Tuesday, June 23, 2009

You Know It Ain't Easy

Saturday we had to get our morning chores done bright & early as we'd promised the people at the CB Carolina Book Store we'd be there before 10 a.m. so that some students could video tape us as they conducted an interview. It was Shelley's Birthday, so Brian washed the floor while she did her morning ablutions. Arriving at the store Shelley volunteered to be the first interviewee and after a couple of false starts they asked her various questions to do with Ecuador's food compared to Canada's food. She advised them that Canada was a country of immigrants and therefore there were lots of different kinds of foods that were considered typical. Pressured she said turkey at Christmas was likely the most universal. Brian's interview questions were on the "friendliness" of the two countries; which did he consider to be more friendly? Tough call...

After doing our duty to the students, we chatted with a couple of people in the store for awhile and then wandered a bit until noon when we went to the Sankt Florian for one of their lunch specials. The prices have gone up a bit and thus we got juice, a tuna stuffed tomato, a roulade (a flat piece of meat [beef] stuffed and served as a roll), rice & fresh boiled vegetables plus a small peach melba for dessert for $3.80.

The news regarding Brian's brother is not good and consequently Brian will be taking off for Canada within the next 3 weeks or so. He'll spend only a week there, but it's important to him that he see his brother. Shelley & Fredi will remain behind to keep our Ecuador home fires burning. We're currently compiling a small list of items to buy that we can't seem to get here; a Remembrant Whitening Pen (although white teeth seems to be a huge rage in North America, we haven't seen any whitening products either at the grocery stores or in the drug stores here), m&m's Lip Smacker Milk Chocolate Candy Gloss (Shelley's got a small addiction) and crystal underarm deodorant. Keen's dry mustard would have been on the list but we whined about it in this blog so many times, numerous people have been good enough to supply us with a stock that should last about 5 years. By the way, our local SuperMaxi got in a stock of Miracle Whip and we bought a multitude. We have noted however, that there's an expiry date on them so don't want to buy dozens. This is too bad because undoubtedly they'll run out again.

As a trip to Canada was imminent, we went down to the indigenous market near the main square and picked up a few things for the family. We tried to stop at the coffee place, but it was closed on Sunday. We'll go back another day and pick up a few bags of coffee beans as well. We sat in the square and listened to the group in the gazebo, which was much better than the last couple of Sunday bands. While enjoying the music, a Mom and her 2 daughters came up and admired Fredi, petting and praising her so much even we got a bit embarrassed. While we were downtown we also stopped at the produce market and picked up 5 oranges, a papaya, 7 kiwi, 3 tomatoes & 14 of those baby bananas for $4.65.

The people at the CB Carolina bookstore recommended the Ayax Travel Agency on Calle Larga as a good place to go, so Brian trucked on down there to get his tickets for Canada. Shelley & Fredi went to the post office to mail a letter and then arranged to meet Brian in the main square. Two hours later, having mailed her letter, bumped into a couple of people & chatted for awhile, wandered off for a cappuccino and had Fredi admired several times, they trudged back to the Travel Agency to see what was going on. Brian was just finishing up.

The process took over two hours because Brian tried to make travel arrangements so that he would not have to over-night in Quito. This would have required flying Cuenca to Quito to Bogota to L.A. and ending in up Vancouver all on the same day. It turned out it was possible to do this but United Airlines does not give seniors discounts. The savings getting a seniors discount was well over $500, so it was on to Plan B. Unfortunately Plan B means that Brian will fly from Cuenca to Quito and then over-night in Quito. He'll then catch a Continental flight from Quito to Houston with a 5 hour lay-over in Houston and then on to Vancouver. The good thing is he'll arrive fairly early in the evening. On his return flight, it's Vancouver to Houston, a 2 hour lay over, then on to Quito, arriving late at night. Again there's an overnight in Quito and then a mid-day flight home to Cuenca the next day. The travel agent required a $50 cash payment and the balance by MasterCard. It took almost an hour just to clear the transaction with MasterCard. We understand that MasterCard is trying to protect our interests but it was frustrating nevertheless.

So, finally we left the travel agency. Shelley spent 10 minutes or so railing at Brian to a much bemused expression on his face. "How come it's always you who knows what's happening and me that's wandering around wondering what's going on?!" she shrilly asked him.

Brian, knowing that discretion is the better part of valour, kept quiet until she'd calmed down a bit. We then spent our last $22.50 in cash and we bought some coffee for home and presents for people in Canada (2 bags of beans & 7 ground).

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