Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Village Life Part 3: A Tale of Two Houses

We’ve lived in two different houses during our stay in the village, and to say that they were the best of times and the worst of times is certainly true, though I’m not sure that one house or another has a monopoly over the good or bad times.

Our first house was arranged before we arrived. I had seen it in 2006 while the owner was putting the finishing touches on it, and it was certainly a step up from my accommodations during that trip (a bed in the story above a shop, with a non-flushing toilet downstairs and outside, and bathing done in a basin). It was a nice open floor plan, with plenty of room for a simple kitchen, a dining area, living room, and study/artifact space. Two bedrooms and an indoor bathroom and with running water (albeit only a cold shower), and to me it was heaven, at least for Ecuador.
Our first place

The house was located on a hill at the back of the village, so fairly private. But literally right off the frame to the left of the picture was another little house, more tradition, where the caretakers of our house, and the owner’s chickens, lived. It was a family of two adults and seven kids, and six dogs. It was never quiet…either the kids were screaming or blaring music during the day (when Baby Girl needed a nap), or the dogs were barking at night (when all of us were trying to sleep). To add to that, one of those seven kids was the one that stole my phone. So yeah, they didn’t really instill any confidence in us as caretakers.
The kitchen and dining area when we first moved in

But the deal breaker, and why we had to find a different house in the end, was the fact that about two days into our stay the refrigerator broke. Two and a half months of asking the owner to get it taken care of (and eating at the restaurant in town because we had no food storage options), with absolutely no attempt to get it fixed, and Baby Girl losing several pounds simply because we couldn’t keep food on hand for her, and we were out of there.

Shortly before we returned to the States for my cousin’s wedding we moved into a new house. This one took a little bit of negotiating, and explaining the realities of being on a grant to people who sometimes just imagine Americans to have endless supplies of money. In some respects it’s smaller than the first house, but it’s oh so much nicer. It’s the vacation home of the brother of the last comuna president, and he lives in the house right next door.
The new place. Love it!

The first floor is split in half, with a living room (our office area), dining room, and kitchen on one side, and the bedroom and bathroom on the other. There’s also a loft which gives us some more storage space and room for people to bunk down for a few days when we have visitors.
View of the kitchen and dining area (with Dennis) from the loft

Arrrrg, walk the plank, matey!

The kitchen is small and kind of basic, and we don’t have our own fridge, but we share one with the former president next door. One of Steve’s favorite things about the house is the catwalk/gangplank that connects the two houses. MY favorite thing about the house, however, is definitely the bathroom. We have a bathtub!!! And hot water from a tank and not one of those wimpy electrical things!!!! It has made bathtime fun for Baby Girl (and us) again, instead of a freakout fest when we have to heat water to the right temp and try to get BG to stay put in a plastic basin while we clean her off.


Both houses had their fare share of pests. At the first place, the owner had a chicken farm on the property (and right next to the house), and Steve suspects that at least some of his incessant illnesses were caused by them. We also had mice in the kitchen, who would try to get into the few dry goods that we kept around. But for me, the worst pest we had were ants. They would appear out of nowhere and swarm all over things. And it didn’t matter if you kept the place spotless because when it rained they would stream down the walls and into the house, thousands of them. And they bite! We used up several cans of our bug spray killing ants while trying not to get bit by them. <> While we were in that house I had recurrent dreams that somehow swarms of ants were spilling out of the bed despite the mosquito netting (it probably didn’t help that one did manage to get in the bed, and bit me several times on the leg, even after I killed it).

The new house came with bats. My clever husband, however, figured out where the holes in the eaves were, blocked them up, and now we are bat free (no longer the bat cave). We also had mice, but Steve waged a pretty effective campaign against them (aided by some poison) and once again we are vermin free. I think the final body count was 15. Our current battle, and we have the rainy season working against us on this one, is with cockroaches. We got lax in doing dishes, and the house has been continuously occupied for more than a few weeks for the first time ever, and so the cockroaches moved in. I’ve gotten pretty good at smacking them with a shoe, but we’ve also turned to poison to get rid of them. They’re just so wriggly and can get into so many places (excuse me while I shriek like a little girl). They seem to be retreating, and I’ll be glad when they’re gone, though I do get a thrill out of saying “Survive THIS” right before I smack them.


We’re pretty much living in the lap of luxury for this area. There are screens in our windows, and even panes of glass. We have interior walls and doors, and even more importantly, an indoor bathroom (with hot water, did I mention we have hot water?). A lot of the houses in the area are basically cinder block squares, with gaps between the outer walls and the roof, and sometimes even missing parts of the walls. People use plastic in gaps and at windows to keep the rain coming in. There is very little privacy, with several beds in a single room, and several people sharing each bed. A lot of kitchens don’t even have plumbing, so doing dishes is a whole other chore.

That said, I can’t wait to get home, where bugs and mice aren’t invading the house, where I have a dishwasher, and an oven, and a microwave. And properly fitted windows that don’t gap. And air conditioning. And a vacuum cleaner. And cable and fast internet. As always, though, I’ll take the memory of this time back with, and be all the more grateful of what I do have for going without.


  1. I like the new layout. Very nice! Only a little less than 2 months to go, right? And hey, you do have hot water now. :) I just explained to my hubby that you have a baby Gavin's age and are in the field- he's amazed. :D

  2. I like the new layout it reminds me of "Gilligan's Island" but I have a question. Is Steve the Professor or is he Gilligan? :-)
    I hope the rest of your time in Ecuador is productive and your efforts to get rescued are not thwarted by you know who.