Saturday, August 21, 2010

Party City

Montanita Coast

Tourists. Surfing. Bars. Dancing. Drinking. 24- hour partying. Life in Montanita.

Montanita is considered to be the Surf capital of Ecuador and People from all over the world travel to this quaint town. I got the pleasure of visiting this town for one night. It was a surprise visit after I explored the town of Porto Lopez (whale watching). For those of you who know me well, I really enjoy the night life scene and I instantly fell in love with this place.

The bus pulled in around 6pm and we jumped off. I remember looking up and seeing tall hostels all around us all made of wood with thatched roof's. It was so unique! The town is very small and there is only one main street, but as I walked down it I just stared at all the hippie like vendors selling hand made crafts and the many surf stores lining the way. Immediately I made reservations at a hostel and after refreshing myself walked back outside to watch the sunset on the beach. It was stunning...there were still surfers out there enjoying the last bit of sun before the night begun.

After the sun disappeared behind the horizon the night officially started. We made our way to a side street with lots of grass hut shacks aka bars and started sipping on cuba libres. Then Martin ran into some of his surfer buddies and I met a lot of the locals in town. It was ladies night! But of course that didn't start until way the meantime we drank and met a ton of cool people.

As the night wore on everyone gathered in the main street to watch some of the local guys juggle fire and doing crazy flips down the center of town. Oh the life! Needless to say the music didn't stop til 5 in the morning and then the workers were pounding away next door at 8am. Definitely not sound proof walls in hostels...

I think the pictures tell the real story!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Little things we take for granted....

I was just thinking about all the little things I took for granted living in the states...and its not to say these aren't available in Ecuador, they just aren't AS available. Do keep in mind I am living in a very rural community here, there isn't even a local grocery store, only small vendors. Everything is a trip to the bigger city, Porto Viejo, about an hour away, including the movie theatre!

1. Paper products are seen as a luxury here, they can be fairly expensive as well. A short roll of paper towels is about $2.25 that's an off brand too. Whenever you use the bathroom at any public store they will offer you toilet paper for about $.25 for a wad.

2. Dishwasher- Washing dishes is my new favorite sport! I say, whoever cooks doesn't have to clean, but I have started enjoying my time with the dishes. They even have names now! haha... It was so easy to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher whenever they were dirty and let the dishwasher do all the cleaning back in the states. However, here, if we cook we have to clean immediately, cause otherwise our little friends come to collect their portion of leftover crumbs (aka ants).

3. Dryer- also known as, air dry here. The weather is so beautiful year round, its almost stupid to buy a dryer. But this means if you need something dry quickly to wear later that day, more than likely isn't happening! We do about a load of laundry a day and then we have a clothes rack we lay everything on. The doors are always open here with the wind blowing in and out, so its very breezy!

4. Electricity/ Air Conditioning- Almost like clockwork the lights go out in San Clemente around dark (dark is always right at 7pm year round). Of course we are of the lucky since the hotel and townhomes have a backup generator, but for about 4 seconds the electricity goes out. I just hope I am not on the toilet when this happens! Thanks to my daddy, I have an AC unit in my room. The condos here don't come with AC because the weather is just beautiful and you don't really need it. However, I am apparently really sweet and the mosquitoes love me, so not only do I sleep with a princess net (mosquito net) over my entire bed at night, I also get the luxury of having some cool air :) Thanks daddy!

5. Fresh water- a lot of people living in the smaller towns don't have running water, or even a bathroom in their house. They have to go get the water from a local source or share with their neighbors. The complex we live in and the hotel have their own water tanks and the water will be treated with the reverse osmosis system soon!

6. Cell phones-this is my favorite! I was a texting queen back in the states and here I haven't really had a phone. It took a lot of getting use to at first, but with Santiago's help I should have a working phone soon! However, it is easier to text people in Spanish here...otherwise you use your minutes up trying to put one sentence together! There are 3 main cell phone companies here: Porta, MovieStar and Allegro. All incoming minutes are free. Most phones use the prepaid system, however I am lucky enough to have the hookup with a plan which is cheaper. My dad and I haven't quite figured out though how much one minute to talk to someone is. We just know that after putting $10 on a phone it has an expiration date and can poof be gone in a few days... then the lady comes on in Spanish and says blahblahblah, por favor...which means time to recharge!

7. Car- I think I have forgotten how to drive!!! Here it is very typical to use your horn for everything. Honk when passing, honk when you see a friend, honk when you are wanting someone to move out of your way. Mostly we take the bus, which is nice, cause I can sleep on it. Although, that never seems to happen since people are standing up in the aisles a lot of the time and there are vendors selling food. The bus is a social networking place! Oh yeah and if you fall asleep and miss your stop, you are in trouble!!!

That is all I can think of right now...thanks again for reading my blog! I enjoy all the comments and am very thankful for each of you. Life is beautiful, don't take a second of it for granted! I know its hard to stop and enjoy moments in life through the daily bustle, but take the time to do something that makes you happy. You will see a huge adjustment in your attitude and people will notice too!

Te quiero

R.I.P Tequila. She will be missed! She passed away a few days ago. Thank you to Santiago for helping us through everything and being there with her.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Finally Whales!

Snorkling after seeing the whales.

The boat we took to see the whales! They crammed 2o people on this boat.

Porto Lopez- on the way to see some whales

The beach at Porto Lopez

Martin and I about to board the boat to see some whales!

This fisher boat was sinking and we towed it in on the way back to shore.

The birds followed us back because there was fish in the boat

I marked another thing off of my bucket list, whale watching! What a site! Martin (he works for the hotel and is from Norway) and I went to Porto Lopez, which is a town about 5 hours south of San Clemente on the coast. We woke up really early and caught a bus from San Clemente to Porto Viejo and then from there to Yipiyapa (sp?) and then from there to Porto Lopez. You never know with the bus system here. You could have a brand new bus with A/C and a movie playing or you could get a bus like we did that is rusting so bad and everything is literally falling apart. It's always an adventure here! We were literally holding on tight when the bus was taking sharp turns all the way around the mountains here. But the driver was just whistling away to some salsa music like he knew the roads with his eyes closed! And yes the following is a true statement and I must repeat this is a TIE moment...people DO bring their chickens on the bus with them, dead and alive!

Next stop! Porto Viejo...we got off the bus and was immediately bombarded with people wanting to take us on the whale tours. They gave us a ride to the beach and we waited and waited and waited to get on a boat. Finally after waiting about an hour we were loading the boat. Europeans, Ecuadorians and Americans...oh my!

***Please note I have been on many boats before and rarely get sea sick, but the following will help you understand WHY I WANTED TO PUKE MY GUTS OUT!

The boat we got on (picture above) was small, but fierce! Little did I know what I was getting myself into. Whales! YAY! 2 hours of full force wave slamming- NO THANKS! The trip started out great! Splashing through all the waves, bouncing the boat up and down-water flying everywhere, everyone was laughing! I mean EVERYONE! We thought it was great, our hair whipping in the wind and the spray of the water making our eyes water. The water was glistening from the suns reflection and I was so excited to see some whales!

So, 20 minutes goes by everyone still laughing, then 30 minutes goes by. At about 45 minutes into the trip out to find whales everyone is quiet, holding onto the rails and holding their breath....

After an hour and a half of water spraying and boat slamming I was about to puke and we had still not seen whales. At this point I was questioning whether or not whales existed and I was glad I didn't eat anything. Plus, they crammed us so full we were touching shoulders. I turned around to find land and hope the world would stop spinning and there was none in sight, just waves upon waves.

Just as I was about to make my way to the toilet, someone yells "Ballena's" (whales). My eyes lit up as the boat comes to a swaying halt. And this is what I saw....

These pictures don't even describe what I saw! The most beautiful creatures in the world. So big, yet so graceful! They always came around the boat in pairs and just seemed to glide through the water. The little boys on the boat kept looking for the shadows every time they went under and would shout ballena's! Everyone would be talking on the boat, but the second the whales appeared it was dead silent, like everyone was holding their breath! It was really hard to get pictures of them though, because as soon as they would come out of the water they were back in it. I took some videos, that I have attached.

The ride back to shore wasn't nearly as long as the one out there. However, we did make two pit stops. One was to pick up a few pirate looking guys in a little fisherman's boat and the other was to go snorkling. The fisherman boat we picked up was literally sinking as we pulled by it. One guy was paddling and the other one was throwing buckets of water off the side as the seagulls hoovered over them waiting for some fish. We tied their boat to ours using a small rope. It was pretty entertaining watching them!

Then we stopped at this cove to do some snorkling...none of us knew this was part of the plan and it was an extra $35 to use their mask and snorkle, which is flat out ridiculous! So I let the guys from Spain use my waterproof camera and he got one fairly good picture (at the top).

Needless to whale watching adventures in Porto Lopez turned out to be a life long memory!

Look forward to my next blog about Montanita...the party town!!! Coming soon....

Buenas Noches!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Always an Adventure

First train in Ecuador

All the Navy guys and I on top of the train!

Traditional Ecuadorian food...queso omelette, sweet
bananas dipped in chopped up peants and carne con arroz
(beef with rice) Those yellow disc looking things are banana like chips
mi padre y yo no quieres (we don't like them). They come with every meal!

Me, Alexandra y Pammy!

Monte Cristo view from the mountain

Santi, Alexandra, Carolina y Pammy

Me sitting in one of the chairs used for congress

Civico Ciudad-Monte Cristo

Alfaro El Presidente

As you have read before, it is always an adventure here in Ecuador! We all now have a saying T.I.E (This Is Ecuador). For example: as we are driving down the street and all of a sudden we have to stop in the middle of the road because cows are being herded down the street. TIE!! Or when we get behind a pickup truck overloaded with people, I mean people are hanging on the sides of the truck for a ride down the street. TIE!! My favorite is when everyone just crams on the bus, basically on top of each other to get to point B or just to cruise down the street. You gotta love this country! TIE!!

Santiago, our tour guide y amigo, has been an amazing friend! He took us on a ride to Monte Cristo to visit the Civico Ciudad of Alfaro, one of the best Presidents Ecuador has had. A little history about him: He was the president twice of Ecaudor from 1895 to 1901 and from 1906 to 1911. His biggest feat was linking the railroad together, but he also gave women rights and more rights to the citizens. Ecuador was the first country in South America to give women the right to vote. As we were looking at all the statues and the museum 5 buses loaded with the Navy came up. It was crowded within minutes with the whole military…lots of men!! You know how I am…can be a little boy crazy at times, so I was just in awe. AND of course since I am blonde, I stand out easily…they were ALL staring! As we were leaving the museum we came across the train outside and I was trying to get some pictures of the Navy guys to show you guys of course ;) and Santiago yells to them all that “he has a present to give them.” A bunch of them had climbed the train at this point so they are yelling at me to come up there with them! At this point I am red in the face and completely embarrassed, but I got a few pictures.

Next stop was going to the tiendas (little shops) in the town of Monte Cristo. This town is known for making Panama Jack hats, you know the ones you pay hundreds of dollars for in the country Panama? Well, they are made in Ecuador and cost me only $7. HAHA! Unbelievable…so I bought two!

Hasta Manana! More to come tomorrow!

A feeling so good

They all made me smile. The way they greeted a complete stranger who looked nothing like them melted my heart. What an experience! The minute I walked through the lush garden of the church to the outdoor gym I felt so warm and fuzzy inside. It’s amazing the unconditional love a child of special needs can give. They don’t have a worry in the world! I decided when I came to Ecuador I wanted to start giving back, I was too caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life back in the US to take the time to give back. I am so fortunate to have such a wonderful life with many opportunities. So I received the opportunity from Santiago’s nieces who have vacationed the last month in Bahia and were volunteering every day at this school.

After the kids greeted us, they stood in a line on the concrete floor to stretch. The teachers informed me (through translation) the kids were training for the Special Olympics which was that weekend. They were so excited to play futbol (soccer)! We played guys vs. girls and everyone got to play. Every time a goal was made everyone would jump up and down! I have never smiled so much in my life. Then after futbol everyone had snack and hung out. It was great for me to interact with each of them and learn a little more Spanish. Pammy, Santiago’s neice, translated and told the class who I was and that I wanted to take a picture. Once I got the camera out, the looks on the kid’s faces were priceless! They wanted to see the picture after it was taken AND they wanted to take a picture themselves. So, of course after seeing the smiles on their faces I couldn’t resist. I told the teachers I wanted to come back and volunteer at least once a week from now on and they seemed really excited! The kids played with the camera until the battery was dead and then they all gave me lots and lots of hugs and kisses. I plan on going back after their vacation this next week at least once a week if not more. Nothing like unconditional love from a child!