Saturday, June 27, 2009

Furniture arrived!

(Added July 2:
website for Ecuadorian furniture is: Located at Sucre 5-84 and Hermono Miguel.
Kathy's shop is across the street, look for the 'madeform' sign.)


A few weeks ago, we ordered living room furniture from 2 different places. It's arrived! And, it's all perfect! Nothing damaged!

Wednesday, the delivery guys arrived with the couch, 2 loveseats, a chair, coffee table and 1 end table... 2 days early!
The 2nd end table arrived last night... the last piece.... right on schedule.

Kathy, our sales lady, arrived with the guys to personally oversee the delivery. Excellent service and such a nice lady!

Here's Kathy and Fabian inspecting one of the loveseats.

The pillows are reversible, with one side sage, the other side cream. All the furniture came up via elevator, except the couch... that had to come up the stairs, all 10 floors. The guys did a great job!

We ordered 3 pieces of handmade Ecuadorian furniture, too, from a shop close by to Kathy's. They made it to order for us.

A table, mirror and a screen for the entry area. (2 views)

Table top is glass over wooden flowers. Same flowers around the mirror.

Screen details...

A good start, we think... We still need to decide on a dining room table, some lamps, rugs. etc.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Benihana's -- Ecuadorian style

Last night we joined a few friends to check out a benihana-type restaurant.

Obate is located on Remignio Crespo across from the Pizza Hut at Solano... we recommend it! Thanks again to Shelley/Brian and Nancy/Chuck for organizing such a delightful evening for all of us!

All 13 of us were able to sit at the big circular table around the 4 grills and watch the staff cook our dinner of seafood, chicken, beef, veggies and dessert. Yummy!

The cook didn't toss food up and into his hat and he didn't do fancy knife-tricks, but fun to watch all the same.

Service was great! They are only open for dinner and we think they do lunch on Sundays. Nancy/Chuck made reservations for our party and they were ready for us, but reservations are probably not necessary for smaller parties. Check them out if you're in town.

Besides dinner, we had time to catch up on all the news, too. We chatted with Ronnie and Andre about their new place in the countryside (which can accomodate animals! and a large organic garden! with fruit trees and coffee plants!! Sounds just wonderful!!!).

We talked with Chuck and Nancy about their travel plans, past and current... they are headed soon to China to watch the upcoming eclipse. Their previous cruise along the west coast of South America inspires us for a possible trip that way in the future, too...

Bruce and Charlie are always fun company...we discussed the finer points of shopping, finding good restaurants and had a few laughs with the idea of serving wine snobs box wine instead of $100 bottles...and we're still laughing about the cuy and chicken stories!

Holly shared a good dentist... which Nancy appreciates as she has some dental 'opportunities' ... and her upcoming trip back to Canada for a visit. Brenda and Clarke gave us some laughs about their Spanish and salsa lessons and their walking adventures around town.

We caught up with Shelley and Brian and Fredi, too. Always good to see them!
Fredi was perfect, as always.

All such nice folks!

In the middle of dinner, Rich 'felt' a presence between us... he looked down and discovered a very sweet, tiny little girl with roses to sell. Rich bought a rose for Nancy for a buck, before the little girl was escorted from the restaurant by the management.

Goodness! This little one should have been in bed at this hour! You gotta wonder what her story is...

But, she reminded us of the little children at the internet/phone cafe on the coast last year... those little kids found Rich and wanted to 'pet' his hairy arms!
They were waiting for their Mom to finish a phone call and found Rich typing away...Funny how the kids find Rich...


ps -- For another renditon of the evening, see, Brian and Shelley's blog!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How we got here

Some folks have asked how we did it ... how do you get your stuff organized, decide what to bring, what to give away or sell, what to dump.

No question, it's hard! No bed of roses, that's for sure. We went through the whole range of emotions... funny how your 'stuff' can do that to you!

After we sold the ranch, we had an auction. Big Jim L, one of our best friends, is the best auctioneer on the planet, and he got us organized... the good part of an auction is that, at the end of the day, all the stuff is gone and you have money!

Furniture, tools, equipment, yarn/craft stash, kitchen stuff, garden/BBQ stuff, Christmas stuff, books, etc.

Many thanks again to Jim, Shirley and the helpers for a very successful auction!
(Jim, Rich is still driving that cattle... when you comin'??)

Some tools and the SUV and a small work trailer we dropped off at Tim's (our nephew with rural property in CA) on the way out. Here's Tim. (He and Camille plan to marry in Sept this year and we're hoping they will choose to honeymoon with us here in Ecuador!)

Tim ouside their lovely home.

With Camille. (Isn't she pretty!)

The car went to storage at Art/Ruth's.

Then, we moved to a partially- furnished rental house in town for about 3 months, so we could take a breather... and get our papers in order for a 6 mo visa. A quick introductory phone call to Grace, our attorney in Cuenca, and to the Consulate, to get a list of needed docs, too. We had a mission...once we had plane tickets, the march was on...

We got the taxes done, automated some payments, paid some bills in advance, got banking details done, mailed and dropped off last minute charity stuff, hugged our beloved Boots alot!...and all the last minute errands, shopping, appointments... done. We had lists and more lists... as you can imagine! As we checked off some items, we added more.

We made trips to SF, Sonoma County (where we were married in Bodega Bay, CA) and Portland, OR to get copies of documents, get them translated, notorized and apostilled (google 'Hague Convention' or 'apostille' for more info -- lots of work to get this stage done!) We were able to visit with family and friends in the Bay Area a bit, too. Christmas season in SF was a treat!

Bird's-eye view of Union Square's ice skating rink and the Tree in the lobby of the St Francis Hotel.

Family... Rich and brother Jim...Nancy and her Mom at Spenger's in Berkeley.

We got our travel shots up to date at Public Health and our HIV test there, too, as well as malaria pills (for visits to the lower altitudes, no mosquitoes in Cuenca at 8300 ft)... and we visited the Ecuadorian Consulate in SF to complete the process...

Deciding to leave Mr Boots, the kitty, was one of the hardest and gut-wrenching decisions we had to make. We sure miss him! But, Boots is a country kitty, and we can't imagine him happy in an apt in Cuenca (he was totally miserable in the rental house in town!)... Our best friends, Art and Ruth, agreed to take him in and we are eternally grateful. Boots hunts with Art in the garden, watches the birds and deer, chases lizards, 'helps' Ruth on the computer... the perfect kitty life for him!

Here's the happy-boy supervising Art's gardening chores.

Art and Ruth. Thanks ever so much again for everything!

Deciding what to take is always difficult, but we started to pack... yikes! We had stuff all over the place! What a mess. But, we were glad we had an extra couple rooms at the rental to really lay stuff out and pack/re-pack and pack again...and we had a luggage scale, which made it more aggravating, but helped with estimating weight...

We packed as few clothes as we could... some for cooler weather (we knew the Andes can get chilly, and we've learned to 'layer'), some for the beach and jungle (we plan to visit both later)... Most of the Ecuadorian people are smaller than we are, so we were concerned we wouldn't be able to find our sizes in shops and markets, but have since found you can... and there are expert seamstresses here, too. Good to know as we're getting real tired of our meager wardrobes!
We packed the usual travel, computers, sunscreen, sunglasses, sample-size cosmetics, good walking shoes, our flannel robes/PJ's/slippers and meds...and we ended up packing some paper documents too as our scanner decided to crap out at the last minute (most of the photos and docs were scanned up to the Net earlier...) We also packed some 'throw/giveaway' clothes for the last couple days in SF before the flight...

Rich has our wedding album loaded onto a cd, and we packed that, too, along with some favorite music cd's. We packed our plastic coffee filters and some paper filters... there IS coffee in Ecuador! And, our pepper grinder (who knows why!), Nancy's crochet hook collection got packed, but no yarn ... there IS yarn in Ecuador!

Rich managed to stuff our wool shawls in the luggage, along with handmade wool hats and fingerless gloves... and Nancy placed her favorite little glass 'bluebird of paradise' in a hand-knit wool sock and that made the luggage, along with a couple books for the flight and the first few days...there IS an English languge bookstore in Cuenca!

Nancy even got her alpaca shawl from the Otavalo market (from our first trip last year) into one of the carry-on's. Silly bringing stuff back to Ecuador, but it came in handy on the flight.

A difficult decison for Nancy was what to do with her wedding dress... rather than deciding where to store it (we were trying to get out of OR this time around with no storage costs!), she sent it to a bestest friend in Houston to share with another charity-crafter. The wedding dress will become blessing outfits for little babies in TX (through one of Nancy's favorite USA charities).

Hopefully, the satin and lace can be used to bring some comfort to grieving much better than continuing to store it...thank you, Ladies, for taking this on!

When we got to Quito, we found a Homeland Security message in a couple of our bags... we guess the office stapler and cooking timer prompted them to eye-ball the stuff... must have looked weird on the x-ray machines....or something.
But, nothing seems to be missing...

We also packed a few goodies for Bob and Rox, including Rox's birthday gift.

And, still... we ended up with 5 good-size checked bags, 2 carry-on and Nancy's huge tote!

For pics of our arrival in Cuenca, see Bob/Rox's blog at:
There's an index on the left hand side of the screen.
Besides our news, lots of other good info, too.

Yes, we were over weight limits on both Continental and Aerogal. We just paid the overweight costs (minimal) and managed to get it all on the planes. Whew!
The weight limit on the international flight with Continenal was more than the in-country Aerogal flight... we think we remember paying about $15-30 fee on the Aerogal flight, such a bargain!

You know, some folks decide to ship all their stuff via container... it's a personal decision, but we're so glad we decided not to. Of course, we miss some of the stuff... some of the furniture/rugs would look great in the apt!... but we have found some great new furniture and new treasures here and we're having a ball shopping and discovering and learning the City.

Hope our experiences help others as they too make the move... It's all hard, but can be done! We're glad to be here so all the trouble was worth it!

Monday, June 15, 2009

fascinating customs story

We've heard some stories about folks bringing in their pets, but none quite
like this usually goes much more smoothly...

A good read...and a happy ending! (Love the doggie's name!)


Friday, June 12, 2009

Some idea of costs

Rich and I have new haircuts... we decided to try a couple new places.

Lucy's, the salon downstairs, is the one Nancy tried on the recommendation of several neighbors and the sellers, and she will be back!

One of the best haircuts/color since Bibbo's in San Francisco, without the outrageous prices! Haircut/color at Lucy's = $43, plus tip. Add $15 for a deep conditioner (which I did since my hair was fried). French manicure, $5 (sure beats the Nordstrom prices, doesn't it). The shop is busy... about 5 chairs, with manicure/pedicure stations in the back. No formal appointments, just show up and wait (or you can call ahead). One of our neighbors goes to Lucy's twice a week... not sure for what, but we think she's maintaining her manicure and getting professional comb-outs. She always looks great.

Rich's new haircut was on recommendation from Fabian, our English-speaking taxi driver. He took Rich to his neighborhood and his cousin cut his hair... $2, plus tip. Rich looks great!

A 'set-lunch' at the restaurants is popular. You usually get juice, soup, a plate of rice and chicken or beef, and sometimes a dessert... about $1.50.

One of our faves for a set-lunch is Pincho's, a fun little hole in the wall across from the Museo Pomapungo on Calle Larga (x-street is Huayna Capac). When we were there, we had fresh-squeezed juice (tasted like pineapple/grapefruit), homemade potato soup, a plate of what we think was ground pork and rice and a banana for dessert. Lots of food and good.

Of course, you can spend more for other choices, if you'd like, but it's definitely cheaper to eat lunch in Cuenca than even Grants Pass. Even Burger King costs more than a set-lunch in Ecuador.

Note the plants on our porch!

We found a wonderful nursery, next to the rug shop across from SuperMaxi. 2 good size plants and handmade clay pots, $20. And, potting is included.

A shot of the nursery/greenhouse...Here are the nice ladies who work there, too.

Transportation is inexpensive. Taxi to downtown is about $1.50, buses are about 25 cents, we hear (we haven't been on a bus yet.)

Grocieries at SuperMaxi are about a quarter of the price from what we'd spend in the US. You can do even better at the other markets.

There are some things that are more expensive... US imports (where you buy a brand) and cars! Used cars hold their value so even used are expensive. Overall, it's cheaper to 'buy Ecuadorian'.

Labor is cheap... painters are $25 a day (for an excellent job!), for example.

Meds seem to be lots less expensive, too. Itch cream (that really works!) is a buck. Cold meds, several pills, was less than a buck. We haven't needed to buy refills on the perscriptions yet, but suspect they will be cheaper than the US, too. Doctor visit = $24/each. Our joint appt with the doctor was over an hour... such a deal! And, he's trained in the US and speaks English...

Concerts, with some pretty good artists, in the park.... free. Several museums are free, too. Entry to see the wonderful architecture and artifacts in the churches is usually free, unless there is a renovation fee (but that's small...)

I guess most everything in Ecuador is cheaper than the USA...

So, to our USA friends and family, if you want to save $ (and have a blast!), come on down!

Day to Day

Some of our readers have asked what do we DO all day here in Cuenca.

For those who know us well, you'll already know we start and end our day on the porch -- we LOVE the porch!

(View from porch)

We watch the sun rise and set

(Some days it REALLY looks like this~!)

... and the construction across the

way has provided us endless entertainment, too.

The crew of 'many' (50+?) hardworking guys are now pouring concrete for the 10th and last floor. No one seems to ever take much of a break... and several of them are often still on the job after 5pm. Even during the torrential rains, these guys very rarely run for cover. They just pull up their hoods or get their slickers and keep on working.

We read somewhere that the construction should be done in another 18 months or so... most of the units are already sold. Right on the river. The complex is huge!

Now that we bought the apt. and are moved in, we need living/dining room furniture... so, the past few weeks we've been looking and deciding...Last week, we *finally* decided on a kind-of modern style living room set. We wanted a light gray fabric but that wasn't available, so we settled on a sage-y/gray-ish microfiber, a little darker than the drapes. It'll be just fine. Delivery is set for end of month. The set is couch, 2 loveseats, chair. Two tables, too.... both glass top with matching wood base. There is a little wood on the furniture and they can match the color and type. Our 2nd choice was a modern sectional, but we decided in the end to do separate pieces.

We also ordered a wood, 5 panel screen, handmade here in Ecuador. It's also set to arrive end of month. It's pretty! The artists are adding some little flower medallions to it, kind of like the ones at the bottom of the ranch gate. We'll share pictures upon arrival.

The whole furniture experience is interesting, frustrating, enlightening... prices, styles and quality are all over the place... we have notes from visits to about 8 places around town (some we visited more than once, and we took pics so we could remember...) Everyone was very nice and helpful... well, except one place. I think the gal was just having a bad day... their furniture was the most expensive we've seen...nice stuff, but goodness! The dining set was almost 3-4 times more expensive than similar sets we'd seen around town...) I think the gal also wanted us to work through a designer...which we don't want to do. Well, maybe later we might, depending... But, we're having such fun learning the city through the furniture search. And, we have time...
Next up is a dining room set, rugs and light fixtures. We are narrowing it down and should get these on order next week.

During one of our walks along Calle Larga, we did find a sculture in one of the galleries that could work as a coat rack... There are no closets on the first floor, so what do you think? (Imagine a smiley-face here.)

And, we've added a bit to the vast array of kitchen stuff the sellers left for us... we added a toaster and microwave...

One day we stumbled upon a 12K race... all kinds of folks were racing (kids, adults of all ages and shapes, disabled in wheelchairs, etc.) Drew quite a crowd of supporters, a brass band and several street vendors. What a celebration at the finishing line! We were cheering right along with the crowd. Hard for us to imagine running at this altitude of 8300 ft.

On that Sunday, we located a recommended European bakery, but they were closed. So, we went back the next week... Here's Maria's Bakery.
Everything just delicious... they serve savory snacks, too.

On the home-front, we're getting into the routine... SuperMaxi has just about everything we need. We've gotten that errand down pretty good... we walk to the store, shop, and take a taxi back. We just click the taxi into the garage, get a building-provided cart, unload and take the elevator up. Easy.
We're also learning to communicate with Miriam, our cleaning lady who comes each Tues. Each week is easier as our Spanish gets better.
We're also getting the gist of how to pay utility bills and association fees and the guards are getting used to us, too.
Some of you have asked how much it costs to live here, and we'll give you an idea in the next update.


Such nice folks

We've met alot of really nice folks here... Ecuadorians and expats and tourists passing through...

Lisa, Larry, Shelley holding little Fredi, Greg and Brian.

Sometimes we see friends (and meet new ones!) at 'Gringo night'.

Here's Brian, Charlie, Nancy, Holly, Bruce and Rich. We're at Zoe's restaurant.

Cecille, a realtor, and new construction.

(I'm sure I'm mis-spelling her name).

Here's Monica, another realtor-friend.

Grace and Nelson, our attorneys, in a casual moment.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Re-visiting adventures with Bob, Rox and Coquita

Bob and Rox have shared some of these adventures on their blog, but here's more pics from our camera...

Here's Bob helping us get the computers going...Coquita was also 'helping', off camera. She needed a nap, too!

Lunch at the Trout Farm, high up in the Andes.

Note the red drink...a special drink in Ecuador, very sweet and tasty!
Made from sugarcane with cinnamon?

Rox the birthday gal, Nancy, Shelley and Holly.

One man welcome committee in Quito; meet Brian!

Our first new friend in Ecuador was one of the Brian's (we now know 2). Brian (of Brian and Holly) had been in touch with Bob and Rox and knew we were coming... but we didn't know he knew and certainly didn't know he was staying in the very same hotel... Brian works out of Quito (with family in Cuenca).

We were exhausted from the long slog of getting here, and not in the best of moods when we finally got to the hotel...

Picture this: Brian, in his very nice and gentle way, is asking us if we are 'The Hedges' (as we're struggling with the bags off the shuttle, about midnight Quito-time, and we're just a teeney bit crabby)... and Nancy flips over to the dark side and probably said something like: So who's asking??? (Yikes!)
Well, we finally got it all straight, apologizing profusely! and ended up having a great visit. Such a nice guy!

Here's a pic of Brian...

100 days in Ecuador!

We have a counter on the computer that tells us we've been in this wonderful country now for 100 days!

That's 98 days in Cuenca, since we started in Quito for a couple days to get our barings. But, still, that IS a chunk of time, isn't it?!

So happy we decided to arrive with a 6 mo visa... we're having a ball!

Thanks to all our friends and family for checking on us off-blog and sorry we haven't been updating the blog very regularly...First, it was internet probs... then we just got busy 'doing' instead of 'reporting'!

We have pics to share and lots to 'report'... let's see if I can get some pics to load at this time of day... if not, one of us will have to get up in the middle of the night for access!

Here's an arial shot of Cuenca we took from the plane... 98 days ago...

And, for new readers, you can always check out Bob and Rox's blog for more up to date news... They are Rich's bro and wife, living on the coast here in-country and come to Cuenca often...

The index will get you to the stories of our visits (check out our arrival in Cuenca and all the luggage!). Lots of other good posts and pics, too.

More pics from here later... too slow.