Monday, June 28, 2010

Don't Miss It At All

Nothing special planned, we wandered off to Feria Libre just because it was Wednesday and thus the biggest market day. We always carry Fredi in her back pack when we go to Feria Libre and there's always several people that want to pet her and talk about the pack. We found a hair barrette for Shelley that has been advertised on TV (and thus must be wonderful!) and she bit the bullet and paid the $2.50 they asked for it. We checked out the cactuses but didn't see anything we didn't already have. We traipsed around looking at the clothes & the fruit & the pets & the cookware & the blankets & the shoes until we got tired and then we walked home again.

Brian had another cooking class on Thursday; this time on New Orleans cooking. We got up in the morning and did our usual routine: first thing walk Fredi, breakfast, showers, morning news, daily chore, cuddle, etc. and then set off to the butchers where we hoped there'd be a prime rib to pick up. Shelley waited outside the store with Fredi while Brian went inside to see what his efforts had produced. Fredi put her paws up on the window ledge and watched her Papa the whole time he was in the store. He left with no package in his hands. Apparently the butcher had cut the ribs with maybe an inch of meat on them. Brian let him know kindly this was not what he was after. Upon arriving home, undaunted, this time he went to the web and printed off a butcher's chart, plus some actual pictures of what the roast should look like. (Isn't it amazing what you can get on the web!?) We'll try again another day.

While Brian was away at his cooking class, Fredi did her usual sidling up to Shelley, lying beside her, moving when she moved, generally being obsequious until Brian walked through the door. Then Shelley became dust in the wind. (Sigh!) As usual Brian was all pumped up with what he had learned in cooking class. He particularly liked the chicken & sausage gumbo and the shrimp remolade.

"We all sat around and BS'd and watched her cook" Brian told Shelley. "It's really neat taking the class with friends. We've taken enough of them together now that it's become a bit of ritual."

Brian, who is not a big bread pudding fan, really enjoyed the bread pudding with a special subtly lemon-flavoured sauce. Shelley is looking forward to trying that recipe for herself. Shelley has set up a special binder with Brian's cooking class recipes. It's kind of fun to watch it grow! Friends from the cooking class had remarked that ExPat potluck dinners have really improved in quality as a result of various people bringing dishes that they've learned in class. Little by little our life in Ecuador gradually improves in quality as our friendships deepen and the catalogue of shared experiences expands.

Wearing our rain coats & keeping our fingers crossed, we caught a bus downtown and went to the post office to mail off a card to Shelley's Aunt in Canada with a 3 page letter enclosed ($4.75). We then walked across town, picked up 3 DVDs ($4) and caught another bus home just in time to miss the downpour we were expecting. Friday evening we went to Gringo night at Zoe's and met a couple of new people in town. As usual, Zoe's was hopping with people (many of whom we knew) and quite noisy. We caught up with a few friends and then escaped to the Mediterraneo Restaurant for pasta dishes and a quiet intimate dinner with our new friends. It was a nice evening and very neat getting to know new people. They were quite excited, having just rented an apartment and were looking for appliances and a bed before they had to go back to the States and divest themselves of most of their belongings there.

Because we were going out to dinner at a friend's place Saturday evening, we spent the day mostly puttering and watched a movie on TV. It rained off and on and we gave Fredi a bath after taking her outside for her walk because she was a soaked little puppy and we couldn't present her to our hosts that way. It was a lovely evening, we were served a shrimp appetizer and tortilla soup as the main dish with brownies & ice cream for dessert. Everything was perfect, including the company.

Sunday we went down to Parque Calderon, met a few friends and chatted for awhile, then went on our way and got tomatoes and roast pig. One of our U.S. American friends gave us 3 Canadian flag-hanging-twirly-things that they had picked up for pennies at a liquidation sale. They presented them to us as Canada Day is July 1st and they thought we might want to decorate our balcony with them. It was very thoughtful.

Monday, we shopped and cooked. If you've read past blogs then you know at one point we asked for $500 cash from a machine and got nothing although they deducted the amount from our Canadian account. It took several phone calls and emails but eventually the $500 was refunded (in about 6 weeks). Well...on Monday we asked for $500 and it gave us a receipt for zero, plus no cash. We then tried again and the machine told us we were over limit for the day. Back at home, upon checking with our account on-line, we saw $500 had been deducted and then refunded immediately. Because of a couple of these hiccups, every time we use our bank card at a machine we hold our breath for a bit.

It was a quiet couple of days that were needed and enjoyed because we were ready for a break from the bustle. We've just recently spent some time with folks newly retired and new to Cuenca. The energy required just listening to their adventures is considerable. Shelley thinks that they're in that "recently retired stage" where they still feel they have to do 4,365 things a day. We've progressed to the point where going to the Post Office is our big chore for the day. When we hear about going to see an archeological site, eating breakfast, lunch & dinner out, shopping for appliances and taking in a museum or two, we think perhaps 5 or 6 days might be needed. They accomplished this in just a few hours. Dimly, in the back of our almost completely full brains, is a dull memory of our days being like that as well. You know something ? We don't miss it at all.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What Means This: Dottering?

It ended up being another chore day as we wandered downtown on Friday and picked up Shelley's slacks from being hemmed, dropped into a printer's place (Sanguirma 9-18 y B. Malo) to get another 200 personal cards printed up and swung by the post office to check on our PO Box. The pants looked great, professional and well done. We got 200 cards printed in probably August of 2008 and we were getting pretty low these days so decided we should purchase another 200. They told us the cost would be $40 and we expressed our amazement and surprise because the original cost (only less than 2 years ago) was $20 or $25 (we couldn't remember exactly). After much hemming and hawing and a telephone call and finally a discussion with someone who presumably had more authority, we got the cards for $30. At the post office were 2 birthday cards for Shelley & 2 Father's Day cards for Brian. We were thrilled! We also ran into a couple we know and chattered for awhile about what we'd been up to all the while standing in the middle of the Post Office being in the way. (Again, don't you hate that!) We ended up being well satisfied with our excursion.

Saturday was spent trying to get in touch with people, some successfully, some without success. We arranged to meet yet another "blog couple" for dinner at Tiestos so spent the day puttering around saving ourselves for the evening. We'd invited the blog couple over for pate and a glass of wine before we set off to the restaurant and they were very enthusiastic about Cuenca and their plans to find an apartment and return later in the year. As usual we had a fantastic meal at Tiestos. The energy and ambiance of the restaurant really adds to the whole dining experience. This time these had a guitarist playing and singing in the background. Our guests were very impressed with Fredi's good manners and we had a lovely visit!

Originally, we had started the blog to keep in touch with family & friends easily. Keep them in tune with our daily life and thus not lose touch with them Out of the effort came "blog friends"; people all over the world who were interested in Ecuador, interested in our daily lives in retirement and interested in Brian & Shelley as people. Go figure; this was a surprise; not something we expected. Many of these "blog friends" we've had the happy opportunity to meet. In almost all circumstances, it's been a pleasure to meet them and share our lives in a more intimate manner. We're not sure the keeping in touch with friends & family part is working out though. We feel they touch base with the blog from time to time but perhaps this isn't enough. Be assured friends & family & others we're here; available on Skype, happy to reply to an email from you, wondering always what you're up to. We want to hear from you too!

Fredi had had her bi-weekly bath on Saturday so we were rather disappointed on Sunday morning when it dawned drizzly and wet. We took her for a short walk and then dottered around the apartment until it was time to go out in the early afternoon to a birthday bash for a friend. By the time we left, the weather had improved and we both walked out without a coat. It was a pot luck and there were tons of people (we of course took Brian's pate) so there was a wonderful assortment of food to eat (lasagna, potato salad, stuffed eggs, pineapple salsa etc.) and a couple of speeches from the birthday girl. Three hours later when we exited the building it was raining once again and us without our coats. We cowered in door ways until a cab came and then bombed through the streets until we hit an intersection and were in a bit of a fender bender. Our cabby was in the right, nevertheless we had to get out (without paying of course) and flag down yet another cab in the drizzle. Poor Fredi was late for her afternoon walk by this time, but we ventured upstairs to our apartment to pick up coat before allowing her to relieve herself. In the end, all was well, we really weren't very wet and Fredi was a happy dog.

Just before we went shopping on Monday, we phoned a friend we thought needed some cheering up. While shopping, we bought the fixings for hamburgers & salad and some strawberry cheesecake ice cream, plus a box of wine. Now the previous list of things can't go all the way and cheer somebody up but it sure is a good starter. We puttered around the house Monday afternoon and our friend came over early evening for dinner. We talked and ate pate and eventually cooked the burgers and ate sitting on the couch & talked some more. We had strawberry cheesecake ice cream and drank our wine and kept on talking and in the end I think we sent our friend home feeling just a little bit better. We sure hope so in any case.

To a bright, sunny, warm day on Tuesday, we caught the # 28 bus down to our printers and picked up our cards. They looked exactly like the old set so we were well enough pleased. We then wandered to the park in the main square and sat in the shade on a bench for awhile, taking in the sights and occasionally letting a small child pet Fredi. Stopping in at the 10th of August market Brian got his roast pig as we hadn't been able to do that on Sunday. We then walked the rest of the way home, enjoying the sunshine, the sights & the exercise.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's Almost All About Food

Our friend Jan, who currently lives in Holland, just went for a holiday to Russia. The pictures on this blog are courtesy of him. Jan, who's been all over the world, both because of pleasure trips and work commitments, commented that perhaps this trip to Russia was one of his most enjoyable holidays ever; the country was so much more than he expected. This was his European last hurrah as he is moving to Saudi Arabia on contract work for the foreseeable future. A good part of our wanderlust urge is experienced vicariously as Jan travels the world. We regularly Skype with him in China, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Holland and other far away places.

As usual, off we went to Parque Calderon on Sunday and met a gaggle of people. We all stood in a circle in the park and introduced the newcomers and talked about what we'd been up to and generally caught up. Afterwards we got Brian's roast pig ($2) & Shelley's bag of tomatoes ($1) plus a pound of chicken livers ($1) because Brian's going to try making country pate (which also takes veal & pork & spinach & walnuts, etc.) as he learned in one of his cooking classes. It's still cool out and Shelley was able to wear one of her home-made sweaters brought from Canada. It was pretty much perfect for the weather without a coat.

Shopping & cooking was on our agenda for Monday. We met new acquaintances in the store and stood in the way of other shoppers (don't you hate that!) and chatted for awhile trying to set up a date to get together. As they'll be taking Spanish lessons and don't know the timing of them yet, we had to defer our decision until later in the week. At home again, Shelley made carrot muffins for breakfasts while Brian was walking Fredi. When Brian came home he made his pate. There was much grinding & mixing & wondering about does x = y and towards the end moaning because his back gets sore from standing at the counter chopping. Two hours after starting, Brian finally got two loaf pans of pate in the oven and then it had to bake for 4 hours. (PS: Shelley ended up washing a fair bit of his dirty dishes.) After baking and cooling you weigh the mixture down for a day or so and then the whole thing is ready to eat. Brian assured Shelley it's worth the effort, because the end result is so delicious! She's waiting to see (don't forget that mound of dirty dishes).

Brian was scheduled to take another cooking class on Tuesday; this time regarding appetizers. We needed to fit in a walk for us & Fredi, plus Brian's nap before he was due to leave for the class shortly after 2 o'clock. We managed to do all that plus have an early slice off the pate. Brian said it wasn't as good as leslieabreen@yahoo.com (the cooking teacher) had made, but it still was mighty tasty! He had substituted bacon for pork fat and brandy for cognac in the recipe and thus it made the whole thing somewhat different. Later on in the afternoon, when lunchtime was upon us, the pate tasted even better. We expect this ripening will continue until the taste sensation is beyond description.

The weather has begun to be somewhat warmer. Still not tropical. We're in long sleeved shirts when we go outside, but Shelley doesn't have to wear a Canadian sweater watching TV in the evening along with thermal socks. It hasn't rained for a few days and we had to water the outside plants as a couple were drooping, but we're not confident this marks the end of "winter". It's probably just a lull. We've been told that the "cold snap" came several weeks earlier than normal and that we can expect the regular Ecuadorian cooler weather in July & August.

At Brian's cooking class the usual assortment of friends were there to learn how to make half a dozen different appetizers. It is the nature of appetizers that they are fairly picky to prepare so Brian is not sure if he'll ever actually make any of them, although he raved about the crackers and also a carrot puree; so perhaps he'll bite the bullet and make them anyway. There was lots of discussion and catching up and a couple of glasses of wine at the end. Brian says that much of the value of these classes has to do with the various tips that are passed along, not only about preparation, but also where to get some of the ingredients. Again, he showed up at home following the class just the tiniest bit tipsy. Shelley deigned not to notice. (Note: As usual: Fredi came out of her skin when Brian walked through the door.)

A last minute cancellation Wednesday morning left us with a gourmet breakfast of pate on buttered toast triangles enough for 4 people. The pate has now mellowed to the point where it's food for the Gods and we managed to consume all of the breakfast despite ourselves. Later on we walked downtown to La Precisa (on Tarqui, half way up the block between Calle Larga & Presidente Cordova) which is a place that'll hem up pants, do minor repair stitching, cobble your shoes and a myriad of other things. The slacks Shelley had purchased the other day were about 4 inches too long, so for $1.75 she's getting them hemmed. The weather has improved a bit; still not terribly hot but not as cool as it has been. The pleasant walk downtown and back again was just enough to make us feel like we wore off at least some of the breakfast.

Having heard a rumour you could get special cuts of beef done at certain stores, we walked up to the Bocatti on Gran Colombia and ordered a prime rib. Brian first printed off a drawing from the web as to how the different cuts are butchered. He showed this picture to the butcher in the store and explained that he wanted the meat cut from ribs 7 - 10. All rib roasts are cut from ribs 7 - 12. We're supposed to be able to go back next Thursday and pick it up. The date was dependent on when they get their next shipment of beef. We'll of course, report back when we cook it, as to how it was.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dining Ups & Downs

A friend had just returned from a trip, so we decided to meet for lunch Wednesday at the Inca Lounge & Bistro and catch up with each other. We arrived at noon as per the article in Cuenca Highlife and found the place locked up. Waiting for our friend to arrive, eventually someone came through and advised the opening time was actually 1 o'clock. (Please note: All conversations were had with individuals where English was their first language.) We told them about the article giving the wrong time. They didn't seem terribly concerned. (Incidentally we checked when we got home and the article definitely said they were open at noon on Wednesdays). After 20 minutes or so, they let us sit at a table outside and provided us with tea & coffee while we waited. They were apparently out of milk so Brian drank his coffee black, not something he usually does. Our friend arrived and we chatted and caught up with each other and finally a young man came down with 3 menus. We decided at that time to move indoors as it was a bit cool outside. The young man took the menus and led us upstairs. Sitting down, we were asked to put Fredi on the floor for hygienic reasons. Shelley instantly complied but mentioned to the young man that this was the first time ever, eating out in Cuenca, when anyone had said squat about the dog. The young man then told us quite a long involved story about how much he likes dogs and did for dogs. Shelley said she understood but wasn't it ironic that this was the first time anyone had ever said anything about Fredi at a restaurant other than to pet her and tell us how adorable she was. The guy asked, "What do you want me to say?" and Shelley answered "Nothing I guess...turn around and walk away." Remember: Fredi is on the ground. The fellow then announced "New policy. No dogs allowed in my restaurant!" and turned his back on us.

Somewhat stunned, we got up and offered to pay for our tea & coffee and were advised there was no charge. We then left the restaurant (remember we had waited an hour with dog in lap before being officially seated) wandered around a bit wondering where we were going to eat and decided since our day was somewhat spoiled, we'd just drop into Monday Blue up the street and have a burger there. We've been told the burgers at the Inca Lounge are the best in Cuenca. We'll never be able to report on that as we'll never go back there with or without Fredi. The burger at Monday Blue was a little ragged but what do you want for $2.50.

Honestly, we've always been somewhat surprised that all the restaurants in Cuenca have allowed Fredi. We've half expected to be asked to leave in several different places. Told at the door, we would have simply said we understood and walked away; end of incident. We however, didn't expect after waiting for an hour (dog on lap) to be bushwhacked, even though we'd complied with their request to put Fredi on the floor. We could go into an even longer commentary about some people being hyper sensitive, unable to accept even the smallest challenge to their authority but...we won't. For us, the entire experience was pretty awkward. Something's odd at the Inca Lounge and we're not quite sure what it is. We do know that we have absolutely no issue with a "dogs" or "no dogs" policy. We simply felt that the situation was not handled well.

Hungry, for some reason, for a decent burger, we locked poor Fredi in the bedroom on Thursday and caught the #7 bus to Mall del Rio. Brian picked up some socks and Shelley some underwear & a pair of slacks. Then we stopped at Burger King and had a good old familiar Whopper Combo. It's quite expensive by Ecuadorian standards but a couple of times a year we make a point of doing it just for the nostalgia of it all.

It's quite chilly out these days. One has to wear a sweater or a light jacket or at the very least a long sleeved shirt, and in the evening we cover ourselves with a light blanket while we're reading or watching TV. It usually rains a bit some time during the day and we haven't had to water the outside plants for several weeks now. When it's warm out, we have to water the plants twice a week.

There was yet another "blog couple" in town and we'd been trying to set up a lunch meeting with them all week. They were extremely busy checking out real estate in town and in the outlying neighbourhoods and we finally decided on an early supper Friday evening at the Raymipampa Restaurant. Thus, Brian took Fredi for a walk to our neighbourhood park and Shelley spent most of the day puttering around the apartment. As it turned out the couple was from the same area of Canada that we were. They'd also arranged to meet another woman (originally from Chicago) at the restaurant. We all chatted and talked about our experiences and got to know each other over a 3 hour period so it obviously went pretty well. It's so nice for us to meet folks who we'd only e-mailed with in the past. We meet up with blog correspondents quite frequently. We're happy to share our experiences in Ecuador and it's wonderful to hear about people's lives and adventures.

Off we went on a road trip on Saturday to Paute with a friend. We stopped in at 4 or 5 nurseries and looked at plants. Shelley bought a small fir-type tree which they potted for her right there and our friend bought 4 huge flowering plants. We then dropped into the Corvel restaurant for lunch. As it was a bit chilly we ate inside but they have a lovely outdoor patio when the weather's good. We had a bit of a scare when we thought they were asking us to sit outside with Fredi but it turned out they only wanted to know if Fredi wanted a bowl of water. Brian had steak with shrimp, flambéed right at the table with appropriate flare by the chef, our friend had giant prawns and Shelley tried out the vegetarian rice ($22.40 including drinks). The entire day was such a treat. We really enjoyed ourselves!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Free, Free, Free

It turned out to be a chore day for us on Friday as we ventured downtown to refill our phone for a month ($10), refill our 2 bus passes for about 2 months ($20) and drop into the CB Carolina Bookstore for another ten books ($40).

"Remember when just filling up the phone card seemed to take us the whole morning?" Shelley asked Brian.

"That's because we didn't know what to ask for, didn't know where to go, didn't know how to ask for it and generally didn't know anything." he replied.

Brian had spent some time that same morning phoning around trying to find someone who would go to the symphony with him that evening. It took 3 calls (the other 2 were already busy) to find someone happy to accompany him to the Cuenca Symphony Orchestra's musical dramatization "Mozart Comes to Visit". When Brian returned home from his evening out he reported that he had run into several of our friends. The concert was geared towards children and families and they had a character dressed up as Mozart who was instructing the conductor of the orchestra how his music should be played. There was a lot of audience participation and as usual the Cuenca symphony was first class. On leaving the concert, Brian accompanied a friend to the main square which was teeming with people celebrating Corpus Christi replete with fireworks, pastry & candy booths and thousands of people. It was a real family occasion with lots of little kids and everybody socializing and generally having a wonderful time.

Another one of those things we don't notice so much any more are the store mannequins. When we first got here it was hard not notice that Cuenca had imported all the mannequins from our childhood and then saved them. This blog displays only some of these vintage mannequins around town.

A walk around the neighbourhood sufficed for our morning outing on Saturday as we were meeting some friends at the California Kitchen for dinner. The California Kitchen is Cuenca's newest eatery, started up by U.S. ExPats in the spirit of an old-fashioned classic dinner. Great hamburgers! Brian had a Yosemite Steak Sandwich and cheesecake that he declared to be among the best he's ever eaten. It's neat to see this restaurant being successful and as usual we had a very pleasant visit with our friends (who highly recommend the berry cobbler).

Down at the park on Sunday we ran into several people we know and ended up showing the roast pig place to some newcomers to Cuenca. Monday we went shopping and Shelley made chili (chili powder courtesy of a friend who brought some from Canada). Shelley's chili recipe is to dump cans of whatever she can find in the cupboard (beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, corn, green beans, mushrooms, potatoes, etc) together with pre-cooked ground burger (and/or chicken) and chili powder (to taste) into a slow cooker and cook until the room smells good. It always seems to work.

In Canada people will often grow Norfolk pine trees indoors. In Parque Calderon in Cuenca there are Norfolk pine trees that are over 70 feet tall. It's hard to equate those huge pine trees, as big as a Douglas Fir, to the somewhat bigger than bonsai ones grown inside our homes in Canada. A few months ago Shelley spotted a 3 foot Norfolk pine at a nursery and wanted to get it to grow indoors. Brian, doubting Shelley's wisdom, asked the fellow at the nursery if it was possible to grow these magnificent trees inside. The fellow was aghast! Shelley stomped off, disappointed Brian would doubt her knowledge and we ended up not buying the tree. A few weeks later, we happened upon a poor, deformed, Norfolk seedling at one of the flower markets for $1. Shelley bought the defective plant and took it into her home and nurtured it and made it welcome. We're now happy to report it is doing just fine indoors, has grown to be about 2 feet tall these days, has worked past it's bent deformity and is now growing a straight strong trunk. In Canada, we had a Douglas Fir, grown from a seedling, in a pot on the back of the boat, outside. Shelley called it Fred. Fred Fir. We had to leave Fred behind when we came to Ecuador and now this lovely survivor Norfolk pine has taken its place. What should be call it; perhaps Norbert? Norman?

If Fredi could say "yippee", she would have so exclaimed, because on Tuesday we went off to her mostest favoritest place in the world ~ Parque Paraiso. We've been planning on going several times and always the day dawned to rain and we were put off. This time, as we were waiting for the #14 bus, we conjectured we might just end up going for a bus ride only because of the threatening rain, but as it happened things worked out. If we go on a week day the park isn't too crowded and Fredi can roar around, off the leash, to her heart's content. All we need to do is remember to bring Puppy Treats so we can entice her back right away if need be. We did our usual turn around the park, past the playground equipment, past the island and the geese in the pond, past the occasional lovers, up onto the bridge system over the marshy area, alongside the river and then back in the the main park, crossing to the football field and past the concessions. Fredi would madly dash off to see a butterfly, joggers in the park, little children with their parents, flowers on the bushes or just out of pure exuberance to be off the leash and free, free, free.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

All in All

It's a fact (for those wondering) that we don't throw a hissy fit if we can't go shopping on Monday for some reason. Just the other week we had to postpone it to Tuesday and a couple of months ago we shopped on a Sunday. Nevertheless, Monday we went shopping. Shelley finally found a muffin tin and we got 3 jars of Heinz green relish (!!!) that we've been seeking forever. Someone assured us we could buy green relish in Ecuador but until now we've been unable to find it.

If you click here there is a re-print of an article written by Lee Dubs (one of the owners of the CB Carolina Bookstore) that is a must read for anyone thinking of coming to Cuenca. Our own wish, coming to Ecuador, was to assimilate into the society. This is not so easily done if you don't speak the language. We are friendly with several Ecuadorians but cannot claim a real friendship with any. In time we sincerely hope this will change as our language skills get better. For now, we always remember we're in "their" country and have to accommodate ourselves to their culture. Except for perhaps pedestrian right-of-way, we've had minimal trouble adjusting this way. For those who come complaining and decrying where they came from was "better", we have a simple answer: go back!

Tuesday we went out to dinner with several couples to the LaVinas Italian Restaurant (Luis Cordero 5-101 y Juan Jaramillo). The evening was to celebrate the arrival back in the country of a couple whom we'd all met several months before on their initial exploratory tour of Ecuador. It was supposed to be a surprise! There we were, waiting, sitting in the restaurant and the fellow of the couple walks by with their dogs. We wave. He waves. So much for the surprise. It was a nice evening but typical of any gathering at a restaurant with more than 4 people: you end up talking with the four closest to you and no one else. Nevertheless, fun was had by all.

It's been raining pretty hard off and on for the last couple of days. The river is high and actually went over the low bank last evening. Even though this is considered the rainy season, it still doesn't hold a candle to the rain in Vancouver. Here, we know that the sun will shine soon and the rain never goes on day after day, night after night like we were used to back in Vancouver. There are several "blog people" arriving in Cuenca during June. We're looking forward to meeting them but wonder if June is the best month to make your initial acquaintance with Cuenca. We first came in February when the rain in Vancouver could easily go on 40 days & 40 nights and it was cold and the days were short. Arriving to warmth with only an occasional heavy shower was a wonderment we apparently have never gotten over.

One of the first places we ate at in Cuenca was the Raymipampa Restaurant, just off the main square downtown. It serves the traditional potato soup which is a must try for anyone coming to Ecuador, the menu is in both English & Spanish & quite extensive, the service is good and the prices are reasonable. It's a lunch place, not fine dining, but very popular with both expats & Ecuadorians. In any case, we often suggest this as a first meeting place for new people we've talked to through the blog. On Wednesday we met there with a couple from California, in Ecuador for 2 months to find out if this is the place for them to retire. They chatted about their experiences so far and we gave them a couple of pieces of advice and all in all it was a nice lunch. That evening we went to the Galeria de la Alcaldia de Cuenca (Bolivar y Borrero) to see a showing of Liza Wheeler's mosaic works. As always, the work was wonderful and there were several people we knew and could chat with. We seem to have a pretty busy week lined up for ourselves. Brian asked Shelley if we had anything happening Thursday and when Shelley replied in the negative, Brian heaved a great sigh. This is retirement: 4 social obligations in the same week is high chaos for us.

As we intended Thursday to be a quiet day, we only took Fredi off to the nearby vet to get her nails clipped and then went for a walk around the neighbourhood. Upon arrival back home there was a brown-out. The elevators weren't working and the TV & computer didn't work, but lights came on dimly. We'd witnessed someone topping a huge eucalyptus tree on the way home and the top 30 feet or so of the tree had come down with a loud crunch, like it had hit something important. The noise of the crash drew quite a crowd out onto the sidewalk. We wondered if the brown-out was because of that? It lasted about an hour and then things were back to normal. Later on Shelley made muffins for future breakfasts and Brian made fried rice and a sweet & sour chow mein for dinner that evening. All in all, it was a pleasant, quiet day and we really enjoyed ourselves.