Monday, September 8, 2008

Yin & Yang

After having the camera stolen and having to buy a new one, it somehow put the brakes on Shelley's desire to spend money. We're pretty much stocked up anyways, with wants rather than needs coming up in the spending department, so it all co-ordinated. "It just took the heart out of me for awhile" Shelley explained to Brian. "I want to live on our budget and see how much we really spend each month; get an idea of how much we'll be able to save." The idea is to save enough each year to be able to take a fabulous holiday (to Holland to see Jan, to Canada to see the kids, to Galapagos to see the penguins). We'd talked about taking a small holiday to the coast or Vilcabamba but she even put a kibosh on that. "I just want to be for awhile, get used to the place, live day to day." Brian was curious but ultimately agreed.

It has been suggested to us that Ecuador is not a country of true poverty because food is plentiful and easy to grow. There are 3 major People's Markets in Cuenca where you can buy anything from clothes to kitchen utensils to puppies and all of them have a huge fruits & vegetable market. We can usually buy enough fruit to feed us breakfast for a week for about $3.50. We've been told it's OK to buy chicken at the People's Market because Ecuadorians eat so much chicken "It'll be fresh" but were cautioned to get our beef at SuperMaxi or one of the upscale meat markets. Buns and bread can be purchased just about anywhere (bakeries abound) and we can get enough flaky buns for the 2 of us for breakfast for a week for about $2.85.

"Don't think that all the indigenous people are poor" we were told. "They've usually got 1 or 2 members of their family working in the United States and sending back money. Some of them live in huge houses (!) on the outskirts of town." You do see more people on the street with infirmities than you see in Canada; legs missing, blind people, withered arms. This may be because they don't have a good welfare system like they do in Canada; we don't know.

Cuenca is noted to be a city with less thievery than Guayaquil or Quito. We did spend almost 2 months here before we had an incident. In Vancouver, several years ago, we had our car stolen. It happens everywhere. The women who stole our camera were not indigenous and were not poorly dressed. They had bags with fruit from the market that they indignantly opened to show us. There is some "all gringos are rich" attitude and therefore sinless prey. We are fairly careful not to flaunt by wearing jewelry and such things. We've come to this country because our retirement income will stretch farther (among other reasons). We will not be a burden on any economic systems within Ecuador and can only help by spending our dollars but we're sadly more aware now and will take even better care.


Friday night took us to ExPat night yet again. We met a journalist that sells real estate, a lady from France/Africa and another woman from Vermont. "How come everybody we meet here has just arrived or only been in Cuenca a few months?" Brian asked. We discussed the weather: "If I'm going to live on the equator, I want to be some place warmer" one woman commented. Dressing for Cuenca: "I've bought 3 sweaters from the market near the church in the middle of town, one for evening, a light one for afternoons and a medium one for mornings. That does the trick!" Shelley advised. Lawyers: "Hire a lawyer from Quito not Cuenca. They get the job done much faster" we were told. We also talked about herbal medicine, the pros and cons of taking altitude pills, the radio business and were given a card to see a display of mosaics done by a local artist (Liza Wheeler).

Since we've been back in Ecuador Shelley's been taking pictures of doors. Ecuadorians seem to have a high door pride and fabulous carved wooden doors and intricate metals door abound. All the door pictures (about 40), except for a few placed on the blog, were lost with the camera. Sunday we set out to downtown Cuenca specifically to try and recreate some of the pictures. When we finally get internet at home again, the door pictures will be placed in an album in Facebook. We had a good day and got about 20 door pictures and ended up in a part of Cuenca we'd never been before. Wandering down the street 3 teenage boys came up to us and begged for money. Brian said "no" and one of the boys yelled at us. Simultaneously we both shouted back "NO!" The teenager looked for shocked for a minute, then laughed out loud and waved his 2 friend away. We watched them swagger down the street for awhile and noticed that a security guard had come out of one of the buildings wondering what was going on. "I was scared there for a second" Shelley commented to Brian.

When we came for our holiday previously, we both suffered from diarrhea several times during our 2 months here. Since returning neither one of us has had a bout. We think this is because during our holiday we drank fresh squeezed fruit juice just about every day. In the better establishments they use bottled water to supplement the juice but some places obviously use tap water. Since returning and getting our apartment, we've been making our own juice using bottle water. We've recently, however, started to brush our teeth using tap water as we've been told this is the beginning of the process to get used to the water. So far so good!

Another advantage to being in an apartment rather than on the boat is the cooking facilities. The boat had an ornery diesel stove and we supplemented that with a one burner hot plate and a microwave. We've gotten into the habit over the years of cooking a large meal and and then eating it for 2 or 3 days. This habit continues to do us in good stead but having 4 burners and an oven that doesn't belch diesel smoke when you light it is a wonder! Even Shelley, never noted for her love of cooking, has made lasagna and stuffed cannelloni. "It's so easy when you've got the room."

Shelley continues to have bouts of homesickness. People ask her if she misses Vancouver and her reply is always "No, it's the kids." Her children are both grown, living on their own, and quite self sufficient so she never dreamed being so far away from them would be so hard. We're hoping when we get internet at home at the end of September that it'll ease the problem. "The little rats, all they ever did was ask for money or make me feel guilty" she jokingly muses. "Perhaps I'm missing the guilt?"

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