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.

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