Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Big Sick

There is a particularly nasty bacterial thing (or things) going around here in Cuenca.  It's affecting Ecuadorians and expats both.  It got us, too.

Symptoms range from simple colds/'allergies' (some seem to last forever!), to sinus infections, to sore throats and tummy problems, to convulsive coughing and more. Some symptoms go right into more serious illnesses.  One of our friends had a very high fever and was hositalized for IV antibiotics.  Whatever this thing/s is, it lays you low real fast.

We're slowly on the mend, but healing is slow.  We finally got into the doctor's a few nights ago.   We figured that these 'bugs' were not going away on their own.  Rich was diagnosed with bronchitis, going into pneumonia.  His barking cough was totally out of control.  Now he's on some powerful medicines and starting to feel better.

(To give you an idea on costs:  Office visit $26, Chest x-ray $25, meds $134 -- the special antibiotic was $104.  The remaining costs were for 3 other meds from the doctor.  The first course of antibiotics Rich started with, from the pharmacist, was $ did no good, in his case, and neither did the cough meds.)

As we took time out and thought we were healing from the 'colds/allergies', we were laying pretty low, taking it slow and easy. Always a disappointment to miss fun activities around town.  But, we'll be getting back on calendars for business meetings and fun stuff, hopefully next week.  Laying low, we napped alot and then when cabin fever was BORING, we cooked and tried some new recipes...lots of chicken soup and curries.  Nice to have extra food in the freezer (including chicken feet for broth!) and cupboards. 
We read some and watched old Liz Taylor movies, too.

We ventured  out a little yesterday... had a very short lunch and then headed back to home for a nap!  Happy we beat the afternoon rain. Our quick outing wore us out though.  We're certainly hoping we're up to at least a mini-walk to town with our Sunday walking partners, Chuck and Nancy.  Last week we missed our Sunday Walk, so you know we were really under the weather.  Missing Sunday Walks almost never happens. Our minds are willing for the Walk, but not sure yet if our bodies will be ok to do it. We're resting up today to give ourselves at least the option.


One other thing we want to mention, for those traveling here... 

We're meeting more folks who are flying in sick from the US, against their doctor's orders. We  heard a story from a US visitor that he decided to come on into Cuenca with a bad infection and just decided to repair here at a hotel and take a few taxi rides himself, while his wife checked out the City in more depth.  We've heard other stories like his, too.  Arriving sick doesn't earn you a badge of courage, in our opinion. 

Apparently, there are lots of reasons why folks are feeling compelled to travel into Cuenca sick, but it seems more folks are feeling more and more 'urgency' to get here...  Remember, Cuenca will still be here when you're feeling better!  So, best to get over your cold/flu/whatever and get well and then travel when you're healed.  No fun for anyone if you're arriving sick.
And, remember, those meds your US doctor gave you for your illness might not work the same at this altitude, especially if you're coming from sea-level...  If you feel crappy here despite taking your US meds, be sure to see an Ecuadorian doctor to get checked out.

We want to thank friends and family for checking on us and wishing us well!
Your good wishes are working!  We'll be back in the pink soon. 

Love and Light to all,

PS -- I'm still calling my symptoms 'allergies'.  Annoying to keep blowing my nose, but I'm getting better, too.  I think it depends on the construction activities at nearly Edificio Terrazza...lots of dust in the air today.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Small World -- Safe Travels, Liza and Larry

It's occurred to us that we really do live in a small world.  With technology, like Skype, the internet, international phone calls...we can stay in touch with family and friends as if they are just down the block.  Of course, there is nothing compared to the in-person hug, but at least we have technology.

Some folks worry about leaving their family and friends as they head out to their new adventures, to the next town, over US state lines, or half way around the world...Yes, some of us even head to South America!  Some of us also  have to say 'fare thee well' to loved ones as they leave us behind, always hard to move on or let our loved ones go.  Thank goodness for all the ways to stay connected.

Our dear friends, Liza and Larry, are leaving Ecuador for their next adventure.  They are our talented, award-winning micro-mosaic artist friends.  Some of you have checked out their web site and know what we're talking about.  See Liza's art  here: 
(The pics on this blog entry are also some of Liza's beautiful artwork.)

We sure will miss them, but through the wonders of technology, we'll stay in touch and keep track of all the good things that we're sure will happen for them.

Recently, we attended a 'liquidation' auction of their art at the California Kitchen.  Lots of us went home with new treasures!

 We appreciate and marvel at the art, those tiny little pieces making up such beautiful artwork.

 But, we also know these treasures will always remind us of our friendship with Liza and Larry and we are so happy and grateful our paths crossed. 

We've had alot of fun and we've certainly had some yucks and, probably, way too much pizza and beer! 

Those are the wonderful memories, along with the treasures,  that will stay with us, across the miles.

Liza and Larry,   Since we always hate to say 'good-bye', we'll say this instead (in our best Texan Cowboy accent): 
It's time to Saddle Up and head on out of Dodge.


Lots of love to you both and we will miss you.

Happy Trails to you! Until we meet again...

See you in Spain!

A couple more pictures of Liza's art:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Meet Writer, Magdalena. Poem to share

Magdalena and Daniel Herreshoff are new to Cuenca.  They stayed at 2 of our rentals while they looked around for a more long-term place.  Madeleen is a gifted writer and we are honored she gave us permission to share some of her Cuenca impressions on the blog. 

Here is a picture of Madeleen and Rich enjoying the sunshine one day (photo taken by Daniel).

Here is one of Madeleen's poems we'd like to share with you.  We think it really gives a flavor of a little slice of life here.   We'll be sharing more about Magdalena and more of her writings in the future.



From early dawn until noon, blue, white and black

Garbage bags accumulate on the sidewalk

Sick with the flu and unable to leave my apartment

I watch the embarrassing mass from the fifth floor.

Across the street two indigenous women sit

on the edge of a window sill away from the bright sun

surrounded by shopping bags, 4 white buckets with lids,

bundled scarves shoved behind a lamp post.

One of the women wears a tall white Panama hat

like a floating pie in the sky, a dark magenta sweater

tucked into a red velour skirt, thick with pleats.

The other is dressed in a turquoise sweater,

cobalt blue skirt, and a dark green bundle

crossed over her back, most likely

an infant, unaware of garbage bags.

Slowly they rise from the window sill

Cross the street with buckets in hand

Bend over the blue, white and black bags

Unknotting each one to search with bare hands for

banana peels, egg shells, papaya leftovers, fish bones,

Wilted vegetables, smashed fruit or coffee grinds.

Sweating in the heat of the day, wiping

Each scrap is pushed deep into the white bucket

Unknotting and knotting, their skirts scallop

In yellow, green and red embroidery,

golden sequins best suited for dance.

The infant slides from hips to buttocks

towards hidden treasures; a subtle rhythm

of harvesting waste inside pores.

I cannot take my eyes of them, spellbound

And ashamed of the overflowing garbage.

Half way through, the women carry their full buckets

Back to the shadow side of the street

On the edge of the window sill they rest

no words, no sudden gestures, no hurry

they wait for their backs to relax, muscles tight

from lifting garbage bags of rotting food

for pigs, perhaps a single cow, and stray chickens.

An old man arrives and waits on the sill's edge

for the women to tuck vivid skirts under broad hips

and sort their gleanings on the cool pavement.

I had not noticed the bags with trinkets until now;

with my binoculars I make out each item:

a pair of “gold” glasses, a little book, a ceramic picture

A mechanical toy, papers and folders.

Handed from woman to man to woman

each is explored , glasses are tried, books turned upside down

and separated into shopping bags.

Stepping away from the window I almost did not see

the two small women, infant, and old man,

full with buckets and bags tied high on their backs

disappear into the traffic of snarling taxis and cars.

As if by clockwork, the garbage truck pulls up,

Young men toss recyclables and trash up into the air,

hours of women's diligence erased in minutes.

Perhaps I will buy a bucket, save my scraps

for the Recicladores of Avenida Molina Mora.


Friday, March 11, 2011

More Pictures for the Families

We peridically post pictures of friends and family having fun, for those who miss them.  Here is the latest collection.  We post these collections every few weeks, so be sure to check back for more later (and you can go back in this blog for even more pics of your loved ones).

David and Christa.

Happy Birthday, Barbara!

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

Some blog 'out-takes' from a trip to the Cajas with Barbara, Howard and Fabian. 

With Fabian, watching our feet.

Bob and Rox.

Coquita and Nancy playing with a flower.

Nancy and Donna.

New friends, Michelle and John.

In the Andes, overlooking Azogues, with Howard, Barbara and Fabian.

New friends, Judy and Sandra.

With Jason and Donna.

With Terri and Matt.

Check back later for more.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Carnaval with the Watsons

Carnaval is a several-day holiday here in Cuenca. Many of the shops are closed and the City feels like a Sunday, but quieter, almost like Census Day (when everyone stayed at home to be counted).   Many families take a vacation out of town, stretching the weekend, and taking advantage of the extra days off.

Carnaval 2011 is our 3rd.  We first visited Cuenca during Carnaval 2008 and got drenched with a hose in the open window of a taxi!  At the time, we had no idea about this tradition, getting eveyone wet.  Not a pleasant experience as the day was chilly and rainy and we had a lot to do that day. 

Our 2nd Carnaval last year, we mostly hid out.  There were some close calls with water, including a little kid 'getting us' with a water gun as we waited outside of our apt building for a ride. Just a sprinkle and the day was warm and the little kid was so cute!   We got lucky.  Last year, we heard some yucky stories about Carnaval...  serious injuries, bad bruises.  A few busy days at the emergency rooms, another Carnaval tradition.

This year, we were even more vigilent, and we were thankful we could escape most of the water frivolity.  Not that we think we're too old for it!  It's just who wants to be wet, or foamed, or floured or least not intentionally.  Everyone on the street is fair game, even us old folks.  Most of the kids had a lot of fun and carried out the traditions just fine without us.  They had each other and had a ball.

This year, our friends/neighbors, Chuck and Nancy, hosted a wonderful Carnaval soiree on Fat Tuesday, with great food and friendship and fun (and no water, except the rain).   You can read here:

Since Chuck and Nancy are usually behind the camera, here are some pics of them from the party.

Building the scrambled dog.  Nancy's chili is the best!

Chuck taking a rest from his perfect hosting duties.

Last Sunday we walked to town, as usual, with Chuck and Nancy. 

We were a little intrepid walking during Carnaval...too much of a chance to get water balloon'ed!  But, we started out fairly early, in hopes all the 'water devils' were still sleeping at that hour.  We made it to breakfast, without a drop of water.

It was a lovely day!

We admired the flower arrangement a woman was carrying...

Here's a closer view.

Of course, we had to drool over all the goodies at the bakery.

We usually only see these bread babies during All Souls day in November.  Fun!

New street art...with an 'interesting' message on the man's sign.  Public urination is common, but we think this sign is asking folks to not do it here.  Probably in interest of the new cultural center being built on this stretch over the river.

(Boy, is our Spanish lousy!  Anyone have a better translation?)

We kept looking up as we walked!  Often, the 'water kids' hang out on the balconies awaiting their 'victims'! 

On the way back home, we did get a little wet.  A couple of kids sprayed water into the open windows of the taxi.  We didn't get too wet, but the water was a good drink for the flower bouquets we bought at the flower market.

We decided to walk along the river to the Oro Verde Hotel for coffee on Monday.  So far, no water, until we were headed back along Av Ordonez Lasso.  We just happened to need a rest in the shade and stopped in a doorway.  Yep, water-alert!  We could see the pick-up with the kids in the back, speeding down toward us...  That balloon just barely missed us!  It was thrown with such force, it probably would have knocked Nancy out if it'd hit her.

A couple more interesting tidbits about Carnaval:
A Cuencano friend of ours mentioned that the City had declared all water 'attacks' illegal this year.  Didn't seem to stop everyone though..  And, did you know that foam spray is flavored?  Brother Bob at the Coast got sprayed with pink foam and it tasted like strawberry!  And, we just thought it was pink soap.

So -- we survived Carnaval again this year and had alot of fun, but we did see and hear more about the 'downside' of  the Carnaval season. 

We met a little boy with an eyepatch.  His Mom said it was 'Carnaval'...not good.   One of our friends got royally 'balloon'ed' by a few older boys and young men who cornered her as she was going to work....her face was swollen and bruised.  Even though she asked they spare her backpack from the water, it wasn't.  That was mean.  Another day, we saw teenagers smack a young Mom and babe-in-arms on the street with a bucket of water.  Mom almost dropped the baby and it made her toddler cry.  So not good.

The City is back to normal (busy traffic, noise, construction, open shops, etc, and no water attacks!) and we're now looking forward to Easter celebrations coming up soon.

(This pic was taken from a taxi from the Supermaxi near us yesterday...almost gridlock traffic.)

Lent began yesterday with Ash Wednesday.  When we were downtown, we saw several folks with perfect little ash crosses on their foreheads.  We remember in the US it was more like a smudge/thumbprint of ash.  Some priest here is an artist!

Here are more pictures of beautiful flowers at Chuck and Nancy's: