Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gringo is a Hurtful Phrase

We're wallowing in internet at home. We went for 12 1/2 years without internet on the boat, traipsing down to the public library to use their machines once a week. We only had internet on the boat for about 3 months before we moved to Ecuador and then we went without in Ecuador for 3 months again. Once you have had it though, it's worse than cigarettes - you're well and truly hooked. Shelley's downloaded dozens of pictures to our FaceBook account, Brian's glutted himself on boat sites, we've both talked to the kids on Skype and forwarded long emails to a few who had been promised one for some time. We'll get it under control soon and things'll take on a routine. (We hope.)

The social butterfly thing has been flapping it's wings again; Sunday brunch, Tuesday drinks and dinner, Wednesday supper with a friend, Friday we're planning on attending Expat night.

"How come it comes in bunches?" Shelley complained. "It's the wave thing all over again."

Readers may remember we went to a bank machine about a week ago and although the amount was deducted from our account, no money was forthcoming. Our Bank in Canada advised it would be 2 to 6 weeks before anything was resolved. So far, no resolution, however, an American friend of ours just advised the same thing happened to them. We are not comfortable with this event. We want the machines to work perfectly and not make us worry about sticking our cards into them.

We spent just about a whole day fiddling with the computer. (Brian's devastated because we missed our Spanish lesson - ya right.) We bought a D-Link router so we could have the computer in any room of the apartment but we couldn't get it to work. Wandering the streets, looking for a solution, we finally came across a very nice computer guy who spoke English and came to our apartment and forced the whole system to sit up and beg properly. Shelley clapped him on the back and told him he was a genius. He demurred but smiled sweetly. We were so happy, we bought a Xerox Phaser 3117 laser printer from him for $88 and an extra cartridge for basically another $88. We're supposed to be able to print 118 pajillion copies from each cartridge. Our saviour left before we hooked up the printer and of course, when we stuck in the printer's CD to configure the whole thing the CD was blank. The next day (we ran out of time) checking in with Google, we found out that many people with a Mac who have purchased the Phaser 3117 had similar problems. We downloaded a Samsung driver (which was recommended by one guru on the web) and after that things worked just fine.

Friday took us to ExPat night once again but first we had sushi with a friend at the Sakura Restaurant just down the stairs at Calle Larga y Hermano Miguel and then left down the walkway. In Vancouver we'd have a Bento Box for $10 and get salad, chicken teriyaki & rice, tempura, miso soup, 6 california rolls, tea and a chunk of broccoli; it was a little feast! We had tempura at Sakura's and it was good and our friend had an assortment of 6 sushi and they looked great (!) but each was about $8.

ExPat night was moved to Cafe Wunderbar, just down one flight of stairs (same corner), as the usual place was under renovations. It certainly was warmer and we were able to hear & therefore talk to more than one person but we were assured by the "regulars" that ExPat night would only be held there until the usual place was up and running again. Maybe the renovations will be cool?

A trip out to Mall del Rio was necessary as that's the only place we've seen a Hallmark store so far. Shelley wanted to get a couple of Christmas cards to send to family at the beginning of November. The # 7 bus runs right by our place and takes the long trip out to the Mall. We had difficulty refusing the daily special at Burger King but persevered and checked out the delicatessen near the food court where we'd be told you could buy spicy sausage. You can't. We looked at Christmas table cloths ranging in price from $3.50 to $35. As Brian & Shelley could not agreed on the appropriate price, we finally gave up and agreed to look in SuperStock another day. Previously when we'd gone to Mall de Rio it was during a weekday and was very dead, but on Saturday morning it was quite the busy place!

The most common negative words are: nadie (no one), nada (nothing), nunca (never), ni....ni (neither....nor), and ninguno (no; used as an adjective). Note that the placement of the negative word in the sentence can vary. The negative verb can precede the verb and be used alone or it can be used with no and follow the verb. Unlike English, many negative words can be used in the same sentence. Brian never says anything to anyone.
We continue to persevere in our Spanish lessons.

"We got a nasty comment on the blog" Shelley told Brian.
"Who's it from?" Brian asked.
"Well Brian" Shelley said, "If someone is writing a nasty comment, who usually does it?"
"It's anonymous right?" said Brian.
"Right", said Shelley.

To our readers: In the spirit of fairness here's what the anonymous writer had to say:

  • Wow! It's just incredible how little gringo understand about this country. It's called a matricula. You will live without wireless (although, yes, the D-Links work with Macs). And the constitutional vote was one of the most important political events here in recent years -- it's not exactly pro-American, either.
  • Get informed, learn Spanish (it's not that hard), and please, don't just hang out with other gringos.

If the anonymous writer had read any more of the blog, they'd realize we have been studying Spanish. If we in any way diminished the importance of the Constitutional vote, it was absolutely not intentional. We've had many discussions about the change in the political landscape here in Ecuador and are very supportive of the direction the country appears to be taking. We are grateful that we have been able to relocate in this lovely country where we can have a comfortable retirement and experience the diversity and challenge that a new culture offers. Vive la difference. As Canadians, we're next door neighbours to the Americans and it's not always an easy relationship. We don't view the new Constitution as anti-America as much as pro-Ecuador. We have managed to make a few Ecuadorian friends and have been touched many times by Ecuadorians and their warmth and patience with us (most of them). Our circle of Ecuadorian friends will expand in direct ratio as our language skills improve.

Anyone who has read our blog in its entirety will realize that we are not critical of Ecuador. We are merely adjusting to the changes. We recognize that it is we that need to adjust - not Ecuador. There have been times when we have had that "Deer in the Headlights Look" and have tried to communicate our experiences in a humorous manner. The fact is the over-riding emotion we feel in someone else's country is that of humility - not arrogance.

So...to "anonymous": We're sorry that we have inadvertently pushed one of your buttons. Send us an e-mail - maybe we can get together for coffee.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Internet Rhapsody

Before we moved into our apartment, when we were still at the Macondo Hostel (where they have Wifi), Shelley downloaded a free solitaire game from the Apple website. With no TV in the rooms and the Wifi not working that far away from the reception area, she thought it would be something to do in the evenings when they got tired of reading, etc. Although it's hard to believe, Brian at 67 had never played solitaire before. Shelley showed him the ropes of the Klondike game and at that point we were both just happy to win a game from time to time.

After we moved into the apartment and pursued our cosmic joke with installing internet, the game was there for a bit of diversion. A competition ensued where we'd try to top the winning time. Sometimes a week or two would go by before one of us got the better of the other. You'd be reading or watching TV or doing chores and notice the other had gone missing. A quick check would find them intent at the computer, cursing the fact that no 9's were coming up. When we first got the game it took 5 to 8 minutes to play a game and win it. These days Brian's top score is 2 minutes 21 seconds. Shelley, of course, is working on beating it! We figure the only people that can really trump it are 13 years olds with fantastic dexterity and very little life. If we ever get internet again we can check on line to see what the record is.

It's been raining a lot lately. Locals will say that it's been raining more than usual. The river is high and roaring and they're actually worried about it breaking the bank in a couple of places (not where we are). Sunday dawned, however, sunny and beautiful. We sat out on the patio and ate our breakfast and read our books for a couple of hours in the morning and then went with another couple to visit some friends of ours in their newly rented house ($450 p.m.) at the North end of town just off the Pan American Highway. It was a $5 cab ride out there (split of course between the 4 of us) but we took the bus back. They have a huge house with 4 (maybe 6) bedrooms, 4 or 5 bathrooms, a couple of sitting rooms, a laundry room, maids quarters, a couple of garden areas and a basketball court. There was an outdoor pizza type bread oven, an overhanging veranda for rainy days and a wood burning stove in one of the sitting rooms. We sat around a huge square wood table eating home made pizza, fresh fruit, newly baked cookies and drinking beers while sharing our various stories. It was a good day. On the way home, on the bus, it started raining again.

Tomorrow is the big day! They promised us they'd give us internet tomorrow! They've toyed with us before so they could just be toying with us now. We hope not. We'd really like internet at home! It would be nice to play with FaceBook and see what the kids were up to on a daily level. We'd like to make some improvements to the blog but it's just too hard when you're in a crowded place with people peering over your shoulder. We've got pictures that friends have sent us that we'd like to download to our own computer. Brian likes to cruise YouTube in the morning when Shelley's still sleeping and Shelley likes to go at the computer in the afternoon when Brian has his nap. We miss internet! Tomorrow will tell.

It's 9:15 in the morning. The internet people are supposed to be here between 8:00 and 1:00. We're all dressed and ready for them. We've even decided what time we'll phone the internet guy (at 12:45). All we can do is wait and see what will happen. It's got to the point where it almost feels like some sort of sociological experiment. We're studying the habits of internet providers in Ecuador.

At 11:30 Brian said, "They're not going to come."
"Why don't you phone them now?" Shelley replied.
"I'll phone them at 12:30" Brian said "I just can't phone them before that."

We fruitlessly waited. At 12:30 Brian phoned the internet guy and left a message. "Oh internet gawd in the heavens, why hast thou forsaken us?" At 1:00, all hope gone, we left the apartment and bought a 7 foot tall bamboo plant ($8) and a huge pot to put it in ($16) to cheer ourselves up. Shelley was also able to find bubble bath! We went home to wait for delivery of our plant and Shelley, of course, had a bubble bath.

"How many times are we going to phone and leave a message before we go back to ETAPA and ask what is going on?" Shelley asked of Brian.

Brian refused to talk about it.

The next day we phoned and left another message and then went about our daily business. After several hours and no return call, we decided we'd go down to ETAPA first thing in the next morning.

"You know, we'll go down there and they'll tell us 'blah blah blah' and then we'll go home and wait for them another whole day and then we'll end up going back to get our money returned" Shelley informed Brian.

He again refused to talk about it.

Up early the next morning, Shelley had her hat on ready to leave the apartment and was standing on the balcony deciding if she needed a sweater or not, and Brian noticed an ETAPA truck pull into the building. He went down to the lobby and enthusiastically escorted the technicians back to the apartment. It turns out the line was not cut after all. The phone line was set up for telephone and switching was required at their head office to connect to internet. This took about 45 minutes with much chatter between the techies and the office.

The end result is positive and we now have internet at home!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Manana Strikes Again!

On the boat for 13 years with no bathtub, it took awhile, but lying in a hot tub of water, Shelley suddenly thought: Bubbles! We checked at Fybeca, one of Ecuador's largest pharmacy chains. No bubble bath. They suggested we try SuperMaxi. We did. No bubble bath. We have yet to find a hummingbird feeder. Several people have told us "Oh yes, they're all over the place" and have directed us to this store or that, but so far no luck. A Canadian woman brought us Cheezies the other day. We're saving them for a particularly home sick moment.

It'd been a full week since we opened our bank account so we went downtown to pick up our bank card. We had to go to a different department and the young lady there spoke no English whatsoever. We showed her our bank number and she looked in her computer and then rather indignantly told us something was wrong with our account. We, of course, didn't know this was what she was telling us. A kind woman waiting for attention translated for us. Our bank lady went off to see the man who originally opened up the account and after 10 or 15 minutes came back nodding and told us a whole bunch of... we don't know. Eventually she went through a stack of waiting cards and pulled one out for us. We both had our index-finger-print scanned into a computer and signed various pieces of paper and then she took us to an ATM so we could change the PIN number. We then wrote a cheque on our Canadian bank and deposited it to our new account. We've been told it'll take 5 days to clear. We decided to write the cheque and deposit it as a kind of science experiment to see how the whole thing will go. We noted when we got our deposit slip, that they'd charged us $5 (!) for the bank card.

Our second to last visit with our lawyer (the last one being the day we pay their bill) had us leaving the apartment at 10:30 a.m. and arriving home again at 4:10 p.m. First we saw, for the first time, our passports stamped by the Republica del Ecuador, Ministerio de Gobierno with a Visa Indefinida. It sure felt good to know the mild anxiety was over.

Next we drove to get our Censos Card from the Jefatura Provincial de Migracion del Azuay. We climbed several floors and entered an office full of people in uniform. Our lawyer directed us to sit down and we could see him shaking hands with several people in the office next door. After 10 or 15 minutes Shelley was called in to get her picture taken, advise as to her height (in cm) and sign several documents. Brian was next and then we both sat in the outer office some more wondering what was going on. The young lady sitting next to Shelley seemed nice, so Shelley did a "oh my goodness, isn't this exciting" hand wag and the young lady wagged back. Through the fellow several seats down (who spoke English), we advised we were from Canada and listened while the fellow explained to several interested parties that in North America, first there was Mexico, then the United States and then Canada. Finally the lawyer came out and we went downstairs to a copy place and had several copies made of our lovely Censos cards.

We drove back to the lawyer's office and arranged to meet there again after lunch. We went and bought some fruit for our breakfasts and had a cappuccino and sat in the main square watching the people go by for awhile until it was time to go back. We also got our pictures taken so that we had 6 copies to take on our next mission.

Back at the lawyers, we drove to the Republica del Ecuador, Direccion General de Registro Civil, Identificacion y Cedulacion for our Provincial Identification cards. There we were fingerprinted and had our pictures taken once again and then sat around cleaning ink off our fingers and watching civil servants glide around us. Our lawyer spoke assertively a couple of times to a couple of people and sped things along, and after about an hour we left with a lovely laminated identification card.

We drove back to the lawyer's office where he presented us with our stamped passports, Censos cards and Identification cards and shook our hands and welcomed us to Ecuador. After 2 1/2 months of anticipation, waiting and mild anxiety, it was somewhat anticlimactic. There wasn't a great rush of well being but we're very pleased it's all over now. The Identification card is good until 2020, the Censos card is good indefinately and Shelley wondered out loud what happens to the Visa Indefinida stamp in the passports when they got renewed every 5 years, but Brian refused to think about it. (We found out later, when we renew our passport we have to go to Quito and get our stamp redone in the new one.)

Ecuador doesn't want us to have internet!

The big day arrived; ETAPA was supposed to come to our apartment between 8:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. and do the installation. Shelley even got up early and got out of her jammies just in case they came promptly at 8:00. They didn't. They didn't come at 1:00 either. They didn't come any time in between. They didn't come. We stared at the invoice we'd paid for the service and reconfirmed the date and time. We discussed strategies to cope with their not coming; whether we should go to the ETAPA office that afternoon or the next morning. We sulked.

At 2:30 p.m., after the lunch time break, Brian set off to the ETAPA office to find out what was going on. He was told that the fiber optics cable had been broken somehow and they set up another day (for sure!) to do the installation. (We've heard this before, haven't we?) The internet guy at ETAPA even gave Brian his personal cell number so Brian could phone the next time nothing happened. Brian told him that it's very difficult to communicate via telephone because of our very halting Spanish. The internet guy communicated to Brian that he understood very clearly what Brian had just told him in the office and revealed that he is studying English! He even showed Brian his workbook and assured him that they could muddle through the communication if need be. Brian said he's a really nice guy. Shelley said that wasn't getting internet.

On the way home from ETAPA Brian had a bit of a magical moment with the taxi driver who, it turns out, had spent 16 years in New York city. (He'd seen Dave Letterman several times (!) as he worked right next door to the theatre.) He's been back in Ecuador for 6 years and has spoken very little English in that time. With Brian's hesitant Spanish and the driver's shy English they had quite a conversation, ending up with the driver shaking Brian's hand when he left the cab.

"You're a nice man" the driver said, "I like you!"

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bank Robbery & DEA Agents

Brian has begun to try little tricks to get out of our hour of Spanish a day. Shelley's on to him, and remains firm. We continue however, to suffer from headaches about 40 minutes in:

The Spanish noun, unlike its English counterpart, has a gender. Each noun is either masculine or feminine. Almost all nouns that end in "o" are masculine and almost all nouns that end in "a" are feminine. There are, of course, exceptions or it wouldn't be any fun. El planeta (the planet) is a masculine noun and nouns that end in "ista" refer to professions and are masculine when referring specifically to a man. Feminine nouns that begin with "a" take the masculine definite article "el" rather than the feminine "la" when the first syllable is stressed and it's difficult to predetermine the gender of nouns ending in "e" but they tend to be masculine except when they aren't.

Gabble, gabble, gabble, gabble, gabble.

"I hate it when this happens!" Shelley moaned to Brian.

We'd just tried to withdraw some money from a bank machine and not for the first time, it didn't work. Brian conjectured what with all the financial woes that are going on in the world, perhaps our bank in Canada had gone kaput.

"Don't be silly!"

We trudged home and picked up Shelley's bank card and trudged back to a machine to see if that would work. It did.

"I'll keep your card in my wallet from now on" Brian told Shelley.

"Oh....!" her patience level almost totally depleted. "It's a small price to pay, having to trudge home compared to loosing both of the cards at the same time if someone swiped your wallet!"

"Oh right."

A quick look at our account on internet showed 2 withdrawals. A long telephone call to Canada netted us a reference number and the promise they would look into it.

"It's not the money" Shelley explained to Brian "It's the thought of being without any money so far away."

Time to dump some significant cash into an Ecuadorian bank account.

(We think. There's some level of concern that with the world financial crisis Ecuador is rather shaky too.)

Note: What with trudging back and forth to bank machines and internet shops and Porta telephone outlets, we managed to fill so much of our day that we didn't have time for our Spanish lesson.

So...we're sitting at ExPat night and Shelley notices a couple looking a little bit lost. "Pull up that table over there" she directs them.

ExPat night is noisy, what with several people being there, the blues music and any outdoor wind noises as it's held on a patio. You end up talking mostly with your neighbour simply because you can hear them. The new couple was from Atlanta, Georgia and at one point the fellow told Shelley that Washington, D.C. was the capital of the free world.

"Well, there's an awful lot more of the free world out there" Shelley retorted. "You're such an American" she said as she slapped him on the shoulder in a friendly manner.

Later, walking home Shelley told Brian, "I knew it was drugs!" Seems during the course of their conversation Shelley had asked the fellow from Atlanta what he did for a living. This was after she'd explained her marijuana vs guns theory showing the difference between Canadians and Americans.

"Well, in America you'd go to jail if you were caught with anything more than 28 grams" he told her.

"What's 28 grams?"

After explaining volume and weight to Shelley she retorted, "Well, in BC they've even got a political party called the Marijuana Party, and once a year a bunch of people go to the old Court House and smoke on the lawn. But we sure don't like your guns coming up over the border!"

"You're right, we'd take our guns and arrest everybody on that lawn" he told her.

"I told him my theory that anyone who didn't want to tell me what they did for a living, had to be involved with drugs" Shelley explained to Brian. "Why not tell me?" I told him. "I sure felt uncomfortable when he confessed he was a DEA agent" she went on. "He seemed like a nice man. I hope he didn't take me wrong" she went on rather worriedly. "Do you think he was teasing?"

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jubilation

"Every time we're out with company and you tell them the story about coming down from working and maybe in a few years we'll move to Vilcabamba, I roll my eyes, you know?" Shelley asked Brian. "I don't want to live in a town where you can walk down the middle of the street without worrying about getting hit by a car. I've already done my wilderness thing." (Ten years previously both Shelley & Brian had quit their jobs and had sailed out into the wilderness on Dowager (their boat) for a year. While they survived the experience & enjoyed much of it, it did take them a couple of years to get back on their feet again.)

We'd come off another roller coaster social week; coffee with a couple from Colorado, dinner with a fellow from New York/Florida, drinks with 2 other couples and lunch with a couple from Washington State & another lady from Australia/England.

"I like people and I love hearing their stories" Shelley told Brian. "But we're visiting so much I'm getting tired of your stories; you tell the same ones over and over again."

Brian shrugged, the ramifications of Shelley hearing his stories over and over again of no consequence to him.

"Well then you tell the stories" he said to her.

"I try to sometimes" she replied "but you always interrupt me!"

And on it goes.

An hour and a half at Etapa Gapal had us leaving with a modem in our bag and an appointment for a week later to get it hooked up. Upon entering Etapa Gapal you go to the information desk and get a number, depending on which department you are headed to. There were several people ahead of us waiting to talk to the internet guy, but 2 sets of them left before their turn came up. When we actually got to sit across from the internet guy we produced our inspection certificate and he inquired if the inspection team was polite and relatively on time. He then printed out a contract which indicated we had to pay $97 to cover the cost of installation, the modem and our first months rent. We then had to take the contract to a different department in order to pay it. Paying the $97 didn't take that long, but then we had to wait until it was our turn again to speak to the internet guy. Back at his desk with our receipt for $97, he set up the appointment and gave us the modem. The internet guy was quite patient throughout with our poor Spanish, seemed fairly cheerful despite the backlog of customers he had waiting and shook our hands when we finally left him.

We had tried to take the bus to Etapa Gapal this time, getting on a #14 that had "Gapal" on its sign. After several inquiries to the conductor when we felt we were getting into the neighbourhood, we got off the bus and wandered around on a Gapal street until we gave up and caught another cab. There seemed to be a really nice park just across the river from the Gapal street we were wandering on and we may try going back there again to visit. It was about a 10 minute cab ride from where we were wandering to where we wanted to go, so Gapal is a pretty big and convoluted street.

The telephone outlets in our apartment are in the kitchen, front room & main bedroom. We of course, want our computer to be in the spare bedroom/study. We've purchased a D-Link WiFi machine which is supposed to send the signal from the telephone modem through the air to our computer. Shelley's a little worried that it won't work as it doesn't say Mac compatible on the packaging (although Mac's are mentioned in the accompanying manual).

"The whole getting internet at home thing has turned into such a nightmare, of course it won't work" Shelley tells Brian.

Brian mumbles something about a super long telephone wire.

After weeks of alternating between supreme confidence and abject worry, we finally got a call from our lawyer saying that our permanent pensioners residency was approved. Amidst doing football type victory dances across our front room floor, we were advised that our passports were stamped and next week we'd go to the appropriate office and get our pictures & fingerprints taken yet again so that they could produce our residency card. Every permanent resident of Ecuador carries one of these cards (something like a social insurance number). The relief was tremendous. In our down periods we had tried to decide where in Canada we'd like to live if we had to go back; Brian was thinking Powell River and Shelley had discussed Nova Scotia ('cause it's different and the people there talk funny). Now that we knew everything was OK in Ecuador we revealed our reward plans; Brian wanted to go to Salinas for a week, Shelley had her eye on a $65 fish plaque.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Be Patient

With chores piling up that required us actually using our own computer, we bit the bullet and walked to the Millennium Mall (2 blocks east of Solano on Doce de Abril), where there's a cafe that supplies WiFi for only the cost of a cup of coffee. We transferred money and updated Planet Irony & Dangling on a Hook. Shelley chatted in FaceBook with her oldest daughter for awhile and played with a few other functions. We checked our lottery numbers and downloaded some updated programs for our Mac. All in all, it was very satisfying to be on our own computer for a change. Seeing our kitten icons on FireFox did our hearts good! (Well Shelley's heart; Brian's still complaining about the kitten icons.)

While we were there one of our Planet Irony friends walked past the cafe, (it's a small world, isn't it?) so Brian shouted him down and he came over and we talked about Cuenca & Ecuadorian food & ExPat night & the weather. He's an American and made sure to tell us his parents were from Winnipeg, Manitoba. "Brrrrrrrrrr", was Shelley's only intelligent comment.

"It's the gun vs marijuana thing."
;-)

Once more into the breach:
"Ser de" (to be of) is used to express origin in Spanish. He is of Spain. She is of Canada. "Ser de" can also be used to express ownership. The book is of Jan.
BUT
"Estar" (the other to be) is used to express location. Carlos is in New York.

We continue to be very confused!
It's very disheartening when you see a 3 year old babbling away contentedly.
Shelley is, however, learning the days of the week quite easily from ads on TV and Brian's pretty good with numbers because Shelley lets him carry the money!

In our ongoing internet quest we ended up not being able to get internet from Gupta TV Cable as the building we are in is not wired for it. (They asked to have the building wired when it was being built but TV Cable kept putting it off. Now, the conduit for wiring the building is full of other wires and they'll have to put in a new conduit. It could be months; it could be never.) EcuaNet only does internet for the outlying areas; not Cuenca proper. Porta & Alegro only have wireless systems that aren't powerful enough for things like Skype. Punto Net generally only does businesses, although they'll do residences within a small select area (we are not in that area). We finally ended up at Etapa Multiservicios Gapal (Av. 10 de Agosto y Paucarbamba) which provides internet over the telephone lines. They are coming to do an "inspection" in a couple of days and if all goes well we should have internet within a week.

We also set up a bank account with Banco Pichincha (savings account). They required a copy of our utility bill, a colour copy of our passports, another piece of ID with our pictures on it, the address of a local resident to vouch for us and a deposit of $200. The whole procedure from sitting down in their office to depositing our $200 took about an hour and a half.

Standing in a coolish rain outside Etapa Gapal after dealing with the bank and the internet people, after 2 taxi rides and 4 misdirections, after 3 hours of running around, after a month and a half of trying to get internet, Brian turned to Shelley and said, "Are you alright?" Concern showed on his face as Shelley was slumped and definitely not perky.

"They keep telling us that we have to be patient with Ecuador. I think I'm finally 'getting it' now."

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Internet Blues

OK, so we've established that in Spanish there are two "to be.s", one for things temporary and one for things permanent. Just to add to the confusion we have now learned that they often use "to have" where an English speaking person would use "to be". In Spanish you have age. We're still struggling to keep ourselves going for an hour a day; giving ourselves usually, only one day off per week. Towards the end of our hour, we're both light headed and heavy shouldered. Having battled our minds around concepts foreign, a physical manifestation shows itself out of the befuddlement in our minds. This learning a new language is hard work!

Perhaps because there's no Halloween or Thanksgiving to take up the slack, there are already Christmas decorations for sale in the larger pharmacies and a billboard on one of the highways. We've been told they import fir trees and sell them in lots just like in Canada but we toured a Christmas store the other day where they were selling artificial trees from $20 for the tiniest to $500 for the biggest. We've also been told because it's a Catholic country there are numerous events during Christmas. We tried to explain that there were numerous events in Canada too but weren't quite believed. The Christmas decorations include snowmen & Santa Claus in heavy suits & penguins & angels pretty much the same as you'd see in Canada as well. In a country with almost no snow or cold weather it seems odd, but it's likely Coca Cola and universal advertising has paved the way.

Serendipity stuck us again on one of our wanders, when we walked past Laura's on La Condamine 12-112. Jan, who was originally from Holland but worked all over the world as a ship's carpenter, showed us through their home/showroom displaying "arte, decoracion, curiosidades y antiguedades Europeas". It's a wonderful museum of a place with paintings & rugs & weavings & antiques & pictures & plants & curiosities & birds (budgies & pigeons & a canary who responded well when asked to sing in English). Jan met Laura 30 some odd years ago when she came to Holland from Cuenca to visit her brother who had married Jan's sister. Jan and Laura eventually married and have lived together in Ecuador for 25 years in Laura's family home. The house has been in her family for over 120 years. One by one, they have purchased her sibling's shares in the home and now own it outright. It's an absolutely wonderful, traditional Ecuadorian dwelling with vintage ceramic tile floors, lots of woodwork, a glassed ceiling and a lifetime of collectibles. Warm, cozy, inviting and well lived in; Jan will insist you sign his guest book if you visit.

After 3 successive days of telephoning with no response, the representative from Gupto TV Cable showed up at our door before 10:00 in the morning. After promising for 6 weeks that we would have cable by the end of September, they regretted to inform us that now it would be 2 more months. Brian had to ask "Quando?" about 6 times before we got a straight answer. In any case, they refunded our deposit and we spent the day looking for internet. Porta, which has a setup that utilizes cell frequencies, would not accept our credit card. You have to have a credit card issued in Ecuador or a bank account here. As we've been told by several people that they had managed to set up a bank account without their residency card, next we looked into that again. Bank of Guayaquil will not set up a bank account without a residency card, however, for a minimum deposit of $200 Bank of Pinchincha will set up a savings account and they have assured us we can do automatic debit.

We also looked at internet from Alegro (who also insist on a bank account) but they did not recommend their service as they felt it would be too slow for our purposes, e.g. you cannot use Skype. So, we're going to set up a bank account on Monday and look into yet another internet provider which uses the telephone lines. The folks from the Carolina book store told us this was the service they used and it's worth a try. They also regaled us with several Ecuador stories where days, weeks & months have gone by without satisfactory action. It was heartening to know it wasn't just us.

While wandering the streets, dragging our feet, being somewhat depressed about our internet situation, from behind us a voice asked "Are you Brian & Shelley?" It turns out the fellow recognized us from our picture on the blog, which he has been reading regularly for the last several months. He's been living in Thailand for several years but "it's just too hot and humid" he advised us. So, he's here in Cuenca to try it out for 6 months or so and see how it goes. We have been surprised at the number of people who have been following our activities on the blog, and to get stopped in the middle of the street by a stranger was really weird! Still, it's nice to know that people are getting information that they need and it's a wonderful venting medium when internet companies are pulling your chain.