Thursday, July 30, 2009

Headed to the coast!

Bob and Roxanne and Coquita-the rocket-girl have invited us to the coast for Rich's birthday next week!

We're so excited!

We zipped by the airport yesterday for our tickets to Guayaquil, so tickets in hand.

One interesting story we have to share, for those who have permanent residency in Ecuador... We had heard that in-country flight discounts were available for residents and Ecuadorians alike, 50% off.

So, we asked... yes, they are available IF you have your actual cedula (id card). Alas, we don't have our cards yet and our stamps in the passports didn't substitute. BUT, the good news is YES, you can apparently get the discounts, so remember to ask. If we'd had the cards, we'd have saved about $120... go to know for the next trip.

The flight, Cuenca to Guayaquil, is about a half hour. Bob will pick us up there and then we'll drive to their place...

(There doesn't seem to be discounts for 'seniors/3rd age' on Aerogal Airlines.)

Anyways, we're excited and really looking forward to the trip. We had so much fun visiting their 'place in paradise' last year. It will be fun to see Isidro, Agripina and Lorrane-the parrot, too.

Here is a (not so good) pic of some shells that Roxanne collected and gave to us... you can, hopefully, see the diversity and all the colors... we are hoping to add to the shell collection!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Day in the Life of...

We always start the morning on the porch. Sunrises and coffee to begin each day. Those simple pleasures...
The sky changes minute by minute.
What a show!

In our travels, we've found some wonderful Loja coffee... Tim, it's comparable to Peet's! Ground just right for our french press, so fresh and delicious. About $2.50/lb. For those here, looking for good coffee, there are a couple good shops right off the main square, and also check out Carolina's book store.

Flowers! Lots of wonderful flowers to enjoy here.
Just about any kind of flower and plant available.

Flower market downtown, right off the main square.

These folks are going into the church.

One of the flower markets we pass on our walks in the neighborhood.

Flowers at our apt:

We have a theory about the 'big flood' that we experienced a few days ago in the apt. The washing machine! We had some power outages during the morning and the building generator kicked in each time the power blipped... so we think the washer's programming got confused and just kept on's the culprit (we think!).

Now, to just be super-safe, we don't leave the washer unattended when it's running... and now we turn off the water at the machine when we leave the apt, just to be super/super safe. No need to 'irrigate' the apt again!

Our long-term residency has been approved and we're halfway through the process. Our passports have fancy stamps in them and our trip to the policia the other day got us photoed and into the national database.

The next step, to get us into the state registry and to get the all-important cedula (id card), was held up... the folks had run out of the official paper with the watermark and had to order more. Our attorneys tell us that now there is a huge backlog to process, but not a problem for us... We just need to get the process completed in the next month or so. We'll get scheduled when the backlog is done (attorneys will set up the appt later next month and help us through...)

Another shot of the river we walk along toward old town. Reminds us of the Applegate River in Grants Pass.

Some fun pictures of friends.

Bruce and Clarke. Charlie, Brenda and Nancy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

More furniture places

We've discovered a few more furniture places to share with those who are shopping.

Detalles is located at the circle near Super Maxi, Gran Columbia area.
Modern, more high-end, but some deals. This is where we ordered our dining room table/8chairs (on order to be delivered at end of the month).

Maria Rosa is the shop with the red awning, near the bridge, at Unidad Nacional 2-21 and Imbabura. Probably the nicest stuff we've seen in town (with price tags to match!) Lots of leather, cane, wood, high quality. Most seem to be imported, so the import tax will hike up the prices.

Both places have very nice folks. Both include delivery.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Yep, a huge flood at our apt at Edificio Los Pinos!!


We had just gotten back from a meeting concerning our long-term visas and decided to take a nap... when the phone rang from the guard station. In our grogginess, we thought the guard was trying to line up some painting (the roof leaked awhile ago and one of the guards, who is also the resident painter, had been trying to line up an appt to re-paint the upstairs ceiling...). Rich just said 'manana' and went back to sleep...

Then, there was urgent doorbell ringing... when Nancy stepped off the last stair, into 4 inches of water... well...

Now we know the spanish word for 'flood'!!

The whole downstairs was flooded! Every inch of floor, all the way out to the elevator lobby!

The guard brought up a wetvac... the plumber arrived...and we all got to work to mop up and try to figure out the source of the water. We still don't have a clue.

And, everything is perfectly dry today, nothing is damaged.

We had to smile this morning... we would have thought it all was just a bad dream, except for the damp drapes.

A river running through it... now, where have we experienced THAT before? Memories of Park View Terrace Apts and Telegraph Hill...

But, all's well that ends far, we're dry as a bone. And, the building people were responsive and helpful and you can't ask for anything more than that.

Monday, July 20, 2009

More Panama Hats

We stumbled upon another Panama Hat place on one of our walks...

There are several places that sell P. Hats, and this one is in the El Barranco area near the river.

A small museum is also onsite, but it was closed when we were there.

A student, practicing his English, showed us around the shop (which is huge) and the machinery (he 'works' for tips).

There is a stairway in the back that leads up to a view of the City. There is also a cafe up there and a photography area where it looked like folks could dress up in 'authentic' clothes and 'pose' making hats (??). We didn't watch that long enough to figure it out, but it looked like some kind of tourist-y thing...

(We tried on several, but no purchases... we already have hats!)

Chickens and Churchbells and...SNOW?

...Add the hound dog-singing, construction noise, traffic, the river and birdsong, fireworks and loud party-hardy folks and you'll know the sounds of this city.

St Roque Church (maybe the bells we hear each morning at 6:20 am resonate from here?)
Another river shot from one of our neighborhood walks.
Still getting used to the sounds, sights and the upside-down weather.

As our friends and family in the northern hemisphere are getting fried with 100+ temps... we're freezing here! We checked one of the weather sites for Cuenca forecasts yesterday... it said SNOW! Of course, it doesn't snow here, but these COLD temps sure feel like it. It's been low 40's, high 50's, wool sox weather. Extra-blankie-on-the-bed weather. Glad-we-have-our-wool-shawls-and-wool-fingerless-gloves weather.

Hard to wrap our heads around HOT, but we're remembering the HOT, which is good for tomatoes and sunflowers in the garden... and, we're remembering the irrigation/hay hard work at the ranch (not missing THAT much at all!).

Sending sno-cones to all who are melting!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More pictures of our City

An updated picture of the construction across the way...

Top story is awaiting concrete and the outside brick is being added.

Many tourists take pictures of the local folks doing laundry in the river... but this one shows it's not just women's work...

It's a family affair! We took this shot in the neighborhood on a nice balmy morning... Lots of blankets and team uniforms being laundered... yes, by men and kids, too.

Nice old architecture...The first building houses the Sankt Florian restaurant and an antique shop (we met the owner of the building and her adorable dogs, who will greet you and show off their toys if you visit the shop). It's on Calle Larga.

We think behind these doors are 'secret' gardens.

Fixer-Upper projects! Adobe... the 2nd pic here is a shot of a ceiling in need of major work!, note the cane...

Local art we like.

Ikat shawls with crocheted borders.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Acts of God (Ma Nature)

Some have asked about nature here in the Andes, so we thought we'd give you a flavor...

View of river and mountains from the porch.

Yes, we have earthquakes here. We felt one a few days ago, very mild, probably a 2-3. Rich was sitting with his back on the wall of the porch and felt it, but Nancy, who was standing on the porch, didn't feel a thing.

Yes, we're in the rainy season, winter here. No, it doesn't rain all day, every day... but when it does, the rains can be biblical... but it makes for the most beautiful cloud formations, sunrises and sunsets!

Last couple nights have been clear and cold. No frost or snow, but COLD!
(No heat, except on the porch, so we just layer on the blankies...)
We thought we could make out the Big Dipper, but, silly us!... we're in the southern hemisphere and the star constellations are different here. Still pretty.

Yes, there are bugs. No mosquitoes at this altitude (we're at about 8300 ft.), but Nancy has 'rescued' a huge furry spider thing and a flying potato bug/beetle thing from the living room floor! We've also 'rescued' worms from the social bath floor...and, we have some aphids in a couple of plants on the porch (eating slowly).

Hummingbirds galore here! We'll be putting up some feeders that some friends gave us recently, but they seem to be enjoying the flowers in the flower boxes just fine. There are also familiar (and not so familiar) bird sounds, day and night. Maybe robins? Maybe owls?

A window box at dusk.

A recent wind storm blew down a huge eucalyptus tree across a nearby road, taking several power lines (and a house!) down with it. Ordonez Lazo was closed to traffic for a few days and some were without power (we have a generator in the building, so we had power). The workers decided to take out additional trees and re-plant.

About the high altitude... well, we think it's a longer process to get used to, longer than the couple days you read about on the internet. At least, for us.
For those who need to pay attention to your sugar counts, they will most likely be higher. Our doctor told us the target for the A1C test is more like a 7.0 here. Blood pressure could be higher, too.
We think it's more than important to drink lots of water... it's imperative! We do look like tourists, carrying our water bottles around town, but we get headaches if we don't drink enough. Speaking of drinking... you'll feel booze faster, this high up. And, we've had some allergy attacks... could be just new plants and trees and perfumed products. Sinutab helps unblock the ears...
Of course, at this altitude, you NEED sunscreen and a good moisturizing cream! And, if you're a baker, you'll need to adjust recipes... water boils at a lower temperature here, so some things need to cook longer...
We think we've answered all the questions... but, keep them coming and we'll try to answer as best we can. We're still learning, too.

Those little surprises

Last week we decided to get serious about a daily walking program...Lord knows we need the exercise! And, it's a great way to learn and see more of our neighborhood and the City. In the drizzling rain, but we didn't mind.

We stopped into a local furniture place in the neighborhood and found the perfect dining table and chairs, got those on schedule for delivery at the end of the month. And, we stopped into a couple lighting fixture shops and perused the different lamps and chandileers... lots of good possibilities.

Thursday, we ended up at Raymipampa, a popular restaurant next to the new cathedral on Calderon Square. We had heard that almost all places serve a 'set lunch', on the menu or not. So, we asked and, yes, they do serve one, from noon - 1pm only. Menu probably changes daily, but we were served: Fresh fruit juice, potato soup, pork chop/gravy and rice, and a scoop of berry ice cream for dessert. Total price for the 2 of us = $4.46.
Such a deal and delicious!

From lunch, we wandered over to Mama Kinua's Cultural Center near one of the markets on Torres... We had heard this organization serves the indiginous population and raises money through tours and through their restaurant... Since we arrived during the lunch period, everyone was busy cooking and serving, so we'll return for more info on their tours later. Good looking food in the cafe!

Their website is under construction, but some good info is up now:

On Friday, we ventured out again on foot and had another delightful day. Lunch at Sankt Lucian (next to the Hotel Crespo on Calle Larga). Their 'set lunch' (which changes each day, too) was a fruit juice, a green soup -- not sure what it was, but it was good (and we forgot to write down the menu so we could look it up later), spaghetti/meat sauce and sliced bananas with whipped cream for dessert. Less than $4 each.

We walked around the Calle Larga area, window-shopping, on the way to a museum in the area.... checked out some art galleries and a guitar-making studio...

The Museo de las Culuras Aborigenes is fascinating!
Located at Calle Larga, between Hermono Miguel and Mariano Cueva, $2 admission is worth it. They have about 5000 artifacts, organized by cultural periods, going back about 15,000 years. Hour long tours in Spanish, English and French are available, too.

Incan stonework.

metal blade collection.


Nancy's favorites... love this little guy!

We met Carmen, the English-speaking guide, working in the gift shop (where Nancy bought the most colorful alpaca sweater!) and later in the courtyard cafe, (Note the orchid display!) after we had already been through the exhibits (we followed the French tour). She offered to take us on the tour on another day and gave us her phone number... we really enjoyed her company and may take her up on the offer later.Skull with gold teeth... they have a shrunken head on display, too (no picture, kind of gruesome...the head could fit into a teacup!)
Reproductions of the artifacts are for sale in the gift shop, along with jewelry, Ikat shawls, t-shirts, sweaters and other local crafts.
Another picture of yet another sunset from our porch! Always a surprise, always a delight!