Casa Blanca – Ecuador: hike at the finca, Le Carré’s first and last, less is more.

July 25, 2021

It must have been raining continuously over the past few days.  The path down to the river on the north side of the finca was all mud and we walked with difficulty.  Ramon Cotera, the manager of the finca and guide, lead the way using his machete as he went to get rid of unwanted weeds.  Marina followed closely acting a bit cocky for she had been there and knew the technique; when you walk down the hill over slippery mud you use the hind part of your feet and shift your weight towards the calcaneus.  Natalia and Sofia were fallowing behind, using each other as human canes, making it clear to the rest of us that they were not enjoying the hike.  Ramón would stop from time to time to show us something that he thought would be of interest: a rare insect, a plant, a fruit that had fallen, monkeys, or the footsteps of a nigh mammal. 

We walked through old cacao trees that, after many years, under the continuous care of Lider and his co-workers at the finca had started to produce fruit again. Ramon cut and opened one of the pods and we all tasted a few beans shaped like almonds covered by sweet pulp. Once at the river we started the walk up the hill on the other side; it was more strenuous on the heart but safer than going down.  Ramon stopped again, this time to cut a hand of bananas and explain the technique.  Once the hand was removed, he cut the plant itself; new hands will come from the descendants that were already growing close to the stem of the mother.  From the fallen stem Ramon extracted a long, transparent fiber that he used to fabricate a rope to carry the hand of bananas over his back. The man is older than me but he is obviously in great shape.  At the next stop he cut eight cocos that were attached together in sets of four.  These I carried to the top, one set in each arm, in my own display of manhood. Back at Lider’s house we were rewarded with “Pipas” that we drank until the last drop.      

This was last weekend.  The rest of the week we continued our routine. Work wise, my main achievement was to reinstall a piece of software that I hadn’t used in years — Matlab.  The university where I teach has a license so I didn’t have to buy it.  It is making an enormous difference with some of the work I have to do in one of my projects.  It took some time to remember how to use it but the cost of that initial investment has been recoup by the gains in productivity.

After Webb Chiles’s Return to the Sea I read Le Carré’s Call for the Death, his first book.  Entertaining but I was not inspired to buy and read another of his books — in fact this one was in Natalia’s Kinddle library that we share. Instead, I moved back to non-fiction with Jason Hickel’s Less is More.  He claims that to save the planet at least rich countries need to stop growing; he argues that there is no need to increase further GDP and having people consume more. Where are the jobs going to come from?  No need for more jobs either.  People can simply work less and be happier.  I found some of the arguments and prescriptions a bit naive but I am glad I read the book; I am still processing but might change the way I think about some of these issues.

This morning I woke up and went outside to do my workout followed by a few laps in the pool.  Natalia was already up and had prepared coffee; she had work to do. I poured myself a cup and sat in the living room were I have been writing this post. The day is foggy and you can’t see the sea. I like it this way sometimes.  The girls are still sleeping.  When they wake up we plan to go to Portete a beach south from here close to the Finca. Will have lunch over there.  I am looking forward…

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