COASTAL, ON-LINE ISSUE 01
By Henry G. Noël
Photos By: Henry G. Noël
Sitting on my 7th-floor balcony, sipping a freshly brewed cup of coffee, I can witness the flickering lights of the fishing boats bouncing slowly along in the darkness as they head out of the bay to gather their morning catch. The night's blackness, still obscuring the horizon where the ocean meets the sky, fights to hold on to keep the morning at bay. But the night slowly loses its grip and gives way, and the horizon begins to discern itself, announcing the return of the victor just below the horizon. As del sol peeks above the horizon, its shimmering luminescence dances on the water, ushering in the birth of a new day.
And so it begins, another day in this coastal city of Salinas, as it awakens to the sound of a pandemonium of parrots as they swoop by the balcony on their way to their morning social perch. Joggers and walkers begin to take to the Malecón looking pleased with their accomplishments at this early hour, and the usual three dogs are passing below on their way to wherever it is these dogs go. Frigate birds catch the rising currents of air gracefully soaring high above the water. A squadron of Pelicans swoops along skimming inches above the contour of the water's surface, looking for their morning meal. Sooty Shearwaters tuck their wings and take the plunge, disappearing under the water only to bob to the surface, snacking on their booty. It is the same experience every day, and I never get tired of it. You just cannot beat mornings; it is the best time of the day.
Salinas is doing its best to get comfortable with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that has placed humans on notice with worldwide restrictions. People are beginning to arrive for visits, alerting the area that we might soon see an end to the pandemic-imposed hibernation. Businesses are finally starting to shake off the drowsiness and wash the sleep from their eyes, breathing a welcomed breath of life into this popular seaside city.
Salinas is beginning to look and sound like Salinas again with the Malecón inching its way back to life, and people are again walking and jogging along its oceanfront route. Restaurants, shops, and tiendas are slowly opening in our little community, and the residents are back to selling fruits, vegetables, Langostino, and Dorado along the thorofare. But it will take some time to assess the true cost this shutdown caused this community as we watch to see which businesses reopen and which ones have become a statistic—a casualty of an unexpected change.
Many of Salinas’ surrounding communities like La Libertad, Anconcito, Ballenita, and Santa Elena are writhing from the devastation this pandemic has caused. The loss of income, businesses, homes, and family members are wounds still too tender and recent to approach. As we all search for the comfort of normal, we must come to accept normal may not be normal anymore, and perhaps, just maybe, we should be awakened to the idea that change and uncertainty might be our new status quo.
Regardless of the opinions surrounding the actions taken to face this recent challenge, Salinas remains a welcome experience to behold. The sometimes vibrant and sometimes sleepy communities' rebirth is a testament to the people calling this seascape home. Ecuadorians and Gringos alike have teamed up to ensure Salinas never becomes a statistic of defeat. With masks in place, for the most part, residents and visitors approach each day with optimism and grit to be part of another successful day by the beach.
Having lived in Cuenca for seven years and now on la costa, I am still amazed at the people. Now, don’t get me wrong, Ecuador is a country with its share of problems: political, economic, and infrastructure, to name a few. But the resource so underestimated by the leadership is its people. Resilient, battered, and unappreciated, Ecuadorians do learn to adapt to change, sometimes unobtrusively and sometimes with extreme passion, but they adjust, nonetheless. Tragedy has a history of bringing out the best in people and exposing the worst. It is the best that has shined through the darkness, lighting the way for hope and faith.
I am hoping to cover some of the stories of people who have taken the word “extraordinary” and made it normal. People are helping people to rise above the challenge and teaching them to stare defeat in the eye. Difficult, selfless, and sometimes unappreciated acts of kindness and respect pull communities together in a way many cannot imagine. Experiencing the devastation faced by those with limited resources, who live day-to-day in the grip of uncertainty, bears homage to extraordinary people's commitment, ensuring we never forget any member of this community.
We see rebirth from many causes: war, famine, natural disasters, storms, and now from a pandemic and possible economic collapse. In the end, the actions of the people declare a rebirth a success or a failure. Rebirth: a metamorphosis, a renaissance, a revival. Regardless of how one defines it, we all have an opportunity to take part in this rebirth. Will it be a challenge? Yes, but not an impossible mission. Will there be sacrifices? Yes, but not the first or worst sacrifices we have faced. Will we be better off? Yes, because change, regardless of how much we abhor it, has the habit of occurring for a reason, resulting in newfound strengths previously unknown to us.
With the aid of its people, every community can experience a rebirth. It is up to all of us, Ecuadorians and Gringos, and no matter where in the world one may call home, to breathe life into our communities by uniting under a common cause: a cause epitomizing our humanity, and demonstrating our tenacity and perseverance to survive; a cause characterizing our defiance in the face of adversity, and exemplifying our chutzpah, showing we will not surrender our humanity. Humans encourage each other's courage not to give up—humans doing to become human beings.
The Rebirth of Communities
Copyright © 2020, Henry G. Noël