Friday, July 31, 2009

It's 1:23 PM

It's 9:21 PM It's been raining off and on all day and thus, while we went out for a short walk, we've been mostly inside reading, watching TV, baking, playing on the computer, napping, etc. The day didn't drag even though the skies were grey.

Brian's watching the news: "Maybe there'll be something on besides Michael Jackson" he told Shelley.

Shelley sits at the computer, just about ready to shut it down and go to bed and read her book for awhile. She looks out the window next to the computer into the darkness and listens to the river. We've been in Ecuador for just over a year now and it's been a pretty good year. All the people we know in Vancouver are complaining of the heat while here in Cuenca it's winter; the kind of winter where every couple of days you can still wander around without a coat.

It's 12:51 PM Brian's in the front room eating his lunch and watching the news. We've just come back from a walk to Feria Libre. We didn't go there for the purpose of shopping so much as just for the walk, although Shelley picked up one of her $1 cactuses. The ladies at the plant place know her now and point out unusual cactuses. Feria Libre is the epitome of Ecuador. Every time we go there we leave feeling somewhat exhausted and overwhelmed. There are crowds and piles of fruit & vegetables and clothes & parts for your blenders & duckies & puppies & geese & chickens & more people and cereals & vendors selling hats & aprons & cell phone carriers and ladies with goats & bales of corn & blankets & shoes & more hats & rugs and places that sell roast pig & chicken & cuy and bras & panties and baskets & clay pots and the list just goes on and on. Wednesday is the biggest day for the market and they fill the parking lot with extra vendors so if we feel we'd like a visit to Feria Libre we always go on Wednesday.

After we left the market we headed for the river so that Fredi could have a free walk. Shelley & Fredi have a roar around free walk play thing going these days where they egg each other on until they're both panting; perhaps Shelley more than Fredi. They seem to enjoy it though.

It's 1:16 PM After being at home for awhile, Shelley got sucked into a FaceBook application her kids invited her to join and Brian & Fredi went down for their afternoon nap.

It's 8:22 AM Brian's been up for a couple of hours. He's walked Fredi and done his morning computer time. After Shelley finishes her computer time & her morning chore and Brian's had a bath, we'll eat breakfast, study our Spanish and then we're off to Coral Centro to see if we can buy some cheap shelving for 2 of our kitchen cupboards.

"So already we've outgrown our space" Brian quipped when Shelley told him what she wanted to do.

On the boat we were always careful; whenever something new came into the boat, something old was thrown out. Even the canned goods had to be paced strategically so that they didn't affect the trim of the boat.

What Shelley wants the shelving for is our spice cupboard. We've gotten to the point where finding a particular spice means taking half of the spices out of the cupboard. She thought a small shelf so she could separate the spices into 2 layers would do the trick. Coral Centro doesn't allow dogs, so Brian and Fredi will have to sit outside on the benches provided and watch the world go by. Last time they did this, they had a steady stream of Fredi admirers with whom Brian could practice his Spanish.

It's 5:29 PM We bought 2 systems at Coral: one was 2 plastic stacking bins ($4.50) and the other was a wire frame with 2 wire shelves ($7). Neither fit in the spice cupboard once we got them home. Shelley spent a couple of hours taking stuff out of cupboards, cleaning the cupboards and trying out the shelves. She finally took a plastic system we'd previously bought for the bathroom and used that for the spices. We put the plastic bins we bought today in the bathroom and used the wire shelving in our pasta cupboard. In the end, everything worked out but it did take some shuffling around. We've been in the apartment for almost a year so cleaning out the cupboards was probably due anyway.

It's 9:11 AM We woke up this morning to find that our satellite TV wasn't working. Brian's phoning to them right now to see if he can determine the problem and if not we'll have to hop in a cab and go down to their offices. It's what we call our "bill day" where we go around town and ~ you guessed it ~ pay our bills, so adding the cable TV people to our rounds should not be too onerous.

It's 9:23 AM Shelley can hear Brian reeling off numbers in Spanish; undoubtedly our account number. He's saying muchas gracias so something must be going right. Have we progressed to the point where we can deal with a problem over the phone in Spanish?

Apparently they're having some sort of system problem and it should be OK by this afternoon. We've very proud of Brian and his Spanish vocabulary these days!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ExPat Night & Banana Bread

ExPat night has been moving around lately and we sent off an email trying to determine where it was to be held but didn't get any answer. We therefore headed off to Zoe's with two other couples and had a mini ExPat night all to ourselves. One of the waitresses at Zoe's was born in Canada and was then brought back to her parents' mother country when she was 4 months old. Later on, she spent 7 years in her birth country. We got a real chance to talk with her about her experiences as we were the only guests there. It was a nice evening and one of the bonuses was that we could hear everyone talking.

While we were at Zoe's another friend walked in just for a couple of minutes. He handed out cards advertising his website: www.EcuadorCentral.com "Your Total Help Center for Ecuador". Perry's a real go-getter and the site offers Online Classifieds & Auctions, Ecuador YouTube & MySpace, immigration to Ecuador help, Real Estate help, Buying or Renting Heavy Equipment help, Shipping & Container information and the list just goes on and on. Check it out!

The next day we finally got an email back telling us where ExPat night had been held. Apparently there'd only been about 25 people there as opposed to the usual 60, so we weren't the only ones confused as to where it was to be.

On one of our usual walks downtown, we sat on one of the forward benches in the central park and just people watched for about half an hour. We've decided we have virtually become natives as this entertainment is common and not one we were used to until now. Either that, or it's a retirement thing. (Incidentally, we've now passed our one year anniversary living in Ecuador.) In any case, we would have sat and watched longer but the rain drops started to fall and we hip hopped to the bus and made it home before it deluged.

Several weeks ago we started going to the peoples' market downtown on Sundays to pick up our fresh fruit for the week. It gave us an outing and the cost of the fruit was half that charged at SuperMaxi. As has a tendency to happen with Brian & Shelley, it's now firmly gotten out of control. This week we picked up a farm chicken & vegetables to go with a chicken dinner, plus all our fruit for a week (bananas, papaya, peaches), plus a bunch of tomatoes & avocados. We have two cloth carry bags that we stuffed half the fruit in, plus Fredi in her pack, plus we picked up a roast pig meal with potatoes to bring home for Brian's lunch. Burdened down like mules, we trudged off across the river to pick up the No. 7 bus home. Ecuadorians are used to people burdened down but Fredi in the pack amongst the other carry bags always brings smiles wherever we go.

Oh...we also picked up a new sweater for Shelley ($12) as she'd washed her other one and shrank it. She has several alpaca sweaters, 2 of which she's washed previously and they haven't shrunk, but we're blaming the particular large weave of the offending sweater, figuring it tightened up and made it grow smaller. Note: We never put any of the sweaters in the dryer; always line drying them.

Because poor Fredi has to sit waiting for us, with her legs crossed, not knowing if we'll ever come home when we go to do our big grocery shop, we've changed the routine so Shelley puts away the groceries upon returning home while Brian takes Fredi for a walk right away. We used to put the groceries away together but poor Fredi found the waiting interminable. This new routine seems to make everyone happier. Shelley doesn't have to listen to Brian bemoan the fact that there's not enough room in the refrigerator to put everything away & she gets a head start on the giant cook she usually does on grocery day; Brian gets some time alone with Fredi, in the fresh air, exercising and Fredi gets to uncross her legs and be with the alpha male. It's seems to be a win/win situation for everyone. Once again, even though we're approaching our dotage, we've demonstrated we can change and adjust!

As one can appreciate, bananas are plentiful and cheap in Ecuador. They are one of Ecuador's chief exports. In any case, Shelley's been trying banana bread recipes from the web lately; none of which compared to her Mom's old recipe. She finally broke down and asked her daughter to send her the recipe from the old Purity Flour Cookbook Shelley's Mom had given to Shelley and Shelley had passed on to her oldest daughter just before coming to Ecuador. Oldest daughter dutifully scanned the recipe and e-mailed it to Shelley, complete with stains on page from past mixings. See http://planetirony.blogspot.com/2008/01/banana-nut-bread.html if you want a great banana nut loaf recipe.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hodge Podge

As July and August in Cuenca are considered the windy months, it seems logical that on many street corners & traffic circles throughout town they're selling kites. We've mentioned before that Ecuadorians are masters at seizing the moment and opening up small kiosks etc selling whatever is appropriate to the season. We all donned our raincoats and walked around the neighbourhood admiring the various kite set-ups and dodging rain drops. Brian is mildly complaining about the altitude and being somewhat short of breath but Shelley figures it's just that he didn't keep up his walking exercise the week he was away and he's gotten a bit out of shape.

On our way downtown to stop in at the Post Office we ran across a tinsmith's shop at 7-49 Calle Coronel Talbot, just around the corner from the Modern Art Museum. The fellow in there gave us a demonstration of his art; showing us how the various designs are made in the metal and how the metal is cut and folded. It was all rather serendipitous and wonderful.

While Brian was away Shelley set up a dinner with two friends and we ventured over to their lovely apartment for a wonderful meal. They have a cat. Fredi didn't notice the cat for a couple of hours as the cat had judiciously slipped away to the spare bedroom upon our arrival. Fredi enjoyed herself exploring the new surroundings, eating cat food and tearing apart a cute little toy tipped with feathers at one end. Shortly after we'd sat down to eat dinner, the cat ventured from the bedroom. Fredi sharp barked twice and took off like a whirling dervish after this beast that was sauntering across the floor. The cat did a 180, roared into the spare bedroom and jumped up on a special stool that looked out the window. Shelley put Fredi's leash on and kept her close after that. There was no hope that she wouldn't try everything she could to get a better look at this wondrous beast. This was Fredi's first cat encounter.

Meanwhile, the humans solved the problems of the world, put politics, religion & the culinary arts in their proper places and generally had a delightful evening.

If it seems that we're forever going to the dentist, it's because we are. We figure dental visits alone go a long way to supporting our retirement in Ecuador; the costs would be so much higher in Canada. In any case, off we went again for Brian's regular 3 month and Shelley's scheduled 6 month cleaning. Turns out Shelley's the one that had to come back after the initial appointment this time. Her gums have receded in 3 places to the point where the dentist feels a filling should be placed over the gap between tooth and root. This condition, ironically enough, is caused by brushing. Turns out the cleaning for Shelley and the filling in the 3 places will cost total $139. We don't know how much this would have cost in Canada but we're figuring at least $500 if not more. What would we do with ourselves if we weren't constantly trekking off to the dentist?

The next morning, while walking Shelley to the dentist for her second appointment, we ran into a couple of bicyclers with a Canadian flag and a fleur de lis Quebec flag flapping over their back wheel. We stopped and talked to the couple for a few minutes. They were young, very fit, very friendly and pleased to see a fellow Canadian. We gave them directions to Loja and wished them well. We should have but we never did ask them where they started from and how far they were going. We certainly wish them well! Just before we parted company we exchanged cards. You can read about their adventures on their website www.rollingforgreen.org

Shelley's appointment at the dentist went well. The entire procedure took about 30 minutes and now the roots of those 3 teeth are protected and it generally looks better. Whereas it was sensitive to cold & hot before, covering it with filling will solve that. Prior to the appointment, however, she complained to Brian that after living with him for a decade and a half, she now got somewhat anxious before a dentist appointment. He pretended not to understand where she was coming from.

Friday was Brian's brother's Celebration of LIfe. We woke up thinking of him and spent time thinking of family throughout the day; some good ~ some bad thoughts; you know how it is.

It turned out to be a pretty stressful day. (These are not supposed to happen to us; we're retired!) We had to fax some documents to our bank in Canada and as easy as this sounds, it ended up being a semi-nightmare where we couldn't confirm that documents had in fact been faxed and later on still we sent out an email that was not responded to. Yet another different email was sent to our investment manager and yet another incomprehensible email was received back. Shelley ended up phoning Canada and that relieved some of the stress. Later on, she had one of the Nicorettes Brian brought back from Canada. It helped.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night


Sitting on a bench in the main square waiting for the band to set up in the gazebo, Brian commented: "We're early."

"They're supposed to start at 11 o'clock" Shelley replied.

Brian looked at his watch, "It's 11:15" he said. "We're early."

Not as many people in the park on Sunday as usual. It's chilly outside. The young girls walk around in puffy winter jackets like they'd wear in Saskatoon in December. Shelley has her jean jacket on (still no socks) and Brian's wearing an unlined rain jacket. We're comfortable. We've conjectured to each other that there's less people because of the weather.

Later on we pick up 10 apples, a giant papaya, 3 avocados, 7 tomatoes & 15 bananas and Brian complains because it costs $7.00. "Don't we usually spend like $5?" he asks.

"It's the apples" Shelley tells him. "They cost $2 because they don't grow them here."

Home again, home again after our walk Shelley starts to fill up the tub; she wants to have a hot bath but there's no hot water. This is a fairly regular occurrence in our building. We should have hot water by this evening.

We got the word that Brian's brother died at 3 AM Monday morning. Directly after Brian's visit he basically stopped eating, they increased his morphine dosages and moved him to palliative care.

He lived every day of his life and was a very good man. Our hearts go out to anyone that knew him. He left a legacy of integrity, tolerance, family values and an enormous zest for life. Brian said that having Gene as an older brother was like winning the lottery. "How lucky can you get?"

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

by: Dylan Thomas

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Home Again, Home Again II

Sitting down at the computer, Shelley looks over to the couch in their den and spies Fredi, who's settled herself in, having following Shelley from the front room.

"I love you too Fredi" Shelley murmurs under her breath.

They'd gone, Shelley & Fredi, for a long walk down town and picked up a new blouse ($15) while they were at it (for Shelley not Fredi). Brian was in the air. Somewhere between Vancouver Canada and Houston Texas. While they'd both missed Brian on his trip away, they'd managed to keep busy and active. A couple of people had e-mailed to check on them and Shelley had set up a couple of dinners once Brian was home. Soon all would be back to routine; routine's good.

Normally Brian & Fredi get out of bed around 6 AM. While Brian was away, Fredi considerately let Shelley sleep-in until around 8 AM...that is until the day Brian was due home. At 5:45 AM Fredi was on Shelley's neck, licking her and advising it was time to play.

"It's too early Fredi" Shelley told her and rolled over but Fredi would have none of it. At 6:10 Shelley & Fredi were outside having a little romp. "Can you smell Brian in Quito?" Shelley asked Fredi. Fredi refused to reply.

Brian phoned around 8:30 AM and told another tale of hours spent in Houston because there was "something wrong with the hydraulics".

"I thought I'd be stuck Houston for another day".

Spending 3 more hours in Houston than was scheduled, the plane eventually did take off and Brian arrived at his Hotel in Quito around 2:30 AM.

"I'll be in Cuenca around 2:30 PM" he told Shelley. "I'm glad to be back in Ecuador. It feels like home."

In yet another similar turn of fate, Brian's flight from Quito to Cuenca was delayed half an hour. He got home about when he expected however.

Home of course meant a reunion with Shelley & Fredi. Both were satisfyingly demonstrative in their joy at seeing him. So...then the suitcase was unpacked with all the goodies brought back from Canada. Lots of cooking stuff, a lovely present from his brother's spouse (a quilted wall hanging), lots of English language books from Shelley's oldest daughter and some bathroom related stuff (dental tape, crystal deodorant). He even brought a Ukrainian sausage & a large block of good Canadian cheddar cheese to share with a few aficionados. They spent the next couple of hours talking and catching up on Brian's trip, the kids, his brother, his kids, the trip itself, and so on. Brian felt particularly good that the very last thing he did in Canada at the Vancouver Airport was have a double/double and breakfast sausage from that Canadian icon Tim Hortons.

The next day, sitting in a restaurant downtown sipping on cappuccino's Brian said: "You know what I noticed the most back in North America? The fullness of flavour in the foods. I had a chicken burger that tasted like the best chicken burger I've ever eaten. The kids made me smokies and they tasted as good as a prime rib! "

We spent the next morning talking more about what each other had missed while we were apart. We chattered on our walk downtown, chattered over our cappuccino's and chattered on our walk back home. Fredi had stuck close to Shelley for about 2 hours upon Brian's return, but after that she became Brian's little girl puppy again. She'd drift over to Shelley from time to time and give her an apology lick but then turn back to Brian, firmly his girl. Shelley didn't mind; everyone was just glad to be together again.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

We'll all be glad...when we're together again

Brian's spent the afternoon shopping for Greek spice, m & m's Lip Smacker Milk Chocolate Candy Gloss, crystal underarm deodorant, tape dental floss, Chai tea, large man t-shirts & underwear and Chinese 5 spice; all items seemingly unavailable in Ecuador. After living in Cuenca for a year he was shocked at the prices of everything, having spent $250 without even really trying. He also dropped by our old Marina to see how the boat was doing & to say hello to Flo (the dock cat). The boat needed work but the new owners assured Brian they were planning on tackling that during their summer vacation. Note: An old wooden boat always needs work; sometimes it needs more work than others however. Flo was unavailable but Brian was assured she was fat & fluffy!

Later on he met Shelley's two girls for dinner at Memphis Blues bar-b-que palace; true Memphis bar-b-que! If you like BBQ, you'll love Memphis Blues on Broadway near Granville. They have a family platter which has a little bit of everything and will feed 4 gluttons easily for a very reasonable (Canadian) price.

The next morning Shelley & Fredi set off for their walk, this time downtown. On two occasions middle-aged matrons stopped Shelley & Fredi and they discussed (in Shelley's broken Spanish) how wonderful Fredi was. Both times they were extremely forgiving when Shelley told them she was studying Spanish but found it very difficult. Upon arriving in the middle of town Shelley & Fredi sat on a bench in the park and people watched until a friend came by unexpectedly and they went for coffee.

That same afternoon Brian was in downtown Vancouver again shopping for things on his list that he hadn't found the day before. He was scheduled to meet up with his daughter & one of his sons for an early dinner (the other son lives in Toronto). They had been going to meet on Saturday but the necessity to go first to Vancouver Island put the dinner off until Monday afternoon/evening. He had a nice dinner catching up on the goings-on of the two children (both in their 40's) and got back to his bed for the night to find a panic email from Shelley. She was having trouble understanding what their investment broker was trying to accomplish and wanted him to talk to the man personally, since he was in town.

Brian usually takes the end-of-night-pee-Fredi-walk but with him away Shelley's doing that obligation these days. Brian has talked about the various barking maniacs at this end of the evening walk, but Shelley's basically ignored his mild complains until of course, she had to endure them for herself. First, there's the walled in barking dog. Fredi knows exactly just when to yip to get this dog's attention. Once his attention is riveted, he doesn't stop barking for the rest of Fredi's walk. Fredi seems to find this somewhat gratifying. Then there's the giant German Shepherd dog that lunges on the leash to see what Fredi's all about; Fredi barking frantically in it's direction. To give him his due, the owner always takes him to the other side of the street knowing it's likely a Shih Tzu owner would feel a bit trepidatious about a giant German Shepherd straining at the leash lunging towards them. Lastly, there always seems to be the unknowing pedestrian winding their way home after a long day. Fredi, whose heart is bigger than her body, lunges in all directions, surely guarding off all harm. Shelley "tsssts" at Fredi in an effort to shut her up but Fredi knows....her job is to serve and protect.

They have neighbourhood security men around our building. We nod and wave to the man during the day and at night the security guy whistle a special whistle as he bikes past our building to let us know he's on guard. It's a small comfort, but more so now, when Brian's away.

Off on their daily day-time walk, Shelley & Fredi ventured from their apartment down the street past the University. On their return trip, they stopped at the College grounds and lay on the grass and soaked up some sun for awhile, listening to a bunch of college girls giggling in the background. While lying on the grass Shelley noted "No bugs!" remembering that lying on the grass in Vancouver would bring at the very least ants. Upon their return home there was an email from Brian saying he'd talked to the investment broker and he felt all was well. Later on she got an email from the man himself which prompted yet another email from her to the broker asking for clarification on 3 points. Do these people never talk simply?

Brian's day was filled with more shopping (gentleman's leisure pants), a visit to our investment manager to pick up some papers and a visit with some friends from his last job. Back at Shelley's daughter's place, he carefully weighed his suitcase, now filled with spices, tea & English language books, to make sure it was under the requisite 44 pounds. Fortunately, the son-in-law works from 3 PM to 11 PM and then stays up late into the night, so he can give Brian a ride to the airport for his 4 AM check-in time. Once again Brian will wing to Houston and then Quito for an overnight and then home to Cuenca.

We'll be glad, Brian, Shelley & Fredi, when we're together again.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"How are you doing?" we both asked each other...

Finally the weather got better and Fredi & Shelley were able to go out for a long walk. Being cooped up in the apartment wasn't good for their state of mind and being out in the sunshine really helped a lot. They wandered over to Feria Libra and looked at the kittens & puppies and then went to Fredi's second favourite place in the whole world for a free walk. They say exercise puts your mind in a different frame and they're right.

Brian & Shelley were able to Skype briefly that evening. Brian had had 3 hours sleep in the last 46 and although pleased he'd seen his brother he was surrounded by relatives, a bit overwhelmed and a bit goofy. He was hoping to get some real sleep that evening and advised he was going to get half an hour alone with his brother the next day.

Shelley had decided to wash their giant quilt while Brian was away. She put it in the bathtub with detergent and then filled the tub and squished away & then rinsed & then rinsed again. It certainly did need cleaning! Full of water she squeezed it out as best she could and then dragged it onto a towel & then dragged the towel out to the balcony.

"Full of water it might have weight 200 pounds!" she told Brian later when they talked about it.

It was so heavy she could barely drag it up on top of their balcony table and drape it across 4 chairs. After arranging the quilt & towel-drying the floor between the bathroom and the balcony, she lay down on the bed panting for a while. Fredi was quite fascinated with the spare fuzzy quilt now on the bed & rolled & rolled & rolled on it until she'd made it hers.

Brian had a good visit with his brother. They reminisced & expressed their pride in each other and said goodbye. He had a good talk with his brother's spouse & his niece and all in all, the purpose of the visit was fulfilled and fulfilling.

"I was so tired I just kept babbling the first day" Brian told Shelley. "I told them all about Ecuador & Fredi and everyone was quite interested."

Brian had left Houston at midnight 31 hours after leaving our apartment in Cuenca and arrived in Vancouver at around noon. He caught a bus straight from the airport which took him to the ferry and over to Vancouver Island. He spent that afternoon with his brother and then managed to get 7 hours sleep on a memory foam mattress.

"They really are nice!" Brian commented.

The next morning he had some alone time with his brother and that afternoon some alone time with his niece, then it was back on the ferry where he was picked up at the other end by Shelley's oldest daughter & her husband.

"What do you want for supper?" she asked him.

"Smokies" Brian told her. "They don't have them in Ecuador."

Fredi & Shelley went to the people's market for their usual Sunday morning shop of fresh fruit & vegetables. As Brian is usually carrying Fredi in her pack, this was the first time Shelley really heard the murmurs & laughing and felt Fredi wiggling as people tried to pet her as they were walking through the crowd.

Brian's friend in Holland phoned to find out how Brian was doing and to make sure Shelley was getting along OK. When Brian & Shelley Gmail Video'd later on, she reminded Brian to email his friend & told him about the market experience. Brian was off to do some shopping for things unavailable in Ecuador (Greek spice) and then 2 of the kids and their spouses were all going to meet up at Memphis Blues for a wonderful bar-b-que dinner.

"How are you doing?" we both asked each other and got the standard reassurances that there was nothing to worry about.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Of Mice and Men the Sequel

From the moment Brian left the apartment Fredi began to mourn him. She sat by the door until Shelley persuaded her away and then when Shelley's attention towards her began to lag, she jumped from the couch and sat by the door again.

When she finally realized he wasn't coming back soon, she stuck to Shelley like glue. Instead of lying at the end of the couch, diplomatically placed equidistant between Brian & Shelley, she now lay tucked into Shelley's side tight as she could get. Always vigilant to follow whenever anyone went to the kitchen, her vigilance now kicked into overdrive and she followed Shelley everywhere, keeping her company whether watching TV, on the computer or in the bath room.

Brian's plane left Cuenca at 7:15 and he arrived in Quito at 8:00. He checked into the http://www.hotelothello.com/ where we'd stayed previously* and immediately went across the street to a cabina place and phoned Shelley to let her know he was safe.

"I made them sign in blood that they'd wake me up at 3 a.m." he told Shelley. "And I've got a cab coming at 4".

Shelley told him about the dog pining at the door and then instructed him to get inside, "You shouldn't be wandering around Quito after 9 o'clock" she admonished him.

"I'm 2 feet taller than everyone here!" he told her.

* The Hotel Othello is not fancy but it's clean and reasonably priced and in a wonderful walking about neighbourhood.

1:47 in the morning, Shelley gets out of bed and goes to the computer to Twitter. Her daughter had text messaged her at around 9 p.m. but she hadn't seen the message until midnight. Brian usually takes charge of the phone and she'd forgotten to bring it into the bedroom. Brian's brother's condition was quickly deteriorating; could Brian come sooner?

Shelley text messaged her daughter and then they talked on Google Video.

"Brian's in Quito. I can't get hold of him. You'll see him before I hear from him."

The next morning around 10:30 Brian phoned Shelley. His flight from Quito was cancelled. Apparently a bird had flown into the nose of the plane he was supposed to take and they had to do inspections etc to ensure the plane's safety. They offered to put Brian up in a hotel and then fly him out the next day but he opted for another schedule that would get him there several hours sooner.

He's flying out of Quito to Bogota Columbia where he'll stay for several hours and then go on to Houston Texas. From Houston he'll fly to Vancouver arriving around noon 43 hours after he left the apartment in Cuenca. Understanding the urgency to see his brother, he'll go directly from the airport in Vancouver to the ferry terminal and take the ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. An email was sent out to all the people he'd arranged to meet in Vancouver to let them know what was happening.

PS:~ The Hotel did not wake him up at 3 AM as they had promised they would. Brian had basically stayed awake so he was, however, on time to the airport to find out the flight had been cancelled.

That day Fredi & Shelley donned their rain coats and set out for their usual daily walk. It'd been chilly in the apartment and they'd dressed warm for their walk but were thwarted before they'd gone more than a few blocks. The rain, instead of dotting the landscape, became biblical. Fredi sat down on her haunches and looked back at the apartment.

"OK Fredi" Shelley told her. "You're right. This is stupid."

They semi-ran back to the apartment, got out of their wet coats, put on a couple of sweaters and resigned themselves to spending a somewhat chilly day at home. (No heating systems in homes here. Cool weather means sweaters, not turn up the heat.)

Brian sent an abbreviated email from Bogota while he was waiting for his next flight. He commented that Bogota was bizarre and that the main part of town was crawling with police and the army and felt like an armed camp...and then his message cut off suddenly. Shelley wasn't p-a-r-t-i-c-u-l-a-r-l-y worried figuring his flight was called.

"Armed camp...Bogota...Columbia..." she mused.

Fredi being a dog with a somewhat limited capability of foresight continued to inspect every inch of the apartment upon returning from every walk or outing, presumably just checking that Brian hadn't magically appeared while she was away.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Breathless

Near the flower market downtown we ran into two women (maybe sisters) and a young girl (maybe 6 or 7) who was obviously a grandchild. The young girl was entranced with Fredi in her carrying case and Brian brought Fredi off his shoulder and held her down so the young girl could pet her. The usual telling of names ensued and the 2 women and Brian got into quite a discussion. Shelley was standing about 1/4 of a block away, watching all this. At one point, as the women were leaving, Brian held out his hand as if he was begging and said, "Vienticinco centavos" ($0.25). Both women giggled and one of the women gave Brian an "oh you!" slap on his arm.

When Brian caught up to where Shelley was standing she said to him "You really crossed some sort of barrier if they'll touch you now".

Brian was quite pleased.

If we were going back to Canada just to visit the kids and see our friends, we'd be going together and we'd be excited and happy about the trip. Brian's looking forward to seeing the children and his brother and meeting up with his old work friends, but the purpose of the trip puts a damper on everything. Shelley's been anxious for the last couple of weeks and only wishes Brian had already gone and come home again. She's having another bout of home sickness. Brian's not looking forward to 24 hours of travel twice in a week and a schedule jam packed once he gets there. He's also anxious on Shelley's behalf at leaving her behind. As a consequence, neither one of us has been sleeping that great the last week or so and we take turns sitting up in bed, turning on the light and reading for an hour or so in the middle of the night. Poor Fredi sensing something's up, insists on cleaning our faces for us, which we've got to admit always bring a smile, but ultimately doesn't take away the anxiety. All of this is not to say we resent making the trip; the trip's necessary and it's important for Brian to see his brother. When it's done and over with, we'll both feel the better for it having been made. The only thing to do, of course, is march on.

Most of the time when they put a Notice up in our building we can cobble out the meaning, but recently there was a Notice that we were obligated to take a picture of and then run it through Google Translate. That's because 2 words we were unfamiliar with were dotted throughout the notice: reciclar & basura ~ recycle & garbage. Apparently the people in our building weren't recycling and the powers that be were going to impose a sanction on the building if we didn't start. We were actually quite pleased to discover we could recycle and then set out to find out exactly how this is done. We bought the light blue recycle bags at our local SuperMaxi and apparently they pick up these bags every Thursday (at our building). Unlike Canada, where you have to separate all your recyclables, here you put your paper & tin cans & even computer print cartridges all into the blue bag and presumably they have people who separate it all out! We'd asked about recycling before and it had been pointed out to us that quite often individuals would go through the garbage and pick out cardboard etc. and we'd always been careful to put this type of garbage in separate bags. Now, we can recycle officially! Small things make us happy apparently.

Over the last 365+ days Brian & Shelley have been separated only for a couple of hours once in a while. Shelley was in the retirement industry during part of her working life and saw the stress that constant togetherness brought on newly retired couples. This is not a problem we have.

We studied our Spanish and after the lesson Brian complained of having a tight stomach and a mild headache.

"What are you thinking about?" Shelley asked him.

"My trip" he answered. "I'm not comfortable about leaving you alone. I'm surprised" he said. "I think I'm having an anxiety attack."

Fredi, every vigilant to our feelings, had her feet up on Shelley's legs begging to be held.

"Here" Shelley said to Brian picking up Fredi "Take Fredi and lie down for awhile. Everything will be OK. You'll see."

Note: He did feel better after his nap.

Off we went to the giant hardware store near the airport to see if we could find Super Glue. They had Super Glue and several others that claimed to be better than Super Glue. Most of them had their instructions in English. Shelley was wishy-washy about buying a strawberry pot ($35), breaking down the display and eyeing it placed on the floor next to her leg. In the end, she decided against it (too much money, too big) and then was in the process of rebuilding the display when a sales woman came over and shooed her off. Fredi is not welcome in Malls generally but the giant hardware store not connected with the Mall welcomes her with open arms. The ladies at the till always coo over her a bit. We needed Super Glue because the back of one of our office chairs was cracking and we figured Super Glue would do the trick. It did.

We've been getting emails regularly from Brian's brother's spouse. To say we appreciate being kept in the loop regarding Brian's brother is an understatement; one that cannot be expressed. The courage and grace that is being shown in the emails is something too that cannot be expressed. Life is good; life is bad; life is hard; life is wonderful...it's all there. We all of us struggle along in our own little worlds, insular for the most part but touching some from time to time and leaving us breathless.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Canada Day in Ecuador

Shelley was lying on the couch reading a book and Brian was in the study working on the computer and the earth shook. Just for a minute. This was the second earth quake we've felt since we've been here. Neither one of them amounted to much but were definitely felt. Talking later to some friends whose apartment is on the ground floor, they told us they didn't feel anything at all, but the power for their building got tripped.

Although we do manage to have a lovely time, we don't seem to be having much luck gathering together all the people we intended these days. We were supposed to meet 2 couples, friends of ours, at the Mediterraneo downtown but it turned out one of the couples was indisposed and couldn't make it. We ended up having a wonderful time nevertheless and talked about respective trips out of country that each of us are planning, the joys of children, how much costs in the U.S. and Canada are going to shock us after being in Ecuador for awhile and our favourite haunts around Cuenca. Please note Shelley had her usual at the Mediterraneo, which is a vegetarian pizza sin cebolla. They make this up for her even though it isn't on the menu. It's wonderful!

Around her incision Fredi had one spot that was turning red & you could feel a bit of a lump & it was getting somewhat crusty so we whisked her off to the Vet keeping our fingers crossed everything was OK. The Vet advised us it was fine and then gave Fredi a pain shot and told us to keep the spot clean but not to put antibiotic cream on it. Fredi seems fine. She's frisky & runs around and it doesn't seem to pain her any, so we suppose we just have to accept it as one of those things. Two days after visiting the Vet the spot was completely gone!

Canada Day arrived and Shelley put on her Canada cap & Brian waved the flag a bit and then we went downtown to Sankt Florian and met a couple of friends who helped us celebrate our day by having lunch with us. The special was trout with an apple fritter for dessert. As always it was a very nice meal for lunch and we enjoyed our friends very much. They're shopping for furniture these days and have just managed to populate their front room but haven't decided on dining room furniture yet. We talked about Brian's impending trip and perhaps them making a foray into the jungle or out to the coast. They're waiting for their permanent residency papers and are thinking of taking a trip to the Galapagos as well. We had a very nice lunch and left feeling pleased and full. However, after eating out two days in a row, it's time to diet for a bit.

We've been chastised a couple of times because apparently there are several places in town where you can get a perfectly good haircut for $2, but we like to go to Decontracte on Calle Larga y Luis Cordero (across the street from the Sank Florian) where Brian gets a cut for $7 and Shelley gets a cut and style for $10. The fellow that runs it is originally from Columbia and Brian and he talk about culture and life in our fractured Spanish while Brian gets a haircut better than any he received in Canada. Shelley (not one to fuss with hair & makeup) gets a trim & then they blow dry her hair so she looks like a lady for the 3 hours before she brushes it down and looks like herself again. "It's the novelty of it all" she tells Brian. "You look great!" he tells her back. Fredi comes with us and sits as good as gold while the ladies make a fuss over her and tease she should get a hair cut too. We leaving feeling trim and confident without the least bit of consternation over paying that extra five bucks.

We went down to the CB Carolina Bookstore and stocked up on books once again. With Brian going out of town, Shelley thought she might be doing some extra reading. Arriving at the bookstore there was a significant crowd of ex-pats from Canada, the U.S. & Australia. Several people zeroed in on Fredi and then remembered to say hi to us as an after thought. Fredi accepted the attention with aplomb. We'd brought 9 books to trade in and picked up 10 to read, so with our trade-in value & our discount for buying 10 books, we paid about $60. Brian's going to be bringing some books back from Canada. Shelley is kind of excited because her daughter e-mailed a list of the books she's saving for us and some of them look pretty good!

Brian's watch quit working so off we went downtown and got him a new one ($17) as well as a battery ($2). We're paying more in Ecuador for watches for Brian than we did in Canada. In the malls in Vancouver they had cheap watch kiosks where you could get one for about $10. When you're paying that price you pretty much have to get a new watch annually but you certainly don't worry about damaging it or loosing it. We sat in the park for awhile and watched the people go by and had our usual Fredi admirers and ran into a friend who we chatted with for a few.

It's been quite cool the last few days. Blankets over us in the evening when we're watching TV and light coats or sweaters when we go out during the day, but today was beautiful; back to capri pants & no sweater. It's Cuenca's winter right now; July & August are noted for being the coldest months primarily because it's windier. All things are relative though; we came here to stay originally at the end of July 2008 and thought the weather was wonderful!

One of the cactus in our pot garden bloomed the other day. It does have a rather spectacular bloom, doesn't it!? They grow outside on our balcony and under instructions from the indigenous ladies, we never water them.