Sunday, February 28, 2010

Another HUGE Storm!! Damage this time!

 Ma Nature hit us again with a huge, Monster Storm yesterday!!

We started the day with almost-too-warm sunshine...  but, it all suddenly changed in the afternoon.
We thought the winds would just bring the bit of rain that is so common in the afternoons...BUT, NOOO!

The rain began with huge raindrops, that quickly turned into HAIL!  Again!!  The hail seemed smaller than the earlier storm, but was much more intense.  The show of lightening/thunder was amazing!  It was dramatic, seemed like right over our building and LOUD!


Here's a picture of the 'Terrazza' building construction across the way...right before the white-out of the storm.  (You can see they are working on the top floor now.)








We weren't too worried...  all windows were closed upstairs (we double-checked!)........so, we waited with towels on the porch, just in case the place would get flooded again...No problem, no flooding this time.  The hail on the glass was soooo loud we could barely hear each other!  But, what a show!!  Ma Nature in all her glory!

Here's a picture Rich shot looking up at the glass ceiling over the porch with all the hail.  Almost like snow!


But, wait.........Rich went upstairs after the storm has passed and........whoa!  The ceiling in the TV area was dripping like a faucet!  Water stains over the entire ceiling.  We put down towels on the carpet, got a bucket........Rich went down to get the guard so we could show him the damage.  Rich got his camera...

Here are pictures of the ceiling...





The poor guard!.  He did come up to see, but he was dripping wet!  He'd been trying to stop the flooding in the lobby and first floor areas. 

This morning the ceiling upstairs is even worse.  Rich drilled holes in the ceiling to relieve the pressure since it looked like the whole area would just crash down any minute.  When he drilled, a ton of water poured out!  And, it's still leaking...We have buckets and towels all over the place.  Rich will be talking with the Senoras in the building's business office tomorrow when it's open.  What a mess! 

We keep saying someday we'll laugh about this...yet another 'water' episode of our past...Those who have known us awhile will remember those tales...

Funny thing about this storm...  no real high winds and the hail seemed smaller in size, but much more intense...and more damage!  Actually, we thought we'd have broken windows, it was hitting so hard.

Ma Nature also surprised us with a tiny little earthquake early this morning.  It did get our attention!  Maybe we were just more nervous because of the big one in Chile this week.  Being from San Francisco area,  we're pretty used to small quakes, normally no big deal. By the time you think to get up and get over to a doorway for safety, it's over...But this time,  we even put our shoes on, just in case!  But, it was not the beginning of a bigger quake, just a little rocking and rolling.  We laughed, kicked off the shoes again. 

Gee, we wonder what Ma Nature has planned next?  She sure gave us a wonderful, sunny and bright day for a walk to town.  More on that later.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

HUGE Storm passes through Cuenca

A couple days ago, we exeprienced the 'Mother of all Storms' here in Cuenca.
It beat the heck out of the City.  About an hour and a half (maybe 2 hours) of non-stop heavy rains, thunder/lightening, howling winds, pea-sized HAIL!  You could hardly see the bulding construction next door, almost a total white-out.  (Rich says the winds felt like about 50mph...)

Streets were flooded and we could hear sirens, non-stop, lots of flashing lights of emergency vehicles ( we think it was related to traffic accidents).  We heard a few trees were down, too.

No long-term damage here (or at our other places), but we heard from friends that outside plants took a real beating and a lot of roofs/windows leaked and some windows and skylights were trashed...

Our porch flooded, big time!  About 2 inches of water, that then traveled into the kitchen...where have we seen that before??  But, I was home and could mop it up fairly quickly.  Just a tad of rain leaked through around some windows, not a big deal.  (In normal rains, our porch is just fine.)

By the time I realized we had windows OPEN upstairs, and rushed up to close them (had to struggle against the winds!), there was a bit of rain inside...  That was just an annoyance...and I was drenched while trying to close them.  Not a pretty sight!

So -- to future visitors here.......be sure to pack a hood on that jacket!  Umbrellas would have been no help in the high winds.  And, if you have construction going on here (and you're not here to supervise), be sure to ask your builder about the roof.  If it didn't leak in this storm, it's probably ok........This storm could be the real test.....it was a doozie!

Not sure if we'll get another storm of this intensity any time soon........  it sprinkled a little yesterday afternoon (which is more the normal pattern, a little rain in the afternoons.).

Today the river is still up (which is good!) and the sun is out and shining with a few puffy clouds...  perfect Spring-like weather in the Andes.

==N

Monday, February 22, 2010

Susan's Birthday at Tiestos

Our new friends, Susan and Melinda from Maryland, USA,

breezed through town recently.  We had alot of fun with them and also had the honor of celebrating Susan's birthday with them at Tiesto's.  Nancy and Chuck joined us, too.

Here are some pictures...  you can see more on Nancy/Chuck's blog (link on the sidebar).


The 6 of us awaiting dinner.









Rich and Chuck with one of the charming and handsome young waitstaff.
(Artesa dishes in the background.)










Wine for the Birthday Girl first!















The marvelous chef and Susan.











Wowie!  What a special dessert for the "Woman of the day"!
Specially made for Susan, complete with candle and live birthday music.

(The ice cream is passionfruit, you can see the eatable seeds are part of the design.  Yes!  Chocolate!!)






Wishing you many more birthdays, Susan!

Hope you and Melinda come back soon!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Carnival! Potluck and Artwork


Carnival! is a major holiday here in Cuenca.
Also called Mardi Gras in other parts of the world.  It's celebrated during the long weekend right before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (And, Lent begins 40 days before Easter.)

Most shops shut down for a few days and traffic is light.  Many families take the opportunity to leave town for vacation.  The town was quiet! 

One of the Carnival! traditions here is to throw water on passersby.  When we were in Cuenca in 2008 (our first visit), it was in the midst of Carnival!.  We thought Cuenca was a sleepy little town!  Our guide for the day was a little chagrined that he'd forgotten to warn us about the water...  One of the car windows was open just a little and a couple kids came out of nowhere with a water hose!  We got drenched! 

This year we were more vigilant about the water games...  It's all in fun, but sometimes those water balloons hurt!  A friend of ours ended up with a huge bruise on her arm.  Another friend told us that he'd been hit in the face one year and ended up with quite the shiner...  not good.  A little kid in our building did get us with a squirt gun out the window...  but, no hoses, no buckets, no foam or silly string, no cornstarch/flour!, no water balloons (even though Rich barely dodged a couple whizzing by), no bruises.  We got lucky.

We passed a school early in the long weekend...LOTS of school kids were ready for the fun!  Kids were NOT in uniforms, but instead, were dressed for the water! In beach outfits!  Halter tops and shorts, flip-flops, hats and even slickers and umbrellas.  Girls on one side of the plaza, boys on the other.  A major collection of water sources, too, all ready to go!  Stacks of filled water balloons, a water tank with several hoses, buckets,  lots of cans of foam and silly string, squirt guns, too. We're sure the kids had a blast!

One of the evenings we escaped the water games and joined our neighbors, Nancy and Chuck, for pizza (ordered in).  This was a special evening!  We helped them celebrate their 1 year residency in Ecuador and their wonderful, newest art acquisition!  Larry and Liza had just helped them hang the art!  (For more on Liza's extraordinary mosaic art, click on the website...  see sidebar of this blog).  We had fun, oooh'ing and ahhh'ing!



Another 'escape' from being drenched was the fun potluck that Nancy and Chuck hosted for several friends (who also wanted to escape!).  Food was absolutely delicious and company was really fun!  About 20 of us all brought food, ranging from smoked salmon (home-smoked!) and smoked chicken, salads, chili, desserts, snacks, etc.  (Rich made lasagna.)  Here are some pics...you can also admire our hosts' apartment and their gardens...wish we'd gotten pictures of everyone...

Nancy getting everything organized...

















This picture shows the Chinese gong that Chuck used to get everyone's attention when it was time to serve.










Yesterday we realized that SuperMaxi was open so we could get some shopping done.  Not many shoppers, compared to other days, and some of the items we wanted weren't stocked. The shops were all closed around the market and the parking lot was half empty...  a little strange, but the City seems to be back to normal today.  The construction crews across the way are back to work, too.

Some of our regular readers may be wondering if we walked to town on Sunday, our weekly tradition with Chuck and Nancy...  ummm, not this past Sunday.  We didn't want to risk the water thing...BUT, we did all venture out on Monday (by taxi) to breakfast at Kookaburra, then walked on down the stairs from Calle Larga, and on to Solano...a short walk, but, still a walk.  Not much traffic and no water 'hits'.
We decided that, since the workers were off for the holiday, it'd be a good time to measure for furniture at the Fragata apts.  Nancy paced off the living/dining room combo area.  Rich checked on the appliance placements and assorted changes he'd ordered.  All still looks pretty good for the hand-over from the builder soon! 

We're almost ready to place the furniture orders, if we can decide on the colors...  and we want to be sure the furniture will fit in the room!  We've also been looking at drop-leaf table options (will probably have it made).  So, a few more details needed, and the shopping and ordering can begin. 

Pictures and more details on the 2 units at Edificio Fragata soon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Buying Real Estate? Friendly Advice

We are meeting more and more folks who are buying real estate here in Cuenca.
Some are buying quickly, sometimes within just a few days!

We've gotten a few questions off-blog and even at expat gatherings, asking for advice as folks look and buy...so, we thought we'd address some items here.

First, we are not realtors here and we are not attorneys. Rich has been in the real estate business for over 45 years, but that's in California and in Oregon in the US. 

The best advice we can give is do your homework, ask a ton of questions, and get legal advice!

Laws and procedures  here are very different from the US.  Realtors will show you property, but often will charge a showing fee of up to $75/day.  Sometimes the fee is applied to your purchase price if you buy, sometimes not...be sure to ask upfront.
Also, be sure to ask who is paying the commision...buyer or seller. 

Sometimes a realtor will tell you that an attorney isn't needed (sometimes attorneys are viewed by realtors as 'deal breakers'...sometimes for good reason!)...We are very glad we used attorneys to help us get through the legal processes.  Worth the fees...In our opinion.  Our attorneys provided written translation of all documents, in English, too.
We suggest getting your attorney involved, as early in the process, as possible....

If you decide not to use an attorney for the transaction, be careful.  You will want to be sure both the land and the building have a clear title, and the person who is selling really does has the right to sell...

Another difference here is for estate planning... Your Will in the US doesn't necessarily apply here.  In Ecuador, the surviving spouse doesn't automaticially become the sole owner of previously jointly-owned property...  ask a good attorney to expain how it works in Ecuador.  Your children, your siblings, your parents all have a stake, could be equal to or more than your spouse.

Sometimes 'rules' are 'customary', not necessarily the law.  Be sure to ask if there is a law or if it's just 'practice'...  sometimes it makes a huge difference.

Oh, and ask about that land phone line...it goes with the house....and same ownership issues can apply. 

Hope this helps...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Birthday week and Rain!

Nancy had a milestone birthday this past week and we celebrated all week with friends and fun stuff. 

Lots of good food. too. Some of our friends are VERY good cooks! We really enjoyed getting together with them and stuffing ourselves!  It's also fun to see their apartments and hear their stories of their shopping sprees for furniture, linens, art, etc.
Here is a photo of one of the drop-dead views...  this apartment has wrap-around, floor to ceiling windows that look over the City...wow.




We also discovered yet another good restaurant. It's called "The Terrace" (near the Stadium, we'll add the address later.). Indoor and outdoor dining.


Check out these desserts!



We were there with friends for lunch, and we think it's the same menu for dinner...great steaks, salads, burgers... the chef is from Argentina, and really knows how to cook beef! And, you can get a baked potato (not just fries).

We attended an art opening of photographs taken in Cuenca. Some of the photos are stunning, especially of the hummingbirds! There are also photos displayed in banana leaf baskets/frames.  The exhibit runs all month. It's located at the
El Otorongo Gallery/Cafe, Av. 3 de Novembre (on the Otorongo Plaza).

And, RAIN! We've had a few days with really good rainfall, so the river is UP and roaring. Take a look.  This photo was taken Saturday with new friends, Susan and Melinda.  We're standing on the walking bridge at Av. Doce de Abril.


These next pictures were taken Sunday, where we began our Sunday walk. Our Sunday walk was just 'us' this week, with Chuck and Nancy out of town. Have to admit... we almost wimped out on our walk, but finally decided to venture out in rain... only because we didn't want to confess to our laziness when Chuck/Nancy returned!

Our walk started at the river, about a half block from our apt.  We walked toward the Oro Verde Hotel (not toward downtown).... the wet smell of eucalyptus and dirt reminded us of Tilden Park in Berkeley, CA and all the Hamm family picnics in the rain!




We followed the river for awhile, and then hailed a taxi to San Blas. The church on the square is lovely inside.



Stopped for a coffee at one of the cafes on the Square, people-watched for awhile, then walked on to Parque Calderon. We caught the tail-end of the dancers and music.  We were delighted to run into friends who joined us at the Akelarre for lunch!
After lunch, we taxi'ed back home.

All in all, another fun Sunday walk (even though we took the easy route of adding in taxi rides along the way)!

We've been humming a favorite Ecuadorian tune... it's called Chola Cuencana. Several versions on the Internet.  The entertainment in the Park ended with this song, but we hear it all over...at concerts, parades, restaurants...Basically, wherever there is a crowd, this song gets played at some point.   It's lively, spirited and now becoming one of our favorite songs, too! Just makes you want to dance!

Vive Cuenca!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Museum of Modern Art

On one of our recent walks to downtown, we decided to visit this museum.

It's located at Mariscal Sucre y Coronel Talbot, on the south side of San Sebastian Plaza.

The first time we visited the Plaza was during our first visit to Cuenca a couple years ago...very interesting history. You can read details of that tour (and more pictures) with a professional guide, by going back in the blog archives... way back, to our first trip in 2008.

Both the Plaza and the museum were built in the 17th century. The building was once called the "House of Temperance', which was founded in 1876. It housed and helped citizens with alcohol problems. It was also an orphanage at one time.


The courtyards and gardens within the complex are lovely, with birdsong and several sculptures. An outside wall displays several stone pieces, too.

















This is the old water ditch, still in use.
More sculpture along the walkways.











Nancy liked these with the eyeballs...and the stone "cactus".














We took some outside stairs up to see an historic drawing of the area.















Upstairs is also a little open door that allowed us to see the original adobe and wood construction of the building, which always fascinates us!




There is a permanent art collection, as well as featured art by local artists (changes monthly).

Hours are : Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 6:30 pm (closed for lunch from 1-3pm);
Saturday and Sunday it's open from 9am - 1pm.

Admission is free.

Well worth the visit!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Another Sunday (with video)

Yes, and another parade!

We love a parade! Horses, cute children all in costume...
still celebrating the Christmas Season here (3 'wise men' above).




Here's a picture of the staging area.



This Sunday we (with Chuck and Nancy, our walking partners) decided to try out breakfast at a fancy boutique hotel, Mansion Alcazar. (Ring the door bell to get in.)
We had been there for dinner recently with friends celebrating a special anniversary and had a great time. This time we could see the lobby and gardens in the daylight........just gorgeous!



Chuck and Nancy in the back garden.



The food was pretty good, too. A cold buffet (with yogurt, fruit, cereal, breads) and we ordered eggs and bacon and pancakes from the menu. About $10/person, including taxes.

Of course, we wandered to Parque Calderon...caught up with friends... enjoyed the entertainment...



Here are some dancers taking a break. Love the colorful outfits!
(Video at the end of this post.)


And, we tried once again to find the special side door of the New Cathedral,



that takes you down to the catacombs of the church....no luck again!

If anyone knows how to find it, please tell us!

We were surprised to see that the flower market has been moved to the other side of the street while some construction of the Plaza is in process... Looks like there are permanent (?) benches and tables on the plaza now. The ladies with the flowers were still doing a brisk business in their new places. We'll check on the progress next visit.
Here's a short video of the dancers. Enjoy!
video