Friday, August 28, 2009

Never Could We Have Imagined

There's an island in the river across the street from our apartment building and Brian's been eyeing the passage to the island for the past year. Mondays (our regular shopping day), Brian takes Fredi alone for her walk while Shelley packs the groceries away and cooks up a storm. The river was down quite a bit and Brian eyed it carefully and then decided "now" was the time to attempt the crossing. We've seen any number of people on the island over the past year: boy/girl scouts (or the Ecuadorian equivalent) making camp fires and chopping wood; indigenous people cutting the tall grass for their cuy (guinea pigs); young lovers thinking they're hiding but quite open from our balcony window.

Brian picked up Fredi and deftly crossed from rock to rock making it to the island without getting wet feet. Fredi was NOT impressed. She did NOT like being carried over the water. She thought it was NOT a good idea. Nevertheless, poor Fredi didn't have much of a choice.

Later Brian & Fredi came home and talked about their adventures. Fredi was full of burrs from bouncing in the tall grass on the island and Brian spent a good 20 minutes picking them out.

"Serves you right" Shelley told them both, smiling at their adventure.

Two couples came over for one of our Tuesday Dinners. Brian made trout with home made hollandaise sauce. Until this point, Brian had always made his hollandaise sauce from the McCormick's Magic (add only 1 egg & water) package. He dutifully printed out a 2 page recipe from the web and it must be said, the sauce was absolutely perfect 5 minutes before he was able to serve it. Alas, such is life (and cooking). Our guests were magnanimous and purported not to notice the curdled sauce on their fish & vegetables. For those with good memories, we talked about Vladimir the Impaler once again (this has to be note worthy). We also talked about learning Spanish, connecting with the Ecuadorians, how cute Fredi is, how happy we all are to have made the decision to live in Ecuador and good wine. Shelley disappeared for a few moments and when Brian came to check on her she was farming (Farmville).

"The pumpkins have to be harvested at 8:00 p.m. or they'll die!" she told him, moving her fancy new tractor about the farm. (Once again ~ is this any way for a grown woman to act?)

When Brian tried to reassure our guests that Shelley was "just fine", she shouted at him "Don't tell them!" and he explained she had "a computer application that was time sensitive and needed to be taken care of".

Not one of the guests questioned this explanation.

We all hugged (so un-Canadian and so Spanish/Ecuadorian) at the end of the evening and when Brian asked, "Did it go well?" Shelley answered in the affirmative.

Wednesday took us once again to the Feria Libra market where we bought a bunch of chicken livers and came home and made Fredi her "special" cookies. Fredi followed Shelley "heel to toe" while she mixed & baked until finally Brian took her away for their nap.

"Do you think she'll come?" Brian asked Shelley.

"What choice does she have?"

But she settled down to her nap just fine, probably smelling liver cookies baking and dreaming absolutely wonderful doggie dreams.

Thursday & Friday we spent wandering around downtown & near the airport trying to make arrangements for our fall holiday to the Galapagos. We've decided on a package but have to co-ordinate our pre-paid flight through AeroGal/SuperMaxi plus our flights from Cuenca to Guayaquil. We thought we almost had this done on Wednesday and then we realized we'd not brought our passports and cedulas; these documents are required to book a flight in Ecuador. (Details....details) In any case, not wanting to leave Fredi for very long, we're only going for 5 nights; 2 nights on Santa Cruz Island and then a boat trip to Isabela Island where we'll spend 2 nights there. For half a day on Isabela we'll go to the Tintoreras to see some of the wildlife (including penguins ! we're so excited) and for the next full day we'll visit the Volcano. After that, it'll be back to Santa Cruz for a day; mostly because we couldn't co-ordinate the trip between the 2 islands and catching our flight back to Guayaquil. It sounds like fun though, doesn't it? The total trip is going to cost us about $1,500 and will include the odd meal here and there. Brian being over 65 means that the flights are half price (not including taxes) & having our cedulas means that the National Park fees are reduced. (Ecuador wants residents to be able to afford to go there) Not bad for a Galapagos trip! We still have some details to put together but the whole thing is pretty much in the bag at this point. "Wow!" we say to ourselves. "In our past lives, never could we have imagined living in Ecuador, not to mention the prospect of going to the Galapagos and walking where Darwin trod."

"We live in Ecuador but we're not good travellers" Shelley told Brian.

After spending 2 hours with AeroGal on Friday, both of us were vibrating, plus the wonderful young woman helping us was vibrating too.

Brian said, "It's not that we're not good travellers! It's that we have such a low stress level in our lives (being retired) that conducting negotiations as complicated as this (primarily in Spanish) is exhausting for us.

Shelley merely smiled.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The End of our Social Non-Social Week

The hummingbirds are back! They come and do a hootchy-koochy dance at our living room window and then dart over to the feeder for a bit of lunch or dinner. We've decided, after doing research on the internet, they hadn't actually gone to Florida or even Canada, but had just hunkered down for a few weeks when it was cooler here in Cuenca. The weather has improved considerably the last few days! All the hummingbirds are back; the small ones (they're so cute!), the medium sized ones (they're so busy) and the larger ones (they're so entitled). All feeding, squabbling and generally entertaining us (as they should). We're quite pleased!

OK ~ we're still on our non-social week and off we go downtown to ostensibly to look for a new blouse for Shelley but mostly for just something to do. We look in several places and Shelley actually finds something she tells Brian she may pick up later.

(Brian doesn't understand but has learned over the years not to question too deeply.)

We found ourselves only a few blocks away from the CB Carolina Bookstore so we decided it was probably time we put in an appearance. When we arrived, as per usual, there were several people in the store gabbing up a storm & one of them even actually bought a book! Carol & Fredi got reacquainted, Brian & Lee chatted about various Ecuador forums & Shelley (head bent) checked out the newest "learning Spanish" books on the shelf.

In any case, we were invited to lunch by new friends we had met last week and had a lovely meal at the El Jordan restaurant on Calle Larga. They too have a lunch special for $2.50 which includes juice, soup, rice, meat & a small dessert. They also have a wonderful view & white linen table cloths; it's all very nice!

"For a non-social week, we're being pretty social" Shelley commented to Brian.

Brian merely smiled.

We have several trips & a visit coming up within the next few months. We got a half price air fare deal from SuperMaxi (by collecting coupons) and are attempting to make arrangements to go visit the Galapagos this fall. Our friend from Holland is going to Peru around Christmas & wants us to visit him there just after Christmas or in the new year. Shelley's oldest daughter has just announced she's coming for a visit in February. As well, a friend from Vancouver is coming sometime in October (maybe). It's nice to have these things to look forward to but we're in our retirement, we don't want to be overwhelmed by obligations either! Shelley's very reluctant to leave Fredi although we will have to, to visit the Galapagos. We have a couple of friends who have offered to take Fredi on for a few days and the vet where we purchased her also offers boarding. Shelley knows Fredi can manage without us; it's us managing without Fredi that has her worried (sort of). More than anything she's looking forward to her daughter's visit. Parents should encourage their children to fly (in more ways than one) and this trip for her daughter will enable that (in more ways than one)!

We can't find frozen potatoes (home fries, hash browns) so these days we make our own. Down to the people's market where we buy a bucket of baby potatoes for $1.00 from a street vendor. At home again, we boil the potatoes and then fry them in 2 woks & a frying pan. Mixed with mild chili pepper flakes, pepper, garlic & olive oil the end result is wonderful! Then we freeze them in 2 people portions for a breakfast meal or to have with trout. The bucket of potatoes fried up usually makes about 12 portions so the dollar is well spent and the time (heck we're retired!) not begrudged.

On our usual Sunday stroll downtown we dropped into the Tourist Bureau just off the main square and asked about the entertainment in the gazebo. The young woman in there, who spoke wonderful English, advised the new mayor was putting together his annual budget and as soon as this was done, there'd be entertainment in the gazebo again on Sundays. "Maybe as soon as next week" she told us. "Tourism is important to Cuenca!" She also advised she didn't know anything about the office closing down or the monthly cultural agendas being discontinued. Perhaps the rumour we heard about budget cuts re the Tourist Office and the Sunday entertainment were just that ~ rumours.

While at the Tourist Bureau we ran into a fellow from Holland and stood outside and talked with him for 20 minutes or so. We of course told him about Brian's friend Jan and he told us about cheap flights from Spain to Bogota, Columbia. "Amsterdam is the centre of the world" he advised us but he was very enamoured with Cuenca and Ecuador in general. "The people are so sweet" he said. He felt a lot more people were going to end up retiring in South America and when we tried to discourage this theory he laughed, understanding where we were coming from.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It Makes you Feel Right at Home

Friday evening took us to ExPat night and we sat at a long table full of people we know and got to know each other just a little better. One fellow sat down beside Shelley and they talked about what it takes to be an ExPat. The fellow said he felt the general nature of an ExPat was changing. In the past they seemed to be mostly adventurers; people who had done a lot of travelling throughout their lives and just happened to end up in Ecuador.

"These days" he said "there seems to be economic reasons & political reasons; more so than in the past."

Shelley spoke to the fact that nevertheless most of the ExPats still seemed to have a sense of adventure. Later when she thought about it some more she decided that since now the world had become so very small, with airplanes, the World Wide Web, television & even Skype the dedication to that sense of adventure didn't need to be as strong. Thus you get families & retirees along with intrepid adventures & those running away from a bad past. We're in Ecuador, the land of shrunken heads & llamas and yet in our own front room we watch the last season of ER with dedication and talk with our friend in Holland & kids in Canada over Skype without a second thought.

"Living on our boat in Canada was more isolating that living here" Shelley told the fellow while laughing and gesturing to the long table of friends. The fellow laughed too.

Even later again Shelley thought, that maybe it's not only the world that's changed but the people too. The retirees here are all children of the 50's, 60's & beyond when the world (for better or worse) did change a lot. Fear of change (of something different) is still strong in us but maybe it's weakened a little over the years? In any case, at ExPat night you see a bunch of people that are happy where they are and everyone has a story.

We've heard rumours the city of Cuenca is going to shut down the tourist bureau just off the main square and that the event calendar that was published each month is going to be discontinued. Budget cuts are the reason, of course. There doesn't seem to be any entertainment in the gazebo in the main square on Sundays these days either and perhaps this was also a fatality of budgeting. We continue to go downtown on Sundays but these days we sit in the main square and people watch until we're fortified for our fruit/vegetable shop at the 10 de Agosto market. We're regulars there now and know what a bag of tomatoes or a papaya should cost and Brian & Fredi always stop with a couple of the ladies so that Fredi can pay her respects. Loyal to a fault, Brian always got a roast pig lunch from one of the ladies upstairs until last Sunday she wasn't there and he was forced to go to another vendor. He got almost twice as much meat! Perhaps it's only a first time customer bonus; often this will be the case. When we first moved to Cuenca we used the event calendar a lot but this dwindled as we set up a routine and got to know where to go when festival days were happening. Gringo Tree also provides information on events, so we won't miss the calendar that much but we're sure tourists will.

Having determined to spend a non-social week, we still had to think up things to entertain ourselves and decided to go on one of our serendipity bus adventures. We picked up the No. 1B on Gran Colombia and rode it up into the dusty hills behind the village of Sayausi. We saw goats & sheep & cows & fields of corn and our route took us along the Toma Bamba River where at one point we saw a tennis court as nice as one you'd see at an upscale country club in Vancouver. There the tennis court was, surrounded by dirt fields & older houses, looking pristine and wonderful.

"Twenty years from now" Brian conjectured "this whole strip along the river will probably be very upscale with new homes everywhere".

A little further down the road we were amused at what appeared to be a mock African Village replete with thatched cabanas. The sign said that it was a restaurant, aptly called Las Cabanas.

On our determinedly non-social week, we keep running into people. We ran into a friend downtown & chatted on a street corner for 20 minutes; walking in our neighbourhood, a friend honked at us as he drove by (we craned our necks & waved) and we ran into a couple we know at Feria Libra & gabbled with them for half an hour. We'd gone to Feria Libra to pick up a day pack & a fine toothed comb to brush the gravy out of Fredi's mustache from time to time. Both items we were able to pick up within 15 minutes of hitting the market. Brian did his usual Fredi meet Ecuadorians routine & then we detoured to take the obligatory look at the animals and ran into our friends. It's nice to be in a place small enough and to have been there long enough that this running into people happens from time to time. It makes you feel right at home.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Books, Games & Food

When we lived in Vancouver on the boat, once every 2 weeks we'd go down to the main public library and take out 14 books. Shelley'd pick out 7 and Brian would pick out 7 and that'd keep us going. This was before we had TV & internet. When we finally did get TV it was in the same room we'd sleep in, so in the morning when Brian got up, hours before Shelley, he'd read. Shelley still goes to bed before Brian and reads while he watches the news on TV & she also reads after her computer time while Brian's having his afternoon nap. Brian's reading time is basically now cut down to about half an hour before nap time and half an hour between bedtime and sleep time, but nevertheless he still reads.

These days we go to the CB Carolina bookstore and pick our books. They're still important; even though now we've got the world wide web and a TV. Shelley's currently reading The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone about Michaelangelo. Brian & Shelley both agreed they've read this book as teenagers or young adults (who remembers specifically). The copyright is 1961 so that seems reasonable; but Shelley finds the book fresh (read so many years ago it's new again). We were worried when we came to Ecuador that we might have to buy our books on line and pay for shipping etc. and were very very pleased to find the CB Carolina Bookstore here for us. It's a place to meet people, find old book friends & discover new horizons; like any other bookstore in the world.

Shelley has discovered a game on FaceBook called Farmville. You and your friends set up a farm. You can gift trees & animals to your neighbours and plant crops determined by what level of the game you are on. Shelley's currently on about level 9 or 10 and her son-in-law (the one who got her into the game) is on about level 22 or 23. We don't know how far up the levels go. These days Shelley can't wait to get to the computer to harvest her soy beans and she went into a spiraling despair ;-) when there was an attack on FaceBook and she couldn't harvest her pumpkins. Her entire crop failed! The size of your farm depends on how many neighbours you have. Shelley's currently looking for new neighbours so she can expand her farm. Is this any way for a grown woman with grown children to behave?

"Words" have been presenting problems for Shelley lately. She got into a Twitter discussion and used the word "precedent". The person she was Twittering with didn't understand the use of the word and took her meaning for exactly opposite to what she was trying to say. We had company for dinner the other day and they used the word "ritualized" to describe our day to day routine. A simple error but it does change the meaning a shade. Both Brian & Shelley have children that will put the worst shading on just about anything we say. Can these things be helped? As a youngster, Shelley was taught that if one used precise language then generally the individual and the world would be better off. This isn't always the case. Try as we might, we won't ever be able to make a world that is totally safe. In the end, this is probably not a bad thing. Language always presents potential pitfalls. Often, however, working through the pitfalls we discover new paths & build new bridges. We can't begin to imagine what misunderstandings we foster in our fumblings with the Spanish language! Nevertheless, we continue to fumble and try to enjoy just about every minute of it!

We had to go to the post office to pick up a prize Shelley had won through Twittering. We have a PO Box that we rent at the main post office for about $20 a year. (Note: In Canada it cost us $95 a year to rent a Box.) It was only a sticker, but the fellow had mailed it all the way from Virginia to Ecuador, so the thought certainly was wonderful. Shelley had told the fellow not to bother since it was such a long way, but he insisted. On the way back from the post office we ran into a couple of friends and chatted on the street corner for a few minutes. When they asked where the post office was (because they wanted to pick up stamps) we told them, and then gave them a piece of advice: Write your card or letter and then take it straight to the main post office for mailing. It seems if you mail stuff anywhere from other than the main post office it greatly reduces the changes of it ultimately getting through. We learned this through trial & error but so far haven't lost anything we've mailed directly at the main post office. Ecuador is not noted for having mail boxes dotted on street corners like in Canada & the U.S. in any case, but the few times we mailed from a box in a mall or an artisans shop, the letter or post card did not get through.

The bakery at the SuperMaxi here makes sometime between a croissant & a flaky roll. It's not crescent shaped but is made in layers. When these go slightly stale, Shelley makes french toast of them. Because we had company a few days ago and gave them pecan pie, we had a can of Rediwhip left over. We also had a container of chocolate sauce in the cupboard. Imagine a croissant dipped in sugar & egg & vanilla & fried to a golden crisp, topped with whipped cream & drizzled with chocolate sauce. On the side we had a banana drizzled with chocolate sauce as well (you know) for the vitamins. Needless to say, despite some people's complaints about the blandness of some of the food in Ecuador, we are managing to maintain our weight just fine (thank you very much)!

PS: - The pictures on this blog have all been taken from our front room window at various times of the day. We were telling a friend the other day that when you rent an unfurnished apartment here, they truly come unfurnished (without fridge, stove, curtains, lighting fixtures, etc). We had a man come from a blind store and measure our windows & we had blinds put up in all the rooms. To tell you the truth, the only blinds that ever get closed are the ones in our bedroom when we go to bed at night. We've never closed the blinds in our front room & we never tire of the view!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Once again Once again

Having made plans to meet a couple new to Ecuador for dinner at Shelley's favourite restaurant, Sankt Florian, we decided to simply go for a walk during the day to get our exercise & get out of the apartment. We climbed the hill up to Avenida de las Americas and walked down the street for blocks and blocks until we we got tired. At that point we headed downhill and eventually found a children's park, full of climbing equipment & swings, and sat in the park on a shaded bench for 20 minutes or so and got our energy back together. It was nice watching the young Mothers and their children, the small family group and their 3 dogs and the kids playing a scrimmage soccer game on the asphalt next to the park. We rested and watching the goings on and tried to explain to Fredi why she was leashed and the other dogs weren't. Fredi didn't buy our explanation.

That evening we met our new friends from the United States. We talked about why we ended up in Ecuador, places to buy furniture in Cuenca and Shih Tzu's. Shelley broke up the evening at 8:15 PM explaining that it was Wednesday and that we were deep into watching the last season of ER. The other couple laughed with us and understood. All in all, it was a very pleasant couple of hours.

There are several garden centres within walking distance of our apartment and even though we don't always buy, Shelley likes to check them out from time to time just to see what they have. We seriously considered getting a 3 foot Norfolk Pine but Brian asked the man at the garden centre if we could grow it indoors and man was adamant that we couldn't.

"How do you think we grow them in Canada?" Shelley asked Brian a little disgusted with him for putting her off.

We stopped and had a Nescafe cappuccino, which all things considered wasn't that bad, and watched the comings and goings on the sidewalk. A mother & her young son tried to sell us a puppy and a young man tried to sell us either sun glasses or a USB stick. Neither of them were pushy and the puppy was sure cute. On the way home we stopped at the specialty store near the Fybeca on Remigio Crespo and picked up some cardamon. We've bought pecans, cocoa & various sauces there and thought they might have cardamon and they did! Brian brought Shelley back some Chai tea from Canada but it won't last forever and she's now got a recipe from the net and is going to try and make her own. Cardamon was the last ingredient she was looking for.

OK ~ about once a month we do it ~ we go to Fredi's favourite place in the whole world, which is Parque Paraiso, and watch her run around, completely free (or almost), a huge doggy smile on her face and bemused happy smiles on our own. You take the No. 14 bus and ask the bus driver to tell you when you get to Parque Paraiso. It's a wonderful place! There's a pond & bridges over marsh & ducks & swans & the river & quiet lovers in the corners & Moms & kids & other dogs & huge expanses of grass & rocks piled on each other to climb on & a place to get a hot dog if you're hungry & joggers & teenagers & ...

There are, granted, several signs throughout the park telling you NOT to have to have your dog leashless, however, security guards turn a blind eye and most people are just as happy as we are to see Fredi so outrageously pleased with life. We keep her in check & call her back when she tears after a jogger and because we bring liver treats with us, she is always quick to obey. (Very impressive!) On the way home she looks eagerly out the bus window until she realizes the fun it over and then she always sleeps; totally exhausted. How can one small thing expend so much energy?

We rarely go there because that's where we had our camera lifted from us, but we went to the new market at the 9 de Octubre. They wouldn't let us in with Fredi in her pack, so Brian ended up sitting outside enjoying the weather while Shelley went in and picked up a few things. When we got home it turned out that the papaya we bought (which had been specifically picked out by the lady at the market) was too ripe and we ended up throwing most of it away. We can't seem to have a good experience when we go to this market although now it's quite lovely in it's new home.

Our friend Jan from Holland is working in China right now and Brian was relieved we were able to get him on Skype because of all the hurricanes happening there. Jan advised he flew into the Country with no other bumps except he couldn't get the exit row or bulkhead seat that he usually gets because he's so tall. He was quite disgruntled because when he walked by the exit row seat it was taken by a "four foot tall Chinese lady and a 3 year old!" Apparently he was going to take the Maglev from the Shanghai airport to downtown. Being an engineer involved with High Speed Rail projects, he was quite excited about the ride even though it's quite short; 32 km in 8 minutes; 430 km/hr (268 mph) top speed.

For our Sunday treat at the main square downtown, they were having some sort of bicentennial celebration. There was a man demonstrating a pottery wheel & another man doing some hand weaving; there were stalls selling roast pig & roast chicken & other stalls selling books and English/Spanish dictionaries; the Police band was on site entertaining us & there were several Shamans batting people on the head with a bunch of mixed herbs & spitting water on them. (Brian says the British Columbia Indians do the same thing: "It's to purify", he told Shelley.) We wandered around and enjoyed the experience and once again Brian reiterated to Shelley how much he enjoyed Ecuador: "There's always something new for us to see!"

Later on we went to the People's Market and picked up 16 bananas & 12 apples for $3. Once again we told several ladies Fredi's name & reassured them she was a Cuencana. Once again we wandered down the hill and across the river and picked up the No. 7 bus (which drops us basically at our door) and scampered out the back door of the bus when we got to our stop, always a little fearful the driver would start up again before we were fully out. Once again, despite our repetitious routine, we enjoyed our Sunday immensely.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Serendipitous Side Events & Mild Snafus

We went downtown to pay our bills and ended up taking in a couple of serendipitous side events. Apparently the President of Ecuador was in Cuenca to swear in Cuenca's new mayor. We obtained this information from a friendly guard and then hung around for 45 minutes waiting to see the President. We never did. We did, however, manage to get a picture of Cuenca's new mayor.

"He's so young!" Shelley exclaimed to Brian when he poked her and told her to take the picture.

"It's not that he's so young..." Brian began to explain to her and then thought better of it and petered off.

On the way home we stopped in at a small gallery we've noticed several times but never visited. They were showing an exposition of Ariel Dawi. The studio is at Benigno Malo 4-103 y Calle Larga and they have a website: www.arieldawi.com There was a young woman outside handing out pamphlets and she graciously gave us the royal tour.

Later on still, walking along beside the river, we encountered an indigenous couple fishing. We've noted many people fishing in the river before but have never seen them catch a trout quite as large. The man caught the fish in a net and then threw it up the bank to his companion. This was when we noticed them; a flying fish is something you have a tendency to notice. The woman then fixed a stick to the trout so she could carry it. Brian asked her, just making sure, if in fact it was a trucha. She acknowledge shyly that it was but was very uncomfortable talking to Brian.

ExPat night was at the Eucalyptus and we decided since we haven't been for several weeks, we should go and check it out. We met and talked with a woman who was here improving her Spanish language skills (already much better than us) and we talked about culture shock, being on guard in a new country. We assured her that feeling of being out-of-place disappeared after awhile but she was sure Ecuador wasn't her ultimate destination. At the end of the evening we met a lovely couple who have decided to settle here but had left their Shih Tzu behind in the States. They were very happy to make acquaintance with Fredi & we gave them our card hoping to hear from them again. We also talked to several other people and all in all it was a very pleasant evening. We did spend a bit of time trying to find out why ExPat night was once again settling on the Eucalyptus but no satisfactory answer was given to us. We decided it was one of those mystery things we weren't curious enough to ultimately uncover.

Our hummingbirds seem to have mostly disappeared. Whereas we were filling up the feeder every couple of days, the nectar now lasts a couple of weeks. It is disappearing and we do see the occasional hummingbird, but not several of them like we were seeing during the North American winter. The web tells us hummingbirds migrate in response to hormonal changes that are triggered by changing length of daylight. Being on the equator, the change in daylight is minimal but I guess those hummingbirds still know what do to. Apparently, they don't migrate in flocks, but set out on their own and this is because they have to feed so often it would be inconvenient if they were in flocks. Brave little birds as well as beautiful & hungry. We're looking forward to their return in a few months.

Downtown at the main square for our usual Sunday morning gander, they were having some sort of army memorial day type ceremonies. There were at least 150+ soldiers there, armed with rifles, as well as several generals and an honour guard in traditional uniforms from 200 years ago. There were many speeches and rousing music from the military band. The snippets that we caught talked about various revolutions and armed guards kept the populace away from the cenotaph area. All in all it was quite interesting.

At SuperMaxi for our regular weekly shop, they were out of Neutrogena soap, Trident X-tra care green gum, parmesan cheese & Maggi (MSG-less) chicken bouillon. On the other hand, they had in stock Miracle Whip & caesar salad mix! We don't know if it's a supply chain problem or an inventory problem but many things on our list are often hit & miss. Granted in Canada, from time to time, they'd stop stocking a product we regularly bought, either because not enough people were buying it or because the product ceased to exist. We had a love affair with something called Australian biscuits. They were a cross between English muffins & powder biscuits. We were quite bitter when our Safeway stopped stocking them and even went so far as to request their reinstatement but to no avail. On the other hand, they always had parmesan cheese & Miracle Whip. We've become quite philosophical on our shopping trips these days; either instantly substituting the product or re-writing the missing item onto our next list and the list after that until it becomes tedious and we learn to live without the product. Then one day, lo & behold, it's on the shelf again and we get quite excited! I repeat; small things seem to make us happy.

We've been trying to fax something to our bank in Canada for a week now. We chose a fax place downtown that advertised they did international faxes but the young woman operating the fax machine was so flustered, we weren't sure she even put the paper in the right way. Several emails to our bank in Canada determined that they had in fact not received said fax. Several more emails determined that the bank in Canada had given us an incorrect fax number; this incorrect number was printed on our financial consultant's card. We wonder where our documents went, if in fact they went anywhere. A few days later, at a different place, we faxed the documents off again. This place gave a confirmation slip showing that our 3 pages had in fact been forwarded to what we hope is the correct number. We've currently got our fax fingers crossed.