It’s getting close to the time when we again travel to the United States. These times always come with mixed feelings. I get to visit with my mother in California, Glenn’s brother and sister-in-law in East Texas, our church in Austin, and other friends in all places. I miss Isabel, Brayan, Victoria, Cesar, Luz, Maria Augusta, Blanca, Luis, and Canela who are all in Ecuador.
Sometimes, it feels like the best part of the U.S. trip is preparing for the return to Otavalo. The “Take Back” list is always long, including gifts for Canela, all members of the family, and stuff that Glenn and I need that is hard to get here in Ecuador. The longer we live in Otavalo, the more we we know about where we can get items we use, but not everything we like is sold here. After all, we are living in a different country.
Things we bring back on a regular basis include Tillamook cheese, craisins, dog toys, pre-electric shave tonic, and Safeguard soap. Yes, they sell cheese here, but mainly it is a mild, white cheese. No, they do not have craisins here, nor have I found Worcestershire Sauce, baking soda, unsweetened baker’s chocolate or semi-sweet baker’s chocolate. In the past, I have brought back nutmeg, paprika, thyme, celery seed, molasses, canned pumpkin, and dark corn syrup, all of which, as far as I know, are not sold in Ecuador.
Dental floss is sold here, but the price is outrageous. So that and toothbrushes return with me in my suitcases. Jock itch creme, Benedryl anti-itch lotion, DayQuil and NyQuil, Breathe-Rite strips, and Olay cremes also are purchased in the U.S.
Going on a buying spree to Target and Petsmart is always fun, too. We usually come back with toys and clothes for different people in the family. And Petsmart has squeaky, furry toys that Canela likes best, as well as more durable toys. This trip, we will return with a better bed for our hairy beast, one with a bumper to rest her head on. She is always trying to crimp up her current bed in the middle of the night with no luck. I believe she has gotten her message across to me.
Sometimes, the greeting committee on our return is a real joy. This will be the first time we fly in and out of the new Quito airport. Since it is an equal distance (timewise) from Otavalo as it is from Blanca and Luis’ place in Quito, Cesar will pick us up and drive us back to Otavalo. The family has not seen the new airport, so I will not be surprised if the greeters include a lot of folks. I love all the hugs we get from everyone.
Of course, Darrell and Linda or Samantha or Jacob give hugs when they pick us up at the airport in Austin. And my mother is always pretty excited to see us when we arrive at the Atria where she lives when we go to Sacramento. We do feel loved in the U.S. too.
Maybe the family has an underlying fear that we will not return to Ecuador. Or maybe the reason that we are usually greeted by a small to medium sized group is because going on a little excursion in a car, even if it is only to the airport, is always a pleasure if you do not have a car. Or maybe, our Ecuadorian family just likes us a lot.
We do have really good visits in the US. There is no problem with trying to understand the language. The food can include Mexican, Italian, Chinese, etc., not just Ecuadorian cuisine. And we get to see old friends. Worship in our church is in English so I can understand all that is being said. Yes, it definitely feels comfortable when we visit.
In Ecuador, we are challenged to be more than comfortable. We have many opportunities to share; to be giving of our time, talents, and resources; to stretch our abilities. We are living life more fully, as God has intended for all of us. Yes, it is fun to return to the States and to enjoy time spent there with friends and relatives, but the return to Ecuador always comes with excitement, too.
I will miss not seeing you two at Atria. I hope our paths cross again someday. Doris was one of my "special friends" at Atria and I received a bonus by meeting you two wonderful people. Thank you for being "vessels" for God's Kingdom...
You were always so nice and good to Doris. I can say that, of all the employees I've met and liked at Atria ECG, you were by far my favorite. We will miss you greatly, too. Besides, who will fix my wheelchair now if if breaks down in Sacramento? ;-)
Yesterday I was going through my old computer files in preparation for a computer upgrade because some of them wouldn't be readable in the new operating system. Planned obsolescence at work! Therefore, if I wanted to keep any of the affected files, I had to go through the pain of converting the ones I wanted into another format. In the process, I found the following Toastmasters Speech written about my mother.
I forget how I obtained it. My strong suspicion is that one of Mama's ex-bosses sent it when she passed away. Reading it brought on the tears. Even though you may have never met my mother and learned her story, it may bring a tear to your eye as well.
Ruth’s family asked me to share this tribute to her. It is based on a speech by Rense Johnson, one of her colleagues at Conoco, gave at his Toastmasters Club a number of years ago:
Tribute to Ruth Cook
I first met Ruth Wonderwoman more than 50 years ago.
Wonderwoman? Actually she was a living breathing lady – of wondrous strength of character.
Ruth was a single mom who had moved to New Orleans from the bayou country farther south. In New Orleans, she and her two sons could live inexpensively in a housing project. And, she could avail herself of special education and medical facilities for her eldest son, Glenn, who was handicapped.
Ruth (Mama) With David And Glenn
You see, Ruth’s husband was abusive. At a time when it really was not acceptable, Ruth divorced to protect herself and her sons, Glenn and David. With a disabled 3 year old and a 1 year old, Ruth was on her own to raise them.
Her eldest was born with cerebral palsy as a result of a birth accident. Cerebral palsy is a malady that affects the motor nerves, the ability to move muscles, particularly the fine muscles. But it can have nothing to do with intelligence. And in this case, the handicapped son was quite intelligent.
But Ruth did not know that at Glenn’s birth. The doctor suggested putting the infant in a nursing home and forgetting about him. Ruth would not have it. She saw something in his eyes that brought out the fierce lioness in her.
The goal of raising children is to bring them to adulthood as responsible, contributing members of society, able to look after themselves and make adult decisions based upon a time-tested value system.
Ruth was doing this by herself. Yet I never detected a hint of bitterness. Ruth didn’t have time for bitterness. She had a mountain to climb.
And climb it she did, one step at a time. One day at a time. One victory at a time. Each victory was a pearl—threaded onto a necklace and coming to rest next to the preceding pearl. But that necklace was visible only to those who knew of her particular brand of courage and gallantry.
There were 16 hour days. Up at 5:00 a.m.—to bed at 9:00 p.m.—Maybe 24/7.
Getting the kids up and dressed every morning, packing brown bag lunches, making sure they caught the school buses. Then getting herself ready for work and to the office. Always on time, always an excellent secretary.
Raising responsible children may not have been easy, but she was successful. David married and gave her three grandchildren, Chris, Christina, and Casey. He earned two master’s degrees, and worked to become a major in the U.S. Army. She was very proud of David and his accomplishments. And, her grandchildren and great grandchildren were a special delight to her.
Making Glenn self-sufficient, on the other hand, required innovation. Because Glenn was unable to put on his own socks, Ruth would sew the tops of his socks onto the inside of his trousers so Glenn could put them on with a thrusting motion of each leg. And you can bet she was an early user of Velcro for the boy’s shoelaces as well as a substitute for buttons.
Along the way, Ruth was the catalyst for a group of parents to provide education services to handicapped children in Houma, [Louisiana]. She got the fire department to provide transportation for this parish-wide program.
Time passed. Glenn grew up and went to college. I learned that Glenn had gotten training in computer programming and had gotten a job at Exxon as a programmer.
Then Ruth reached the top of her mountain when Glenn, at age 30, was named National Handicapped Person of the year. And her joy knew no bounds!
But there was still another summit ahead for her—one she had dared not let herself hope for. It came upon her unexpectedly, when Glenn announced that he had fallen in love with a “normal” young woman and she with him, and they wanted to marry.
Ruth greeted the news with mixed emotions. It was what she wanted more than anything for Glenn, yet she already knew what could happen to a normal marriage. And she thought this would be an unbalanced one.
So there ensued a conversation between Ruth and the young woman about what the young woman was getting into. But she convinced Ruth she had fallen in love with the complete person who lay within Glenn’s handicapped exterior. And so Ruth gave the couple her blessing, and they were married. At Ruth’s pinnacle, it was a crowning, glorious climax to a beautiful fulfilling life.
Toward the end of Ruth’s life, she stayed involved in the lives of her children and her grand children. She enjoyed travels with friends and family to places like Alaska, Canada, the East Coast, and the Rocky Mountains. And she enjoyed participating in Homemakers of Houma.
Ruth indeed raised two responsible, loving children who have had full lives enhanced by the example she lived and the encouragement, love, and many gifts she gave.
Ruth could have said the words found in the book of Second Timothy 4:7:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
by Rense Johnson
My mother gave my brother and me countless gifts. Self-esteem, the ability to dream, perseverance, and sacrifices to provide David and me with better lives are some that come to mind. Perhaps the greatest gift she gave me was not trying to protect me from everything that could happen to a disabled person. It was hard for her (I later learned), but she forced herself to let me try, and sometimes fail, in the things I wanted to do. She gave me motherly advice, but allowed me to find my own way. How better to grow a child into a responsible adult?
It is interesting to me that I came across this speech given by a colleague of my mother less than a week after Mothers Day. It is also a gratifying assurance that others have seen the love and courage that was part of her. My mother was no Wonderwoman, but she was a wonderful woman to me.
Happy Belated Mothers Day, Mama. Betcha never thought I'd be living and volunteering in Ecuador. I hope you're proud.
I already know this story in more detail than the toastmaster provided, and I was still moved by it. Ruth was an amazing strong woman!
Three or four weeks ago I responded to someone's question posted on the Ecuador Expats Yahoo Group. It's a forum for foreigners (mainly gringoes) living in Ecuador. I don't contribute too much because there are people with much more expertise than I have who are willing to answer the usual questions like, "Where are the good restaurants?", "Where's the best place to live?", "How do I get my dog/cat/stuff to Ecuador?", "How much crime is there in Ecuador?", "How do I get residency status?", etc., etc., etc. They probably type faster, too. I may not contribute much, but I do monitor the forum because it has good information when people are not bickering with each other.
This time, I felt I did have some valuable information to contribute. Someone wrote that she and her family would be scouting Ecuador as a place to live. Among other things, she wanted to know if there was any good hiking. Now, those who know me know that I can't go hiking, except with friends who are willing to manhandle me and my chair over rough trails (including a good stretch of the Lost Mine Trail in Big Bend National Park in Texas). But Marilyn loves to hike and always tells me about her adventures.
Isabel, Marilyn, And Brayan Hiking To Waterfall
Isabel And Marilyn
The family wouldn't be in our area when we were here, so I sent them a list of hikes that Marilyn has taken nearby. Based on things Marilyn told me, I even included a difficulty rating for each hike. During the course of the email, I mentioned that Marilyn was always looking for hiking partners. (That's even more true now that Isabel's knees are giving her problems. It rarely stops her, though. Most of the time she goes with Marilyn anyway, against doctor's orders, and pays the price on the following one to five days.)
The woman who I responded to never responded to me, but someone else did. Her name was Elaine Keane. She said she was living and working in Ibarra as an occupational therapist. Her organizatiopn is called CRECER, which means "to grow". She was alone (except for her housekeeper) because her husband had things to do before he could move here. She loved nature, but didn't feel comfortable hiking by herself. I forwarded the email to Marilyn. Eventually, they were able to decide on a mutually agreeable date - Mother's Day - to hike together.
Meanwhile, being the sensitive and thoughtful man I am (hardy-har-har), I had decided to take four mothers, including Marilyn, to a nice restaurant for Mother's Day. After all, Marilyn does mother Canela and the rest of us in the house. Then we realized the hiking and the restaurant outing coincided. What to do?
We decided to go hiking in the morning and go to La Estelita for lunch in the late afternoon. If Elaine wanted to join us for lunch, that would be great. If not, we'd simply drop her off when we went through Ibarra to get to the restaurant. Wasn't too hard to figure it out after all.
Elaine met us at our house. From there, Isabel, Brayan, Marilyn, Victoria, Elaine, and I headed for Cascada Taxopamba. The waterfall is often hard to get to if the ground is wet, and it had been raining for at least part of every day here for a week. We didn't know if it would really be possible for the hikers to make it all the way to the cascada. Our backup plan was to continue along the road to Laguna Mojanda.
Brayan Near The Waterfall
Stream At Bottom Of Waterfall
Normally, I wouldn't have gone. However, the road is pretty lonely and that makes me uncomfortable leaving our car by itself. Also, because I went, Victoria went. She doesn't like to stay home by herself. While the rest tried to reach the cascada, Victoria and I settled in to wait. When they didn't return in five or ten minutes, I figured the mud must not be too bad and prepared myself for at least an hour and a half wait.
Sure enough, the determined hikers made it all the way to the waterfall and enjoyed the magnificent beauty. They - actually, Elaine - got some great photos. [Marilyn forgot our camera, so all pictures on this page are from Elaine.]
I kind of thought we'd go on up to Laguna Mojanda when they got back, thinking we didn't need to be at the restaurant at any particular time. In fact, on a day like Mothers Day, it might be best to get there after the time that most people tend to eat. However, I didn't know that we were supposed to meet Yolanda and Carrolito in Ibarra at 1:00 p.m. We went on home so people could change their clothes. Then we picked up Elvis downtown so he could go with us, too.
It was about 2:00 p.m. when we picked up Yolanda and Carrolito. Poor Carrolito had called us twice to find out where we were because he was starving. We drove up (and I mean up) to La Estelita and arrived about 2:30 p.m. I thought people would have started to clear out by that time. Wrong! It was packed, and they told us that today was "by reservation only". Marilyn had thought about making reservations beforehand, but Isabel said, "No. They're never full." I gently reminded her that it wasn't my fault.
Before getting there, we had decided that, if it was full, we'd enjoy the view of Ibarra, its surrounding mountains, and Lago Yauracocha for a while. Then we'd go down to Lago Yauracocha and eat tilapia. All wouldn't be lost.
View Of Ibarra And Cotacachi Volcano From La Estelita
Isabel tried to get me to go inside and get some sympathy because of my disability. But I've never liked to use my disability to get what I wanted. I did go in after a while and hung out near the bar because it was getting cold. The others joined me after getting their fill of the vistas. We stood around for a few minutes in case something opened up, which, they said, was a small possibility.
Just as we gave up hope and started to head out and find some tilapia, they told us they had space for us. The nine of us wouldn't be able to sit at one table, but we were seated at two adjacent tables and had a view to boot - except for Elaine. She got stuck in a corner, but seemed okay with it.
Because it was Mothers Day, they had a fixed menu, though one could order from the regular menu if one chose to do so. We went with the fixed menu because we knew it would be faster. We had quinua soup, beef, shrimp, salad, and juice, followed by crepes for dessert. It was delicious, but we've always found the food good at La Estelita.
I got to eat out with some of my favorite people. Marilyn and I got to meet a new friend. We got into a jammed restaurant without the required reservations. Not a bad Mothers Day for me, even if I'm not a mother. The actual mothers had a blast.