Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Affordable housing

One thing we love about Ecuador is how self sufficient it is as a country. President Correa tries very hard to make sure that the things that are produced in country are affordable, subsidizing whenever necessary.  (there is even a system in place so people can't price gouge and take more than their share, Every factory manufactured package has a price printed on the label, the big grocery stores charge less than this price, but sometimes not by much, for instance, the flour tortillas I get are priced in the big city at $2.00, the price printed on the label is $2.20, sometimes I buy them from Jenny in town for $2, but I would certainly pay the extra .20 cents for the convenience.) Ok back to my story, subsidized housing...

Back in 1998 the government started a program that was designed to improve people's housing, applicants would apply and get funding to bring their houses up to current standards. The amount that was given was $750, or $850 in a historic area. Now that doesn't sound like much, but when you think about the shanty houses these people were living in, A LOT can be done with $750!

In 2001, there were about 3,456,103 housing units in the country. About 72% of all housing units were detached, single-family homes, 9% were apartments, and 4% were ranchos or covachas, dwellings of wood, stone, or brick covered with palm leaves, straw or other vegetation. About 20,085 dwellings were choza, temporary shacks or huts. Owners occupied 67%. About 18% of the population live in inadequate housing structures. 

In 2005 they restructured part of this program, aiming at helping the middle class families, this came in the form of new housing construction vouchers, up to $1800 to help with the cost if they built a new home. They also started many programs in the bigger cities to urbanize and develop neighborhoods, hoping to  entice the tourism trade, and bring down crime.

The Housing Municipality has once again restructured, and is continuing to help with affordable housing, these days a family can get a house built for $5000. They must provide proof of land ownership, and only have to pay 40%, the government picks up the rest. This is the little house they get.

I believe it's two bedroom, one bath, and there may be bigger versions for bigger families, I'm not sure. There are quite a lot of them around, and I enjoy knowing part of the story. Our good friend Joffre has submitted an application, he has land not too far from his hardware shop.

I guess that's all on that subject, I'm sure I've mentioned before the fishermen's motors were all subsidized, cost $1400, avail for purchase at $750, and the women with children(who qualify) of Manabi get $80 per month to help with the cost of living and raising children...and speaking of children!

Our little friends, "the urchins" taking advantage of the lagoon in front of the house last night. They had so much fun playing with those boat rollers, at one point had four or five, but couldn't quite get them hooked together to make a raft. Good times! Well, that's it for today...stay tuned, the adventure continues!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Beach cleaning

Now that our sand has washed back on shore, our boats are able to park closer to the water, which let me see how much debris had accumulated just outside our gate. At one point I had started a pile, but in talking to Fernando Father Fisherman, he said if we moved our debris pile away from the house they would burn it, so the other morning while it was still shady I got to work. I had new work gloves from my birthday and used an empty crate to transport debris from the original pile to the new area. After I got most of the big pieces, I really needed another tool, I needed a I went next door to Vecino and in sign language asked if I could borrow his rake. (My sign language was using 3 of my fingers to make the raking motion, it worked!)

This is a picture of the rake he gave me to use, of course it worked great! Totally got the job done, and my little stretch of "front yard" is clean and pretty.

A couple more boats have moved, so I need to get back out and clean where they had been parked, but I dont need to borrow Vecino's rake anymore...because he made me one for my very own!!! How lucky am I? He even made it nicer than his, used smoother wood, so I wouldn't get splinters...

We are so truly blessed to have such great neighbors! 

I did some clean up inside the fence as well, got these plastic baskets in Charapoto to organize my driftwood, I wanted the holes, so the baskets would drain if it rained, and more air circulation.

I clearly need some more, and would like to have Manuel build a shelf unit to house them. Bought some other plastic hinged lid boxes to organize the inside crafty stuff too. Paint, beads, fabric, trim, it's coming together, and hopefully a sewing machine will be in my possession soon! One of our friends has an extra, that she said I could purchase "on time", because we are all living on a budget, isn't that nice of her? Blessed...we did something right, somewhere along the way...

So stay tuned, the adventure continues!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Our Fishermen's work is never done

I am truly blessed to live here. I may not want to live this close to the ocean forever, but I will always look back at this house and love the time spent here. At one time I would have said I would not like to live somewhere there is always activity outside my front door and fence, but I found I can be a spectator and not get involved. That being said, I do have to watch what I'm wearing when I open the door, or step outside to water plants. (Mom, the white night gown is rather sheer in the sunlight)

Anyhoo, over the past six months! Yep, over 6 months we've been in this beach cottage, I've noticed how the fishermen do things. They go out anywhere from 3:30-dusk, and come back sometime after 8-9pm. (I assume they are setting nets) Then they go out again somewhere around 4am. (We hear them testing their motors, but believe me, they are VERY considerate) then they come back in again after dawn. Ramon (formerly known as Pegleg) told us once the fish eat and are more active at dusk and dawn. (We used to think they went out according to the tides, not so)

When they come back to shore, they wash down the motors, and cover them, they also take their nets out of the boat. (Our fishermen leave their motors on, but those who park elsewhere take their motors home for safe keeping) Usually a team of two look over every inch of the net as they pull it out over the side of the boat onto a piece of tarp on the sand. I've come to realize, they are inspecting for crabs, eels and things that have gotten stuck in the net, as well as checking for any repairing that needs to be done. Also, they are getting the net out of the bottom of the boat, so they can bail out the water, and clean the inside. They leave the nets to sit in the sun to dry during the day, coming back to repair if needed after a shower and breakfast.

Then later in the afternoon, they come back and put the nets back in the boat to be ready to go out again. We've noticed the fishermen who park their boats here, live close by, so they are truly Vecinos. (Neighbors) The wives will bring lunch, or drinks to them, and also bring the little kids for swim time as the men get ready to go out.

This morning I heard them talking about camaron, so I poked my head out, because...I like shrimp! And I saw Fernando Father fishermen getting his old boat ready to go out shrimping. They attach the bamboo poles, and get another kind of net, and after they get into the water, they attach the net to the poles and troll. Just another way to supplement the income. (Later when I saw him he said he only got a little, not enough to share, oh well...maybe next time.)

The boats have crews of two or three, but need help getting to and from the water, so they enlist "helpers", these guys don't usually go out on the boats (but I have seen them fill in if needed) they hang out on the beach, or in town and come when the boat calls them. (What did they do before cell phones?) They help roll the boat to its parking spot, and then wait or help unload the catch, for this help, they get compensated, from whatever the haul is. We placed a plastic bag holder (soda bottle with holes cut in it) on our fence post, and they all know it is there to use. At first it was a way for us to recycle all our plastic grocery bags, but they quickly dwindled our supply, now I buy bags to fill the dispenser, I spent $1.40 for 100 bags and that lasted the whole month, I can afford that...especially when I get free seafood because of it!

Such a wonderful life we get to live here on the coast of Ecuador, so thankful! We had a beautiful sunrise and rainbow yesterday morning...Stay tuned, the adventure continues!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Photo Album

This post is random pictures from the Camera, nothing I could make into a whole blog...

 So many starfish the other day...we love this colander for walks.

Back when there was so much debris, we found this. We got such a chuckle, thinking of our friend the fishermen with one leg, Ramon. Before I knew his name I referred to him as "peg leg" and even joked with him, asking if he lost it to a shark, he laughed said yes, then told me the real story, traffico, 20 anos ago.

Mike and Joffre being silly at the cascada, in Jama

A good picture of the boat parade back on St Pedro y St Pablo Festival. Top is getting lined up in front of our house, and bottom is down at La Boca as they head south to Crucita.

Full moon rising, it was AMAZING! Got the telescope out...WOW

Sharing this from our Ec resident Facebook page, this fish was caught locally, what a monster!

And this seems to be our motto most days...stay tuned, the adventure continues!

Power outages, and what to do about it

The schools in the bigger cities and highlands are out for "winter break", and so many families are coming to the beach, with them they bring problems. The crime rate is higher, some of it is kids playing games, some are real banditos knowing these vacation houses are unsecure and the occupants have expensive toys. But the real problem is with the power, it happened to us while in San Alejo, the vacationers come and illegally hook up to the power lines, sometimes knocking off full time residents connections. Or they do it so hap hazardly that every time the wind blows the whole grid goes down. Well, this seemed to be happening to us a couple weeks ago, finally we went to Joffre, our "go to guy" and he sent someone over to look at the situation. I dont think it was the temporary neighbors as much as the connection had just worked its way loose, or was corroded by the constant sea/salt spray, whatever it was, in about 20 minutes total (from the time Mike got back from talking to Joffre) we had power, and the cost? A whopping $15, problem solved, and we haven't lost power once since. Try that in the States, or other "civilized" country, it would takes days for someone to come out, and how many minutes listening to awful hold music would you have to endure before speaking to a real person? But! That is not all I have to say on the subject...once when the power went out, it was a nice overcast morning, we decided to take a walk thru a neighborhood we'd not spent much time in.

Love the vibrant colors, especially bright in the overcast morning, we refer to it as "magic hour". The pink place is a restaurant we've been to a couple times, only open Friday and Saturdays. (Ronaldo and family, he works days at the local gas station)

The yellow place also has had table and chairs set up in the evening, probably empanadas, or it could have just been a bingo game... So interesting to see the "work in progress", on the newer construction White House, you can see where they only recently cemented the final bit of balcony, that may have been where they brought up the building materials, because check out those stairs...

Two very different houses, the first looks very Robinson Family Caruso,  as you look at it, notice the only indoor living space is on the second level, probably only one room, where the second is pretty massive and wonderfully landscaped. (really doesn't show in the picture.)

This is a pretty big house, very economical with the split bamboo walls. Will keep our eye on this one.

This one I may have shown before, this is a single family home. Not sure I've ever seen anyone in it...too bad, it's only a block back from the Malecon, and on the corner should have good breeze. Huge house, but doesn't look like any outdoor space...a sign it's not a local.

Hope you enjoyed your walk through the barrio with us, we had a great time, seeing fun houses, familiar faces from town, and getting some fresh air. We also got to use the resurrected iPhone...Mike put them both in a sealed Tupperware with those little silica packets and after a week, voila.

Stay tuned, the adventure continues, and  next time the power goes out, don't get mad...take a walk. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Salt Life

The U.S. and China dominate in world salt production, combining for 40% of the world’s quarter billion tons of salt produced each year.

Salt producers use three basic technologies to create salt for its myriad uses. Now-buried dried-up oceans of geologic ages past have left many areas, under both land and sea, with concentrated salt sedimentary layers which can exceed fifty feet in thickness. Two technologies exploit these underground deposits: conventional shaft mining where miners go underground to remove solid rock salt and solution mining where water is pumped underground dissolving the solid salt and then pumping out the salty brine which is de-watered to crystallize the salt. The third method extracts salt from oceans and saline lakes, growing salt crystals much as a farmer grows crops of vegetables or grain. Respectively, the products of these technologies are known as rock salt, evaporated salt (or vacuum pan salt) and solar (or sea) salt.

(Salt ponds from spring water in Peru)

Among the three technologies, most producers around the world are engaged in solar salt production, the least expensive technology available, when favored by a dry and windy climate. But vast quantities of rock salt are extracted in large commercial mines and chemical companies utilize an enormous amount of salt in the form of brine that never is crystallized into dry salt.

(Salt "farm" in Bolivia)

Common salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of salts; salt in its natural form as a crystallinemineral is known as rock salt or halite. Salt is present in vast quantities in seawater, where it is the main mineral constituent; the open ocean has about 35 grams (1.2 oz) of solids per litre, a salinity of 3.5%. Salt is essential for animal life, and saltiness is one of the basic human tastes. The tissues of animals contain larger quantities of salt than do plant tissues; therefore the typical diets of nomads who subsist on their flocks and herds require little or no added salt, whereas cereal-based diets require supplementation. Salt is one of the oldest and most ubiquitous of food seasonings, and salting is an important method of food preservation.

Some of the earliest evidence of salt processing dates to around 8,000 years ago, when people living in Romania were boiling spring water to extract the salts; a salt-works in China has been found which dates to approximately the same period. Salt was prized by the ancient Hebrews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Hittites and the Egyptians. Salt became an important article of trade and was transported by boat across the Mediterranean Sea, along specially built salt roads, and across the Sahara in camel caravans. The scarcity and universal need for salt has led nations to go to war over salt and use it to raise tax revenues. Salt is also used in religious ceremonies and has other cultural significance.

(China, but could definatly be Ecuador, note that some have gloves, and others are barefoot)

Salt is produced from salt mines or by the evaporation of seawater (sea salt) or mineral-rich spring water in shallow pools. Its major industrial products are caustic soda and chlorine, and it is used in many industrial processes and in the manufacture of polyvinyl chlorideplasticspaper pulp and many other products. Of the annual production of around two hundred million tonnes of salt, only about 6% is used for human consumption; other uses include water conditioning processes, de-icing highways and agricultural use. Edible salt is sold in forms such as sea salt and table salt which usually contains an anti-caking agent and may be iodised to prevent iodine deficiency. As well as its use in cooking and at the table, salt is present in many processed foods.

Which brings me to my post, the other day we were taking advantage of the overcast morning and walking the neighborhoods off the main road, here is a picture of the salt farm.

In doing my research, I found that Negra sal has a higher sulphur and mineral content that gives it a different and unique flavor. I'd never heard of it before, but after reading all this info on salt, who knew much of it?

Ecuador had so much salt it used to use it as currency, until the spaniards came with their gold. I found it also interesting that "free range" animals get more salt in their diet than "farmed" livestock, hence we don't use as much table salt here. Table salt is rarely on the table in the restaurants, and we found we usually don't need any, they season everything so well, salt just isn't needed. Between the fresh seafood and its natural salinity, and the free range pollo, chuleta (pork) or carne (beef) life is delicious and lower in sodium! 

Hope you enjoyed my little post on the salty side of life, stay tuned...the adventure continues!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Santo Pedro y Santo Pablo

The Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul is one of the oldest festivals observed by Christians. There is evidence which suggest that this day was celebrated as far back as the fourth century.

St. Peter, a Galilean fisherman by profession, was chosen by Jesus Christ as one of his twelve apostles. He was also the first apostle of Jesus Christ, assigned a role of leadership. He was one of the few apostles who were with Jesus to witness the Transfiguration. Several churches including the Roman Catholic Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion consider him to be a saint.

St. Paul on the other hand is the author of 13 of the 27 books of the Bible. He is also the hero in another book, the Acts of the Apostles. He was born in Tarsus, located in present-day eastern Turkey. He was a tentmaker by profession and was a Roman citizen. For someone who made a living by making tents with his hand, he could write with the fineness of a philosopher. He is considered one of the greatest people to have existed in the Western world, one who was responsible for establishing some of the very fundamental concepts of faith.

The Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul is celebrated as a public holiday in some countries with customs varying from location to location. Special masses in the churches may be held to commemorate the martyrdom of the two saints. Coastal and island communities may decorate their boats and wharfs to give praise to St. Peter, the patron saint of fishermen. (From the web)

Last year while in Crucita we had our first Pedro y Pablo festival, it was a lot of noise, a little pomp and circumstance, but little more, well yesterday we had it San Jacinto style! Wow!

Mike and I went to the market in Charapoto by bus, and got home around 10:30am, as we were walking home from the bus stop we saw a lot of action heading towards the water, as we rounded the corner we were stunned! What a sight!

I wish these pictures would really show the amazing-ness of this spectacle, but they don't! We continued the block to our house, and of course it was full crazy in front, many boats were already on the water. Huge shrimp boats, loaded with people, and smaller boats all around, zigzagging back and forth, some had balloons, many had cases of beer, partiers on land and sea, and what a gorgeous day!

As we watched we heard a parade on the street in front, and sure enough it came down our little sandy side street, right infront of the house. It was only about 2dozen people, but they were carrying the two statues and chanting, they proceeded to the shore, got on a waiting boat which took them out to the bigger boats. Here are some pictures taken from a neighbor who was on one of the larger boats.

Getting the statue from the small boat onto the big boat.

What it looked like from the water, looking towards our house. After the statues were safely on the big boats, everybody lined up and paraded south down the water towards Crucita, so glad we didn't miss this!

By noon, it was again quiet in front of the house, the boats were on parade and the parties had been taken elsewhere. We walked down the Boca road and had a pool party at Casa WF, another glorious day in paradise! Stay tuned, the adventure continues...