What I’ve been up to

All good storytellers know to start at the beginning and go from there. But covering the 7-year gap since my last blogging activity and for a few years before that my postings were so occasional as to constitute fruitless attempts to resuscitate the site or fake news as a sign of life to prevent the blog-masters at Harvard from pulling the plug on Dowbrigade once and for all. A lot has changed since then, in the internal and external realities, but rather than go back a decade, let us go back just a year, to the beginning of a new cycle.

For some time, the main literary light in the Dowbrigade household was our better half, Norma Yvonne, who recently published “Lexico Manaba”, a compendium of words and expressions unique to Manabi, the Ecuadorian province in which we have settled down. She now working on a second edition as well as a book of memoirs and travelogs. One of the things we have in common, along with reading books and writing, was starting the day with the local daily, in our current case El Diario from Portoviejo, the provincial capital. Of course, we also subscribe digitally to the NY Times and the Boston Globe, but there is no better way to take the pulse of a community, feel its history and culture, its fears and hopes, its local secrets and bargains, than the daily newspaper.

Now, unlike yours truly, Norma is a perfectionist and always helpful with her ability to catch and point out errors.  So, when her list of typos, grammar lapses and content suggestions grew to multiple pages, she called and made an appointment to talk to the the owner/publisher of both El Diario (weekday run of 140,000) and La Marea here in Manta (110,000). She asked me to come with, for moral support and because sometimes she gets tounge-tied when put on the spot, whereas the Dowbrigade, egotist that he is, blooms in the spotlight, at least in his own mind.  And so it was, that during a fascinating conversation during which my long and spotty jpurnalistic history since starting as a copy boy at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle was revealed. While the owner enjoyed and adopted several of Norma’s ideas, he invited me to start a weekly column about the growing ex-pat community In Manta and its surrounding beaches. It seemed like a timely offer, given that we were recently retired and looking to add to my old-fogey activity list which so far included tennis, bowling, vegetable gardening, scientific translations and plenty of reading and TV.

Thus began, or continued, my career as a journalist. The irony was that although I had been coming to Ecuador for over 40 years, I had “gone native” to such an extent that I had virtually no contact with the actual ex-pat community. So I started going to their weekly beach lunches, US holiday celebrations and joined the Gutterfingers bowling team. Our columns were well received, but as they mostly concerned Manta and beach people, after a couple of months they were dropped from the Portoviejo paper (serving the capital El Diario is considered more influential and classier) and continued to run in La Marea here in Manta.

After the quarantine hit, it got harder and harder to find ex-pat based themes to write about, so we started broadening our topic list to include biodiversity, traffic fatalities, man vs. mosquito, the correct ways to kiss and hug in the pandemic, and others even further afield. Eventually the publisher noticed and called, we were sure when we answered, that our latest foray into journalism was at an end, only to find that since there was little action on the ex-pat beat he was moving me to the Op-ed page of the more prestigious El Diario. That was a month ago, and so far, so good.  I now have over 50 columns, which I have been gradually uploading to a well-organized wiki.  Over 80% are up now, most in both English and Spanish.  You can read them all at gringomanaba.pbworks.com.

So, feeling all creative and productive, I went to see if I had a backup for the ten years the Dowbrigade blog was active, only to find, to my immense surprise, that it still existed, and that somehow I remembered my WordPress password. So we will see together where this leads. Stay tuned.

About dowbrigade

Semi-retired academic from Harvard, Boston University, Fulbright Commission, Universidad Laica Eloy Alfaro de Manta, currently columnist for El Diario de Portoviejo and La Marea de Manta.
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