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While some might enjoy constantly delegating, giving orders, and sitting around watching the work get done for them, it’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s even harder when you’re not able to show the people doing the work for you exactly how you’d like it done. Worse yet when you’re in pain. That’s the position I find myself in right now. So while I’m not 100% able to demonstrate how I’d like everything done in the chocolate shop, I’m taking advantage of this opportunity to teach and reteach with more details what I have taught in the past. Fortunately for me, I enjoy teaching, so I’m trying to grin and bear it while imparting some useful chocolate and culinary knowledge.

I can now better appreciate the frustration, pissy attitudes, and short-tempers of chefs who want things done right, want them done NOW, and want them done to some exacting standard that no one else can define and that can’t be explained in words. They want all these things because their job, their income, and often their business depends on numerous things being done right and regularly to specific, exacting standards. That’s where I stand right now. But I’m trying not to be the short-tempered management nightmare that so many chefs can be. I think it’s a good challenge, one that will help me grow and be a better teacher/chocolatier/instructor.

This broken leg thing has laid bare just how much the business depends on me, and while that’s a nice feeling, it would be even better to know that the business can run, in nearly its entirety, without me around at all. So that’s where I’m headed. I will still have to help prioritize, manage orders, and other administrative stuff, as well as set the pace in the kitchen. But when these 8 weeks or so are up, I expect to have increased my employee’s knowledge of chocolate making to the level that she can carry out 95% of the production without my assistance.

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We just returned earlier this week from Hakuna Matata-not the Disney movie nor the phrase meaning “No Problem,” but the name of the fabulous jungle lodge in the Amazon.

Just about 3 hours from Quito, the lodge is nicely removed from the main highway just after the town of Archidona, a few kilometers off the main road. You drive through some small native communities, cross a swinging bridge just wide enough for your vehicle over a big river,

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and end up at the lodge entrance. You hear nothing from the highway, so the only sounds to fill the nights are the bugs and the heavy rainfall if you’re lucky. We had both, and it was a great way to get a restful sleep.

Upon arriving that afternoon, we headed down to the “beach” on the shores of the Inchillaqui River that is on the extensive property.

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Rudy and Marcelina, the Belgian owners, are delightful people and have trained their local staff extremely well. The food is first class, mainly continental European style simple and classic dishes, executed well. We were served sliced pork loin in red wine marinade, scalloped potatoes, and a vegetable the first evening, simply prepared. They have smartly carved out small logs, placed gravel inside, added a wire grate on top, and use tealights inside to keep additional portions warm for you tableside. The portions are more than generous. Since it was our son Sebastian’s birthday and we had let them know ahead of time, they even baked a simple cake for him, and presented him with a t-shirt, wrapped in an orignal and elegant style inside a banana leaf, tied off and adorned with a  local flower. The staff is attentitve without being overbearing, and very polite.

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On the second day I unfortunately had an accident you can read about here, but the staff, my wife Maria, and my kids took good care of me. We were served first an appetizer of pork and chicken liver paté, with a cornichon, white onion, and orange marmelade, then for the main dish chicken in white wine sauce, pommes frites, and fresh carrots and peas on our second evening.

But before the fall, we visited the Ranarium, or frog area. It’s a small, screened in greenhouse with a variety of different types of poison frogs, which the guide will clearly tell you about and answer all your questions, including methods of use for the poison, mating habits, habitat, etc. The guides were very knowledgeable and friendly.

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Frogs in Hakuna Matata

While I recuperated from the fall, Maria and the kids took a one hour hike through the jungle with the guide. More on that adventure in the next post!

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Broke my leg. You read it, broke my leg. I was pondering another post but decided to move this one up a notch, since it’s what’s at the forefront of my mind today.

Earlier this week we headed out to Hakuna Matata for 3 days and two nights. It was my son’s eighth birthday and we wanted to take him to the jungle, and he wanted to go. And more importantly, experiences will far outlast any gift we could have given him.

On our second day there, I made a misstep in the jungle mud, just feet away from our room, slipped and twisted my ankle brutally, and fell. My first reaction was “something’s broken.” I couldn’t feel  a thing, there was no pain, just the clarity of being…there-sitting-on-the-jungle-floor. One of the guides came and helped me up and my wife came immediately, but I couldn’t use my right leg. He helped me over to our room. As Maria, my wife, was opening the door and I was standing with an increasing fog around me, things just went black. It was only for a second or two, but before I knew it I was sitting on the ground, again. Maria and the guide got me into the room and onto the bed, and then the real pain started. It was the closest thing to shock I’ve experienced. Shivers and shakes, cold, trouble breathing normally, it lasted a good 30 minutes. By the hour, the ibuprofen had kicked in and the pain was bad, but not too bad.

The good people at the lodge,, which I’ll write about later, and my wife Maria, helped me out with anything I needed and two of the guides even schlepped me down to the restaurant area in the afternoon. I spent the rest of  it in recovery mode and stayed through dinner. During my wait, a doctor from Tena, the nearest town, came out to see me, gave me an analgesic, and thought it was probably just a major sprain. Well, I wasn’t so lucky.

We drove back to Quito the following day, and I had an x-ray this morning. Some minor fractures in the tibia and a fracture in the fibula, so I’ll be having a screw put in tomorrow morning. If there’s on thing I can’t complain about, it’s the lack of bureaucracy in medicine here. I got an x-ray of my ankle in the morning without a Dr. ordering it, saw the Dr. 30 minutes later. He ordered another x-ray of another part of my leg, which I had done in the next two hours,  and I saw the Dr. again at 4 when he read the 2nd x-ray . He said he could operate tonight or tomorrow, so tomorrow at 3 they’ll do the outpatient surgery. Talk about a lack of hoops to jump through!

Hopefully I’ll be patched up tomorrow and then on the 6 weeks to recovery with a cast. Meanwhile, I will work on the next post about Hakuna Matata Lodge, a great place to visit in the Amazon!

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New Year’s 2011, a set on Flickr.

It´s that time of year again in Ecuador, when the effigies of all the year´s characters, real or not, are created out of papier mache to be sold to the public and burned at midnight tonight. As you can see from the photos, there is not a lot of copyright protection going on. This (the lack of copyright protection) and the making of the effigies is a long-standing tradition in Ecuador, a symbolic way of putting the last year’s events behind and ringing in the New Year. I still haven’t found out the history behind how the male tradition of dressing up as a female widow and asking for money on the streets came about, but you’ll see many men all over Quito on street corners in transvestite gear saying “adios” to the death of the past year, often as a mourning widow, and begging for change!

We needed some lemons today. You can get lots of produce here at streetlights, especially fruit. The vendors price everything at $1 for a totally frictionless and change free transaction-it´s usually a very fair, if not better price, than what you´ll get anywhere else. Here´s what we got:

$1 Worth of Lemons

32 Lemons for $1

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Welcome to Destination Ecuador!

Welcome to Destination Ecuador! My family and I have been living in Ecuador for the last four and a half years. We’ve dealt with the worst kinds of red-tape, searched out or ended up making hard-to-find ingredients ourselves, imported equipment for making chocolate confections, learned the import-export business...Continue >>


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