Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Hallelujah! After months of looking at our barren hummingbird feeder, we finally have a visitor. Eventually we'll try and get a picture but they're quite skittish. We can sit in our computer room and watch it feed and it's a sight to behold. We're very pleased. Brian's been poised with the camera patiently waiting on several occasions. He's managed a couple of blurry shots but nothing worth "writing home about" yet.

As our income tax package was not arriving from Canada, our daughter suggested we download the forms from internet. What a concept! She emailed us our tax slips (as she'd previously scanned them) and we set about calculating our obligation to Canada. Turns out we both get a refund! Shelley is very pleased the waiting & wondering is over. (We hate doing income tax.) We had put together a small package of trinkets for the kids in Vancouver, so went to DHL to see how much it would cost to courier that package & our income tax papers back to Shelley's oldest daughter for distribution. Total cost $125! We demurred. Next we went to the post office and express mailed the income tax for $25 and snail mailed the other package for $28. They say the express mail will arrive in 4 days and the snail mail in 12 days (working days that is) but we're not holding our breath for that promise. It's been a total of 21 days so far since our daughter sent off the package to us from Canada and it still hasn't arrived.

When we first came to Ecuador for our holiday in February/March 2008, Shelley politely went up to an elderly indigenous woman and asked her if she could take her picture. That woman, in Spanish, ripped into Shelley up one side and down the other. Our Spanish at that time was muy poco, but Shelley did know how to say, "No entiendo". This did not appease the woman. She continued to berate Shelley until we walked away. We've been told later we probably got the harangue because we didn't offer her any money. We're not sure about that. The woman was very indignant. After that, Shelley surreptitiously took pictures of the indigenous people from bus windows & across streets. We now have a secret weapon; Fredi. So far we have not met anyone who wasn't eager and happy to have their picture taken with Fredi. What a wonderful ambassador she is!

More Spanish: if you look up "por" and "para" in a Spanish/English dictionary, you'll be told that both of them mean "for". Getting deeper into the language you come to understand "para" is used for destination, limitation & purpose. The ship left for/para Spain. Para is also used when there is a time limit or inequality and to replace the words "in order to". "Por" is used when saying through or along, in behalf of, in favour of, instead of; when it's used for motive, manner or "in exchange for" or when talking about an indefinite time or place. Por is also used for measure or number and after verbs such as ir (to go), mandar (to send), volver (to return) & venir (to come). "Estar para" means "about to" and "estar por" means "in the mood". Para = in order to; por = to be done.

We had a poco argument the other day with an Ecuadorian as to which language was harder to learn; Spanish or English. Shelley stood firm that Spanish was harder especially if you were over 40; Brian, quoting from other people, said English was harder & our Ecuadorian friend agreed with both of us. Now that's a diplomat!

As Brian basically hadn't bought any clothes since we came to Ecuador, we decided to head out and see if we could get him a pair of jeans. Brian's a big man and Shelley had commented to him just the other day that he must feel like a giant a lot of the time. "You'll feel short when we go back to Canada for a visit" she told him. We dropped into several stores before jeans in his size were found but we did find them. They ended up costing pretty much what you'd pay for jeans in Canada though. We also bought him a football shirt in the same colour & style used for the Ecuadorian soccer team. The shirt was extra-large and it would have been better XXL but no such size existed in this garment. Brian told the salesman in halting Spanish that now that we lived in Ecuador we wanted to support the local team. "Yay Ecuador!" The salesman thought that was pretty all right. Note: anywhere on the planet outside of North America soccer is called football. People in Ecuador generally consider the American game of football to be a foolish and somewhat effete endeavour.

In a country where most of the population looks somewhat alike, there must be assimilation and feelings of belonging that a Canadian could not possibly understand. We keep telling our Ecuadorian friends & acquaintances about Canada being a country of immigrants. On a Vancouver bus, one can easily hear 3 or 5 different languages and there are orientals & asians & nordics & hispanics and blonds & redheads & grey heads & thick black hair & thin light brown haired people crowding the streets. Ecuadorians always seem so surprised we'd immigrate to their country. We explain about our pension income going farther & exclaim about their wonderful weather and the cold in Canada and still they seem surprised. No one in Canada would be surprised at an immigrant, most of us only go back a generation or two as it is. These days we're getting "happy" surprise as we stumble with our Spanish and demonstrate our willingness to learn. We're not stared at on the bus any more as now we're old regulars. Shelley still, from time to time, gets struck by a home sickness. In Canada she sometimes found it hard to understand this in new immigrants. Now she can empathize. Knowing you're a native brings an inalienable confidence. Still, people ask us if we're happy about our decision to live in Cuenca and we always tell them "yes" and mean it.

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