Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Cuenca Hen Party

For several months Angie and I have been weaving at Distribuidor Barrera on Luis Morena Mora. This morning we, along with the other weavers were invited to coffee at the home of a fellow weaver, Mariana. Her tablescape was lovely.
This is Patricia, our instructor.
An accomplished group of artisans!

Mariana, our hostess. Some of the ladies chatting.

Exchanging recipes and enjoying a laugh.

Monica, Marisita, and Angie.

A hen party is the same despite the country or language. There are hot flashes, exchanging recipes, laughing, and talking. Angie and I were extremely happy to be accepted into this extraordinary group of ladies. Thank you.

Until next time,

Mick and Kathy

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Memories of Haircuts

For years hair appointments had been a treat. It was more than just a haircut, but a time of relaxation and pampering. This was always the case, from the time that I had big hair when I met Mick until I had extremely short hair. Since moving here, the experience changed. After trying several salons, Mick insisted that I try his shop. He has been going to "Eloisa Estetica" on President Cordova y Borrero since moving here. Last month I went and he insisted that it was the best cut I've had in years. He loves really short hair. The salon is larger than most with a large staff. Elena cuts his hair and also does mine. This is Elena. Elena cuts your hair, washes and styles it for $4-5. It has the feel of a barber shop and while sitting in the chair, it brought back memories of my childhood. As a child, I always had short hair; my mother always insisted that I have short hair because "every time your hair gets long, you get sick." I've never understood that statement, but my mother was very country and had her beliefs. Every Saturday my dad would get a haircut. Occasionally, Mother would insist that he take me with him to get my bangs cut. I was too short for the barber chair, so the barber, Bill Clark, would put a stool in the chair for me to sit on. He would pop the apron to put over me. After trimming my bangs, he would use the brush covered in talcum powder to swish the hairs off my face, tickling my nose.

Mother had her hair done once a week and following the trend of the time, she always wore a perm. Of course, I wanted one, I was 7. As now, I loved the smell of the beauty shop; it was always a pleasant, relaxing smell. This was before my first perm. The smell of the perm was so foul, it made me nauseous and I barfed. This was done at Pearl's Beauty Shop, the first in Pageland, resulting in the name of the street on which I grew up. Fortunately, I outgrew that, afterall, I did have big hair.

All of these thoughts were flooding my mind as Elena cut my hair. I was brought back to the present by a sight that Mick had told me about. Every morning, the owner of "Eloisa" places on his counter rows of nickels. Elderly poor people come into the salon, "buenas dias," go to the counter and take a nickel, smiling as they leave. They come, one after another; they may come in pairs, but enter only one at a time. The owner believes that if he gives, he will receive in return. Imagine, receiving such happiness from only a nickel.

Haircuts are different now. A trip to the salon is not for the experience, but for the haircut. Elena does a good job. She cuts my hair short, which is easy to manage, and gets rid of my "conehead", which has been a problem for years. I will continue to be a client of Elena and enjoy watching the elderly come in for their nickels.

Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Monday, March 28, 2011

Driving Legally

The process of becoming a legal driver in Ecuador is a bit more involved than in the US. Mick's process began with supplying a volume of documents to a local driving school, ANETA. The price for the school, besides incidentals was $187. Upon successfully completing the school, along with a driving test and a written test, he awaited documents from Quito stating that he had completed the program. The waiting for documents encompassed several weeks. From the date of completion, you have 60 days to pass the government test. At one time, it was possible to simply pass money and be rewarded the license; however, those days are gone. Offices are under scrutiny. Mick finally decided that the only way that he would be able to get his license would be legitimately by taking the government test, in Spanish. You can buy the test bank; therefore, he purchased the questions and studied over the weekend. This morning he took the 20 question test, in Spanish, and passed! He paid $38, had his photo taken, and was graced with his Ecuadorian driver's license! What an accomplishment!
Here's my happy guy holding his new license which is good for 5 years.
Happy legal driving!
Until next time,

Mick and Kathy

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Banos de Ambato

After leaving Riobamba, Mick, Jim, Angie, Nikolas, and I proceeded to Banos de Ambato. About 1 1/2 hours from Riobamba, it is a bit warmer than Riobamba and Cuenca and is known for it's thermal water. We had reservations at Samari Resort and Spa. You are able to negotiate a bit on the price; however, whatever the price, it is worth it. The junior suite has a large bathroom with both jacuzzi and large shower.
There is a sitting area with a bay window and a flat screen TV. For those cool nights, which we did not experience, there is a fireplace. An extremely comfortable kingsize bed. (Hotel Zeus only had singles or doubles.) Our rooms were in a hacienda-style building with a courtyard and fountain.
In the town of Banos, most of the restaurants are ordinary, comida tipica; however, there was a coffee shop, Ali Cumba, that is not comida tipica. The food was different; but the proprietor was even more different. She should truly find another profession. Her English was great, but she was non-Ecuadorian. She had a very abrupt, rudeness about her. We noticed it on our first visit and brushed it off; however, the next day, we found her to be even more so. She obviously doesn't care for repeat business. We were also informed that it is a bother for someone to come in and purchase only coffee....well, it's a coffee shop. On our second visit, we ordered tuna sandwiches for lunch and each couple was going to divide. That did not suit either; she told Angie that we could get four and what we didn't eat, we could just wrap up and put in our bags. What a great idea to carry around leftover tuna sandwiches in your purse while on vacation.

Here's Angie chatting with a Canadian couple in front of Ali Cumba. Unless you want to be insulted, by-pass this spot.

The park in Banos
The church
With Banos being a tourist town, there are a number of adventure businesses. You can rent ATV's for going to the volcano or you can rent go carts for riding around town. Mick and Jim were waiting on our carts.
We're all packed in ready to go. There was a quick trip around the block and Mick decided that he was going to be unable to continue. Mick had slipped previously while getting out of the hot tub and bruised his lower back; one of the bars was positioned right across the sore spot.
Back at the resort, here are a few more pictures. In addition to our building, there are several guest houses.
A number of peacocks have the run of the grounds, as did Nikolas. In addition to the adults, there are four babies.
The gardens are splendid, so well manicured. The entire setting whispered "serenity".
The building in the foreground houses the pool and spa services. In the background is the building with the reception area, bar, and restaurant.
The lobby of the spa building.
Mick having coffee on the terrace.

Samari is definitely one of those places that we will visit again. It was relaxing and tranquil. Breakfast was included and was delicious. Although all inclusive packages are available, we did not have that. However, we did have our dinners in the restaurant and it was a wise choice. The food was superb and presentation outstanding. The wine list is a bit lacking. If you're going to be in Banos, this should be a point of interest. You need a minimum of three nights to just get a taste of Samari and compensate for the drive.

On our way back we stopped at the first Catholic church in Ecuador. Built in 1534, it is worth a stop just outside Colta. This is the interior of the church. The Virgen de Balbanera is housed here.

The Church.
The sign announcing the Virgin.
What a great trip! The scenery was spectacular. The event in Colta was indescribable. The Samari was beautiful and relaxing. Jim and Angie, as always, were great company. The driving was long. We had traveled to Banos a number of years ago, but this time we saw it through different eyes, perhaps because we're residents, perhaps because we're older. What a great trip!

Until next time,

Mick and Kathy

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Trip to Riobamba

With the festivities of Carnival coming to an end, it was time for a change of scenery. Mick, Jim, Angie, and I were invited to our weaving instructor's home for quimbolitos. These yummy treats are similar to tamales, only sweet and wrapped in cana lily leaves. Patricia instructed us on the assembly. It was a lovely evening with Patricia and her family.

Our holiday began in Riobamba, which is in the province of Chimborazo, and several hours north of Cuenca. The selection of hotels was limited. Hotel Zeus seemed to be the best choice. Having made reservations on-line, we were a bit disappointed upon arrival; however, there was nothing better in the town. The countryside was lovely and encompassed a number of side trips into surrounding pueblas. A large market can be found on Saturday near Parque de la Concepcion where you can find beautiful fruits and vegetables, as well as many of the locals catching up on the happenings of the week. We found primarily the indigenous people there.
Many hats were for sale and Jim was attempting to bargain for one.

In our travels about, we encountered the local cemetery.

One of the bridges was marked by these interesting creations.

One of the pueblas, whose name escapes me, although appearing fairly impoverished, housed two large churches.

This is the shrine outside of the Iglesia de Senior de la Agonia.Mick and Nikolas are peering at the church.
One of the locals could be seen walking her pigs.

The women always carry the load.

This lady had been working in the field, notice how it is prepared for irrigation.

Riobamba was a bit cooler than Cuenca as can be seen in the attire of Mick and Nikolas.

There was a soccer game on Sunday between Riobamba and Guayaquil, everyone was excited.

One of the sculptures in Riobamba.
We decided to find our way to Tugarauhau, as you're exiting, you pass this church.
We also saw this landslide. As you drive along, landslides are common.

The drive up had taken a bit longer than we had anticipated; therefore, we didn't make it to the volcano. We needed to return to the city to prepare for an outing to Colta. Colta is a town near Riobamba and was a major reason for the trip.

Jim and Angie are members of a church in British Columbia who have supported a ministry in this area for a number of years. A couple in the congregation were missionaries in Colta for 45 years and their son, Darrel and his wife, are missionaries in Quito. The couple, Henry and Pat Classen, were instrumental in establishing the church and also translating the Bible into Quichua. Jim and Angie were invited to a celebration honoring the past missionaries in Chimborazo. Henry is now deceased and Pat is in poor health, so Darrel was there on behalf of his parents. Although Mick and I are not religious, we found the event overwhelming. The people were very warm and welcoming.
When we arrived, it was pouring rain. The church is situated in a very poor area, just outside Colta. Because of the enormity of the event, a tent had been erected for the celebration. Because of our excursion and also the rain, the ceremony had just begun as we arrived. One of the women's choirs was singing and we were given front row seats. The old fellow in red was the first minister of the church.
Darrel presented a Quichua song book to one of the ministers to be placed in a museum.
Another choir sang.

All the missionaries were honored with gifts.

Darrel received a plaque regarding his father.
Even though we were not missionaries, we were feted with gifts, Maria presented me with a toboggan that she had knitted.

This young couple posed for me. She is in traditional attire.
Another choir.
The celebration was completed with a feast of cuy and all the accompaniments.
Hotel Zeus is a simple hotel. The rooms are small. The breakfast is meager. Other meals at the restaurant are better. The one appealing feature of the hotel is the view. If the weather permits, the views are incredible. From our room we had a view of Tungarahua.

From the other side of the hotel, Jim and Angie had a view of Chimborazo.

If conditions are just right, you can see another peak in the distance, I'm not sure, but possibly, El Altar.

One more view of Tungaraua.
Another look at Chimborazo.
A view of the avenue in front of the hotel.

Riobamba is quite different in many ways from our home in Cuenca. We found a lack of adequate restaurants. There was a nice little coffee shop a couple of blocks from Hotel Zeus, La Andaluza. La Andaluza had a lovely selection of cold cuts, cheeses, and sandwiches, with outside seating. We found it a very good place to people watch, with a lot of sidewalk activity.

Although still Andean, the landscape and vegetation of the area is different. The city itself is flat, surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. The celebration that we attended for the missionaries was a one-time experience for which we are extremely happy to have been participants. Riobamba is a nice town, it is worth the trip to see.

Upon leaving Riobamba, we traveled to Banos for a few days. The trip to Banos will be the subject of our next entry.

Until next time,
Mick and Kathy