Thursday, May 20, 2010

Grateful For the Time

In the comment section of our blog someone named Anonymous asked us what our annual expenses have been in Ecuador for the last two years. The following is a monthly breakdown. One would multiply this by 24 to get an estimate for 2 years. Rent $300, Maintenance $75, Groceries $400, Utilities & water $30, Transportation $10, TV $35, Internet $35, Telephone $10.

Everything else is a variable, really. We eat out about once a week for about $25 (wine & tip included). We take a holiday here in Ecuador every 4 months or so and this usually costs us around $300. Brian goes to the dentist every 3 months ($20) and Shelley every 6 months ($55). We give money to charities. We buy clothes from time to time but a custom made shirt for Brian costs around $25 and we spend about $50 a month on books. We spent $5000 on health care earlier this year but that was a bargain (if such a thing can be said about health care). A regular visit to a Doctor costs around $25. Concerts are often free in Cuenca and one of our main sources of entertainment is walking (we need the exercise). Videos are $1.50 to purchase. Brian's been taking cooking classes recently for $20 a class but don't forget this includes a meal.

Anonymous suggested that we were careful with our money but we don't really feel that way. We live the way we like to live and don't have to worry about money. That's one of the many reasons we chose to live in Ecuador. Please note: In order to get a indefinite pensioners' visa one must have an income of at least $800 U.S. net per month. Another way to get a visa is to put up a $25,000 bond or buy property here. As mentioned in our last blog, one should come for a holiday first to determine if Ecuador is the right place for "you". If your answer is "yes", you should check with a reputable Ecuadorian lawyer while here to find out the current regulations. Gringo night in Cuenca is a good source of information to find a decent lawyer or realtor.

At Parque Calderon on Sunday it was one of those perfect days. Although fairly hot, as we sat on a bench in the shade for over an hour, there was just the slightest of breezes cooling us off. Perfect. We watched the people saunter around the park, the kids getting their pictures taken on the stuffed horses, the giant Barney blowing bubbles in the wind and we fended off young boys wanting to polish our shoes. We listened to the Sound of Silence on pan flute played by 2 young men in North American Indian costumes (complete with head dress & fringed buckskin shirt) along with the shrieks of the comedy play coming from the gazebo. Brian got his roast pig and we sauntered home in the heat. If this is winter, we certainly can handle it.

The other day we got an email from a blog friend teasing us about calling Brian's Sunday treat "roast pig" instead of pork. Brian wrote back explaining that they roasted entire pigs, legs & head & even tail on a spit so it seemed more appropriate to call the meal roast pig. Not quite believing, our blog friend wrote back somewhat amazed and commented it must be a piglet. No, no it's not, it's an entire full size roast pig and you see them everywhere. On the side of the road in the country when you're travelling on a bus. In all the public markets, pulled apart, but with the head bravely sitting there advertising the product. You see them at every fair as well as cuy (guinea pig) being turned over hot coals. We've posted pictures of the roasting pigs from time to time and will do it again. It's a taste treat that tourists will often forgo being afraid of gastric distress, but Brian has it every week and from several different places and has never had any trouble. See here for the last pic we posted. This poor pig is pretty much picked over but note the pig's ear is almost the same size as the man's hand.

On Monday, Shelley had a doctor's appointment so we did our weekly shopping on Tuesday instead. Poor Fredi had to suffer all by herself for a couple of hours 2 days in a row. Wednesday, Brian ran a few chores by himself (Poor Fredi suffered without Brian). On Thursday we headed downtown to the Post Office and also into the San Blas church neighbourhood as we haven't been there for almost a year. They were doing construction on the street, taking up paving stones and digging a ditch for a new sewer system. This encompassed 4 or 5 blocks of Simon Bolivar. We sat in the shade of a tree in the square in front of the church and watched the workers & enjoyed the pleasant breeze. Watching the world go by has become just about our favourite pastime.

Let's talk about the river outside our window. We've shown several pictures of people washing their clothes in the river but it has a life much bigger than that. Right now there's a couple cleaning window screens in the river. There's a small pick-up truck parked beside them and they've come down to do a good job on their window screens. Often we'll see people fishing in the river, with a net and less often with a rod. If the river is way down and one tributary around the small island is empty, we know there'll be power rationing. If the river is way up and pushing over the grass and the stump at the end of the island, it's been raining biblical rain. We note that about once a year the rat population on the river bank has a brief explosion, although you almost never see them in the day time. Children play in the river, we've seen people washing themselves in the river, from time to time a carcass will float down from the hills.

We lived on the ocean for many years (which qualifies us as serious water people) and perhaps don't miss it as much as one would expect, partly because we have this river roaring past our apartment. At night, if the mind is whirling, one only has to make a point of listening to the river and all becomes calm. People walk their dogs along side the river. Lovers find a quiet moment under the trees near the river. We often see families picnicking along the river. Turn off the TV, stop talking, and there's the river. Omnipresent. We left the ocean and one day we'll leave "the river" but we're grateful for the time we will have had with both.

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