Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nothing's Perfect

Regardless of where you are, nothing is ever perfect. Since beginning our new life in Ecuador, things have gone smoothly, more so than for many about which I've heard horror stories. In less than a week, we had furniture, internet, satellite TV, and orders for other necessities. Sometimes things don't go quite so smoothly, but that's life, not Cuenca.

Our area of Cuenca, which is called Tres Puentes, is usually very quite. The busy time for Av. Primero de Mayo is very early in the morning and then it spaces out during the day, with a little extra in the early evening. As I write this, the traffic is a bit heavy, probably due to the fact that the police, supported by the air force are on strike. Mick and Henry are out and about and called to tell me not to go walking with Nick. Some of the streets are blocked downtown and another friend called to say that the stores were closing in El Centro.

It seems that President Correa signed a new law that cuts the benefits of police. Therefore, they have gone on strike, creating havoc. The strike is taking place in Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca. Mick ran into the Cerwins, who were suppose to leave today; however, the airport has been closed so their plans are uncertain. Life goes on; nothing is perfect. We were stranded in Sao Paulo a few years ago because Varig went bankrupt during our stay there. I know how they feel.

Last night, the Rosses, Carlos, Henry, Mick, and I went to Tiestos. Of course the food was wonderful, the company was even better. Below is the group: Henry, Kathy, Mick, Rod, Shelly, Dory, and Carlos. They finally have a competent architect for their project.

This week, we finally took the plunge and began Spanish lessons. It seems that some expats arrive and think that Spanish is something that you can learn instantly. They take hours and hours of classes immediately upon arriving. This is followed by hours of homework. Burn out occurs quickly. We are retired and not attempting to earn another degree. Mick and I are using the slow method. Together, we take 2 lessons each week for one and a half hours. We don't do grueling homework; however, we talk about it and practice with each other. The classes have actually been fun. We are retired. The language will come. Mick's goal is to speak with the competency of a 5 year old after living here for 5 years. This is doable. Below is our teacher, Fernando Quito, who comes to our home to instruct two sharp minds.
As stated earlier, we have encountered gliches as well as perfection since arriving. We have heard tales of being put off for deliveries, etc. All of our deliveries have been timely, probably more so than any we had in Charlotte. In Charlotte, you were given a window for delivery or for a service call. Here, you're given a specific time and our deliveries have been on time within a few minutes.

A couple of weeks ago, we ordered curtains. The fabric selection at Artex was unbelievable. I ordered drapes for the office and drapes and sheers for our bedroom. They were to be installed on September 16, which they were. The sewing skill was of high quality; however, the only fabric that was correct was the sheers. I went completely berserk, embarrassed Mick, myself, and probably even Nikolas, who didn't even know what was going on. The ladies doing the installation spoke only Spanish and mine is limited. They completed the installation and the representative who speaks English said by phone that they would take care of it. The office drapes below were suppose to be green stripe, not hideous gold. Gina called on Monday morning to remind us to come by and select fabric. We went in on Monday afternoon and the new drapes should be installed on Friday. Hopefully, they will be the correct color.

Mick had been anxiously awaiting the barstools that he had ordered from Renee at Dormizariato. This company did a wonderful job with our bedroom furniture. We brought the swivels and the fabric from the States. The chairs were delivered yesterday and are very sturdy and BIG. There was a slight breakdown in communication with the diminsions. The measurements that Mick had given as the finished size, Renee took as the height at the base, resulting in a barstool that is too tall. Here is the finished product.
Because of the height, Mick preferred the plastic chairs at breakfast. Gabriella chose to sit on one of the barstools. The barstools are so heavy, I can barely pick one up. They were picked up this afternoon to be reworked.
Also delivered with the barstools was the long awaited chest for the end of our bed. The chest is beautiful, very well made; however, with the amount of stuffing in the upholstery, it is too tall for Nick. We're using instead of a chair at the window. Don't ask Renee for stuffing unless you REALLY want it.
I was working on this post and Mick called and said to meet them downstairs because we were going to Tarqui. Actually, we went to Giron. Henry's grandparents live in Giron. There is a wealth of vegetation. They had beautiful collards, or colchouchoa. This is a babaco tree.They also grow coffee. The beans were much larger than those I've picked in Brasil.

These are still ripening.

The courtyard is covered with all kinds of plants.

There is a container for an open fire. Beans were cooking over the flame.

Henry and Mick with fresh cups of coffee.

This helper is roasting coffee.
Henry's grandfather, shelling corn for the chickens.
Henry's grandmother
More coffe roasting.
One of the balconies
After roasting, the coffee must be ground.

The drive to Giron was magnificent. There are many dairy farms. There is a visible change in soil. About half way from Cuenca to Giron, the soil changes from the black volcanic soil so prevalent here to a sandy soil, indicative of having been underwater at some point in history. We felt so honored to have shared Henry's grandparents with him. All the unrest in Quito seemed a million miles away.
When we returned to Cuenca, Bob and Elaine, who were unable to leave this morning, came over for dinner. Everyone left early due to an 8 o'clock curfew. With the events of the day, coups, strikes, riots and the like, even this fabulous country is not perfect; but, afternoons in Giron almost are.

Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Flowers Everywhere

This week has brought about the usual mix of errands and dinners out with friends. The Pangborns left over the weekend to return in January as our neighbors and the Cerwins will leave tomorrow, returning later in the year to check on their new apartment in the building next to us. The Rosses are in town checking on their project; we've had a lot of catching up to do with them. Last night was a puppies' night out at the Reeves-Miles home. Brian's stew was delicious.

In running errands, and just walking about, I've noticed the gardens in the neighborhood. This is such a great climate for plants. The plants that we were continuously planting in Charlotte, or had to keep indoors permanently, thrive here. Below are some pictures that I've just taken around our neighborhood.

The bouganvilleas are especially lovely.

This is my favorite. There is a large bed of Nile grass, with alliums in front. It is so well manicured.
Monday after returning from errands and lunch with the Grimms, we sat by the river. There is always something going on. This fellow was catching dinner. The Yanuncay apparently has a lot of trout in it. There is no fly fishing done here; nets are used. Here he is bringing in the net.

As he emptied his net, he would toss the trout onto the bank. His family would then string them.

There are usually cows grazing. They sometimes have to be led to the river for a drink of water.

I had to make a visit to the bank on Tuesday. At Banco Pinchincha, there is a new employee, Veronica, who is fluent in English, which is a big help. While waiting for Mick and Henry, who were on another errand, to pick me up. I took some pictures of the statues on Av. Solano. Cuenca, as with other South American cities, Cuenca honors their heroes with statues and street names. Below is Remigio Crespo; I'm uncertain as to the significance of the young ladies dancing behind him. This is Begnino Malo, an educator.
Sitting in front of the bank, was a local woman. It is common to see the local women shielding themselves from the sun with folded blankets or wraps.

We then went in search of plants for the terrace, ending up at a garden center called Bambu. There was a very nice selection of plants. We selected pots and plants. They repotted and delivered them.
Here's Mick repotting the bouganvillea that we purchased at the flower market in El Centro.

Here are some of the plants after being positioned on the terrace. The plants are beautiful and the different colors and textures add a lot to the terrace.

This is a planter that we put on the wall.

This is the bouganvillea that Mick repotted.

An expanded view
The flowers for the week are sunflowers, in Spanish, girasol.
Flowers are such an important part of the decor here. Everywhere you look are fresh flowers. They are very affordable here. The sunflowers came from the florist next door to our edificio and were $3. Flowers are a beautiful part of the Cuencan culture, just one more thing to love here.
Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Every Day is a New Day

Wherever our travels have taken us, markets have always been a source of interest. Cuenca is no exception. Saturday we shopped at Feira Libre for vegetables. There was an abundance of seafood and vegetables. Along with the masses of people, we had to dodge a side of beef coming down one of the aisles. There was of variety of sad looking pets and even goats for sale.

Sunday was cold and overcast, quite gloomy. Despite the weather, we made our usual visit to Parque Calderon. Outside the Cathedral, there is usually some type of musical entertainment. The Andean flautists were quite good.There was also a folkloric dance performance in the park.

There was conversation and catching up with friends.

Afterwards, there was pizza at La Fornace.

Monday afternoon we found our way to Kywy to purchase a different type of heater. The weather had been chilly and Mick wanted a better, more potent heater. He tried every type offered and finally settled on one. Afterwards, we went for Mexican at El Pedrecal Azteca. This was our first bad restaurant experience. The food was somewhat tasteless. There was a lack of seasoning in the enchiladas and sauces. The sangria was much too sweet. I told Mick that my Mexican, (when we get the crate) will be better than our food at El Pedrecal Azteca. He said that it could only go up. Denis's dishes were far superior to this.

Since moving into the apartment, we've had a problem with a leaky shower door. Several visits have been made to different plumbing stores in an attempt to resolve the issue. Someone came on Tuesday to assess the situation.
Additionally on Tuesday, a major delivery was made from Kywy...our heater for the terrace. Mick and I had the same idea that the terrace is too chilly to use and enjoy in the late afternoons and evenings. Kywy delivered it for $6.

Tuesday evening was an extremely special treat for us. Henry invited us to dinner with his family. His mother, Narcissa prepared a delicious dinner and we had a truly wonderful time.This is his sister, Gina and her daughter, Samantha

Here is Henry's brother-in-law, Paulo, step-father, Miguel, and Mick.
We were entertained by Paulo, who plays guitar quite well. Later, he and Gina performed several songs. Henry's brother, Andres plays guitar also, but is a bit shy.
Here is Narcissa with Samantha, sister Paula, Mick, Kathy with Nick, Miguel, Andres, Gina, and Paolo. Gina and Paolo have another daughter, Paula, who was already asleep.
We were genuinely honored to have been invited to their home. They were all gracious hosts and made us feel very welcomed.

Wednesday was a huge day for us. It was Nick's first Ecuadorian grooming. Henry had happened along a sign in our neighborhood for peluqueria canina. We went for a tour and were impressed by the demeanor of the owner. Nick and I walked the few blocks on Wednesday morning for the event. Marie Alyssa is extremely kind and gentle. Here she is bathing Nikolas.
I had explained that Nick is very sensitive to cooler temperatures after his bath. She wrapped in a big towel and then her assistant used a hairdryer to dry him.
Here he is getting his hair cut.
Usually, the first cut by a new groomer is not so good. Nick's grooming was as good, or better, than he received in Charlotte. He had no burns. At one point, when she was clipping around his peepee, she nicked a tiny spot on his tummy. Marie Alyssa went into a panic. I told her that I had medicine at home, she insisted on putting a lotion on it and before we left, even had her husband, who is a vet, take a look at it. Nick had a great grooming, with no scratching or irritation afterwards. The cost was $12, which included his nails and draining his anals. We were so fortunate to have found her. Nick already has his next appointment set up. Here's the freshly groomed boy.
Wednesday evening, Brian, Shelley, Fredi, and Henry were here for hotdogs. Carlos also came over. Mick had been wanting hotdogs. They were Carolina hotdogs. Julia, in the deli at Supermaxi said that Don Diego Especialdade were the best. Mick made his Lexington chili. I made barbecue slaw and white slaw. They were yummers. Nick and Fredi always have a great time.

Thursday, we needed to go to the market to gather things for upcoming dinnners. Mick, Gabriella, and I tried a Chinese restaurant for lunch, Chifa Dong Fang on Av. Unidad Nacional y Gran Colombia. The wonton soup with shrimp was excellent. We will go back.
Then, we were off to Feira Libre again. I needed black beans and there were none to be found. One of the vendors told me to go to Supermaxi; I know I can get them there. Here's Mick and Gabriella.
We had planned a "poor man's dinner" for Thursday night. Poor man's suppers are common as fund raisers at churches in piedmont North Carolina. The fare included pinto beans, fried cabbage, macaroni and cheese, fried potatoes and onions, deviled eggs, and cornbread. The country food hit the spot. I failed to get a picture, but the group included the Pangborns, the Reeds, the Cerwins, and Henry. It was a fun evening and Mick and Henry took the first shift of dish duty. Hank and Sherry Pangborn leave on Sunday, but will be returning in January. They have rented the apartment below ours. We're looking forward to having them as neighbors. Bob and Elaine Cerwin return to North Carolina next Thursday, but are in the process of buying an apartment in the building next to ours. The Reeds are still looking.

Yesterday was the first day of Spring and what a wonderful place to be. We've been here almost a month and this already feels like home. It seems impossible that the transition went so smoothly. Of course, there have been a few gliches, but that happens everywhere. Just as with living anywhere, every day is a new day and with every new day comes new experiences.

Until next time,
Mick and Kathy