Synchronicity and Bodega Negotiation/Construction


150107ZamoraRestaurantDebbieMeJuanCarlosGuillermoDebbie, yours truly, Juan Carlos and Guillermo at a restaurant in Zamora. We dined on river catfish and frogs legs.

The first part of the title refers to meeting up with my Ecuadorian friend that I first met last year on my trip down the Napo river. He was on the boat that I took from Nuevo Rocafuerte (the Napo river, Ecuadorian border town).

We had not been in contact since bidding one another farewell after visiting a jungle village and sharing a canoe ride through the poorest part of Iquitos, Peru: Belem.

I went to the  Saturday morning market in Vilcabamaba (two weeks ago). Spotted a man with a young lady while I was doing my usual thing of ‘observing’ people from a peripheral vantage point.  I couldn’t believe my eyes, at first. I looked and I looked and I finally convinced myself that it was indeed Guillermo, my Napo river/Iquitos, Peru traveling companion from last year.

I approached him from behind and spoke softly. His companion saw me. I said: “Hey, William, don’t look now, but it is Rik from your last year’s Napo river adventure”.  He was as surprised as I was.

His companion could only listen to our talk and observe our mutual surprise (and delight). Guillermo was born and raised in Ecuador. He had lived and worked in New Jersey and New York for thirty years of his working life.  He sold his condo in New York and had bought a small apartment in Quito after his wife passed away. He had only recently begun to see his ‘home country’.  As it happened, this was his very first visit to Vilcabamba.

It was my pleasure to play the role of guide for Guillermo and his companion, who happened to be a female English/Canadian professional biologist who was in Ecuador on ‘assignment’ to write field notes and make photos of birds. She spoke of wanting to create a ‘coffee table book’ of Ecuadorian birdlife.

I spent five or six hours with them, showing them the highlights of Vilcabamba and introducing Debbie to the Argentinian man, Orlando,  who owns Rumi Wilco lodge. I knew he and Debbie would speak ‘the same language’… biology. Orlando had studied biology in his youth in Argentina and went on to become a guide and had moved to Vilcabamba thirty years ago with the intention of hosting biologists at his lodge… on the edge of the Podocarpus national park.

I visited them both in Zamora before Guillermo headed North and while Debbie was taking photographs of birds in the Podocarpus national park.

Here is an audio file taken at a restaurant in Zamora: 150107_002



150124SteelTubing&MeshInFrontOfHouse150124BeforeTheBodegaCageWasMade150124EntranceToTheRoomWhereTheTubing&MeshEnclosureWasMadeAbove photo: Steel tubing, angle iron and mesh delivery to the house. Middle and bottom photos: The door to the ‘bodega’ room, before construction.

The general meaning for ‘bodega’ in Spanish is, a storage area, cellar, or warehouse.

Have been coming to S. America for five consecutive years. Every time I come, I bring more than I will use on my journey. I’ve been bringing things (including tools and extra clothing) with the idea that I may one day find a more permanent place near here that will become my future ‘home’.

My dream of that has always been a small piece of property that has a year round waterfall on it. It is a plausible reality. The problem is… to locate and ‘settle on’  such a spot. It must also fulfill other of my criteria… within forty-five minutes of a small to medium sized community… and no more than fifteen minutes from a good road surface.  I know of, and have seen, a few such locations. The other criteria is that the land itself be affordable… because then I would have to construct a small dwelling, with limited time, and resources.

Back to the bodega:  Because I have been steadily bringing more things than I use or that I can carry around with me while traveling, I created a small problem.

Where can I keep all my excess ‘stuff’ securely? I solved that problem thus far, by having two different ‘piles’ in two different locations, with two different people. It’s worked OK. But, I have wanted to consolidate the piles into one place where I can better inventory what stuff I have and have the opportunity to to go through it and reduce my ‘traveling gear’ to a minimum… and have the remainder in a secure location for when I return.

I had thought of a long term lease on a small piece of property… but that would require me to build a building and front all the costs for that… at the end of the long term lease,  all time, money, and effort I might expend, would eventually revert to the ‘owner’ of the land.

So… I have negotiated a temporary/interim solution. I met a man from NH who has lived here since 1998. I first met Kent on my motorcycle journey… a few years ago. He has an Ecuadorian wife. She and Kent have a child. He manages various landscaping and construction projects in the area for expats. He is looking for a larger track of land further away from the expat nexus. The family of his wife has local land and they rely on him to help maintain it.  Through his wife, Kent has many local ‘contacts’.

Have negotiated a deal (monthy rental, renewable by the year and paid yearly) for a part of a room in a house where Kent has a three year lease.

The building is a regular ‘house’, directly on a paved road. Kent uses the place to keep many of his tools as well as storing  other items belonging to other of his friends/acquaintances. The place has a kitchen. He sleeps there and stands guard over the place and his own tools. His wife and child sometimes stay with him in this house. She has many family members in town and thus has many housing options.

150131AngleIronFixedToMasonryWallAndCeilingWithPlasticAnchorsAndScrewsAngle iron fixed to masonry walls&ceiling with plastic anchor inserts and screws

I negotiated that I would construct a very small, floor to ceiling ‘cage’ made of thin steel framing, covered with 5×5 inch steel mesh. The cage has a door made in the same manner, with welded hinges and a hasp that I can lock when I am gone. This arrangement makes it possible for Kent (that is the NH man’s name) to continue to store his tools in the (larger portion) of the room and have my stuff completely segregated… so if he needs to send a worker to get one of his tools,  my things will be locked up in their own separate ‘cage’ space.

150131CageDoorFrameAndAttachmentFromInsideBodegaSpaceInside ‘bodega’ view. Door framework steel tubing. Hinges and hasp welded in place. Wire mesh welded to tubing and angle iron.

Made a simple contract with Kent. Our signatures were witnessed by a mutual friend, as was me paying in cash for the yearly sublease.  I have little recourse if anything goes awry. It is really a ‘handshake’ deal. I believe Kent is an honorable man. The ‘stuff’ I have isn’t all that valuable… a few tools, older clothing, a tent, sleeping bag, miscellaneous items.

I bought and hauled the materials to the place on Monday. Kent works during the day and I only had access to the place after his work schedule… after 4PM. It rained every day for three weeks, often beginning in late afternoon. The room had very poor lighting. It made ‘progress’ more difficult than it might have  been.

150131CageDoorFrameAndShelvesLooking into the welded cage/bodega from the doorway to the room.

Moved my two piles of stuff into the newly self-constructed bodega a few days ago. Went through it all. There is a padlock through the hasp welded to the door now. All my gear is as secure as it can be now and it is all in one place.

My face got ‘sunburned’ from the arc light of the welder. I only had ‘goggle’ style eye protection.  And I got a tiny bit of slag or grit in my eye and got some goop from a pharmacy that fixed the problem after two nights. I’m all good now.

Need to move on to Peru by February 7th… giving me 9 days remaining on my Ec. visa to return to Quito for my return flight. Such is the plight of the ‘extranjero’ (foreigner) and such is the plight of an itinerant ‘viajero’ (traveler).

When people ask me ‘Where do you live ?’ I tell them: “I seem to live in many places. It seems like I am a ‘planet’, and a few places happen to be on my orbit.”  This is a fairly accurate description of my life the past five years or so.

Will I ever ‘settle down’ again? I don’t know. That depends more upon my potential attachment(s) to people than upon a desire to call a particular piece of geography ‘home’.

‘Home’ has begun to feel more like a particular person these days,  the future is uncertain.

I miss feeling ‘connected’. During the course of my Life I have found the highest degree of ‘personal freedom’ to run co-existent with the minimal amount of so called ‘interpersonal connectedness’. A real conundrum.

Some people would describe my way of life in terms of a  set of behaviors as outlined  and/or described in the DSM – IV or V.

Those handful of people who ever read any of my words are left with ‘judging’ me in the courtroom or psychological facility of their own mind(s).

Next up:  My imminent visit to Peru… more Natural hot springs, more incredible fresh air markets,  and more grand waterfall hikes.

Stay tuned.


Platitude of My Recent Attitude of Lassitude

<Photos of the Podocarpus national park:>

I suppose it could be considered a good thing that one can’t be at one’s best all the time.  As much as I resist the apparent condition of duality; I also recognize that if it were not for black, white would have no significance.

Still, it irks me when I feel down and out of sorts, even if there are evident ’causes’.

It has been overcast much of the time the past week and it often rained at night. The temperatures even dipped into the low 60’s F. near early morning… the time of the roosters.  (I can hear all my Northern friends wailing in pity for me)

Because the tropical latitude Andes  is home to  an incredible variety species of plants; shrubs, trees, flowers… over three thousand thus identified in the area where I am.  Hence,  there are three thousand different kinds of pollen. Mountain rain  knocks the pollen off of these plants and it is carried on the wind and is distributed in the air.

<Biodiversity in the Podocarpus:>

Human travelers (and many Humans who are local) are often not adapted to these pollens. Anyone who has a history of any kind of allergic reaction(s) to new pollen is going to be affected. That would include me.

< Source: 

‘…There are many prevalent diseases in Ecuador, mainly due to environmental conditions, geographical location, and lack of health care. Specific health problems that are common in Ecuador: infant mortality, acute respiratory infection, diarrhetic diseases, dengue fever, malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, health problems due to smoking, malnutrition.[12] In Ecuador, there are approximately 14000 cases of TB per year…’>

I have suffered occasional  breathing/respiratory issues since my arrival in Ecuador.  I used to get severe asthma ‘attacks’ when I was a child. The symptoms gradually diminished to the point that I lived for twenty years or more with zero symptoms.  When I first came to South America in 2011, I was bothered by a return of symptoms again.  The only thing I can guess (and that’s all most doctors are doing) is that my body is not ‘adapted’ to the new pollens.

The medication, Benadryl, or it’s generic equivalent, which is available everywhere in South America, does reduce the symptoms to the point that breathing is tolerably restored for me.

When the sun is shining and the humidity low, things are OK. I get asthmatic symptoms most often at night or after a few days of rain.  Then, I don’t sleep well. When I have difficulty breathing I change my sleep positions trying to attain some degree of comfort. In the morning I find that certain back muscles are in near spasm… adding to the discomfort of not breathing well.  So… Naturally, one may well say, I don’t feel at my best.

Two days ago I was not breathing well and I had very aggravating back pain. I do not like it… and I refuse to give it to it. I walked to La Ruinas de Quinara, a hostel located uphill from town. The ‘Quinara’ has three hand tiled hot tubs with jets simulating a jacuzzi/whirlpool effect. I sat in one of those for two hours, aiming the most powerful jets directly on the areas in my back that felt close to spasm. It helped. I walked back to my hostel, where Maria, a friend and the hostel manager got me some pain medications from a pharmacy specifically for muscle pain. I slept well for the first night in many.

My morning routine is to have a shower, shave, get dressed, go downstairs, make breakfast, (I am in a hostel and have access to rudimentary shared kitchen facilities) and then go for a walk. I often walk three or four miles a day. I find that if I just lay in bed longer, even if I am exhausted from lack of proper sleep it only make things worse. So, I walk slowly. I take a small ventilator device with me on my walks. It emits Salbutimol in small does when my bronchial tubes become too restricted to breathe easily.

Today was the first day that the sun shone brightly in the morning.  That alone, is cheering.  It also means that the pollen is no longer being knocked off the plants. The asthmatic symptoms go away.

Yesterday I made an appointment with a local dentist for a cleaning. Had my teeth cleaned this morning. He did a very thorough and professional job. I always feel great after getting my teeth cleaned. The cost here is modest when compared with similar care in the US.

During the cleaning the dentist noticed that a tooth in the left upper quadrant had a ‘crack’ in it, all the way to the root. I have had this issue with this tooth before. I knew that the artificial crown had broken off several months ago.  Bacteria can enter the crack and make a home, which usually leads to infection. There is not much that can be done in this case other than a thorough cleaning of the area and an attempt made to ‘seal’ the crack (again) with dental materials.

A new artificial crown, made of inexpensive dental materials (it does not make sense in this case to attempt fixing it with more expensive materials) will then be placed over the cleaned out and freshly sealed area. This will last until the pressure from chewing breaks the new crown. The ultimate fix is to pull the tooth, root and all,  which is a last resort. Better to leave a somewhat healthy root than to remove it, even if, as in this case, the root itself is cracked all the way to the bone.

Once a tooth is completely removed, to fill the gap, the options are an artificial ‘bridge’…  or a much more complicated, time consuming, and expensive ‘implant’.

I have an appointment with the dentist to fix the tooth next week… and I have an appointment with a professional osteopathic trained massage therapist on Friday.

Now you know why it has taken so long to make this new entry.

Health problems/issues suck. They leave me feeling just what the title of this post indicates: An attitude of lassitude… and now you have waded through my platitude.

I shall endeavor to Live such that a  happier and a more positive blog entry shall follow this one.

Is The New Year Really New?

Does anybody REALLY  know what time it is?

Different cultures from different parts of the world and at different ‘times’ have developed different methods of keeping track.  Most ‘civilized’ cultures pegged their methods to what seemed to be the most reliable big cycles that we still think of as stable today… the movements of the Earth, the moon, the sun, the other planets and galaxies.

Not many think about these things; but when Albert Einstein formulated his special and general theories of relativity, the entire ‘known Universe’ consisted only of the stars in our galaxy… what we now call the Milky Way.  It took another few decades for astronomers to come to the conclusion that there were other galaxies. Then they began noticing weird behaviors among galaxies. Quasars were defined and studied.

When we Humans celebrate the end of an old year and the beginning of a new year we are commemorating some kind of a completion of a cycle that refers to some phenomenon we observe in the sky.  The Chinese do it a little differently than the Westerners. The Judaic calendar is different than the Gregorian calendar.

Remember a few years ago when a lot of folks were expecting ‘the end of the world’… Dec 21, 2012… because of the Mayan (long count) calendar?  Well, it came and went and we are still here two years later.

So, what can we say about all this? Well, it must be pretty obvious that the Universe doesn’t give a crap about how Humans keep track of time. The big cycles are just going to keep on going, until they shift and change as a result of the big forces of gravity, momentum and electromagnetism (on the micro and macro scale).

The scientific realities remain under investigation and our ‘knowledge’ continues to be modified as new information comes to our attention… and then it has to be officially agreed upon… or it isn’t official scientific doctrine. (actually so called science is just another form of religion in many cases)

None of this matters to most Humans. Most folks will continue to use whatever form of ‘New Year’ they deem proper, as an excuse to celebrate the commemoration of a cycle.  It’s all about keeping track, on a regular basis.  We notice that the season’s change as the Earth changes it’s relationship to the sun in the cycle. We notice that the weather changes as a result. We notice that plants are affected by the ‘yearly’ cycle. We recognize there is an order to it.

So we commemorate and ‘mark time’ and we celebrate the continuation of the cycle and we notice that our bodies are one year older with the passage of one  yearly cycle.

We don’t really know ‘what time’ it is… because we can’t really say ‘where’ anything actually IS.  We can know where planets and stars and galaxies are IN RELATION to one another… but we can’t know ‘where’ they ALL are… because we don’t know what ALL is.

Not to worry. Let’s  just agree that the Universe is a really big place and that there are lots of things we will likely never know. Don’t get all hung up on worrying about having to know. You won’t ever know all there is to know and no one else will either.

It doesn’t matter. You can still have a very happy Life. In fact your Life will be much happier if you just quit thinking that the Universe will ever be completely understood.

The most important thing for Humans to know about ‘New Year’ (or birthdays, or anniversaries) is that it is about relationships with one another.

Never mind the movements of the planets for a minute.

Let’s pay attention to the movements of our Lives. Celebrations are about Human relationships. Family members, neighbors, members of our community.  It is our relationships with one another that makes keeping track of time meaningful.

Love and connectedness to ourselves and to one another is what ‘keeping track’ of anything is really about.

What I admire about people who live in what many consider to be ‘less civilized’ areas is the way they celebrate nearly everything.

Young folks are not segregated from the older folks. There is a continuum of age groups  in these celebrations. These cultures remember that we ALL start off Life as babies, and then we progress to infants, toddlers, children, adolescents, young adults,  to middle aged adults.

And if we are fortunate enough to remain healthy, we may one day arrive at the ‘elder’ status.  I love South American fiestas of all sorts because you see family  and community members who represent all the stages of a Human Life. Everyone is welcome.

Happy upcoming 2015 (as ‘Westerners’ keep track of time)

But more importantly, I wish you Love and connectedness with your fellow Humans.

As the character named Harry Tuttle portrayed by Robert DiNiro in the 1985 film Brazil said:

‘ Listen, kid, we’re all in it together.’