Monday, July 15, 2013

Mileposts and Anniversaries

I'm not big on birthdays, anniversaries and such annual gimmicks to pad the bottom line for Hallmark.  However, I sometimes look back and these special events serve as mileposts in our lives.  They tell us if we are growing or declining.  They tell us if we are stuck or if we are finally found.

I've passed my three year anniversary in Ecuador.  Rachel will reach her three year anniversary in October which will coincide with our three year wedding anniversary.  Three years is far from a lifetime, but generally it gives you a good idea if you've done the right thing.

Our Marriage:  We've done the right thing!  Every morning that we wake up I thank God for putting us together.  Every night when we go to bed I thank God again.  We sometimes do our own thing during the day but some days we just jump on a bus with destination unknown and know that we will have enriched our lives together somehow.  Rachel's talents in song, creative design, cooking, sewing, gardening, and crafts too many to mention keep her vital and alive.  Her love of God and His Word has led me to commit to being a better man.  Rachel is more beautiful every day.  I love her more each day.

Living in Ecuador:  I'm sure you tire of me talking about our adventures.  To me an adventure is where you let go and something unexpected is likely to happen.  Every day I let go and I'm never disappointed in our adventures.   You don't have to tromp through a jungle, zip line through the cloud forest or hope you and your horse don't fall off a cliff to qualify.  Ecuador has built-in adventures for everyone of all ages and proclivities.  The climate of Ecuador is the best in the world, bar none.  Just pick your own favorite temperature.  It is here.   The people are sweet and kind.  The fruits, veggies, and fish are wonderfully delicious and cheap.  I used to be a beef lover, but I got over it.  Medical care is reported by most of us here to be in many cases better than in the US, sometimes not so much, but always a fraction of the cost.  Public transportation is a breeze.  It is cheap, dependable, and always an adventure.  You simply don't need a car!   We still love our American music and haven't embraced Ecuadorian tunes, but in time you never know.  We love Ecuador!

Three years isn't a long time, but this has been the best three years of my life.  I can't speak for Rachel but her smile tells me volumes.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Artful Dodger

I was 13 years old when I got to see the long running Broadway hit Oliver!.  Oliver! was the theatrical rendition of Charles Dickens novel, Oliver Twist.   It was the one and only Broadway play I've ever seen.   Suffice it to say, it has had a lasting impression.  Maybe it was because it was about homeless boys my age and I was empathetic.

The storyline is about a poor street waif named Oliver who sought comfort, food and refuge with a gang of children pick pockets led by none other than the Artful Dodger.  Although Oliver was the central character I was always intrigued with the Artful Dodger who was a master of living off the streets. 

In Cotacachi, like many other  Ecuadorian villages there are four legged street waifs.  They don't have homes so they must become adept at the 'art' of pick pocketing to stay alive.  They must learn the 'art' of dodging buses, trucks, and tienda owner's brooms.  They must learn the 'art' of knowing which humans to trust.  The street dogs of Cotacachi are street smart.  In fact, they are just plain smart.  

You will see in my earlier posts about the two dogs that captured our hearts, Doggie and Daisy.  They belong to the indigenous family that has recently moved from Yanapamba.  When we arrived at Yanapamba we took those dogs under our wing.  They were grossly underfed.  Daisy was pregnant with her second litter.  We fed them both rather than watch them starve.  They became our dear friends.  Pretty soon others in Yanapamba joined in with feeding them.  They literally bloomed and they became a part of our collective family of residents.  We asked Rodrigo if we could adopt Daisy.  He said yes.   We kept them both as 'shared dogs' for six months.   The day of Rodrigo's and family departure,  he told us he was bringing Daisy with them.  We had arranged for Daisy's spaying, fed her back to health, imported a wireless fence and invested our hearts in her.  But she was after all Rodrigo's dog to give to us or not.

Two days later we were walking to church and we met our dear friend Darrel on the street with his own adopted canine street waif.  Nearby was this expressive, alert, and undernourished 4 month old pup.  Darrel said,  "This is a most remarkable dog.  He stays outside our house and lets us know if anything is not right.  He would make a wonderful watch dog and companion for anyone who would take him off the street."  Part shepherd, part Cotacachi hybrid, this dog came to us with a plea.  His days of 'dodging' were about to be over.

Rachel and I were still reeling from the heartbreak of having our dear Daisy and Doggie removed from our life only days before.  Although this young male pup was obviously a great find, we just didn't know whether it was a knee jerk reaction.  Could any dog fill the void?

Then I got an email from another dear friend, Bill who lives directly below  Darrel.  "Jim that dog outside is waiting for you.  He is just amazing."

Anyone who has ever selected a puppy or an adult dog to bring into their home knows that it is a huge gamble.  If you win, you win big.  If you lose, well, not so much.  It isn't often that you get separate unsolicited glowing references about a dog. 

This was how it was supposed to be.   One door closes, another opens.

 I called Darrel.  "I'll pick up the dog tomorrow.  I'll bring a leash and walk him back to our place.  It will be his first training with me.  His name is Dodger.  I'll explain later."

The next day I came with collar and leash.  Outside the courtyard gate to Darrel and Bill's duplex unit stood Dodger, watching and seemingly waiting for me.  I sat down on the sidewalk and he came to me, laid down on my lap and gave me the affection afforded only to long lost pals.  I gently put the collar on his neck and we just stayed there until I knew he could sense my heart and my intent.

Pretty soon Darrel came outside with Carol.  They took one look at me with Dodger on my lap and said with a mocking grin,  "This will never work.".   I'm pretty sure that if Rachel and I didn't take Dodger, he would have become part of a two dog household.

What I didn't know is that Darrel and Carol had advertised Dodger on our local Cotacachi gringo email network. The next day Darrel called and said that someone wanted our street waif.  Too late!  He is ours.  Dodger is home.

Rachel was pretty much a cat person.

                                                    I think now that is starting to change.

After four years of being dog-less, I now feel a completeness in our home.




Tuesday, January 15, 2013

From the Heart

Some of you who read our blog try to imagine what it would be like to live in Ecuador.  Some of you already live here and know us.  We all take in our environment and the people around us in different ways so our stories may seem different.  I guess our stories are all true in our own eyes.


It has been an unexpected gift to get to know the indigenous family that has been living in our development.  Rodrigo, the young father of three sometimes battles the bottle and his culture doesn't know how to help him.  His dutiful wife Rosa is the persona of resolute caretaker of their children.  She is the glue that keeps this family functioning.  The children, Sebastian (13), Estephania (11), and Eva (8) are products of dysfunction.  They are in most ways like all other children.  They love to play.  They love to laugh.  They know when to stay away from Dad and they know their mom is the boss.  They are also sponges to receive all the love you can give them.  There are many families like this in Ecuador.

Rachel and I eschewed our normal routine this morning in favor of an early morning walk down our lane.  I think we realized how much we'd been missing.  Early morning is our favorite time of day.  The mountains around us were glorious.  The songbirds were in an audition for prime time.  Having Doggie waiting for us just outside our back door was proof he wanted in on this too.

Some day I will tell you about how we fell in love with Doggie, but for now its just about the walk.  It was clear that Doggie had a specific agenda in mind this morning.  As we left the front entrance to Yanapamba with Doggie we met the lovely indigenous children, Sebastian, Estephania, and Eva, all on their way to school.  Doggie seemed delighted that he had brought together his favorite families for a walk.  He was now in charge of our protection (and entertainment) as we walked down the lane.

Some time ago little Eva had run up to me unexpectedly after we were playing frisbie and she just hugged me as if never to let go.  I was so stunned that I didn't know quite how to respond.  We share so few words but the language of love and warmth is universal.    I promised myself I'd never let a spontaneous gesture of affection pass by us again.  As Eva came running up from behind I reached out for her hand and she drank it up and gave me a smile that made my day.

I already knew how to speak frisbie with the kids. 
¡ Corre! ¡ Salta! Gran captura! Gran tiro! 
We have played endless hours and I am their cheerleader when they catch and throw well.  Going to school is another matter.  First, I'm sure they are wondering what their friends are going to make of this....a gringo couple walking hand in hand with them to the bus stop.  Somehow, it didn't seem to matter to any of us.  They just seemed happy to know that we wanted to be with them, to share in the magic of the day.
Rachel was in her glory too.  She is speaking Spanish much better than she gives herself credit for and being with the kids was license to exercise it without concerns for accuracy in grammar or pronunciation.  Kids are our best teachers since they seem to have endless patience and forgiveness for our elementary attempts.

This is Rachel's photo debut of her shortened and natural hair color.  Say good bye to Clairol my love!  You are beautiful au natural!  It is so wonderful for her to wake, jump out of bed and be on our way with no hair fuss what so ever.
Front to back:  Eva, Rachel, Estephania, Sebastian
We learned from the kids they make this sojourn with Doggie each day.  He seemed in his glory pretending to protect us from the multitude of neighborhood dogs that barked from behind the fence.  When we arrived at the bus stop the kids seemed proud to be connected with us in front of their friends.  I think we were even more proud to be with them.