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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Back in the USA

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck and I have been in the United States for a little over a week now.  We landed in Seattle last Wednesday late.  We rented a car, visited with family and friends, and then drove to our old home in Richland on Friday.

We spent the weekend in Richland visiting with family and friends.  Here is Chuck swimming with our grand kids, Heidi and Cannon. Lucky for us, we will see them again before we head back to Ecuador.

On Tuesday morning we turned in our rental car, got into our car we have yet to sell and started our road trip to visit family and friends in the U.S.  Right now we are on our way to Minnesota to visit with our daughter, son-in-law and 9 grandchildren.  We plan to arrive tomorrow.

We had a nice scenic trip across Montana.  Unfortunately, this part of the trip is heads down and the only pictures I have taken have been from the car window going 75 mph.

Here is a picture I took yesterday morning just outside of Missoula, Montana.  The sun was just coming up and was lighting the tops of the mountains in the distance.

The early morning light made for some grand scenery.

I took this picture of Chuck at a rest stop. You better believe I had to go to the bathroom pretty bad to still have a need after reading this sign.  I not only stayed on the sidewalk, I watched very carefully.

Tonight we are in Fargo, ND.

Tomorrow....hugging time!!

Nancy and Chuck

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Visiting with Ronnie and Andre

Dear Family and Friends,

Our friends, Ronnie and Andre, bought a home in Yunguilla. They bought it over a year ago and spent about a year remodeling it.  They have done a wonderful job of making this home a fabulous place to live.  The views from their house are incredible. On Saturday, Rich and Nancy, Chuck and myself went to visit them and see their new home. 

Here are a few pictures of their house.

After visiting their home, we all went to the Bambu restaurant in La Union for lunch.  Here is a picture of Ronnie and Andre.

Chuck and I are leaving for the United States in a couple of days.  We are going back to visit family, friends and hug grand babies. I plan to keep posting to the blog as we travel around the U.S.  We will return to Cuenca at the end of October. 

Nancy (and Chuck)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sightseeing Close to Cuenca

Dear Family and Friends,

The Kimblers joined us in a drive up to Turi and then to Tarqui and back to Cuenca via San Joaquin.

It was a nice day and the scenery was wonderful!

This is a scene between Turi and Tarqui.

 We were not the only ones enjoying the view.

We had lunch at the Che restaurant in San Joaquin.  Randy posing by a painting of Che Cuevara.

We are enjoying having a car...taking day trips as well as longer trips is enhancing our lives in Cuenca.

Con amore,


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Saga of the Banana Plantation

Dear Family and Friends,

This post is about our visit to a banana plantation.

Lourdes and William took us to visit Lourdes' mother. She lives right in the middle of a very large banana plantation. We were able to get up close and even walk into and through the banana plants.

I had Chuck hold up a banana leaf just to show how long they are. You will notice that there are bananas growing on the plant behind him. They are covered in plastic to protect them from insects. The stalk of bananas are about as long as Chuck is tall. These bananas are grown for export. In fact, if you live in the U.S. you could have possibly eaten a banana grown right here.

The bananas are picked, washed, fumigated and packed right next to Lourdes' mothers house.

After the bananas are harvested, they are washed. William shows us some bananas in the bath.

They are then put in plastic bins and sent down the conveyor rollers where they are fumigated to kill any insects. They are packed while they are still green.

This is the other end of the process, where the bananas are packed into boxes.

While this is going on, boxes are being made next door to hold the bananas. Here, Lourdes and Ivan are showing us how they put the boxes together in this machine.

Look familiar???

Actually, there were boxes from many different brands. Most of them I did not recognize. These bananas are shipped to many different countries.

What I found funny is that when I bought bananas in the U.S., I thought the Del Monte, Dole or whatever brand was a unique banana.....maybe from a different place. HA! They are all the same. It just depends on who they are packing for that day. Same bananas, different stickers.

After the bananas are boxed, they are fumigated again. Yes, the bananas you buy in the grocery store are quite toxic on the outside. I do not have any idea if the chemicals seep through the banana peels.

Right along the edge of the bananas fields cocoa plants are growing. Yes! Bananas and chocolate....yum!

Here is what cocoa looks like growing on the tree.

I had Chuck put his hand on one so you can see the size of the pods.

There was a pod on the ground that had dropped off the tree. William cracked it open so we could see the cocoa beans inside. The beans are white before being fermented and dried.

Here is a picture I posted about a month ago. It is of cocoa beans drying along the side of the highway.

Lourdes' mother fed us dinner. Seco de pollo, rice and cucumber salad.

After dinner, Lourdes' mother took us into her house. She shared with us her most prized possessions. A few photographs of her children and a stack of diplomas and awards her children had received from their schools.

Now, the down side. Unfortunately, there is a down side and it must be shared.

Out of necessity, the people who live on these banana plantations wash their clothes in the river, just as many folks do right here in Cuenca. But, unlike Cuenca, their river is full of chemicals and toxins that is run off from the banana fields. It is killing them.

At this moment, Lourdes' mother is suffering from toxic poisoning. She got this from washing clothes in the river. I pray that she will be okay. She has stopped washing clothes in the river. Her children are hoping to buy her a washing machine. In the mean time, her sons are doing the laundry....and not in the river I hope.

We saw the river. There were children playing in the water, women washing clothes and Lourdes tells me some people even bathe in it. She said the incidence of cancer is very high. She told me of her mother's friend, who bathes in the river and washes her hair in the river, is now losing her hair.

All this so that when we go to the store to buy bananas we will have nice pretty bananas that are without blemish.

So there you have it, the pretty and the ugly of the banana saga.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Santa Rosa - Home of Lourdes and William

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck and I were very privileged to have a wonderful inside view of life in Santa Rosa. Lourdes and William invited us to visit Santa Rosa and meet their families.

Lourdes is our housekeeper.  We have become very close to her and her family.  Last week they invited us to come to Santa Rosa to meet their families.  We were honored to accept.

We picked Lourdes, William and Ivan up at their house at 7:30am on Saturday morning and headed west to Santa Rosa.  Santa Rosa is located about 20 miles southeast of Machala.  It took us about 4 hours to drive there.

Both Lourdes' and William's families live outside Santa Rosa in the country.  No paved streets outside of town. The first thing we noticed when we arrived at William's parents home is that someone shared Chuck's love of gardening.  

Everyone came out to greet us.  We were so welcomed.

Lourdes took us on a tour of their back yard.

She proudly showed us all the fruit growing in their backyard.

After the backyard tour, Lourdes, William, his mom and grandmother all gathered in the kitchen to make lunch.

 Ivan shows off the fried plantains his mother made.

We had them with the shrimp ceviche they prepared.

After lunch, Chuck crashed in our bedroom.  We were given the bedroom that has a door.  The other bedrooms had curtains for privacy.

He wasn't the only one napping.

Here are some pictures of William's family.

William's mom and dad.

 William with his grandmother.

William's uncle on the left.

While Chuck and the dog were napping, we went out in the backyard to harvest some coconuts.  His family wanted me to taste fresh coconut water. William climbed up on a stool to harvest some coconuts.

His dad, used a machete to chop the top of the coconut so that there was just a hole for the water to come out of.

Here, Lourdes is holding a glass and the coconut with the hole in the top.  She put glass on top of the coconut upside down and then flipped them over.  Eureka! A glass of coconut water.  We passed it around and all had a taste.

Then the coconut was split open and everyone had some of the meat.

After Chuck's nap, we went over to Lourdes' mother's house.  I will post about that visit tomorrow.  Too much to share in one blog posting.

After visiting Lourdes' mother, we came back to Williams home.  William joined in a neighborhood soccer game.  Chuck did some porch sitting.

and I photographed flowers in William's mother's garden.

As the sun was starting to go down, the misquitos started swarming.  There is no glass in the windows because they need the breeze to flow through the house.  We were handed a towel to swat at the little pests.  As a family, we watched soccer on television.  Ecuador vs. Mexico.  Ecuador won!!

They insisted that I have the seat of honor, the family's version of a Lazy Boy.  I was so comfortable that I slept through half the game.

We slept under a misquito net.  This was a first for us.  It worked very good.

In the morning, we had freshed squeezed orange juice and tamales wrapped in banana leaves for breakfast.

We had a great time.  Again, we are so fortunate to be able to have a peek at life in the country.  These people do not have a lot of material things, but the love they have for each other is very valuable.

Tomorrow I will share about visiting Lourdes' mom and the banana plantation.