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  • On monte... et on redescend!

    Sorry for my English-speaking followers, but I needed to post this message in French... too hard to share my feelings in English... thanks for your understanding!

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    Je suis revenu lundi soir d'un magnifique voyage de ski des les Alpes Françaises. Magnifique à tous points de vue. Je voulais aller skier des les Alpes depuis mon adolescence et avec ce que j'ai vécu cette année, j'ai ressenti un immense besoin de réaliser un rêve, de cocher quelque chose sur ma bucket list. Je n'y suis pas allé avec le dos de la cuillère!

    Voyage en classe affaires, luxueux appartement de deux chambres au pied des pentes (ski-in/ski-out), massages, spa, bouffe hallucinante, excellents vins,... en plus en charmante compagnie, ce qui n'était d'ailleurs pas du tout prévu au départ!

    Je vous mets quelques belles photos avant de passer dans le vif du sujet!

    Ce voyage m'a fait le plus grand bien. J'avais besoin de sortir de l'Équateur (pays que j'adore, ne me m'éprennez pas), j'avais besoin de me ressourcer, de faire quelques folies, de rire, de faire le plein de souvenirs impérissables, bref, de m'amuser. Et ce fut le cas... mais le ski c'est différend du deuil... c'est quand tu descends que c'est le fun...

    Depuis mon retour, je suis de retour sur une pente descendante. Je dirais même que j'ai perdu le contrôle de mes skis et que j'ai pris une bonne fouille! Sauf que j'ai la chance d'être lucide, d'être bien entouré, d'avoir de bons amis, une bonne psy, alors je suis capable d'arrêter la dégringolade (ou la ralentir...). J'en suis conscient... C'est comme si je m'assoyais dans la neige pour observer ce qui se passe et reprendre mes esprits. Je ne suis bien évidemment jamais redescendu aussi bas qu'après le drame, mais parfois, on pense que ça va bien... et paf, tu prends une cristi de débarque!

    On remonte tranquillement, on fait quelques pas, puis on retombe. On se relève, on monte un peu plus haut... puis on trébuche encore. C'est ça le deuil. Du moins, c'est comme ça que je le vis.

    Après 9 mois, je peux me considérer très choyé d'être où je suis. Ma fille est toujours une adolescente fantastique, une belle jeune femme que tout le monde adore, pleine de talents, qui fonce dans la vie, malgré les épreuves. Elle a eu l'habitude très jeune de devoir s'adapter, alors elle le fait beaucoup mieux que moi! Reste que cette semaine, après l'euphorie de ce voyage dans les Alpes, je me sens seul, je me sens mal. Ce soir, ma fille est mes amis ici en Équateur font un BBQ juste en bas de chez-nous. D'ailleurs, j'entends ma fille qui rit à travers la fenêtre... je ne suis pas capable d'être avec eux, j'ai besoin d'être seul, j'ai besoin de vous écrire, j'ai besoin de vous partager que j'ai mal en-dedans. J'ai besoin de vomir ma douleur dans mes écrits!

    Cela étant dit, je sais que c'est juste une débarque. Une débarque un peu plus grosse que les petites débarques que j'ai de temps à autre, mais je sais que je vais reprendre la route vers le haut. Pas en remontée mécanique, par contre, à pied, un pas à la fois. C'est peut-être pour ça que j'ai aimé mon voyage de ski, c'est descendre qui est le fun!! 

    Merci la vie!!

  • Let's Forget 2016, Welcome 2017!!

    I'm turning the page. Well, let's say that I'm beginning a new chapter or even a whole new book!

    I would even say that the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017 is somewhat positive in many different ways.

    1- Christmas and New Year celebrations weren't that bad

    I chose many months ago that I didn't want to party for the holidays. It's not me, period. On top of that, our holidays for the past 10 years has been very quiet, a close family bonding, just the four of us. Our menu was usually very simple, oysters and Champagne... in the pool!

    This year, my daughter had the opportunity to go horseback riding with friends, so I let her go and enjoy what she loves to do. My father-in-law and his brother came to Ecuador to visit, so I quietly spent the Holidays with them... and it was just perfect, a moment to focus on us, laugh, cry, remembering souvenirs and talking about life and our the future.

    One of the special things we did was to burn an effigy, Hulk in our case. I selected Hulk, because I think he is as upset as I sometimes feel. To keep up with the tradition, we wrote down things that we wanted to forget to burn it with the effigy. I cheated and I put all the bad things I have in mind and carry for the past 20-25 years!!

    I filmed the whole process live on Facebook (click to access it, it's public)

    That was a HUGE relief and I'm sure I will do it again next year with an even bigger effigy!!

    2- I met someone

    Yes, it's one of the first time I talk about it publicly, but I met a wonderful woman about two months ago. I won't go into details and will keep that private (thanks for your understanding), but it's a great feeling to keep believing in love after what we have been through. I'm even more thankful as she's coming with me to ski in the Alps the second week of January. I'm realizing a dream and at the same time, sharing it with someone I love. Priceless (thanks Master Card!).

    3- I deleted the Facebook app on my iPhone

    It's been only a day, but wow, what a relief!! I feel like I just came out of jail! 

    Don't get me wrong, I didn't say I deleted my Facebook account!! I just removed the app on my phone. I still can log on the website, and I still have the app on my iPad... I posted a very clear message yesterday and a lot of people thought I was deleting my account. It's just another proof that people are invaded by a ton of information and are not reading anything (it's also the proof that they believe anything they read, or thought they read!). That's the reason why I truly prefer this blog as my main storytelling medium. Sorry, but you will have to sit down, you will have to read... and yes, you can still comment! ;)

    To end this post, I also want to say that two newspapers in Quebec contacted me to get an update on "my story". Here are the links (in French) if ever you are curious...

    http://plus.lapresse.ca/screens/ae94195e-ce14-4fcd-9f98-dce14a237fc1%7C_0.html

    http://www.journaldequebec.com/2016/12/29/il-poursuit-le-reve-de-son-fils-et-sa-femme-decedes-en-equateur

    After all the feedback I got from these articles, I'm more and more thinking of becoming a speaker. I would do it for me because talking about a drama really helped me to heal... but a lot of people around me make me realize the positive impact we created by talking about it publicly. Feel free to let me know your thoughts.

  • The majestic Ceibo trees at Las Olas

    The valley where Las Olas is located includes hundreds of magnificent Ceibo Trees. These trees, which some would have over two hundred years old, only grow in dry tropical forest. Despite the fact that they look beautiful, their poor wood constitution saved them from extinction. Their fruit produces a big cotton ball which was traditionally used to make mattresses and pillows. With today's synthetic fabric, it seems no one is still using it, but I think it would be a great thing to revive that craftwork 

    A friend of mine made me realize lately how these trees look alive. We don't know if they want to give us a hug or are suffering from arthritis, but when you stop and look at them, we feel life in them, even during the dry season. In January, as soon as a few drops of rain start falling, the lush green leaves are blossom after a few days and it only takes one or two weeks before the whole Las Olas valley looks like a tropical jungle.

    This specific Ceibo tree in the picture above is the logo tree of best real estate project in Ecuador, Las Olas. It's located at the entrance of the prestigious Los Cielos community and is located in the middle of a roundabout. 

    In a few months, I will post a picture of the same tree with his amazing green leaves.

  • Good News, Amazing Souvenirs!

    That's a real miracle. My old computer was destroyed, but not enough to prevent a specialized laboratory in California to recovering the video Jennifer and I did for our wedding, back in 2008.

    I was expecting to cry like a baby while watching it, but it's totally the opposite, I just laugh my a** off!!

    It showcases our complicity and the fun we were having in our daily life. That feeling will always be in me... and that video will help to keep it alive even more.

    I'm pretty busy right now, so I haven't posted as regularly as I would like, but it's just a matter of time. New things are happening in my life, we have visitors coming to Ecuador during the next few months, I'll go skiing in the Alps in January and once I return, I'm expecting the rainy season in Ecuador to make Ceibo Valley golf course blooming! Can't wait to play.  That will also be a magic moment...

  • Two weeks to go before 6-month aftershock..

    Opening a bottle of champagne and enjoying this wonderful sunset from our terrace... that's what I did on Friday. A gift from me to me!  

    Laurie-Ann has been away since two weeks now as she's doing an internship in a veterinarian clinic in Quito, before going back to school in the next few weeks (I still have some paperwork to manage...). It's been an interesting two weeks for me. I really enjoy walking/running/training early in the morning. I now developed a little routine and my first stop is always next to the beach. I love hearing the sound of the surf and looking at the waves coming on the beach. I'm thankful for being here and feel so small by the ocean. I often see groups of two birds flying close to me and like to think that Jennifer and Arthur came to say hello and make sure all is good.

    Can I say all is good? Probably. But at the same time, I feel I lost half of myself and some days are much tougher than others. Again, I'm blessed to be surrounded by very good friends, but by being with people all the time, I'm not moving forward. I need these lonely moments. Most of the time, I listen to music (and yes, sometimes I sing!) and try to be in the present moment.

    We are about to reach the 6-month stage. It's a weird feeling, a mixed impression. It seems so far, but at the same time, it was yesterday.  I'm happy of what is coming up in the next few months. We have a lot of new visitors coming to visit Las Olas until the end of the year. Jennifer's dad and uncle will come and spend most of December and January with us. I will be skiing in the Alps in January (making an old dream come true!) and we have good friends coming to visit in March.  Plus we are closer and closer to start seeding the Ceibo Valley Golf Club at Las Olas... I just can't wait to see that wonderful valley in green!

  • Visiting the Amazon!

    About a month ago, we went to visit a Kichwa community in the Ecuadorian Amazon.  It was truly an amazing experience, even if we only stayed there for about 20 hours (we drove nearly 24hrs back and forth!). That's the best we could do during a long weekend!

    Still, it was enough to spend valuable time with the community, admire the amazing landscape of the Amazon forest and realize how people can still live "comfortably" without all the modern amenities. With that in mind, I was amazed to see kids smiling, playing, and having fun with such an amazing playground called nature! 

    We were fortunate to go there during the dry season, and it was still quite muddy.  I can't imagine in the middle of the humid and rainy season...

    We didn't have too many issues with bugs, but that highway of working ants amazed me!

     We slept in a little cabin that was very rustic, but really comfortable. We woke up at 5am to do the traditional guayusa tea ceremony around the fire.  There again, someone "cleaned" us using the red-hot coals from the fire!! Believe it or not, he was rubbing a piece of coal taken right from the fire in his hands before giving us a soft massage... (and he was really going for the red ones!!).  Unfortunately, because of darkness, I don't have anything to show you... :(

    One of the cool things we did was to experience how to shoot a dart with a blowgun. We were all surprised how long the blowgun was (probably longer than a billiard cue) and how heavy it was too. That said, it's amazingly easy to handle and VERY precise. Even on our first try, we were all very close to the target that was maybe 50 feet away. We learned that they only use poison when they are hunting a big animal.  Otherwise, the dart itself will easily kill a bird or a small mammal for instance. The great advantage of the blowgun versus a normal gun is the silence. A gunshot will afraid animals miles around, while the blowgun allows you to miss a few times without the animal notice.

    One of the reasons of going there, was for Laurie-Ann and I to be "cleaned" by a Shaman. They called it Limpia. It's a much more complex ceremony than the one I'm sharing with you below, but since it was done at night in complete pitch dark... well, I have nothing else to share with you.I can't say if the Limpia (the real one, not the one below) helped me or not, but it's been a very intense moment for me. 

    I can't say if the Limpia (the real one, not the one below) helped me or not, but it's been a very intense moment for me. 

     

     

     

  • A little snack on our way to the Amazon! ;)

    A few weeks ago, we spent a long weekend visiting a tribe in the Amazon.  I will prepare a blog about our visit there, but in the meantime, I wanted to share with you one of the most disgusting (but at the same time illuminating) foodie experience of my life!

    So on our way, to the San Virgilio community in the Ecuadorian Amazon, we stopped in the city of Puyo to buy grocery stuff to offer to the community, buy some rubber boots (yeah, needed even in dry season!) and have a little snack.

    That snack was grubs on the BBQ!! ;)

    When we arrived at the public market in Puyo, I was all excited to see all the fresh products available. It was amazing to see how big that market was for such a small city. The market was at least twice the size of the one in Bahia de Caraquez and the city is not bigger... Look how these little things (not so little) move!!

    Luckily, you don't have to eat them alive! 

    They are cooked on the BBQ and I assume they put butter on it, because it has a strong butter taste. You can easily see the head and the body. Only the head is crunchy! ;)

    The first bite is far from being an easy one to take. At the same time, when we offered our guide Wilfrido if he would like to have some, he was so happy! Like if you were inviting me for sushis instead... I just told myself it couldn't hurt me.

    After the first bite, you just realized that it's far from tasting bad... and you just enjoy the experience!

     

  • Closure Ceremony

    On Sunday August 7th, a group of Las Olas friends, and our psychologist Marie-France, accompanied us to the location of our former apartment, to do a closure ceremony. It was the first time that Laurie-Ann and I we're returning to the site where our life changed nearly 4 months before.

    Marie-France, Laurie-Ann and I, each spoke a few minutes to share some souvenirs of Arthur and Jennifer. We brought their ashes with us, and it was the first time I was holding the urns in my hands. It was quite an emotive moment.

    The goal of this ceremony was to try to find peace by returning where our trauma occurred and try to express our feelings, our sadness, etc.  Experiencing an earthquake is by itself a traumatizing experience. Losing your wife, your son and your dog at the same time because of a poorly built building, that's even worse.

    As you can see on the picture below, our neighbors also lost their homes, as our building was right next to theirs and damaged it even more when it felt. Many families are now living in tents on the sidewalk, hoping they will be able to have some sort of indemnities to rebuilt their homes.

    For those who haven't seen it, please find below a picture of our building before and after the earthquake:

    Each time I see this picture, I can only think of hell... 

    Since we also lost our dog Zara, we went to Las Olas where our friends buried her under the wonderful tree at the back of the 12th green of the Ceibo Valley golf course. It was a special moment to go there with our other dog, Lily, who was adopted only one month before the earthquake. Lily is a survivor, and she was happy to be there with us under Zara's tree.

    A few days after, we returned to Bahia de Caraquez again, to visit the rest of the city, see our friends and my colleagues at Las Olas administrative office. It's, of course, difficult to see Bahia in this state, but at the same time, I'm also seeing resilient people who are proud of their magnificent city and are willing to work hard to make her shine again. Bahia is located in a peninsula and surrounded by the ocean on one side, and by the Chone River on the other side. It's the best of both worlds. Add a fantastic year-round weather and you have all the ingredients to develop it in a top tourism destination.  I'm sure Las Olas will heavily contribute to the growth and revitalization of Bahia during the next few years. ¡Fuerza bahia!

  • Return to Ecuador...

    We are back in Ecuador, listening to the surf of the ocean, while I'm typing this post .  It's my first blog post in almost 2 months... I will try to summarize what we did over this period of time.

    My last post was just before I left with my daughter for a 25-day trip around the planet.  

    First, we went back to Mauritius to visit our amazing friends there.  I can't thank them enough for their hospitality and friendship!  It's been very resourcing for me, but especially exciting for Laurie-Ann who were able to spend quality time with her friends, play another junior golf tournament at Tamarina golf club (she played in 6th straight years!) and even attempt the end of "collège" party!

    The weather, the food, the wine, the lagoon,... we couldn't ask for a better place to heal.

    After that, we flew to Dubaï to visit our friends Jocelyne and Yves. We received the royal treatment and were greeted in Range Rover. We went to see race camel training, Flamingos, falcons, etc.

    We also experienced the traditional Iftar dinner. Iftar is the meal served after sunset to break the day's fast during Ramadan.  Not only it was very good, but we also had the opportunity to ask questions to locals and better understand how they experience Ramadan on a daily basis.

    After 3 days in Dubaï, we flew back to France and rented a car for the last portion of our trip. Laurie-Ann wanted to take pictures in the mountains, so we headed up to the French Alps. We did a lot of hiking and saw amazing landscapes, waterfalls,... (and yes, I had great wine, my favorite cheese, Beaufort, which is produced there, and also had great food!). One very special thing I tried was the green beer, surprising, but excellent!!

     

    Next stop was the region of Piémont, in Northern Italy.  We stayed at a small 17-room hotel called Spinerola near Moncalvo. I couldn't recommend more this amazing place where we spent "only" two nights. The hotel is great (and so the owner), the food was simply amazing and they produce their own wines which were also all great! (they also have an extensive wine list).  The picture below speaks for itself...

    We will be back in this region for sure.  If you ever visited Tuscany and you liked it, but found it a little bit pricey and crowded... You will LOVE Piémont! (I did!!)

    We then headed South and drove along the Mediterranean sea in the direction of Aix-en-Provence in France where we went to visit other friends we met while living in Reunion Island. The next day, we drove up North where we attend the one man show of Norman fait des vidéos, one of the most popular French YouTuber.

    We spent our last night in Paris where we dine with friends, again! ;)

    Back in Canada, we started to plan our return to Ecuador and continue to visit friends and family. Laurie-Ann took horseback riding lessons and can't wait to use the equestrian center in Ecuador at Las Olas.

    July 19th has been a very special day (and a very difficult one) as it was the birthday of Jennifer, our wedding anniversary... and my own birthday! I have to admit that I went through a very hard time on the evening of July 18th. I have to thank my parents and my friends who supported me through these very difficult hours until the clock reached midnight. I assume it will be easier next year. When I turned 30, Jennifer organized a golf game followed by a surprise party at the golf club where I was playing younger (they celebrated 25th year of operation). We went there with Laurie-Ann, my parents, and friends to play a great round of golf, followed by a dinner.

    Few days before, on the 16th, my dad organized his yearly golf tournament in memory of Arthur, Jennifer, and Zara. That was also a great time spent together with friends and family, but also very emotional for us.

    Since we are talking about golf, I have to say that I've been fortunate enough to play one of the most private golf club in Canada.  So private, that I won't even name it!  The picture speaks for itself!

    So as you can see, we have been pretty busy over the last few months.  The amazing support we got from our friends and family really helped us to survive this trauma. It's far from being easy, but each new day helps us to accept what happened. We can definitely say that there is light at the end of the tunnel... but it's a long tunnel!

    Few days before leaving for Ecuador, we went to visit Jennifer's father and family again, and we hope to see some of them in Ecuador in a few months.

    We are very happy to be back in Ecuador and Laurie-Ann is so excited to be with her dog Lily again! We were warmly welcomed by our friends of the Las Olas community.  What a luck to be surrounded by such amazing people!

    We also have the luck to have our psychologist, Marie-France, here with us for the first two weeks. We plan to go back to the location of our building in Bahia de Caraquez, retrieve Jennifer and Arthur's ashes, visit the tree under which our dog Zara was buried,... all necessary but painful steps we will have to go through during the next few days.  To everyone reading this post, thank you very much for your love and support.  For those of you who would like to contribute to Laurie-Ann's education fund, you can do so by clicking this link (https://www.gofundme.com/support-laurie-ann)

    Remember, live your life while you are alive!

  • 7 Weeks After the Deadly Earthquake

    7 Weeks After the Deadly Earthquake

    7 weeks has passed since the earthquake struck Ecuador and took the life of my wife Jennifer and my son Arthur when the building we rented in Bahia de Caraquez collapsed within less than 10 seconds after we felt the first tremors.

    How do we feel? Well, pretty good I would say considering the tragedy we've been trough. Still, today was the 50th day in a row I cried.  Sometimes alone, sometimes when hugging someone, sometimes while discussing, reading or listening to music.  Sometimes a little bit... sometimes a lot... there's no pattern. It's just one day at the time.

    What is helping us greatly is the fact that our family was deeply in love.  There was no lie, no regrets... just true love.  That greatly helps moving forward.

    When we announced to our friends and family, right after the earthquake, that our goal was to fly to Canada to heal our injuries (both physically and mentally) and then come back to Ecuador, a lot of people were surprised. Let me be clear, moving to Ecuador wasn't a silly decision for our family. It's really the place we decided to pursue our life as a family, specifically at Las Olas Ecuador. We analyzed over 50 different oceanfront and golf communities across Central and South America before deciding to buy a house with an oceanview at Las Olas in Ecuador.

    Since we moved to Ecuador, and I started to work closely with the Las Olas team, the feeling we made the right decision was just getting stronger and stronger.  Of course, the loss of my wife and my son changes a lot of things in our lives, but Las Olas and Ecuador are still the best places for us to live and enjoy life.

    Unfortunately, my wife won't be at my side when I will pop the first bottle of Champagne looking at the amazing sunset over the Pacific ocean from our home terrace... and I won't be playing that first round of golf at Ceibo Valley Golf Club with my lovely son. These two things are amongst the long bucket list of special moments we were looking to experience at Las Olas.  The bucket list won't change, only the participants.

    7 weeks after the event, we are both physically much better. My daughter recovered at 100%. Unfortunately, my left hand is still very sore which prevents me to play golf. It's sad as this would be my best therapy to mourn my losses. I hope to heal soon and hit more golf shots like this one while we built the amazing golf course at Las Olas Ecuador.

    Psychologically, that's another thing. As I said, one day at the time...

    For the time being, I'm going on holiday for roughly a month with my daughter. I'm not expecting to be much active here. Please make sure to follow Las Oas Ecuador Facebook page to see regular updates about this amazing real estate project (https://www.facebook.com/LasOlas.ecu).

    Thanks for your support and messages!

    Pascal