Saturday, November 22, 2008

Do Over

Hopping on a #19 bus headed east, we rode it to the small suburb village of San Joachin. We disembarked in the village and took a couple of pictures of the ubiquitous church and wandered around the dusty streets feeling quite foreign. Apparently, out of our "hood" (Cuenca), we are still tourists. Shelley asked Brian if he thought there'd be any cappuccino in San Joachin and in reply he simply shot her one of those looks. Getting back onto the #19 we thought we'd take it all the way to the end of the line the other way, but got off downtown and had that cappuccino instead.

On one of our neighbourhood walks we dropped into a place on Calle Mariscal Lamar behind the new apartment buildings called Taller de Alfareria Encalada Galeria where they've been doing clay work for generations. We, of course, asked if they had any fish plaques, but unfortunately they didn't. They generously gave us a tour through their home/factory where members of the family were busy building clay pots, etc. and their various wares were displayed throughout their beautiful home. By the time we'd trucked up to Av. de las Americas Shelley was ready for a cappuccino, so we dropped into Punto's for a 60 cent java and left with $20 worth of Christmas cake, rolled pork roast, peas, gravy & a mango chutney. We obviously can't be trusted. They had a wonderful looking buffet there ranging in price from $1.98 to $7 and we got hungry watching the plates being piled with goodies. All in all, we got enough food for 4 or more meals, so we didn't do too badly.

It's been a pretty bad couple of weeks for us. One of the children disowned us, repeated every past transgression in an e-mail and let us know how selfish we were to move to Ecuador. Another one got on the band wagon and gave us a blast as well. As all the children are full grown adults now and as we have yes, permanently moved to Ecuador, neither of us felt there was a lot within our control regarding the matter. However, that doesn't stop the aching feelings. We got Brian all happied up and took him to the specialist to finish his root canal, only to be told the specialist had decided to take the day off and the appointment would be rescheduled. (An Ecuador thing.) Having spent 2 days working up to the appointment and a sleepless night, the relief you'd think might be there for a cancelled appointment, wasn't. top it all'd gone back to being rainy for awhile. Suited our mood.

As it turned out, the root canal specialist had been in a motorcycle accident and had broken his shoulder. (We weren't the only ones having a bad week.) The rest of Brian's work would have to wait 7 days or so for healing. We're not sure how the specialist can be ready in a week, but we've been assured he will be. Instead, Brian went to the regular dentist to have his rotten tooth pulled. Shelley ventured to SuperMaxi to buy the fixings for chicken soup figuring Brian wouldn't be up to chewing food for a day or 2 and arrived back in the dentist's office just in time to hear Brian say, "So that's it?!"

The dentist advised after the root canal work was finished, he'd send Brian to yet another specialist, this time in periodontics because his remaining teeth were so sensitive and needed a deep clean. Brian was concerned about being without his bottom plate for a week or so while the new false tooth was fitted to it, but was told that procedure would take only about 2 hours.

Walking home Brian demonstrated to Shelley how he held his hands together in a white grip while the tooth was being pulled and counted 1,2,3,4,5 days until he had to have more work done. "It's just going to go on and on" he whined to Shelley.

"It always goes on and on with your teeth" Shelley answered. "Have I mentioned I hate your teeth?"

Six weeks ago we'd opened up a bank account with a bank in Cuenca. We deposited some cash and wrote a cheque on our Canadian account for another lump sum. We monitored our Canadian account over the internet to see when the lump sum was deducted. After six weeks it never was so we ventured to the local bank again. The young man that dealt with us had some limited English and we of course have our limited Spanish. We'd been charged $20.64 in service fees since we'd opened the account and had so far not used it at all. Turns out there was a $5 fee to get our banking card, and another $5.64 fee charged every six months for services and another $10 fee because the cheque we'd written wasn't valid.

"Not valid?!" Shelley questioned with some heat.

Shelley had written the cheque on their joint account to Brian and signed it. Brian, however, had not endorsed the back as it was a straight deposit and this isn't required for a straight deposit in Canada. It is, however, required in Ecuador.

"What about the $10 service charge?" we asked.

We were assured this would be refunded (we'll see) and Brian endorsed the cheque and we tried depositing it again.

We'd written to our Bank in Canada, told them we were in Ecuador and asked them the easiest way to transfer money to a bank account here. They wrote us back suggesting we drop into our nearest Canadian branch to arrange an electronic transfer.

"Are they stupid or do they expect that there's a branch of our bank just down the street in Cuenca?" Shelley asked of Brian.

Oh well...tomorrow is expat night...maybe we can go there and create some chaos. Frankly we're glad the week's almost over.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mr. Happy Tooth

Unexpectedly, we received several emails regarding Brian's travails at the dentist. They all wished him the best and gave him encouraging words but they all apologized because they thought his problem was so funny. (Shelley thinks it's funny too. Brian would think it's funny except he's too scared.) He sweated and sighed for 2 days thinking he would not be able to get any medication but the dentist finally phoned and said he had a prescription ready for him. Armed with his happy pills, Brian now felt he might be able to get through his root canal.

With all his teeth troubles you'd think that Brian would have had a root canal in the past, but he hasn't. When he first told Shelley he needed a root canal he couldn't help but notice that she paled on his behalf. When he asked her why, she merely mumbled and demurred. Silly Brian then went to the computer and looked up the whole procedure on the internet. It would seem that, with the problem he has with dentists, ignorance might be better, but apparently not.

We'd emailed our daughter because she works at a dentist's office and asked her how much an uninsured root canal would cost in Canada. Not taking into account x-rays or freezing, the bottom line cost would be at least $700; for all the procedures close to $2000. Did we mention that Brian's dentist in Canada almost refused to work on him anymore because he flinched at every move made. The dentist told him he felt so bad operating on him he wasn't sure he could continue to do so, and then he hit upon the idea of medication. When we thought perhaps we wouldn't be able to get a prescription for Brian, we'd discussed pouring a tumbler of vodka into him but the idea didn't sit that well.

We picked up the prescription and once again Brian headed to the internet to see what kind of medication he'd been given. Surprisingly, it was mostly used for anxiety or panic attacks. There was a caution because the medication could be highly addictive and another caution for people over age 60. When Shelley pointed these 2 cautions out to Brian he was unconcerned.

"Of course it's highly addictive, you don't worry about anything" he told her. "I'm only going to take it for the days I have to go to the dentist. Don't worry. You worry too much!" he scoffed at her.

Shelley rolled her eyes and went to go read her book.

After a terrible night's sleep, we both rolled out of bed quite early. Brian paced the front room until it was time to take his happy pills. Shelley valiantly tried to ignore him but from time to time would stop his frenzied movement and give him a pat or a hug. Finally it was time to go and we hailed a taxi and started off to the specialist.

"I've got a stress headache" Shelley told Brian in the cab.
"Funny, I've just started to calm down", Brian replied as the pill started to kick in.

Upon arrival at the specialist's office we only had to wait about 5 minutes and they took Brian into the operating room. They left the door slightly ajar so Shelley could peek in from time to time. She was prepared to go rushing in to save him if she had to, but no long moans or shrieks of horror emitted from the room, just the calm voice of the Doctor asking in Spanish how Brian was and Brian's mumbled reply, "OK".

Later, riding in the taxi home Brian told Shelley there was one moment when he jumped in the chair when the Doctor hit a nerve, "But he was good" he explained. "He stopped right away and sprayed something on the tooth that dulled the pain and made sure I was OK before he started again".

Brian's got another visit to the specialist and several visits to the regular dentist coming up. He's gone through the tough part though, even though he doesn't know it. In the cab, riding home, Shelley had patted him on the shoulder and commented "Piece of Cake" and he got angry at her for a second for diminishing his accomplishment.

"OK, I'll ignore you then!"

"Oh don't ignore me! That's worse."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fear & Loathing in Ecuador

"Not last night, but the night before you were talking in your sleep and you were talking Spanish" Brian informed Shelley.

Shelley wanted to know what she was saying, but Brian couldn't remember. We don't know if it's good or bad that Spanish has infiltrated our sleep but suspect it's just all part of the process. They say when you start thinking in the new language, then you know you have really mastered it. Do they say anything about dreaming in it?

We ate at a sea food restaurant on Crespo more or less in the neighbourhood where we live. Shelley had a breaded filet (which she really enjoyed) and Brian had roasted oysters. The thought, given the description, was that he'd get several oysters and maybe some rice and salad with it, but what he got was the "biggest oyster in the world"; at least 5 inches across, roasted in it's enormous shell. Nothing accompanied it. Given the price ($6), Brian was disappointed. He said it would make a good appetizer but wasn't a full meal deal. The texture, perhaps because it was so large, also threw him off, in that it was more like scallops or abalone. We usually only eat out once or twice a week and we're trying to find restaurants to "wow" Brian's friend Jan with when he visits at Christmas. As Jan likes seafood and the restaurant was within walking distance for us, we'd hoped it'd fit the ticket. It didn't.

We met a bunch of people at the new East Indian restaurant on Calle Larga for Sunday brunch. The prices were middling ($3 - $4) for a entree and although very tasty the spices were tamped down for Ecuadorian palates. Seven of us ate our fill and the total bill was $30, which included a $6 tip. You can get your meals with either rice or nan bread and both the rice and nan portions are huge! They also provided a free appetizer of a fried vegetable pancake creation together with 3 dipping sauces. Yummy. The place must be catching on because there was a good crowd, yet the owner was very anxious to accommodate us and put together several tables to fit our party.


Up bright and early Monday morning, Brian sat around anxiously until it was time to take his happy pills to go get his root canal. We took a cab to the specialist which was out near the airport. The cabby tried to tell us the fare was $5; we gave him $3 and it probably would have been OK to give him $2. We had arrived early as Brian was apprehensive and wanted to leave, so we stood on the corner for awhile and scoped out buses for our return trip.

At the specialist's office Brian was asked for his passport and we discovered the dentist's English was not that great. We ended up phoning the first dentist to get an thorough explanation of what was going on. As the swelling was not yet completely down in his mouth, it wasn't the right time to do the root canal. In addition, the tooth next to it was no good and would have to be pulled. An appointment was made with the specialist for Friday to get the root canal done and we were advised it would cost about $250. After the root canal work we will return to the first dentist. He will put a permanent filling into the root canal tooth, pull the bad tooth and clean the remaining teeth. His original costs for consultation, cleaning & filling re the root canal was $80, so now we can expect additional costs for pulling the bad tooth. It appears the entire project, including drugs & ex-rays will cost in the neighbourhood of $400.'s another one; Brian's bottom denture will have to have a tooth added to it. So...$500? Oh well. Has Shelley mentioned she hates Brian's teeth? (Better here in Ecuador, mind you, than back in Canada with no dental coverage!)

Brian was wide tracking when we left the specialist's office but we managed to get on a # 28 which took us to directly to the first dentist's office. We dropped in there just to get a better understanding of what was going on and to check on Brian's request for happy pills. The dentist had done some research and gave Brian a new prescription. Continuing to wide track, Shelley led Brian to the drug store where we were informed the Dentist didn't have the authority to prescribe those particular drugs. The druggist had phoned the dentist and told us "the dentist would get a friend to help us". (All this in pigeon Spanish & English combined.)

"Maybe you could try and do the appointment without drugs?" Shelley asked Brian.

Brian's eyes went very round with horror, "Yes" he said "And I could get my fingernails pulled out as well".

Having put Brian through enough for one day, Shelley walked him home where he had a long, long nap and we determined we'd phone the dentist the next day.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Heart of a Lion

There's a soul that's been setting off fireworks at 6:30 in the morning for the last week or so. Shelley wakes up and listens to them popping in the distance and then generally goes back to sleep. Brian, if he's had a rough night and is still asleep, wakes up and gets up. Otherwise, he listens in wonderment drinking his coffee.

"Whoever is doing that is waking up hundreds of people" Brian expresses in amazement. "Sure I can understand if you're having a wedding and blowing them off late into the night, but whoever is doing this is getting up early in the morning."

We goggle in wonderment and go about our business.

There's construction going on at the road across the river outside our front room window. They're digging the road up and it looks like they're putting in new water mains (perhaps sewer?) They worked on the road just down the street for several weeks and now they're on the road right across from our building. At lunch time the workers often have an impromptu soccer game and we've caught a couple of them fishing on their breaks.

For several days the school across the street is taking advantage of the blocked off road and there's a marching band with multiple drummers and a few horn players beating and blowing away entertaining the workers and us. The rest of the school children march around their yard and down the road waving flags while accompanying music blares from a loud speaker.

Did we mention Ecuador was vibrant?


When Brian was a child he was traumatized by a Dentist. The consequence was, he then spent 50 years not taking proper care of his teeth. The further consequence was, he eventually had to have all but a few of his teeth pulled. The upshot to that was, he ended up in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer. The pills they gave him to control the swelling when they pulled his teeth caused the ulcer. Shelley came home from work one day to find blood all over the head in the boat and no Brian. Shortly after arriving home his work phoned her and advised he'd fainted and been taken to the hospital. At the hospital they gave him 4 bags of blood and the dentist ended up doing a scholarly paper on him. Brian's teeth have cost us thousands and thousands of dollars.

Two days ago Brian called Shelley into the bathroom, pulled back his gum and asked, "Does it look red or swollen to you?"

"I hate your teeth!" Shelley complained.

We phoned around and found an English speaking dentist and Brian has an appointment with him at noon. Brian brought with him one happy pill prescribed by our dentist back in Canada. Brian's stomach tightens up and he flinches even when the dentist has only a mirror in his mouth. Our last dentist threatened to quit on him because he made him feel so bad. He compromised and started drugging Brian before visits. Brian needs to be drugged even to get his teeth cleaned and Shelley always goes with him to hold his hand. Afraid to take his happy pill because he thinks the dentist will initially prescribe antibiotics to get the swelling down, he brings it with him - just in case.

Walking to the dentist, as it's not too far away from where we live, Shelley pulled Brian by the hand the last couple of blocks. The dentist was on time and advised Brian he'd need a root canal to be done by another specialist. He prescribed antibiotics & pain killers. He told Brian the nerves in the tooth were dead and that he wouldn't need the anti-anxiety pills he'd been using in Canada. Brian explained that "yes(!)" he would need the happy pills and it didn't take much to make the dentist understand. We went off to the pharmacy armed with 3 prescriptions but were told the anti-anxiety pills were unavailable in Ecuador. Trooping back to the dentist, he said he'd talk to some friends of his and find out what an equivalent would be and that we could pick up the new prescription later.

We had been told that the dentist "was a very nice man" and finally walking home Brian blew out a big cleansing breath and heartily agreed. As Brian needs a very nice man for his dentist it all seemed rather fortuitous.

Now, all we have to do is get through the specialist's appointment and another appointment with the regular dentist to clean his teeth & fill the cavity from the root canal. Total cost including drugs will be approximately $200 (maybe less; we are unsure of the specialist's fee).

PS:- In many other ways Brian has the heart of a lion.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Estamos Aprendiendo

"Have you noticed that every time we go to ExPat night it rains like the dickens and we come home soaked to the skin?" Shelley asked Brian.

"My pants are soaked! Can you believe this rain?" Brian answered absent mindedly.

"Do you think it's a sign?"

"What sign?"

PS:- ExPat night was going to be held at Zoe but when we arrived there a volunteer was stationed to direct people back to La Parola. There's loyalty, politics & it's probably an Ecuador thing too. Nevertheless, back to La Parola it was and is.

Down at the main square on Sunday we saw the Elite Band. Trained in North American ways to the 3 minute song, we both commented on the endurance salsa, with the tunes lasting 12 to 18 minutes. The energy is amazing! We sat in the sun listening until we got light headed and then moved to the shade for awhile. As a pick-me-up we went for something to drink. Shelley had an iced cappuccino as she's been missing her Ice Caps. It was wasn't a Tim Horton's; more like a milk shake. It was good but she told Brian to never let her buy another one ever again.

There's graffiti here but it's seems to be less than what's in Vancouver. It's our understanding Vancouver is pretty good graffiti wise, so we guess Cuenca is great. However, something we did notice during our vacation here last February/March and since we've been back: they graffiti the large succulent plants. Permanently carved into the large cactus and succulent leaves you'll often see Juan & Maria are an item and political slogans and such things.

We're starting to notice we're loosing our tourist eyes. Things that may have disturbed us (guns on hips) or was very conspicuous (unfinished buildings) are now merely part of the landscape. The cracked & crumbling sidewalks are just part of the way things are and even the indigenous people in their different costumes doesn't rubber neck us any more. There's a sign in most banks that we've been trying to subtly get a picture of but haven't managed yet. You know: a picture of a soft drink in a cup, in a circle with a line through it - no drinks, no baseball caps, no cameras, no handguns. Shelley continues to be somewhat conspicuous with her grey/white hair. Do the people of South American dye their hair more or are they just genetically lucky and don't go grey as often?

And then there's the gut wrenching panic attacks that come on unexpectedly when once again the realization hits you that you've left your home land and cut ties with all that is familiar. Although her children are grown, Shelley is haunted from time to time being so far away from them. Although our apartment is wonderful and our neighbourhood very accommodating, Brian still spends hours pouring over boat pictures on the internet. We tell Ecuadorians that Canada is a country of immigrants. In Vancouver, riding on the bus, it's not unusual to hear 3 or 4 different languages. Shelley is 3rd generation Canadian, Brian 4th or 5th, but we both had a soft spot for 1st generations, helpful with the language, understanding of the cultural shock. It took coming here to really understand a large part of what they were feeling; happy to be in their wonderful new country but often missing the old.

Technical Details: At the end of each blog segment, there is a link to comments. If you choose to make a comment, it is emailed to us for approval regarding posting to the blog or not. If we can (you leave your e-mail or blog address), we'll get back to you personally with answers to your questions. If not, we'll answer your questions in the same comment section. Sometimes a comment is just a comment and we'll publish it alone. We may chose, as we've done once before, to take the comment out of the comment section and speak to it right in the blog. We respect your right to privacy when you do make a comment, however, philosophically we do not attach a high level of credibility to anonymous comments. Your comments are appreciated!

Even more Spanish: There are 3 main types of verbs, -ir, -ar & -er. The ending of these verbs have different forms: e.g. -ir verb Escribir (to write). I write, yo escribo; you (informal) write, tu escribes; you (formal) or he/she writes, used/el/ella escribe; we write, nosotros/as escribimos; you all or they write, ustedes/ellos/ellas escriben. Alas, not all verbs follow a regular pattern. Those that don't are called irregular verbs. There are 2 main types of irregular verbs. First there are the so-called stem-changing verbs. The verbs take the same endings as the regular verbs but the root (or stem) changes slightly. Stem-changing verbs are divided again into 3 more groups: e>ie, 0>ue and e>i. Then there are irregular verbs where the first person singular is the only irregularity. All the "yo" (I) forms have a "g" in the middle. e.g. Hacer (to do) - yo hago (I do).

Every time we talk to an Ecuadorian and tell them Spanish is hard for us to learn, they laugh and scoff us. We usually then go on to modify the whole thing and explain it's harder when you're old like we are. Again, they laugh and scoff us. We continue with our lessons. We are getting better. One of the biggest problems we're having now is that whoever we're talking to can't believe we're talking Spanish and therefore can't hear us. We'll repeat our phrase over and over again until they "get" it and repeat it back to us all amazed. Then we all have a good laugh.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Presidents, Butterflies, Churches & More

Because we're watching international CNN we saw a lot more of the U.S. election than we do when we're in Vancouver watching Canadian news. Still, it does go on and on. (We've mentioned previously that Canada called an election & voted all within 6 weeks.) We're pleased it's finally over and wish the new U.S. President well. It seems to us that he has set a stage for some real change. We hope he has the skill, determination and co-operation to actually pull it off. The "old ways" are very entrenched but there does seem to be a solid appetite for change.

It's been raining for 4 days off and on and other than our daily walk, we've been hunkering down. The sun finally shone today. We've been sitting out on the balcony, Shelley's pants rolled up over her knees, discussing what we'll do for the next couple of days. There are 2 concerts tonight, one at the Parque Calderon, a group called "Swing" and another at the Teatro Sucre an hour later (both free) that we thought we'd check out. ExPat night has changed from La Parola to Zoe, located on 7-61 Borrero at Mariscal Sucre. A lot of the ExPat's felt La Parola didn't appreciate us (the service was slow, they'd close down without notice) so apparently a deal's been struck with the owner of Zoe in that there'll be special prices for drinks etc. We don't go to the ExPat night every week, feeling it's better to integrate into the community at large, but it is nice to go once in awhile and basically "talk English".

With a beautiful afternoon looming ahead of us and nothing particularly planned, we decided to take another one of our terminus bus rides. This time we hopped on a # 27 on Doce de Abril, which took us through downtown and then up the hill to Avenida de las Americas. Eventually we got to a small barrio called Sinincay where there was an absolutely fabulous church that Shelley could not get a picture of due to the bumpy ride. She did, however, get some lovely pictures of small pieces of it! In any case, at the terminus a young man with high school English advised us this was the end of the line and with great concern asked us where we were trying to go. Brian explained we were simply on an excursion. The young man seemed to think that was somewhat odd. The round trip took us a couple of hours and as usual we were the only North Americans on the bus. Talking about our ride later, we decided that one day we'll go back to Sinincay to take pictures of the church. There appeared to be a lot of buildings attached, so we think it's probably a monastery; we'll look into that.

Well...we traipsed downtown and were there about 7:15 p.m. expecting to see "Swing" in full swing. They weren't. There was much talking on cell phones and we waited patiently in the park until it was time to go to the next venue at the Teatro Sucre, which is located in the heritage justice building. The Cuenca Lawyers' Society put on a terrific program "Concierto de Homenaje", which consisted of some wonderful (!) singers and musicians performing "high society" with a latin flavour. It was a packed house with standing room only for late comers. The crowd loved the show, clapping along with many songs, and the encore brought the house down. There's doesn't seem to be a compunction to turn cells phone off, however, and Shelley's occasional appreciative whooping drew startled glances. It was a great evening and we really enjoyed ourselves; well worth staying up past our bedtime!


He'd been asking her for weeks, but she's been putting him off with one excuse after another. They'd actually been discussing it for years and had agreed they'd do "it" when Brian retired. The time had finally come. She was nervous; he had deep fear. "How about doing it now?" he asked, a towel wrapped around his waist as he'd just come out from the shower.

"No, we'll wait until you're dry" she answered.
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure."

It took half an hour. She had to take a break during the middle of it to take care of nervous bowel syndrome. He got mad at her at one point when she went too far. She pouted and told him he could have gotten someone else to do it. They made up.

While certainly not a stunning razor cut professional look, at least his hair was short & tidy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

103 days, 18 hours, 17, minutes & 22 seconds

There's this gadget we have on our iGoogle page that counts up the days we've been back in Ecuador. We just noticed it's been 100 days, 22 hours, 43 minutes and 26 seconds - oh no 35 seconds - oh no 41 seconds...

Continuing with Cuenca Independence Day celebrations, fighter planes zoomed across the sky all morning. We kept stepping on to the balcony trying to get a glimpse and fruitlessly tried to take a picture. Brian looked up statistics on the web and Ecuador has 11 of one type of fighter plane and 12 of another. Shelley asked him if that was more than Canada and Brian was almost insulted.

Later on in the afternoon we set off on the # 14 bus to Parque El Paraiso to see the "Carrera de Burros" (Racing of Burros). We saw a couple of musical acts, rows and rows of booths with roast pig and barbecue cuy, impromptu drum bands and a dozen children chasing one purely terrified piglet, but we never did see Carrera de Burros. The Park is every bit as nice as Stanley Park minus the Ocean & the Aquarium. We went for a long walk and watched people in peddle/paddle boats in a small stream, twisted through a maze-like bridge system over a bit of a bog, watched the River for awhile, took a path through a bit of forest that reminded Shelley very much of the path system at the suspension bridge in North Vancouver and sat on a log just enjoying the sun while people watching. Brian had a roast pig lunch, mash/fried/potatoe pancake like thing and beans for $2 while we sat and listened to the ever present loud Latin music.

On the way home we noticed quite a big crowd in the Parque de Calderon so we got off the bus thinking it would be more Independence Day activities. What is was was 2 young men, one dressed in drag, doing impromptu street theatre. They must have been pretty good because the crowd kept laughing. We had a cappuccino and headed home.

Note: descriptive adjectives follow the noun in Spanish; the house modern. To form the...
...comparative of adjectives (more, -er) "mas...que" is used. Charles is more tall than Henry.
...superlative of adjectives (most, -est) "" is used. Vancouver is the city more big than Kamloops.
...comparative of equality ( "tan...como" is used. John is as good looking as his brother.
...comparative of equality with nouns (as "tanto...como" is used. Charles has as many books as Maria.

Although it doesn't "feel" like it, we can see a definite improvement in our Spanish (especially Brian). He says we've progressed from grunts to communicating on a 3 year old level!

Awakening on the actual Cuenca Independence Day (November 3rd) to the sound of jets roaring through the sky, we were somewhat trepidatious as it was our usual grocery shopping day. We wondered if the store might be closed. It wasn't, but it sure was packed (which is unusual), so a lot of people must have had the day off work. We had planned to go to a musical event in the afternoon but it started raining just when we got back with the groceries and didn't stop until the evening. As the event was outdoors, we didn't go. It always rained buckets on "special" days in Vancouver too. Is it a rule?

We're on a bit of a quest to buy a small poinsettia plant and are having trouble finding one that's not 4 feet tall and a small bush. They sell them at SuperMaxi but they are over priced there. We checked in the flower market downtown and the nice ladies there suggested we try the public market near our place. We walked there in the light rain today but found no poinsettias. We try to avoid going to the public market near our place because they sell puppies & kitty cats & bunnies and all sorts of highly cute things that are hard to resist.

One hundred and three days, 18 hours, 16 minutes and 19 seconds.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Independence Day

Even though it wasn't unusual to rain for 40 days and 40 nights in Vancouver, we rarely got thunderstorms and when we did they were minor. Cuenca gets spectacular thunder and lightning storms on a regular basis. One time when we had company, the crack of the thunder was so loud we and our guests all believed that something must have blown up!

Cuenca is currently celebrating its independence day (November 3, 1820) from the Spanish. We've been advised that there are fireworks every night for a week but we haven't seen any yet. We've been hearing them though. Fireworks are very common here, as are thunder storms. When there's a wedding there's often fireworks and it's not unusual to hear them 3 or 4 times a week.

Our days have been routine lately. We always go for some sort of long walk (it's the exercise you know) and we've been off to SuperStock etc. to pick up a new ironing board (etc) and have had dinner and lunch with a couple of friends, but we're without conflict. Generally, without conflict means without something to write about. Brian's friend Jan is coming for Christmas. We're expecting him in Ecuador on December 13th, and as Jan is a force of nature, interesting things to write about tend to follow. We're pretty much stocked up, although our SuperMaxi bill continues to be higher than Brian thinks it should be. Last week we bought a Christmas table cloth ($13.49) and a bottle of vodka ($5.39) but we're pretty close to being finished with the extras. (Ya right! - Our grocery bill in Canada was always higher than Brian thought it should be too - why should Ecuador be any different?)

By Friday the Cuenca celebration thing was really geared up. All over town artisans from Ecuador & Peru & other places (?) had set up booths and were selling sweaters & jewelry & clay pots & fine woven cloths & you name it. Shelley dragged Brian to a few set-ups and he finally got into the swing of the whole thing when she suggested to him that he needed a light sweater for sitting around the apartment on those cool days. He ended up buying a Peruvian sweater and a cardigan for $15 each (what a deal), make from alpaca, warm yet light, they even had a size big enough for him. In a downtown square they had school children (20 or more) all dressed up in ancestral costumes doing boy-girl square/line dance type traditional dancing.

"Have you ever seen anything that cute before?" Shelley asked Brian.

Before the afternoon rains started the next day, we ventured downtown to try and get a copy of the Cultural Agenda for Cuenca for the month of November from the Tourist office on the Parque Calderon main square. It was a mad house! The office was stuffed with people; they'd apparently already given out all the agendas for November and had photocopied a bunch of information but had given all those out as well. The double decker red tour bus was giving free tours of Cuenca and a 4 or 5 piece band was playing music where the people were lined up waiting for their free tours.

We sat in the square for a while enjoying the ambiance and then headed to Carolina's Bookstore to see if they had any Agendas left. They did! The nice man in the store (giving Carol & Lee a break to see the festivities) directed us down the stairs to the Centro Interamericano de Artesanias y Artes Populares where there were endless artisans from different districts in Ecuador displaying their works. Shelley managed to buy another fish for our fish wall, this one made of seeds & beans & grain. We walked across the bridge to Parque de la Madre where there was a huge set-up of artists and their paintings, plus craft jewelry. Brian figures a lot of the artists must have come from Guayaquil or Quito. We resisted buying 2 fish paintings (too big) and Shelley didn't bargain successfully to get yet another copper bracelet.