Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Transformed to ECUADOG!

This morning started at 4AM. I was on my way to Atlanta to the Consular of Ecuador's office. After having Nick's health certificate endorsed by the USDA, it had to be legalized by the Ecuadorian Consulate. My flight was to leave at 7:15. It was 7:45 when we left. Hartsfield was as it usually is...busy.

In addition to the embassy in Washington, there are consular offices in various American cities. The one in Atlanta is located in an office building at 5505 Roswell Road. I expected flags and guards as with an embassy; however, there was simply a plague at the entrance to the building.

This is Patricia Boezio who is originally from Cuenca. She is a Consul Ad-honorem, which means that it is not a paid position. She is standing in front of a painting by her favorite Ecuadorian artist, I believe his name is Guayasamin. She was extremely cordial and was delighted to be of help.
My driver for the excursion was Aymar Hizekiel. He dropped me off and picked me up later.

Below is the prize that we sought. The back of Nick's health certificate was stamped with holographic stamps with monetary values totaling $50, which is the amount paid by money order. This one and all copies were stamped with the consular seal and signed by Patricia.
I made it back to the airport in plenty of time for my 2:45 flight back to Charlotte. Of course, it did not happen at 2:45. We were an hour late leaving this time. "Delta is ready when you are!"
Charlotte was a happy sight when I finally got here. I made it home by 5:15.

Today, Nikolas was transformed to Ecuadog, and he doesn't know the difference.

Time is really speeding up; we've less than a week now. We've shipped our things and legalized Nick. The one big thing remaining regards the estate. The sale of the house did not happen in a timely manner and is still uncertain; as a result, Mick is giving power of attorney to a friend in order to close on the house and the estate, whenever that may be. Our plans were too far along to change as this point and we all wanted to go down together. This is best. We'll be in Cuenca next week! Unbelievable!

Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Monday, August 16, 2010

Nick Has the USDA Stamp of Approval

Today is the beginning of Nick's 10 days to enter Ecuador. In order to import a pet into Ecuador, there are steps that must be taken within a 10 day period. Step 1 is the health certificate. A health certificate must be completed by a USDA certified veterinarian. The certificate must have an address for the US as well as an address for Ecuador. Mick is writing down our Cuenca address.

Nick and I are waiting for his exam. All of his shots had previously been done. The only additional vaccine that was required that is not standard here was the corona. Last week blood work and fecals were done. The physical this morning was mainly a formality.

Here's Nikolas with his doctor, Jill. She's expecting a little girl next month.

After his exam, Nikolas was passed off to Katie to go to daycare while we went to Raleigh.

The paperwork was being finished up and Renee and Jill were posing for the camera.

Step 2 is to get an endorsement by the US Department of Agriculture. Mick and I were on our way to Raleigh to the USDA office of Veterinary Services. This office is on the campus of North Carolina State University. Although by degree we are not Wolfies, but we've always been followers of the Pack for decades. This was our last trip to the State Campus.

At the USDA, Keith Price reviewed Nick's file. The certificate contains his shot records as well as the microchip number. A copy of the rabies certificate also was included. The price for this was $35; cash is not accepted.

Below is the finished document with the official seal of the USDA embossed at the bottom along with the signature of the state veterinarian.

On Wednesday, I will take this USDA endorsed document to the Consulate of Ecuador in Atlanta for legalization; that is step 3. Nick must now enter Ecuador within 10 days. We arrive on August 25.

For those who don't have pets, this all seems irrelevant; however, for those of us with pets, they are our children. We will do what is necessary for them. There are companies that will take care of all the documentation and transportation for the pets; one such company is Pet Express, in San Francisco. Nick will be traveling in the cabin with us; therefore, no assistance is needed with that. At the suggestion of our vet, I did double check with Mark-Paul at Pet Express. He was very helpful and confirmed what I had found. The consulate in Washington and Atlanta were very helpful also with their information.

We're now one day closer to Cuenca, with one less thing to worry about. Besides, Nick has the USDA stamp of approval.

Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Everyone's Planning a Trip

It seems that everyone is planning a trip these days. That includes our little migratory creatures the hummingbirds and monarch butterflies. In the Charlotte area, we have ruby throats and these little guys have been scurrying around relentlessly in recent days. It is about time for them to depart for Central America. We're always amazed that they make this journey.

It's difficult to keep the feeders filled. When we leave the feeders will be freshly filled and hopefully that will be enough before they begin their long journey. After ours begin their migration, we always have others that stop in on their vacation.
The monarchs are especially busy also. I can't remember when I've seen so many. The buddlea in our backyard continuously has multiple visitors flittering around. The picture below was taken from the backporch at the home of Dale and Joan.

It was very pleasant, a slight breeze and a lot of conversation. They're planning to come to Cuenca in February.

I think Mick was telling a joke.

I have a weakness for stained glass so I had to have a picture of this from their dining room.

Sunday morning, our neighbor, Robert, came over to "clean out" the garage of stuff that you always need occassionally and never have, a lot of "fix it" stuff.

In the afternoon, we had dinner with Richard and Amy Griffin at Bonefish. They're a lot of fun! They've been following several of the blogs for sometime now. As it turns out, Amy knew Ed Staton back in high school and was surprised to find out that he's now in Cuenca. Richard and Amy will be visiting in the spring and are planning to relocate in a couple of years.

The weekend was relaxing but we're expecting a hectic week. The paperwork begins for Nikolas this morning. Our time here is quickly coming to an end and we're getting closer to Cuenca.

Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Never Too Busy for Tamales

These are very busy times. Everyday is begun with our list for the day which includes "must do" and "want to do". The want to do list usually reverts to another list, which is restaurants that we want to visit before we leave. Tuesday we had lunch at our favorite Charlotte delicatessen that has been open for decades, Leo's. Today was Leo's last day for business. There was a problem with the renewal of the lease, but hopefully, it will reopen at another location soon. At one time, it was the only place to get a pastrami or a decent Reuben in Charlotte. Mick loves the hot pastrami on rye.

My favorite is the Reuben.

This is Leo's.

Our belongings were picked up on Monday and we've been waiting for the cost. We thought we'd have it on Tuesday; one of the crates had to be customized, packed and weighed. The information had to go to corporate. We finally received the numbers at 5PM yesterday. Mick was given a award and offered a job with Carey Moving.

Joan and Mike were both in the office today and said the crate is designed for 1200 pounds. One had over 2000. They said that every inch had to have been used. We are shipping a total of 2735 pounds at a cost of $9200, which includes door-to-door, insurance, and port charges. The lift vans are being transported to Miami to a ship. We will receive updates through out the transport. The staff of Carey Moving, which is a part of Allied, have worked very dilligently in making our relocation as smooth as possible. The anticipated length is 25 to 45 days. I told Mick that by the time we get the crates that we will have forgotten what we packed and it will be just like Christmas!

This morning we drove to their office to pay. Payment had to be received prior to shipping. We saw the banded and marked lift vans, hopefully not for the last time. The one in front has been modified and is about 1/3 of the size of the second. I forgot the camera, so this is a phone shot.
The afternoon was reserved for a cooking lesson with Denis. Centhia was coming to help also. Mick insisted that the kitchen was too small for him and three women; therefore, he was leaving. The agenda today was tamales. Tamales are one of my favorite things. I've always wanted to make them.

I know that tamales are a part of many ethnic cuisines, including Cuban and Andean, and are always on the menus at restaurants. In the home, I've known them to be made only at holidays, perhaps because it is somewhat of a social event and it is extremely labor intensive.

We were going to make pork and cheese filled tamales. Last night I cooked a Boston butt with bay leaves, onions, and garlic. When Denis arrived, she made a sauce of guajillo chiles, garlic, and cumin. We pulled the pork and put it in the sauce to cook.

The masa had to be made. The corn flour was mixed with shortening, lard, pork broth, and leavening agents.

The masa requires much kneading, which was tiring. God bless the little ladies all over the world that sit on the street selling tamales. We all eventually used our muscles.

Here is Denis filling one of the husks.

Centhia made them as well.

This is our pot of tamales after being steamed.
The fruit of our labors!

Mick returned just in time for the reward. He sincerely said that they were the best that he had ever eaten.
We shamelessly gorged ourselves. Denis and I were both thrilled and Centhia was surprised. I will now be able to indulge our tastebuds with Mexican tamales during our future in Cuenca. They really were quite delicious. The tamales are comprised of such simple ingredients, but combined with the right know how, a perfect blend of flavor is created.

As we are bustling around taking care of last minute things, Nikolas is on his regular routine, going to daycare everyday. Below is Chelsea bringing him out for me to take him home.

When I picked him up, I told Renee about the tamales and she wanted some. Mick and I went back to take her some tamales. She agreed that they were great.

The list of things to do continues, but we continue to have time to visit with friends and go to places we want to see or dine in one more time. Our crates are on their way and very soon we will be also.

Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Monday, August 9, 2010

It's Really Happening!

Recent days have been extremely hectic with last minute details, things to purchase, things to pack. However, we have taken the time to see friends. Last week, we had dinner and coffee with the Lances, who are planning a trip to Cuenca around February.

We also had met Monica Vaca and her friend Eric for dinner. Monica is from Bolivia and worked for us temporarily. She is delightful.
Saturday brought an interruption of our plans for dinner with Richard and Amy Griffin who live in Matthews and have Cuenca in their future also. We had to drive down to Aiken, SC, for an unexpected family matter, which gave the opportunity to say goodbye to cousins.

But today finally arrived, after much talk, much work, and much anticipation. Today, THE MOVERS CAME! We were expecting them to arrive between 8:30 and 10:30; therefore, Nick was, once again, shuffled off to daycare early. The moving truck rolled down our street around 10AM. All the boxes that had filled empty space for days were going to be carted away.

Mick and I had packed everything with the exception of large pictures and the floor lamp. Every box was stuffed with things that we felt would help with our transition to our new home. Below is the lift van. We had reserved two of them. The dimensions are 7 x 7 x 4 ft.

Before the boxes are packed, the crate, which is made of heat-treated wood and caulked, is lined with plastic.

The boxes were rolled out.

Scott expertly prepared the pictures, wrapping and then stuffing them in cardboard "envelopes".

The paper work was handled by Ralph. As we packed the cartons, extensive lists were made. The official inventory was done by Ralph, who was also the driver. Below is Mick signing off on everything. There were copies of our passports in addition to an EIN (employer identification number), which is obtained from the IRS.

One of the lift vans was completely and snuggly filled; however, the second would probably be less than half full. In the case of the second, the boxes were placed in the truck and the lift van will be modified when it reaches the warehouse. Tomorrow we will know the weight.

Scott closed and secured everything.

Ralph waved good-bye as they drove off with our belongings.
The truck sped away, just a step in a long process and a long journey. Our "weighted base line " for determining what we were shipping was "is it worth $4/pound to have this?" Roughly speaking, the shipping is costing $4 per pound; with that as a guide, it was much less expensive to ship some items than to purchase them there. Examples that are cheaper to ship are a Kitchen Aid stand mixer and the LED TV. Somethings don't involve cost, but the fact that they are essentially apart of you, photos, antiques and the like. It ends up being your preference and what is right for you. For Mick and me, this is what we wanted to do. The projected ship time is 30 to 50 days. I'm optimistic in saying the end of September, Mick, the realist, is saying mid-November. Whenever it happens, it happens. Until then we'll manage as we have been doing since we began selling and packing.

At any rate, in having a moving truck at our driveway, it makes everything seem REALLY real; this IS happening. The little bumps and inconveniences that we have and will experience along the way are all part of the journey.

Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tacos, Tacos

When we began planning our final days at our home in Charlotte, we knew that the packing would taking priority. However, a MUST was to continue learning from Denis the art of Mexican cuisine. Denis is an excellent cook. Yesterday, after a little packing, time was spent in the kitchen. Previously, she had gotten us a tortilladora from Mexico. It is handmade and had to be packed for shipping. Below is a picture of this amazing device.

Denis is very much in her element in kitchen. She makes tortillas every morning and again in the evening. Today, I practiced making the masa and pressing the tortillas.

Mick helped out with the prep work for the tacos. Here he is chopping onions, cilantro, and lettuce. We were working with an almost bare kitchen. Denis would look for a utensil and I would remind her that it had been packed or she had it. There were a lot of laughs.

I do not yet have the finesse with the device that Denis does, so she gave further instruction.

Below is one of the finished products. The tacos were absolutely delicious and we all gorged ourselves. We used three different meat fillings, lingua, asado pork from Mexico, and ground beef. The seasonings were perfect. All were absolutely wonderful. I was quite proud of our finished product. These will be shared with our friends in Cuenca. Next week, we're making tamales; of course, Denis must bring a steamer.

There are many facets of preparation for our exodus in progress, one of them is Nick. He has been getting tests done and today, he had his teeth cleaned. Little did he know last night when I took the picture of him that he would be seeing a white coat today. He was a little trooper of course and his teeth are pearly white.

The packing must be completed tomorrow. Mick has a meeting in Lexington, again. Time is ticking away. The movers will be here on Monday and in less than three weeks we will be in a new climate, a new home.

Until next time,
Mick and Kathy