Our last week in Ecuador was a flurry of activity! We were invited to Marcia and Gustavo's house for Alex's cousin, Valeria's birthday; we were invited to both Gladys and Patty's respective houses for both lunch and "cafe y pancito" (coffee and bread, which is a tradition over there and happens at around 4 or 5pm, after lunch, but before dinner). We were also taken out for dinner by Bolivar and Lily my brother-in-law, Christian's parents. Prior to this last week, we had also been to Christian's parents' house to celebrate Jonathan (Chris's brother's) birthday. Everyone had been so open, warm and welcoming. In my last few days, I could feel the walls closing in on me!
Oh, and the list goes on...I caught up with my friend, Manuela and her mum Ana, whom I actually had not seen in years. It was great to be able to pick up where we left off. We were also invited to Alex's Tia Norma's apartment (actually his mum's auntie), with sweeping views of Quito. And of course, no visit to Ecuador would be complete without a visit to CEIB primary school (now called St Patrick School) where I used to tech English to Grade 3 children. All the kids I used to teach have now long gone, but the highlight of my visit there is always catching up with Don Carlitos. Don Carlitos used to be the gatekeeper of the school, and now he is the handy man. Each and every time I return to Ecuador and visit the school, he greets me with a "Hola Teacher Ombi" and gives me a big hug. He holds a special place in my heart!
We had had so many great times over the last few weeks, and now they were coming to an end, all too quickly. Denisse, more beautiful than ever, was a young lady now, at 15 years of age, and 11 year old "Axelin" was no longer a baby. I thought about all the time that has passed in which I had not seen them grow, and it made me feel sad. But what is the solution? This is the story of a love that straddles two cultures and two hemispheres. Regardless of where we live, we miss out on something. The most difficult thing for me this time would be having to leave behind little Thomas. So cute and so small. He seemed to laugh as he recognised my voice, but would he even remember me in a year's time? This made me feel the saddest of all, and every time I thought about this my stomach would sink to my toes.
Our week was also "made" shorter than we thought, as on the Tuesday morning before flying out, we realised that we were flying out to New York on the Wednesday morning not on the Thursday. In effect, we were chatting to Alex's mum in New York, who insisted that we were coming tomorrow, on Wednesday! Well, talk about flip out! Karen had stepped out for a bit (as she is home on maternity leave), and when she got back at around 11.00am, we hit her with, "OMG, we are leaving tomorrow". Despite the initial shock (but believe me, she couldn't have been more shocked than we were), we got ourselves organised and did what we had to do the day before flying out! We packed our bags, and then thankfully for Karen, we used her as our taxi service over the next few hours, as there is no other way we would have been able to do all the last minute things we needed to do. We quickly went to the Mercado Artesanal (Artisans market) where we bought a few things we still wanted, and also caught up with Maria Antonieta briefly to say goodbye.
Our last night at Karen's was lots of fun, with many relatives popping in to say goodbye. We got some pretty snazzy t-shirts from Christian and Karen, but I am afraid I cannot translate their meaning on this blog. Here is the picture, but you need to ask me personally for the translation. Karen and Jesus, you will SOOOOO get this! After everyone had left, Alex and I, stayed up talking with Piero and Karen. We got to bed at 2.00pm. Normally, that wouldn't be brutally late, but we had to get up at 3.00am. Blink! We were up and ready in a flash. We were exhausted! We slithered into all of the rooms and kissed Piero, Karen, Denisse and Axel goodbye. I said my own little farewell to Thomas, but did not touch him, as I did not want to wake him up.Fortunately, we were too tired to feel sad. Christian dropped us off at the airport, and we hugged him goodbye. It was all starting to feel so final. Just before we went through the main doors, Alex's Dad showed up, so we were also able to bid our last farewells. Then we were inside; very tired and very sad! To make matters worse, it felt like we were lined up for ever! I have never been so glad to plonk my tired little butt onto a seat. In fact, I was so tired, that I slept through take off! Now THAT is hardcore!
I should also mention that Byron and Alex came to visit us briefly on our last night, and gave us a beautiful gift each. Alex's was a necklace and mine a pair of earrings with a beautiful sun/ moon representation. I know that it's the thought that counts, but they know us so well; I couldn't have picked something more appropriate out myself!
Our flight back to New York, would see us pass through Miami, and I only woke up before touch down. Now, it seemed that despite only having 24 hours here, before then going back to Australia, the authorities were going to give us a run for our money! We passed through passport control as a couple, Alex going first. Yep, all good! Ombi's turn? Nah, something's a "mismatch" I was told. My passport was promptly handed to a Passport Control Officer, who then placed it into a plastic sleeve, and I was told to politely, "Stand over there!" Luckily Alex was able to come with me. We finally got shuttled off into a room, full of what appeared to be anyone and everyone other than caucasians. OK, it's a full house, but I'm still not panicking. It's almost 1.00pm though and we have a flight to New York to catch at 3.00pm. I ask someone if we're going to miss the flight. She's not sure. Great! We need this like a bullet in the head. I see some officer holding up a Mexican Passport, and tell another officer that it looks dodgy and like it's been tampered with. It's getting worse! Another guy tells me that he's been waiting for over two hours. It's going to be a long wait! To my surprise, I am called up after some 45 minutes. Do I live in Australia? Yes. What's the weather like there? I tell him it's winter. But it's hot in the north, right? Yes, I tell him, we only have a "real"winter in the south-east and Tasmania. He seems satisfied with my answers, and then tells me I can go! Go figure! Can't say that I understood what that was all about, but we did manage to catch our flight to New York. Anybody have any idea? (Harry......OIFA!)
We landed in La Guardia, where Alex's mum and sister were waiting for us. Our last night together was great, and we filled her in on our time in Ecuador. In a few weeks time, Angie would be going to Ecuador by herself, and staying with Karen. What can you do in 24 hours? The next day we chatted some more, whilst having breakfast, and then lunch. In no time at all, it was time to go to the JFK airport. We thought we'd check ourselves in, before going downstairs for a coffee.
As we went through the usual, check-in rigmarole, "Frances" informed us that we would not be able to sit next to each other on the LA to Sydney sector. (Remember, our flight path was New York - LA - Sydney - Melbourne). Now, WHY would I want to sit next to my partner for the longest portion of the trip, which would take approximately 13 and a half hours? Face, body language.......she was clearly not interested. Frances was clearly having a bad day, but nonplussed, I figured I'd fix it up in LA. I mean, it was our last half an hour or so with Alex's mum and little sister. I have to admit though, I had not appreciated her attitude! Once downstairs, and having coffee, both Alex's mum and Alex reiterated my sentiments; "That gal had a baaaaaaaaad attitude!"
Alex was keen to "fix it up", so back we go to the counter. Now Frances was in luck, and I was feeling rather tranquil. Just thought I would go over and explain the situation, no names involved. So, I went to the counter and simply asked the woman if she could change the tickets so that Alex and I could sit next to each other. At that precise moment, Frances comes along, and utters to the woman helping us, "I've already told them that there are no seats together!". Well, something snapped! You know, poor Frances at the Qantas counter picked the "wrong chick at the wrong time". After what had happened in Miami, I was over it! I whipped around faster than a flash of lightning, eye-balled her and hissed, "Why don't you just do a Harry Houdini and disappear! You are clearly useless, so let me continue speaking to someone who's not!" I'm not sure who was more stunned, Frances or me! She then sat down and smirked at me! Have I ever told you how much I loathe smirking? On a roll, I now couldn't help or stop myself. Next I blurted out, "That smirk on your face makes we want slap you!!!!!"..........Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! Alarm bells! We ARE in the USA? Did I just "threaten" her? Is she going to sue me? The lady helping me was very pleasant, if not a little thrown back by my outburst, and she listened patiently as I continued to explain that whilst I did not need or require any red carpet treatment, was asking Frances to do her job THAT difficult? The lady helping us made it clear that the changes actually could be made. Despite the fact that I was not raising my voice, the lady behind the counter could see how irate I was. I suggested that Frances may benefit from being locked up in an office away from people, or perhaps they should enrol her is a customer services course, as she clearly had no skills in this department. Well, we were offered two passes into the British Airways/ Qantas lounge. I will reserve my judgement on this for another time, but I really must mention one of the many magazines that were on "offer" (free, of course!! ); "The Private Jet Lifestyle Magazine - Elite Traveller". Pages and pages and pages of expensive, consumerist, advertising dribble! I mean, one of the ads was for a Private Honda Jet, with the caption, "Is it possible to find a more efficient alternative?" No, but certainly a more stupid, energy-wasting one! Give me a bucket!!!!! Heaven forbid, that one would have to sit in a bigger plane, with the masses! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease! What is this world coming to?
Once in the plane, we settled down comfortably. We felt a bit sad, as we always do saying goodbye to family. Alex's mum was OK, but Angie looked sad. That's always a tough one. The flight to LA was fine, as was the flight to Sydney. Due to our connections, we missed our flight from Sydney to Melbourne. Whilst it was no big deal, we were tired and just wanted to get home. We finally made it to Melbourne by 11.30am on the morning of Saturday, 20th June. As usual, we were picked up by Dino's Taxi Service. We chatted as we drove home, and all had lunch together, but I was feeling tired. Jet lag? Not sure, as I do not normally suffer from this, but....I did manage to sleep on the couch from 12.45pm until about 11.00pm that night!
I woke up, and went straight to bed. We had missed two functions: Di Baini's 21st ( a really special friend of ours) and an Inti Raymi ("Festival of the Sun") celebration at Mick's house in Croydon. Just a little bit of information for those of you who way not know too much about Incan culture; Inti Raymi marks the winter solstice, and was a religious ceremony of the Inca Empire, in honour of the god, Inti. Whilst I was disappointed at having missed both, I was also way too tired to give it much thought!
Dedication (English): There are two parts to this dedication. The first part is for my brother-in-law, Christian. You are a wonderful person! I saw you be a wonderful husband, father, son, brother and friend....and of course, brother-in-law! You showed how loving and warm you are, and I would like to above all thank you for the amazing way you treat Axel and Denisse. Respect does not just happen it is earned. Despite the fact that we live far away, you will always hold a special place in our hearts. The second part is for our sister and sister-in-law, Karen. Finally, you got what you truly deserve. You are an exceptional mother and person, and we love you with all of our hearts.Christian and Karen, we wish you the best in life, and never forget that we will always be here for you and your family.
Dedicacion (Espanol): Hay dos partes de este dedicacion. La primer parte es para nuestro cunado, Christian. Eres una persona maravillosa! Pudimos ver que eres un buen esposo, padre, hijo, hermano y amigo....y tambien cunado! Nos demostraste lo carinoso y amable que eres, y sobre todo, quiero agradecerte en la forma fabulosa que tratas a Axel, Denisse y Thomasito. El respeto no ocurre simplemente, el respeto es ganado. No importa que vivimos lejos, siempre vas a tener un lugar especial en nuestros corazones. La segunda parte es para nuestra hermana y cunada, Karen. Finalmente ganaste lo que verdaderamente mereces. Eres una persona y madre excepcional y te amamos con todo nuestros corazones. Christian y Karen, te deseamos todo lo mejor de la vida, y nunca se olviden que siempre estaremos aqui para ustedes.
"There is no calamity greater than lavish desires. There is no greater guilt than discontentment. And there is no greater disaster than greed". Lao-tzu (604 BC - 531 BC)
(Photos: 1.- Valeria's birthday. L to R: Sara, Denisse, Valeria, Junior and Volney, in front, Quito. 2.-L to R: Ana Miranda and Manuela. 3.- Alex, baby Thomas and his brother Jean Pierre. 4.- Alex with his aunt, uncle and cousins. L to R: Alex, Israel, Valeria, Gustavo, Ombi , Gustavo Jr and Marcia. 5.-Ombi and Alex, with imprinted obscenities! Karen's house, Quito. 6.- Ombi and Alex with "La Tia Loca" (the crazy auntie), Gladys. 7.- Alex with his cousins. L t R: Andres, Alex and Ruben (Junior). 8.- With my brother-in-law Christian's family at Jonathan's birthday. L to R: Bolivar, Lily (parents), Christian, Thomas, Jean Pierre, Jonathan (Chris' brother), Naty (girlfriend), Ombi and Karen. In the front, Denisse and Axel (neice and nephew) and Alex. 9.- Locals at the Otavalo Market. 10.- Dad and the boys! . L to R: Alex's Dad (Hugo), Jean Pierre, Rodrigo and Alex. 11.- This time with Rocio's (my mother-in-law's) sisters. Lt R: Gladys, Ombi, Patty and Marcia. 12.- BBQ time! Alex with his sister Karen, outside her apartment in Quito. 13.- Happy family! Karen, Christian and Thomas. 14.- Alex and Karen enjoying an espresso...with Italian coffee machine and ground coffee brought from Australia. When I lived in Ecuador, I left my legacy....a good coffee! 15.- Alex and his mum in New York. 16.- Alex and Angie at JFK Airport, on our way back to Australia...with Aussie paraphenalia. 17.- Christian at home with his family; Thomas, Denisse and Axel. 18.- Alex and his brother Rodrigo). 19.- Diego and Christina (their mother Deisy works in Karen's house).
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