Friday, January 30, 2009

Duties & Naps

"But I won't get my nap!" Brian wailed, nap turning into a 2 syllable word.

It was Monday, our grocery shopping day, and it'd been decided to go to the store before we did our Spanish study. That way Fredi's schedule was the least interrupted. We had to co-ordinate shopping, Spanish, Fredi, nap & lunch all within a 4 hour period. Apparently, since neither of us had been "working" for awhile, we'd lost the nack of multi-tasking. (Oh what a shame :-( - This is sarcasm.)

As we've mentioned before, Brian was in the radio industry for 35 years. For 20 of those years he was the "morning man" and that required that he get up at 3:30 a.m. to get ready for work. Twenty years of a 3:30 rising entrenched in Brian the need to have an afternoon nap. Yes...he can get through the day (if absolutely necessary) without his afternoon nap however, he doesn't like it.

We juggled a bit and finally came up with a compromise so that Fredi was walked on schedule, Spanish was done and Brian did, in fact, get his nap. All was well with the world.

PS:- Fredi has a nap with Brian these days. This is Shelley's putter time.

On Tuesday we had a guest over for dinner and they commented on a shop they knew of where we could get unsweetened cocoa. We discussed baking in Ecuador vs baking in Canada. Cuenca seem to have bakeries on every street however, the goodies are more pastry like and the cakes are hit and miss. They may look wonderful and then taste like basically nothing or they may look wonderful and be wonderful. As well, baking doesn't seem to be the at home hobby that it is in Canada and the U.S. Maybe the thought of lighting your oven and baking for several hours isn't as attractive a thought in a warm country as it is in a country that experiences real winter? In any case, Shelley'd been looking for unsweetened cocoa for some time and was glad to hear it could be obtained. (You'd think in a country that produces cocoa it'd be easy. Go figure!)

Wednesday took us to the Vets for Fredi's second set of shots. Apparently she gets another set in 21 days, and then some more at 6 months, 12 months & 15 months; rabies being the one they administer at 15 months. The Vet speaks some English but her English is on par with our Spanish so we're a little obscure about everything. We do know we go back in 21 days. Fredi was as good as gold although she didn't like the parasite medicine inserted via mouth very much. On the way home we stopped at the shop our dinner guest had told us about: Cadelaes at Remigio Crespo 5-18. We got unsweetened cocoa (although they had to go into the back to get it for us), shredded coconut, some peanuts & white vinegar. They had currie paste, oyster sauce (unfortunately with MSG) and lots of other condiments that seem to be hard to get at a SuperMaxi. All in all, Brian, Fredi & Shelley agreed it'd been a successful outing except for the awful taste in Fredi's mouth.

As we've mentioned before, right outside our window is the river. Running along side the river is a patch of grass; sometimes quite thin, sometimes parklike. In any case, we take Fredi out to the patch of grass at regular intervals to do her duty. At this point we'd just like to mention one thing: It is extremely difficult to get a puppy to do her duty on a patch of grass that has recently been grazed by a herd of goats. There are just too many fascinating smells for a little puppy to take in!

Friday we decided to try the Mexican restaurant recommended by Gringo Tree on Cuenca Highlife: Pronto Tacos on Ave Jose Peralta, just across the street from the Stadium. We'd signed up for Gringo Tree last week and although the emails are fast and furious, there are some interesting events that we probably wouldn't hear about if not for the service. Let's face it; to delete is easy. In any event, Pronto Tacos provided us with 2 beers, 2 soft tacos, guacamole, taco chips, refried bean dip & 2 spicy dips and a meat & bean burrito for $10.90. Canada is not noted for its Mexican food but if we didn't have the spicy dips with the taco chips, the soft tacos would have been a bit bland. We thought the food was tasty but it's Ecuador & the spicy we're used to was, as usual not there.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Biblical Rain

More Spanish: A noun is the direct object of a sentence if it answers the question "whom?" or "what?". A direct object pronoun can be used in place of the object noun, so we don't sound too repetitive. Peter eats a taco. He eats it with meat. (Peter come un taco. Lo come con carne.) A noun is an indirect object of a sentence when it answers the questions "to whom?" or "for whom?". Laura to him gives food. (Laura le da comida.) The funny thing about Spanish is that you can use the indirect object pronouns not only when you want to replace a noun (so you don't repeat it), but also, and very frequently (about 99 percent of the time), together with it. So, in Spanish, you can say something like: Laura to him gives food, to Peter. (Laura le da comida a Peter :-)

On the boat we had to be careful what we plugged in because the dock had limited power. We could have 3 things going at the same time; more would break the circuit and then we'd have to get dock personnel down to unlock the power box and reset the circuit breakers. Every winter when we started to use the electric heaters again, we'd get caught. We had one electric heater going in the fo'c'sle and one going in the rear cabin. This left one more thing we could plug in, like for instance the hot plate, but if we'd just had a shower and the hot water was heating up this counted as one of our appliances. We'd go through a juggling act, turning heaters on and off between showers & making supper. When Shelley's youngest daughter was on board we had a heck of a time convincing her to think before she used her hair dryer. We kept appliances to a minimum. We had a toaster & of course an iron and these had to be juggled appropriately, but the lights for the boat ran on boat battery power not dock power. Thus, even when the marina was in a total power outage we still had lights.

Now, we have a blender & a slow cooker & an iron & a toaster & a microwave that we can run all at the same time if we so wish and we don't have to worry about heaters. However, on a pretty regular basis the power goes out on the entire block & we're without lights. We finally bought candles so we're not sitting in that dark telling each other stories when the power goes out. Now we chat & entertain each other the old fashioned way by the light of flickering candles. It's funny how we've gone from almost camping out on the boat to our glorious apartment but now we need candles. Don'cha think?

It doesn't happen very often but we woke up one morning and didn't have anything planned for the day. As Fredi always has to be walked, we set out on the paths near the river so Fredi could free walk. For such a polite little lady she sure enjoys tearing around when she's off the leash. We stopped at the plant place just across the street from SuperMaxi (Fredi of course back on the leash) on the Avenida de las Americas and bought a table plant and yet another planter for Shelley's growing collection of cactus & succulents. Brian wants to know when this purchasing of plants is going to stop and Shelley's pat reply is always "when we run out of room". Brian was reasonably sure we ran out of room several weeks ago but Shelley put one over on him by buying shelving. In the back of Shelley's mind is the fact that we've got another small balcony with as yet only 2 plants on it. It's a minor addiction with most of the cactuses & small plants costing $1 or $1.50.

Brian is coming up on his first year's anniversary of his retirement. Probably as a consequence he's been thinking about his working life quite a bit the last few days. We've discussed it thoroughly and have come to a consensus: Retirement is good!

There's been an awful lot of discussion on various forums and between the ExPats down here about what visa is appropriate and what to do when visas expire. There is still the 90 day visitors visa that is stamped into your passport when you first come to Ecuador and there doesn't seem to be any problem with that. Getting a 90 day extension seems to depend on where you go. We've hear stories about the extension being refused on one day and granted the next. We've heard stories about the extension being refused at one border crossing and granted at another. We've pretty much consistently been told that the 6 month tourist visa costs $200+ but heard a story the other day about someone getting this visa at a consulate in Peru for $60. If you're planning on staying for longer than 3 months it might be wise to get the 6 month tourist visa at a consulate before you come to Ecuador, unless of course you don't mind the no assurances aspect, then you can just take your chances. If you're planning on coming down to become a permanent resident, it really is best if you consult a lawyer here; the laws are changing almost daily!

One of our ExPat friends is ill with some sort of South American vengeance, no diarrhea but feeling totally exhausted thing. Jan, once he hit Holland came down with pretty much the same thing. It's been over 10 days and it's only now that Jan is starting to feel human again. Brian & Shelley had colds on our visit to Ecuador in February/March 2008 and got a cold when we returned in July 2008 but we haven't been ill since. We've been congratulating ourselves that it's mostly because we've quit smoking. Both Jan & our ExPat friend are smokers. We are, as we've mentioned before, now addicted to Trident Green gum, but our lungs are pristine & our costs are way down. Not getting sick as much is pure bonus!

And then around 3:30 Sunday afternoon we got hail...and thunder...and lightning...and biblical rain. We stood at the window of our patio and watched the hail coming down on our plants, willing our cactuses & succulents to survive their beating. We watched through our front room window while the river rose before our very eyes. Even Fredi wondered "what the hay!" at the thunder and clinking of hail & rain against our windows.

"Just look at it" Brian told Shelley. "Look outside!"

Our TV's satellite dish lost it's mind for awhile but came back within 10 minutes. Poor Fredi eventually took refuge in her crate, her usually forsaken soft ball pulled in after her to protect her from the awful cracking of the thunder. Eventually, off in the distance, we could hear sirens screaming too & wondered what was going on.

It didn't end as quickly as it started like they say in the books. It tapered off over over a period of about an hour and a half. First the hail stopped, then the rain eased back, then the cracking of the thunder came only intermittently and then not at all. Finally it settled into a fast drizzle. Fredi was dragged out of her box and cuddled on the couch and we watched a movie with Wesley Snipes and Robert DeNiro called the Fan, all of us cozied up on the couch happy we were inside.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

WW II, General Strikes & New Heads of State

While it's still warm, the weather has turned and it's not as warm as it has been for the last 3 months or so. Now when we go out we wear a sweater or bring one (except for the days when it's still really quite hot), whereas for several months it's definitely been shirt sleeve weather. One should not be confused by the rain indicated on the weather gadget for Cuenca on this blog. It does rain almost every day but unlike Vancouver it doesn't last. A heavy shower will come down for twenty minutes or so and then it ends, or a light shower will sprinkle for a few minutes and then go away. It's not cold and damp and puddly, it's the kind of rain one would expect just miles from the Equator.

And now for something completely different: For some reason we've been stuck in World War II for the last several weeks. Last night we watch Tom Cruises's Valkyrie and a couple of weeks ago we watched the series Band of Brothers and quite enjoyed it. Books read are Marge Piercy's Gone to Soldiers, Paul Grieve's Upon a Wheel of Fire and Larry Collins' Fall from Grace. People of our generation grew up hearing about WW II but never had to really understand the fullness of it. Wikipedia says over 70,000,000 people were killed in WW II, 3,800,000 in the Vietnam War & 100,000 in the Persian Gulf War. Tucked away in our little South American paradise, we can't help but thank our lucky stars the way things seem to be turning out for us. Maybe that's why we're in the WW II phrase, just thanking our lucky stars and recognizing what could be?

ExPat night was at the Sankt Florian on Calle Larga. There was a good turn out, perhaps because everyone wanted to see the new venue, and certainly the food & service was much better. Tables were set up to seat about 6 whereas a long table to seat 12 or 15 or more is much better for expanding your ExPat horizons. We took Fredi and she lay under the table quietly & unobtrusively (despite the quite loud din) unless someone wanted to examine her and then she was cuddly & cute & good.

Today is Tuesday and we were told at ExPat night that on Tuesday there was going to be a "general strike". This meant no taxis, buses & we're not sure about the Post Office or similar places. We'd already invited people over Tuesday evening for dinner so we warned them they might have to walk and made sure we did all our shopping on Monday. I know Canada, way back when, tried general strikes a few times and vaguely remember reading about people walking to Winnipeg. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0008649 We've certainly seen the cabs not running for a couple of hours from time to time but the only time we've seen no buses was on New Year's Day. Later on when we went out, taxis & buses were running, so now we're not sure if we were given incorrect information, or it was cancelled...or it only was in the morning, or what. Shelley tried to Google "Cuenca General Strike" but the only thing that came up was from 1995.

Tuesday was inauguration day for the U.S.'s new President Obama. Brian spent a great deal of the day watching the festivities on television. At one point Shelley asked him, "What do Canadian's do when we get a new Prime Minister?"

Brian quick reply was, "Spend the next several weeks trying to remember his name."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Blah Blah Fredi Blah Fredi Blah Blah

One more time we ventured to the main square downtown to catch the Sunday 11 o'clock entertainment. Despite it drizzling rain the entertainment did go on. We neglected to get an Agenda for the month of January from the Tourist Board so we unfortunately can't tell you the name of the group, but they had drums, a base drum, bongo drums and a fair bit of other percussion which made for definite foot tapping entertainment. Fredi walked several blocks towards downtown and several blocks back home, so when we reached the apartment she flopped and slept with Brian for a couple of hours.

So far Fredi has not had an accident in the apartment. We know this is bound to happen eventually but she's a proper little girl and goes instantly we take her outside so, if she does have an accident, we're sure it'll be ultimately our fault. We ran into a somewhat eccentric ExPat, known for his hatred of the barking Ecuadorian dogs, and even he was enchanted by Fredi; this says an awful lot for her charms.

Monday is our shopping day, so we crated Fredi and listened to her whine for awhile and went off to do our grocery shopping. Needless to say, she was overjoyed to see us when we returned less than 2 hours later. She'd been a good girl and hadn't soiled her crate, but insisted on telling us of her trauma for several hours afterwards. To add insult to injury, we'd purchased puppy towels when we'd gone shopping, so it was now time for Fredi's first bath. Soaked to the skin and looking like the proverbial drowned rat, we wrapped her in her puppy towels and then give her a brisk rub down. Traumatized by the entire day, Fredi insisted on shivering like she'd been dunked in the Arctic Ocean. We finally wrapped her in a mohair shawl and Brian took her to bed for yet another nap. After nap time, all was forgotten & forgiven.

Tuesday we had a blog reader over for snacks and displayed what you could get in Ecuador for $300 a month. Brian was pricing apartments in Victoria Canada on the net the other day and there we'd probably pay around $1,600, which means in downtown Vancouver it'd be even more. Fredi once again was as good as gold and only displayed doggie "I-smell-people-food" tendencies once, by standing on her hind legs dancing, trying to get a look at the snack tray on the coffee table.

We're sorry. We're enamoured with our little dog and will be talking far too much about her, just like people with a brand new baby, for the next few weeks until it all settles down. Please bear with us!

The last visit to the dentist was very successful. Brian had his stitches removed without happy pills or anxiety ("He's the best Dentist I've ever met!" he exclaimed after his appointment, talking about the periodontist) and Shelley had her teeth cleaned and was given her usual strong teeth comment.

More Shih Tzu information: apparently they've been bred for hundreds of years to be lap dogs and if Fredi is a good example of her breed, they take their job very seriously. Their name derives from the last Empress of China whose name was Tzu Shih. They were also used as living water bottles (bed warmers) and their body temperature is a few degrees higher than ours. Fredi is a very quiet dog; the only time we've heard her high pitched yip was when we crated her. She never barks for attention or at strangers. The last time we had to go out without her instead of crating her we locked her in the bathroom with her crate, her chew stick & a couple of toys. Other than some heart rending but quiet whining, she seemed to settle down and patiently waited for us to get back. Her good manners continue to surprise us. When we're eating she goes under the table, curls around and has a lovely nap. The same is true when we're together on the computer or studying Spanish. She gets quite anxious if "the pack" gets separated (if one of us is in another room). She is very diplomatic about lap rights and seems to quite evenly distribute herself between the two of us. All in all (can you tell?) we're very pleased!

With our Canadian friends, off we went with Fredi to an evening at Sankt Florian on Calle Larga. She was a doll and slept quietly at our feet the entire time we were there (over 3 hours). Once again we have to comment on the luxury here of being able to socialize with Canadians. It must be something in the blood because it really is comfortable and satisfying. We all had a terrific meal but will warn that tax & tip are put on the price as extras for almost an additional 22%. Still, an incredible bargain when you compare it to a similar dining experience anywhere in North America. Sankt Florian does have a great lunch special for under $3, which includes soup, main course & dessert. Brian met the owner Heidi, who had previously owned the Cafe Austro, and there is a definite German influence to the menu. Surprise! Brian ordered filet mignon and it actually WAS filet mignon. Faithful readers will recall that Brian had tried filet mignon several times before here in Ecuador only to be served a very inferior cut of meat.

All around Cuenca you will find deep holes cut into the road or sidewalk right beside existing concrete telephone poles. We are guessing that they are going to "twin" the existing poles for a greater line carrying capacity but we'll have to wait and see. Sometimes the hole's rubble is left beside it, and it makes for an obstacle course walking down the street.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fredi the Third

Despite the dentist's orders to take it easy for 4 days, Brian felt so fine after his minor surgery, off we went to Coral Centro seeking a gasket for our blender. No luck. We did however, pick up 2 plastic shelves for our patio plants, a new dish drainer that hopefully won't cause the dishes to go crashing into each other & a tiny plastic shelf unit for under the bathroom cupboard to put toothpaste etc. in, all for the outrageous price of $16. We stopped in to the appliance store near where we live in our continuing search for the blender gasket and were at least given the address of another place that might have them.

It'd been really the first day in weeks and weeks that Brian hadn't had the looming terror of boogy-dentist lurking in the back of his head. Felt good.

Felt so good, he decided it was time we bought a dog. We've been looking at puppies at the Feria Libre market since we got to Ecuador. "They are so cute!" And on one of the episodes when Brian took his happy pills but no dental work was done, he wandered into a pet store and Shelley had to take him by the hand and lead him out. We'd talked to a veterinarian and she'd told us that she knew of some Shi Tzu puppies that would be ready in a week. Brian eagerly gave her our card and said we'd like to look at the puppies (after all, a week's ages away). Sooner than expected, the vet phoned us and told us she had 2 female puppies ready for viewing.

Brian was captured immediately.

Shelley took him aside and pointed out we had nothing prepared to bring a puppy into our house. Her thought was a night sleeping on it should produce any "cold feet" if they were there to be produced. The next morning we had a long discussion about parenting; walks, clean up, baths, responsibility, etc. etc. and Brian was not to be deterred.

Off we went and picked up a pretty little Shi Tzu female which we immediately named Fredi. The people at the store were concerned that we knew what we were getting and told us Fred wasn't appropriate for a chica. Brian explained Fredi was short for Frederica and then they were satisfied.

She's a lap dog well and truly. Happiest being handled and quite content to sit on Shelley's lap while she taps on the computer. Research on the internet tells us it'll likely take 6 months to house train her. Apparently this is very common with the small breed dogs. On the way home from the vet, Shelley put her down for a short tug on the leash. She immediately did her business. We were VERY pleased and TOLD HER!

By the way, we were finally steered to Asitec near the Feria Libre to get a gasket for our blender. They were of course, out of stock, but assured us they could order one and it'd be there in about a week. We ordered 3. We don't think getting this gasket was any harder here in Ecuador than it would be in Canada. We've both got memories of charging all over Vancouver trying to find the smallest part for an appliance.

Reading through the blog, Brian was affronted in that it seemed as if getting the dog was all his idea. Shelley merely smiled gently at him, Fredi cozied in his lap, and put this sentence in the blog. When Brian objected yet again, Shelley had a good laugh. We argued for a bit and then Fredi sneezed and we both forgot all about what was going on.

That evening we had an engagement for dinner with another blog reader. We met at Raymipampa and had an enjoyable couple of hours talking about our various adventures and filling our new friend in on the various pit falls (few) and joys of moving to Ecuador. Fredi came with us in one of Shelley's larger purses and was as good as gold, laying quietly on her lap the whole time content just to be with people.

Later on that evening we tried to "crate" Fredi for the night but gave in after listening to pitful whines & ear piercing little barks for only about 10 minutes. Up on the bed she came, snuggling in between us and settling in for an unbroken night's sleep. Brian had to wake her up in the morning.

"You know if we let her sleep on the bed, we'll be stuck with it" Brian told Shelley in the morning after doing some more research on the web.

"What's wrong with that?" Shelley asked.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Piece of Cake!

Once again we dropped into the Banco Pichincha to see why our cheque had not cleared our Canadian Bank. We've been trying to transfer a lump sum of money for almost 3 months now. After some apologetic hemming and hawing, we were told the reason the cheque had not cleared at this point was that "a political decision has recently been made" and it is no longer possible to conduct transactions between a Canadian & an Ecuadorian Bank. We find this extremely hard to believe and distressing at the same time. Shelley once again got spitting mad over the fact that it has so far cost us $30 in service fees for absolutely no service. (Spitting gets you no where but it does feel good sometimes.) We have written a missive to our Canadian Bank and are waiting to see what they say. Keep in mind the last time we told them we were in Ecuador and asked about the best way to transfer monies, they advised us to drop into our nearest Bank of Montreal and arrange a wire transfer. We withdrew our small balance from the Banco Pichincha.

Later, Bank of Montreal advised they did not have a specific relationship with any Bank in Ecuador and thus cheques could not be cashed. They did not mention the reason why or how long this had been going on. They did say they could forward paper we could sign to arrange a wire transfer however. All in all, after weeks of frustration & $30 spent on nothing, we decided to put a hold on our plans to transfer a large sum until we felt a bit better about the whole thing.

After Brian's usual work up of intense sighing, worried looks & quiet little moans, the day for his dental surgery arrived. Shelley (in some sort of weird empathy thing?) didn't get to sleep until 2:30 a.m. the night before. Brian had crabbed at her a couple of times when turning over but generally slept like a baby. We ate a hearty breakfast (as who knows when Brian's would be able to chew again) and set off for his appointment at noon. Shelley settled into the waiting room and cracked a new book. Brian reluctantly went straight into the periodontist's office.

Five minutes later he returned.

The periodontist had cleaned a little plaque from Brian's teeth and then advised the surgery would be tomorrow. We're beginning to think it's some sort of sadistic Spanish thing. Walking home, Brian asked "What are we going to do now?" Shelley pointed out that they'd planned their whole week around Brian's surgery.

"We bought soft food for you, a couple of movies & I'd resigned myself to quietly computering and slowly going nuts from no activity" Shelley told him. "Besides, you're goofy!"

Some meat was bought for the vegetarian pizza Shelley had been planning for her supper and we walked home and put Brian down for yet another nap. Brian remarked later that at least he got a free happy pill high.

The next day we did the whole thing all over again except this time Brian actually had his surgery & Shelley actually got to read a couple of chapters in her book. The periodontist came out first and told Shelley, "Your husband, he is very brave!" Shelley giggled.

Brian was next and said, "Piece of cake!" Shelley clapped her hands.

Walking up to SuperMaxi later to pick up the "prescribed" vanilla ice milk (good for stitched teeth) Brian said, "All that anxiety & waiting & sleepless nights & it turned out to be so easy!"

A T3 took care of the pain which did eventually come and the stitches are due to be removed in a week. Until then Brian's on a diet of ice cream, eggs, noodles & soup. Total cost for regular cleaning, surgery, 2 teeth removed, temporary teeth for plate ~ $330, plus Shelley's getting her teeth cleaned ($55) when Brian gets his stitches removed. After that Brian should get his teeth cleaned every 3 months because of their poor health but if he does this "your teeth should last for many more years" he was assured.

We are both ecstatic (!) that Brian's whole dental thing is finally over. Has Shelley mentioned that she hates his teeth?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Now a Word from our Sponsor

New Year's Day, which was Jan's last full day in Ecuador, we spent trying to find a restaurant that was open or a bus that was running. Very little was going on. Everywhere we walked there were the charred remains of dummies burned to put an end to 2008. In the end we had pizza at the Nice Cream restaurant near the main square which was fine with all of us.

"What are you doing up so early!?" Brian asked Shelley the next morning.
"Is he gone?" she asked twisting her head seeking shadows. "Can I walk around naked?"

Apparently there'd been a minor problem. The scheduled taxi picked them up at 5:30 a.m. and took them to the mini-bus station where there were no other customers and no mini-bus. The taxi driver offered to phone "some one" and raise hell but 5 minutes late, the mini-bus drove into the station, picked Jan up and drove away with him. Brian took the helpful taxi home.

We ventured downtown later (walking for a change as we couldn't always because of Jan's bad back) and tried to mail a package off to Shelley's daughters, but the post office was closed. We had a quiet cappuccino where we recapped Jan's visit. Jan is a smoker & we found it of interest that even though we have not smoked for almost a full year now, the urge was more frequent because we were living with a smoker. We never caved, however, and are proud of ourselves (it wasn't actually all that bad). That aside, it was great to have him as a guest and we really enjoyed his visit!

Later, Shelley finally managed to find the skirt she'd been looking for. We bussed back home for an early nap (and ran around naked some more). We'd both agreed we'd start our Spanish lessons again on Monday next (as we'd discontinued them during Jan's visit; why start today what you can put off until Monday).

Now a Word from our Sponsor: Jan brought us both beautiful silk dressing gowns from China! They are absolutely exquisite! They exhibit very fine needlework and are gorgeous! Here ~ see for yourself!



As we'd been invited to lunch on Sunday, we ventured up to Punto and bought a long cake to take with us. On the way home, cake balanced on our fingertips, we encountered yet another Parade. "By the time we stop seeing parades, it'll almost be time for Carnival" Brian commented.

On the longish bus ride to our friend's place (cake balanced on our knees), after looking at 5 cowboys and their horses marching down the street, after going through the public market area downtown and all the while listening to the salsa music blaring from the speakers on the bus, Shelley turned to Brian and said, "When we go back to Canada I can imagine everything would seem rather lifeless and dull". Brian agreed.

At our friend's place with 2 other couples and kids and the best pizza (home made) perhaps in Ecuador, we all enjoyed ourself and ate too much. We spent some time regaling each other with stories of house guests from our past, talked about diets and vegetarianism, teenaged kids, internet dating and the benefits of owning a Mac (what are the chances of every person sitting round a table being a Mac owner). We also managed to spread our new found knowledge about sweet corn needing 14+ hours of daylight and generally were well entertained.

1:03 in the morning, Brian wakes Shelley up by shoving the cell phone into her hand. "Why can't those girls figure out the time difference?" he asked her somewhat grumpily.

After reading a text from her youngest daughter, sitting up in bed and laboriously composing a text back to her (1) explaining it was 1:03 in the morning (2) advising she would take care of the favour asked first thing tomorrow, and (3) asking said daughter to send her an e-mail so the whole thing wouldn't seem like a dream the next day, Shelley then read for and hour and a half before dozing back to sleep.

Despite receiving no reminder e-mail from said daughter, Shelley remembered (how could she forget) the favour asked and took care of it first thing in the morning. Next we wandered off to SuperMaxi, the Post Office & our Ecuadorian bank, performing several chores before Brian was incapacitated again by his dental surgery scheduled for the next day.

Oh Joy.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Should Old Acquaintance

A leisurely Sunday morning took us to the main square downtown to watch the 11:00 a.m. entertainment. Again (like 2 weeks ago) it was a no show. Instead there was the beginnings of yet another Children's Parade (origins see: http://gosouthamerica.about.com/od/christmas/a/QuitoQuenca.htm ). We wandered around admiring the costumes and taking pictures. Later we tried to go to the CB Carolina Bookstore but it was closed, so ended up in the Millennium Mall where the boys had fast food for lunch.

It was the first time we'd ridden on the bus since the Boxing Day change-over to the "automated" system. They obviously have to spend some time getting the kinks out as the conductor was forced to jury rig the system over and over again. The following blog gives information in detail: http://ajstephens.blogspot.com/2008/12/cuenca-modernizes-bus-system.html We personally miss the vendors on the bus and hope the new system doesn't perfect itself into a sterile experience but doubt that will happen. One major flaw is that you can't go out the front door now and have to give yourself plenty of time to bull your way to the back door if the bus is full.

A couple of days later we went to the Bank to get 2 rolls of quarters for the bus, as they began to insist you had to have exact change (not 2 dimes & a nickel either). The Bank teller sighed at our request. (Perhaps she'd been getting lots of them?) In any case, we were somewhat surprised when our quarters were delivered to us, not in rolls, but in a sturdy plastic bag. "Does that look like $20 worth of quarters to you?" Brian asked Shelley.

Monday (break over) took us back to the dentist to have Brian's teeth checked for further infection. The dentist pronounced him in good shape and next week he'll go for his surgery. (He's trying not to think about that right now.) After the appointment we arrived at the SuperMaxi 15 minutes before it was open at 9:30 a.m. We were somewhat shocked to see several Ecuadorians also waiting for the opening of the Mall (we have been led to believe that Ecuadorians were always late (?!) but have now had proof of the fallacy of this thought).

After grocery shopping we again took Jan to the CB Carolina Bookstore where we traded in several books for new ones and gossiped with the other patrons. Then we ventured up the street to the "new books" bookstore looking for a tourist guide to Peru for Jan (no luck). A quick bite to eat and another stop at an Artisans Mall where Jan bought a llama Vega mug finished our outings for the day.

Everywhere we went there were effigies on sale for the New Year's celebration. We were told they were burned to put an end to the old year and start the new year fresh. http://www.cuencahighlife.com/post/2008/12/30/Ecuadorian-tradition-the-New-Years-Eve-burning-of-the-dummy-clears-the-slate-for-2009.aspx can provide more information.

The workmen were supposed to come back and repair the 2 foot hole in our kitchen ceiling, so we left Jan at home and ventured forth to pay our monthly bills. Effigies & fireworks were on sale everywhere. New Year's should prove to be somewhat exciting! Upon arrival home Jan reported that a workman came with spackle and a trowel but took one look at the 2 foot hole and retreated not to be heard of again. We'll have to live in suspense until the next action takes place.

Later Brian took Jan to Sankt Florian on Calle Larga for the daily lunch special ("Marvelous, nicely prepared & good service, all for $2.90 each!") and afterwards they ventured to Jacis travel to take care of the last details regarding Jan's trip to Peru. Shelley stayed at home puttering; she had a bath, computered for awhile, read a book & did some general clean up. Except for the 2 foot hole problem, it was a rather satisfying day for all concerned.

Bright and early the boys went to Feria Libre to pick up fresh shrimp and looked fruitlessly for fresh trout. Later on we all went back and the boys had a vendor lunch and we wandered the market looking for unusual cacti/succulents or a skirt for Shelley (success with one, no success with the other). We tried to buy fire works for New Years Eve but Brian confused the vendor so much with his "grande boom" talk that we ended up not getting anything. They were bringing us fireworks that were eight inches across & 6 inches high. You can be sure they'd produce the "big boom" he asked for.

A couple of our friends were planning on burning an effigy downtown and we talked about going out to watch the festivities, but when it came right down to it we all agreed we'd rather view whatever was happening from our front room window. We spent the night in & watched fireworks bloom up in the hills from time to time. The boys quick fried their shrimp & had a shrimp and caesar salad & a then bowl full of spicy shrimp & then we all had a drink (or two) to toast in the new year...but we were fast asleep long before midnight arrived. At about 11:50 the fireworks began in earnest and we took turns peeking through the curtains in our bare feet watching. An effigy was burned on our corner and smoke was about knee high from the burning & fireworks everywhere you looked.

***
Well...it's been quite a year for us! Brian retired at the end of January and we were off to Ecuador February 1st. We quit smoking February 1st as well. Two months touring Ecuador was enough to convince us this was where we wanted to retire. Back to rain in Vancouver in March, we did some major maintenance on Dowager and put her on the market. Several looky-loos later we found a firm buyer and scrambled to get our paperwork ready for Ecuador before we had to be off the boat. Back in Cuenca we kept our fingers crossed all would go well with our permanent Visa. Meanwhile we rented an apartment and bought & bought & bought to furnish our new life. Happiness is getting your passport stamped with that indefinite visa which allows you to remain in the country permanently! In our determination to make Cuenca feel like home, we explored every nook and cranny on foot. We now feel it is truly our City.

While we miss the coziness of the boat and of course the children, there are no regrets regarding our move. We've made some wonderful new friends, found a lovely place to live and are comfortable and happy in our new life. All the best in the New Year!