ExPat night is for the time being held at Zoe's. We don't always go, but we went last Friday (Feb. 6th) and Shelley had baby back ribs & Brian had pollo madeira. Both dishes were tasty and quite wonderful. A first class dining experience for $6 to $7 a plate. Zoe's gives the ExPats a 5% discount on ExPat night so that's nice too. We met some new people from Oregon who are planning on staying for a couple of months, and gossiped and chatted with the old timers that we see most times we go there.
On Sunday we decided to climb up the hill behind our apartment to see if we could find out if the patch of green on our city map was a park. While we didn't discover the park, we did find the red light district we'd been told about previously. We didn't actually see any "ladies" but there was a procession of cabs with only men going to and from the area as well as rather naughty signage. We watched a couple of guys trying valiantly to get their "borracho" friend in a cab (it was 1 p.m.) and then Brian, feeling protective of Shelley, scooted her away from the area. We continued on with our walk but what we thought was park had fencing all around it. When we got to the top of the hill we saw that it was actually a water reservoir.
Later on Sunday afternoon, Brian was down for his nap and Shelley was on the computer when suddenly the whole building swayed back & forth a couple of times. Shelley went "Whoa!" and grabbed onto the desk. Once everything stopped moving (only seconds) she headed into the bedroom to see Brian. Brian had thought Shelley was at the bottom of the bed shaking it, trying to wake him up. The net tells us that it was a magnitude 4.8 earthquake about 20 miles outside of Cuenca.
Tired of searching & not finding, we spent the afternoon making doggie treats & drying hot peppers in the microwave. We had gone to the public market and bought $.50 worth of chicken livers, boiled them, pureed them & cooked them in a garlic & parsley cookie for training treats for Fredi. If you check the web there's no end of puppy cookie recipes available. In Canada we probably would have spent $10 or more on healthy training treats for her and here for a little effort it cost us less than $1. The drying of the hot peppers in the microwave was endless as you dry them for 1 minute and then let it set in the microwave for about 4 minutes and then dry & set again until they're ready. Shelley's fingers burned for several hours after chopping the peppers in tiny pieces. Is there a trick to that? After spending 30 years working and raising kids and never having time for herself & then living on a boat where using the oven was onerous, Shelley is really enjoying her kitchen time these days. Brian's still the main cook but Shelley's been making cookies & treats for the whole family.
We stopped by the Mansion Hotel on Simon Bolivar and had a tour of this once grand home. A lot of it has been redesigned by Robert McCartney, an ExPat Irish/American who is married to a lovely Cuencana. The rooms are just stunning and the restaurant menu is definitely high end. This isn't a "backpacker" hostel but a world class boutique hotel. The collection of antiques is incredible and Robert tells us that it's an on-going acquisition program. It's very difficult to describe the elegance and ambiance of this most gracious home away from home. We'd originally run into Robert on the street when he'd notice Fredi in her purse & then again at ExPat night. He'd graciously insisted we come for a tour of the Hotel.
We've managed to survive yet another family crisis, long distance, via a days worth of email and Skype. It's frustrating dealing with grown children when you're not actually there to resolve the problem. However, in the end, we threw some money at it and the problem went away. Funny how that works, huh?
Our week was rounded out with friends over for dinner on Tuesday; Brian made coq au vin & was very pleased that it was a hit. Shelley's increasingly famous microwave cheesecake topped off a very nice experience. Wednesday was off to Feria Libre and the huge public market. Fredi enjoyed it too because she got to see the collection of puppies for sale there. We kept pointing out to her how lucky she was to have found us (it didn't seem to impress her that much).