Tuesday, April 28, 2009

School of Fishies

We were off to an evening out when there was a snafu and Shelley decided she wasn't up to it yet. She begged off (the flu) and Brian went off to fulfill obligations and have fun. Shelley spent an evening doing only things Shelley can do (alone) and Brian had a wonderful time meeting new people and wondering if he'd done the right thing in leaving her. In the end, all was well. We're thankful it's not swine flu (no coughing). The next day Shelley continued to have some trouble being upright. You ever get achy & flu-y so that when you're walking you feel the need to hunch? The day after, she was on the mend again.

Sunday, April 26th was election day in Ecuador. There's a polling station in the school, across the river & across the street from us. We can watch the to-ing and fro-ing and there seemed to be a lot of it. They always hold elections on a Sunday in Ecuador to get the best turn out possible & there's no liquor sold for 72 hours before the election. In typical Ecuadorian fashion, there were booths set up on the side walk outside the school, selling fresh fruit & roast pig. We could smell roasting pig on the wind wafting across the river. We're pretty confident Correa will get back in as President (he did). He's a "man of the people" and has really done some good work for the country on their roads & infrastructure. We've talked to a few people recently that don't like Correa and it always surprises us as he's one of the reasons we felt confident despite the North American common wisdom regarding Latin politics. See: http://hurl.ws/2cpq

During a short wander, testing the waters for Shelley's stamina after her bout with the flu, we ran into a fish plate! Those following the blog are aware we've got a fish wall in our apartment and that when we run into something acceptable for it, it fills our little hearts up with glee. (We're retired. We make our own entertainment thank you.) It didn't even cost that much, although when we took it to a hardware store to buy some wire for hanging, the fellow there implied we'd spent too much on it. We explained to him that we had a pescado wall but he just wasn't that impressed. (There's no pleasing some people.) In any case, we brought it home and Brian got out his trusty drill so we could hang it on our cement wall.

"It looks great!" Brian commented when he was finished. "How grumpy was I about the fish wall at the beginning?"

Tough way to do it, but one of the benefits of having the flu is that Shelley lost 6 pounds. The miserable weather we've been having for the last couple of weeks seems to have departed and our pleasant walk downtown and back was managed without Shelley getting whiny, so she must be on the mend.

Off we went, armed with our raincoats (the weather turned again), to do a couple of chores. It was misty-raining, not biblical rain, nevertheless Fredi got that wet-dog-rat look. During the course of our wanders we passed a class room gaggle of girls. Thirty 12 year olds, all pointing at poor Fredi, all laughing & giggling & talking in that high voice only school girls can truly pull off. Picking Fredi up to venture into a papeleria, she did her pathetic, poor-me, shiver-shiver routine prompting 3 saleslady's to come over and coo at her.

Nancy & Chuck http://www.watsontravels.blogspot.com/ were back (temporarily) from all their travels and we met them at Sankt Florian for dinner. We got there at 5:00 and had to sip a beer for an hour before the cook came on at 6:00 p.m. Chuck & Nancy had been kind enough to bring us a further supply of dried mustard (we now have enough for about 5 years) and also a fish fossil plaque that they'd had in their home in the States. Shelley was overwhelmed by the fish plaque and could not express her appreciation adequately. There was nothing to it but that Brian had to mount the plaque as soon as we got home. It looks great on our fish wall! We're developing quite the school now. We met Nancy & Chuck's son Matt who's really been enjoying his vacation in Ecuador and is planning on coming back during his next vacations as well. We talked about swine flu, Nancy's travels, Fredi's lovely temperament, serendipitous bus rides and Matt's impressions of Ecuador. Shelley had trout, Matt had an oriental noodle dish & everyone else had filet mignon. We all greatly enjoyed our meal.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Under the Weather

Once again the demented schoolmaster is shouting and ranting first thing in the morning. He seems to have an apprentice today. They're taking turns berating the rest of the students and playing rousing marching music. It's a good thing we have a sense of humour about it. We often wonder how the hospital next door feels about bellowing in the a.m. but they're probably busy waking people up anyway ~ maybe it helps.

We're proud to announce that we managed to get our weekly grocery bill under $100 this week. We've been tipping the scales at around $160 and Brian's been going nuts trying to figure out what's wrong. The thing is we've been buying large bags of dog food & laundry detergent & giant rolls of toilet paper & bottles of wine & a coffee pot etc. etc. etc. and these big ticket $10 items really make the grocery bill click up. Brian and Shelley have had an ongoing discussion about the size of their grocery bill since they've met. Shelley shrugs her shoulders and buys what's needed and is happy they've got the funds to finance their weekly trip without angst. Brian is aghast and frequently questions why Shelley's purchasing a certain item & pretends to have a heart attack at the check out counter & talks to the packer boy and anyone else that will listen about their ridiculous grocery bills. One must recognize that this routine between Shelley & Brian has now been going on once a week for approximately 728 weeks. There must be some gratification in it for both of us.

We just tried to go for a walk but got caught in a torrential rainstorm. Brian (smart guy that he is) had a rain coat on but Shelley only had a sweater. We tried to bull our way through it for awhile, but even Brian with his rain coat was soaking wet by the time Shelley announced: "Let's walk back to that last bridge, cross over and get a taxi home."

"But how am I going to explain to the taxi driver" Brian jeered "that we got tired of taking our pet rat for a walk?"

Fredi was soaked to the skin and shaking like a leaf. Shih Tzu's body temperature runs about 100+ degrees and it doesn't take too much to get them shivering when they're wet.

Shelley had been complaining of vague flu-like symptoms for a couple of days; achy, clammy, nauseous. That evening we had invited a guest for dinner and unfortunately Shelley spent most of the evening lying in the bedroom moaning and wishing "it" would go away while Brian entertained.

"Should I go?" our guest asked politely.

"Oh No" Brian explained to him.

Which is exactly how Shelley felt.

The next day she'd break out in spontaneous sweats and had no appetite, but was more mortified about leaving their guest alone than having the flu. The day after that, she started to feel better.

"It's been so many years I can't remember the last time I had the flu" Shelley told Brian. "Before the kids were born, I know that, so it's probably over 30 years. I hope the next break will be just as long."

After a couple of weeks of rainy, coolish weather and a few days of Shelley being under the weather, the morning dawned warm and sunny. Breakfast out on the balcony, study Spanish and then it was off to the park, armed with 20 treats, to give Fredi a training workout.

"Fredi! Aqui!" we'd shout and she'd run between us eager for her treat. "Good aqui! Good aqui!" we'd tell her, petting her generously. After about 3 times running between us, responding to our commands, she'd figured it out. Soon as she'd received her treat, she'd turn around and run back to the next, ready for her next treat even without the command. This was no good, so we added sit to the routine. She'd run and then we'd make her sit before she'd get her treat. This too took about 3 repetitions and then she knew to sit before the command. Hard to train the puppy if she anticipates you.

We ran out of treats and continued on our walk and were gratified when Fredi came instantly to the "Fredi! Aqui!" command. Note: We're not as stupid as Fredi thinks we are. We know she's not trained to come instantly after one session.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pizza & Puppies

We're very proud of Brian! He went to the dentist and had his teeth cleaned and didn't need any happy pills. He was a bit anxious the day before and while waiting for his appointment in the dentist's office he looked a bit green, but he did it! Walking home Brian commented, "I had to get down to 3 teeth before the dentist started giving me compliments." After the deep clean the dentist assured Brian as long as he gets them cleaned every 3 months, his teeth should last for a long long time.

The weather seems to have turned in Cuenca. After months and months of hot weather and hardly any rain, it's been raining just about every day for extended periods and is coolish outside. We're not talking miserable, cold, windy, Vancouver rain, but nevertheless it's definitely a different season here the last few weeks. From having to water the outside plants on the balcony twice a week, we're now down to not having to water them at all. Wonder how long this will last?

We took Fredi into the Vet to have her hair cut at 9:00 a.m. and phoned at 12:45 to see if she was ready. They told us to pick her up at 4 o'clock. What can be taking so long? It's got to be one of those Ecuadorian things. We're worried about Fredi and her stress levels...and we miss her...................2:40 p.m. and we really are noticing the gap left from being Fredi-less. Finally, at 4 o'clock we set out to pick her up. She was cute as a button with her new haircut but her nose was definitely out of joint with us. When we picked her up, she submitted to a tight cuddle but wouldn't look at us, rolling her head away and snubbing us quite thoroughly. It took several hours and several special treats before she seemed her usual self.

After a couple of days of stressful appointments and needless worrying (whirring) we were happy to get back into our every day routine; up in the a.m., computer, chores, breakfast, study Spanish, long walk, lunch, nap, computer/reading, dinner, TV, reading/bed. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? Shelley's been immersed in Twitter lately. She's found yet another reality to try to understand. Brian's indulgent but standoffish.

Saturday took us off to one of the large plant places where Shelley purchased 4 more plants to crowd our balcony with. She assured Brian that after these purchases, they'd have "enough". Brian gave her an indulgent "oh sure" look and truth be told, she's not sure he believed her. We walked to the plant place and walked around the plant place and walked home, so it ended up we were walking for about an hour and a half. We're both in pretty good shape for walking these days although we still don't like to climb up the stairs from the river into town and try to avoid that exercise.

PS:- Two days later, Shelley was looking at one of her succulents in our front room and stated: "OK, I lied."

Brian looked up from watching television and asked her what she was talking about.

"I lied, we don't have enough plants" she told him.

Brian merely went back to watching TV.

It's hard for us to believe that day to day life here in Ecuador is getting routine. When we first came here, although somewhat surprised at the relative lack of culture shock, there still were things to see & experience every day that were new or strange or exciting. Now the women dressed in their indigenous costumes, the huge blooms on trees & plants, the goats or cows grazing across the street, even the men regularly relieving themselves outside everywhere have become common and everyday. This is not to say we've ceased enjoying ourselves or don't find new things from time to time, it's just that when you first come you think the the newness will never rub off and there's a kind of disappointment when it does. Our honeymoon phase is over and we find ourselves slipping into a general contentment. It's nice.

On Sunday we went to the outskirts of town, almost to the country where we had pizza at a friend's house and watched puppies play. We talked about the Republic of Texas, heritage seeds, dieting, Correa's likelihood of winning the upcoming election, backyard gardens and once again the differences between Canada and the United States. We left stuffed with pizza, apple pie, chocolate roll, fruit & goodwill.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

That Old Black Magic

We believe Fredi is now in the "attraction" phase of her heat. Brian & our friend from Vancouver went off to Gualaceo and Shelley decided to take Fredi for a walk. Immediately upon leaving the apartment building, Fredi surprised Shelley by walking ahead of her off the leash. The leash had simply snapped. Shelley then put the leash on Fredi backwards & headed off to the pet store to buy a new one. There were 3 dogs in a cage in the front of the pet store, 2 dogs in a cage in the grooming room which is walled off by glass and a woman holding a Yorki on her lap. By the time Shelley & Fredi left the pet store every single dog in the place was howling and Fredi was shaking like a leaf in Shelley's arms. We did get a new leash but we're quite sure the proprietress was very happy when we left.

Meanwhile Brian & Greg caught the bus to Gualaceo at around 11:30 a.m. and Brian got home at 4:00 p.m. Greg was enchanted by the people, the sites & the countryside but by the time they got back to Cuenca all Greg wanted to do was take a nap & kick back. He has absorbed an awful lot of Ecuador in a short period of time.

By the way, our daughter e-mailed and advised both the packages we'd sent to Canada (one by snail mail, one by express mail) arrived on the same day. They both took 8 working days instead of the 12 & 4 they were supposed to. In the mean time, the package she sent to us on March 9th still hasn't reached us. We're not sure what the lesson here is (?) but there certainly must be one.

Friday night came along so we had to take Greg to Gringo night. We ended up at a table full of Canadians but with 2 Americans thrown in for good luck. Greg said the Gringo night people were "his kind of people" and we all ate hearty and Greg networked and Fredi was the princess she usually is. They'd kept Zoe's open on Good Friday especially for the ExPats and we really appreciated it! We haven't been to the gathering for about a month and it was neat to sit around and talk to friends. Greg is off to Montanita tomorrow and we've instructed him to take lots of pictures of bikini babes so he can email them back home for the gloat value.

When you go shopping in a Cuenca department store or grocery store, they have a cubby section watched over by a security guard at the entrance where you are required to deposit your bags. From time to time, you may even have a small discussion about depositing your purse but usually they'll relent. If you're using a large bag for a purse, however, you may be required to take your wallet out and put the bag in the cubby for safekeeping. They'll give you a chit and we've never had any problem getting back our stuff. Another shopping difference is that if you buy anything in a box, they'll remove it from the box, inspect the item (each wine glass for instance), plug the item in (to make sure it works) and then carefully repackage everything. This really is a good idea but the first time it happens (if you're not used to the custom) it does seem like the whole purchase event takes a very long time. It seems like anything over about $30 requires your passport number or cedula number to be put into their system. When we bought our major appliances, we received rather a fancy document stating that we were in fact the owners and apparently this has to be signed over if we sell them off.

Greg gave us a couple of phone calls from Montanita. He said he's been to Fort Lauderdale and Cancun but he's never seen a place like Montanita on the Easter long weekend. Our friends at the coast picked him up, took him out for breakfast and squired him around Montanita showing him that extraordinary Ecuadorian graciousness. It was a bit tough though, because the partying outside his room went on until 4 o'clock in the morning. He advised an afternoon nap was required but that he was having a great time. See http://bobnrox.squarespace.com/journal/2009/4/14/a-canadian-friend-of-canadian-friends.html

We spent a quiet Easter - nothing special going on; talked to one of the kids on Skype and that helped that family-holiday-missing-the-kids syndrome that seems to hit Shelley from time to time. Good Friday was very quiet, many stores closed, etc. but Easter Monday was business as usual. On Tuesday we had lunch with a couple who've been reading the blog for some time. They are from West Virginia and are thinking of moving down here the summer of 2010. Widely travelled (they've been on 37 cruises!) we talked about cultural differences, learning a new language, leaving family behind and local customs. We'd suggested the Sankt Florian as we love their lunch special & spent 3 hours getting to know each other.

Coming Up: Brian goes to the dentist (yet again) & Fredi gets her hair cut.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Enterprise in Ecuador

Ecuador is a land of cottage industry opportunity; a land of vendors. At different times of the year individuals and street stalls spring up overnight selling fireworks, soccer shirts, mannequins for burning (Guy Fawkes style) and leading up to Palm Sunday, every few yards downtown you encounter someone sitting and weaving palm fronds into various decorations. When we went for our neighbourhood walk on Palm Sunday we encountered many groups of people and families with their woven fronds; baskets, fans, decorations & long scepters.

Also during our walk we passed by La Esouina de Las Artes an upscale artisan market on El Barranco / Av. 12 de Abril y Agustin Cueva. On the opposite end of the scale from the palm frond vendors, we've been to this mall many times and almost always see something we shouldn't buy, but do. This time we dropped into Signum which sells designer hand knit items representing both traditional and contemporary aesthetics. Shelley's been looking for a small brown sweater to wear with a dress for weeks now and Signum supplied. We also peeked in the Artes de la Tierra Galeria, which carries Eduardo Vega, Ernesto Jaramillo, Maria Augusta Crespo y Juan Guillermo Vega and bought yet another fish for our fish wall. Shelley is now chanting quietly under her breath: "Must not shop...must not shop....must not shop..." but we are sure Ecuador is pleased we're contributing to their economy.

By the way, Twitter tells us that: (RT @billabonggirls) Cali girl Courtney Conlogue brought home silver & Hawaiian surfer Alessa Quizon the bronze at the ISA World Juniors in Equador April 5th. These surfing championships were being held in Salinas just a week and a bit after we were there. We commented in the blog that Salinas was more of a "family oriented" beach but you can bet during these championships bikini babes & buff boys abound!

Brian went off to the airport Monday evening to pick up our friend from Canada and get him settled at his hostel. Fredi stuck to Shelley like glue the whole time Brian was gone and was OVERJOYED (!!!) to see Brian walk through the door. Dogs are very gratifying that way. With cats you're lucky if they'll glance up at you to see if you happen to be carrying a tuna. The next morning Brian was off to escort Greg through some typical tourist musts: pick up map from tourist bureau, buy cheap cell phone, see indigenous market, take tour of panama hat factory, drink cheap beer. The girls (Shelley & Fredi) took a walk to the plant place a few blocks away from where we live. After losing sight of the building, Fredi planted herself and tried to refuse moving any further. Shelley tugged on the leash and won via muscle strength but Fredi sure didn't want to wander without the Alpha Male along.

That evening we had 2 couples and Greg over for dinner. During Brian's afternoon galavant with Greg he was under instructions to buy a fork. The set we'd originally purchased was for 6 and Shelley felt salad might be somewhat difficult eating it with a spoon. "The rest would be OK though" she conjectured. Shelley had also told one of her guests jokingly that we were minus a fork, so not only did Brian buy 4 but the guest brought 2. Does that mean we can now feed 12 people? (Some would have to sit on the floor?) In any case, we had a lovely evening and talked about Texas & Canada & Ecuador & Vlad the Impaler (don't ask). Brian made his chicken cacciatore & Shelley made her microwave cheese cake. Everyone ate well and it continues to please us that we have made friends with some truly nice people down here in Ecuador.

It's raining! It's been raining for 2 days! How can we convince our friend from Vancouver that this is not the usual weather? He's being gracious and said even though it's raining it's not cold like in Vancouver but still...! We took him to Feria Libra and pointed out the ducks & puppies, fruits & vegetables, clothes & blankets, flowers & cactus and wandered through the market & had roast pig for lunch & generally was awed by the vibrancy & colours....even though it was raining. By the time we got home Shelley's shoes were squishing and Brian's shirt was soaked through because he hadn't zipped up his rain coat. Fredi was shivering & generally looked ratish. We had fun though.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Hummingbirds, Goats & Puppies

Shelley cut Brian's hair a few months ago. They'd been discussing it for years and Brian had told Shelley when he retired she could do his hair. We both were very pleased no one pointed to him on the street or laughed (in front of him) but concurred he should go to a professional next time he needed a cut. Shelley mentioned to him that it had grown out very nicely. Brian didn't seem to think this recommended it. In any case, off we went to a salon that advertised unisex cuts (on Calle Larga) and Brian had his hair done by a lovely Columbian lad who chattered away at him in Spanish the whole time. At one point Shelley asked, "Are you getting all this?" and Brian replied "most of it". Apparently coming from Columbia it takes a while to "get" the accent here in Cuenca. Everybody at the salon, of course loved Fredi & Brian ended up with a pretty good hair cut.

Six Canadians went out for dinner. That may be some kind of record; number of Canadians gathered in Ecuador. There we are, 6 souls from the frozen north, eating Italian food in Cuenca with an Ecuadorian puppy in heat lying under the table. We discussed (briefly) American politics. We talked at length about learning Spanish and adjusting to a new culture. We were all agreed that the Ecuadorian approach to life does differ from what we are used to in Canada and as recent arrivals, the onus is on us to adjust & adapt. It's not a question of better or worse, it's simply good manners.

After six months, Brian's patience has finally paid off! Regular readers may remember that we searched all over Cuenca to find a hummingbird feeder. After 2 months of inquiries, we stumbled across a hardware store whose garden department looked like the Sears Roebuck of hummingbird feeders. There were at least a half dozen different styles. Brian was familiar with one particular style, having had a number of them over the years in Canada. When we got it home and unpacked it from it's box, we discovered that in fact, it was actually made in Canada! So we armed it up with nectar and sat back and waited...and waited...and waited...

Weeks and weeks went by. Finally, Shelley complained of the jug full of hummingbird nectar taking up room in the fridge and so we threw it away. Naturally, the very next day we noticed the level in the feeder had dropped significantly and then (joy of joys) we spotted a hummingbird actually feeding. We expect that, because we're on the 4th floor of our building, hummingbirds don't normally search this far up. But now we've been discovered and there are several hummingbirds using our feeder. Sometimes there's even conflict between them; mini hummingbird fights! When we initially went on our search for a hummingbird feeder we had to determine the Spanish word for it. The best we came up with was "despensadora de colibri" - literally hummingbird (colibri) dispenser. Cuenca has several hummingbird statues throughout town and from time to time there are hummingbird photo displays & art displays. Side note: the hummingbirds we've seen appear to be about twice as big as the hummingbirds back in Canada.

The other day we were at the big people's market at Feria Libre. We love going there and always make a point of checking out the puppies & kittens for sale, along with the geese, chickens, cuy (guinea pigs) & other assorted animals. It's such a vibrant place to be! As we were leaving on this particular occasion, Brian was carrying Fredi who caught the attention of two ladies who were tending several goats. Nothing would do but that the ladies were given the opportunity to ooh & aah over our little goodwill ambassador and a fairly lengthy conversation ensued. Brian explained to the ladies that Fredi was short for Frederika. He then asked if they name their goats. The ladies were very pleased to let us know that yes indeed they do give the goats names and proceeded to introduce us to Matilda, Veronica & the other 2 whose names we've unfortunately forgotten. A tiny slice of Ecuadorian life.

A friend of ours from Vancouver is coming to Cuenca for 5 days next week. Although we offered, he told us he preferred to stay in a hostel, so we spent the morning going from hostel to hostel trying to get the best deal, location & ambiance we could find for him. Unfortunately Macondo, the place we stayed, was booked during the time he wanted to come. We ultimately got him a room at Hostal Orquidea which is right down town in Cuenca for $20 for a single with bathroom & TV (including breakfast). Brian had to do some fast talking to get breakfast included but in the end his Spanish impressed the desk clerk so much he talked him into it. While Brian was going in and out of hostels, Shelley would usually find a corner to sit down and wait for him with Fredi outside. On every single occasion, at least one person stopped and admired Fredi. "Se llama Fredi!" she'd tell them. "La raza es Shih Tsu". We also picked up some buns (4), a bag of tomatoes (6), a bunch of those little bananas (8) & 4 pounds of coffee spending the outrageous price of $11.50. For some reason it was a very gratifying outing and we all came home quite satisfied with ourselves.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hallelujah!

Hallelujah! After months of looking at our barren hummingbird feeder, we finally have a visitor. Eventually we'll try and get a picture but they're quite skittish. We can sit in our computer room and watch it feed and it's a sight to behold. We're very pleased. Brian's been poised with the camera patiently waiting on several occasions. He's managed a couple of blurry shots but nothing worth "writing home about" yet.

As our income tax package was not arriving from Canada, our daughter suggested we download the forms from internet. What a concept! She emailed us our tax slips (as she'd previously scanned them) and we set about calculating our obligation to Canada. Turns out we both get a refund! Shelley is very pleased the waiting & wondering is over. (We hate doing income tax.) We had put together a small package of trinkets for the kids in Vancouver, so went to DHL to see how much it would cost to courier that package & our income tax papers back to Shelley's oldest daughter for distribution. Total cost $125! We demurred. Next we went to the post office and express mailed the income tax for $25 and snail mailed the other package for $28. They say the express mail will arrive in 4 days and the snail mail in 12 days (working days that is) but we're not holding our breath for that promise. It's been a total of 21 days so far since our daughter sent off the package to us from Canada and it still hasn't arrived.

When we first came to Ecuador for our holiday in February/March 2008, Shelley politely went up to an elderly indigenous woman and asked her if she could take her picture. That woman, in Spanish, ripped into Shelley up one side and down the other. Our Spanish at that time was muy poco, but Shelley did know how to say, "No entiendo". This did not appease the woman. She continued to berate Shelley until we walked away. We've been told later we probably got the harangue because we didn't offer her any money. We're not sure about that. The woman was very indignant. After that, Shelley surreptitiously took pictures of the indigenous people from bus windows & across streets. We now have a secret weapon; Fredi. So far we have not met anyone who wasn't eager and happy to have their picture taken with Fredi. What a wonderful ambassador she is!

More Spanish: if you look up "por" and "para" in a Spanish/English dictionary, you'll be told that both of them mean "for". Getting deeper into the language you come to understand "para" is used for destination, limitation & purpose. The ship left for/para Spain. Para is also used when there is a time limit or inequality and to replace the words "in order to". "Por" is used when saying through or along, in behalf of, in favour of, instead of; when it's used for motive, manner or "in exchange for" or when talking about an indefinite time or place. Por is also used for measure or number and after verbs such as ir (to go), mandar (to send), volver (to return) & venir (to come). "Estar para" means "about to" and "estar por" means "in the mood". Para = in order to; por = to be done.

We had a poco argument the other day with an Ecuadorian as to which language was harder to learn; Spanish or English. Shelley stood firm that Spanish was harder especially if you were over 40; Brian, quoting from other people, said English was harder & our Ecuadorian friend agreed with both of us. Now that's a diplomat!

As Brian basically hadn't bought any clothes since we came to Ecuador, we decided to head out and see if we could get him a pair of jeans. Brian's a big man and Shelley had commented to him just the other day that he must feel like a giant a lot of the time. "You'll feel short when we go back to Canada for a visit" she told him. We dropped into several stores before jeans in his size were found but we did find them. They ended up costing pretty much what you'd pay for jeans in Canada though. We also bought him a football shirt in the same colour & style used for the Ecuadorian soccer team. The shirt was extra-large and it would have been better XXL but no such size existed in this garment. Brian told the salesman in halting Spanish that now that we lived in Ecuador we wanted to support the local team. "Yay Ecuador!" The salesman thought that was pretty all right. Note: anywhere on the planet outside of North America soccer is called football. People in Ecuador generally consider the American game of football to be a foolish and somewhat effete endeavour.

In a country where most of the population looks somewhat alike, there must be assimilation and feelings of belonging that a Canadian could not possibly understand. We keep telling our Ecuadorian friends & acquaintances about Canada being a country of immigrants. On a Vancouver bus, one can easily hear 3 or 5 different languages and there are orientals & asians & nordics & hispanics and blonds & redheads & grey heads & thick black hair & thin light brown haired people crowding the streets. Ecuadorians always seem so surprised we'd immigrate to their country. We explain about our pension income going farther & exclaim about their wonderful weather and the cold in Canada and still they seem surprised. No one in Canada would be surprised at an immigrant, most of us only go back a generation or two as it is. These days we're getting "happy" surprise as we stumble with our Spanish and demonstrate our willingness to learn. We're not stared at on the bus any more as now we're old regulars. Shelley still, from time to time, gets struck by a home sickness. In Canada she sometimes found it hard to understand this in new immigrants. Now she can empathize. Knowing you're a native brings an inalienable confidence. Still, people ask us if we're happy about our decision to live in Cuenca and we always tell them "yes" and mean it.