Saturday, January 29, 2011

Walking Our Own Neighborhood -- Gringolandia???

We live in a 10 story apt building called Edificio Los Pinos, about a half block from theTomebamba River,in the west part of town.  If you're looking at a map of Cuenca, we're sort of near the Oro Verde Hotel.

Some folks who sell real estate here, call our neighborhood 'where the gringos live'.  One of the high rise buildings close by (about 20 or so stories) is sometimes called the Gringo Palace.  But, we don't know how many gringos live in the neighborhood.  In our 10 story building, we like that only 3 other gringos live here.  Some of our expat friends also say that there are more Ecuadorians in their buildings than gringos.  We haven't done the reasearch or the math, so we can't say if this area is Gringolandia or not.  There are other areas of Cuenca where you'll find gringos, too.

We decided to walk the neighborhood and take some pictures of the highrises, especially of the huge complex called Terrazza, right next to the river.  We've heard that about 10-15 units have been sold to gringos, but not sure.  We've also heard the total building is sold out.  The complex is gigantic!  We tried to get some pics for those who have been asking...but we've had to do it in pieces. 

The Terrazza is the construction we've been watching grow from  our porch over the last several months...occupancy of some of the units is slated for later this year.

Taken from street level, on Av. Los Pinos.  You can see some windows have been installed...

Looking back toward Av Ordonez Lasso... 3 high rises.  On the left of the photo is Terrazza.  Middle building is Los Pinos (our building) and the right is the new one across the street from us, still under construction, Edificio Amazonas.

More shots of Terrazza, taken from the river side...

Walking along the river, several other views of Terrazza, as well as the other highrises.


A colorful view of laundry day at the river...and a recycler of cardboard...

New shop across from the river, about half block from Terrazza...  fung shui, reiki and yoga!

Back side (river side) of Oro Verde Hotel...we took a coffee break here and headed back along Av Ordonez Lasso.

Edificio Palarmo, across the street from the Oro Verde Hotel.

We posted an earlier shot of this 'hole in the ground' for a new building...some progress...  

This is a picture of the sign for the new building.

Here is the building right next door to the new construction...looks like 'zero lot line' from the new one, called River View, going up...

Another new shop along O. Lasso...and a lovely old house...

We made it back home as the afternoon rains began. 

Is this Gringolandia?  Not sure, but it's a neighborhood of new construction, many highrises, some services and some local color. 

The walk along the river is lovely, with tall trees and good smells and the sounds of rushing water. 

It's also a neighborhood of dust, construction noise, traffic and bus fumes along Av Ordonez Lasso.  Do we like this neighborhood?  Today, we do.  We still like the views of the river, the sky and the mountains from our porch.  We like that we can easily walk to the local Supermaxi, the big people's market (Feria Libre), the Co-op and some other good services, like Sukasa, for upscale shopping.  It takes us about 40 minutes to walk to downtown. 

We're not sure when the big road construction at the traffic circle will begin.  The City has plans to build an overpass...which we think means traffic will be re-routed around, maybe toward the nieghborhood streets and the river.  It's a huge project and may take some time to complete, once it's begun.

But, there are other perfectly good neighborhoods here in Cuenca, too.  If you're visiting or moving here, you just got to check them all out to find the best one for you.  Lots of choices.

Interspersed among the modern highrises, there are beautiful gardens...

One more pic...  taken on busy Av. Ordonez Lasso as we turned our corner for home...a little bit of country in the middle of Cuenca!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

More fun pics of Cuenca

Yes, still walking...

Here are some fun pics we wanted to share from our recent walks around town.

More parades, more beautiful horses, more precious children...

Getting those flowers just right for the 'float'.

This is the end of a can see the back of our friend, Howard, as he walks through the crowd of resting children.  You can also see that Santa is still here in Cuenca!

Yet one more parade...we enjoyed this one through the front windows at the Kook last Sunday.

An intricate carved door on a church...

We love this pic of Mom and child on the left ...the gal on the right is in school uniform.

More pics of the flower market...

OK, one more parade...  this one featured girls, of all ages, in RED plaid school uniforms and yellow balloons and very loud drummers!  Fun to see so many happy girls, being girls.  Moms and teachers marched right along, too.  We're sure it was for a good cause.

You can see some children are still wearing their Christmas outfits, too.  A few shepards in the mix.

One more shot...this one of a Dad and his cute daughter.
We sure enjoy these little slices of life!

We are seeing that holidays are starting to blend together here.  The Christmas Season is blending with the upcoming Carnaval Season!  Carnival is all about water here, especially fun for the kids with water balloons.  We skirted around a few kids the other day.  They were all having a great time tossing the ballooons at each other, shrieking with delight as the balloons hit the target.  They were all drenched, but having a heck of a good time.

Our first trip to Cuenca was in the middle of Carnival and we got pretty wet, too!  Those balloons can hurt, we've heard stories of some nasty injuries as the kids get wound up.  Be careful out there!  Lots of water 'opportunities'...last year kids had hoses, buckets of water, the balloons, water pistols and more.  Everyone and everything is a target.  We'll post some pics as we chance the cameras...

  Bob, Rox and Coquita blew through town recently and we can't resist sharing this...Here is Coquita, all bundled up and toasty on the couch with her bunny toy.  For a beach doggie, she was probably pretty chilly here.

More pics later.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Camel Box, Packing and Letting It Go

(All of these pictures were taken from our porch...all in one day...of the changing weather.)

Hola, it's Nancy.

Wanted to share more stories for all the folks who are in the process of packing and planning to move here.  I''ve been writing back and forth with some who are in the midst of deciding what to bring, what to toss, what to store, what to ship and I'm thinking more readers might be able to learn from our stories, too...Yep, all that work is hard to do!  Been there...

In some ways, it's agonizing, nerve-wracking and just downright sad as you go through years of memories.  But, you're not alone!  Most of us who made the jump to our new lives in Ecuador went through that range of emotions, from smiles, to tears, and back.  An emotional ride! 

Yes, you may find that some men and women pack and plan differently...  Rich managed to pack in about 20 minutes (I'm exagerating, but just a little!). 

For me, I packed, re-packed and packed again for weeks.  I wanted every inch of available space to 'count'.  Rich had all his stuff all organized and ready to go in just a fraction of the time it took me...and we both managed to get most of the important stuff in the luggage for each of us. 

Funny how that all works out in the end.  No, even  though I packed carefully with tissue paper and a careful eye for wrinkle free packing, I can't honestly say that Rich's quicker packing resulted in more wrinkles...  it all wrinkled anyway, my stuff and his.  Thank goodness for irons!

We decided, early on, to move with suitcases only.  We just didn't want to try to ship stuff, mainly because we didn't want to then deal with shipping again if we decided Cuenca wasn't for us.  We also didn't want  the additional angst of worrying about the shipment and maybe lost/broken items or customs fees. We felt we had enough angst in our lives just to get here! We didn't know enough about shipping at the time, or what we could find here, and didn't want to take the time to learn it all.  We came on a wing and a prayer and way too many suitcases!

Some folks do ship in containers and crates.  Furniture, art, books, complete kitchens, the favorite cast iron skillet, canning jars, every piece of clothing they think they will ever need, treasured items.  They are prepared to deal with costs, delays, customs, inspections, possible toil and trouble.  Some are glad they did, some are not.  We're still glad we came with a bunch of suitcases only, but it's a personal decision.  Only you can decide what's best for you. 

We gave stuff away to charities and to friends and family.  We dumped stuff in the garbage.  We found a wonderful new home for our precious kitty, Mr Boots, which was the hardest decision we had to make, but we still think it was a good one.  Boots is so much happier staying in the country and he's still spoiled rotten, still hunting lizards, still digging in the dirt...He would be totally miserable in an apt in the City.  We still really miss Boots, but our decision was really all about his happiness...not ours.  Yes, there are good vets here for your pets, if you do decide to bring them.

There always seems to be 'something' that makes you pause as you go through stuff.  Count on it.  Maybe those baby shoes of your firstborn, maybe Gramma's china, maybe old love letters and photos, maybe a little handmade Christmas angel.  Maybe a special glass table, maybe your hard-earned muscle car, maybe your tractor, maybe your tux.  In my case, it was the treasured Camel Box.  Those 'symbols' will stop you right in your tracks.  How can I possibly live without THAT?

This Camel Box is really special to me...  Rich had bought it for me several years ago at an auction, all hand-carved with lots of details.  It was definitely a splurge.  Inside is a brilliant blue shiny lining on copper  and I kept little momentos there.... dried rose petals from the garden, an eagle feather from a walk at the river at the ranch, a special letter from my Dad,  a little glass bluebird of happiness and so much more.   At the time, I just couldn't get past leaving it ALL behind.  I was paralysed.  I kept going back to the Camel Box, admiring it and loving it and crying over it and all the gifts inside. It became the symbol of missing everything, even before leaving.

How did I get passed it and get on with the next tasks of clearing out a lifetime of stuff?  I got lucky.  A compromise!  Our dear friends offered to keep the Camel Box for me, safe and sound.  I handed it over, with the understanding that I could get it later...and I transferred most of the treasures inside the Camel into the suitcases for the journey.  What a blessing!  That was easy!  So, the Camel didn't have to go to the auction, it didn't have to really be left behind. It would be in safe hands.  I could use that precious luggage space for more practical things, including the little goodies inside the Camel Box.  It was a very sad day to say good-bye to the Camel, but I know it's still there waiting for me. It took rational and kind friends to help me sort it all out (you can tell how crazed I was getting with all the overwhelming tasks at hand!)

Everyone has a Camel Box symbol.  Sometimes we laugh with our friends as they recount their Camel version, too.  But, we've all got those stories....those things that we have so much trouble letting go of.  Those things that we think define us and bring us so much pleasure.  Camel is back in Oregon, but most of the little treasures it contained are still with me and I'm grateful for that.

So, relax as you go through the stuff!  (Yeah, soooo easy for me to say now!)  Remember, you'll have a Camel Box story too, we all do.  Either plan to bring it, ship it,  or let it go.  Or find a friend or a family member to keep it safe for you.  It helps you to move on and get one more closet cleaned out!  You can do it.  It can all be done, trust me.

After our ranch sold, we had an auction to sell off most everything...yarn and craft stash, furniture, tools, garden/BBQ stuff, farm vehicles, art, rugs, Christmas decorations, over 100 boxes of books, kitchen stuff, clothes...just about everything. We even had previously unopened boxes of stuff from previous moves auctioned off! Some folks have estate sales or garage/yard sales, some sell on Ebay or Craig's List, which worked for them. The good thing about our auction is that, at the end of the day, most everything was all gone and we had money!

Yes, auction day was a sad day, but somehow we felt 'lighter' and more ready to get on with the next phase of our lives. I remember sitting on the steps after the auction was done and everyone had left...I'd saved 2 wine glasses, a bottle of wine...and Rich and I sat recounting the busy day, and enjoying the sunset.  As we toasted each other,  a lone, dried tumbleweed rolled across the pasture as a fitting close to a phase of our lives....where, just hours before, hundreds of people had wandered with newly purchased treasures.

We agreed it was all worth it, all of it, and we were hopeful for the future. Life is an adventure, we had each other and we were ready in our hearts to move on.  We were looking forward to the llamas, iguanas and learning the tango in South America.  We were moving to South America!  A giant step forward...Wow!

We have no regrets...

If you come to check out Cuenca before moving here, you can do the homework of finding out just what IS available here.  Go to Sukasa, go to the Mall, go to the grocery stores and markets.  Check out those little shops, too.  Ask your new friends here.  Unless you're particularly partial to your special food processor, for instance, know that there are good ones here.  You might pay dearly for some things here as they are imported, but you can get most stuff here...  complete kitchens, sewing machines, cars, furniture, small and bigger appliances, picture frames, you name it.  What you can't find in your taste can be made to order, some vendors can order and ship for you, too.  Less choices here in specific US brands, but perhaps a generic will work for you.  All takes time to find...and some folks prefer to just ship everything and get settled quickly.  We now roll with the delays in finding or ordering the perfect stuff for us...but, that's just us.  Sometimes we just compromise...  instead of a red one, we'll take the blue.

We didn't browse the stores before moving here, which did make it hard to pack...  We just figured we'd figure it all out when we got here.  Our luggage contained many practical, and not so practical things.  We packed computers, including all the cords (but no printer...easy to find here.)  We packed minimal clothes...some for the beach and jungle, some for business meetings (since so many folks compared Cuenca to US cities and we didn't want to look too raggedy...), some for chilly weather (like wool sweaters and shawls, handknit wool sox and hats and fingerless gloves, all available in the markets, but we didn't know that at the time).  We packed flannel robes and PJ's and slippers. At the time, we didn't know we could find them here, too...and, besides, we wanted them our first few nights.

 We packed some 'just in case' stuff, too...I packed 1 long-ish black skirt, slip, tights and heels...  I have yet to wear them here (and now they're too big and I wouldn't chance the heel thing now on the streets.)  We packed office supplies (which you can get here) and a plastic coffee filter and pepper grinder, binoculars and kitchen timer (also all here).  We packed those tiny treasures...priceless!  We packed some important papers, only because our scanner crapped out at the last minute.  We packed our favorite music cd's (which we don't listen to much anymore and we could have bought here).  We packed jeans, just in case we'd have the opportunity to go horseback riding!...and then we lost weight, so I had them altered here, but you can buy good quality jeans here, too, which I have. Jeans in good condition are this City's mainstay...everyone wears them as you can tell from the pictures on this and other blogs.  We packed meds, enough for the first few days, knowing we could find most here and good doctors, too.

We shopped online for travel stuff...check out travelsmith and magellan's sites. 

It pained us to leave books!  But, Rich now has a Kindle, which he loves! and there is the Carolina Bookstore for books in English (and Spanish).  We only packed books to get us through the flights, the waiting in airports, the first couple days...We did pack maps and ONE travel book (which are here, too, and the internet has a ton of info, as a good alternative.) We packed extra underwear which was good, sometimes hard to find in your size and style and quality here.  Good, comfortable walking shoes are a must! and we are glad we packed some, even though you can find or order custom made in your size.  I did find a pair of Sketchers in my big, US size 9...whoa, they were expensive!  About $80 a few months back, but worth it (for me).

We packed  cameras, gifts for family, some jewelry we couldn't part with and cash.  Lots of small bills.  We included small amounts of cosmetics, travel size, a first aid kit, a flashlight, extra reading glasses, sunscreen, bug repellent and sunglasses, credit and ATM cards. We packed our cell phones...and we were able to have a chip added so they work here.

We've been patient (most of the time!) and lucky enough to find most everything we truly need here in Cuenca. If you settle in a smaller town, you can always come on into Cuenca (or Quito or Guayaquil) to shop, with more choices and maybe better prices than the outlying areas. 

Hope this helps and Happy Packing.  Looking forward to your Camel story, too!

Love, N

(Added Jan. 26:  Not-so-good pic of the camel box...)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Walking, new-to-us art gallery, more parades

Here is another collection of  pics from our walks through our beautiful Cuenca.

Lovely details on the buildings. 

Another street vendor and a doggie.

Chickens at the market...

Goats on the street!

An adorable child showing Nancy her money and shaking hands.  Mom was close by. What a cutie and so was Mom.  Those sweet little moments with the children are such a treat.

We wondered for what occasion these girls were decorating...maybe a wedding?

Beautiful fabrics in a shop window


We passed a wood shop one day.  This dragon on a special door is really good!

Yarn alert!  This shop is located near the CA Kitchen, same street, at Av Tarqui.  Looks like the good stuff.

On one of our Sunday walks with Nancy and Chuck, we stopped in at this art gallery.  Had to take some pics for Audrey and Jim!  This looks more like the creepy dark-side of Halloween...

You can check out the website for more.

Our friend, Nancy, looking tentative...

Ending a walk one day with an ice cream treat.
Love those early morning walks with no stinky traffic...

We're still enjoying  parades of the children!  Each neighborhood seems to continue the holiday tradition well beyond the Big Parade on Christmas Eve.  Here are more pictures, complete with horses, music,  angels, dancing, decorated vehicles and more.  Traffic come to a standstill during the parades in the areas.  For those here in Cuenca, you can see the Christmas parades all over town up to Lent and Carnival.  Enjoy!

Even though it was drizzling that day, the parade went on...

The bike 'parade' is also a familiar sight on Sundays.
More pictures later.