House Hunters International in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador: The Inside Info

Remember the pop-up videos on VH1?

I enjoyed those little factoids and tidbits because they revealed things you’d never know, even if you watched a hundred times. I’ve always enjoyed knowing the story behind the story. It gives you a whole new appreciation and perspective on what everyone else just wants you to see.

If you enjoy House Hunters International, and tune in to our show tonight, here are a few things you’d never know without reading this post.

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A final fun shot with our crew in Ecuador. That's a wrap!

A final fun shot with our crew in Ecuador. That’s a wrap!

*The entirety our show was filmed in chronological reverse. We filmed in Ecuador for three days, came home to the U.S., and filmed the “back story” 10 days later. Furthermore, the first scene we filmed in Ecuador was the “reveal” scene at our home, one of the last things you’ll see on the show. It went backwards from there.

*Two days before we began filming in Ecuador I walked outside to our backyard and smelled a terrible stench. It was as if something had died very nearby, times 10. Further investigation proved that our three-month old septic tank had backed up and was overflowing into the yard and toward the house. Panic ensued. We were unable to flush our toilets for about 36 hours, and some very unfortunate Ecuadorian workers had the job of pumping barrels of raw sewage from our septic tank 12 hours before the HGTV crew arrived. I felt so bad for them. Such is life in Ecuador.

*The “realtor” on our show is an American named Joel Lewis. With his red hair, fair skin and freckles, Joel is a gringo personified. He spends most of his time as an English teacher in nearby Jipijapa. We met only a few days before filming, became good friends, and have stayed in touch.

*One of the opening scenes where we “meet” Joel to provide our wish list was

Saying goodbye to Roberto and Jaha at Sanctuary Lodge on the day we returned to the U.S.

Saying goodbye to Roberto and Jaha at Sanctuary Lodge on the day we returned to the U.S.

filmed at Sanctuary Lodge, the very nicest hotel in Puerto Cayo. Sanctuary is owned by our friends Roberto Cristi and Jahaida Delgado, and their daughter Isabella. If you ever visit this part of the world, it’s highly recommended lodging.

*We had the same director, but two different film crews in Ecuador and the U.S. Our Memphis crew had experience filming “Great Balls of Fire,” and worked on several of the John Grisham films made in there.

*One of the homes we filmed in Ecuador was rented by an Australian couple and their three children who spent much of their time on mission for the Jehova’s Witness Church. They are lovely folks, and were actually in the house the whole time we filmed. As we moved from one room to another, so did they, just out of camera sight.

Doron Schlair of New York, takes time to let an Ecuadorian child look through his camera lens on our first day of filming. Doron is a real artist behind the camera.

Doron Schlair of New York, takes time to let an Ecuadorian child look through his camera lens on our first day of filming. Doron is a real artist behind the camera.

*I’ve always admired talented people who work behind the camera, and our chief videographer in Ecuador, Doron Schlair, is immensely talented. He’s filmed documentaries on Billy Joel, Arnold Schwarzenegger and climbed to the top of Mt. Ararat in search of Noah’s Ark. I sat down for a long conversation with Doron one night and we were discussing his work – the intricacies and interplay between light and dark. In his work all across the world, Doron told me at sunset, it gets darker in Ecuador faster than anywhere he’s been. I’d noticed the same thing, but never thought about it until he mentioned it. I suppose it’s because we’re on the equator and the earth’s bulge at the horizon is more prominent than other parts of the world. But that’s just a guess.

*You’ll see some scenes of us riding our blue scooter on the beach. During the filming I made a turn on some rocks, and Dana and I shifted our weight in different directions. The result was a pretty good tumble with the scooter landing on both of us. It caused quite the scene on the beach. I know the director thought we were going to sue for damages. We were just really embarrassed.

*You’ll see lots of Ecuadorian people in background shots. Every person you see signed a release for the show. The director was very strict about that.

*There’s a scene at the Agua Blanca mud bath where Dana and I jumped in the water for an impromptu swim race. As we jumped in I accidentally swallowed some of the water (which tastes just like sulfur) and nearly choked. I tried not to let the camera see it because we had to get the shot in one take.

*Speaking of takes, it’s interesting that our entire show was filmed with one camera. But each and every scene is filmed from three different angles. This obviously means each scene is filmed three times, and that’s why it takes 40 hours to film 22 minutes of television.

*In the hours before the crew arrived for Ecuador filming, we were working feverishly to clean the house. As we finished cleaning, and just as I was about to take my shower, on cue, the electricity went out, and stayed out. I filmed the entire first day without the benefit of a shower.

*To make the show interesting, the director always wants a little conflict going on between husband and wife. So for us, it was Dana’s focus on a beach house, versus my interest in staying on budget and living close to the locals.

I can hardly wait to watch the show and see which one we choose!

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House Hunters International in Ecuador: Answers to the Questions

(Blogger’s Note: The House Hunters International episode featuring our home buying experience in Ecuador will air this Thursday night at 9:30 Central on HGTV.)

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Setting up living quarters in another country isn’t something you do every day. Dana and I always dreamed about it, but until about 18 months ago never knew if things would come together in such a way that we could actually pull it off. So because written communication is what I do, and is actually the way I process things mentally, we decided from Day 1 to take the unique experience and chronicle much of it on my blog so family and friends could take part, too.

The whole ordeal has made for some interesting conversation, and we get lots of questions almost every day about all sorts of things. People want to know what it was like to do what we did, and what it was like to be on the show.

house hunters international in ecuador

Our “realtor,” Joel Lewis, getting wired for sound in one of the three homes we toured on the show. The mother and daughter in the left background are from Australia, and are the actual residents of this home.

These are some of the questions we’re often asked, and the answers we give:

Q: Is House Hunters International real? I’ve read it’s fake.

A: The short answer is this: It’s television. HHI is a reality show, and in my opinion, an entertaining and educational one. The television medium has lots of restrictions. It’s not easy to convey a couple’s home buying experience on another continent in 22 minutes. So for the sake of television, concessions are made. No one in their right mind flies into a new country, looks at three houses in a day and decides to buy one at the end of the day. Our actual experience in deciding to build a home in Ecuador was a 10-day process, and I would never recommend anyone move as fast as we did because that’s very fast. Still, the producers worked very hard to replicate our experience as best they could, and I think the show will be an accurate reflection of what it’s like to buy a home in Puerto Cayo. It glosses over a lot of the hard stuff, and our experience in building a home and acclimating to a new culture posed some real challenges, but that’s not what the show’s about. Is House Hunters International real? It’s more real than most of the television you probably watch.

Q: What did you enjoy most about being on the show?

A: Dana and I became fans of HHI during a formative time in our marriage. In 2009, the economy and a few bad decisions forced the closure of my publishing business and a career that I loved. For the first time in my life, I was uninspired, very uncertain about the future and pretty depressed. There were many nights when we’d watch the show, and for 30 minutes I’d be rescued from that depression. HHI actually inspired me to dream again, and ultimately took our life, and our marriage, in a direction I never imagined. The day we learned we’d been chosen for the show, it felt like a victory over something that had been a very hard fight. So being on the show was very much a celebration of that victory.

One of my best Ecuadorian friends named Duver, was a huge help to me when he helped get our yard in shape just before the HHI crew arrived.

One of my best Ecuadorian friends named Duver, was a huge help to me when he helped get our yard in shape just before the HHI crew arrived.

Q: Have you seen the show yet?

A: No. We will see if for the first time when it airs.

Q: What is life like in Ecuador?

A: That’s a lot like asking what life is like in the United States. It depends on where you live. The coastal region where we built our home is not a tourist or expat destination as you might imagine. Ecuador is a wonderfully diverse country and life can be radically different depending on your locale. The Ecuadorian coast is actually very rural, and has a relatively poor economy. Locals make their living fishing, farming or making crafts. The infrastructure (roads, utilities and other basic services) is in its infancy. We’ve driven lots of gravel roads, and became accustomed to very sporadic electric service. I think many times people believed we were sipping pina coladas by a pool every day, and nothing could be further from the truth. Latin America is not for everyone.

Q: So why would you want a home thousands of miles away in a place like that?

A: Many reasons. First of all, because it is the education of a lifetime. Learning to live a new way, and making friends in a different culture is riskiest, and most educational thing I’ve ever done. Dana and I are never more alive than when we are pushing our comfort zones in Ecuador. Secondly, it gives me an entirely different perspective on my writing, and our lives in general. And finally, even though the economy is still very much emerging and developing, we are going to see unbelievable opportunity on the Ecuadorian coast over the next 15 years. I want to see that, and be part of it.

Q: What do you do when you’re there?

A: Mostly, I write a lot and take a lot of photos. Travel and major changes of environment really inspire my writing. But when we’re there, the culture forces us to slow down a lot, and that’s another reason we enjoy it. We spend a lot of time visiting with local friends, sharing new experiences and we learn something new almost every day.

Q: How did you find a realtor?

A: We didn’t. There are some people who call themselves realtors in Ecuador, but most have no formal training or licensing credentials, and a good number of them are fairly corrupt. Not all, just most. Dana and I conducted our search on our own which made the learning curve even higher.

One thing we learned in South America, was not to freak out over creatures like this monster I found on our front porch. Those clampers could take a finger off.

One thing we learned in South America, was not to freak out over creatures like this monster I found on our front porch. Those clampers could take a finger off.

Q: Is it safe in Ecuador?

A: In the US, I think we unfortunately stereotype Latin America to be unsafe. I’ve never been fearful in Ecuador, but I also always use a lot of common sense, and am very respectful of the culture. Any international traveler I’ve ever visited with said the media almost always paints a darker picture than that which really exists, and that’s true all over the world. Ecuador is quite safe.

Q: Biggest challenges?

A: (1) Driving in the big cities is madness. Crazy madness. If you don’t have nerves of steel, avoid it. (2) Always remembering that even though I’m a property owner there, I’m still a guest. This very much requires us to forget everything we think we know about right and wrong, take one day at a time, lose our judgmental nature, and laugh a lot. (3) Knowing that when someone in Ecuador says that something conforms to US standards, it will never be true. Only two or three people in Ecuador even know what US standards (especially in construction) mean. That’s partly joke, mostly truth.

Q: Biggest perk?

A: Gas prices regulated by the government at $1.48 per gallon. No contest.

Q: Do you have any regrets?

A: I think anyone who builds a home from the ground up knows what it is to have hindsight. We definitely made some mistakes. But do I regret even the most difficult experiences we had? No way. And I’m eager to see what future adventures are in store.

Q: What advice to you have for other people who are even remotely considering doing what you did?

A: (1) Do a lot of research, but understand that no amount of research can substitute an exploratory trip to wherever you may be considering. (2) It’s very easy to get into a mindset that you could never do something like this. Lose that mindset. Barriers are easier to overcome than you think. (3) If you are close to buying a new house in a foreign country, never, never, never close the deal until you personally witness how the property reacts to a heavy rain. Oh, the humanity.

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Linda Benya “Breathes in Freedom” on House Hunters International

(Blogger’s Note: This is the second in a series of stories about the experience Dana and I had filming with HGTV’s House Hunters International. The show, depicting our experience of buying a second home in Ecuador, should air in late August or early September. Here’s the link to the first post in the series: http://wp.me/p2bjEC-1bh)

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Linda Benya, (second from right, and on my right) was the director for our upcoming HHI episode. This is a shot of Dana and me with the entire crew.

Linda Benya, (second from right, and on my right) was the director for our upcoming HHI episode. This is a shot of Dana and me with the entire crew.

Linda Benya’s spent her entire career telling stories. And for her, telling stories about others people’s’ adventures around the world keeps life exciting, and fulfills a real artistic talent.

And it doesn’t hurt that she’s always been a big fan of House Hunters International, a show for which she directs more than 20 episodes a year.

“Even as a director, I still approach the show as a fan. I think I’ve always had a real  wander lust for meeting people and going places in other countries and learning just what you can get for your money,” Linda said. “I love going into people’s homes and seeing how they live. And that’s the appeal for everyone who enjoys the show, I think.”

A graduate of New York University Film School, Linda worked both on and off camera early in her career. She worked on Animal Planet’sDogs 101,” “Cats 101,” and “Pets 101,” as well as “Selling New York” and “The Martha Stewart Show.”

She’s produced shows with the likes of Dancing with the Stars’ Tom Bergeron and hosted on camera with Jeff Probst.

house hunters international steve and dana watkins

Breaking for a keepsake photo with Linda during the “packing scene” in our bedroom in Jonesboro.

It was at the conclusion of filming a “Dogs 101” episode that she struck up a conversation with a videographer who mentioned he was flying to Columbia on assignment the next day.

“I asked him what he was up to and he said he was heading out for a shoot with House Hunters International. I told him I loved that show, and he said I’d be great.”

Even so, her career went on and Linda said there was a time when she spent six consecutive months working an “office job” for “Selling New York.” For someone like Linda, six months in an office is a long time.

“After those six months, I looked at myself in the mirror one day and said, ‘I can’t breathe.’ I’ve got to get back out into the field.”

The rest was history, and that moment led her to a steady opportunity with House Hunters.

For Linda, directing House Hunters International is a job that fits her professional talents, creative personality, and her interests in pushing her own comfort zones.

“There are a ton of responsibilities with this. You fly into a country where you’ve never been, meet up with some freelance assistants you’ve probably never met and you don’t know the culture. You hit the ground running and are required to keep an American schedule in a different culture and that almost never works,” she explained. “And it’s your job to be the creative manager in capturing all this reality.

“It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s never boring.”

I explained to Linda countless times that the venti latte was to be in my dressing room at 7:09 sharp every morning! Honestly, she was such a great sport to allow us to have so much fun.

I explained to Linda countless times that the venti latte was to be in my dressing room at 7:09 sharp every morning! Honestly, she was such a great sport to allow us to have so much fun.

One of the most challenging aspects of filming a show like House Hunters International is that the scenes aren’t filmed consecutively in the sequence that television viewers may see. It’s all about logistics, efficiency and a clock that never stops ticking.

“We’re weaving in and out of a story and really flying by the seat of our pants, but it’s the challenge that makes it fun. I love the challenge that we inevitably have, and I love working with a team.”

Linda uses both her technical and artistic sensibilities in laying the groundwork for capturing hours of video to hand over to producers who create this relatively brief show.

“This doesn’t just happen. There’s a lot of time and work that goes into a 22-minute show. On TV it looks like we just stopped by and captured a moment of your life, and that’s exactly the way we want it to look, but in reality, there’s a ton of work that goes into one of these shows,” Linda said.

Pulling the whole thing off is an art form, she said, and requires huge attention to detail.

“You have to be keenly aware of everything that’s happening around you, and you have to know how to key in on what makes it special.” But she’s also very much a manager of personalities. “You have to sincerely like people, and there has to be a genuine curiosity somewhere inside of you. It helps a lot if you get excited about learning and discovering new things.”

As director for the show, she’s required to be a subtle micro manager of details without getting in the way of the story.

“My job is to make sure we capture moments. We don’t make those moments you see on television. We simply capture those moments, and if we do it well, it’s a really entertaining show.

“I’m the band leader and I set the tone. I always tell myself, never to let anyone see me sweat. It’s about being decisive, firm and never letting anyone see whatever internal struggle you may be dealing with in the moment. Then at the same time you balance all that with letting the story play out. Gut instincts are important, and you have to know when one thing is less important than another. The work in putting a show like this together is a constant struggle and decision-making process about what’s most important, and how can I accomplish all I need to get done within all the challenging parameters that we’re working within.”

In the last year, Linda’s directed more than 20 shows with four days of filming each show. She’s been in Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Argentina, Sweden, France, Germany, Malaysia and Mexico.

She said she finds some common characteristics among participants who go on the show.

“Everyone has a different reason for why they set up shop in a different country, but I think more than anything, they all have a sense of adventure. Whether it works out or not, you definitely can’t do something like the people do on the show without having a real sense of adventure and learning.”

Just the same, Linda said House Hunters has a common appeal to those who enjoy watching.

“I think people love the show, because to some extent we all have a voyeurist nature. It appeals to a sense of adventure and education, especially about how people live in other places. It gives you a realistic look into the lives of people who are choosing to live differently, and that appeals to a lot of us.”

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House Hunters International: How We Got On

(Blogger‘s Note: For four days during late March and early April, Dana and I filmed with House Hunters International, for an episode that’s coming up on HGTV in a few weeks. Until then, I’m writing an occasional blog post about the experience. This is the first in the series.)

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It was December 21 last year. After building a house in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador for nine months (with 100% of the communications via internet) Dana and I got on a plane, beside ourselves with excitement to fly way South, and spend just more than three months in our new far-away, get-away. Truth is, we really didn’t even know if we’d come back.

In my 47 years it’s among the most exciting adventures I’ve taken.

Three days after our Memphis departure, we arrived, just as the workers were putting the finishing touches on our Casa Azul. That’s actually what everyone calls our house, and it’s even our “official” address, as much as addresses exist in Puerto Cayo.

After nine long months, it seemed, in the blink of an eye, we were home owners in Latin America. Crazy stuff for a couple of country kids from Arkansas.

Dana, during a filming break at the Agua Blanca mud bath. This is a scene you'll see on House Hunters.

Dana, during a filming break at the Agua Blanca mud bath. This is a scene you’ll see on House Hunters.

During the next few weeks, we learned about things like cisterns, suicide showers, scorpions, freshly caught langostinos , driving where driving rules don’t exist, and we “unlearned” everything we thought we ever knew, embracing life in a new culture. I hate the cliche’, but it’s true. Our lives have never been, and will never again, be the same.

Puerto Cayo (key port), is a small and beautiful, but remote village on Ecuador’s central Pacific coast. The town has about 4,000 people with maybe 100 “foreign” expats.

Its remote proximity and small size add to the irony that two couples who ultimately became our friends, had previously done their own shows with House Hunters International. When the filming company that produces the show contacted them about anyone else they knew who might be interested, they recommended us, and the lines of communication quickly opened.

A few days later, we found ourselves Skyping several times zones away with a casting director in London, where it really all begins.

The phone call was surreal. There had been days when things (about life in general) weren’t so hopeful. Just a few years earlier we’d invested all we had in our own business – dynamic publishing company – that was born just about the time the economy crashed. I closed its doors in less than a year, and spent a long time wondering what was next. It was during this uncertain time that we became HHI fans and spent many nights dreaming the craziest of dreams despite the circumstances.  It was crazy, irrational and unrealistic that we would dream such dreams. But I’m oh, so glad we did. I’m glad we never gave up on dreaming.

House Hunters International is one of those shows that appeals to both men

Me, getting a much needed and first haircut in Latin America. My barber, Antonio, shows the approval of his handiwork.

Me, getting a much needed and first haircut in Latin America. My barber, Antonio, shows the approval of his handiwork.

and women – especially couples who love adventure and don’t mind stepping out of their comfort zones. And there are many things about buying a house in a far-away country that will NOT feel comfortable.

For 45 minutes on the Skype call we shared our story about all the things that had drawn us to Ecuador … childhood dreams, a crazy sense of shared adventure, and a touch of rebellion, all carefully mixed together with a pinch of mid-life crisis … and I knew the conversation was going well. At the call’s conclusion, casting director Michelle James said she’d like to move the process to the next step, and asked us to produce our own three-minute casting video about us and our lives in Puerto Cayo.

I told her it would be ready in seven days.

I couldn’t believe we were really, seriously talking to the people who could actually make it happen, and that they wanted to continue a conversation with us.

Fortunately, Dana had enough foresight early on to bring a tripod on our trip. Over the next three to four days we filmed in our house, on the beach, shopping in town and any number of places that would help convey life in Puerto Cayo. I was the creative director and logistics guy. Dana was executive producer. Three minutes quickly became seven, and we let the length stand, uploaded it to Vimeo and waited. We thought it would be three to four weeks before we heard a peep from them, if we heard back at all.

Four days later, Michelle responded, said the producers loved it, and invited us to work with them.  I’ll never forget telling Dana we were going to be on the show.

In life’s grand scheme it’s pretty insignificant, but it felt wonderfully redemptive.

And filming the show was … so … much … fun.

(Future stories in the series: A feature story on our director, Linda Benya, who talks about why she loves HHI; another profile on our videographer, Doron Schlair, who’s filmed just about every star you can imagine; a behind-the-scenes look at some things that happened during our filming that you’ll likely never see on TV; HHI: is it real or is it fake, you tell me; and what it’s really like to live in Ecuador.)

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House Hunters International: Our “Tryout” Story

In one form or another, I’ve worked in mass communications my entire life – and 99 percent of that as a print journalist.

Never, I repeat, never, did I have the ambition to work for a single, solitary moment in broadcast journalism, especially television.

At best, I’ve always had a face much better suited to radio.

So there’s a quirky irony that for the next three days Dana and I will work withhouse hunters international a film crew from New York to produce an  upcoming 30-minute episode of House Hunters International set to air on HGTV this fall.

Here’s the short story of how it happened.

On December 21, 2012, we left Jonesboro, AR bound for Puerto Cayo, Ecuador, in search of an adventure we’d remember a lifetime. We were looking to put down some roots here on a part-time basis that would allow us to pursue a different kind of lifestyle several months out of the year. One where, above all things, we could immerse ourselves in a different culture, broaden our horizons a bit, and live out a life on mission in a place where circumstances don’t exactly hand you a dozen roses each and every day.

We’ve been here almost 100 days now.

Steve and Dana WatkinsBut a month or so into our stay, I received an email from a friend whose family was featured on House Hunters International about six months ago. HGTV was looking for new families interested in filming, and was soliciting the help of their alumni.

So she forwarded the information to me, including a casting contact based London and said we should drop her a line if we were interested.

For years, Dana and I had spent time watching the show, living vicariously through the featured couples who pursued crazy dreams in far away places. We didn’t even think twice about giving it a go.

So early that evening I fired off an email to an HHI casting director, told her our situation, background and a few other details, pretty sure I’d never hear another word. Early the next morning my inbox contained a reply that said, “Let’s talk.”

Honestly, that was pretty exciting.

A few days later, we orchestrated a Skype session from our home base in Puerto Cayo to Michelle James in London. We discussed our goals, our interests, our cultural philosophies, etc. Mostly, I’m pretty sure she just wanted to get a good look at us. By the end of the conversation, Michelle said she’d like to move forward with our story, but we’d need to produce our own four-minute “casting video” to give the producers better insight into our personalities.

We told her we’d have it ready in a week.

Did I mention I am a print journalist?

The next day, Dana and I sat down and drafted a rough film script outlining where we’d film ourselves and doing what exactly…

We filmed ourselves from the top of Puerto Cayo’s overlook, where we’d first seen this picturesque fishing village and its beautiful coast. Took shots on the beach riding our moto-scooter. Shopping and relaxing in Puerto Lopez, and several other special locations. Going into the self-made casting video, the producers told us they really wanted us to express our personalities and give them a glimpse of what we are really like.

We’re not shy. So we let it all hang out and went for broke.

Dana downloaded it all to Vimeo and the producers said we’d hear back in a few weeks. I put it all out of mind, and life went on.

Just a few days later I had an inbox email from London.

I’m quite sure they say this to everyone they bring on, but nevertheless, Michelle said the producers loved our story, and they invited us to come on the show.

Dana was cooking breakfast when I looked up from my computer to tell her.

“House Hunters wants us on the show,” I said.

“What?!” … was her reply … and I think the eggs and toast burned at this point.

Dozens of Skype sessions and a plethora of emails later, we have our casting call today and filming begins at sun up tomorrow. Ten to 12 hours a day for the next three days, and a full day of filming back home in Arkansas on April 4.

The show should air in late July or early August.

Fun times.

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The Scarboroughs on House Hunters International: Atlanta-Cuenca-Puerto Cayo

(Blogger‘s Note: Our friends, Gary and April Scarborough were recently featured on House Hunters International. The show chronicled their move from Atlanta to Cuenca to an ultimate destination of Puerto Cayo, Ecuador, where the Scarboroughs are now developing a beachfront home community called www.laspalmasecuador.com. For more information about this project email me at steve@ecuadorguidedtours.com or april@laspalmasecuador.com)

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The video clip below is a paid advertisement.

Morning Update – Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Published today by friends at http://www.southofzero.com

South of Zero

WHAT!!! I apologize to SOZ readers, the House Hunters International episode that aired tonight was not about Ecuador. I’m just as disappointed as you are. We’ll put out an alert when it eventually airs.

TV ALERT – The latest episode of House Hunters International featuring Ecuador premieres tonight on HGTV! This time the crew travels to Puerto Cayo, a quaint fishing village and popular surfing spot located next to Parque Nacional Machalilla. Like many expats that come to Ecuador, Gary and April Scarborough first settled in Cuenca, but after a couple of years decided they wanted to be a little closer to the lifestyle of the local culture. The kids just wanted to live on the beach. Gary, who once owned a construction company in Atlanta, saw an opportunity to contribute to the developing community of Las Palmas. They spent several days filming background in Cuenca and their search…

View original post 85 more words

Check Out House Hunters International – Tonight!

house hunters international in puerto cayo

Our friends Gary and April Scarborough on House Hunters International tonight!

Just a reminder to anyone who enjoys House Hunter’s International, or who’s dreamed about a beautiful home on the beach – check out tonight’s show featuring Gary and April Scarborough, two friends we made during a visit to Puerto Cayo, Ecuador last May.

The storyline: Natives of Atlanta, the Scarboroughs owned two thriving businesses in 2008 – a home construction company, and an electrical company. When the economy crashed, they did extensive research on “cheap places to live,” and were consistently pointed in the direction of Cuenca, Ecuador.

Gary, April, and their children, Peyton and Carson, packed up their two dogs and 22 suitcases and headed for a new life in Cuenca. When Gary received the opportunity to build a beachside community in Puerto Cayo, on Ecuador’s Pacific coast, they moved once again to the quaint fishing village of Puerto Cayo.

They live there today, and the development of www.laspalmasecuador is experiencing great success as a first-class expatriate community.

Dana and I know the Scarboroughs and count them as friends and partners, as they are now overseeing the construction of a home we are building in Puerto Cayo. We were sold from Day One.

gary april scarborough

The spectacular view from the Scarborough’s home in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador.

Check it out tonight at 9:30 CST on HGTV … and if you have further questions about life at Las Palmas please contact gary@laspalmasecuador.com or april@laspalmasecuador.com.

You can find a story I previously wrote about the Scarborough’s HHI behind-the-scenes experience here: http://wp.me/p2bjEC-Lq

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I’m Augustus McCrae, Texas Ranger: I Called it First.

(Blogger’s Note: Currently in the midst of a six-part series on How to Write Copy that Kills, I’ve taken a break over the last few days to write about other opportunities that have popped up on the radar screen. I’ll return to the series tomorrow, but it’s just another good lesson that there are no rules when it comes to writing.)

On a recent weekend trip to Mountain View, Arkansas, we came across this sign, made famous in Lonesome Dove. I love this photo of Brady and me, taken by my wife, Dana.

When we were elementary school kids, we were children of the country and had to get imaginative when it came to having fun. Often during recess we’d pretend to be the favorite characters from the popular sitcoms of the day. I remember around 1977, one of our favorites was Happy Days.

My best friend then, and now, Brady Cornish, was drawn to the character of Arthur Fonzerelli. Brady went on to become a high school golf medalist, and on the course, he was The Fonz. To this day for many, he’s still The Fonz.

Fast forward 25 years.

When Larry McMurtry‘s best-selling novel, Lonesome Dove, was made into a 1989 made-for-television mini-series, it immediately became my favorite movie of all time. It’s still my favorite today.

And there’s a good reason.

Lonesome Dove was a brilliantly written book, and the mini-series lived up to McMurtry’s novel. It’s a story of adventure, love, life, death, justice, mercy, but most of all – friendship – between the two unlikeliest of men.

Robert Duvall portrays Texas Ranger Captain Augustus McCrae, a man full of life, rough, but tender-hearted. He lived life in the moment and to the fullest.

Tommy Lee Jones portrays Texas Ranger Captain Woodrow F. Call, a no-nonsense quiet man, visionary, loyal, focused and business-minded. Easy-going, yet not a man you want to cross.

The film is special to me, because it reminds me of the friendship I have with Brady. We are different, he and I, but there’s something that holds us together like glue, and the Gus-Woodrow friendship,  parallels the relationship we have.

Brady’s never seen Lonesome Dove.

After a time of separation, our friendship was re-kindled in January of this year at the death of my father. Other than my wife and mom, he was the one man I needed by my side to get through a difficult time. At the funeral, he sat next to me as my brother.

Shortly thereafter, I gave Brady a copy of Lonesome Dove. I wanted him to watch it and see if he recognized the friendship between Gus and Woodrow as being the same as ours.

He’s saving the six-hour video for a long snow day at home and that’s fine by me.

The scenes throughout remind me of us. There’s the one where Woodrow beats the living daylights out of a Union soldier who has just horsewhipped a young boy in an attempt to requisition his horse for the army. Woodrow wouldn’t stand for abuse and neither does Brady. The end of the scene has Gus pulling  Woodrow off the soldier just before he kills him, then Woodrow calmly says: “…never could stand rude behavior in a man. Won’t tolerate it.” That’s my friend.

Most fans would acknowledge the most moving scene in the movie at Gus’s death, where the two friends have their last conversation. Gus makes an unbelievable request of Woodrow to give him one final adventure. Even at his demise, Gus was thinking of his friend. It’s odd, I know, but I’ve imagined that conversation between Brady and me at the end of our days. Carrying out the request, Woodrow carries McCrae’s body 3,000 miles to bury him at the place of his desire. I know if I asked my friend, he would do the same for me. For many reasons, I tear up each and every time I view this video.

Truth is, either one of us could be Gus or Woodrow. But I’m Gus. I called it first!

It’s silly for a 46-year-old man to see himself in a movie. I guess it’s the kind of thing ole’ Gus would have done.

Uva Uvam Vivendo Varia Fit!

For a related post on my sidebar blog see: http://wp.me/p2wzTk-25

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