"Hey, you made it!" My retired friend introduced me to the family that takes care of the building. Nice folks. They immediately take to calling me Don Ronaldo. My friend shows me his 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo. It IS really nice. The equivalent would cost you twice as much or more in a major city in the U.S. and then there's the coastal factor, for right out the windows and sliding glass doors is the Pacific Ocean. Interestingly, there is no smell of fish, the wind blows west-to-east, but it's low humidity and no fishy smell.
Anyway, I was there for a month. We caught up on old times, traded war stories, argued about political affiliations and who looks like they belong in the U.S. and who doesn't. I love it when EuroAmericans say that the indigenous people don't look like they belong in the U.S. WTF? I'll plant a flag on your car and claim it for my god and country; I'll put improvements on it (dingo balls are not an improvement; paving paradise isn't either); then, to protect my interests, I'll keep you from coming near this car. There! Well, we didn't kill each other but 1 month was too long for both of us.
While there, I was introduced to some other retired Americans. These are very smart and very successful retired couples. They are building huge houses right on the beach. Who hasn't dreamt of building their own house? Oh, there are building codes here, but the real advantage is the low price of labor. Now, who are they going to sell these houses to? Beats me. I guess the houses are going to stay in the family, if any child wants to move here(?)
Bahia is a small community. There isn't much crime here, but one family had a tank (water? propane?) stolen from their property while they slept. What is it with Ecuador and crime? It's like "don't take this personally but ...". And, actually, all of Latin America is out of control. Even killing you is not an everlasting sin; they just go to confession and the sin is forgiven. NO! How do you expect me to spend my retirement money here? How do you expect foreign companies to invest here? There are plenty of good people here, but there are also plenty of people here that are going to take what you've got from you. If you resist, you will get hurt.
So, without a passport, I'm not running all over the country. We did fill out a "denuncia" -- like denouncing the foul deed makes a difference -- and filled out an application for a new passport, complete with new pictures, and took it by bus to the US Embassy in Quito. My friend says he is really scared of the South terminal. Well yeah, you can add the North terminal to that too. It would have been nice to know this before I got here. Passports are printed in Washington DC; it will be shipped to Bahia via DHL. We spend a few days in Quito, where I perfect the Tourist Twist (don't stand in one spot for more than 2 seconds, turn around, zig zag, do figure 8s, just don't stand still!) We visit an Australian hardware store -- bbbbeautiful; AND! there are 3 armed guards downstairs and 3 armed guards upstairs! I feel so much better. While having some beers with some expats from other countries, it turns out that everybody has an "I've been robbed" story. One man says his Ecuadorian wife was complaining about how a relative stole from her. What is this?
My friend is afraid of the bus ride down from the mountains, so we find a cheap flight ($50 each) to Manta. No sooner has the stewardess finish saying to turn off all computers and cell phones than a passenger decides to call his wife. An Ecuadorian military officer on board (in Spanish) tells this jerk that he would like to continue living so (no please) turn your phone off, which the jerk does. Maybe Latin America has problems respecting laws and authority? Or maybe they just don't think about consequences?
The flight to Manta was uneventful as was the hour-and-a-half cab ride to Bahia. Another ponga cheats death (actually there never was even a close call), and we're back at KAOS HQ, okay my friend's condo. Oh, around early 2011, Bahia will have its bridge finished! This is really going to change things.
Can you hear me know? It turns out I didn't have to take my computer. There are internet cafes everywhere, pretty cheap, but they have slightly different keyboards and internet speeds suck although Skype phone calls can be made on the internet. Oh, we ran out of water 4 times in that month and the electricity failed 4 times as well (for a minumum of 1/2 hr each time). Also, ASK THE LOCALS BEFORE YOU GO SWIMMING; there are some undertows that will take you out to sea. Wonderful, just wonderful.
So for now, I'm back in Bahia, waiting for my replacement passport.
More later ...