Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sitting on our Laurels

One of the things we always do with new people to Cuenca is take them to Feria Libre. We met our Panama/Canadian friends at the market and took them for a quick tour: past the veggies piled high, past the puppies & kittens & geese & chicks & roosters & cuy, past the meat market with sausages & sides of beef & pork hanging from hooks & yellow chicken displayed on counter tops, past the chocolate in slabs & the sugar in huge solid rectangles, past the fish & the seafood & the pots & pans & the shoes & the spices & crowds & crowds of people. We bought 2 pounds of giant shrimp (prawns), peeled & deveined for $7 and one very large piece of tuna for $3 (enough for 3 servings). Walking along the river, we then took them back to our place and heated up the fried rice Brian had made the day before & cooked the tuna & prawns and had a bit of a feast with Punto cake with fruit & nuts for dessert. We talked about the differences between Panama and Cuenca & the things we miss (only from time to time) in Canada. We discouvered that one of our guests and Brian had gone to competing schools on Vancouver Island and had also been a live-aboard. It was a very pleasant morning and early afternoon. To demonstrate how much we enjoyed our outing and feast, please be advised that Brian actually missed his nap!

On our way downtown for our walk on Sunday we managed to get only sprinkled by a drop or two of rain, even though the sky was very grey when we started out. By the time we got to the park, however, and met several people there, and talked for a bit, the sprinkles had turned into something more. We headed for a restaurant for tea & coffee & agua and had a really nice chat together. Later on of course, Brian got his roast pig. We took a cab home as the buses weren't running down our street due to a bicycle race.

During the course of our conversation at the restaurant on Sunday, the "demented school master" was mentioned. One of the couples knew EXACTLY what was being talked about. "What is with that guy!?" they asked. We talked about flag waving & a sinister experiment to see how loud a National Anthem could be played ;-) and explained it was merely a part of the colourful local culture. We suggested they should think of him as a week-day alarm clock (7 to 7:30 am).

The following story was also imparted by Shelley and we were told it too should go into the blog:

Brian and Shelley were chattering the other day and Shelley mentioned to him that it seemed to be that he was irritating her more than usual the last couple of weeks. "What's with that?" Shelley asked.

Brian's instant reply was as follows: "It's because I don't have enough to do. If I had a helicopter we wouldn't bicker."

Shelley could only roll her eyes, flip her hair and leave the room.

Shopping on Monday as usual. We met one couple we knew in the store and chatted for awhile. Brian found out about yet another cooking class (he's taking one this Thursday) so the couple & Brian arranged to take another class together next week. Leaving the store we ran into someone else we know. Cuenca has a population of 467,000 (according to Wikipedia). It's not big nor small but it is nice to have that small town feeling when you run into people you know. Rarely in Vancouver did we happen upon friends except of course, down at the dock.

Upon arriving home Brian took Fredi for a visit to her dog friends at the park and Shelley make a cake. The recipe uses a cake mix, 1 pint of ice cream, 1 cup of water, 3 eggs & a greased & cocoa'd/floured bunt pan. Cook for 45+ minutes until toothpick comes out relatively clean. Shelley used chocolate for the mix & ice cream but you can use any flavours you want. It makes a delicious and super moist cake topped with whipped cream. Since she was in a flurry she also made seafood chowder & a baguette appetizer. The chowder was for dinner that evening but the cake & appetizers were made because (come on...guess) we were having guests on Tuesday for dinner.

It was a wet & soggy morning on Tuesday so Brian reluctantly took Fredi for her walk (reluctantly because Fredi gets damp & dirty on these kinds of days). We spent the rest of the day puttering & prepping for our guests that evening. We've now had everybody for dinner that we owed and then some. We've fulfilled all obligations & are now sitting on our laurels. You know something (?): laurels aren't as comfortable as some people would make them out to be. (Deep Aside: What exactly are laurels {Roman crowns?} & why would anyone want to sit on them?) In any case, Brian made the almost famous Dowager Chicken Curry with rice. We also served fruit on the side plus broccoli & cauliflower. It was a good group of people and we had a wonderful evening.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Small Things

We're at home. We've been puttering all day. Brian's a bit cranky. The power goes off. It doesn't help. Shelley doesn't care. We try to edit the blog together (the computer's battery is still working) and end up in multiple crabby itty bitty disputes over wording. The power went off at 2:30 pm and didn't resume until 3:42. We survived.

There's some appropriate old saying about tempting the fates which we can't remember right now. In any case, the day after we posted the blog about being healthy since we arrived here, Brian got some sort of gastric thing and for the first time in almost 2 years, we didn't make it down to the park on Sunday. He stuck close to the bathroom for several hours and then he was okay.

Monday we shopped and Shelley made cabbage rolls. On other occasions when her "Nordic" cabbage rolls have been made, they've been compared (and not necessarily favourably) to Ukrainian cabbage rolls. Shelley reminded Brian of this rather pointedly and was pleased to hear only compliments this time.

On the boat, everything seemed to be corners, hard wood, metal & sturdy foam. Shelley often tells the story about how she was covered in bruises the first 2 months living on the boat until she learned to avoid bumps. When we bought our furniture for our apartment in Cuenca, it was decided that Brian deserved a man's recliner. We bought the recliner at great expense and he's really enjoyed it since. Shelley rarely sits in it, having claimed 3 pillows and a length of their couch as her territory. A few weeks ago, however, she sat in it to schedule TV for a night at home and noticed it felt odd. Apparently, Brian has sat to the right hand side of the chair for so long (to accommodate Fredi on the left hand side) that the chair is now squished down in such a way that sitting in the middle feels odd. Someone asked us the other day, while in a restaurant with Fredi on Shelley's lap, if we felt Fredi got enough love. They were being facetious (of course) but can you believe it (?) we actually question this of ourselves from time to time.

As Brian's income tax refund had hit the bank, we celebrated by walking downtown on Tuesday and picking up a new blouse for Shelley. Some may ask why Shelley got a new blouse when it was Brian's refund that came in. Don't. We then stopped by the market to pick up roast pig as we hadn't been able to get some on Sunday. Brian sorely missed it and the lady at the stall gave him extra crackling for Fredi (perhaps because she missed him too). That evening we met some friends at Tiestos for dinner. We were the first to arrive at the restaurant when it opened at 6:30 pm but by 8:30 the place was packed and people were waiting for tables. Tiestos is always a treat and we really enjoyed ourselves.

At the suggestion of a friend, we met for lunch at Maria's Alemania, which is a Germany bakery with a lunch restaurant in the back. You have to order what you want from the hand written menu at the front of the store and then go back to the very plain seating arrangement and they bring you your food. We had a large meat crepe, a large shrimp empanada, a vegetarian empanada, a small lasagna, a slice of Hawaiian pizza, 2 waters & 1 juice for $10. On the way out, we all had a hard time choosing from the wonderful looking cookies, squares & breads but ended up with a chocolate confection, an apple strudel and a small loaf of cinnamon bread. We heard the chocolate confection wasn't that great but Brian ate his strudel all in one sitting and exclaimed it had apples, nuts & raisins. A great place to go for a light lunch!

Six months ago or so, one of our steno chairs broke. The hard plastic holding the back to the chair split. Thus the back fell off. We got some crazy glue and fixed it. That worked for about 3 months and then we got some more crazy glue and fixed it again. That worked for about 3 months again, at which point Shelley began campaigning for a new chair. When we originally bought our steno chairs the modestly priced ones were between $40 & $80. When we started to look for a new chair they were all priced at between $60 & $120. Brian figures this had something to do with the now year old 35% surcharge on imported goods. In any case, we wandered the streets Wednesday and Thursday checking out office supply stores and finally went back to the place where we bought our original chairs. There we found a nice chair for $70 and because we paid cash they gave us a $3 discount. (Whoopee) We caught a cab home, ensconced our new chair in what Shelley calls the computer room (Brian prefers den) and took the old chair down to the trash. We figured someone would grab it before the trash people picked it up & as a matter of fact, when they garbage truck arrived, the chair wasn't there. With a little know-how and a couple of tools it could be fixed. Unfortunately, we had neither.

Thursday evening Brian boiled up some rice & put it in the fridge over night. Friday afternoon he went crazy with the wok and made Chinese fried rice. It's apparently better if you make the rice the day before and refrigerate it because it prevents the rice from clumping up. Friday morning we went for a walk in the neighbourhood and stopped in at SuperMaxi for a couple of things for the fried rice and at Punto for a cake. Many cakes in Ecuador look good but are tasteless. Punto's cakes are good! We're going to have guests over Saturday for lunch so we're almost ready.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Keep on Dreaming!

It's been 3 months since Brian had his last Doctor's appointment. He's supposed to go back every 3 months for a year, then every 4 months for the second year, then every 6 months for a total of 5 years. At that point they declare him cancer free. We hate that part, you and I; the part where you can't be sure but, as "they" say...such is life. He had a physical examination by the urologist and several tests done at the lab ($45). He'll go back the next day to get the results from the tests. The urologist was pleased with his post-operative condition however, and doesn't foresee anything wrong.

Talking with a friend the other day, we commented that we'd been quite lucky in that we'd been very healthy since we've been in Ecuador. When we first came here for our 2 month holiday, we were sick with colds and diarrhea the entire time, taking turns being the ill one. When we came back to stay permanently, we were sort of resigned to being sick for awhile until we acclimatized to the various germs we hadn't previously been exposed to. We both got a cold upon returning and that's been it. Several of our friends have recently been struck down with a cold/lung/flu thing that we've been lucky enough to miss. This could happen just as well in Canada as here. Newcomers usually get some sort of gastric thing (although Cuenca's water is quite drinkable) but generally we're a healthy bunch. Going into 3rd stage (after 65, as the Ecuadorians call it) one wants to be as healthy as possible. So far so good (except for Brian's cancer of course, which Shelley has told him doesn't count).

We enjoyed the meal so much at Mangiere at Posada del Angel that we invited a friend to have dinner with us there Tuesday. It was a delightful evening, the pasta was just as good the second time and our company fascinating. Wild accusations were bandied about but at the end of the night, alone with our own thoughts, all was put into place. Fascinating!

Brian went back to the Doctor on Wednesday and was ebullient when he got home. His original PSA test before the operation was 9.7. His PSA test Wednesday was 0.01. The Doctor told him it wouldn't have been unreasonable for the test to show 3. or 4. but 0.01 was absolutely wonderful! He proudly displayed the paper results of his tests to Shelley and immediately got in touch with his good friend in Holland to tell him the news.

Fredi needed to go back to the vet on Thursday to get the last in a series of 3 anti-parasite medications ($2). This is a preventative medicine not because she was sick. Our normal vet wasn't there and the vet that helped us didn't speak any English, so we had a bit of a time figuring out when next we needed to go back and what for. In any case, mid-July is her next checkup. We're not quite sure why.

Our blog friends from Panama were due to fly into Cuenca at 6:15 in the evening so Brian set out to meet them at the airport and get them settled into the hostel they'd chosen. All this was done with ease and they went next door to Sakura for a snack. As they'd been travelling since 6 o'clock in the morning, they were tired and ready to settle in their room by the time they'd finished.

We set out for a neighbourhood walk and picked up 6 salmon burgers, 5 shrimp burgers and a bag full of assorted seafood with which to make seafood chowder for $12 at Jo.Mar's at the base of the La Cuadra Building.

It's been quite some time since we've been to a Gringo Night and with our new Canadian friends from Panama we decided we'd hit Zoe's Friday evening. They are interested in golfing & soccer (futbol) here in Cuenca. We aren't conversant in either sport but put them on to people who are.

There was a time that a bunch of us would get together quite regularly at Gringo Night, but as time goes on and we all get more familiar with Ecuador and develop our own individual routines & friendships, this pleasant interlude seems to have become far less important to us. These days when we go it's mostly strangers there and VERY noisy, nevertheless it's a must see for any newcomer to town. This time however, several of our friends showed up and we talked and laughed and generally had a good time. The camaraderie gained by sharing a common experience, being in a strange country shouldn't be discounted. We count more people as friends here in Ecuador than we have for a very long time in our lives.

"I don't want to do much of anything today" Brian announced Saturday morning. So...Fredi got taken for a walk to the local park and played with a couple of young children, we made ourselves meals from time to time, Shelley puttered around the apartment and we chattered & read & napped & watched TV & computered. That's it! Despite having become comfortable with our new life, we're both still thankful and amazed we managed it. Multi-married both of us, assets were chucked out of windows several times to make way for a new & hopefully better life. Children were always loved but sometimes required more than is written about in the fairy tales. And work proved to be just that - work. Yet...here we ended up in paradise; warm, comfortable, surrounded by friends, children ultimately supportive, with a wonderful little puppy loving us more than we deserve. We know there are people out there reading the blog, working & struggling, dreaming of a tomorrow that is hard to think will ever come. Keep on dreaming! It's the only way you'll make it happen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Our friend and her friend came over on Wednesday afternoon to pick up the television. The Ecuadorian woman was very grateful and we were somewhat abashed in that we were just happy our TV was going to continue to have a productive life. Living on the boat certainly taught us the real value of RRR (reduce, reuse, recycle). Being in such a small space and being independent (from time to time) of any resources (while out to sea) gets you into the triply R mode of life with concrete benefits staring you in the face. Finding a good home for the television, rather than it sitting unused in our storage locker, was a great big plus for us!

We've heard conflicting theories about when the rainy season is in Ecuador. These conflicts may be because the season in one part of the country is not the same in another part (i.e. coast vs mountains vs jungle). In any case, it's certainly been rainy the last couple of weeks. Often we'll get friends out of country commenting because they've looked at a weather report for Cuenca and it's predicted rain. We try to tell them it rained for half an hour and that was it, but they'd prefer to feel sorry for us and our bad weather. These days, however, it has been raining a great part of the day and it's been raining pretty hard. The river is up. When it rains we get thunder & lightning. Our drought weather is far far behind us. Yet...even with the rain...there's still no need for a heating system. The worst it gets is Shelley covers herself with a thin blanket while we're watching TV. This is vastly different from huddling around the heater on the boat, clothed in sweaters & t-shirts & undershirts & 3 layers of socks & slippers. We loved the boat. We wouldn't have lived on it for so long if we didn't, however....

Keeping an eye on foreboding skies we ventured out just for a local walk in the neighbourhood Thursday morning, trusting we'd arrive back home before the rain started. It's getting hard to remember the open mouthed amazement we had for such a long time when we first came here, even on regular walks just around the neighbourhood. Now if we see a goat or a llama or an indigenous woman in costume it's everyday, normal, our reality. We contend with pedestrians having no rights & hug people right & left without even thinking about it these days. Who says old dogs can't learn new tricks?

It'd been several weeks since we'd had a dinner out so we contacted some friends and went out for the evening to Mangiere at Postada Angels. The pasta was divine! Brian also had cheesecake for dessert and it too was great. We talked about what we'd each been up to, the books we'd recently read, new scientific theories & Stephen Hawking's latest missive. Wow! Mangiere's is an intimate little restaurant well worth the visit.

We walked both downtown and back again on Thursday to run a couple of chores. While we were downtown we also bought 2 DVD's ($3), 2 large pieces of fried chicken for Brian's lunch ($2), and a 100 pieces of card stock ($2.85). Brian said we paid too much for the chicken but it was tasty. When we walk both ways downtown and back again it's just a little bit too much. We end up dragging our feet just a bit and Fredi has her tongue hanging out. We made it however, and there's a righteous feeling that goes along with the feat.

They were having craft fairs in two different locations we could walk to, so we took off down Doce de Abril on Saturday morning and popped into both of them to see what there was to see. At one of the fairs, we ran into 3 friends and ended up talking quite a bit with one man about ways & means of advertising the small towns surrounding Cuenca, their events & crafts, etc. This man is doing volunteer work with the administrator of a small group charged with promoting tourism in these outlying villages. It was an interesting conversation and Brian with his radio/advertising background had a lot to offer. In the evening we went to a soiree, taking a snack tray & box of red wine with us. There were lots of people, lots of food, good conversation & we had a very good time.

Cuenca was founded on April 12th, 1557. As a consequence there have been several days here where arts & crafts fairs abound, food concessions are set up everywhere and music venues are happening in celebration of the great day. On Sunday there was a 15 k marathon run and hundreds if not thousands attended and actually ran in the marathon. We stopped in at the 10th of August market where they had extra booths roasting cuy & pig. We caught a glimpse of the marathon right down town and noticed there was a big stage being set up just down the street from where we live. (Will we have trouble sleeping tonight?) The night before, there were even more fireworks than normal. Cuenca certainly had a gorgeous day for it all, bright & warm with only benign fluffy white clouds in the sky. (Addendum: We could hear the thump thump of the base when we went to bed, but it was not so loud it kept us awake.)

It was another glorious day on Monday! Huge popcorn shaped clouds, hot out, gentle breeze in the shade and a statutory holiday. Traffic was light, banks were closed and we were happy the grocery store was open (albeit very crowded). We had a good shop (under $80 for the week) and while Brian walked Fredi, Shelley boiled chicken for salads & squeezed lemons for lemon tea.

We've finished our round of Tuesday dinners. We've caught up on just about all the people we "owed" a dinner to and hosted a few new people to boot. There's still a couple of folks we need to contact but because of this and that, it'll happen some time in the future. We have blog people coming in from Panama to visit Cuenca for 10 days and a dinner date out this week, so it's not like we're bereft of things to do. We guess we kind of had fun hosting so many Tuesday dinners in a row. Now we have to get back to normal life...whatever that is.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Fine Art of Compromise

There's a pizza place about 2 blocks away from where we live. It's sitting in the middle of a regular neighbourhood and we wonder how it gets anything but neighbourhood business in it's location. In any case, we've never tried it. Pizza in Ecuador seems to have more cheese and less sauce, thus it has a tendency to be more bland. We've tried several places to get pizza and some are better than others but we've yet to find a place that really puts enough tomato sauce on the pie. In any case, for our morning walk, we made a point of passing by our neighbourhood pizza place to check out the hours. It opened at 11 am and closed at 11 pm on Saturdays. We were concerned it might not open at all because of Easter and it was 11:15 and still shut up tight. There was a young fellow sitting on the street outside the restaurant and we conjectured he might be waiting for his boss to show up. This was true. The young man was very helpful, spoke English quite well and just left us feeling good. You know how you encounter people like that from time to time? We'll send Brian by at dinner time to pick up one meat lovers and one vegetarian no onions and see how it is.

The pizza was great (!) but no tomato sauce whatsoever. Brian spent his time waiting chatting with the nice young man while the boss made the pizza; Brian practicing his Spanish and the young man practicing his English. We've since been told that no tomato sauce on a pizza is the norm in Italy as well. We've also been told we can special request tomato sauce, so next time that's what we'll do and we should be in pizza heaven thereafter. Those not as close by as us, please be advised they deliver via taxi.

We met a friend downtown on Sunday and had ice cream & a milkshake & Shelley had lime tea. You'd think being Easter Sunday there would have been something going on at the park, but there wasn't. The Cathedral was extra full though! Afterward we trooped off to the 10th of August market and bought Brian's roast pig. The day was glorious, we had a nice gab fest with our friend, managed to get a bit of exercise from our walk and Brian's nap was only delayed by an hour or so. Monday (guess what?) we went shopping and Shelley set herself up for a marathon cook: Cheesecake, Potato Salad & Lasagna. By the time she was finished she was really looking forward to sitting down.

By the way...we found someone to give our small television to. She's an Ecuadorian woman who recently was robbed. She lived in a ground floor apartment building with her two dogs and the thieves took her television and her computer. She's a friend of a friend who told us the story and we immediately said: "We've got a TV she can have!"

This was the little 15 inch flat screen television we used on the boat and was the only item of any value we brought from Canada with us. Our friend needed to be reassured a couple of times that indeed we were willing to give this TV away. We explained we only hoped it'd find a good home. She looked at us strangely.

All day Tuesday it drizzled outside, so Brian took Fredi for a short walk around the neighbourhood. They inspected the property across the street where a huge eucalyptus tree had fallen over the other day, destroying a brick wall, blocking the street, and causing damage to a house across the way. They also encountered a llama all decorated for some reason (Fredi protected Brian).

We spent most of the rest of the day just puttering around the apartment. We seem to be getting better at this. Tuesday evening we had company for dinner and served them lomo fino, potato salad, fried mushrooms & asparagus and cheesecake for dessert. In case you're wondering, the lasagna Shelley made on Monday was for freezing in single serving packs for quick meals on odd days. We got into the habit of doing this while living on the boat. The oil stove was somewhat cranky and we'd light it up and then have a cooking marathon, preparing several meals for freezing in a TV dinner-like way. When we were working and on opposite shifts this solved a lot of meal planning problems for us. Now that we're retired, we continue the habit because of the convenience and variety of it all. Often, Shelley will have a salad for dinner whereas Brian wants a full meal. There's a one-time-only glut of dishes to be washed but most nights we only have a plate & silverware to clean up. In any case, it works for us!

The company we had were people fairly new to Ecuador who had been reading the blog for about 2 years. "We feel like we know you" they told us. We gave them friendly advice, chatted about our various experiences, listened to their stories as they listened to ours & generally had a very pleasant evening.

Because we got the new TV, our stereo could no longer sit beside the television and we had to shoved it behind the TV screen. This was very inconvenient. Brian decided we needed to buy shelving to put the stereo on. Shelley was afraid more furniture would start to clutter up the place. Nevertheless, we ended up going to the furniture store where we bought most of our pieces and looked around critically for something we thought might work. There was no consensus. We finally decided we needed to measure our vase & stereo & speakers and then come back and have something built for us. Standing back in the front room, hand on her cheek, visualizing the clutter, Shelley was not pleased. Then Brian had a brain storm. "What if we do this & this" he explained to her.

The short of it is, the stereo is now raised up about 10 inches and one can get at the various knobs & buttons easily. The speaker for the television is now raised as well, so we can hear it better. All in all; we saved a couple of hundred dollars and had a dedicated session in the fine art of compromise.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Blues in the Banos

Apparently Brian hadn't fixed the toilet the day before because when we woke up Wednesday morning the bathroom floor was covered with water...again. He tweeked the mechanism in the toilet once more with his screw driver and said he felt that would do it, but it didn't. We then phoned a plumber that we'd used one other time before but whoever we were connected to had no patience and just hung up on us. We then asked our building custodian (in our broken Spanish) if he could find us a plumber. He was glad to do this for us and set up an appointment for 3 o'clock that afternoon. In the mean time, Brian figured out how to turn the water off in just that bathroom. Turning the water off worked a lot better than Shelley's solution of putting a garbage can under the leak.

It was our "bill day" and we had to go out and take care of our various obligations. Just before we were about to leave we got a telephone call advising us that the people we had planned on going to dinner with that evening had a dental emergency and wouldn't be able to make it. We went out and paid our bills and didn't run into any obstructions so ~ we were grateful for that. However, upon arriving home it started to rain and the rugs we hung out on the balcony from the bathroom got even wetter. Shelley & Brian had a small tiff as to whether they should be left on the balcony to "freshen" or not. Despite not seeing Shelley's logic whatsoever, Brian left them on the balcony. So far, this day wasn't going all that well but better than the people with the dental emergency.

"We're too retired" Brian commented. "We don't have enough happening. Even the littlest things cause us stress."

"You're crabby" Shelley shot back.

At 3:30 the building custodian showed up. Whether he misunderstood our request or he just decided he could help us instead, isn't clear. He took a look at the toilet and took apart the valve assembly. According to him, there was a tiny nick in the device and we needed to replace it. He gave us the address of a plumbing store and told us once we got the part he'd install it for us. That evening, Brian sat in his easy chair in the front room and examined the pieces of the device. He decided he'd try turning over one of the gaskets and see if that worked. He put the device back together and re-installed it in the toilet. So far, 13 hours later, it's still not leaking.

The next day Brian spent an hour in the morning and another hour in the afternoon on Skype talking with blog readers in Panama about potentially moving to Ecuador. They're originally from Canada and have gotten tired of the heat & humidity in Panama. Later on in the morning we headed downtown to pick up a supply of coffee (5 lbs. $12.50). We stopped in at a restaurant and Brian had a breakfast of 3 small buns, coffee, juice, 2 scrambled eggs, jam & a slice of cheese for $2.20. Shelley had lime tea. While there a friend noticed us through the window and sat down. We chatted away while she had a cappuccino & Brian finished his breakfast.

Brian tried to talk Shelley into going to a free piano recital at the Museum of Modern Art Thursday Evening but Shelley begged off as the event started at 8 pm and she usually hits the bedroom to read at nine. "Phone up so & so" she told him. "They'll go with you." He didn't.

Almost every week there's a dance recital or choir or art showing or Cuenca's symphony for those looking for a night out and a little culture. If you subscribe to Gringo Tree they send emails of upcoming events. Oft times these events are free. From time to time we go, but Shelley's bedtime interferes with most.

Two days later, our toilet still isn't leaking, so we've declared it fixed. Next time we see our maintenance man we'll slip him $5 and if it starts to leak again, we know which device needs replacing.

Good Friday we took a walk downtown to the CB Carolina Bookstore to ask Lee a question about shipping books into Ecuador. We were concerned if a friend sent books to us that we might have to pay duty on the full value. We were advised that recently all duty was taken off of books coming into the country. This was good news for us. We then stopped at Bananas, the restaurant right beside the bookstore and Brian had a full breakfast (eggs, toast, jam, bacon, sausage, a slice of avocado & tomato, plus syrup coffee con leche) and Shelley had a mug of te negro con limon (total = $4). They also serve shredded hash browns that look pretty good. Brian'll try them next time. A lot of the shops were closed because it was Good Friday and we walked down the steep stairs from Calle Larga to Doce de Abril and caught a bus to spend the rest of our Good Friday quietly puttering at home. Brian talked to a friend on Skype & Shelley read her book and chatted with Fredi.