Thursday, January 19, 2012

Return to Tumbabiro

The last time Rachel and I went to Tumbabiro it was to a wonderful birthday fiesta at Phil and Sandy's house back in October.  At that fiesta we met their friends, Bob and Beatriz Flick and their son, Eric.  This trip to Tumbabiro we were privileged to be invited to the Flick's party.

The Flicks have an amazing story.  Bob and Beatriz met in Ecuador back in 1962 when Bob was a Peace Corps volunteer in the first group to arrive in Ecuador.  Beatriz was from landed Ecuadorian country gentry.  She was educated, quadra-lingual, cultured, and with deep family roots in the Imbabura Province.  Bob was probably a little idealistic, educated, with enormous energy and in love with Beatriz.  Bob had to get permission to marry Beatriz from Beatriz's father and the Director of the Peace Corps, then Sargent Shriver.  He was on loan to Ecuador from Uncle Sam....go figure.  He never did tell me which permission was more difficult to gather.

Anyway, it was the biggest wedding ever seen in the provincial capital of Ibarra.  There had never been a local girl marrying a gringo before 1964, so this was a spectacular event.  I'm pretty sure Beatriz's family was very well known, so everyone came.  It was and still is a storybook romance.

Bob ended his stint with the Peace Corps in 1964 but continued his passion for helping others through CARE, ACDI, Chemonics International, Winrock Foundation, and other non-profit and for-profit international non-governmental agencies for another 40 years.  His background in agriculture, economics,  international relations, and rural development eventually landed him in several private positions in the states.  Beatriz' multilingual skills and hard work placed her ultimately in bank management positions during their life in the US.    Although they have lived in exotic places like Sri Lanka, Moldova and Montenegro, Bob and Beatriz eventually settled in northern Virginia.  They still maintain a home in Alexandria, Virginia.  Beatriz's father has passed away but her 92 year old mother is still open to a glass of wine and a spin around the dance floor with anyone who can keep up.  With a generational passage, the family hacienda in the Imbabura beckoned to Flick's able hands and hearts.  It was certainly a natural progression that the Flicks would return to their beloved Ecuador where they first fell in love.

As we rode down the driveway into the Flick's hacienda, it was obvious that it was going to be special.  The lane was girded on both sides with Bob's own plantings of evergreen trees.  This was a bare piece of land just five years ago!  To see it now, you would think it impossible.  Every tree planted was little more than a stick.  The land which was once covered in sugarcane fields was devoid of wildlife when they came.  Cane is regularly burned before harvest driving out birds and other fauna.  Now the land is covered in patchwork of elegant avocado trees.  Outrageously colorful songbirds and hummingbirds are everywhere.  I'm told that the coyotes, rabbits, opossums, and other species including skunks have returned as well.  It was a homecoming for Bob,  Beatriz, and God's creatures.

Eric showed us the orchards and told us of the agronomic science that goes into raising avocados.  The Haas species that Bob helped to introduce and popularize into Ecuador was at first met with suspicion by the larger grocery chains.  Three years later they clamor for his fruit. 

Rachel's favorite fruit is avocado, so it was nearly impossible to remove her from the premises.

As we walked down the rows Eric showed us fruit in various stages of development.  Some fruits had minor blight due to the injuries caused by a bug (thrip).  The recent fog events created a medium to advance the effects of the thrip injuries.  The fog was just closing in again as we were walking down the rows.  Eric showed us various stages of chlorosis, another enemy of the fruit.  Only intensive soil and tissue testing tells what kind of chlorosis it is and what steps are required to bring it back to complete health.  This fruit requires regular watering to keep it producing but with irrigation water at a very basic pH of 8.2 it takes considerable amendment to make it fully useable by the plants.

At age 71, Bob shows little sign of slowing down or 'retirement mode'.  Beatriz however has claimed her passion that she has for too long put off, reading.  Her luxurious hammock was evidence that she was serious about enjoying every minute of her mind expanding hobby.

If you are imagining this to be the Ponderosa and the Cartwrights, you're not too far off.  The Flick's designed and built their home three years ago.  It reflects their casual but elegant style of living. 

The yard reflects the care and passion of Beatriz and Bob with a little help from God's gift of the Ecuador climate.

 Did I mention that Beatriz is an excellent cook?