Saturday, July 31, 2010


Since we have come to Cuenca, we have been surrounded by changes and differences all around us so the title on this blog might not seem so startling. But I thought a few of the differences could be a bit fun to show. But I will start with things that are the same... if just in a different place... for one... Randy.
He has found a spot out front to smoke is cigars and enjoy the sun..
Randy is still cooking those wonderful soups. Here is one he is cooking up today, lentil, peas, carrots, cabbage, zucchini, onions and of course his "secret" spices... Secret because he just throws it in and never remembers what it was our how much he added!
 He does all this in his wonderful kitchen. He is so happy that its much bigger than the last rental.

And of course, we have had to investigate the wine situation here...coming from Washington wine country. As you can see we have not made a huge stab at the local offerings but we are working on it.


 One of the things that we have discovered is the packaging or lack thereof here in Ecuador. We are in a country that is big on recycling. If your local neighborhood does not have a recycling program then there are folks who go through your garbage and separate it for you and are paid for doing so. I bought a small milk at the store the other day because we dont drink much milk. Alot of folks by these by the case.
Just a little plastic bag, with a cute box holder, snip the top and you have your milk. We can buy some namebrand items such as Kraft Mayonaise, but why pay $5-6, when you can buy Maggi for alot less..

We have been told that the Axiom brand of dish soap is the way to go. We have been told that you just scrub with the soap, let sit and rinse... all in cold water... it will be fine. I dont subscribe to cold water, so we use hot but otherwise we are going with the local method.

 We were told that we are to wash our fruit and vegetables here with a antibactieral soap. Its found in the Fruit and Veggie section of the grocery store. 1 cap to 3 liters of water, soak 5 minutes, wahla... well the bottle says wahla... I rinse with water again... but this way we are avoiding anykind of amoeba, or other kind of critters as the process of getting our fruit and veggies is alittle less sanitary here.
We went grocery shopping the other day at the local Coopertiva... Co-op. Its all Organic and they even have a orange juicer! They just throw in the oranges and it separates the peels from the juice. Its real cute cause the people here are pretty short and the top is very tall... so they have to toss them up in the air to get them in! All prices are per kilo, so 1 kilo is about 2.2 lbs. Here is our shopping receipt.
Here is the total...

Here is the food laid out.
We got a 6+ lb chicken (head and feet included) for about 1.62 a lb. Thats rangefree, no hormones total organic..some Sandwich ham for .68 a kilo! You do the math... two avacados for .68, fresh peas, a ton of cabbage... mushrooms, chiramoya, and more. Do your spanish and translate the list!

Some of the other changes have been in a more of a change of conditions situation.. hot water, yes we have hot water, our hot water does not reside in a hot water tank. We have on demand hot water.

 Well almost demand... you let the water run in the sink until its hot, then turn it off and turn on the shower... adjust with cold as necessary. The amount of water coming though is not a ton, a fine spray, through these cool shower heads...
Speaking of washing, I want to say here and now that I appreciate my mother and all the mothers out there who did without washing machines and dryers and irons and all the modern conviences we take for granted... I have had a bit of a comeupance in this area..
As you can see we have a washing machine (thankgoodness) but 220 is usually only in the real "ritzy" condos. So we hang our clothes. What I am thankful for is that we have a space in the loft bedroom for drying as well, its nice an warm up there. I have been trying to figure out a way to keep my clothes from wrinkling so much, and fabric softner in the washing maching does not seem to be doing it..I guess I will just have to get better at ironing. Wrinkled clothes have never bothered Randy so he just wears his as they come out...

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I am sorry to say, this will be another blog without photos. I am very reluctant to wander with my camera, and also I am very forgetful to bring it... so between the two, I have no photos of the following events.

We have been struggling with trying to find out way around from our new apartment. We are just enough in the "burbs" and just enough off the beaten path that a bus stop is not right out the door like it is in the center of town. The other day we hiked up Premiro De Mayo to the Avenida De Las Americas and finally caught a bus heading we hoped in the direction of the Super Maxi that we were familliar with... well the bus did a pretty good job but then it turned off and started down a highway off  ramp. We leaped to our feet and smashed the little red button... the drivers are supposed to only stop at the designated stops but thankfully most will stop on a dime if they can, and he did, right at the entrance to the highway... I dont think the other bus behind him appreciated it, but we were all smiles and I am sure the other passengers were shaking their heads at us silly gringos.

We finally made it to the market and did some major shopping, but took a taxi back. We still dont know the correct bus to take to make it all the way up Avenidas Las Americas... I dont think it was that bus 17 or was it 22... see.. I never have a pen to write the information down, and between Randys memory and mine we are probably lucky we even can make it back home! Oh thats right, we have a card with our address on it, so we wont get lost!

Randy and his new BFF Clarke went on an motorcycle expedition. Both have the bug, but Randy has agreed that he will not get one until he is SURE that he does not have to have his CEDULA yet... We should have them soon, as our attorney has assured us she has submitted the paperwork and it is in "the works"..I will leave that to your imagination on a time frame.

When Randy and Clarke returned from their trip, Randy had a wonderful little city street map. It shows all the musuems, cathedrals and tells a bit about the city and its history... all in English... bonus! As a side bar here. I am totally trying to learn Spanish, I am determined to nail it down... but sometimes its so nice to catch a break.

Today we were determined to find a great bus that would take us to El Centro. We had seen a bus yesterday that stopped just up the street so we headed for that area, plopped ourselves on a concrete wall and proceded to wait... not long a bus #7 came by that said Fiera Libre and Mall Del Rio on it...those are two areas we are familliar with so we hopped on. We were happy to note during the rided that the bus also would stop right across the street from our Bank, and a easy walk to our friends house up on Luis Cordero.  As the bus continued we got the whole city tour. We were in the industrial part of town all the way up into the hills.  At one point the driver told us Final... or in English "the bus stops here..." He pointed to another bus and we got on it..another #7. The drivers were finishing up a snack at the local lunch (almuerza) stand but soon our driver arrived. It was very interesting that he would not let us swipe our cards until he got to his first stop, a short ways down the hill...(so we kinda got a free ride..?) We enjoyed the ride back down the way we came, but I think this one did less of the industrial area of town. I dont think all #7 buses are the same...When the bus got to Mall Del Rio we decided a quick lunch was in order so we hopped off, ate lunch and shopped a bit at the Corral. So now we know that if we cross the street going the other direction and pick up a #7 that says Mall Del Rio on it, we can get there much quicker than the two hour bus tour we took for .50.

I have to tell you that our shopping experience was rather interesting. We looked at TV's, DVD players, and food steamers. The steamers we have seen seem to be very expensive and hard to find, so we continue to hunt. As we came up to the cashier she rattled off something in Spanish, Randy smiled and says... No Entinendo... "I dont understand", she smiled and then asked for "numero" We determined that she wanted our passport number. I am not sure if you have to have this because of the taxes, but most of the time we have to show this when we purchase items. We carry color copies of the ID page of the passport with us and this is always sufficient. We ended up only buying two bottles of  pump hand soap, fabric softer for the washer, 2 bottles of wine, 2 bottles of rum and 2 test size packages of crackers. We decided we had eaten enough at lunch that a big shopping spree was not in order. We will wait for another day.  We decided a taxi ride home was in order, and 1.50 later we were at our door. Home Sweet Home.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I have not been able to add photos of our journey to Cuenca due to my computer issues. I still have computer issues but Randy has relented and is letting me use his computer. Lets hope I don't mess his up too!
We arrived in Quito on the 1st of July, and after meeting with our attorney decided to pack up and head down to Cuenca... home. Here is our driver trying to get all the bags in and on the car, and still leave room for his two weary passengers
He was very determined to be somewhat of a tourguide as well so he made sure to stop at the oldest church in Ecuador. He took this as we were walking in. Its the only one that actually shows the church!

After arriving in Cuenca we spent the next 16 days in a hotel. Read previous blogs about this experience, but here are some photos. Being the spoiled Norte Americans that we are there were some adjustments to be made.

Closet space was at a minimum as well as the room size, but I did think they did a clever job with the painting on the ceiling., I had fond recollections of our time spent at the wonderful hotel McMennamins in Portland, Ore.

We were rescued by our good friend Chuck & Nancy and we moved into their Condo for 4 days before we moved to our apartment. We were wined and dined and introduced to a bunch of other expats.
One of our new friends invited us over for breakfast, This is a photo of Clarke and Brenda, Nancy and Randy.

 They have some wonderful views off their balcon as it is called here in Ecuador.  You can see major church steeples and the cool mountains all around.

We got a call from Charlie and Susi, our landlords on Friday that we could move in earlier than expected! Oh, we were so happy. Chuck and Nancy were great in giving a space, but we were sooo ready to be in our own! So at 5 pm we loaded up two taxis with 7 suitcases and two backpacks and in our best spanglish told the drivers where we were going. We were so happy to get to our place. Charlie helped us haul our bags upstairs and we agreed to get settled and then at 8  we would meet up to head out to dinner. Here are some photos of our moving in. We unpacked everything in two hours! Now that is downsizing!


The photo to the left is our bedroom as we started to unload, the one on the right is the suitcases lined up to be unloaded. Oh yes, that is a double bed..we are adjusting, but Randys feet hang off most of the time!
Randy's first task was to set up his music. He was disappointed to find out that when the security went through our luggage they did not repack his speakers as well as he did. So they survived, but they are not quite as handsome the speaker covers snapped off and their are now little chips on the edges in the back, but the sound is still very nice, so that was a big relief! He is now designing a stand for the new big screen TV and his stereo. The workmanship here is wonderful and we can get a great setup made to our specifications for a very resonable price. Randy has enjoyed his first day, so far he has moved furniture, drank a fifth of brandy and listened to music, hmmm I think he is having a great day!

We have been on some great walks around town, and we have met some very famous personalities.  Here is one you should all recognize! I stood out in traffic to get his photo! Poor Randy, all the drivers were just smiling at him.  We were also excited to see that you CAN get a Vespa Scooter in Ecuador!

We were treated to a wonderful breakfast this morning, then they hauled us to the grocery store so we could stock up. We managed to only forget sugar and butter so I think we did good. Monday we go Veggie and Fruit Shopping at the Organic Co-op. I will try to report on the prices, you will be so jealous!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


When we came to Cuenca in 2008 it was in February. The weather was warm and a sweater was only needed in the evening after dark. I have become very attached to my new purple windwall jacket by Northface. I am cold! Its not that is so cold here on a temperature scale, its that I am not climatized yet. Let me back up a bit. When we left Richland WA we had just started to get our nice "warm" temps. of 80-90 degrees F so coming her and it being 60 or less with rain tends to send me into a coat and socks and heavy shoes. I am remembering Randy shaking his head as I laid out my coats and tried to decide which to bring. We are both coat fanantics so this really was a big decision. I ended up with 4 coats. two rain type coast one heavy and hits mid thigh, one is just a rain jacket very light weight. The other two are my windwalls one has a hood, my purple one does not have a hood. So I am happy, I brought my coats, Randy has mumbled that he wishes he had brought warmer coats... I feel very santimonious that I dont poke fun and remind him about his attitude when I brought my coats.

Today was a very important day in our life here in Cuenca and our stay at the hotel. We had HOT water! Oh man, I was all ready to bail on the shower all together today and Randy stuck his head out with a huge smile and said, HURRY its HOT! And it was, I was so thrilled I was able to take some time and not just splash here and there. And to add to the delight we were not up at the crack of dawn either! Its was 9:30! So maybe they fixed whatever the problem was. I did see new propane tanks being delivered so maybe that is why we had nice hot water.. hmmm maybe I will go back and try for an afternoon shower!

Writing this blog and talking with folks on other social networks regarding our wishes to move to Ecuador has led us to 'meet' alot of people on line. Our friend Chuck who lives here in Cuenca had taken us on a trip to see motorcycles... So we were ending out trip by walking Chuck to his appointment upstairs above the California Kitchen when I hear... "KAREN!" So as I look to see who called my name I see this lady who I dont know waving and waving at me... Her name is Patty McNabb, she had written to me on FB I believe and she wanted to say hello!  We quickly exchanged our experiences as we had to move on to another appointment, but it was so nice to have someone reach out and say hi, like that! It felt like a Welcome Wagon of the old days!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


We are adapting to our new routine here in Cuenca. We sleep until we decide to wake up, or if we want a warmish shower we get up early.. I must say here before I am thought to be whining, that we have been offered a hot shower by Chuck and Nancy anytime we want, so the note here is only as a infomercial about the quality of the showers in our current residence. We have chosen to stay here as we are too lazy to move our 5 bags and look for other accomodations until the 14th when we move in with Nancy while Chuck is on travel for business.

Last night we were sitting in our lobby enjoying the rainstorm and thundershowers. The glass roof over the courtyard is wonderful to hear the rain, and feel the breeze that comes under the glass. This glass roof is not water tight over the tiled roof, so all around the inside roof line of the courtyard is a marvelous gutter system that catches the rain pouring off the roof . There was a massive flash and then boom, a huge clap of thunder immediately followed, with torrential downpour  and I lost my internet. So I am continuing this today, Saturday.

We had a nice walk this morning to the Fybecca for more medicine for Randy, Our favorite English speaking assistant was there. She has such a nice smile, and offered information about where the best pork could be found. She warned us that it would be a whole pig with the head and feet on a pole, all roasted and people cutting hunks off of it. We assured her we had seen that. She said we should try it because the meat was very very good. We have not ventured in that direction as yet.

After Fybecca we continued walking and because it is Saturday the stores open at a later time. So even though it was about 9:30 the streets were not too busy and stores had not all opened up. We sat on "our" bench at Parque Calderon, this park is in front of the famous church with the blue domes. While sitting there a very sweet old lady came up and asked us how we were doing ... in Spanish, shook our hands, and as I responded in my limited Spanish she began to talk very fast and smiled and smiled. I tried to tell her I could not understand, but she did not seem to mind. She continued and shook our hands, pleased that she had welcomed the "gringos".  This really touched me, she knew I did not know what she was saying but she really went out of her way with her smiles and tone to let me know she was saying something very welcoming, and I think it kind of made her day too, because she had a bigger smile as she walked away.

Our phone delimma has been fixed. My phone was somehow back to spanish and had a security code on it. We had arranged to meet with our landlord to have him go with us on Friday to be our translator. Between dead phones and phones not working we ended up just heading out to the Mall Del Rio to see if we could find a English speaking assistant at the Porta store. We were able to find one, and he helped us understand what code to put in and he had them set up the English for me. We also discovered that our charger was not working so that is why Randy's phone did not charge. After buying a new charger we were very happy to know we had our communcation issues finally fixed.

We grabbed a taxi and headed over to our bank for the final step in accessing our bank account. Omar was very helpful and took us down stairs to a machine like a cash machine. This one is inside and has an assistant standing by to help. Omar stayed with us to translate. Randy had to put in his passport number and then his debit card password, This went on through several screens and after about the 5th time there were smiles and he showed Randy how to access his account online. At this point Randy is looking over his should at me with a look that is saying ..."are you getting this?" Thankfully they wrote the website down, but the page is all in Spanish, so unless we can get Google Translor to turn it to English I think we may have to wait until our Spanish is abit better.

After the bank we decided to head up the stairs to Benigo Malo and Calle Larga and back to our hotel. We stopped at a furniture store that is known for being able to custom make furniture. I was more interested in the pictures and knic knacks.. being that I got rid of all the ones at home, I am looking forward to replenishing them! Randy paitiently waited by the door, and noted that now we were running from the rain... did I bring my raincoat or umbrella? Nope. So we did the Ecuadorian thing and slipped like theives along the edges of the buildings that have overhangs avoiding the downpour. We did real well, stopping to plan our route when there were gaps in the overhang. I had my birkenstocks on and Randy had his tennis shoes.  The sidewalks here are either concrete or beautiful tile. Unfortunately the tile is not textured. So when it rains us poor gringos have to really watch our step or we take off sliding when we are trying to hurry along dodging rain..So far neither of us has slid in the rain, but I did get caught gawking up in the air today. The sidwalk had a slope for a car to drive up, and it as tiled.... oops! Randy had my hand or I think I would have launched into the street! Yes, I did get the lecture about watching where I am going, but how can you look up and down at the same time? Isnt that why I was holding his hand so he could guide me along? Now that I think of it I think its his fault...

Later today we may take another walk and see if we can find the famous Carolina's Bookstore. We hear it is quite the Gringo hangout, and they have all kinds of new and used books there.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


We left Quito on Saturday morning. I have photos of the car, but I cant load them onto this net book I am using so you will have to imagine it. A Tuscon, with two suitcases in the back and 3 tied, covered and netted for safety! Off we went across the country side. If you look at a map of Ecuador and measure from Quito to Cuenca you can see the miles are long, what you cant see is the extreme highs and lows, and round and round mountains you will go!

The variety of towns, people and homes was really interesting to me, as we were interesting to the people we saw. Our driver Luis was very nice, and patient, as he spoke NO english except OK! We did some incredible pantomime and arm waving, most of the time when we came through with good enough spanish he really seemed proud of us. Luis stopped at a town know for its Helado... Icecream.. Oh yeah, so we pulled up to a stalled he yelled through the window what he wanted and she handed it to us. Oh joy, hard fruta icecream on a stick.. .very good.

I was very proud that I remembered to take my tissues with me when we stopped at a gas station. There was a place for the TP but it was empty. So yeah for me, I am learning to be prepared. Also I have no forgotten to throw the tissues in the garbage and not the toilet yet... I know, that is one thing that is an adjustment, but not really an inconvinence!

We pulled into a town to eat almuerzo (lunch) and they were having a fiesta. Streets were closed and traffic was blocked, Luis was getting more and more tangled in the city as he asked people how to get out of town. Then a huge truck stopped in the middle of the one lane road..four cars piled up behind us, all honking their horns and Luis pleading with the driver to move, pointing to the cars behind us. When they finally did move they were all smiles and no one seemed upset. Randy says he loved this part. Neither of us got upset, we were just having fun! So finally we were off to the next town.

The almuerza was really good. $2.00 ~ Huge bowl of soup with potatoes, beef. Then a nice oblong plate filled to overflowing with rice, beans, cooked veggies and a chicken thigh and fresh juice. We each had the same. So $6 for it all.

We arrived in Cuenca about 4 oclock. Traffic was horrendous, and our driver much to our dismay asked us where to go! OH no! I had asked at the hotel if the driver knew of the hotel and he assured me that he did.
So we began using our memory, calls to our friends Chuck & Nancy Watson, locals info and the blue church to get us into the approxomate area. When we did finally find it we had to make 3 trips around the block so the hotel staff could run out and hold a space open for us to park. They were awesome, they hauled all those heavy suitcases up to our room on the second floor. wheew! Glad I didnt have to!. Our driver Luis was happy to say goodby as he had to turn around and drive back to Quito, Sunday he had a tour to Otovollo scheduled for his trusty Tucson.!

We took a taxi to Nancy & Chucks, and then after awhile we taxied back to our hotel for a late (by US standards..7:30) dinner. It was a successful Saturday.

This is Sunday, we walked to the Parque Calderdon and did some people watching. Randy found that his leg tattoos and Cigar smoking were too much of an oddity, and he did not like being watched, so out went the Cigar. I think they are just going to have to get used to his tattoos, he does like his shorts!

We had a pleasant surprise when several "gringos" came up and introduced themselves. I guess our friend has posted that we are here with our photos. So we now have met 3 couples, and a dutch gentleman.

We are so happy to be here, tomorrow is our banking day and hopefully with catch up with our future landlords, as they offered to give us a tour. I love the hospitality of this place!

Friday, July 2, 2010


We arrived in Quito on July 1st. Our flights were good, and we had great luck with our extra baggage. Our 5th bag was overweight besides being extra. The airline attendant was flustered and said he didnt think he could check a overweight bag to Quito. Well he called someone, slapped a ticket on it and when we questioned him he just shrugged, and said no charge, I already put it on the Our luck held and we were never questioned or charged in Quito either!

We were not inpressed with United, We flew from Pasco, Wa to Denver, then to LA. where we switched to COPA. United charged for everything other than juice and water. COPA fed us and free poured alcohol! As anyone knowing Randys flight phobia, he was please with that service!

When we landed in Panama we were slapped in the face with heat and humidity...ugh. both of which we were not happy about, luckily we only had to deal with it from the plane to the airport. Inside was nice AC, sitll a bit muggy though.

Our hotel in Quito is a very cute hotel and close to our attorneys office so thats a big help. We had lunch downtown today and I had a tamal. It was very yummy cooked two huge banana leaves! $2.25.

We found that our US phones that we bought, unlocked had too high of bandwidth so we had to have them worked on. The Porta people were very helpful and even got all of our phone issues resolved so we didnt have to try to figure out what button to push in spanish! My spanish was enough to let them know we appreciate their great service. A big smile assured me I was succesful.. I hope, unless I said something inappropriate!

We found a really fun restaurant called CafeLibro.  I believe the spanish by line was something about the essential bohemian. Randy had steak, 5.50. I had Nuggets Pollo. oh yum, Micky D's got nuthin on  this place... oh man they were good. We had a very nice bottle of wine and were on our way in an hour. The place was going to hop later, it was definately a dancing bar!

Tomorrow we leave for Cuenca, we thought we would stay longer in Quito, but have decided since out needs are met with the attorney we can go on home to Cuenca. We have decided to rent a van and drive this time. It will be a long drive but we hope to be able to see the countryside. Our driver does not speak alot of english... ugh well maybe none, but he knows where we are going and we will have our spanish cheat sheets ready for the trip.

Now to get on with all the new beginnings in Cuenca!