Vendors Part 6: Freme our Water Man

Almost every day I hear the blast of a horn and know that it is Freme our water man delivering those 5 gallon blue bottles of drinking water to our neighborhood.

IMG_2995He sells water for $1 a bottle and brings it right into my kitchen for me. He always has a smile and a kind word. He is more than happy to take a few fallen guayaba (guava) from my yard for juice and I am more than happy for him to take them.

Yet one more wonderful vendor who helps make our neighborhood a very special place.

Adolfo our Tank Water Man

Municipal water is not always running for us here in Barrio Norte. So when the cistern starts to get low we need to call our trusty water man Adolfo.  In the past I have had our neighbor Paola call on my behalf but the past several months I have become braver and have started to call myself.  Speaking to someone in childlike Spanish who is standing in front of you is much easier than trying to talk on the phone.  But Adolfo is a kind and gentle man and makes it very easy for me to communicate with him. He recognizes my voice now and with very little words says he will be here in one hour.  And guess what?  He is here in one hour.

IMG_2948FYI our cistern is several thousand gallons and a tank truck fills it up for $15.  This will last us about 15 days depending upon how much watering in the garden I do. Municipal water is much cheaper at .80 cents per meter of water but like I said it is not always running.


This Morning on the Beach in San Clemente, EC

It was a perfect morning, cool breeze, bright sun and a high tide with great splashing waves. A thermos of coffee, Joe’s tea and our breakfast of encebollado, what more could we ask for.  God has blessed us and continues to do so.

We have had some pretty hot days the past few months, so this was a spectacular start to our day.


Fire Hydrant in San Clemente ???

I walked by this and said what? A fire hydrant in San Clemente?  I thought I was seeing things so decided to let you all see it for yourselves.

San Clemente 9.20.2014 024Just not sure why there would be a fire hydrant. San Clemente only has water service a few days a week, this fills our cisterns and is then turned off. Do you think we will be getting water service full-time?


Nuestros Perros de la Calle

There are three dogs that protect the street we live on, The alpha dog Café is not as sociable as the other two. Beethoven and Baby Dog (my name for him as he has none that I know of) will sometimes come with me on my walks. That can be a good or bad thing depending upon the other dogs that are out and about.

This picture was taken from an empty lot near our home that overlooks the water. Joe and I bring our coffee many mornings and sit here just enjoying the water. This day the fishermen were dragging in their nets and two of our street dogs were very interested in the catch – or could it have been the birds?

San Clemente 10.31.2013 031They are working dogs and do an excellent job of informing all the neighborhood if something is not right. I did find that they do not like yellow taxis, have a true hatred for certain cars or maybe a driver who is driving too fast. Caution is necessary as they are not friendly. A friend from San Jacinto dropped by to visit one day while Baby Dog was sitting at our gate – Ken went to pet the dog and was snapped at. Thank goodness his reaction was fast or he would have gotten bit.  Because we have been feeding them for some time these two are very friendly towards both Joe and I. As soon as they realize it is us walking the street or disembarking the dreaded yellow taxi, they stop their barking and go about their business. It is good to be accepted!


While living in Panama, I was given a gift of Kefir Grains. I did not know anything about kefir at the time but decided to try it. What a wonderful yogurt type drink it makes. I think it is more flavorful than anything you buy in the store. First I guess I need to explain that kefir is a probiotic beverage. I have purchased two types of grains: milk kefir grains and water kefir grains.The milk kefir grains can be used with cow milk, goat milk or coconut milk. The water kefir grains can be used with sugar-water, juice or coconut water but more on water kefir when I start working with that in a few weeks.

Kefir grains consist of bacteria and yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship. The term “kefir grains” describes the look of the culture only – it is not a grain at all.

San Clemente 8.18b.2013 002I purchased these grains from a company in the US and had a friend bring them with her when she visited the states last month. They come in a dehydrated state and need to be rehydrated with milk to work properly.

Kefir 8.11.2013 008 I have a supply of raw milk delivered to my door three times a week. For .60 cents I buy a quart of beautiful full fat milk that I have used for making puddings in the past. Now I am using it for my kefir. It will take up to 8 attempts to get my grains really producing. Right now I am only making one cup at a time to get the grains to multiply. Once they start to multiply I will have more grains than needed and will eventually be able to share with friends and neighbors.

Kefir 8.11.2013 011The result, using one cup of kefir with a half pint of fresh frozen strawberries, was two dessert dishes of almost soft-serve consistency. No sugar added just the fresh frozen berries with the tart kefir…it was a hit.

Water Pump (bomba)

One of the first things that we replaced in our house was the bomba. What came with the house was a concrete tank that was standing high above our cistern. It leaked, had pieces of concrete falling off it so Patricia and Fredy put in an electric pump system. Well actually Serrano put in the system, Patricia and Fredy purchased it.

They installed it in a small closet that they built on top of the cistern. It has worked perfectly since moving into the house. But…it does depend upon having electricity. For the past several days we have lost power every morning around 4am and it is not restored until mid morning. We can use the water but you should not use a great deal. For the past several days I have noticed that the pump would pump water for just a few seconds and then shut off, a few seconds later it would start up again. I know that that is not good. So I put a call into Patricia and later in the afternoon yesterday Serrano showed up to take care of the situation.

San Clemente 1.8.2013 006

He did something to turn off the pump under the grey cap on the top right hand side of the unit then he drained the tank by turning on our garden hose and pumped the water back into the cistern. Then he opened the valve at the bottom of the tank and attached a PVC pipe and drained the balance. I was just amazed at how much water was in that tank.

He closed everything back up and restarted the pump. It refilled and has been working properly since.

Obviously this is something that happens with an electric pump and having someone who knows how to handle this problem is invaluable. Thanks again Serrano, fine job!

Cistern 101

This is our first experience with a cistern and keeping it free of bacteria, mold and algae is a top priority. After living in the house across the street while ours was being remodeled we found that you needed to turn on the water and then be sure to turn off the water because the municipality only turns the water on a few times each week. Of course, we found out the hard way when we left it running and it overflowed all over the side yard wasting water. So when they were working on the house they put in an automatic shut off system like you would find in the back of a toilet. 

San Clemente 9.21a.2012 002

Now we asked around to find out what needed to be done to this water so that it would stay fresh. Most of what we heard was the addition of Clorox to the water but our friend Keith Daniels in Panama told us to get some copper wiring and add a few pounds of the stuff to the storage pit.

While Joe was taking down a gutter that had seen better days he found that it was hung with copper wire, he spend several hours stripping the coating and cleaning it up and then he added it to our cistern. One day last week while in San Jacinto we stopped in a small ferreteria there and asked if he had copper wire, he asked for what purpose and I told him to add to our cistern. He sells the wire by the meter (metro) of wire for .80 cents. We bought 10 meters.

San Clemente 12.18.2012 037

Joe stripped the plastic off and we tossed these cute curlie things into the cistern.

San Clemente 12.18.2012 039

It must be doing something because we had not needed to add Clorox to the tank in several months. You cannot drink this water even after the addition of the copper wire, it is used for bathing, laundry etc and we use 5 gal bottled water for cooking and drinking. Thanks Keith!


This article actually goes with yesterdays on washing your fruits and vegetables. Not everywhere you eat will the produce be cleaned correctly. Joe and I learned very early on in our adventure in Central American that no matter how hard you try to avoid it, one day you are going to eat something that is going to cause your intestinal tract to rebel. Joe researched the parasites, amoebas and other creepy crawlies or cooties as he calls them, that can invade your system and make your life miserable. Every three to six months both Joe and I take a series of medications to get rid of any critters that, even though you don’t feel bad, don’t have diarrhea or any other symptoms, may be multiplying in your system.

Now living in Ecuador we have found that the medications pictured below, taken over a three-day period eliminate these from our system. These are what Joe and I take and they can be purchased over the counter at any pharmacy.

We just take one of each every morning and evening for three days.  We switch off occasionally on the antibiotic so nothing gets used to it and each antibiotic kills different stuff. We use Flagyl instead of Bactrim Forte once in a while.

Lacteol fort is $7.95 for 12 capsules

Albendazol is $2.50 for 10 tablets

Bactrim Forte is $4.68 for 10 tablets

Joe always goes on-line and checks to see if there are any counter-indication with other medications he is taking.

The medical information on this website is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, express or implied. Check with your health care professional. 

Water Water Everywhere

This post will be a lesson in water systems here in San Clemente, San Jacinto and San Alejo. Because each area of the country is not the same I am going to describe what the water system is like here.

First everyone has a cistern. A cistern, for those who are cistern deprived, is a huge concrete box, this is where you store your water that comes from the municipality. Ours looks to be pretty big (8 feet x 10.5 feet by 5 feet deep or about 3100 gallons), but remember this house was a duplex with two bathrooms and 2 kitchens set up for two separate families so I assume they built it bigger because of that. When we purchased the house one of the things we requested of Patricia and Fredy was that the cistern be cleaned out and then refilled with fresh water. They went one step further and installed a system, similar to the one in the back of a toilet or maybe that is its main use, that would allow water to fill the cistern and shut-off automatically.

This is a blessing because we had no idea when we were living in the house across the street that we had to turn on and turn off the water to fill that cistern.  Serrano showed me how to turn it on but of course I forgot to turn it off and it overflowed. One of the neighbors saw it and turned off the water. I guess they must think we are pretty stupid but I had never seen a cistern before but yes I agree we were pretty stupid. But in our defense we are fast learners.

The thing is the water is only released from the municipality at certain times, in our brief experience it has been on Fridays or Saturdays. But that theory was shot to hell this past weekend when we had no water added to our cistern, but on Tuesday of this week I heard water flowing and this morning our neighbors water is running. So who knows, its like the garbage pick up, for the past two months it has been mostly Monday, Thursday and Saturday, last week they missed Saturday and picked up on Sunday. You just have to listen for the truck, the beep of his horn and after awhile you will know when to put your trash out.  Of course on Sunday mornings they don’t beep and you have to listen for their whistling. Sorry back to the water.

The office to pay the water bill is located in San Jacinto near to the church on the road going out-of-town. Do not go there at lunchtime because the young woman who accepts payments is on her lunch break from noon to at least 1:30pm. This is my excuse to get Joe to take me out for lunch at Copacabana one of my favorite lunch spots but that is for another post. Our cistern was almost empty and our first bill was a whopping $7.40 – this month our bill was $1.80.

I thought the water gauge was broken because it had not moved in over a month but we just don’t use that much water. So looking back at my $20 per month bills in Salinas and $8 to $9 a month bills in Playas either the water in San Clemente is cheaper or we had big leaks in both places. Water in the cistern is not meant for drinking but Joe has added a cup of clorox every other week. Our friend Keith from Panama has told us to purchase a pound or so of copper wire, not the fine wire, and drop it into the cistern.  This is his explanation for adding the wire.

“Basic idea about the copper is that light metals (alum,
copper, etc) are toxic to most single cell critters above a certain
level.  When they try to grow in the water they make the water slightly
acid which causes the metal to go into solution and kill them.
Usually the water is acid enough to put enough copper into the water
to keep them from forming but it takes a while for the copper/water
balance to stabilize and you might get a mild “first bloom” before
enough copper is released (or you could put a pint or so of vinegar in
the tank when you put in the copper).  Fine wire is better than big fat
wire by the way–if you use a lot of water–but both work.” By Keith Daniels

We have not found the wire we need but Joe continues to look and we are going to try Keith’s suggestion to keep our cistern in good shape.

The piped in water is of a different quality than from the water trucks. Our neighbor who lives directly in front of us is not hooked up to the municipal water system and when they are in town they receive their water from a water truck that delivers to their cistern. The piped in water is not drinkable but water truck water is so bad that if you add clorox to it the water turns yellow. Not so good for your laundry.