Friday, November 27, 2009

Adding Injury to Insult

OK...Brian went to the specialist and the specialist found a nodule. On Thursday morning he's going to the hospital to have an EKG to make sure his heart is good to go under general anesthetic. One wonders what they'll do if his heart's not good for that? In any case, next week on Tuesday he'll go into the hospital for a day procedure and have a biopsy ($600). He has to give himself an enema at 6:00 a.m. that morning. In Canada, the hospital would admit him the day before and administer the enema but here they allow the patient to do it for themselves. (Oh Boy!) We're confident and secure in the Doctor's expertise and competence. One very pleasant surprise is the intense personal attention they give to the patient! Does anybody remember Doctors making house calls 40 or 50 years ago? Brian remarked that in this same situation in Canada, he would basically be a number going through a system. Here it's much more up close and personal and that is very comforting.

Brian's EKG came back very well. "Considering you smoked for over 40 years" the Doctor told Brian. "You're in remarkable shape. Your heart's good, your lungs are good, your circulation is good!"

"So" Brian said to the Doctor with a twinkle in his eye. "I'm in really good shape except that I might have just a little bit of cancer."

The Doctor laughed (which is what Brian intended) and told Brian he really appreciated his attitude.

Brian went to the lab and had some blood tests run to ensure he was coagulating properly and now all we can do is wait until next Tuesday to figure out the next steps that need to be taken.

"I'm not sure that I'm comfortable putting all this stuff on the blog" Brian told Shelley.

"For the last 2 years, just about every detail of our life has been up on the web" Shelley replied to Brian. "I don't think it's the time to stop now. People should know you're not seeking sympathy, just chronicling what's going on. You're getting good health care here and you're confident with the Doctor. People are curious about things like that. Besides..." Shelley grabbed his hand. "Writing it out helps me not get frantic about the whole thing."

What could Brian say?

Thursday night we went to a gathering at a friend's place for U.S. Thanksgiving. At one point someone asked Shelley if she minded celebrating U.S. Thanksgiving and Shelley commented that "turkey was turkey"! Everyone was asked to bring a dish and our hosts supplied the turkey. There ended up being almost 25 people! We brought Shelley's childhood Christmas/Thanksgiving/Turkey vegetable which is carrots & turnips mashed with butter & brown sugar. (It's good!) We also brought a can of cranberry sauce in case no one else thought of it. Turkey, for Shelley, without cranberry sauce is like chocolate without sugar. There was some wonderful home made cranberry sauce at the party so in the end Shelley didn't have to pull out her can. Fredi spent the whole evening canvassing under the tables, into the kitchen, out to the balcony, into the hallway and back to under the tables, just checking to see if anyone dropped a piece of turkey on the ground. She was a doing a public service making sure our hosts didn't have to pick up turkey or what-have-you; preventing a possible mess! She wasn't a terrible beggar but was vigilant in her survey of the floor. There was a toast during the middle of the evening welcoming the 3 Canadians that were there and praising our hosts for the wonderful set up they'd provided to all these people. Brian had 2 full helpings of turkey dinner (this man cannot possibly be ill) and neither of us were able to partake in one of the 5 pies that had been brought. It was truly a wonderful evening; all these strangers gathered together in this strange wonderful land.

Three o'clock in the morning, we both woke up to the sound of a car hitting something unmoving; no screeching of breaks, just an impact thunk and then the constant blaring of a car horn. Brian got out of bed and advised Shelley is was a pick-up truck that had hit a tree. Shelley got out of bed and peered rather fruitlessly through the bedroom balcony doors, without her glasses. Just then 5 or 7 people came running down the road in a staggered procession, ran over to where the truck was, tree branches stuck under the wheels & the tree trunk melded with the engine compartment. They milled around on the road presumably just seeing what there was to see. Shelley went back to bed and Brian left the bedroom and got our binoculars and peered through them for awhile longer until 2 police cars showed up and finally the horn stopped blaring. He then put the binoculars away and attempted to come to bed. Instead he bashed his big toe into the foot of the bed and if he didn't break it, he certainly sprained it. The next morning, taking Fredi for her walk and limping slightly, Brian examined the good size tree the truck had succeeded in knocking down. We conjectured the driver was drunk. Tree branches and debris had been moved from the road onto the median. We never did notice if an ambulance came to pick up the driver. By the afternoon, all debris from the accident, including tree waste, was gone; leaving only a hole in the ground where the tree used to be.

Friday was our "bill day" and Brian limped to our first destination and gave Shelley instructions as to what to say in Spanish and how to pay the bills and then limped home. Shelley caught the bus downtown and paid our internet at ETAPA and our rent at the bank. Leaving her to wander town on her own was obviously a dangerous thing to do, as she came home sporting a pinkish Tilley type hat.

"I know I've got 18 hats" Shelley said tongue in cheek. "But this one will be good for the sun & the rain. It's perfect!"

Brian grumbled quietly under his breath and limped away for his afternoon nap.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rain At Last

The beginning of the week brought rain. We wore raincoats & hats when we took Fredi for her walk & did our chores and Fredi got damp & dirty. By one o'clock in the afternoon it was all over. We're so used to Vancouver's rain (40 days and 40 that we half expect the rain to go on all day, but it never does.

Hearing from our friends on the West Coast of British Columbia, they're having terrible rain & wind storms. A couple of years ago the wind storms were so bad in Vancouver that they decimated some of the old growth in Stanley Park (Vancouver's major park). We expect the trees that were going to go down, went down then. Driving through the park was like driving through a hurricane site; huge, old growth trees, uprooted & falling across other trees & the roads. It took months for Vancouver to get the park back to safe & the park paths reopened.

It's not nearly as hot in Cuenca as it has been for the last couple of months or so. Shelley's back in her long sleeved shirts & even wore jeans the other day. Lets hope the rain keeps up! Our power is out Monday from 4 until 7, Tuesday from 7 until 10 and on Wednesday we get a full day of power. We continue to play crib in the evening hours when our power is out. Brian continues to get better hands than Shelley.

"It's not skill" Shelley carefully explains to Brian. "It's luck."

Before we ventured out on our outing Tuesday, Shelley stepped onto the balcony to test the weather. It was hot hot. She went back into the apartment and closed the door and continued getting ready to leave the apartment. Walking into the bedroom she saw Brian getting his rain coat from the closet.

"You won't need that" she told him. "It's hot hot."

"I know it's hot out" he replied "but look at the clouds, it's going to rain."

"It's already rained!" Shelley told him.

Brian laughed. "What do you mean?" It had rained in the early morning but there were still black clouds in the sky. Brian put his rain coat back into the closet and sighed.

" what you want!" Shelley told Brian with exasperation in her voice. "Go out on the balcony and see what I mean".

Brian sighed again. He did not retrieve his rain coat and eventually we gathered Fredi and went out for our outing.

Half way to downtown it started to sprinkle & then rain & then pour.

"We'd better get under cover" Brian told Shelley. "It won't last long. We can wait it out."

By the time we found covering we were slightly damp and Fredi was quite bedraggled. It rained quite heavily for about 15 minutes.

"If you thought I was wrong you should have argued with me" Shelley told Brian. "It's your fault we're not wearing rain coats for not arguing with me".

Brian sighed yet again, rolled his eyes thinking Shelley couldn't see him do it and replied resignedly "I know."

We waited out the rainfall and continued on our outing. It didn't rain again. Carrying the raincoats would have been a nuisance. Shelley was secure in her righteousness. Brian was secure in his Brian-ness.

Brian went to his Tuesday Doctors appointment only to find out the specialist was in surgery. His appointment was re-scheduled for Wednesday evening. In the mean time, Brian's been on the web researching. He discussed what he'd discovered with our regular Doctor. The regular Doctor was concerned Brian was trying to skinny out of his appointment with the specialist. "It's due diligence" the regular Doctor explained to him. "All signs point to you being OK, but we still should check it out."

"I know" Brian replied "but what about this...?"

It rained again Tuesday afternoon & evening and the river is almost up to normal height. The stream around the island that was down to sand has water flowing through it and only the highest rocks in the river are showing. We have no power outage due on Wednesday and our Thursday outage is 8 - 10 a.m. If it keeps on raining the way it has the last couple of days, things'll be back to normal soon.

Our early morning Wednesday outing took us to Feria Libre where Shelley got herself yet another new shirt ($8) and a little boy (9 or so) sold us 10 tomatoes for $1. When we asked him "quanto es?" he very proudly answered us in English: "one" he said. We congratulated him. He beamed!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

As Fate Would Have It

We ended up going downtown 2 days in a row because there was a small package waiting for us at the Post Office. Shelley hadn't brought any identification with her and they wouldn't give us the package without it. We'd originally ventured out to pick up our bi-monthly coffee supply & some more batteries for our camp light. The power outages have now been reduced to 2 hours and on Thursday our particular area doesn't even have one. Our friends who had invited us for dinner on Thursday had to beg off because that was their evening for an outage. Although their electricity continues, their generator doesn't power their water pump so they don't have water during the outages. Having no water and hosting a dinner party is a tad difficult. We arranged another day and told them we completely understood. When we had guests last Tuesday, we sat in the semi-dark candle light for two hours; our water however, worked. It rained yesterday for about an hour and as we're typing this, it's raining now. If this keeps up, things will get back to normal pretty soon.

Our bank in Canada had changed their bank card system to use chips (as well as the strip) and as a consequence all bank cards were being re-issued. This was the small package we picked up at the post office; our new bank cards forwarded by Shelley's daughter. Fortunately, they gave us 60 days to activate our cards before the old ones were de-commissioned. Shelley's daughter has power of attorney over our account and thus she also has a card. Unfortunately, the card for Shelley's daughter doesn't come in her name but in Shelley's name. As fate will have it, they originally mailed 2 cards and then about a week later mailed another card. Of course the card we received in the mail was the card intended for Shelley's daughter, not Shelley's card. (Following this so far?) There's a bit of a gut wrenching anxiety that comes every time you have to do banking thousands of miles away from your home branch. We're not without other options; things can be taken care of; we'll not be left high and dry, moneyless in Ecuador, however, one does feel better when all is settled and working well.

Friday Brian set out to see if he could set-up his Doctors appointment and Shelley ventured to the bank with her daughter's card to see if she could make it work. The bank machines were out of order and Brian found out our Doctor was in Quito until the end of the week. Thus, both our days were unsuccessful. Brian set up an appointment for next Tuesday & Shelley came home to make sure her attempt to use the card didn't result in any money being pulled from our account. (This happened to us once and took 6 weeks to straighten out.) All was well.

The next day, despite our resolve never to use our bank cards when the bank wasn't open, we attempted to test the card one more time. This time there was success (sort of). Her daughter's card's daily limit is lower than Shelley's and thus with the Canadian-U.S. exchange, she was unable to withdraw $500. The $400 she was able to withdraw will do for now until her daughter comes to Ecuador in February and they can exchange cards. We've had mild anxiety about the change over to these new cards for the last 6 weeks. It's nice to finally be able to put the whole issue to bed (sort of).

The other day there were 20 or so boys across the river on the road that passes by the school with the demented school master. They were all playing drums & trumpets. There seems to be a pretty big "drum thing" here in Ecuador. It's not unusual to pass a group of 6 to 10 young people, standing in a circle, playing synchronistic drums and generally having a good time. Some times they wear costumes, sometimes top hats, some times they're in street clothes, but always they have big smiles on their faces and their shoulders are bouncing to the rhythm of their drums. We have to admit the trumpets, when they joined in were lacking a bit, but the drums were wonderful and we enjoyed the display.

Saturday evening we went to the newly furnished apartment of some friends who are relatively new to Ecuador. They have a wonderful 2 bedroom apartment with 2 sitting areas, a large dining room & a huge kitchen. All rooms have views to die for and their furnishings & art work were stunning. We had fun talking about our experiences riding the city buses in Cuenca, discovering wonderful shops & setting up housekeeping in a new country. Fredi, as usual, came along with us and was heartily fussed over and petted even after she ate half the cheese off a snack plate on a rather low coffee table.

Downtown on Sunday there was a Punch & Judy type puppet show. It's getting easier to follow this type of thing, particularly when it's puppets screaming & flirting with each other. At one point there was a wolf & a young girl puppet in a red cloak and Shelley wondered if it was a Latin Little Red Riding Hood. We couldn't quite figure that out. We bought a pot full of strawberries and Brian's usual roast pig lunch at the market and headed home where Shelley cut & cooked strawberries to make a fruit compote.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Time Flies

We'd stocked up and read the 10 books that we need in order to get the special discount at the CB Carolina Bookstore, so off we went to pick out 10 new books and find out what was new from Carol & Lee. As is usually the case, we met a couple of people new to Cuenca and talked about how wonderful Ecuador is. Shelley wandered through the bookshelves making selections and Brian & Carol chatted about what they'd each been up to during the past month or so. When we left, Brian stopped in at Bananas, the breakfast place right next to the bookstore and picked up a turkey, ham, lettuce, tomato, green pepper, avocado & mayonnaise sandwich together with a small bag of chips for $1.75, which he got to take out since we knew the power would be off in our apartment when we got home. He said the sandwich was absolutely wonderful and it was all Shelley could do not to ask for "just a bite".

Downtown in the main square on Sunday we met some friends and went for lime tea & cappuccino. That's the second time in a row we've run into people downtown on a Sunday and it's nice to go for tea & chat for awhile when it's all unexpected. They told us they were going to explore the underground catacombs under the big cathedral. Not wanting to take Fredi into a church, we left them to do their exploring and trundled off to the market to pick up Brian's roast pig lunch and a bunch of bananas (14 for 50 cents; Shelley's planning on making a special "Southern" Banana pudding for dessert next week). They've been keeping the power on in all neighbourhoods on Sundays, so we had no outage. Monday, it'll be 7:00 to 11:00 p.m. so we'll be reading by our new camp light that evening. Apparently Ecuador has made some sort of deal with Peru to buy power from them. We're not quite sure how this will translate as far as the outages are concerned. They may simply stay the same and not get any more severe. The weather continues to be hot & sunny. We had a couple of minor showers last week but nothing that affected the level of the river at all.

The power was due to be out 7-10 p.m. on Monday so when we got a telephone call from a friend of ours saying a bunch of people were dining out at Akalarre, we thought that sounded like a great idea. It looks like the power outages have now reduced to 3 hour cycles. This may be because of the purchase from Peru. We hope if it is, it didn't cost too much because we'd be willing to sit in the dark an extra hour, unless of course, the price was really reasonable. We wonder if all these outages will be reflected on our electric bill. We pay about $6 a month so does that mean our bill will be $4 or $5?

It looks like we're going to have one of those weeks again. Out restaurant dining on Monday. On Tuesday we've got company coming for dinner & on Thursday we've been invited over to the apartment of some new friends of ours who have just finishing furnishing their whole place. We have to take Fredi to the vet again some time this week and Brian has yet another follow-up Doctor's appointment, this time with a specialist, on Friday. So...between regular chores, dining out, special appointments & what have you, our week looks pretty full. We may have told you before that Shelley was in the "retirement business" for 20 years or so. The best advice she ever gave any of "her" retirees was to keep themselves busy once they finished work. "Find a hobby, go travelling, learn a new language" she told her retirees. Shelley had been trained that this was the key to a happy retirement. We seem to have no trouble keeping ourselves busy. It's nice to follow your own advice!

In the end, 8 of us showed up at the Akalarre. Both Brian & Shelley had trout stuffed with ham. Shelley really enjoyed hers and Brian was a bit disappointed, so there you go. We arrived exactly on time and waited 20 minutes for the other 6 people to arrive. We're getting a bit of a reputation in that "Canadians are always on time" but we can remember several friends back in Canada who'd annoy us with their chronic lateness. It's not a National thing (we don't think) except U.S. Americans always seem to be 15 to 20 minutes late ;-)

On Tuesday we took Fredi to the Vet where the Vet gave Shelley instructions on how to clear Fredi's anal glands (eeww). Apparently this should be done whenever puppy is dragging her bum on the floor. We are planning a trip to Peru in the New Year and want to take Fredi with us. We have to get a certificate of ownership and a certificate that Fredi's had all her shots from the Vet and then 24 hours before we leave we take these documents to the Agro Calidad at the airport and they give us another document that will let us take Fredi over the border. It all seems very confusing and in the end, after we gather all the documents, it's quite possible no one will ever look at them, however, it has to be done.

We know we went on somewhat about our U.S. American friends being late, but have to confess Tuesday evening we had a visit from a Canadian friend. She was 20 minutes late as well! When we told her for the sake of even reporting we'd have to confess her lateness on the blog, she whined that it was all the fault of her Ecuadorian taxi driver. Now...we will admit that the Ecuadorian folks seem to have a different idea of time than the folks in Canada, however, we (Brian & Shelley) still manage to be 5 to 10 minutes early despite Ecuadorian time. This, of course, in South America, does us no good whatsoever but we continue to prevail if only to remember our heritage. It's important to remember your heritage (isn't it?).

Friday, November 13, 2009

Good News & Bad

The power was out in our neighbourhood from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. the day Brian got his x-ray done and the day before he had his CT scan done. We had several hours in the dark, in the evening, to play crib & read & vaguely worry about something the Doctor had reassured us there was nothing to worry about. (You know how that is.) Shelley had talked with her oldest daughter in Canada that day on G-Mail audio & had told her about the various tests being done on Brian & had commented on the wrinkles that were now appearing in her (Shelley's) face these days.

"Start putting on night cream now!" Shelley instructed her daughter.

"I'm only going to be 30" her daughter told her. "You're funny Mommy" her daughter said laughingly.

"I'm not kidding. Start putting on night cream now!"

Between the x-ray & the CT scan, Brian asked our Doctor 7,365 (only an approximation) questions. The Doctor patiently & professionally answered each question thoroughly. During the course of the questioning the Doctor commented: "I can certainly tell you're from Canada. A patient here, in Ecuador, would not ask so many questions." The Doctor was not complaining; he was merely commenting & went on to say Canada was in the top 5 in the world for quality of medical care. He told Brian he appreciated him taking on the task of asking the questions and being in charge of his own health. He said it was a refreshing change.

The next day Brian got up early to be at his CT scan appointment for 8:30 a.m. Shelley & Fredi stayed at home. Brian couldn't eat breakfast before he went (a requirement of the scan) and he told Shelley after the scan he'd wander the neighbourhood, get a bite to eat, and then wait until 11:30 to see the Doctor again.

"I won't be home probably until 1:00 o'clock" he told her.

At 12:21 p.m. Shelley started to worry. "He's fine" Shelley told Fredi as Fredi waited anxiously at the door and peered out the balcony window looking for her Papa. "He's fine."

Brian arrived home at almost exactly 1 p.m. with good news & bad news. The CT scan showed minor scarring on his lungs but nothing cancerous.

"The scan was like science fiction" Brian told Shelley. "Just like Gray's Anatomy!"

Brian was diagnosed with low grade emphysema & chronic bronchitis. The Doctor prescribed puffers for 3 months and said this should take care of the bronchitis. He also gave him a shot to prevent pneumonia. Cost for shot ($17.94) & prescription for puffers ($164.70). The emphysema should not get any worse as Brian has quit smoking and once the bronchitis is cleared up he should notice a marked difference in his wind. As Brian is into the home stretch for turning 70, and as he smoked for 40 years, things are looking "not bad". His heart is healthy, his cholesterol is fine.

"On the scan you could actually see my aorta" Brian told Shelley.

We're still awaiting results from a couple of the blood tests, but all in all things seem pretty good.

The power was out from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. Thursday and from 7 a.m. 'til 11:00 a.m. Friday. With the help of a friend of ours "retiredpoppi" on we've finally found a schedule on-line at (click on link to: Programacion de Ahorro Energetico). This really helps to co-ordinate our days. (In particular our microwave schedule!) We're not finding the outages remarkably onerous but knowing when they're going to happen is really handy. No power for us Noon 'til 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. We do believe we're actually starting to get the hang of this!

Friday we ventured downtown to see if Brian's shirts were ready for pick-up and they were. They both turned out just as well as the first two we'd had made up and we were very pleased. Off we ventured to the market and picked up some potatoes & tomatoes and then met up with a couple of friends and had lunch at Ricky's on Av. de Las Americas. Shelley was going to try the cuy pizza but changed her mind and had a vegetarian one instead. Brian had the Ricky's Special pizza and our friends both had breakfast for lunch. It was all very good and we really enjoyed catching up with each other! We showed our friends Brian's new shirts & gave them the business card for the tailor. They're thinking of trying him out as well. When we got home we got a phone call from another one of our friends who has been out of the country for several months. It was wonderful to hear from them and we're looking forward to seeing them again.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Electricity & Medical Stuff

Having nothing special planned, we took one of our neighbourhood walks up & down the river and ended up laying under a bunch of eucalyptus trees, watching water birds in the river, chatting quietly with each other about this & that, enjoying the sun & the shade & watching Fredi romp about. The weather's been absolutely perfect the last few days; warm, easily shorts weather, no rain, no clouds in the sky. However, the lack of rain is really beginning to hurt Cuenca. They've started roving power outages from apparently four to twelve hours to conserve and we've all been instructed to pray for rain (not really). The newspapers tell us this is the longest drought in 45 years. The river outside our window is extremely low and one stream that goes around the small island is actually down to sand. That evening at 7 o'clock, just as we were settling down to watch Dr. House (as they call it here), the power went out again. We lit our candles & played crib & read by candle light and finally went to bed with no sign of the power coming back.

The electricity returned some time around 11:30 p.m. We basically noted the hum of the fridge and rolled over and went back to sleep. The next morning we tried to find out something more about the outages. They are predicted to continue for 2 months or until there is sufficient rainfall. They post notices in the paper as to when & where the various outages will take place but the notices are placed the same day as the outages. We don't pick up the paper all that often, so mostly we'll be surprised.

Off we went downtown to pick up Brian's shirts but they weren't ready due to the outages. We then dropped into the store that was supposed to be stocking (eventually) the heads for Brian's electric razor and they had them! Brian was very pleased. We sat down in the park for awhile and talked with people about Fredi and then dropped by the market and picked up some fruit. We also got a battery operated camping light because with regular outages it'll be better to read with. Shelley's been balancing a candle on her chest to read by and Brian doesn't approve. One of Shelley's daughter's text(ed) and upon arriving home we all had a nice long G-Mail voice chat. It went a long way to reassuring Shelley about her other daughter's medical problems & she always likes to chat with her kids in any case.

The next day we were down at the Park in the main square again. This time there was an Argentinean troupe playing & dancing to tango music. There was an electric piano, an acoustic guitar & an accordion. Also, there were 3 couples, 2 of whom put on several dance displays and the other couple sang duets & singly. There were many costume changes and we really enjoyed the show. Unfortunately, our camera decided to display the "replace batteries" notice, so we have no pictures of the dancers in particular, who were quite stunning. After listening to several songs we met up unexpectedly with a couple we know and went over and had cappuccino & lime tea and talked about the usual things: learning Spanish, American politics, how wonderful Ecuador is, the recent power outages and what we'd all been up to.

Monday, Shelley got good news from her daughter; she was on the mend. As we said before, her affliction wasn't life threatening but when your babies are hurting and you're so far away it's really hard not to keep worrying about them. We did our grocery shopping & puttered around the apartment and generally had a quiet good day. We tried to pick up a paper to find out if we'd have a power outage this day but were unsuccessful in finding a vendor in our neighbourhood. There's usually one on a particular corner but sure as heck when we went looking for it, it wasn't there. We'll just have to wait and see. Several of our friends' buildings have generators large enough to power the whole building. Unfortunately, our building's generator only powers the elevator, hall lights & garage door. We've been told however, this is reflected in the maintenance fee we pay each month in that ours is much lower. We get by, playing crib & reading, and in a way it all sort of reminds us of living on the boat. We went without TV on the boat for 8 plus years or so and longer without a computer, so we do know how to entertain ourselves without the amenities of electricity.

The next morning the power went out at 7 a.m. and came back on at around 11 a.m. We ventured out once again in the morning looking to pick up a newspaper but still couldn't find one. The lady at the corner was there with her stand but she advised she'd sold out the paper to people looking to see when and how long their power would be off. We stopped at a darkened store and asked them when the power was due to come back on and were pleased when we found out it would be 11. We had ourselves a good walk & picked up some salmon steaks at the frozen food store and by the time we got home again the power was up and running.

We haven't been to the Doctor since we first arrived in Ecuador and had our then requisite tests done. We had talked to the Doctor and determined we'd go and see him at 6 p.m. It's first come, first serve, so we got there about 5:45 but were second in line. Brian's had a cough since we quit smoking and wanted to check things out just to make sure everything was OK and Shelley had a prescription she needed to renew. The Doctor did various in-office tests on Brian's lung capacity & blood oxygen and set up an appointment with the lab the next day to do an x-ray and various blood tests. He also wrote out a prescription for Shelley & gave her the choice of 3 drugs variously priced. For the appointment for both of us, plus two follow-up appointments for Brian, plus the x-ray & lab work the total cost was $220. Brian apparently has chronic bronchitis which we've been assured can be "cured" by using an inhaler once a day for awhile. The Doctor however, has scheduled him for a CT scan ($165) because there was an anomaly on the x-ray. This, we've also been assured, is due diligence, not something to be really worried about as all of the other indicators suggest that it is simple bronchitis.

The pictures on this blog are from Cuenca's Independence Day (November 3rd) celebration when they lit a firework tower in the main square downtown. We were talking to some relative newcomers to Cuenca the other day and they commented on the fireworks "all the time!" We told them every time there's a wedding you'll see fireworks and between fiestas & weddings & various other celebrations, it does seem like there are fireworks almost every night. The tower fireworks are only for very special occasions!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Pride & Angst

Brian had read in the on-line Spanish newspaper (link) that there was to be a military parade on Solano at 10:00 a.m. on November 3rd; part of Cuenca's Independence Day Celebrations. We therefore had to forego our regular morning Spanish lesson and headed out of the house at 9:30 to get there on time. Half way there we started to notice the crowds all walking in the same direction. Upon hitting Solano, everywhere you looked there were vendors selling hats! Panama hats, cowboy hats, ladies hats, kids hats, broad brimmed hats, tiny hats, leather hats & straw hats; more hats than we have the patience to tell you about. We both ended up buying a hat ($7 for Brian & $2 for Shelley).

We followed the crowd to the point where they seemed to be lining the street and found a place on the curb to sit down and wait for the parade. The parade actually started almost on time! Overhead from time to time a jet would boom through the sky and throughout the parade people clapped for the men & women of their armed forces. The whole thing went on for at least an hour. We saw everything from dress uniformed, plumed hatted men to commandants on horses as well as tanks roaring down the street. Platoon after platoon marched past us. There was a display of men in camouflage & face paint, rocket launchers, men & woman carrying big and small guns, the coast guard with dirks at their hips and jeeps with big guns mounted in back. We ended up taking a lot of pictures and if you're interested in seeing more click here and look towards the end of the page.  As Canadians, we found the display was extremely impressive! Ecuador has a larger military than Canada! At one point Brian said, "It just makes me want to puff out by chest" in some kind of pride for our adopted country. Mind you, Brian is the guy that back in Canada can't watch bagpipes without a lump in his throat and a tear in his eye. He's just that way.

Just before the parade started the street was covered with vendors selling everything from duck hats to water & ice cream to balloons. We bought a bottle of ice cold water from a vendor and gave Fredi a drink and had one ourselves because it was an absolutely stunning, warm, beautiful day. After the parade we shuffled along, following the huge crowds as they streamed towards downtown & the entertainment there. All in all it was a very rousing outing!

That same evening we had some friends over for dinner. Brian put together a beef curry in the slow cooker and it turned out absolutely wonderful! He often made curry, especially in the winter, on the boat in Vancouver, but it's the first time he's done up a big batch here in Ecuador. We really enjoyed it and hoped our company did too. After the dishes were done, we headed off downtown to the main square and managed to catch a glimpse of Ecuador's President Rafael Correa. It was kind of exciting! Later on they set off a tower of fireworks. Fredi got scared and shivered & shaked for about an hour afterwards. Later on still, they had a band playing and the park was very crowded with happy people enjoying their holiday. We went for ice cream and hot tea with lime and caught a cab home around 9:30 well pleased with our Cuenca Independence Day.

Wednesday was one of those do-over days. Shelley's daughter reported pain and Shelley angst(ed) for her child. Her other daughter reported something that was fairly disappointing and Shelley angst(ed) at the best laid plans re mice & (wo)men. (Shelley's pretty good at angsting!) Brian had a dentist appointment, his regular 3 months cleaning, and anyone who's read the blog for any length of time knows how Brian feels about the dentist. AND, the crew cut the lawn in the park just outside our apartment. This on the face of it is wonderful. If they wait too long, Shelley gets terrible hay fever. However, every time they cut the park, Fredi brings home grass & chunks of this and that for several days to spread around. It's a pain in the rear. ALSO, Brian got an e-mail from a friend that made him cranky & Fredi found a napkin on the floor and shredded throughout the apartment. On top of all of this, we did a load of laundry with a kleenex in the washer! None of this is world shattering (we recognize) however, after Brian's dentist appointment, we came home and hid for the rest of the day. Hiding's OK from time to time and actually feels pretty good under the right circumstances!

Thursday carried on with much the same theme as Wednesday. The power went out at 7:00 a.m. and we expected it back within an hour or so (as per usual). At 10:30 we ended up going out to do a few chores. In the elevator (our building has a generator for the elevator) was a notice letting the tenants know that the water would be shut off at 2:30 p.m. in order to replace filters in the system. The notice did not advise how long the water would be unavailable. We filled up a bucket just in case. While we were out we went to the only place in town where we've found that you can buy pecans. In their darkened store, these people told us that the electricity would be off until 6 p.m. Because we were in the neighbourhood, we stopped by the darkened office of our vet and dropped in to get Fredi's toenails cut, her ears cleaned and to inquire when her next set of shots was due. Fredi is about to celebrate her first birthday! We wandered down to an Europa outlet and had a Nescafe cappuccino (they had a generator) & Brian got himself a hot dog as we had by then determined we should avoid opening the fridge & couldn't use the microwave. Fortunately, we'd previous planned avocado & tomato bunwiches for dinner! The gas still worked and we could make coffee but TV & the computer were out of bounds. Still on our outing, we stopped by 3 of Shelley's favourite plant places and picked up 3 plants for a total of $4.50. Upon arriving home Shelley fussed with planting & picking off dead leaves & watering & generally admiring her balcony garden & finally she lay down on the couch to read a good book and Brian had a nap. The power & water eventually came back on. Our suffering was minimal. Actually, it was a pretty good day!

Here's the thing: You look out the window and you see someone with a stick encouraging two goats to walk along. In Canada, it would be a hard day when you'd see someone with a stick encouraging 2 goats to walk along. Hard day (!?) ... it'd be close to impossible. So your mind expands to another reality. We're told (by the net, by Doctors, by acquaintances, by magazine articles, by newspapers) this is good for us (us oldsters)! Learning a new language, a new culture, it's something that pushes mind degenerative diseases away. So come: but be sympathetic. The thing that *cures* you is the difference. Be open to change! Embrace your new reality!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Shirtless Boys & Men in Uniform

Bill day had reared it's ugly head once again and we were doing our rounds, paying our electricity & cold water & internet bills, noticing the streets seemed to be absolutely covered with hordes of school kids in their school uniforms. It wasn't lunch break time so we kind of wondered what was going on. Upon reaching downtown, we noticed more hordes of people near the main park, so once we'd paid our last bill we wandered over there to check out the excitement. There seemed to be scores of boys & young men, shirtless; some with hood masks of gargoyles, some wearing chaps, some beating on drums & some leading bullocks down the road. The crowd watching was 5 people deep but we managed to get a pretty good spot. A lady next to us struck up a conversation and told us it was all part of the November 3rd Celebration of Cuenca's Independence. Apparently it was different schools taking part in the parade. Eventually we saw wool spinner girls & corn people & a small marching band as well, so it wasn't just shirtless boys.

Because of this and that and little more of this, we hadn't been to ExPat night at Zoe's for a month, so off we went. We met 2 new couples and shared our experiences and talked about how wonderful Cuenca is. We saw several friends and renewed ties and told them about our Galapagos trip, and they told us about their goings on since the last time we saw them. Brian had chicken madeira and Shelley had 2 appetizers (crabs cakes & brochette) and we were both very pleased with our choice. Zoe's has a new chef and things taste just a little bit different, but between suggestions from customers & just getting used to the new job, the food is now as good as ever. We talked to several people about the schism between Zoe's & the Eucalyptus as a meeting place on Friday's for ExPat night. The Eucalyptus crowd seems to be mostly generated by the real estate people and that's a genuine need for new arrivals & inquiring visitors. The Zoe's crowd is mostly old timers (over a year) and those few newbies that somehow or other made contact with the old crowd. Zoe's is always crowded when we get there and we hear the Eucalyptus is crowded as well, so it probably makes sense to have 2 venues now that one is fast becoming not big enough.

One of Shelley's daughters is ill. It's not life threatening but it's tough & requires visiting a hospital every day and will probably continue on for several weeks if not several months. These are the things that make living so far away difficult. We communicate through FaceBook & emails & Skype and Shelley provides as much support to her as she can, short of patting her hand and giving her a hug, but that hand pat & hug ~ sometimes ~ is everything. When do you fly home to give support? When it's life threatening? When the $2000 dollars or so doesn't hurt? When you've been asked? When you've been told not to come? We can only have faith that the right path will reveal itself & continue on doing the best we can ~ and think about your loved one; your mind dwells on your loved one. It's something to consider when you contemplate a move away from the people you call home.

OK...we went downtown to the tailor to pick up Brian's new shirts. They were wonderful! They fit, the buttons were sewn on well and the styling was just fine. We are now prepared to recommend the place which is Kingsley on Luis Cordero 12-15 y Sangurima. Note: the tailor does not speak any English at all, so come prepared with Spanish (he's patient with pigeon Spanish) or a good dictionary. It's just a little hole in the wall, so you have to watch out for it carefully, but the fellow who runs it is very nice and you're given the choice of many different materials. We ordered 2 more shirts for Brian, which should stock him up quite nicely, and we'll be able to pick them up next Saturday. Prices seem to range between $18 to $22 depending on the material you pick. Brian was asking him how much it would cost to get a blazer done up with slacks in a contrasting colour. We were quoted $180 based on Brian's size.

After picking up Brian's shirts we wandered to the main square and watched what Shelley called a Celtic/Pan Flute band. A couple of fiddles, a pan flute, a drum & a couple of guitars. We really enjoyed the music and rested in the park for awhile. Then we took off down to 12 de Abril (just past the Army Medical Hospital) and admired the displays in scores of kiosks (set up in conjunction with Cuenca's Independence Day) showing off multiple crafts and paintings. Since we were so close, we also stopped into Brian's Chilean Empanada place and picked up 18 carne & pollo empanadas for Brian's lunches. Having had a very successful morning/early afternoon, we caught the bus home and Brian went down for a well deserved nap.

Guess where Sunday took us? You are absolutely right (!) down to the main square to see what there was to see and then over to the market to pick up some tomatoes (14), a large papaya, some kiwi (8) & roast pig lunch for Brian for a total of $5.50. At the park the soldiers were putting on a display. First we got to hear the military band play 3 or 5 songs and then about 20 soldiers with guns all lined up in the park and did some precision steps & twirling of guns. There were some more soldiers with red sashes & giant pikes doing some fancy high step marching with swords and finally some military dignitaries came and started to give a speech. All quite rousing & exciting!