Rose Haven goes to Ecuador

The Wind will be Beaten

I love my new house but the wind is something fierce!   So I am in the process of cutting the wind and giving myself options for more interesting gardens.  With this in mind I have hired Marcelo and Fernando Marcelo and Fernando working hardto build these walls and to make them, I hope, aesthetic.  Never before have I been around anyone building concrete block walls so is I have had a lot to learn.  Like you have to make footings and you need Building a columncolumns with metal inside.  And when you come to curves, having a concrete saw and blade is just so helpful.  Cause, curves are a whole lot more work.

My wall is coming along beautifully.  We have some higher walls near the rear and lowered it a little at the front because locally my house is know as Casa Bonita and already I have had lot a folks comment that they will not be able to see the house.  No, they won't but I am hoping with the curves, white plaster, colourful plantings and a little lower height that it will do the job I need and still be a good contribution to beauty.

I have been thrilled at how the wall is progressing.  My fellows work very hard and are exceptionally precise.  The wall is progressingEven they seem to be pleased with what is happening.  And as we turn the corner for the final leg we are adding in a bodega as we have no real place to store tools, seed, ladders, and similar items.  This will be a space that both I and Isabel can share so we can continue to make the new Rose Haven nice.

We also have to make nice thematic metal gates and continue until all 3 main sides are enclosed.  Then inside we are going to remove much of the herbes malos, weeds to you, so I can have a colourful and hopefully a bit exotic garden because I really want some palms!

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Pachakutik and Local Poalo Politics: Part 2

townSo on Sunday I went to the voting station in Poalo to see if I could vote. After examining my cedula and seeing the rather recent date, they said, no, but I could get a certificate of voting.  Now that is worth something as it is used in lots of ministerio applications.  So now I have more documentation.  Meanwhile just looking about the polling area, held at a school, was very interesting.  Very low key and friendly.  At the tables of each poll sat at least 2 persons, one with the master list of registered voters and the other handing out the voting sheets.  These were so extremely different than in Canada. Here the sheet shows a photo of each candidate by position by party so in this case there would have been at least 25 images on the sheet.  Beside each a place to make Mayor Gonzaloone's mark.  Those who got a sheet, took it into a nearby room to make their marks and then folded it for the ballot box.  The box was guarded by a local soldier, firearm at his side.  And the party scrutineers were there to observe.  Altogether just a few minutes.  Outside the school and even in the school yard, there was a sense of community and festivity.


Then we had to wait to see what might happen.  The answer is --- political life continues as Gonzalo is now elected the Mayor of the Canton of Poalo which includes the local village and the surrounding rural area.  This is for a five year term so I shall be intrigued to see what evolves. All in all quite a fascinating and wonderful chance to see the countryside and to feel a part of something.  And now I have more amazing pictures, a greater appreciation of life here and a whole new learning curve coming up.

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Pachakutik and Local Poalo Politics

GonzaloMy introduction to local Ecuadorian politics began with Isabel, my housekeeper and her husband, Gonzalo.  Lots of times, going into Latacunga, I had seen him wave at a person or pull the car over to briefly shake a hand.  And of course, now I know why.  I had seen his car with a special banner on the back announcing that he is running for the local Poalo council while another person was running for Latacunga regional government.  And we have the pennants attached to vehicles and then they gave me a scarf to wear.  So I thought I had better find out what is happening before I wear my scarf and find myself in trouble.


carsI live in a very indigenous area, primarily Andean Kitchwa.  Gonzalo has been studying in Quito at the university topics like community management and most recently has been supervising the construction of a co-operative milk processing facility in the village. And he was the one who brought the Mayor to see my dog bite last year.  So on February 23 there was an election for all the positions in the country at municipal and provincial levels.  Gonzalo ran under the banner of the indigenous party, Pachatutik.  Founded in 1998, the party has a somewhat Leftist leaning and has operated at the national level mainly to get the indigenous perspective directly represented.  Like many fledgling parties there have been internal issues, but for the main, the focus is on getting a better deal for the nearly 30% of the country who are indigenous.


skySince this area and Latacunga are quite indigenous, I think I shall be quite safe to wear my scarf here.  Meanwhile, most evenings, Isabel has been out being the dutiful political wife cooking meals for those who attend meetings.  And, of course, they have being out putting up posters and flags - these seem to get used more than signs here.

Well, the way elections work around here you can chase votes until 2 days before the election and on Sunday, February 23, was the election.  So Isabel and Gonzalo invited me on February 19 for the last major politicking event, a caravan.  They picked me up about 12:30 lunch and we drove as a cavalcade of vehicles thorough all the local communities landscapethat represent this canton, in other words, Gonzalo's area.  The lead vehicle for much of the way was a 3-wheeler with a wagon on the back with a very loud speaker including a siren. Gonzalo was on this.  From a distance he was easy to see in his brilliant red poncho. The second vehicle was the Senor de Maca band, playing live generally when we went through anywhere with a group of folks.  Then came our car, since I was with the politicianís wife, followed by a good 2 dozen or more of assorted vehicles with lots of flags.


We had flags on top and I had a flag to wave out the window.  Poalo, my little community, was the start point and by far the most developed.  peopleWe went through quite a circular route taking in anywhere that might have people.  Often I thought I was counting more dogs!  The route wound its way up the steep hills around here and I had some amazing vistas.  The terrain was very dry up high and reminded me of the driest of the Okanagan or even parts of Alberta near Drumheller.  The roads were mainly dirt or hand laid stones with many switchbacks. 


There were little tiny communities with small schools but I did not see much in the way if other services like health centres.  A very few had small town squares. Mostly very rural people on quite steep marginal land with modest houses.  bowls of foodIsabel pointed out Gonzalo's home, her family area and the house they first lived in for 2 years.  In a number of areas, it really seems quite poor, but I donít know if they regard themselves that way.


This went on all afternoon, until close to 6 when we finally arrived back at the edge of Poalo.  Then most got off the vehicles and processed by foot carrying flags and placards into Poalo and around the square before stopping at the place set up for speeches, music, food, drink and dancing.  First came speeches with each candidate presenting issues and concerns usually both in Spanish and Kitchwan, often to rousing support.  And as you can see there were some very young campaigners!


childThen, the fun part.  I had a little chicha which is a locally made brew, this time rather sweet and actually drinkable.  The version I had in Amazonia is made with yucca and this was much better. Then a kind of cross between soup and lamb stew, with many servings passed out.  In addition they were handing out beer which would have been fine and then a kind of "aqua caliente", a sort of very potent whiskey which I declined although offered in very small thimbles. 


There was dancing and I managed to make my way though one very long dance number with another woman as no one else was dancing.  So they are certainly getting to know I am.  But the knees will only handle so much.  The party was going to go on for quite a while but I felt that by 7 p.m. I was ready for home, so fortunately one of Isabelís brothers could give me a lift.  As far as I know the event went on quite late.

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First Impressions

I have been here nearly 3 weeks at my house outside of Poalo, a small village about 12 minutes by taxi from Latacunga.  I have already been to Quito several times as well as to Banos and my first introduction to the Amazon (nice parrot!) by way of a day excursion to an indigenous community south of Puyo.  So I have not been stuck but doing lots as I start to make the house functional, work on obtaining my residencia and have a bit of a holiday.

So what are some of my first impressions or items that strike me as different?  Well, I guess I could start with around my home.  First off, for being a place in the countryside, it is not all that quiet.  Ecuadorians seem to like to use vehicles with loud speakers to announce upcoming events or maybe support a  political candidate.  I have not yet got my Spanish to point where I can understand.  Then there are the dogs.  Everyone in the country has dogs, and note I said plural.  On face value to guard their properties, so few seem to think they should be friendly dogs.  Whenever anyone drives past a place or enters your lane or the neighbourís, they bark. And people here seem to love to party loudly, with all sorts of music coming your way at high volume until at least 2 a.m. or later.  Of course, being Christmas and New Yearís recently was a great excuse for parties. 

But then there are the birds and those I really like.  All day various bird song.  I donít yet have a book on  Ecuadorian birds, but just seeing a few fly by, I can tell that there are lots of doves, both versions of red and yellow tanagers and even sweet tiny green hummingbirds.  As I get more floral plantings done here I am sure that many more birds will appear.

I live in Cotopaxi which has a very famous high volcano as its namesake.  On a clear day, you can see it from my place.  This particular part of the province of Cotopaxi is very dry, almost desert.  Since I have been here there have been 3 tiny sprinkles, maybe for only an hour.  I gather that real rains are supposed to come more so into February plus.  Most farmers here, and the house is surrounded by farms, grow alfalfa which has a very deeply rooted system and once germinated can persist for years in fairly dry conditions.  Nearly all the animals such as the dairy cows nearby graze directly or are fed hand-cut alfalfa.  Rarely are animals allowed to just wander a field, as not everyone has fences.  This approach maximizes the fieldís produce.  So almost every animal wears a collar or tie that has a rope attached to a peg in the ground.  Regularly the animals are moved.  Most fascinating is to see that almost all the large green verges that accompany roads and even major highways will have cattle or even llamas pegged out to both to utilize the feed and to maintain the verge.  Nowhere have I seen large mechanical grass mowers!

People, so far, seem genuinely friendly.  Of course, I am the odd person out, but I do try small talk and sometimes well enough that the cab driver babbles on so fast I am lost.  Day by day I learn a tiny bit more Spanish and Isabel my housekeeper, tries to ensure I get a few words right.  But being thrust into the midst does call for more trying and I do.  I have as yet to organize classes but have been quite busy just making things happen here.  That will come in time.

Some friends have thought Christmas would be exciting and very different here, but not quite what I expected.  I live in a mainly indigenous area and while people may say they are Catholics, they certainly donít practise much.   I asked about happenings in Poalo and got sort of a blank response.  For Isabelís family, no going to a special church service or parades or anything feeling unique.  So I gave them a very small party with cold drinks and cookies and Thermohair socks to each, then arranged to go to a tourist town, Banos, for 4 days over Christmas and that was a good decision.

Heavy physical labour can be still quite real here.  I have had my first wire dog fence put in and that was serious work.  Then I found one of my neighbours, a fairly elderly woman, gathering Eucalyptus leaves inside the front of my place.  When she gathered them up with a rope and bundled them on her back, I found from my help to her that these were very heavy.  She toted them home, back bent way over! 

Drivers are reasonably good with only a few questionable infractions such as regularly changing lanes to get the best racing line on a road.  Saying inside your lane is sort of a novelty.  But absolutely nothing like India!

I was fascinated by Ambato as I went through on the bus, to see a whole street devoted to selling jeans, saying "made in townĒ.  And, oh, so tight, maybe stretch because while tight clothes can be favoured, not all are slim.  In fact, many communities have single streets devoted to one item such as auto parts, making furniture, creating cement blocks.

So these are some of my first impressions.  Later Iíll chat about living here and places I go.
Linda Swaine
Poalo, near Latacunga
Cotopaxi, Ecuador
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News News News!

This has been a busy time and you will soon see why. First the shop is now open daily, Mondays- Saturdays 10 - 6 and Sundays noon - 4. You can leave messages at any time by email or phone and we will get back to you soon.

Before we get into our regular welcoming comments we wish to announce that the owner, Linda, has sold theshop as of November 17, 2013. No, it is not going to disappear; in fact it may even get better! While I don't classify my self as old, I do collect all my Seniors benefits, meagre as they are. I still work long hours and as of this month will have had a work career of 50 years. I have enjoyed the arts in many ways over the years but just keepinga business going has put a damper on that and now I feel it is time for me to play a little.

I believe I have found the best possible new owner that I could have dreamed of. She is Lesley Snyder and for those of you who know the County, Lesley has been running the Galloping Goat opposite Black River Cheese. She is artistic and funny, is a graduate of Sheridan College and knits, felts and now is exploring spinning. She also has business smarts with retail experience and is 20 years younger than me. Hurrah! That should keep Rose Haven going for quite a while. To top it off her husband is a web designer and so she will be adding an online store tocomplement the business. Keep tuned!

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