We arrived in Guayaquil and took a two hour bus ride to the Santa Elena Terminal and then another bus ride to the Santa Elena stop where our new landlord, Paul, had said he would meet us. The bus dropped us off on the side of a the road and we unloaded our suitcases on the sidewalk. Everything was the color of dusty cement. The were no trees, no grass, no people, and no bus stop. Gauthier left Bitty and I sitting on the sidewalk while he went looking for a pay phone. We sat thirsty and hot in the sun, waiting. In less than an hour he returned, he had been able to get in touch with Paul, who would come look for us (we didn’t really know where we were, but we were defintely easy to spot with our luggage on the sidewalk).
Finally a white man in a white Jeep drove past. Paul, our new landlord, a Canadian missing a front tooth and all of his hair, loaded us into his car and off we went to our new home. He was friendly and welcoming.
We pulled up in front of a massive white nautical looking home, surrounded by a two story white iron gate, it resembled a prison. We had found this place on Craigslist. It was listed as a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment on the beach, with a community bbq area and pool. The beach was definately close, but it was not a swimming beach, and we learned that the water was polluted and home to many stingrays. And the pool and bbq were actually on the roof, in the home of Paul and his girlfriend Rachel. She was a peach. Friendly and drunk, she welcomed us into our apartment that she had spent the day cleaning. It didn’t take us long to learn that our landlords upstairs drank, fought and cheated on each other regularly. He, with young Ecuadorians, she with taxi drivers. Again, I patted myself on the back.
White walled and barely furnished, our home for the next month was clean, with a view of the sea. The home was made up of 4 3-bedroom apartments which were rented out monthly for $600. Living below us was Mary, a single American lady spending her retirement cooped up and nursing her chronic pain with cheap and available prescription medication. Across the hall from us was a very nice Canadian couple who had planned to spend a year in Salinas but only lasted a couple of weeks, they were a retired policeman and teacher and we were happy to have good neighbors for the short time they were there.
The neighborhood surrounding us seemed abandoned. Dirt roads were lined with rocks and unfinished homes, the houses that were there could scarcely be seen as they all had tall walls around the perimeters with broken glass along the top. We were a 15 minute walk from the main road leading into Libertad or Salinas, where we could catch a bus for a quarter. From our balcony we would watch the sunset, and laugh because where it set in the distance was just behind the only two palm trees in sight. I ached for green. The bus could take us to beaches and cities but nowhere along the route would we pass green parks or trees or grass fields. We had come to the desert. Had I looked on google earth I would have known.