Friday, August 27, 2010

Life's an Adventure

Brian spent the morning on Wednesday prepping chicken cacciatore for our company that evening. Fredi had to go to the Vet, so we accompanied her there for the last in a series of 3 anti-parasite doses. We also got her nails clipped, bought another package of vitamins (she's so thin) and a flea treatment: total cost $21. In the late afternoon Brian & Shelley put together a team effort and made appetizers using canned salmon pate, frozen shrimp, pesto, cheese and a pre-made puffed pastry. Now does that sound tasty or not? Our guests were from the United States, but one couple originated in Russia. We talked about strangers in strange lands, the wonders of Ecuador and got to know each other a little better.

Food we don't really miss but...sort of miss from time to time. TV dinners including meat pies, frozen pie crusts & tart shells, whole berry cranberry sauce, biscuit dough etc. in a tube & a myriad of chocolate bars. Don't get this list mixed up with the things we really miss: cheddar cheese, currants, MSG-less chicken bullion, Miracle Whip. We substitute and do without and make ourselves and "glory be to the heavens" actually find it on the shelves from time to time and once in awhile, absolutely wondrous people bring us products from the United States and Canada when they vacation down here. We're not complaining; just stating facts. One of our blog friends asked us if they had loafs of bread down here. They'd been vacationing at the coast and saw only buns and sweet breads in the bakeries, not loafs, and were somewhat worried. We responded that white bread was easy to find and whole wheat and multi-grain findable with a little effort. They were somewhat relieved, having a horror of living without toast for the rest of their life. We wonder what Ecuadorians miss (food wise) when they emigrate to Canada and the U.S. Not much cuy for sale there.

It turned out to be one of our chore days on Thursday. We walked downtown and got a new $10 phone card to charge up the phone for another 30 days. Then, since we were downtown, we felt obligated to sit in Parque Calderon and people watch for a bit. Later we walked over to the post office as one of kids had advised there was a "surprise" there for us. Turns out it was 2 Christmas CDs! We were thrilled! As we were leaving the Post Office we ran into a couple we've been trying to meet for several weeks now. With them getting settled and having a quick trip back to the States, they haven't been able to find the time yet. Standing on the stairs of the Post Office we chatted and made arrangements to meet in the park again on Sunday. We then walked across town, down the stairs and caught a #7 bus home. Shelley put together a batch of peanut butter squares (Alternative #2) because hopefully on Friday we're having a pizza night with another couple just arriving back permanently from the States. We say hopefully, because at this point we had expected to hear from them but haven't yet. Likely all's well, it's just that it's Ecuador and one never knows.

As it turned out, the couple just coming into Ecuador did make it on time, all 11 pieces of their luggage arriving intact, and were just so incredibly busy getting things together they didn't get around to calling us until the evening. We set back pizza night 2 hours in order to give them more time to get settled and spent the day taking Fredi for a walk and giving her a bath (she too was having company that evening) [PS: Fredi loves her new blow dryer], reading, fielding telephone calls from visitors and friends and of course, Brian had a nap. At 5 o'clock Brian rolled out some more puffed pastry, cut it into squares and this time we added crab pate, shrimp, emmental cheese & pesto (Brian's cooking classes are really paying off) before twisting it into a cute little package and baking it for 30 minutes. Then he headed off to the Pizza Shop just down the street to pick up 3 meat lovers & 1 vegetarian (no onions) pizzas. Fredi had a lovely visit with her new friend and we did too!

Worth Repeating: All those thinking of immigrating to Ecuador, here's our advice: come down for at least a two or three month visit. Check out the various areas and if towards the end of your visit you're still excited, make an appointment with a local lawyer to find out the current immigration laws, i.e. investor, pensioner, working, volunteering etc. visas. Go back and think some more. You can't come down here unless you're willing to compromise, e.g. the sidewalks make you trip, your favourites foods are not necessarily in the grocery store, people speak Spanish (!), tomorrow means maybe. If you're from Florida, Cuenca may seem cold; if you're from Canada, the coast may be too hot. What about your stuff? What about Aunt Emma's plates and your kid's bronzed booties. Do you ship it down or divest yourself of years of memories. Shipping is always difficult (it happens but it always costs extra & takes longer than they say). Can you live without the miniature ceramic clown display you've taken 40 years to build up? Can you live if you ship it down and the display gets broken? There are thousands of reasons to come and not to come. List them if necessary, to find out which side you're really on. Ecuador welcomes your contribution if you decide to come and stay and if not, well that's OK too. Life's an adventure. Live it!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Power of Advertising

An invitation to a house warming party had been given to us for Friday evening. Shelley begged off because of her teeth (Friday she was still eating only soup) but Brian accepted the invitation. Thus, in the morning we set off to find a small gift for our friend. Ultimately we chose a garden gnome for her balcony. "A lot of people don't know they need a garden gnome" Shelley explained to Brian.

Shelley's teeth were doing really well. She's not taking any pain medication and figures she'll be able to eat a soft bread sandwich by Saturday. "It's not the eating part" she told Brian. "It's the cleaning my teeth around the stitches part afterward. I'd sure hate to pull a stitch!"

Upon arriving home after the party Brian reported, "I have a snoot full!"

Actually, he had a wonderful time and saw our friend's new apartment in the downtown centro area. He raved about the layout and it's roof top patio that he knew Shelley would absolutely love. Wine was drunk, foot was eaten and good times were definitely had. Brian advised that our friend really appreciated her house warming gift. He got home quite late and Fredi was somewhat frantic for her walk. The walk lasted a little longer than normal because Brian felt the need to get some fresh air. Shelley was indulgent.

After a couple of days of sun, Saturday was back to coolish damp weather. We walked up to SuperMaxi and Brian & Fredi sat outside while Shelley went inside and bought some yogurt for her soft food diet. We wore sweaters and the sidewalk was wet but it wasn't raining and it really was a refreshing walk about out in the cool air.

Some new blog friends had brought us currants from the United States and we arranged to meet them in the park on Sunday. Also there was a friend of ours plus another couple we've been trying to meet for a couple of weeks now. Five of us ended up going to lunch at Raymipampa and we got to know each other a bit better, told some stories about ourselves and most of us ended up having a hearty fish plate for lunch. It was late enough in the afternoon by the time we were finished that Brian was somewhat anxious about having time for his afternoon nap; thus we didn't go and get roast pig but instead caught a cab straight home.

Monday we went shopping and although it's a month and a half too early, Shelley managed to buy everything she needed (with only a few subtle substitutes) to make Christmas fruit cake in October. She decided mora jam (black berry) would substitute for black currant. Brian made a face and groaned. After the cake is made, we wrap it up tight, unwrapping it from time to time to soak it in sherry and then bundle it up again to be stored in a dark dry place. By Christmas it's a thing of wonderment! We shopped early in case we couldn't get everything we needed and would have to search high & low for various products. Fortunately, this isn't going to be necessary. (Note: Our currants came from the U.S.).

Tuesday Shelley went to the dentist and got her stitches removed. All's well. She has to go back in a month for a check up. After that for a year, she has to get her teeth cleaned every 3 months and then after that back to the 6 month schedule. Later in the day she made a pineapple upside down cake as we're having company for dinner on Wednesday. Tuesday afternoon Brian went to yet another cooking class; this time Tex Mex. Growing up in British Columbia, Canada and the nearest Mexican, or Texan for that matter, being 2000 miles away, this was cuisine that was new to Brian. He came home raving about the shrimp with margarita mayonnaise and also said that the stuffed jalapenos and the chicken enchiladas were absolutely delicious! When he was a child there was a corner store in his small town on Vancouver Island that had, of all things...tamales. So, he was delighted when Leslie prepared tamale pie. The social part of the evening included a lot of discussion about adjustments to living in a new country and all were agreed that Ecuador has exceeded their expectations.

For the first several years living on the boat we didn't have television. When finally we got a satellite dish, Shelley found she had this irresistible urge to go out and buy a Swiffer; the power of advertising. These days all the commercials we see are in Spanish and we usually mute the television when commercials come on in any case. Despite the fact of the muting & Spanish, we still seem to be affected by the visions crossing in front of our eyes. Shelley was quite excited when SuperMaxi finally got a wonder cleaning product as advertised on TV. We do find, however, there are more fantasy products advertised than we used to see in Canada. A formula that will cure baldness, impotence, depression, help with weight loss and give more energy. Shoes that will carve your figure into enviable proportions. Various machines to trim your body with little or no effort. We see lots of banking institution & credit card ads. Coca Cola and Pepsi seem to be absent. After not watching TV for several years on the boat, when we did get our satellite dish we were somewhat shocked by the blatancy of some of the commercials and TV shows then produced. It didn't take us long then to get accustomed to our new advertising reality and the same has now happened to us here in Ecuador.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Of Good Deeds & Gentle Dentists

Just to demonstrate the vagaries of Sunday at the park, there were only 3 other people that showed up this week. The week before it had been a mob scene. The few days before Sunday had been damp and miserable and we suspect others thought Sunday would be the same. It was coolish (requiring a sweater) but it didn't rain and we enjoyed our walk. In the end, we chatted and reveled at the outing and ultimately we showed one of the newcomers where Brian gets his roast pig every week.

As usual on Monday we went shopping. Upon arriving home Brian picked up Fredi & took her to the park whilst Shelley put away the groceries one handed. It looks like it'll be several days before her wrist is without pain. A bright note is that we walked up to the grocery store without sweaters! The sun was shining, there was a cool breeze in the air, but essentially it was nice out. We put our faces to that bright orb in the sky and enjoyed it's warmth.

Departing from our routine, we went to a soiree at the CB Carolina Bookstore. There's always a good invited crowd at these events, and as it's pot luck there's always lots to eat and from a wide variety of sweet, savory, snacks & salads. We saw a few people we haven't seen for awhile, talked with friends and newcomers and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. A highlight of the gathering was a passing of the cup to raise funds to get a mural out of the clutches of customs in Guayaquil. This mural was created by some students in New York City paying homage to an Ecuadorian student who had been swarmed there and died from his injuries. The student was from Gualaceo, which is a village near Cuenca. The CB Carolina Bookstore has taken a lead roll, as well as a visiting New York City teacher, in organizing the transport of the mural to Gualaceo. It has been held up by customs for some time now but we were assured that the expat community had contributed enough money to free it from the bureaucratic clutches and get it to its new home. There has been National TV coverage in Ecuador regarding this saga. We will likely join a group of expats for a visit to Gualaceo for the presentation ceremony.

As we had nothing planned for Tuesday, we seized the opportunity and walked downtown to get our bus passes filled up. We do this about every 2 months and it costs us $10 each. The place we go to is a drug store just behind the 10th of August market just off Tarqui. It was a glorious day. Warm but not too hot. The sun was shining and the sky was clear. After doing our chore we sat in Parque Calderon for half an hour soaking up the rays, fending off shoe shine boys and watching other people watching people.

Shelley starts taking antibiotics on Wednesday and she gets her dental surgery on Thursday. It is a complete understatement to say she's not looking forward to the experience. She's been diligently brushing her teeth with the special brushes for gapped teeth and swirling salt water and mouth wash every 4 hours as prescribed. She has a minor fantasy that if she's particularly careful with all this pre-surgery stuff the periodontist will look in her mouth and exclaim a miracle has happened and she doesn't need the surgery. She knows it's her ever-twirling mind playing games with itself but she's hopeful just the same. Between her wrist hurting and her anxiety about her teeth, Brian's been a trooper. Attentive, sympathetic but not overly so, willing to listen when required and quietly supportive. Of course, now he wants a motorcycle like "everybody else is getting". Do you read the other blogs? Peer pressure is enormous! In any case, Shelley's reserving her admiration for Brian's ability to empathize until she's sure of his motivation. Do you think he'd trade a motorcycle for a helicopter? (Brian just jumped in and shouted: "Absolutely! And how could you possibly doubt my sincerity.")

As Brian had yet another cooking class on Wednesday, we did our morning chores and then took a walk through the neighbourhood (running into a friend). We ended up at Jo-Mar to pick up some salmon burgers and a seafood medley for chowder. Brian had tried to set up a cooking class on Tuesday as well. That one for roast lamb but they couldn't find enough people to take the class. If anyone's interested in taking a lamb class, contact us and we'll gather names until there are 6 and then contact Leslie letting her know she has a class. In any case, his class on Wednesday was for picnic food and once again there were half a dozen recipes from Swiss Chard Dolmas to strawberry salad. Any one of them would be a hit at any picnic and Brian remarked that it was a far cry from potato salad & fried chicken which seems to standard picnic fare in North America. We won't mention again that Fredi came out of her skin when Brian got home. Brian's class consisted of himself and 6 ladies. Do you think he had fun?

Aside: The other day Shelley was sitting on the balcony, reading her book, soaking up the sun which has been hiding the last few weeks...and a hummingbird pooped on her hand. Is that good luck?

Although the periodontist had told Shelley there were 4 spots that needed surgery, he only did work on 2 of them. She didn't remind him about the other 2, figuring they'd come up in the future if need be. Work was done on the lower right side and on the upper left side, so it wasn't as if he had left her with a chewing section. She was instructed to eat ice cream, soup, white bread & eggs, to ice the area for a day and to rinse with salt water lots. She was thoroughly frozen for all the work and it hurt less than getting her teeth cleaned. The periodontist gave her a prescription for some ibuprofen 600 mg but there really wasn't much pain associated with the whole thing. The total cost for the initial consultation, plus procedure, plus another appointment to get the stitches removed will be $198. While working on her teeth, the dentist assured Shelley that women were stronger than men. He explained he used to work for the army and hardened soldiers, killers of men, would cry in the chair. He also told Shelley she was young and beautiful, so the man was a total flatterer. Hard to believe these things when you're drooling down your chin, blood is spurting out of your mouth and your lips are cracking because they're so dry.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ouch...and Again

Half of us had a good day on Wednesday. Brian went to yet another cooking glass with 2 of our friends and enjoyed a bottle of wine and various appetizers. Shelley went to the periodontist. Her appointment was for 5:30 in the afternoon. The day seemed to go on forever. The periodontist was a very nice man with a pretty good grasp of English and he explained to Shelley that she had gum disease bad enough in 4 different spots that he should split the gum, clean under the gum and then stitch the gum back together. Doesn't that sound like fun!? Brian had this done several years ago and in the end it didn't do him any good as he had all but 3 of his teeth eventually removed. However, Shelley's willing to give it a try in the hopes of keeping all her own teeth. Brian meanwhile was sloshing back wine & good food. In Brian's class they had prepared 6 different hors d'oevres, all of which were delicious but Brian particularly liked a shrimp mixture on toast. Because Brian was concerned about Shelley and knew that she was upset about problems with her teeth, he left his cooking class as soon as possible and came home to offer empathy and support. Fredi, as usual, came out of her skin when both Shelley & Brian arrived home from their respective appointments.

At about 7 o'clock Thursday morning we all woke up to the bed shaking because we were experiencing an earthquake! Usually the shaking only lasts a couple of seconds, but this one went on for apparently 15 or 50 seconds according to 2 different reports; it felt like quite a long time. Various sites call it between a 6.9 and 7.2 quake. Cuenca was about 262 km from the epicentre. Nothing fell over in our apartment, Fredi was alert but not anxious and afterwards Shelley had a few more minutes of snoozing. Later Shelley thinks she found a couple more cracks in our walls (nothing serious).

We were planning on having dinner out at the La Mar Seafood Restaurant (Remigio Crespo 15-35 & Unidad Nacional) with another couple that evening, so we spent the day computering, reading and of course taking Fredi for a visit to the park. Fredi's made several friends at the park and it is nice in that she always introduces us to their owners as well. We've almost decided that the best people to practice our Spanish with are 5 year olds, although their parents, when they speak a little English, often join in the conversation. The La Mar Restaurant turned out to be a delightful surprise. Another couple we know had said that it was very good and also Brian asked the family he met in the park about the place and they said it was good, so we sat down and had a meal that completely exceeded our expectations. The seafood was beautifully prepared, the helpings were just the right size and the flavours were scrumptious. It's always fun to visit with friends and we had a terrific conversation to accompany the meal.

Since Brian's been taking the cooking classes, he's been campaigning for a food processor. We had looked in several stores but hadn't taken the plunge yet. Friday, being another coolish day, we decided to take a trip up to Coral Centro and see what they had in stock. Shelley went inside and looked around while Fredi & Brian sat outside. She came out and reported there was a nice Oster machine whereupon Brian went inside, looked around and eventually came back out with the Oster in hand. It's sort of got a blade like a helicopter don't you think?

Saturday dawned rainy, cold & miserable. Nevertheless, we had planned on taking a bit of a walk so Fredi could get her outing and we could just get out of the apartment. Shelley had washed the floors in the morning and managed to slip on the wet floor and sprain her wrist. It was quite painful but there was still mobility in the wrist so she took a couple of aspirin, put a tensor bandage on it and called it a day. A few days before she'd tripped in a pot hole on the sidewalk and small "s" sprained her ankle. "I keep hurting myself" she whined to Brian. "It's because of my stupid teeth!" Brian didn't see the correlation.

For our entertainment that afternoon we gave Fredi a bath and blow dry and then later on made a cheese roll. Shelley instructed on both jobs and Brian did the dirty work. Brian actually commented at one point: "This is fun!"

Brian's globe trotting friend Jan (formerly from Holland then Canada then Holland) is now living in Saudi Arabia, working on a high-speed rail project as one of their top engineers. From time to time, Jan'll send us pictures and we'll post some of them on the blog for interests sake. Jan tells us that quite often traffic circles will have "art" in the middle of them, as often do the traffic circles in Ecuador. Displayed on this blog is some of Saudi's art.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Trials, Tribulations & Joys

And now for some general information about Ecuador as mined from the Web: What is now Ecuador formed part of the northern Inca Empire until the Spanish conquest in 1533. It gained its independence from Spain in 1822. In 1999/2000 Ecuador suffered a severe economic crisis which came to an end in March 2000 when Congress approved a series of structural reforms that also provided for the adoption of the US dollar as legal tender. Ecuador is substantially dependent on its petroleum resources and is the largest exporter of bananas in the world. Located on the northwestern side of South America it is bordered by Colombia to the north, by Peru to the south and east, and to the west by the Pacific Ocean. The Andes mountain range crosses Ecuador smack down the middle dividing Ecuador into three regions: The Sierra (mountains), the Oriente (tropical rain forest) and the Pacific Coast. In addition, mainland Ecuador's natural diversity is complemented by the Galapagos Islands. Ecuador boasts one of the highest levels of bio-diversity in the world. For example one hectare of lowland rain forest can contain as many frog species as in all of North America; one tree can contain more ant species than in all of the British Isles combined; and of the world's known bird species (about 9,000), pint-sized Ecuador is home to over 1,500. As a result of its small size (Ecuador is only 283,560 square kilometers), all these regions can be readily visited in a short time. It's population of approximately 13.9 million is divided into ethnic divisions of something like 65% Mestizo (mixed Indigenous & White), Indigenous 25% (there are over 40 different indigenous Nations), Spanish & other European 7% and Black 3%. Every year, more and more people are discovering Ecuador, its diversity, it's near perfect climate, the low cost of living, the incredible depth of its culture and the abiding warmth and good nature of its people. It is up to the people coming in to see that Ecuador maintains its charm and be good citizens of this wonderful piece of the Earth.

There was something of a convention going on at the park on Sunday with maybe 8 or 9 ExPat couples showing up for the morning gab fest. We'd got up and put on long pants & long sleeve shirts before we left the apartment, in preparation for the weather we've been having lately, and then on our walk downtown were almost too warm. Coming back it cooled off and we even took a taxi thinking it looked like it was going to rain, but it didn't. Don't worry, we of course first stopped at the 10th of August market and picked up Brian's weekly roast pig. There was quite the line up at the booth that Brian usually goes to but he waited just the same. A couple of times back, Brian asked the lady how long it took to sell a whole pig, and he was advised that she goes through a pig a day.

Guess what we did on Monday?

One of "those days" happened on Tuesday again. That's 2 in 2 weeks. Tuesday morning we had a dentist appointment (both of us) to get our teeth cleaned. Neither of us particularly looks forward to this necessity but are at least grateful that in Ecuador we can afford the trip (today it was $20 for Brian & $89 for Shelley; Shelley has 13 times more teeth & also had x-rays). It turned out that this time it's Shelley's turn to suffer. The dentist felt she had gum disease around one tooth to the point where she needed to see a periodontist and might actually lose the tooth. That appointment was made for the next day. (Yipee!) At 1:30 in the afternoon Brian had scheduled a video interview with a fellow called Michael Karsh, who's the Producer and Host of something called SkyTree Productions. Michael had got in touch with us via the blog. During the interview with Alex Williams, they talked about the trials, tribulations & joys of being an expat in Ecuador. (Shelley & Fredi were too shy to be on video). At 2:30 we went to some friends of ours for an afternoon cracker and cheese party. We met several people that are visiting Cuenca in expectation to moving here permanently, and they were unanimous in the view that Cuenca would be a great place to retire. One couple had actually bought an apartment to come back to later. Nearly all of the new folks we met already knew us, in part, via the blog. Our friends got to show off their newly renovated apartment in the downtown historic district. They've done a lovely job of redecorating and Fredi got to meet their 2 small dogs. Fun was had by all.

We've exhausted television (all but a few shows are in repeat right now) and are reading like fiends (Stieg Larsson's trilogy has capture us). We go for our daily walk (somewhere) and follow our routine of shopping on Monday & park on Sunday but had tentatively come to the conclusion that we're stagnating a bit...and then...we have one of "those days". (Note: We're well aware our "those days" day was nothing compared to those endured during our 30's, 40's & 50's. But we're retired now and it takes less to fill that cup of angst.)

They've stopped selling baking soda in the SuperMaxi! They've stopped selling baking soda in SuperMaxi apparently because "drug dealers" (the bad guys) have been using it as part of their refining process! We're incensed! Now the bad guys have taken away our ability to make soda biscuits! This is a huge case of the out-of-control minority ruling the self-controlled majority. Can't they just stop people from buying 18 or 23 or 321 packages of baking soda? Do they have to prevent the entire population from making cookies & biscuits? True; they still sell baking powder, and many of our recipes can be converted, but still.... Do they continue to sell baking soda in North America? Is Ecuador particularly sensitive because they're living next to Columbia? OK...OK...we can live without baking soda but...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Looking Forward to the End of Winter

Recently one of our blog readers sent us an e-mail asking us what we would have done differently when moving to Ecuador. Brian wrote back telling them we would have brought fewer clothes (as we ended up not wearing quite a few of them) and less books because we discovered the CB Caroline Bookstore. Shelley (of course) disagrees with what he wrote. If there is any size to you whatsoever, bring LOTS of clothes. The Ecuadorians are a tiny people and get a lot of their clothes from China (also a tiny people). It is difficult for Brian to find pants, shirts & shoes. Guayaquil provided pants for him and he's getting his shirts custom made. Shelley, a straight medium in North America, now picks out clothes called L and XL (which is a terrible burn to her ego). As she has pretty small feet, she can manage to find shoes but for jeans she's looking in the men's department.

We brought one suitcase full of books when we originally came, not knowing if we'd be able to purchase English language novels. The CB Carolina bookstore provides an excellent selection here in Cuenca and several of our friends have recently come down with a Kindle or iPad which seem to be wonderful devices. There are certain food products that one may also wish to bring: Miracle Whip, Chili Powder, MSG-less chicken bouillon, good cheddar cheese, etc. but these things are hard to determine before you really land here. (Ask your friends to bring some later when they come to visit.) We bought all our furniture within 3 weeks and given hind sight would probably have spent a couple of weeks longer doing this chore. We got Fredi after about 6 months and have no regrets whatsoever despite the problem of leaving her somewhere if we decide to take a trip to Europe etc. In a large sense we have few regrets, which Brian also said in his e-mail, so in the end Brian & Shelley agree. Don't move if you're running away, don't move if your relationship is suffering, don't move if it seems a last ditch effort; we only allow "happy" gringo's in Ecuador.

It continued to spit rain on Wednesday and we ended up putting Fredi in her pack sack to take her to the vet so she wouldn't get too wet & dirty travelling there. She had the 2nd in a series of 3 preventative parasite medications and goes back at the end of the month for her last one. We let her walk home and as predicted she was wet up to her stomach by the time we arrived. PS:- While at the vet's office, Brian relented and we bought Fredi a jammy top to wear when it's cold in the apartment. It's pink & fuzzy and she looks darling in it! Brian goes "harrumph".

It has been somewhat of an effort lately to manage our daily outing before the rain starts. We've been leaving earlier in the day and seem to make it home just before it begins to really pour. Thursday we went downtown. Shelley only brought 1 pair of jeans from Canada and, what with the bad weather lately, she decided she needed 2 pairs in order to rotate them. We went to a store she'd noticed before and managed to get a pair of women's jeans that fit her for $25. Pretty good deal! Afterwards we stopped at Tutto Freddo for a cup of hot tea with lime and later we managed to run into 2 couples we know and chattered for just a bit on the street. One of the couples, fairly new to Cuenca, demanded to know where the weather had gone. We could only shrug.

Friday turned out to be one of those days. Our internet wasn't working when Brian got up in the morning and it still wasn't working when Shelley got up. Brian had promised to Skype his friend Jan in the A.M. but that (of course) didn't happen. Half the channels on our TV weren't coming in and it was cold in the apartment. There was no hot water. It's not that the water wasn't hot, it's that no water was coming out of the hot water taps. When eventually the net did come up we discovered one of the kids had a piece of bone lodged in her ankle tendon from an accident several years before that had heretofore been undiscovered. Her ankle was locking & she's been put on a waiting list to have surgery. Brian got hold of Jan just as he was going out to dinner.

We had decided the day before to take one of our mystery bus tours and got on the #23 bus going west. It wound its way into a fairly nice neighbourhood but there was nothing special about the destination. On the bus were 5 young boys and 4 young girls who had decided to open up all the windows and gaily hang out of them. Fredi thought it was great; Brian was somewhat disgruntled. It's cold outside too. When we disembarked at the terminus the next bus we got onto wouldn't start. The driver put it in gear and coasted just a bit down the street and it finally kick started. About 5 minutes later, the driver pulled over to the side of the road because sparks and smoke were coming from the engine compartment. Some tinkering by the driver seemed to be all it needed and we continued on our way. Brian figured that it was a loose battery connection. At Feria Libre we got out and walked the rest of the way home; Shelley thought our nerves needed the exercise. The TV was all on (albeit there was nothing worth watching), the internet was working (albeit intermittently for the rest of the day), the hot water was back (albeit somewhat discoloured), the daughter was still on a wait list for surgery (albeit 4-5 months she was advised). Brian Skyped with Jan, we ate lunch and then pretty much decided to call it a day; Brian had a nap & Shelley read. It seemed like the right thing to do.

It was hard to get motivated on Saturday to get up and out of our warm jammies to go for our daily walk with Fredi but once we did it, it turned out to be a fabulous day; much warmer than it has been lately. We only did an hour walk around the neighbourhood but managed to run into 2 couples we knew and chatted for awhile. Although the weather here is never truly bad, we have to confess that we are looking forward to the end of the Ecuadorian winter.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Little of This and That

It's Monday evening at 6 pm and the power just went out. Brian yells from the front room "The power went out!" Shelley, in the computer room, yells back, "OK....I see that".

We don't know why.

"What are we going to do?" Brian asks.
"Play crib?" Shelley replies.

We didn't have time to decide before the power came back on.

More shoe shopping on Tuesday produced 1 pair of shoes for Shelley for $13. She bargained them down from $14. Brian was disgusted. He says Shelley doesn't bargain hard enough. Shelley explains she was hard put to find a pair of shoes under $100 in Canada. Brian asks "What's your point?"

We stopped discussing the matter.

Plans had been made to meet up with some "blog people" on Wednesday but it turned out one of them got sick and they decided to truncate their vacation...thus they didn't come to Cuenca. With things up in the air about what we should do, we decided to head off to Feria Libre and buy some chicken livers to make Fredi her treats. The weather has turned again. After several glorious days it's now rainy and cool out. Even poor Fredi shivers in the apartment. Shelley tried to talk Brian into getting Fredi a sweater for these types of days but Brian just wouldn't go for it. As it was, we barely made it to Feria Libre and back before the rains started and continued for most of the day.

Yet another blog couple had e-mailed us and we decided to meet them for lunch at Raymipampa on Thursday. We both put on our rain coats & took Fredi for a quick pee before we caught a cab downtown. The folks turned out to be really great people and we had a very nice lunch together. As they were from Edmonton, Alberta Canada they appreciated the fact that Cuenca was in the middle of its winter and it didn't take much convincing to let them know most of Cuenca's days were a lot better than what they had yet seen. They told us about their various adventures travelling around Ecuador and we gave them some tips & insights into the moving process and paperwork that is required should they decide to come back full time. After lunch we sat in the park and gabbed some more until it was time to part ways.

What kind of people move to Ecuador? Are they out of their tree? Were they world travellers? Are their finances so poor they didn't have a choice? Do they speak Spanish? Well...no one is really poor; although it certainly is cheaper to live in Ecuador than most of North America, they have residency requirements that preclude the really poor. There's blue collar, white collar & professionals. It is not a requirement that you have done a lot of travelling or speak Spanish but...you must be willing to adjust & actively live with new things surrounding you. You must have patience. A sense of humour is highly desirable as is a willingness to learn new things. You must be willing to "let go" of stuff & people & places. When we lived on the boat we'd always be carefull to tell people "it's not for everyone" and Ecuador is the same. To be absolutely honest, at this point we'd like to slam the door and advise that Ecuador is now full. We don't want to see it become "spoiled" and changed too much via rampant immigration...but change is inevitable and should be embraced and doesn't always mean the end of something good. Our advice is always to come down for several months and see how it suits you. If while you're down here you decide to come back to stay, contact a local lawyer regarding the current immigration rules. What kind of people move to Ecuador? The answer is all kinds.

That time of month seems to come so quickly but off we went again on another round of paying the bills. First to the Pago place to pay our cold water & electricity, next hop on a #28 bus to the ETAPA place downtown and pay our internet bill, next to the bank to pay our rent and lastly to a phone place to pick up a new pay-as-you-go card for the phone. Sometimes the line-up was short and easy and sometimes the line-up was long and interminable but we managed to make it through the whole procedure in a couple of hours and were home in plenty of time for Brian to have his nap.

With nothing special planned for Saturday, we headed down town just for the walk. We window shopped and managed to buy yet another blouse for Shelley plus a spoon holder for the kitchen counter. We stopped in at the CB Carolina bookstore and chatted with Carol & Lee for a bit. We ended up walking down to the broken bridge and decided at that point, since we were so close to the place, we'd stop in and get Brian a bunch of empanadas; which we did. After we picked up a dozen, which they packaged in a small box, we caught the bus and wafted the good smell of fresh baking throughout on our ride home.

Sunday we went down to the park, gabbed with people, picked up roast pig...you know, the usual. Monday we went shopping (more of the usual) and gabbed with a another couple we met in the store. At home again, Shelley made microwave cheesecake and a new cheese puff appetizer she's trying out as we're having company for dinner on Tuesday. PS: - We don't particularly recommend the cheese puffs (oh well). Tuesday we took Fredi for a couple of walks and mostly puttered around the house. Brian prepped vegetables for our dinner guests and we generally had a quiet day. That evening we had 3 people over for dinner (all 3 new to Ecuador). Brian cooked lomo fino (tenderloin steak) and roasted potatoes. We got to know each other a little better, ate too much and generally had a good time.