Sunday, May 31, 2009

Back to Walking Though We're a Little Out of Shape

We're coming up to July and thus we'll have been in Ecuador as residents for a full year. We've picked up several things on the web that reinforce our decision to move here, in that apparently they now believe that extra sunlight & learning a new language both help to prevent Alzheimer's. Brian's been pointing out to Shelley lately that we've probably got a good 20 years that we'll be spending almost 24 hours a day together; his argument being that she should forgive him his minor foibles (not listening when she's talking) and her quick retort being: "You're only going to get worse as time goes on if we don't deal with it now!"

Quite often people ask us how we fill our time and anyone who has read the blog for awhile can see that we do. None of it is particularly earth shattering (walking is one of our major entertainments) but we never really feel bored and mostly are just grateful we've managed to end up where we are. We've been complimented on being great adventurers and compliments should be accepted with grace but we really don't feel that it's deserved. Living on our boat in Canada was probably more alien & alienating than coming to Ecuador. In any case, here we are in Ecuador winter (it rains every 2nd day instead of every 5th day) and Shelley still hasn't felt the need to wear socks. Hard to beat it!

As it was "bill day" and Fredi's scar is all healed (except for one little tiny patch) & her pink-prevent-chew-collar finally was off, we decided to walk her through the day and see how she did. We went down the street to ETAPA and paid our electricity & cold water. The bill was $4 more than usual as a $2 discount was discontinued and we'd used $2 more in electricity. We couldn't figure that one out but paid it without protest. The total was still only $14. Then we walked to the bus and went to the ETAPA downtown to pay our internet bill. While we were there we double checked that we couldn't pay our other ETAPA bills at the downtown place and were told once again "No". Different ETAPA places depending on the service. Who knows? Then we walked to the bank and paid our rent and then wandered around to 3 different "Chinese" stores, as Shelley was looking for a new blouse. She didn't find anything; everything was too synthetic. At last we walked home and Fredi was a trooper; no complaining, no sitting down refusing to walk any more, just frantic smelling & zoning in on a kleenex or 2. The day was beautiful, the sun was shining and people were smiling on the street. By the time we got home both Brian & Shelley's legs were tired. We forgot, giving Fredi a break on the walking, we'd given ourselves one too. We were ones out of shape because of it though, not Fredi.

While checking through http://www.municipalidadcuenca.gov.ec/agenda.php?id=27 Cuenca's Cultural Calendar on line, we discovered Concierto de Jazz al Aire Libre: Orquesta Juvenil de Jazz de Baden-Württemberg at the Plazoleta de San Sebastián and headed off to it Saturday morning to see how it would be. The San Sebastian Plaza is about half-way between our apartment and downtown so a walk there & back is a pleasant little excursion. Once we got the plaza, it was obvious nothing was going on. There was a group of teenagers playing some sort of tag game, where they stick a rolled up bandana in their pants hanging down like a tail, and then chase after one another until someone grabs the tail. We sat and watched kids for awhile and then decided to head downtown. We got almost to the middle of town and Brian heard jazz music.

Zeroing in on the music we came upon the orchestra we'd originally hoped to see. We found some seats and enjoyed some really wonderful music. There we were, sitting in the sunshine in Ecuador, the occasional butterfly flitting over our heads, listening to American jazz played & sung (in English) by a group of young people from Germany. There was an Englishman on one side of us and a German family on the other. Talking to some Americans in front of us, they told us there had been a misprint online but that a flyer had been handed out which was correct. Two Ecuadorian women, one in front of us and one behind us, were both enchanted with Fredi. Fredi found the music a bit loud but covering her ears seemed to muffle it just enough to stop her concern. We were grateful not to have missed this wonderful concert which from time to time actually brought tears to our eyes. Afterward we ran into some friends and chatted for a bit. They too agreed the concert was great!

On Sunday we managed to walk all the way downtown, wander around the main square for awhile listening to the band, check this and that out and then walk all the way home. The group in the square started out as perhaps being a Santana-like group; the guitar player wowed us for several licks & Shelley commented that "he must be practicing". However, in the end they turned out to be the typical Ecuadorian group that plays the same song over and over again (joke). We picked up a copy of the new movie Angels & Demons (with Tom Hanks) a few days ago but the sound quality was so terrible, Shelley ended up going to sleep. Brian eventually woke her up and we stopped watching the movie at that point. We spent some time testing out various copies of the movie around town but didn't find a better one. We'll have to wait until they pirate the CD rather than the movie. Fredi was a trooper on our walk and really enjoyed herself. Brian and Shelley were in trudge mode by the last few blocks but we made it!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

...And a sweet Shih Tzu Puppy that Loves you above all else

Day 3 since Fredi's operation and she's definitely starting to feel better. She still seems to have some trouble getting comfortable if she's lying down, but she's walking around more and Shelley's determined to discontinue hand feeding her (she's getting spoiled). We were told to leave the prevent-chew-collar on for 7 days and it will be a red letter day for poor Fredi when it comes off as it's really annoying. She appreciates us scratching her neck these days with a sensual pleasure. Having had a few casts, on you've got to understand the itch factor when you can't get at something doubles and then triples. Ever see people scratching an arm with a cast on it with a knitting needle or a ruler? We were told to feed her the pain pills for 4 days, but have determined to try her without them tomorrow. She gets so groggy, that in itself is probably feeding her invalidism.

It was a perfect Cuenca day and we took Fredi out for her first real walk since the operation. We've all been more or less cooped up in the apartment and were very happy to be out and about. Shelley told Brian Fredi must have been going through smell withdrawal. We only did about half of our usual walk, but Fredi trotted along like a trooper and we were forced to remove 3 tissues from her mouth. The sun is shining, there are clouds in the sky but they're big, white fluffy ones. There's a gentle breeze to take the edge off and all's right with the world. We've invited people over for dinner this evening, and Fredi's just about her old self, except for the pink prevent-chew collar.

Two couples came for dinner, one set from Canada, one from the U.S. We had a special semi-low cal meal (lomo fino, salad & fruit for dessert). Semi-low cal because there was bread for those not on a diet and carmel chocolate squares to go with the dessert if one was so inclined. Brian did up a mushroom/wine dish to go with the lomo fino (cheating on a diet theme) using a recipe he got from the net and it was wonderful too. We talked about the frustration dealing with the Ecuadorian banking system, different things that are hard to obtain in the grocery store here, possible trips and past trips to the Galapagos and the size and variety of beetles and spiders one can see from time to time. It was a pleasant evening. Everyone was very solicitous of Fredi. When the time came that Shelley kicked everyone out (as she's wont to do) we Spanish hugged and it all felt pretty good.

Founded in 1557, Cuenca is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities of Ecuador. It's in a valley surrounded by low hills and crossed by 4 rivers. The city maintains historical colonial buildings and architecture and has been a UNESCO site since 1999. After living here for some time you forget (as we do) just how wonderful the surroundings & architecture is. Cobble streets become a norm and colonial architecture not something out of a magazine but just part of your day to day life. We came from one of the most beautiful cities in the world (Vancouver, British Columbia) and ended up in smaller piece of paradise.

The pictures on this blog of the bugs were taken by our Canadian friend. Cuenca is not a "buggy" place. We've been told that in certain areas there are mosquitoes but personally haven't seen any. From time to time you come across these huge beetles and they're very impressive the first few times you see them. They have pincers that are best stayed away from. Our Canadian friend lives in a house towards the top of a hill and this may explain why they see more bugs than we do. On the coast, there are mosquitos & bugs (especially at night) and of course in the jungle there are bugs and snakes. The worst we have to contend with in our apartment are the occasional small spiders. When we had a cat in Vancouver we'd sic her on spiders and she'd eat them up; Fredi doesn't seem to have the same instinct.

We're gradually introducing Fredi to her walks, taking longer ones each day. We took her for a free walk to her second favourite place in the whole world and she gamboled and frolicked almost like she didn't have a pink-prevent-chew-collar on and a 2 1/2 inch scar on her belly. She's still not eating well, but we figure that'll change once the collar is removed. After her free walk, she really looked like she needed a nap, however. She's getting there though.

It's a joke, "I've had decades that haven't gone well." It was read or heard somewhere else; not an original thought, but Shelley said it to one our guests the other night. Both Brian & Shelley can attest to the truth of it in the broad sense; most can. The point being that it does end or at least there are breaks... It doesn't seem like it; when the kids are driving you crazy & the bills are stacking up & health issues are weighing you down & job contentions are keeping you awake at night...then one day, you find yourself in Ecuador ~ the sun almost always shines, your bills are paid, you've got a couple of dollars in the bank & a sweet Shih Tzu puppy that loves you above all else.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

All About Fredi

As we were Fredi-less, we determined that we should do something that was awkward to do when we had Fredi with us. We discussed going to the hot springs in nearby Banos but vetoed that. Brian then came up with the idea of going to the Mall del Rio and checking out Coral there for some of the grocery items we couldn't find at our local SuperMaxi. Off we went and hopped on the #7 bus to the Mall. Once we were settled, Shelley turned to Brian and said, "Fredi likes riding on the bus." Brian agreed and then we both were quiet for awhile.

At the Mall we stopped into a couple of men's stores to see if we could get some chinos for Brian but we didn't find anything "mas grande" enough. We then dropped into an electronics store and after much confusion discovered that they did not have any speaker wire. Armed finally with the correct Spanish wording for speaker wire, we headed off to the stereo department at Coral and was able to pick up our required minimum of 5 meters at 25 cents per meter. We tried to get wire splicers/joiners as well but couldn't cobble the hand gestures and Spanish together enough to make ourselves understood. At the grocery section we searched fruitlessly for red food dye & Miracle Whip (PS:- We're getting quite used to mayonnaise now and only search for Miracle Whip out of habit). We did however pick up a huge liquid hand soap for $4 and lomo fino (tenderloin) was less expensive there than at SuperMaxi. After all our searching, we discovered the grocery section at Coral also carried Woks. How often that happens; you search & search & search for something and after you finally discover it, you discover dozens. In any case, we picked up yet another Wok after Brian assured Shelley he'd make good use of both of them. Last but not least, we had a meal at Burger King; piggy to be sure, but it tasted good!

On the trip home, once again we were quiet, thinking of our poor Fredi and wondering what she was feeling.

Brian went off to pick up Fredi the next morning from the Vet and Shelley waited for their homecoming. After 1 3/4 hours, Shelley phoned the Vet and after much wrangling between Spanish & English found out they'd left. She cursed herself after she hung up the phone because she hadn't asked, "When?"

Twenty minutes later Brian and Fedi arrived home and Shelley gave Brian a blast and Fredi a hug. "Didn't you think I'd be sitting here worried about you two!?" she queried.

Apparently the Vet's office was not open at 8 a.m. as expected and Brian had to wait until 9 to pick up Fredi. Then they had to go through the medications & how to deal with them (with an only-Spanish-speaker assistant) and that took some time.

Fredi is very subdued, with a pink-for-girls prevent-chew collar around her neck and 3 medications (pain pill, antibiotic pill, antiseptic cream; we checked on internet) to be given at various times for 4 to 8 days. We'd been told that these days the surgery was laparoscopic and that the incision would only be about an inch long. Either our information was wrong or our Vet does it the "old fashioned way". Fredi's scar is 2 1/2 inches long! It's glued together however, instead of stitched. Shelley checked with her daughter, who had had her cat in for surgery, and was told that's what they did with the cat too.

That day and the next day we kept pretty quiet. Fredi was given a pain pill in the morning and for the first couple of hours after the pill, she was pretty dopy. She didn't want to walk around very much and wasn't eating or drinking unless Shelley hand fed her. She reminded us of a scruffy 12 year old girl, her hair messy and all bunched because of the collar, a sullen/sleepy look on her face, wanting nothing more than to be left alone to brood pre-teen/aching thoughts.

We're just relieved that Fredi's at home and despite being subdued seems generally OK. She's very pleased to be with us and has licked us both in appreciation multiple times. We imagine her asking never to have to go through that again. That evening when we were watching TV and after we'd gone to bed, Fredi had several night mares though; shaking and yipping in her sleep trying to reconcile her experience.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fredi Anxiety

It's first thing in the morning; Brian's taking his leisurely bath and Shelley's been on a computer for the last half hour. She signs off and shuts everything down and walks into the bathroom to use her lypsol. There, in complete innocence, is a small Shih Tzu puppy surrounded by reams of toilet paper.

"Brian!" she pounces "Why are you letting her do that!?"

The toilet paper is cleaned up, the puppy is told she's VERY BAD and their day continues. Out for a walk, computer time, nap time; Shelley walks into the bedroom to wake Fredi & Brian up. Fredi's already awake and surrounded by piles of well chewed toilet paper.

"Fredi! BAD DOG!"

Brian tries to temper Shelley as she scolds the puppy. "Ok, you've done enough. She won't do it again" he tells her.

"BAD DOG!" she continues, knowing she MUST make an impression.

Can dog's smile slyly? Fredi smiles.

"BAD DOG!"

The gasket on our blender broke again. It's a Black & Decker, which is normally a pretty good brand, but we think there's a design flaw in the way the bottom joins the jug part to the machine part. In any case, off we went to the place where we finally found a gasket before and they told us they didn't have any this time. They were good enough however, to give us the name & address of another place that may have them. Outside the store a man who had overheard our conversation in the store suggested yet another place. This fellow had spent 18 years in the States and made enough money to come back to Ecuador & buy a house. He said you had to "work very hard" in the States though...you know. He was very proud to advise us that 2 of his 4 children were now doctors! He quite frankly, in that Ecuadorian way, inquired as to whether we had bought here or were renting, how much rent we were paying, how many children we had & how old they were. Another friend of his came along and we escaped, thanking him profusely. Since we were right next to the Feria Libre we dropped by the Wednesday madness. Wandering around, we saw a place selling blades for blenders and asked them if they had gaskets. They did! We bought 4 for 50 cents apiece and figure that should last us for awhile.

More Spanish: The present tense in Spanish is used the same as in English to express an action which is going on at the present time. However, you will note that, unlike in English, special helping verbs such as do, does, am, is, are, etc., are not used in Spanish. A special use of the present tense is with the time expression "hace". Hace, when used with the present tense, expresses an action that began in the past but continues into the present. ?Cuanto tiempo hace que Ud. esta en Ecuador? How long have you been in Ecuador?

As we've mentioned before, Brian's turned into his own worst nightmare: a big man with a small dog. To add to the humiliation we came to the decision that yes, in fact, Fredi did need a rain coat, and purchased one for her. It's lovely. It has a little padding to keep her warm and is rain proof for the wet season and even has a little hood. She looks lovely in it. Leaving the store, Brian was muttering quietly to himself but when Shelley pointed out to him he could have vetoed the whole thing, he just hung his head and shut up.

The evening before Fredi's operation, we went to view the new apartment of some new friends of ours in Cuenca. It's a lovely penthouse; 2 stories, 2 bedrooms, TV room, maids quarters converted to steam room, an office, a huge deck with sliding windows, numerous bathrooms and a partridge in a pear tree. We were stunned and very happy for our friends that they found such a lovely place. We then proceeded to Sankt Florian (we really like Sankt Florian) and had a wonderful meal, great conversation and good service (as we were the only ones there). We talked about mothers with children away in a war, country music stars past and future, the banking business & learning a new language. We chatted about future travel plans, knitting & past accomplishments. We told each other stories about how we all met and as usual Fredi growled a couple of times and barked once or twice but generally was the princess she is. It was a great evening and at the end Fredi was wished only the best for her trial ahead.

"I woke up at 1 o'clock in the morning Shelley" Brian told her "And I've been pretty much awake ever since. What the heck is that?!"

He was sitting on the couch in the computer room, holding Fredi in his arms like a baby and it was half an hour before we had to take her to the Vet for her operation. We both knew he'd woken up out of anxiety worried about poor Fredi. We had to go an entire day and an entire night without Fredi's company, knowing the whole while that she'd be going through a traumatic situation. Neither one of us was feeling completely comfortable about the whole thing. We know it's for the best, however, poor Fredi doesn't.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

And still those voices are calling from far away

Shelley was pleased because she got to have a long Skype call on Saturday with one of her daughters. We got back a small refund from Revenue Canada recently and had spent the morning eyeing and pricing stereos. Brian was busy setting everything up and playing music much too loud, while Shelley chatted. We've missed having a stereo and are looking forward to playing our CDs. As we've mentioned before, we came to Ecuador with 4 suitcases (one of which was filled with books). In one of the 3 other suitcases we'd brought our CD collection. We'd reduced it to just discs (tossing all the packaging) and brought them in a sort of large album book. We spent the afternoon listening to our favourite music and learning how to operate our new equipment. Fortunately, the instructions were in both Spanish & English and the captions on the stereo itself are in English.

"What should be the first CD we play on our new stereo?" Brian asked of Shelley.
Shelley replied without thought: "The Eagles, Hotel California."

Once again we wandered down town to see what the Sunday entertainment would be in the main square gazebo. This week we got a wonderful 5 or 6 piece band playing rousing dance music and making everybody in the park smile & shift their feet. We ran into a friend and went for cappuccinos and gabbed for awhile about the best retirement places in the world. Our friend had been to Panama, Uruguay & Costa Rica in her search for her retirement nest and settled (of course) on Cuenca. She gave her reason for her choice and we all agreed Cuenca is wonderful. We also talked about Vilcabamba and the impact of the influx of Gringos into that small community, real estate prices in general & renovation costs in a place where minimum wage is just over a dollar. We were pleased to have run into each other and promised to get together for dinner soon.

Fredi woke us up at 2:30 a.m. throwing up delicately on the bed spread. We got up and cleaned up the mess and cleaned her up and got settled into bed again and went back to sleep. Half a hour later the same thing happened. "Poor Fredi looks guilty" Brian said.

"She can't help it, tell her it's OK" Shelley instructed him.

She's in the habit of picking up bits of paper and kleenex and we run after her and pluck them out of her mouth before she has a chance to swallow them. Shelley told her she's not a goat and she doesn't have the capacity to digest such things, but Fredi just doesn't listen.

In the morning, once again, Fredi threw up on the living room floor and once again we cleaned her & the mess up and reassured her she wasn't a bad a dog. We've lived with cats and they're always throwing up but can't remember if a dog throwing up is relatively normal or something to get alarmed about. Checking with Google it could be anything from hunger, to the kleenex she's snacking on, to irritable bowel syndrome to basically nothing.

As it turned out, we had to take Fredi to the vet for a booster anti-parasite pill and we talked to the vet about her throwing up then. The Vet was pretty much unconcerned since it was yellow vomit. Usually this type of vomit is "stress" induced she told us. We commented that Fredi threw up in the middle of the night and the Vet shrugged her shoulders and suggested perhaps Fredi had eaten something like a kleenex. "Eureka!" we thought and let the whole subject drop. While we were there we also made an appointment for Fredi to go in and be spayed. We were somewhat concerned that the Vet may try to talk us into waiting a few more months, but she was satisfied Fredi had had her first heat and was very willing to set up the appointment. Shelley immediately began to feel sorry for poor little Fredi but she knows that having her spayed is the kindest act in the end. When the big day comes, she'll have spend the night at the Vet Hospital. We'll miss her!

Eyeing the sky and predicting a downpour, we donned our rain jackets and took the bus downtown instead of walking. We had a bunch of small chores to take care of; filling up our bus pass cards, buying a monthly supply of coffee and stopping at the post office to mail a card back to Canada. It cost us $54 or $63 a month (we forget but it was a lot) each for a one-zone, one month bus pass in Vancouver. We put $10 each on our bus passes here 2 1/2 months ago and filled them up again today with $3 left on the pass (i.e. we now have a $13 credit which should last us 2 or 3 months). Four pounds of coffee cost us $10 and mailing the card to Canada was $4.75. It had started to rain shortly after we left home and poor Fredi was doing her shivering act, so Shelley tucked her inside her coat with just her head sticking out. Several people commented on the perra fria. We hopped back on the bus and arrived home just prior to a horrendous biblical deluge so patted ourselves on the back regarding our good timing. Fredi & Brian went down for a nap & Shelley Twittered.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Of the Internet & Fredi's Fame

Dinner at the Reemiles (Brian cooked his Mom's curry recipe) was successful. We had over a new couple to Ecuador http://adventureyes.blogspot.com/ and a couple of old hands http://www.watsontravels.blogspot.com/ and the mixture proved to be a good exchange of thoughts and ideas. We talked about the difficulties of doing wire transfers if you haven't arranged them in your home country first, the problems with banking in Ecuador in general, the best places to shop in Cuenca for household items. We gabbled about riding the buses, the ExPat community here & items you just can't find in the grocery store. Fredi, figuring it was her house, jumped on everybody that would let her. We ended up putting her in one of the bedrooms for an hour or so and when she was let out she was much more subdued. (It's a dog's life.) Everyone enjoyed Brian's curry and all in all it was a pleasant evening.

We've been having internet blues and took a taxi ride down to ETAPA to see what they had to say. Explaining problems over the phone with our Spanish is fruitless. They did an on-line diagnostic and said they figured there was something wrong with our modem. They were supposed to be sending people out to us the next day between 8:00 and 11:00 a.m. but (this is Ecuador) we'll see what happens. While we were there we expanded our band width. For an extra $20 per month we expanded it 2 1/2 times. This service was switched on while we were actually at ETAPA. Upon arriving home nothing seemed any different so we await the internet repair guys. We've been getting worse and worse service for the last couple of weeks and the day we decided to head down to ETAPA our service was intermittent at best. To top it all off, Shelley's arthritis has been acting up for the last couple of days and her youngest daughter was making her gut wrench from 3,000 miles away. (No one can press your buttons better than family.) All this is par for the course but it just added to a generally "poopy" morning.

With internet not working and the weather being generally rainy (thus Shelley's arthritis) it was unanimously decided to spend the afternoon reading and napping. We lived for at least 7 years on the boat (maybe longer) with no TV & no internet. These days we sometimes wonder how we managed that (board games, cards, reading, music, naps & conversation). The ambiance of the boat (darkish, enclosing & cozy) certainly made hunkering easier. It was a boat joke that come winter all the boat people hunkered down below and you didn't see them again until Spring. Come Spring everyone was outside working on their decks. It's harder to hunker when you've got a big picture window showing off a huge Ecuadorian sky.

In typical Ecuadorian fashion, the internet guys did not appear between 8 and 11 a.m. Shelley stuck around until 11 and then walked downtown with Fredi to check the post office box. There was a Mothers' Day Card waiting for her. Brian stayed at home "just in case" but to no avail. They may show up first thing in the morning, but if they haven't by the time we've done our chores and studied Spanish, we'll have to take another cab ride to ETAPA and find out what is going on. We've gone through this routine with ETAPA and the internet before and we'll likely go through it again. No sense being upset or put out, it's just the way it is. Our net continues to be erratic. We can however, now watch videos in real time! This is because of the upgrade but our other problem (we were told) is likely our modem.

The next day we waited until 11 before we set out on our day. I suppose it goes without saying the internet guys again did not show up. Our intermittent internet seems to have pretty much disappeared, so perhaps it's just as well they didn't show up. Nevertheless, it's rather annoying. If our problem returns, we'll have to take a taxi back to ETAPA and instigate the whole fractured appointment business over again. It'd be nice to think they fixed the problem in the office and that's why they didn't show up, but we know that's not it. It's just Ecuador. Please understand we're not saying how awful this is, we're just commenting on how different it is from say Canada..... Well...maybe not...my daughter's been waiting for decent internet in Canada for months now and they finally decided to switch carriers and ended up without internet for 12 days.

PS:- For those wondering ~ we still have a hole in our kitchen ceiling. Should this situation EVER change, we'll not forget to tell all and sundry.

Off we went to the CB Carolina Bookstore for our monthly allotment of English language novels. As always Carol & Lee were gregarious and helpful and during our time there several people dropped by for a hello and/or a book or two. They advised us that they too had been having trouble with their internet the last few days and that they used ETAPA as well. So, perhaps it's not our modem (since the problem now seems to be fixed) and simply ETAPA. Not showing up for the appointment was their way of telling us this.

Friday evening we went to Gringo Night at Zoe's. We hadn't been for several weeks and as it turned out quite a few other folks who don't go every week showed up as well. We gathered together at a long table that kept getting longer as people arrived. As one point however, we looked around and noticed that there were a bunch of new faces. It made us realize that we were now official "old hands". Later on at home, Brian asked "What do we think about that?" (being old hands that is) and we agreed that it was just another sign that we really are making Cuenca our home. As usual Fredi ingratiated herself with everybody. She is acquiring her own measure of "fame". The other day when Shelley & Fredi took a walk downtown without Brian, several people pointed and called out "Fredi !" Fredi is handling her new found status with aplomb.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

We're Sorry about all the Quotation Marks

Once again Fredi has proven that she is no slouch. She finally figured out that manically running between the two of us without instruction didn't provide a treat. Now she runs exactly to the middle of both of us, lies down and waits for one of us to call her, "Aqui!". Up she gets and runs to get her treat. Now that she seems to have mastered coming on command, we're sort of trying to figure out what other tricks we should teach her. She knows sit (which is a good one) but neither of us are really into the "sit up, lie down, roll over" routine. This is not because we don't think it's wonderful when a dog knows how to do this, it's because we're kind of lazy and now that she comes and sits on command we're more or less satisfied. Fredi's main job is to be cute and she does this well. What more can we ask of her?

We met our Canadian friend and another couple at La Fornace on Remigio Crespo and spent an enjoyable 3 hours getting to know each other and eating spaghetti, pizza & pepper steak. We talked about our various adventures getting to where we were that evening. The couple had brought their cat with them from California and that cat's adventures arriving in Ecuador meet, match & exceed those by many a human. Not for the first time, we talked about the differences between those from the U.S.A. and those from Canada; but in the end reiterated how friendly we felt the U.S. Americans were. We all agreed despite our various adventures and because of them, we were very pleased to be in Ecuador and enjoying this wonderful country.

With the straightest of faces, Shelley turned to Brian and informed him that because the garden was now large enough they "needed" a gnome. It turns out Brian thought gnomes were a decorative item; he didn't realize they kept "bad spirits" from taking up residence in your garden. In any case, off we trekked to a terra cotta "factory" in our neighbourhood and picked up both a gnome & a (you got it!) fish vase for $15. We also stopped at Punto and splurged on a few slices of their cottage roll. Shelley & Fredi sat outside while Brian went to purchase the meat and their wonderful fruit gravy. Fredi was quite worried Brian was never coming back...but he did.

Second Sunday in a row, we trucked downtown to see what was playing in the gazebo in the main square. There was a wonderful salsa band making everyone watching sway and clap their hands. Because it was Mother's Day the flower vendors were packed with customers and everywhere you went, small time vendors were selling red flowers, balloons & stuffed toys. There was quite a crowd in the square, likely because a lot of people were out with Mom but it all seemed quite festive. Shelley invested in a new bra ($2.45) ~ perhaps not quite up to the quality she's used to ($40 - $80 in Canada) but it'll last for awhile and who can beat the price? We bought a pound of corn meal at the public market ($0.25) and a barrette for Shelley's hair ($0.50) so you can see we managed to stay on budget. Mother's Day brought emails & text messages from the kids and apparently there's a card in the mail somewhere, so of course Shelley got a bit weepy for awhile, but all in all our day was pretty good.

Poor Fredi got bit by a bee. We were out for a walk and there were a bunch of bees hovering in the low grass and suddenly Fredi yelped and went running for her Papa. It seems to have bit her on her right hind leg, higher up on the haunch. She walks around 3 legged and is feeling quite sorry for herself. We checked on the web and they told us not to worry unless the swelling was excessive or the bite was near the nose and head. Even when she's lying down she keeps her leg up in the air and is somewhat sulky. Frankly, having been bitten by bees ourselves, we're allowing her vapors for a couple of days. As it turned out however, a couple of hours later the swelling was down and she was using all 4 legs for walking again. Stoic little thing, isn't she! (See pic of wet-Fredi.)

The demented school master across the street had a "guest" singer this morning. Our alarm clock was Ava Maria for a change. Not the best rendition we've ever heard, but not bad. We've got guests coming for dinner this evening and will be spending the day sporadically cooking. Brian's making his curry special. Shelley likes to tell his story about being a child in the logging camps in British Columbia Canada. At that time a lot of the "in-country" loggers were of East Indian descent. Brian's Mom learned to cook curry from those loggers and their wives. Brian tries to keep up the "family" tradition although he uses Patak's Curry Paste. We have to "smuggle" it in with friends from the U.S. and Canada when they come for visits.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Serendipitous & Not So Serendipitous Walks

Sunday dawned warm & bright and we spent a leisurely morning doing Sunday chores (watering the plants & doing a load of laundry) and having a nice breakfast; Brian & his friend Jan in Holland talked on Skype for an hour and Shelley read in the sun on the balcony. All our usual Sunday morning tasks taken care of, we set off on foot downtown to see what entertainment there would be in the main square. Half way there we encountered an army band (drums & various horns), multiple tents set up with food, a cajun-like accordion player & costumed people wandering through the gathered crowd. We stayed and enjoyed ourselves for awhile and several people insisted on taking pictures of Fredi in her back pack. Continuing on our way, there were 2 women singing in the gazebo in the main square and another woman playing pretty-darn-good guitar. We watched for awhile, just enjoying the day, and then wandered home. Even a lazy-nothing-day in Cuenca provides high entertainment.

So...because there was a herd of goats grazing on the small patch of grass where we usually take Fredi for her quick walks, Shelley thought she'd thwart the whole adventure of trying to get a small puppy to do her business whilst distracted by goats, and walk the other way. Pulling on the leash, looking back at the goats, Fredi finally broke concentrating on them and focused on her mission. All was well and we headed back home. Off to the side Shelley saw a brown furry animal and for some reason her mind said, "Oh look, a mole!" We have no idea why her mind did this? Fredi ran towards the supposed mole and got to within a foot when Shelley realized her mistake and pulled sharply on the leash. It was a well fed, sleek, very content rat, chewing on a piece of vegetation. The rat didn't move a muscle except to continue chewing even though Fredi got quite close and didn't bark. Both the rat & the goats continued to graze long after we left them.

Off we went to have dinner with some "blog people" from Florida. They were renting a penthouse with a truly spectacular view of the city and were planning on staying in Cuenca for a month. They'd retired just the day before they headed off and were now making up their minds whether it would be in Cuenca or perhaps Vilcabamba in Ecuador or possibly Panama. We talked about culture shock and uneven sidewalks, learning the language (they both have much more Spanish than we do), health care, the feelings of children with parents departing and cooking at high altitude. He is a gourmet cook who fed us a wonderful (!) salad which included palm hearts followed by a lovely paella and ice cream cake for dessert. We're reciprocating the next week and are a little intimidated about what to feed them. He was in food service professionally & even won a trip to England as a prize in a recipe contest.

We went downtown and bought a Porta card to refill our phone. In Canada our cell phone package cost us about $80 a month and here we're spending about $10 a month. In any case, we bought our card and as is our routine asked the vendor to apply it to our phone. It didn't take long for us to understand there was some sort of problem. Normally, we buy a $10 card which gives us ten dollars worth of phone calls and extends the expiration date about a month. If you don't renew before the expiration date, there's a strong chance you can lose your assigned telephone number. So, we are always very careful to renew before the end date.

When the store entered the update for the new phone card, it did not register on the phone. The lady tried 3 times without success. We all trooped out of the store, across the street and asked the advice of the Porta vendor in that store. She ended up phoning Porta and with the help of a nice gentleman who just happened to be in the store and spoke perfect English, we found out that Porta's computer's were slow that day and just to be patient. The vendor gave us a special receipt and apologized for the inconvenience and said to come back the next day if the amount didn't show up in our phone.

Guess what (?) You got it (!) The amount didn't show up in our phone. Off we trooped downtown again, half resigned to losing $10 but willing to take it up with the vendor again. The lady was highly apologetic and as the kind gentlemen who previously helped us with translation was not around, she phoned her nephew (who spoke perfect English) and between the nephew & the vendor & the other vendor we ended up with a new Porta card (which worked perfectly). The nephew told us not to be upset because these snafus were always happening with Porta (previously not to us, but there's always a first time). The first vendor told us to be on our way and that they'd take it up with Porta to get their refund of the $10. We were very pleased and thanked everyone profusely.

We had a few people over for afternoon nibblies. You know, the kind of get together that spoils both lunch & supper. We sat around and discussed our good fortune at being in Ecuador and talked about one couple's new home acquisition, driving in Ecuador, shopping in Ecuador & had lots of the kind of conversation that good friends have. Fredi's puppy pal Coco came along too and the pair of them played themselves to exhaustion once again.

Fredi is now "trained" to manically run between the two of us, come to a screeching halt and sit and wait for a treat. If no treat is forthcoming, she'll wait about 4 seconds and then run back to the other. We don't give her a treat unless we have given her a command. She comes instantly if she knows we have treats in hand when we say, "Fredi, aqui!" We can divert her from mud puddles, other dogs, kleenex (which she loves to take up and run about with) and sundry other happenings. When at home and without treats she now comes about 90% of the time if we holler "aqui". That's pretty good! The running frantically between the two of us when we're out a walk does give her a pretty good work out despite the fact that she completely defeats our training purposes.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

On one of our Woks

More Spanish: to take - (1) tomar; Do you take sugar? Tomas azucar? (2) llevar; When will you take me to London? Cuando me llevaras a Londres? (3) sopotar; He can't take being criticized. No soporta que le critiquen. (4) hacer; Have you taken your driving test yet? Ya has hecho el examen de conducir? (5) aceptar; We take credit cards. Aceptamos tarjetas de credito. PLUS: (a) to take after; parecerse a (b) to take apart; desmontar algo (c) to take away; llevarse & quitar (d) to take back; devolver (e) to take down; quitar (f) to take in; comprender & enganar (g) to take off; despegar & quitar (h) to take out; sacar (i) to take over; hacerse cargo de (j) takeaway; la comida para llevar (k) takeoff; el despegue ;-)

Off we went to Bob & Rox's http://tiny.cc/Sji1q place in Cuenca and together with Bob's brother, sister-in-law & a friend from Canada, we celebrated Rox's birthday in Ecuador. Her birthday tradition is to give presents to all who attend her celebration. Somewhat stunned we all opened our lovely presents & watched Rox open hers. Even the puppies got presents! They fed us huge slabs of tender meat, home fries and ice cream cake and we talked about swine flu, shopping in Ecuador, puppies, past birthdays, dentists & dental procedures and briefly about American politics. The puppies wreaked havoc for a couple of hours but finally found their level after that. Fredi could barely keep her eyes open when we carried her out of the apartment and took the elevator ride down to the parking lot.

The next morning after Brian had taken Fredi for her morning walk at 6:00 a.m. she came back to bed to snuggle with Shelley for an hour. This is unheard of and demonstrates how hard the two puppies play together. When we got home after the party we immediately got out Fredi's grooming comb and untangled the hair around her neck. The last time they were together we didn't realize that their playing together caused Fredi's hair to mat as a result of Coco licking her. She was quite disgruntled that she had to have a grooming session when all she wanted to do was go to sleep.

The next day was bill day, so off we went on our rounds. As a special treat we headed to CIDAP as we'd read in Cuenca Highlife http://showip.be/url/ez6 that Eduardo Segovia had a showing there and we'd noted that he crafted fish plates. His work in clay is stunning and far ranging. He had several fish plates & small fish murals that Shelley would have been happy to take home any one of (or all of them) but we finally decided on a plate, even though it was a tad outside our budget. Carefully wrapped in a spongy material, Brian wouldn't let Shelley touch it until we got home. It's been an eventful time for our fish wall as we've managed to get 3 new items within the last 9 days. Shelley assures Brian, when he inquired, that there's room for several more fish before the wall is complete.

After much trepidation, staring out the window, and lengthy discussion, we decided to brave the possible rain and head off downtown for our daily walk. The thought was we could always catch a bus and go home if it deluged. In any case, it was a serendipitous walk because we ran into a wok. Mind you, it has a long handle like a frying pan, but it's deep and has high sides and a small base like a wok. We've been looking for one since we came to Ecuador and couldn't find any. We did find wok-like pans with high sides but with a broad base and most of them were made out of aluminum. Now Shelley seems to think you shouldn't eat out of pans made of aluminum as she thinks there's some correlation between aluminum and alzheimer's. Checking it out on the web provided that the correlation is unproven. She was then curious as to how much alzheimer's there is in Ecuador because so many of the people eat from aluminum pans. Checking that out on the web provided numerous sites but all of them in Spanish. She wasn't curious enough to try and translate any of the sites. In any case, we managed to go downtown, have a cappuccino, buy a wok and trek back home all without ending up in a rain storm. This being retired seems to suit us.

To demonstrate how long we've been looking for a wok and how happy we were to find one, Brian had a dream about it last night. Apparently we were at some gathering and were supposed to cook Chinese food for our contribution. The gathering was outside and while Brian was busy chopping vegetables, somebody absconded with our brand new Teflon coated wok! When Brian went to use it and discovered it was missing, he went down the hill to a gypsy/hippy-like encampment where he found the wok. The upscale hippy fellow who had it tried to explain to Brian that the "tribe" was "into sharing". Brian was not sympathetic to their philosophy and he explained to the fellow that he needed it for his own purposes. The wok was filthy dirty with black burn marks and the Teflon was all scratched! Brian got quite upset and in his dream he bonked the guy in the head with the wok. Keep in mind this is a dream; Brian's the last person on the planet who would actually bonk someone on the head. In any case, after the bonk he woke up.