I did go back to Beirut as planned and I’m now in Washington DC. Arrived Sunday afternoon. More on that later. These are some old posts that were never posted…
Fred’s 60thBD – Jan 18
Fred is French and his partner, Graciela, Argentinian. They live a few kilometers past Punta Galera, a small town south of Casa Blanca, Same. They built their house over a hill overlooking a fragment of the Pacific Ocean some 5 miles away. There are no walls enclosing or separating the living room, dining room, and kitchen; no need for windows. The floor is painted in light orange/red. I was the first to arrive, 4pm sharp as per the invite. A wonderful afternoon; direct light from the sun, a gentle breeze, vistas of mountains, jungle, and the sea. Fred asked me to take my boots and socks off. He was rolling joints, making sure there was enough ganja for all invitees. He had completed around 50 that were lying over the coffee table. I lighted one and sat at the kitchen bar with a glass of red wine. Graciela, her son, and his wife were cooking. People started to arrive, all bare foot, wearing cotton pants and dresses of mainly light colors, many were surfers. Fred’s selection of electronic music was playing. At first, small groups of people formed and occupied different spaces. Gradually, as joints and wine circulated, the groups started to merge. A few guests brought guitars and bongos. I met a French musician who was traveling through Latin America and had been introduced to Fred while surfing in Estero de Platano; a little town close-by. Food was served in the middle of the living room. We ate standing up while the sun was setting.
The electronic music stopped. Under the influence, I grabbed a guitar and started playing. The Frenchman joined with one of the bongos, others followed until we had at least ten vibrating in perfect sync. People started to dance, Fred was almost in trance. I was no longer playing, others were, when the power went off. Nobody noticed. Candles were lit and the party continued. We ate more, drank more but not as much, we mainly smoked and told stories that I now don’t remember. It must have been 2am when I went to bed in one of the rooms prepared for the occasion.
The sailor (and smuggler) – Jan 19
When coming back from Mompiche with the Frenchman, we stopped at Fred’s house. It was right before sunset. Him, Graciela, and a friend were seating in the living room chatting and drinking coffee. I had met this friend a couple of times before, including at the party. We were introduced the first time because of a common interest: sailing. Today he sat by my side and asked me for advice about the best way to transfer money from a Bank account in Panama.
We happen to have the same age and graduated from high school the same year. We had never met before but know some of the same people and used to party in some of the same clubs. When his parents divorced, he moved to Miami with his mother. Not knowing what to do to make a living, she accepted a gig: sailing a 24thfooter from Key West to Jamaica and back, transporting a few kilos of ganja. Mother and son were the only crew. With no sailing experience and a boat unfitted for this type of passage, it is only by the greatness of our creator that he was there telling me the story. On their way back from Jamaica, in their first trip, they got hammered by a low south of Cuba and ended up in Honduras. Somebody must have told him about techniques to manage heavy weather because he was carrying a few tires that he had to tow during the storm to slowdown the boat. All he did was by instinct he told me. They both learned the trade, including how to deal with the Coast Guard and by-pass tests to detect fungus that, apparently, grows in the bulkheads of boats that are transporting significant amounts of marihuana, usually in the tropics. Soon they had a fleet of boats smuggling ganja on a weekly basis. He became a proficient skipper who got paid 100k per trip. This allowed him to save a decent amount of capital before the business collapsed. When it happened, he moved back to Ecuador to start a new life. He no longer sails, he is a surfer instead.
Home alone – Jan 21
I have enjoyed time alone here at the house in Casa Blanca. Yesterday I poured myself a glass of G&T and sat at the table in the terrace to wait for the sunset. It was discrete, almost imperceptible because the sky was clouded. Light rain started to fall and I went down to Same to visit Juanjo. I brought with me the bottle of gin and a bottle of rum I found in the bar; the latter for him. Must have been bought by my father. I don’t drink rum.
The main reason I am here, other than checking on the house which has been abandoned for almost half a year and attending Fred’s birthday, is finding somebody to “manage” a property we have close to Mompiche. The person who was living and working there left one month ago without giving notice. He took with him everything, including things he didn’t owned and one-month advance on his salary. We were also not informed that he had asked somebody else to move-in. I met him yesterday. He is a guy in his twenties, now living in the property with his wife and children. When I arrived, he was preparing to sell balsa wood he had cut without permission. I told him I had hired somebody else to replace the previous employee and that he had to leave. He didn’t want to and asked me to pay him his salary. He was surprisingly aggressive. When I told him that I didn’t have any contract with him and that I would have to inform the local authorities if he didn’t leave, he told me that he wasn’t afraid; he had already been in prison, and that the law was in his hands.
I did go to the see the local district attorney to file a complaint. I also met to a neighbor who seems to be involved in the coup. He has been buying the stolen balsa wood, and had run a power line from our transformer to his house to get free electricity. I threatened to press charges, he asked me not to do it and promised that his partner in crime — the guy living in the property – will move out by Monday. I hope he does.
Back to Quito – Jan 25th
Drove back to Quito yesterday. No incident. 4 ½ hours. They guy did move out. Somebody else is now in charge. I have been working in the mornings on a report and a proposal, otherwise spending time with my mother and family. Discussions about politics, including the situation in Venezuela, are frequent. In a few days I will be back to Beirut. A very long trip again.