Friday, January 31, 2014

EL CAJAS NATIONAL PARK IN ECUADOR - Our January 2014!!! HIKING THE CAJAS and Back to the USA.......

We hiked the Cajas Friday January 3rd, 
and six days later were on our way to Oregon USA.

Dear Family, Friends, and Faithful Readers,
I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but I’m back!  We're back!

Bo and I started our New Year with a fabulous hike in the Cajas, and then two days later “SUDDENLY” we received word from the states that my mom's aged body was failing and in an active dying stage.  Of course, that news devastated us and also financially changed so many of our already made plans to travel often this year and explore Ecuador.  So, on January 9th, we temporarily left our peaceful Cuenca life and headed for cold and rainy Eugene-Springfield, Oregon.

 Prov. 19:21 Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand.   

God definitely had another plan and purpose for us.  As much as I desire to walk by faith and not by sight, this was a very difficult and sad journey for me. Yet,
because of so many prayers and thoughtful and encouraging words, I knew that I could get through this time of knowing I would be losing my mom. My prayer was that we would get there while she was still coherent and able to sense our presence by her side.  Living so far away from our loved ones in times of "suddenlies" is stressful and makes for a long and expensive journey.

Bo and I had used up quite a bit of our permitted 90 days out during our Summer trip back to Oregon and our cross-country motorcycle adventure, so we only had about 25 days left.  With the time of year, crazy weather patterns, and the possibility of cancelled flights, we wanted to make sure we knew exactly how many days we could be out without losing our visas.  It was our hope that we could get an extension on our time due to our wanting to stay as long as we could to be there for mom's last breath.

The day before our departure, we went early to immigration.  It triggered some bad tapes for me as I remembered our numerous visits to that UNHAPPY place. Because we only had one question, "Can we extend our visit back home because of a family emergency?" - I didn't want to go through the already formed long line and be with the sad-faced people being herded in.  As I walked past everyone (oh, the stares and frowning faces) and began to speak in Spanish to the guard up front, explaining my situation and why I was there, a meany bull-dog faced gringa snapped at me saying, "There's a line here.  You need to go back!"  NOT NICE!  She had no idea what I was there for, no business snapping at me, and I was NOT IN THE MOOD for her.  I quickly responded, "I'm not here for a visa, I'm here for a family emergency!"  She could have cared less, I'm sure.  She was just interested in herself.  Yes, SELF.  What a selfish world we've become.  It made me examine myself once again, not wanting to be thoughtless and rude to others.  We never know what someone else is going through in life when they are not smiling but teary and needing to jump the line!  Another lesson learned on how NOT to treat others.  GRACE!  How we all need to extend more grace to others in this world.

The guard was compassionate towards our situation and quickly ushered us in where we were recognized by several of the immigration women, and immediately Andrea came to help us.  She heard my plea for a time extension.  Well, Immigration law does NOT give a time extension to anyone and not for any reason.  If you stay one day over, you lose your visa.  Though we were told by the Policia at the Movimiento Migratorio place earlier that we could leave for 90 days because the visa time out of country starts again the beginning of the year, and though I continued to question him, he ADAMANTLY INSISTED this was correct information by bringing out their law book and copying it and highlighting it and telling us to take it back to Immigration because they were WRONG.  He said, "Have them call me."  Andrea immediately had the attorney at immigration call him while we were there and set him straight so he or anyone there would not keep giving out WRONG information (which happens a lot here with visa questions). 

So, after all of that stress and an entire morning of back and forth to Immigration, we took a cab back to our apartment now KNOWING we had 25 days left to leave and return - no exceptions!! We continue to learn here that you have to ask several people the same question over and over before you hopefully get accurate information.  No, not everyone is giving out false information.  This policeman really believed he was telling us the law correctly.  He was kind and wanting to help us.  He knew our family emergency situation and wanted us to have 90 days.  I almost believed him (which is why Bo calls me PollyAnna).  He wasn't the only one there saying this.  The young woman also helping us was in complete agreement with him.  Now they know!!!  And so do we, AND YOU!  No Extensions!!!! No Exceptions!!  90 Days period!!! - from the day you get your visa stamped in your passport, 90 days out of country each year for the first two years!!!!

We kept our time out at 22 days including travel to Oregon and back (which can take two days each way).  We didn't want to chance a delayed flight because of weather.  To lose our visas would be tragic.  I can't even imagine going through the process again.  It wasn't fun then, and it would be even less fun to have to do it again.  We are heading into our second year of our 90-days-out visa requirement time, and we certainly don't want to jeopardize that in any way.  

Our days were precious as we visited mom daily.  She knew we were there, and we embraced every moment we had with her.  We are glad we took the long journey back to be with our mom.  By the time we had to leave to head back to Cuenca, she was pretty unresponsive and more frail than we've ever seen her.  We are both at peace with the time we had with her before she dies, and we know that even in her weak and frail state she said, "Go!  Have Fun!  Love each other....."  I will cherish those words and my reply was, "Mom, Yes, I promise."  We sometimes have to make difficult personal choices in life.  What works for some may not work for others.  The most important part of this journey has been the support and understanding we have received from our true and caring friends.  There are others that expressed they don't understand how we could not be there with mom in her dying state - how we could be so far away from her, saying, "I could never do that."  Never do I feel I have to explain my choices to anyone.  I have God's peace and I now have and always have had my mom's blessing.  

Coming home to Cuenca has been a real joy.  Bo and I are content to be back in our cozy Ecuadorian apartment, listening to the city sounds, seeing the familiar faces around us, being greeted warmly and embraced by our friends and acquaintances, and getting back into a now enjoyable routine of our simplified life.  We chose to leave the USA and our familiar and comfortable life there, and to return this second time to the USA was even more of a culture shock than the first time.  The cost of living is outrageous! I've been spoiled by my Cuenca Cost of Living!  The weather was unusually miserable - very cold and foggy, and then rainy and chilling.  Beautiful, yes!  I still say Oregon is one of the most beautiful states in the USA.  One day was especially warmer, sunny, and glorious.  One day!!  We both wondered how did we live in that persistent overcast rainy chilling weather for 40 years?  Of course we would wonder that after living for the past 13 months in Cuenca's beautiful sunny, warm, spring temperatures.  Some think Cuenca is too cold.  Bo and I embrace this weather.  We absolutely love it!  I've put away the boots and coats and I'm wearing capris, t-shirts, and flip-flops and walking with a big smile on my face when I'm out and about in this beautiful historic sunny warm city!

It was great to see our Oregon home being so well cared for by our "best renters in the world!"  It was also great to see our renters.  They are kind and generously accommodating people - letting us come by at our convenience to get our cars, go through our storage shed and and pick through the STUFF we still have.  I was able to choose a few things, and once again I took things back realizing I DO NOT NEED another thing.  Yes, we came back with suitcases of treasures - but I did put a lot of thought into this process once again.  I will eventually blog about what I brought back this second round.  I know that God is continually teaching me to let go of things I still hold too closely.  He showed me on this trip what is most important once again.  I will never have another mom, and I will miss my mom more than words can say.  But, I have this time of memories.  I have her sweet words to me and her tender touch on my face.  I have her blessing.  I couldn't have asked for anything else.  God was faithful on this sad journey and He provided abundantly.  

One knows who their true friends are during a crisis and difficult time. For those who followed us and supported us on this journey through emails - Thank you for your prayers.  Thank you for your encouragement and for truly caring.  Thank you Kay, and also Glenn and Imgaard.  You opened your door to us and let us in when we needed a place of comfort and peace.  For others who offered us a place to stay, thank you!  I want to especially thank our dear and special friend whom we recently met in Cuenca in December, who lives in Portland, Oregon. God brought us together for such a time as this.  I thank you, Lorena, for wanting to drive down to Eugene to be with us and to meet my mom, Ana Rosa.  You said it was an honor to meet my mom and to be with us.  You blessed me beyond blessing.  And Angel!  You were there for us without hesitation.  Your name reflects who you are to us, an angel, and we love you dearly.  Our Cuenca family of friends rock!  Loving, caring, intimate, ever-present, extending help, wanting to know, wanting to be there for us every step of the way.  You were!  And we thank you with ALL of our heart.  We didn't have to ask for help - you offered without hesitation or excuses.  You were truly there for us.  Few you are, but faithful and true.  This "suddenly" in life also taught me the greatest lesson ever - to never close my door.  It's open!  Even if it's only a floor I have to offer.  Our door is open, open, open!  Come as you are.  We will be here for you when your heart is breaking and you need a friend to talk to, healing prayers, and a place of comfort and peace in which to stay. 

Thank you God, for your gentle ways.  For teaching me what is important to YOU and how to truly give as You would desire me to give and be there for someone.  I'm thankful for the lessons though painful and heartbreaking.  Thank you faithful God.  Amen.

To my faithful and true family and friends -
Phil. 1:3  I thank my God upon every remembrance of you! 




Our Cajas Hiking Crew - Fabian, James, Me, Dan, Joel (and Bo taking the photo)

The magnificent beauty that day was breathtaking,
so was the blue sky weather!
The unique Andes flowers were stunning....
....and so colorful! 
We would stop along the way to bask in the majestic Cajas surroundings and to rest.  We were hiking up to 14,000 feet!
One of our guides, Fabian, knew all of the medicinal properties of each Andes plant.  It was an education in itself as I photographed and he described each plant's healing benefits.  These  pink blossoms were edible - a sweet taste!

The scenery and plant life would change every turn we took. 

The peaceful clear lakes looked smaller the higher we climbed.
Dan's son, Joel, was visiting from Colorado.  What a fabulous way for him to begin his first day and visit in beautiful Ecuador - Hiking the Cajas!
Every plant along the way seemed to beckon me to photograph its magnificent presence.

Along the way the clouds began to settle atop the jagged rock formations......
......finally concealing the beautiful blue skies.
Even the low thick cloud cover was glorious and impressive!
My Mountain Man!
I was a bit more bundled up than my Mountain Man! 

Are we there yet??

The trail was apparent in some areas and would then disappear, so we would hike and make our own way.

If you can still hike and at higher altitudes and have not visited the Cajas, you must!!

More amazing "Cajas Plant Life"

I'm glad my Mountain Man brought two walking sticks because I needed one on that STEEP hike down.
What a glorious green rock covering plant

Still climbing......

James stops along the way to inhale the majestic surroundings.
An "Out Of This World" experience!
Dan having a meditative moment!
Ahhhh, the joy of arrival.  Proud guides give us a thumbs up!!!
OUR REWARD at the end of a long, steep, long hike out - FRESH TROUT DINNER......
At Fabian's Father's Restaurant - RANCHO HNOS PRADO .......

It was a fabulous challenging hike with a great group of guys (I love being with the boys) and the best way to begin our 2014 year of exploratory travels throughout our beautiful country ECUADOR.