Tuesday, Jan 19, 2016

We took a cab to Canoa today with Miriam who gave us info on the developments along the way from San Vicente to Canoa. She also pointed out a couple single family stand-alone homes along the beach and gave some history on them. These homes look ideal with beautiful beach frontage and a lot of privacy. The distance between these homes and the next neighbor of any type is far enough that no one could hear or see activity in or around the house. Very private.

An American family had bought one of these houses which was later broken into while the family was home and they were robbed. The wife got hurt from the intruders because she resisted the robbery. The family left Ecuador after that. The house was purchased by another American who had been doing business in Ecuador for over 20 years. He hired a 24/7 guard for the property and it appears there have been no more problems at that location.

The conversation with Miriam became about security of the condo developments and single family homes between Bahia and Canoa. The condo developments, although isolated as well, were more secure because there are more people around and in them, and they all seemed to be walled and gated. Miriam suggested that if one was to have a single family home it would need to have appropriate security. This may mean a 24 hr guard for the property. Even this isn’t guaranteed though. She shared the story of another family who was robbed at gunpoint in their home. They had a guard on the premises and it was thought he was in on the robbery.

When I came to Ecuador I had dreams of living in one of these ocean front homes. In fact I wanted to live in a home around Canoa on that beautiful stretch of mostly undeveloped beach. Miriam has lived in the area over four years and after listening to these stories it seems a bit foolish to take that risk. In Bahia however, it seems much less likely to experience an armed robbery in one’s home. Most homes here are condos and the area within Bahia has lots of activity and people. So far I have never felt unsafe anywhere we have been in Bahia, during the day or night. The people seem friendly, the town is well kept, and it’s small enough to walk anywhere in it, while large enough to provide most all needed amenities on a day to day living basis.

In Canoa we visited a man called Dr Bob. He is a gringo chiropractor, trained in acupuncture, and naturopathic medicine. He seems very friendly and laid back; his hair is styled in dread locks. Some of the ex pats who have been seeing him say he is a healer. When pressed what they mean, words like “energy” and “intuitive” are used.

Heidi saw him because her shoulder has been killing her for a while now. She said he didn’t talk much at all, kept his eyes closed most of the time as he moved about her ankles, wrists, hips, and shoulders, as well as other lymph node points on her body. Her time with him didn’t seem very long to me, maybe 15 minutes (as opposed to a 60 minute deep tissue massage). After he was finished she felt a lot better per own self report, and at this point in time her shoulder is pain free. So who knows, hopefully this guy is for real and his ability to help my wife’s aching musculature will last. He charged $20.

Our cab ride over from Bahia to Canoa was $10. We have been told that the appropriate charge is $8. When pressing the driver on this point he said it was $10 because it was one way. Ok, aren’t all cab rides basically one way? I mean unless the cabby waits for you to finish shopping, eating, or whatever it is you are doing that required a cab to get there to begin with, it’s a one way trip! This is a real phenomenon here in Ecuador…gringo pricing.

On one hand it is annoying. I don’t want to pay more for the same thing a local pays less for. Cab fares are ripe for this activity. And this becomes the problem as I see it…I cannot speak Spanish! The very, very little spanish I have learned in a few days may communicate what I am asking…like how much is the fare? …or how much is a pound of this?… but if the reply becomes more than a couple word answer I am basically screwed.

Case in point. Easton, Heidi, and I decided not to take a cab back from Canoa to Bahia, but try the bus instead. We met a nice couple from Washington State who lived in one of those condo developments along the beach front near Canoa. They were going to ride the bus back down the highway and get off at their complex. They told us the fare was 0.50 cents to San Vincente and another 0.50 cents to the far south end of Bahia where the bus drops everyone off. From there, it would require us to get a cab to get us to the north end where we live. Another option they suggested, was to get off the bus in San Vicente and take a cab across the bridge and into Bahia directly to our condo.  The cab ride should cost us $2. We decided to try that.

After getting on the bus in Canoa, the bus attendant came through for our money, I was expecting it to be $1.50 for the three of us. He said something that I didn’t understand. I only had a $5 bill so I gave it to him. He gave me back $3.05 change. So, how did he arrive at a bus fare of $1.95 for the three of us? My heart started racing, I was having a conversation in my head that included a whole lot of explicatives about being ripped off. As he made his way back toward the front of the bus and passed me, I held out my hand with the change neatly placed on it and questioned him about the amount by shaking my head and saying no. I’m sure I looked like one of those toddlers who sit on the floor with their hands extended out pitching a fit because they aren’t getting what they want.

So what did the bus attendant do with my outstretched, open palmed hand filled with coin? He basically counted the change back to me with that sing song rythym one would use with the toddler when you say, “it’s your treat, now eat it”…”it’s your change little gringo now put it in your pocket”.

I got no where and was frustrated. For a few brief seconds in my mind, I immediately went to how I cannot be wasting my money, I don’t have an income any longer…I’m going to be broke, homeless and starving. When that started I suddenly realized the ridiculuosness of this entire scene. Over 0.45 cents I was generating all this negative energy and driving myself crazy.

What is actually true in this moment is that I chose to come to a country where I do not speak the language, so of course it is going to be challenging getting questions answered when I don’t understand something. So for now, I will consider the 0.45 cents the cost of my education on public transit in Ecuador. Seems like a small price to pay to learn how to get back and forth from my condo to one of the best beaches in Ecuador. And…I became more resolute in my mind to learn Spanish as quickly as I can. Oh, I diverged again. Back to getting home.

In San Vicente we exited the bus and flagged a cab. I said to the driver “Bahia cerca de la playa”, which more or less said “near the beach in Bahia” and then asked “dos dolares?”, or $2, looking for an affirmative response. He said yes. Success!

Where we live in Bahia is at the far north end. We are not considered central Bahia and that is where most cab fares are priced to and from. Our driver agreed to the $2 fare from San Vicente but we couldn’t exactly communicate where we wanted to go. He drove to the beach at the point where the river empties into the ocean, but we live across from the beach at the ocean itself which is a further drive around the point of the peninsula.

As I pointed and directed the driver toward streets away from this beach by the river, I got an ear full of Spanish from him. I don’t speak Spanish, but I knew what he was saying. He was pissed that I had told him the beach, he had agreed to $2, and now I am pointing him away from this beach and causing him to continue to drive. After this tongue lashing, I just wanted to get out of the cab. I pointed to the next corner and said, “Aqui” (here).

He pulled over. Heidi, Easton, and I all said gracias and got out. I gave him $2 and he drove off without saying a word. We walked the last few blocks to our building. Note to self: learn how to say exactly where you live in Spanish so the driver can get you there for the agreed upon amount.

I’ve spent a lot of time telling about our transportation adventures…or misadventures, but we did have a great day. While we were in Canoa, Easton and I went swimming in the ocean. The tide was pulling out so there was lots of shallow beach, a comfortable water temperature, and great waves we could body slam and surf on. The beach in Canoa is one of the best in my opinion!