Adopt a Dutch girl: my Ecuadorian step-family in the middle of nowhere on the coast.
When I enter the kitchen at eight sharp, grandpa Ramón is already there. “Hey, I just woke up, do you want coffee? The first thing I do when I wake up is having my tinto,” he says, “I can´t do without it.” A partner in distress. When he puts a plate with fried banana, egg and cheese in front of me, he continues: “Everyone´s still in bed, they arrived late yesterday.” But when I come back from my morning swim a little later, the family is awake, the pool is full and the hammocks are pretty much all occupied. Three families with children, an uncle, a sister, a friend from the mountains, two cousins with their wives and the adolescent girl friends of a granddaughter. And a Dutch lost and found volunteer from Quito on a holiday indeed. Put that in one house, and animation is guaranteed. (for a little tour in the house, see: youtu.be/EvhxFNtth9g)
Grand children surf, float or make waves in the pool, and run, crawl or cycle (?) through the house, and for me as a visitor from the unknown it´s practically impossible to sit and write, sit and eat or sit and play guitar. Because in a few moments someone sits down next to me and starts to ask questions: “En Holanda… do they also eat fried bananas? What do they think of our country? Do they have a sea? Don´t they surf at all because of the cold?” They frown when I explain the idea of a wetsuit. But also less common things like: “Why don´t you have your ears perforated?” (Right here, practically all girls have earrings from the first week after they are born.) “Are more people gay there than in Ecuador? What´s your opinion on the situation in Venezuela?” And they look surprised when they hear that everyone in Holland has health insurance, that our queen is from Argentine, that there´s something like a gay pride and gay marriage, that Holland is smaller than Ecuador (“even smaller?”) and that big walls protect us against the sea. When euthanasia becomes topic of conversation, one family member says: “Cierto! In the Netherlands, you only have to say that you don´t want to live anymore and then they´ll give you an injection!” Gheghe, well yeah, almost like that.
The kitchen is the epicenter of the activity, and the kitchen table conversations go on all day with whoever sits down to join for a while. Uncle Jorge, as one of the oldest family members, is a steady part of the kitchen table team. He´s a 60+ Casanova and both he and his family make fun of him all the time, because next month he´ll be operated for his prostate (“He´ll get a C-section”) That´s why he has to lose weight and why he states that everybody better be kind because this may well be his very last holiday ever. Nobody´s really impressed by his goodbye speeches and last wishes though. “Don´t you want to take him with you to Holland? Llevaselo! Uncle, in Holland they take care of elderly people in special houses, even if you don´t have money. Don´t you want to go with her?” Besides the chats around the kitchen table, at least half of the day is cooking time. When grandma and grandpa are done with preparing breakfast (eggs, fried banana, tortilla… practically anything as long as it´s fried :P), the women start to prepare lunch. Everybody who hasn´t got much to add to the cooking process swarms around the house, the pool and the sea.
There´s only a beach when the tide is low: the high tide waves reach the end of the street, half a minute walking from the house (at low tide that´s a whole minute :P). Before lunch you can go for a swim, participate in kitchen table conversations or taka a twenty minute walk on the beach (only when the tide is low) to the next village where you can find batteries and internet. Cars, motorcycles (with or without little ice cream trailer behind it :D), horses with or without a cart and squads pass you by on the broad sand now and then. And you learn that the standard equipment of the population older than two years exists of a body board or surfboard, a party tent on the beach and one hammock per person. Also: people here still wave at strangers walking by :).
When the sun becomes too intense to stay outside, you can crash on the couch and watch the Spanish version of a Disney movie with the kids, go up to the mirador of the house to enjoy the view over the bay with you face in the wind (in summer you can see the whales from here!), or specialize in one of the many variations of hanging in a hammock. Hanging in a hammock and reading the newspaper, hanging in a hammock and having a nap or hanging in a hammock and chat, listen to music, sway or write. I´ve surely come close to the world record of hanging in a hammock and playing the guitar.
By lunch time everyone´s back in the kitchen again. Drawing up to the table on the plastic chairs being soaking wet is no problem. “It dries by itself” is house rule number one, and is applicable to the concrete floor, the clothes that they wear for swimming (?) and to the dishes. By the way, the principle of vacuum cleaning is as misplaced as taking time to get used to the water temperature and putting something out of the freezer with anticipation to defrost.
The tasty lunch is served on the three tables with a big bottle of frozen lemonade: half of it is liquid already after the soup. Who wants a desert can always find ice cream somewhere inside or outside the house, or pick a banana from the stalk with about fifty plantains that comes from the finca (farm) of the family. Foreign visitors and men don´t do the dishes, and after lunch it´s time to rest again (?), so you can be fresh and ready to float in the ocean with the rest of town for an hour or two before the sun sets. The floating can be continued in the pool after dark.
The evening coffee is another family moment and then there´s time for a guitar concert in the kitchen, a card game for the men with a bet of fifty cents, or hitting the dance floor in Montañita just fifteen minutes away by car. It´s fun for a while, but the concentration of tourists, people in general, drugs, drunks and reggaeton is so high that after a few hours it´s definitely time to go home. Especially because it´s so nice to be in the sea at seven in the morning, only accompanied by an occasional pedestrian on the beach and the birds that either soar over the waves in organized groups of up to ten or circle high above the water before they fold their wings to make a nose dive down to catch something for breakfast.
Three days I spend like this “en familia”, but it doesn´t feel like an exaggeration to celebrate the despedida with cake and frozen lemonade on sunday. And when I ask Ramón what I owe him for all this, he makes a funny face and waves my words away. “Naaah, olvidatelo. When will you be back again?” After saying goodbye to the whole family, I walk to the main street to catch the bus. Sitting and waiting on the sidewalk while watching the sun go down, I say goodbye to the town too. Las Nuñas, literally six streets and no bus stop, I´ll miss you until the day that I´ll be back.
And I´ll be back! :D