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

3 Oct

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.

***

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!

-30-

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8 Responses to “House Hunters International in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador: The Inside Info”

  1. James and Susan Smithee October 3, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

    Steve and Dana, the evening was winding down, listening to House Hunters on the tv. I immediately stopped the task I was doing. I was hearing a very familiar accent on House Hunters! I went over and sat down to focus totally on the show. Then, I hear what I knew already, “from Jonesboro”. I got my husband’s attention, and he turned his tv over to HH also. Yes, we did know that accent, especially, after spending almost 10yrs in Rector, Ar. My ‘school teacher daughter’,(married and still in Rector) graduated from ASU and is teaching in Piggot. Can’t wait to tell her in the a.m. to watch the show too. Couldn’t believe someone from Ar. is making their home in Ecuador, and on HH. I , too, especially love the “Spanish” decendents in South America. I did have the honor to travel to several S.A. countries when I was younger. Have always wished to go back and would love to live there. Yes, this episode was pretty special to us and will be to our families as well. I am so proud that you all have such an opportunity to live in one of those beautiful countries. Of course then had to go to the internet when heard you mentioned of your blogging and located this site.
    Best Wishes to you all in your new home. Will love keeping up with your life in Ecuador. May God Bless and Keep you both.

    • stevenwwatkins October 3, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

      Thank you for looking us up, and for your kind words. We are actually in Jonesboro now and headed back to SA in about 3 weeks. The region of Ecuador where we live is very rural and the people who live there are just wonderful. We love being a part of the community when we are there. Drop us a line any time! …steve

  2. Holly Michael October 4, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    Steve,
    My husband and I totally enjoyed watching HHI. It was fun getting to know you a little more on TV. You and Dana are a very sweet couple. I knew what house you chose, but now I can see how it was the best choice. Very fun. God Bless you both!

    • stevenwwatkins October 4, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

      Thanks, Holly. It was fun for us to watch, too. Yes, Dana makes me better than I really am. Not many spouses would come along on such a crazy adventure. She makes life fun and meaningful. Take care. sw

  3. Lisa October 4, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    Now my favorite episode. I bet the crew enjoyed working with you both. It was delightful to watch! It is neat seeing your relationship with Dana. Congratulations on the life you want yo live!

  4. Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua October 10, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    This is hysterical! We had several laughable moments, too and one not so laughable. I enjoy reading about your experiences. It is indeed a small world. We opted not to fly back to Jonesborough, TN ( incredible that you are from Jonesboro, AR) because someone was living in our house. So we reenacted our experience managing a youth hostel when we first came to Ometepe island. We lived in Mountain View, AR for 10 years, and we often compare our experiences of living on a primitive island with living in an old 1952 school bus on 40 acres in the Ozark Mountains. :-) I hope you enjoyed your show. Is it online?

  5. Bear and Caryl Mills November 15, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    Steve, just watched the show. We spent 3 weeks in Cuenca anf Guayaquil last year and learned a little about the challenges of relocating to a developing nation. Your episode was entertaining and informative. Just out of curiosity, do you fly into Guayaquil or Quito? How long is the commute to Playa Cayo? What other areas on the playas should be considered for relocation?

    • stevenwwatkins November 18, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

      Thanks for your comments. Dana and I enjoyed doing the show. I’ve used both airports, Quito and Guayaquil, and much prefer Guayaquil as it puts me a three-hour drive from home in PC. The coast is very diverse in culture and climate. For anyone considering a move, you should explore it all. Life in Ecuador is certainly not for everyone, so if you are exploring now as a prerequisite to a possible move, you are doing the right thing.

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