Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Of Treasures, Trips & Tribulations

Although we've been to Turi and have seen the fabulous view from the hill, we've never been to the Vega showroom & factory there. So, for our Saturday outing, we decided to make that our destination. For our exercise, we walked to Selano to ostensibly catch a bus to Turi, but once we got there we were advised the next bus was in one hour. We grabbed a cab and for $2 rode up to the top of the hill. The showroom is wonderful, full of amazing and beautiful ceramics and one room has a special display with a looped CD telling the history of Vega's ceramics in Cuenca. Just outside the front door is a table with discounted items (50% - 80%!). We couldn't resist: we bought a large (what Shelley calls) Eye Vase that looks absolutely fabulous in our front room. They packaged the vase up in such a way we probably could have mailed it to Canada. After we took a couple of pictures of the tremendous view & of the church at Turi, we caught a cab all the way home for $2.50 this time.

We've mentioned this before but cabs in Cuenca (and most of Ecuador) don't have meters. One must negotiate the price of the ride with the driver before getting settled in the cab. The best thing to do is ask a 3rd party how much a cab from from here to there should cost. Most rides in Cuenca cost $1.50 although we usually give the driver $2 (50 cent tip). (During carnivals days, however, the regular price goes up to $2.) If you're going out to the suburbs or country a bit, the ride goes up to $2, $2.50 or $3. We've never paid more than $3 for any cab ride we've taken in Cuenca. However, we've had guests that ended up paying $5 because they didn't have any change or were obviously tourists and they hadn't negotiated the cost of the ride from the beginning. Most Ecuadorians do not tip. We were confused as to whether we should tip or not at the beginning and then decided because we tipped in Canada, we'd tip here ~ it's up to you.

The last few days have been damp and coolish. We'd thought the Cuenca winter was over but apparently we'd just had a week and a half of respite. This is not to say it's miserable out. Compared to Vancouver it certainly isn't, but you do need a sweater when you're walking around and in the evenings watching TV you need a light blanket or vest. In any case, on our Sunday walk downtown Fredi got quite damp from her toes to her undercarriage. When we put her in her carry case (because she wasn't moving around and keeping herself warm and because Shih Tzu's have such a high body temperature) she started to shiver quite a bit. Of course, this made everyone who saw her feel instantly sorry and solicitous of her.

Fredi didn't mind.

They still don't have any Sunday entertainment in the gazebo in the main square but it was not a good day for sitting around in the park in any case.

Tuesday took us to the travel agent once again, trying to put together the last details of our Galapagos trip. We were unable to finalize anything but now it looks like we'll go directly to Isabela Island and spend 3 days there and then backtrack to Santa Cruz Island and spend 2 days. The travel agent tells us that there's more to do on Isabela Island. We assured her we were easy to please: "A couple or 3 hours in the morning and then we'll head back to our room for a nap and then out for supper; we're easy to please." The whole thing would have been much simpler to put together if the travel agent could have taken care of everything (of course) but the half-price AeroGal/SuperMaxi tickets is what put the confusion into the whole thing. In any case, we're expecting an e-mail from the travel agent with our new itinerary and then Wednesday or Thursday we'll pay for the whole kit & caboodle.

After spending 35 minutes with the agent we stopped at the CB Carolina Bookstore and picked up our usual allotment of 10 books (Note: If you buy 10 books or more you get a discount). Carol & Brian chatted while Shelley perused the books and Fredi (in her joyful Fredi way) cruised the store smelling absolutely everything. We ran into some friends at the store, which was fortuitous as we wanted to invite them to one of our Tuesday Dinners. They told us a tale of woe about almost leasing an apartment and finally getting a different one. We advised them "that's one of the 'charms' of Ecuador" and were pleased they had ultimately settled in a good place.

On the boat we had limited power. When at sea, we had light-bulbs & the refrigerator & the boat's start-up power & radio etc. that worked from batteries. By grace of a special device called an inverter, the stereo also worked. We had a diesel stove that kept the boat toasty warm and cooked our dinners plus a bar-b-que that in a pinch could cook coffee (not to mention steaks etc.) In addition we had a propane device that would cook Chinese wonderfully (very hot) and boil up some water for a cup of tea when the stove wasn't on. When at the dock, we also had hair dryers, electric heaters & hot water. We had hot water at sea but we had to run the boat for a couple of hours to get it (the engine heated it up).

When at the dock, however, we had to be careful about which devices we were using as the power was limited. We could have 2 devices on at one time: e.g. the hot water tank could be heating up and we could plug in an electric kettle. We could have the electric heat on and our hot plate. It was the hot water tank that invariably got us into trouble. We'd have a shower and the hot water tank would be heating up and we'd decide to have a cup of tea forgetting we also had the electric heater on. This would pop the breaker and we'd have to phone the Marina office in order to get a security guard or office staff down to the float to unlock the electrical box and flick the switch.

"I'm sorry" we'd start out. "We've popped the breaker once again." Trying to pre-apologize to the poor security guard having to trudge out of his way, through the wet Vancouver weather, in the dark, down to the the middle of our dock, which was almost as far as you could get from the warmth of the office.

All of the above paragraphs re electrical power are to explain that we're used to outages. We've lived for many many years having popped breakers waiting for power to return.

Wednesday morning, Shelley got up and walked into the computer room ready to do her farming on Farmville. Brian was still at the computer, the Apple "wait" signal was going round and round and he explained he was waiting for his e-mail to send off. Shelley watched for awhile and then noticed they were no longer connected to their WiFi. After trying several times to connect, Brian then noticed we had no power. Just prior to watching the Apple wait signal, Shelley had put on a load of laundry and plugged in the vacuum cleaner preparatory to vacuuming the floor. We stepped out into the hallway and noted that the building's generator was running. We had a washing machine half full of water, a dead vacuum cleaner lying on the floor & an e-mail that wasn't going anywhere (not to mention pumpkins dying on the vine because Shelley couldn't Farmville).

We forget how often power went out in a regular building in Vancouver Canada; it's been too many years. We probably had to call (in minor shame) the security guard to flick the power switch once a month in the winter on the boat (maybe once every 3 weeks). The power in Ecuador goes out about once a month. We're not complaining (particularly) ~ just noting.

In any case the power did come back, Shelley did manage to save her pumpkins, we did manage to get our laundry done and all was well.

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