Happy Birthday, Piper!!! You are 13 years old today… where have the years gone! Our day dawned bright and early with enthusiasm all the way around — a good night sleep had been had by all. We checked out of Banarama or whatever it was called and drove down to the Malecón (the pier, for all you Spanish noobs) for some breakfast. The place was called Lolita-something-or-other and it had UNBELIEVABLE instant coffee. Like, yowsa! Our girls were not so excited about having eggs again and wound up just eating two large buns of bread. I myself have become quite fond of this Ecuadorian breakfast Balon de Verde, which are fried balls of green plantain dumplings filled with cheese. Piper tried them and proclaimed them OFF LIMITS, while Saffy wouldn’t even try. Le sigh. These girls!!!


Saffy having some steamed milk.


Not sure she likes it. Jury’s still out.


Kind of a blurry pic but love my big girl.


Soon fast asleep in the car, check out the half open stink eye.

We eventually “got the show on the road” — get it?!! — and the drive was INSANITY. We started getting into the hills and then the road was literally and forever one massively curvy, windy, dangerous switch-back. It was heady and fun at first, but soon the girls and I began to get a bit queasy. I broke out the gravol and we all just sucked it back and felt a little like Indiana Jones for awhile there. The passing of cars was what really got me…. and Joaquin was a super cautious, fantastico driver. But, I cringed whenever we passed another car because you could not see around the corners at all.


We are headed UP THERE.


A night club. @ 1,400M above sea level. Anyone?


Views keep getting better and better.


This country is breathtaking.


Steep valleys.

As my altimeter climbed, I took great pleasure in announcing how high we were. Though this little game of mine soon grated on Alvi’s nerves, once we hit 2,500M he started to feel like superman lol. (Dude, this is nothing….) Catamayo was the sweet little town we stopped in for lunch and to my astonishment I was able to get a traditional Ecuadorian meal into Piper. She inhaled that salty meat like nobody’s business and even had some of the beans! Saffy had a hotdog. Small victories, people!!

And just 4 hours from the start of our morning journey to the end, we arrived at our destination: Loja. I was immediately in awe over how quaint and almost spanish-esque it looked, complete with charming little streets, old-world architecture, and a river running right through the town. Joaquin found us an awesome hostel that cost just $40/night. It met all the requirements on the list but did not have A/C because there is literally no need for it when you have perpetual spring-like weather all year round.

After freshening up, we hit the town to explore. It felt SO GOOD to finally get off our duffs and walk around again. The pictures of Loja do not do it justice: it’s absolutely gorgeous here. The girls spent a bit of time feeding the pigeons in one of the squares while I, an avid pigeon HATER, tried to contain my fear and disdain from the side. At one point, they all rushed just inches over my head and I swear a wing touched my cheek. Pass the barf bucket!!!! At any rate, this was quality entertainment for them and at $.25 for a bag of pigeon eats, I could not argue this one. Piper and I also walked into this gorgeous church built in 1525, I said a silent prayer and nearly cried it was so beautiful. She told me it reminded her of the ballroom from Beauty and The Beast — painted ceiling and all.


The start of Loja and a beautiful rainbow in the background. Note: it was a cool 20 degrees here.


Loja’s charm.


Could totally live here.


My most favourite girls ever.


In her glory and I’m cowering in the corner lol.


Piper wanted in on the action.


Alvi was on the ground for this shot. Pretty sure in pigeon poop.


so many pigeons.


Pretty much my nightmare right here.


The city square all lit up and pretty.


Gorgeous church.


A little sanctuary from the rain.

Our night was going smoothly until what will forever be known as the *Piper Meltdown in Loja* began. Yes, my daughter — who is now 13 — had a meltdown. I think it was a combination of her being hungry, tired and hormonal, all rolled up into one ticking time-bomb. I was like, “do not unleash this beast, girlfriend!” But, she did. SHE WANTED TO GO BACK TO THE HOTEL RIGHT NOW!!!! Between this and Saffy’s incessant requirement for piggy-back rides (due to growing pains in her knees, wtf?!), I then also LOST IT. And I mean, I snapped!!! When Piper pronounced she going back to the hotel on her own, I thought to myself, “what sort of FRESH HELL is this????” All this drama played out in front of my friend, and our guide, Joaquin Andino, who is getting a realistic glimpse into his potential future should he and Diana have children one day. (At the very least it might be a cheap form of birth control for him).

Piper mumbled something else about Shawn Mendes tickets (ummmm really??) and then I proceeded to give her *THE TUNE UP*. It was ALL BUSINESS. In fact, both girls got a tune-up, total Wrenshall-style. Eventually, we found our way to a restaurant that looked like it might serve something the birthday girl would enjoy and right then and there, I proceeded to bawl like a baby. How am I so old that I now have a teenager? When did this happen? Did she realize how much I love her? Does she understand that everything I do is with her happiness in mind? What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose? Why are we here? Is there a God? And so forth. At this point in time, Joaquin had excused himself to fetch a cake he and I had picked out earlier pre-Piper-meltdown, so he missed out on all my waterworks. Needless to say, I was probably due for a really good cry and the Gong Show family sat there and laughed lovingly at me. With me. What a night.

The birthday cake was a resounding success, other than the fact that though it looked like a chocolate cake, it was NOT. Was. Not. Instead, it was some sort-of-yummy, rum-soaked pastry thing. We ate it nonetheless and Piper informed us that she was going to blame me if she got drunk underage. SERIOUSLY child. We wound up giving it to a lady in the street who looked like she could use it.


the “chocolate” (rum) cake.

And now, as I type this, getting all caught up on our Bloggery (is that a word? If not, I’m trademarking it ‘cuz it’s mine), I’m drinking red wine from the bottle and all is right with the universe. Good night world, and thanks for reading this dissertation to the end.