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We spent a good chunk of our last day in Ecuador packing. We did bring home some souvenirs for sure. It was a little stressful making sure everything could fit because we didn't want to purchase a duffle bag or another piece of luggage. We ended up just using our feed sack market bags. I'm really proud of us! 

After we packed up, we went out to lunch. Maeve ate so many french fries in Ecuador! For dessert, I ordered something traditional - sweet figs and cheese. It was good!

After lunch, we went to one of our favorite parks, but unfortunately the zipline was out of use. It was kind of disappointing. 

We went to some new friends' home for dinner. The kids got to help make empanadas. It was super fun. And then we went home. And now we are home. And Ecuador feels like a beautiful dream. 

We are in Salinas now. I felt a lot of sadness leaving Cuenca, and a lot of gratitude that we could spend 7 and a half weeks in such an amazing place and make some really great friends! Salinas is a small beach town. This year is a very dry year - it's only rained 3 times so says a local. Which is great because that means there aren't so many mosquitoes. The town is a little sleepy. April and May are the tail-end of the hot season and it's definitely a little cooler than when we were here in March which is totally fine with me! The temperature is still great for hanging out at the beach! We went to a little french restaurant one night for dinner and it was really good, really fresh. We were the only ones eating there and, with kids that's rather freeing. Maeve wants to hold both my hands and walk around all the time and what else can I do other than indulge her? We all know she's the boss. She also really needs to learn how to walk soon! So I gotta support her in that. Bonus, Maeve sat in her high chair for a little bit! Anyways, it was a fun night. 

We assumed that our drive to the coast would take us through Cajas National Park, but our route did not and by the time we realized, it was too late. I was sorely disappointed. I really wanted to hike in the park one more time for a longer distance. Sometimes I have a hard time shaking these kinds of disappointments off. Stopping at this restaurant helped me cheer up. What an experience! I mean, check out that bare lightbulb! We ate lunch cooked in a stove built into the hillside! Lunch was mote (a type of corn), potatoes and lamb or sheep. And it was delicious! Those pots in the stove (or oven?) are traditional clay pots. It just doesn't get much more rustic than this! And no surprise, the lady making and serving all the food was so sweet and kind. 

We spent a lovely Sunday afternoon with our Ecuador family this past weekend. Monica needed help with her english course and the kids played. Monica made us a dessert from guavaja, sugar and egg whites. I love tasting the different foods here! We just love this family so much! Really, really hoping it works out for them to visit us in the USA! Today, we were showing them photos and videos from winter. And photos of our house. Oddly enough, the one thing Monica wanted to take a picture of was of our pantry in our basement. It was really funny to tell them about the ready made chicken stock, etc. It's so different to them!! Conor was telling Monica and Gustavo about some of the food we make like bacon-wrapped dates. LOL!

I had to take another cooking class at La Warmi. We made locra de papa (a thick potato soup) that was amazing and I will be remaking it for my family this weekend. The simplest ingredients made into the best potato soup ever! For the next course, we made shrimp with garlic, hot peppers, and parsley with twice-fried plantains. So simple, fresh and amazing. And for dessert, a sweet quinoa made with spices (cinnamon, clove, sweet pepper), three types of milk (regular, evaporated and condensed), raisins, finished with lime zest. It was really good! 

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