This post was originally sent as an email on February 22, 2012
A note on learning to speak Spanish – Almost imperceptibly and in a pervasive manner, Mary and I are getting better and better at speaking Spanish. I get up at about 6:30 each morning and spend the first hour or so a day going through flashcards, books, computer sites and some material our friend Larry left for us. Then, throughout the day I speak with every person (those of you who know me know that is not an exaggeration) who will stop and talk. Every day I learn a few more words and get better at wrapping my clumsy gringo tongue (lengua) around Spanish words and phrases. I really hope to be speaking like a true Ecuadoriano by the end of this year.
Mary is more of a listener/learner and gets better and better each day at picking up phrases and words. She surprises me sometimes with how much she understands when people are speaking. The effort to take that understanding and convert it to speech is still difficult for her at times, but she is getting pretty good!
A few weeks ago we were invited to a big birthday party for Freddy (our friend who works in construction who has a small farm and was dancing in the rain a few updates ago) who was turning 45.
He is from one of the large families in town and is quite popular, so it figured to be a big fiesta and was scheduled to be held at an open air café on the corner of two main roads in town.
Freddy’s family owns and operates the largest hardware store (ferreteria) in town, but as I meet more and more of his family I see that they also are involved in many other businesses. I was told some time ago that almost everyone in San Clemente springs from one of about four or five large family groups who have lived in San Clemente forever. The other night I was talking with Giovanni (the care/taker handyman for Macedonia) who has a young daughter (Joanna) and wife (Maria) and lives in a cottage behind our home. I learned that Giovanni has ten hermanos (brothers and sisters) and forty-six primos (cousins) who all live in San Clemente! So, apparently there are some large families here.
Anyway, we were invited to Freddy’s birthday party (read that feast!) on the Sunday before Valentine’s Day and then we had planned to go to Canoa on that Monday and stay through Wednesday to celebrate Valentine’s Day at that community. Canoa is a beach community that is known for its surfing waves and attracts a lot of tourists from all over the world. We wanted to see good places to stay and things to do for when guests come to visit (hint – hint) and to have a romantic get-away.
On Saturday evening before the party we received an email from a friend, Lisa (aka, “Zeebra”) who lives in Jama telling us that a couple she knows from Spokane, Washington was traveling up the coast and would be in San Clemente the next day en-route to visit her in Jama. We sent a reply email to Lisa and to her friends (Larry and Nancy) and told them where we would be in San Clemente all afternoon (at the café located directly behind the statue of the Patron Saint of Pescadores) and that they should stop and ask for “Yon” and Mary (or just look for the blond-haired Anglo woman) and we would show them around San Clemente.
The party was great! We started out eating camaron ceviche, progressed slowly through meat and vegetable dishes, pastries, fruits and assorted foods all the while waiting for Pocho’s famous barbecued (a la parrilla) carne which was marinating in huge tubs! There was plenty to drink (but Mary and I had to go across the street to the tiende for some diet coke as the primary drink was cervesa and stuff the US Food and Drug Administration never inspected and would have rejected if they had) and more than enough to eat for the crowd that showed up.
We sang and ate with a group of expats that showed up and with all of our usual Sunday crowd all the while keeping an eye out for a couple of Anglos who would be looking for us. I spied a young girl (about 10 perhaps) who was one of Freddy’s nieces (sobrinas) who was singing and dancing in her chair, but would look away and stop every time I looked her way. I went over and formally bowed down and asked her for a dance. What a hoot that was as she accepted my offer and proceeded to try to teach me moves I would have had trouble pulling off fifty years ago. Mary made a hit dancing with Freddy as well.
There was a futball game (soccer) on the television (go figure!) and I asked a friend of mine to let me know when and if the local favorite team scored a goal. When they did finally score a goal, he came running over to have me do my, now famous, “gooooooooooooal” call. God blessed me with large lung capacity and the guys get a kick out of how loud and long I can hold the protracted goal call. Freddy and several others joined me, but had to take breaths or quit long before I was done. All in all, we had a great time. We gave Freddy a squirt gun to use the next time it rained and he decided to dance in the rain and clean his truck!
At about 3:30 Larry and Nancy drove up and got there just in time for the carne a la parrilla! Larry and Nancy had been in Quito in an intense Spanish language program for three weeks and were taking a break to come see the coast. We immediately liked them as they fit right into the group and used some of their language skills to mix with our friends. Mary and I had already determined to check them out and see if they looked like mass murderers and, if not, to invite them to stay at our home that night. Nancy quickly passed the no mass murderer assessment, but I had to check out Larry for quite a while. Just kidding – in actuality we invited them to come up to our house about ten minutes after they arrived and they consented.
God puts people into your lives and Larry and Nancy turned out to be a real blessing to us. We had a great visit with them and they were able to be our first house guests. Larry had rented a car in Manta and was driving it up the coast – a brave undertaking for a gringo in Ecuador where the drivers regard lane markings, stop signs, advisory notices, and speed limits as suggestions rather than mandates – and he and Nancy offered to drive us up to Canoa the following day. They had intended to stop in Bahia and then drive up to Jama, but when we got to Canoa we learned that our hotel had an open room for one night, so they stayed at that hostel with us.
We had a great time exploring some of the sites en-route to Canoa and then around Canoa with them and by the time they left to continue their trip the next day we were good friends.
Real quickly about Canoa – I can see why people like Canoa. It has a wide beach and has a bit of a southward facing which gives the waves more time to form up and allow for longer surfing waves than San Clemente has.
It is also a lot more of a tourist town than San Clemente with more restaurants and shops.
We found a great hostel named Amalur run by a lovely couple from Spain named Lorena and Diego
and located an American style restaurant named, “Surf Shak” with excellent onion rings and hamburgers.
There are surfing lessons, kayak tours, and other things to do for any adventurous types who may come to visit (hint – hint) and the town is only about a two-hour bus ride from our home.
Mary and I had a great time. I made a hit by secretly scheduling a massage for Mary. I saw a notice in the lobby about a woman who would come to the hotel and do a full body massage for forty-five minutes for just $10.00! I set it up without Mary knowing and maneuvered it so we were there when she arrived. Mary opted for just the shoulders, neck, and back ($5.00 for twenty minutes!) so I got the same. Mary said it was the best back and neck massage that she had ever had, so I got some good sweetheart points for a mere $10.00.
On the negative side, Canoa is located north of Bahia and near the mouth of the Chone river. The heavy rains we have been having have flooded much of the Chone river basin and the runoff from the river is projecting far into the ocean near Bahia. The current are such that the branches and debris from the Chone wash up along the beach around Canoa and the beach was cluttered with plants and limbs and generally looked dirty. We are told that the beach is generally beautiful and clean though.
Still we were glad to come back to San Clemente to our clear beaches with favorable currents and too far from the Portoviejo River to our south to be effected by the runoff there.
Life is good in San Clemente!