By Richard Sanz Gonzales
To quote from the movie Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get.”
About nine years ago, while on vacation, my wife Jenny and I stumbled into heaven on earth while visiting Manta's Pacoche rainforest.
What we experienced was nothing short of amazing. Monkeys to our left, monkeys to our right, and nothing but wilderness in between.
Then we were hit by the holiday paradox, which happens to all of us while on vacation. Time flies when you're having fun. Suddenly it was time to return to New York City, the Big Apple.
However, before leaving, we had made an offer to purchase the very land that had captured our hearts and imaginations. All of the details were shared with our dear friend Janeth, who served as our representative and helped make our dream come true. We became the proud owners of an incredible monkey habitat with a slew of different species of birds, which include guacharacas (wild chickens), beautiful tropical plants, and delicious fruits and veggies.
It turns out that was the easiest part of our journey. The hardest part would be how to tell our family and friends that we had fallen in love with our Garden of Eden in Ecuador, far, far from home, and that those darned monkeys had stolen our hearts.
“Miracles happen every day. Some people don't think so, but they do” - Forrest Gump
We kept the news about building our home close to the vest. As you can well imagine, building a home in the jungle is easier said than done.
“Me and Jenny goes together like peas and carrots.” - Forrest Gump
But something happened along the way.
My wife, Jenny, you remember Jenny? She took on the roles of architect, builder, designer, and project manager. All without burdening me with the details.
And now the rest of the story.
It was no longer about NYC, it was all about Pacoche and our newfound community of friends.
During the construction, we lived and worked in New York City to finance our project, making frequent trips to the property to check on the progress of our future home.
Jenny’s brother Arturo oversaw the construction. We were building from the ground up, so we had to install electricity and running water. Remember, this was God’s country, and everything started from scratch. Many supply trucks carrying building materials would get stuck in the mud to our property and Arturo would often bail them out.
Finally our beautiful home in paradise was completed, but with one hitch: it had to be torn down. The floors squeaked, the house wasn't leveled, there were leaks everywhere, and insects had settled in.
We were determined not to give up.
A new contractor was hired and the house was built out of steel and bricks. The only thing we were able to save from the previous house was the wooden floors made of guayacan from a property that we owned in El Carmen, Jenny’s hometown.
After nine years of construction, accompanied by frustration and project delays, we finally completed our paradise in the jungle.
We sold our business, bundled up our adorable dog, Rocky, and hopped on a plane to Manta, Ecuador. Just like that, we became the modern version of Tarzan and Jane.
“Always be able to look back and say, at least I didn't lead a humdrum life.” - Forrest Gump
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, in the concrete jungle, everyone was in disbelief.
Como [how] can you adapt to your new world having been born and raised in NYC by Puerto Rican parents? What I did was learn to cut out the old and start with the new. In life, if you don't make decisions, life will make them for you and you might not like what you get.
“My mama always said you've got to put the past behind you before you can move on.” - Forrest Gump
A man, a woman, a dog, and a staff of dedicated folks made it happen.
As proud Americans and Ecuadorians, we wanted to make a difference here in Manta and share it with the world.
Concrete Jungle meets Pacoche Jungle. Gringos meet Ecuadorians and become amigos.
This was a dream come true. Not only did we build a home in the rainforest, but we also built a community of family and friends.
Welcome to the neighborhood.
“You have to do the best with what God gave you.” - Forrest Gump
Oh, by the way, whatever happened to that box of chocolates?
There are quite a few pieces left for Jenny and I to enjoy.
Richard Sanz Gonzalez