know of – if we return to Ecuador we might though.”

“As I explained before, it is important to have an overall general knowledge of the country.  The book describes Ecuador as – ‘Sandy beaches, snowy volcanoes, Amazon rain forests, the Galapagos Islands….Ecuador’s vivid diversity is one of its greatest attractions’.  We won’t see the rain forests or travel along the Avenue of Volcanoes, but we certainly will enjoy the beach and even travel to the Galapagos – I heard the Ts talk about that.”

“Ready to turn the page yet?”

“Oh yes, this is a real book, not like that Nook thing.”

“We’ve been on the beach for a while – it’s time to head up to the room, don’t want to fade too much – early aging you know.”

“Look at that Jackson, looks like a photo opportunity to me!”

“Who’s Rudy?”

“Don’t know but look at ‘Huggy Bear’ – a relative?  Notice there’s no mention of ‘Huggy Mouse’.  Ha Ha!”

“Nilla!”

Another quiet day in Aruba.  Waiting for and looking forward to the Ecuadorian experience.