Travel

Mompiche: A Foreign Perspective

MOMPICHE: UNA PERSPECTIVA EXTRANJERA

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Ver la entrevista con Roni debajo

Introduction:

“The first time I got off the bus and stepped onto the beach in Mompiche, I fell head over heels in love. I adored the spectacular beaches, the tranquil lifestyle, the soul-lifting music and dance, the amazing variety of fresh seafood, and the incredible range of tropical fruit. Since then, it’s been one hell of a journey.
The last five and a half years have been a period of learning, observing, absorbing and integration. When I first arrived in Mompiche, I wasn’t able to string together a coherent sentence in Spanish. Full immersion into a culture with people who didn’t speak a word of English quickly changed that; my desire to communicate was the only motivation required.
Imagine, if you will, a single foreign woman living in a country not her own, striving to live harmoniously with people who are so vastly different from her own tribe. The biggest struggle being a clash of cultures so profound that, at times, there has never been a way to build a bridge between them.
Acceptance of the casual ‘the way things are’ attitude on my side of the coin has sometimes been like swallowing a bucket of nails. It is in my nature to fight against injustice, to protect nature, to give a voice to the voiceless, and to encourage change for the better. Oftentimes, practising the ‘when in Rome’ adage can be an excruciating exercise. However, I came to Momiche to live in
peace and it has been vital to find a way to exist serenely among concepts and actions with which I don’t always agree. Endeavoring to seek out the positives and appreciate the beauty in a fishing village so remote it has barely made a spot on the map has been arduous, but worthwhile.”

– Roni Askey-Doran

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Mompiche: A Foreign Perspective is comprised of 125 photographs that journalist and photograher Roni Askey-Doran has taken over her five plus years of residency in the remote fishing village, depicting local people going about their daily lives, wildlife in peril, and the beautiful landscapes surrounding Mompiche, Ecuador. Each photograph is accompanied by a brief comment in English and Spanish.

Mompiche: Una Perspectiva Extranjera está compuesta por 125 fotografías que la periodista y photograher Roni Askey-Doran ha apoderado de sus cinco o más años de residencia en un remoto pueblo de pescadores, que representa la población local que van sobre sus vidas cotidianas, la vida silvestre en peligro, y los hermosos paisajes al rededor de Mompiche, Ecuador. Cada fotografía está acompañada de un breve comentario en Inglés y Español.

Reviews

John Bartley on December 14, 2014
“Mompiche is a photo essay that realistically depicts life in, what the author makes clear, is a fishing village. While the photography may not have the technical perfection of National Geographic, many of the chosen photos are amazing and wonderfully convey a sense of “real life” in Mompiche. Some of the pictures are funny, some serious, some sad, some whimsical, some joyful, but all present everyday life in the village. Some of the food-related pictures are mouth-watering; you can almost taste and smell those shrimp in the pan. The captions are in English and Spanish. Regardless of the language, the author is clearly insightful, caring about the environment and concerned about living things, whether plant, animal or human. Even the village philosophy is revealed – “no one thinks about tomorrow.”

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Interview with the author / Entrevista con la autora

What inspired your latest book?

It was all about sharing the beauty of the village, the beach, and the people. In the midst of so much struggle; climate change, rapid development, and destruction of the environment, I really wanted to focus on the positive aspects of Mompiche and show off its magnificent diversity.

¿Qué le inspiró su último libro?

Se trataba de compartir la belleza del pueblo, la playa y la gente. En medio de tanta lucha; el cambio climático, el desarrollo rápido, y la destrucción del medio ambiente, que realmente quería centrarme en los aspectos positivos de Mompiche y mostrar su magnífica diversidad.

Is this your first book of photography?

Yes. I’ve worked as a photographer in the past, but have never produced a book of my own works. It was a grand undertaking and I enjoyed every moment, from selecting the photos from thousands of pictures, to choosing each accompanying comment, and even designing the covers.

¿Esta es su primer libro de fotografía?

Sí. He trabajado como fotógrafo en el pasado, pero he nunca producido un libro de mi propio arte. Fue una gran compromiso y disfruté cada momento, desde la selección de las fotos de miles de imágenes, a la elección de cada comentario que acompaña las fotos, e incluso el diseño de las cubiertas.

How long have you worked on this project?

Five and a half years. The idea for this kind of book has been in my head for decades. Over time, I gathered photos from several aspects of life in Mompiche, until I felt there were enough good images depicting real life in the village to make an interesting book.

¿Cuánto tiempo llevas trabajando en este proyecto?

Cinco años y medio. La idea de este tipo de libro ha estado en mi cabeza hace décadas. Poco a poco, me reuní fotos de varios aspectos de la vida en Mompiche hasta que sentí que había suficientes buenos imágenes que representan la vida real en el pueblo para hacer un libro interesante.

You have traveled all over the world and can live anywhere you want, so why did you choose Mompiche to build a house?

Actually, it was such an easy choice, simple lifestyle, beautiful beach, fantastic foods, far away from the cities … I needed the tranquility. The climate is excellent too. The seafood …

Ha viajado por todo el mundo y puede vivir en cualquier lugar que desee, así que ¿por qué elegir Mompiche para construir una casa?

En realidad, se trataba de una opción tan fácil, sencillo estilo de vida, una hermosa playa, comidas fantásticas, muy lejos de las ciudades … necesitaba la tranquilidad. El clima es excelente también. Los mariscos … 

What would you say has been the greatest challenge of living in Mompiche?

Fitting in. Mostly because I refuse to be something I’m not. I don’t pretend to like things I don’t like. I don’t tolerate things that are intolerable: abuse, violence, injustice, the mindless destruction of nature, etc. I say what I think and many people don’t appreciate that. It seems to be culturally unacceptable to be truthful. Lately, I don’t say anything much. Mompiche leaves me kind of speechless sometimes.

¿Qué le dirías ha sido el desafío más grande de vivir en Mompiche?

La integración. Sobre todo porque me niego a ser algo que no soy. No pretendo que gustar las cosas que no me gustan. No tolero las cosas que son intolerables: el abuso, la violencia, la injusticia, la destrucción sin sentido de la naturaleza, etc. Yo digo lo que pienso y muchas personas no aprecian eso. Parece culturalmente inaceptable ser veraz. Últimamente, no digo nada. Mompiche me deja sin palabras a veces.

What is your favorite thing about the village?

There are so many magical places in and around Mompiche: the cemetery, Black Beach, the river, the mountains. I guess one of my favorite places is Las Lianas, a secret waterfall nearby the river. It’s so peaceful there.

¿Cuál es tu parte favorita del pueblo?

Hay tantos lugares maravillosos en y cerca de Mompiche: el cementerio, la Playa Negra, el río, las montañas. Creo que uno de mis lugares favoritos es Las Lianas, una cascada secreta por el río. Es tan tranquilo allí.

Is there anything about Mompiche you don’t like?

A few things. The mining. The destruction of the environment. The corruption. The lack of education has the most impact because it affects the way people think about everything else around them. If everyone in Mompiche had access to education (not only in schools), they wouldn’t blindly accept many of the things that are happening now.

¿Hay algo en Mompiche que no te gusta?

Algunas cosas. La minera. La destrucción del medio ambiente. La corrupción. La falta de educación tiene el mayor impacto porque afecta a la forma de pensar acerca de todo lo demás a su alrededor. Si todos en Mompiche tenía acceso a la educación (no sólo en las escuelas), no aceptarían ciegamente muchas de las cosas que están pasando ahora.

What’s the most unbelievable rumor ever spread around town about you?

Haha! That I fly around on a broom at night, wearing black vulture feathers, hunting for children to eat.

¿Cuál es el rumor más increíble jamás se extendió por el pueblo acerca de usted?

Jaja! Que vuelo en una escoba en la noche, vestida con las plumas de buitre, cazando niños para comer.

If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?

I would buy all 10 properties surrounding mine and fill the entire area with tropical fruit trees and organic gardens. I’d create a lush food forest and either exchange or sell organic vegetables cheaper than the trucks selling the produce that comes from the mountains.

Si pudieras volver atrás en el tiempo, ¿qué harías diferente?

Me gustaría comprar todas las 10 propiedades que rodean mi tierra y llenar todo el área con árboles frutales y jardines orgánicos. Me gustaría crear un bosque de alimentos y intercambiar o vender verduras orgánicas más baratos que los camionetas de verduras que vienen de las montañas.

Describe Mompiche in three words.

Beautiful. Remote. Complicated.

Describir Mompiche en tres palabras.

Hermoso. Remoto. Complicado.

You were a chef at one time in your life. What is your favorite traditional Ecuadorian food to cook?

There are a few favorites, but my number one is definitely Encocado: fresh wild fish, shrimp or lobster cooked in delicious fresh coconut sauce and seasoned with wild cilantro is the best food on the planet.

Usted fue una chef en un momento en la vida. ¿Cuál es la favorita comida Ecuatoriana tradicional para cocinar?

Hay algunos favoritos, pero mi número uno sin duda es Encocado. Pescado, langostinos o langostas recien salido del mar, cocida en una deliciosa salsa de coco fresco y sazonado con chillangua es la mejor comida en el planeta.

Which tropical fruit do you eat the most?

I eat a lot of bananas – a lot. I may have been a monkey in a previous life.

¿Qué fruta tropical comes más?

Yo como muchos de los bananos – muchos. Yo podría haber sido una mona en una vida anterior.

How do you view the traditional roles for men and women in Mompiche?

I’m only looking in from the outside, but what I see is too many women stuck in unhappy relationships. I feel that if they knew more about opportunities available for women, they could become more independent. So far, my experience of men in the village is that many of them are quite chauvinistic. Again, I believe education could change these attitudes. At the same time, it’s not my culture, and I can’t change it. It’s very difficult to accept, too.

¿Qué opinas de los roles tradicionales de hombres y mujeres en Mompiche?

Sólo estoy mirando desde el exterior, pero lo que veo es que demasiadas mujeres atrapadas en relaciones infelices. Siento que si sabían más sobre las oportunidades disponibles para las mujeres, podrían ser más independientes. Hasta ahora, mi experiencia de los hombres en el pueblo es que muchos de ellos son bastante machistas. Una vez más, creo que la educación puede cambiar estas actitudes. Al mismo tiempo, no es mi cultura, y yo no puedo cambiarla. Es muy difícil aceptarlo, también.

Are you married or involved with anyone in Mompiche?

Hell, no. Hahaha! I like my life just as it is.

¿Está usted casado o involucrados con cualquier persona en Mompiche?

Diablos, no. Jajaja! Me gusta mi vida tal como es.

Has Mompiche changed in the time you have lived there?

It has changed a great deal. When I arrived, there were palm trees on the beach. The road was just a dirt track. There was only one car in the village. The old bridge went over the river, that’s gone now. Electricity was unreliable – well, that hasn’t changed!

¿Ha cambiado Mompiche en el tiempo que lleva viviendo allí?

Ha cambiado mucho. Cuando llegué, había palmeras en la playa. La carretera era sólo un camino de tierra. Sólo había un carro en el pueblo. El viejo puente fue por encima del río, que se ha ido ahora. La electricidad era poco fiable – bueno, eso no ha cambiado!

If you could change one thing about the last five years, what would it be?

If I had the power to stop the sea from rising every year, and threatening the village, I would do that.

Si pudieras cambiar una sola cosa de los últimos cinco años, ¿qué sería?

Si tuviera el poder de detener el mar se eleve cada año, y amenazando el pueblo, me gustaría hacer eso.

Which do you read more, fiction or non-fiction?

Non-fiction. I like to read stories about events that have changed people’s lives.

¿Qué lees más, ficción o no-ficción?

No Ficción. Me gusta leer historias sobre los eventos que han cambiado la vida de las personas.

Do you believe there is intelligent life on earth?

Judging by the way that human beings are destroying mother earth faster than she can regenerate herself makes me think that no, there is no intelligent life on earth.

¿Cree usted que hay vida inteligente en la Tierra?

A juzgar por la forma en que los humanos están destruyendo la pachamama más rápido de lo que puede regenerarse a sí misma me hace pensar que no, no hay vida inteligente en la Tierra.

Tell us something about yourself that no one knows.

Sometimes, while I’m writing, I wear pyjamas all day and eat nothing but chili popcorn.

Cuéntanos algo sobre ti que nadie sabe.

A veces, mientras estoy escribiendo, me pongo el pijama todo el día y comer no más que canguil de ají.

What’s next for you?

I’m writing a book about life in Mompiche – non-fiction – called Ya Mismo: Thirty Minutes North of Zero. I’m not sure when it will be finished, it’s still a work in progress.

¿Qué sigue para ti?

Estoy escribiendo un libro sobre la vida en Mompiche – no ficción – llamado Ya Mismo: Treinta Minutos al Norte de Cero. No estoy seguro de cuándo va a estar terminado, sigue siendo un trabajo en progreso.

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Ya Mismo

After thirty years on the road, Roni Askey-Doran abandons her nomadic lifestyle to set up house in a remote coastal village in the middle of the world. A tiny fishermen’s haven nurtured by the Pacific Ocean, Mompiche barely earns its dot on the Ecuadorian map. Pursuing her dreams to design her own eco-friendly home and get her hands dirty in rich topsoil, Roni easily settles into the small community but quickly finds herself challenged on many levels.

In a culture far removed from her own she encounters some unique problems; from bathing in buckets of cold water every day to frequent power failures, doing battle with flesh-eating parasites to almost dying of dengue fever, and enduring the daily harassment about being unacceptably single to machete-wielding lunatics threatening to kill her. Not to mention the lack of chocolate and marshmallows in the store, the disappointment of discovering the once-a-week fruit and vege truck is out of garlic, and struggling to survive the leanest times on five dollars a week. As the bamboo shack rises from sticks in the mud to take shape and the first organic tomato plants begin to bear fruit, the neighbors begin a relentless campaign of terror to force out la gringa loca – even resorting to witchcraft.

Ya Mismo: Thirty Minutes North of Zero is a crazy story that unfolds from the moment Roni steps off the bus and follows a winding trail through a complex and mystifying culture that first embraces her but then chews her up and spits her out. Wheedling the recipes of traditional dishes from the local women, Roni learns to feed her soul as well as her body, losing over thirty kilos (70lb) along the way. She learns to dance like a Latina, speak like a Mompichera and celebrate the unique traditions of her adopted culture, simultaneously despairing the mindless exploitation and destruction of precious natural resources, and waging war on the army of land crabs that chomp on her vegetable seedlings.

Ya Mismo is a gritty rollercoaster of a tale about what can happen when you force a square peg into a round hole. This amazing story is still being written. Meanwhile, sit back and enjoy the infrequently updated blog: Ya Mismo: Thirty Minutes North Of Zero.

Status: Work in Progress.
Expected finish date: One of these days.

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Phew! Argh! Eeew!

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Phew! Argh! Eeew! Travel Tales I Never Told Mum is a fantastic collection of short travel tales so enthralling, so gripping, and so chilling to read that you’ll never leave home again.

When this intrepid young backpacker first embarked on her adventures around the globe, even her own wild imagination could not have conjured up some of the unforetold events that took place in her thirty-five years of travel.

Despite being hijacked in Bulgaria, nearly dying of Malaria in India, being imprisoned in Ecuador and almost blown to pieces in Turkey, Roni lived to tell her stories in the vivid and humorous style for which she is known. The only person she never told was her mother….

In the safety of your armchair, hang on for dear life as Roni takes you on a journey you will not soon forget.

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Reviews

Kiwiscantfly on 22 Oct 2017
Five stars
“Thoroughly enjoyable book. Not only does it transport you to the regions that many of us will never venture describing them beautifully, but regales with many a tale of adventures,  some wonderful, others frightening.”