Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mobile Again!

The end of the week has been especially busy. Thursday night, Nick's new friend came over with his Mom and Dad. Mocha, the Pombo's and the Grimms came for dinner. Nick and Mocha had a great time! Connie said that Mocha slept for 8 hours straight, which was a record.
Mocha made himself right at home.

Earlier in the week, trees were cut across the river and they're still being worked on. We've had trees cut and they've simply been cut up. These logs were squared up, post fashion before being hauled off.
Garbage is picked up multiple times weekly. Every garbage day, this little lady goes through the garbage, putting food scraps in a bucket.
The car was going to be ready on Friday. It was a cash deal so we had to go to the bank to get the money; also, we had to have ANOTHER document from the bank for the crate. Everything was accomplished at the bank and the document dropped off at Paulo's office. We were then off to the Renault dealer. This is our new car, the Renault Logan
Mick has just paid and the cashier is counting the money
As with purchasing anything, there are innumberable papers to sign.

Marielisa is giving instructions.
Under the hood, with Henry translating.
We're ready to drive off.

The car had been brought from Quito and had only 2 km. After having driven from the dealer on Av. Espana to 12 de Octobre, it still had only 2 km. Mick said that the odometer was not connected. I added that they had driven it from Quito. Henry called the dealer who insisted that it had been carried to Cuenca; however, they would send a technician to our apartment to reconnect it. We stopped for our first tank of gas (premium is $2.18 per gal.) and when we arrived at our apartment, the technician was already there. He raised the hood and immediately reconnected the odometer. The technician said that Mick and Henry should take it around the block to try it; when they returned, the tech had left. Things are done differently here. Mick said that the odometer connection is different and that since it can be done so easily, if you purchase a used car, you really don't know how many kilometers are actually on it.

Anyway, we're mobile again. Mick once again has his independence and I can run to the supermarket without an additional $4 tacked on to the grocery bill. Life is good in Cuenca.

Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cars, Kraut, and Paute

During the planning stages of our move, it was decided that a car was not necessary because of the bus and taxi system in Cuenca. It took a very short time for that decision to change. Mick felt that without driving, he had lost part of his independence. He said that he would still use cabs many times, but a car is important. Over the last couple of weeks, the search for a car has been at the top of the list of things to do.

Cars are expensive here and depreciate very little, if any the first two years. There is relatively no negotiating on price. The list price is basically the price.

In thinking about what we wanted in a car, we both agreed on a "fat" car. Many of the taxis require that you crawl in and out. We have had some that we could not even sit up straight. The best and roomiest is the Hyundai Matrix. This model was discontinued a couple of years ago. It is possible to find used ones for sale, but usually with 200,000 km and a high price tag.

Of the "deals" presented, the best seemed to be a Chevy Aveo sedan. However, car shopping was put on hold for the weekend.

Friday evening we met Brian and Shelley at California Kitchen for burgers. The burgers are always wonderful. Conversation was good and we met some new gringoes.

Saturday morning we headed down to the Kookaburra for breakfast. It's always good to see Chris and Jenny. We then headed to the Supermaxi. Even though we're retired, it seems that we always end up at the supermarket on the weekend. In Charlotte, we always shopped on Thursday night because that was senior's night, which included an additional discount. It just seems that here, the need always arises on Saturday or Sunday, when it is most crowded.

Saturday evening, we met Mike and Pat for dinner at Creta, which is at Mall del Rio. The food was wonderful. This is Mike and Patty after dinner.

The setting is lovely. Service was impeccable. There is a gringo that plays piano on weekends, but he is currently back in the States.
On Sunday, as we approached Parque Calderon, there was a protest going on by the residents of Turi.
This little boy was fascinated by the car. One of the photographers has this in addition to the horses.
We had lunch at Raymypampa's with Brian, Shelley, and their friend, Brian. Mick and I had omelettes, which were ordinary, at best. Brian #2 is returning this week to Africa, where he works.

I was cooking breakfast Monday morning when I heard a crash. Mick was sitting at the bar and called me to the window. A couple of dead trees were being felled by the river. This job required 14 workmen. It was somewhat like a city job or one with the DOT in the states. Back in the spring in Winston-Salem, I passed a sign being replace, not the post, but only the sign, that required workmen, 1 to replace the sign and 3 to watch. I suppose this is universal.

This fellow began attaching a rope, to pull it out. He couldn't quite manage it.

The trees are still on the bank. Someone will probably use them for drying clothes, or for firewood.

With the weekend past, it was time to do something about the car situation. Mick and Henry were going out again. Henry's brother-in-law, Paulo, suggested that we check out the Renault dealer. Mick called and said that he liked the Renault Logan. He put down a deposit and a white one is being shipped from Quito. Hopefully, we can pick it up on Friday.

We also had to pay a visit to the migratory police on Monday for more documents regarding our crates. It went very smoothly. On Tuesday, we had more documents to sign at Paulo's office. There is a rather large portfolio that includes everything from a letter from Banco Pichincha to a housing contract, and also, our passports. These documents went to the shipping agent in Guayaquil, who is saying that we may possibly have our shipment by Friday. We're not that optimistic. With the holidays, we're still expecting the crates no sooner than mid-November.

Lately, Mick has talked a great deal about kraut, how much he'd like to have knockwurst and sauerkraut. I had a cabbage in the fridge and decided to put some kraut in to ferment. My parents were from the Sandhills of South Carolina and making kraut was a common task. I helped with many batches of kraut. Mine is fermenting on the terrace. However, in the meantime, Mick felt that he could find some already canned. He said that we could have mine later.
After going to Paulo's office, we went to the area of the German Consulate's Office. If there is kraut to be found in Cuenca, it would surely be in this area. On the ground floor of the office building is a drug store which had sauerkraut ($3.70 per can) and knockwursts ($10.80 for a jar of 4 sausages). The German does come out in him sometimes.

This morning, we met Brian and Shelley at the bus station for a mystery trip, which turned out to be Paute. It's a lovely ride and the flower industry is big there. We will return for plants, but there was no time today for plant shopping.
We had lunch at a lovely little restaurant called Corvel. The ambiance was wonderful, very relaxing. Across the street was this murel.
Here are Mick, Shelley, Freddi, and Brian, as we were leaving. Nick was along, but was assisting with the photography.
In the little boy's room, Mick found this ferocious spider, quite large and furry.

This is the park in the center of Paute.

The church
This is the stained glass in the church.
It was really a lovely day, warm and sunny, not only with the sunshine, but with the laughter of friends. Bus trips are always interesting. You're never sure with whom or what you'll be sharing the trip. On the bus today, in addition to the locals, there was a box of baby chicks, and a serenade by a blind fellow with his guitar. It's all part of the local color and part of what makes it so interesting and exciting to be here.

Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Friday, October 22, 2010

Unidad Educativa Aurelio Ochoa and a New Restaurant

Earlier in the week, a request went out through Gringo Tree for volunteers to teach English in the Calderon School in Turi. Even though Turi is so close to Cuenca, it is considered rural primarily because of its location on the other side of the Panam Highway. As a result of it being rural, it does not receive funding to support a foreign language program.

Parents of the children of Turi realize the importance of learning English and want very much for their children to have this opportunity; however, the parents cannot afford to hire private teachers of English. In a country where tourism is a major industry, fluency in English plays a major role in the student's future success.

On Tuesday, Mick and I went to the meeting at the Calderon School. Several others attended the meeting which turned out to be somewhat of a political struggle between the current English teacher, who is Ecuadorian, and the president of the family association. We found the school to be in great need. Mick and I received our assignment, which was to be at another school, Unidad Educativa Aurelio Ochoa, in the Tres Marias area of Turi. We were happy with the assignment and hope for no conflicts around us. The school, although in Turi, is just beyond Mall del Rio.
The administration wanted us to have separate classes; however, Mick was uncomfortable with that, considering his lack of teaching experience. Therefore, we're allowed to stay together and have 3 classes on Friday mornings.

We were there bright and early, before 8 AM. Our first class was the first grade. They were energetic and bright eyed. Considering that we had no materials and no idea of the students prior knowledge, the day was used as an introduction. The first grade teacher was receptive to our presence and assisted with discipline and spoke a very little bit of English. We practiced greetings and then ABC's. The children were well behaved and delightful. This is the first grade.

The other two classes were second graders. There was as much difference between the students of the two classes as there was in the two second grade teachers. Our first second grade class had major discipline issues that could have easily been remedied if the teacher had taken the initiative. There were some very talented children; however, there were also apparently unidentified learning problems. This class was extremely challenging. We focused on colors and ABC's.

The last class, which was also second grade, was as endearing as the first. They were engaged, focused, no discipline problems. The teacher was proud of her class and it was evident that she adored her students as much as they did her. This is our last group of second graders.

The director was happy that we were there. We left at recess. Each student gets a cup with a liquid, which we thought to be milk. The students were extremely cordial and helpful.

It was a great morning. We waited for a taxi by the street, which was at a lower level than the school yard. The first graders followed on the inside, talking to us, telling us "bye" as we left. The school has needs, not only for volunteers, but for materials. The classes have no printed instructional material for English; so there is some preparation that is required. The administration also wants the students to keep notebooks of their work, vocabulary and the like. I don't know that the students will be able to afford one; I haven't checked the price of composition books.

Mick said that he would not be able to have a class on his own. Although it is an English class, a great deal of Spanish was required simply in dealing with the children. It was a good experience and it left us with the warm fuzzies.
When we returned home, Gabriella was almost finished with her work. We were going to the Mall del Rio for lunch. It seems almost impossible to get a cab on Av. Primero de Mayo at times; today was one of those times. We were waiting and our friend, Frances, came out of the garage and inquired where we were going. She said that she'd like to have lunch and she knew a place that had just opened. We joined her for lunch at Gourmand Cafe.

Gourmand Cafe opened last night and is located at Calle Humberto Maria Cordero 1-60 y Av. 10 de Agosto. It is owned by Silvia Paredes, who previously owned a restauranat near Parque de La Paz off Remigio Crespo.
This new restaurant is located on the bottom floor of her home, which has been renovated. It is quite lovely and appears almost purpose built.
It is furnished and decorated quite lovely.
There were flowers from the grand opening last night.

This is the dessert case.
With the meal, an array of sauces is brought to the table.
I failed to take a picture of our meal. The menu consists primarily of soups, sandwiches, and wraps. I had a pernil sandwich, which was delicious. Mick and Gabby had Cubano sandwiches and Frances had a chicken wrap. Mick's Cubano was great and he tried Frances' wrap and raved about it. Silvia said that she makes everything, including the bread for the sandwiches. The bread was wonderful. The meal is completed with complimentary homemade brownies.
Silvia speaks English and also does catering. Frances said that the coffee is excellent. The patio is not quite completed, but she will have outside seating soon. The prices are extremely reasonable and the food is most excellent. It is worth a visit and we will go back for more.
The day is not yet over and we've already had several new experiences, not only teaching English to little Ecuadorian children, but a new restaurant to add to our list of regulars. The weekend is still very young and who knows what awaits us.

Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lago del Cristal

Sunday morning we had planned to accompany Henry's family to Lago del Cristal, a hosteria on the other side of Giron. While waiting for Henry to pick us up, we were on the terrace and suddenly saw hundreds of people walking down the street. At first we didn't know if it was a protest, fund raiser, or what. It was actually an annual requirement by the University of Cuenca. All students enrolled in a PE course must participate in the walk to promote excercise.

What better place to sell ice cream!

Before we arrived in Giron, there was another march of some sort, involving a particular local company. They were marching to the church.
Anytime you drive outside Cuenca, the views are spectacular. The drive to Giron is lovely, but from Giron to go to the hosteria, the elevation ascends to 9300 ft.
A point of interest at the hosteria was this swing that goes out over the hillside. This would be a field day for OSHA.
Here's the group: Henry, Mick, Henry's mother, Narcissa, Kathy, in back are Henry's brother and sister, Andres and Paula
There was a zip line that traveled over the fishing pond. Everybody took turns, with the exception of Mick and me. Because of our weight, we were afraid that we'd drag the bottom of the pond.

There were llamas on the hillside.

We had lunch in the beautiful dining room that began with a delicious chicken soup.
This is the main house. There are stables, trails, and fishing.
Henry's family was going to visit with his grandparents in Giron and we were returning to Cuenca. Henry took his family down to the main road to catch the bus to Giron. Mick said that we would walk and meet Henry farther down the mountain. We had gone about a quarter mile when the fog rolled in with its heavy mist. With the higher altitude, it was already cooler, also, the extra 1000 feet made a difference in our breathing. The mist turned to rain. We sought shelter under the trees which didn't help much. We were cold, Nick was shaking in his shoulder pouch. Mick swore that we would be found later, lost and frozen. We had just spotted a shed down the rode and as we approached it, we saw Henry's car coming up the road. We were saved.
It was a lovely trip and we always have fun with Henry's family. The setting for the hosteria is beautiful. We returned to Cuenca. The Evans came over for chili and cards. It was another great Ecuadorian Sunday.
Until next time,
Mick and Kathy