I’m in a hotel room in Guayaquil and I don’t feel like writing. I haven’t written for a while.

Our criminal complaint against Mirador San Jose’s cartoonishly shady General Manager, which I thought might unspool of its own accord, has instead consumed me. Not in the Travis Bickle, “someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets” kind of way. I mean the bipolar extremes Chantal and I suffer when our righteous legal argument encounters the blunt force trauma of a corrupted court official. It’s like stubbing your toe on sidewalk rebar. The rebar won’t budge. But now you have a broken toe.

I’m in a hotel room in Guayaquil because I flew from Canada to Ecuador to sign a single piece of paper. A personal accusation, apart from the formal indictment levied against Danielle Charles by our State Prosecutor in Montecristi. Ecuador does not recognize encrypted digital signatures. In the case of a personal accusation, my power of attorney also has no effect.

So here I am, in Ecuador, having signed my personal accusation, and wondering how next to entertain myself. Teresa at Vankleek Hill Vineyard asked me to take a photo of her pinot noir. (That doesn’t sound right.) There’s also a COVID testing clinic at the far end of the Malecón 2000. I could get my brain tickled for shits and giggles.

I’ll save that treat for Sunday morning. I need a test to board my flight home.

Teresa's pinot noir

I don’t want to be this guy. I started my blog with wonder and delight at the new life Chantal and I built for ourselves. Now I tell anyone who asks that our retirement in Ecuador is a lot like gum disease. It’s costing a small fortune to fix.

Don’t get me wrong. Mirador San Jose isn’t anything Ecuador did to us. And yet our local friends, and our lawyer, Jessica, apologize as if it were their fault. That’s sweet, we tell them. But we imported our swindler from Canada. Ecuador simply provided the growing medium she needs to flourish.

Therein lies my paradox. What to do with a country that offers such selfless, empathetic people and such problematic institutions? Learn to love it, I guess. What other choice do you have, when some strange part of you intuits that this place is home? It really is.

I got off the plane Tuesday evening, and the sultry air had that familiar musk. I don’t know how to describe it. Car exhaust and palm leaves and Drakkar Noir, or whatever it is the young men wear in overabundance. Women in tight print skirts and flouncy breasts. Hawkers with their perspiring bottles of agua agua agua agua. Klaxons and jet engines and motorcycles and belching buses. It’s an assault. It is such a lovely assault. I didn’t know how much I’d missed this place until I was blown back by it.

While I was out and about today to photograph Teresa’s pinot – nope, that’s still not right – it was evident everywhere that the worst of Ecuador’s pandemic is over. Ministerio de Salud Pública has a mass vaccination clinic operating on the Malecón, and there is a lineup stretching all the way down Avenida 12. Guayaquil discharged the last of its COVID patients two weeks ago. Other than mask and distancing mandates, all other restrictions are lifted. The children’s playgrounds are open. Tour operators are back to work. Restaurant patios are jammed. La Perla is spinning, and the midway is studded with cotton candy and body piercing kiosks. Sometimes both, under the same tent.

It’s hard to believe we’re near the end of this outrageous calamity. Maybe my attitude will improve, along with everything else. Perhaps we’ll win our case and get to live our retirement, as we’d dreamed it, on some endless Ecuadorian shore. But this time away from the lunacy we know as Mirador San Jose. It lifts my heart to consider it.

On Thursday, Jessica and I drove back to Guayaquil from Montecristi, where I had signed that single sheet of paper and its manifold copies. We were on the road to Jijijapa. Out of nowhere, from around a blind turn, sped two clowns on a motorcycle. I’m not kidding. One was a happy clown and the other fierce. Their golden tinsel outfits rushed past us in a wild flurry, and then they were gone.

“What the fuck?” Jessica snorted in amazement.

Indeed, I thought. That sums it all up. That sums it up very nicely.