Sunday, June 26, 2011

Corpus Christi Festival, Buying Furniture, MagicJack Down

Yesterday Sharon and I ate breakfast at "The Kook" and walked to the New Cathedral to see some of the Food Vendors for the Corpus Christi Festival which runs for over a week. We are far enough from El Centro to avoid hearing the nightly fireworks.

We walked to TuKasa a fantastic furniture store to buy a desk and chair for my office.  My Spanish and the owners English were on the same level. Price negotiations were fun with colorful charades mixed in.  We quickly arrived at a mutually acceptable price and delivery was immediate with a ride back home in the owner's pickup and a kiss on the cheek (Ecuadorian custom) from the owner's wife.  Great furniture, good prices and instant delivery --- Fantastico

I highly recommend Skype and MagicJack to every one retiring to a foreign country . Skype allows video calls and MagicJack provides free phone calls to the US with a local # for $40 the first year and $20 every year after.  Today my MagicJack has no sound on outgoing calls. Customer support via text chat proved useless.  We feel a tad isolated now without a direct dial to the US.  My guess is that I'll find the solution in a couple of days on some support bulletin board online.

Mas tarde.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

La Italiana Factory Tour

The Cuenca Chamber Of Commerce arranged a tour of La Italiana Meat and Sausage Factory.  Cameras weren't allowed outside the conference room so the video is only of our group putting on our hair nets and jackets.

La Italiana is one of Cuenca's largest employers. There were over 400 people at the plant and they have 4 additional retail locations and export their products all over South America, Europe and Africa. The factory produces 3 tons of meat products a week.

We observed the meat cutting, the sausage making and the cooking and packaging of the product. I was very impressed with the cleanliness and efficiency of the plant.  We were treated to a snack of ham and cheese and a souvenir hat.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Coopera Health Insurance

I took the #19 Bus to the Coopera headquarters in San Jacquin.  I signed up for their health insurance program which includes visits to the doctor and dentist.  The copay is $2 for both the doctor and the dentist. The doctor is fluent in English.  On the walk back to the apartment I encountered a talented juggler.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cuenca Chamber Of Commerce Trip To Artesa

The Cuenca Chamber Of Commerce sponsored a tour of the Artesa Ceramic Factory.  About 15 expats toured the facility located near Turi.  We were able to see the creation process before they become collector's pieces in the showroom. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ramps In Cuenca Are Not For Sissies

I met a new ex pat friend (Gerard) at Tres Puentes and he took me on his walking route. He usually goes up and down some steep stairs in El Centro and even took me on a steep ramp. The real reward was a stop at a special Hostal where they serve the best espresso in Cuenca. I'll post that location when I do a video review of great hostals and coffee.

After dropping him off at his home I walked home via the Yanuncay River. When I was just about to enter my apartment I saw an Indigenous woman pawing through the building garbage. This poverty and necessity to go through the building garbage upset me. I will ask some of my new Cuencano friends about this incident.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

One Month In Cuenca

One month ago Sharon, Feisty ( our 16 year old cat) and I arrived from Oregon. Two weeks ago we moved to our permanent apartment on PriMaro de Mayo and everyone is thriving. Feisty has gained a pound and both Sharon and I have lost a couple of pounds.

We have met some wonderful new Cuencano friends and several expats. We took a day trip to Paute and had a typical Ecuadorian Almuerzo.  Both Sharon and I have started Spanish lessons and joined Coopera,  the local food cooperative.  Skype and magic jack are working in our new apartment and we have been able to communicate with Portland, Or. Caldwell, Id and San Diego, Ca.

I walk everyday to El Centro (Old Town) which is about a 4 mile round trip. Everyday I try to practice my Spanish on the local merchants. Marcello, the local baker and I have expanded our conversation to the local politics and the traffic patterns on our street.

I'm enjoying taking my Kodak camcorder with me and I'm never in short supply of great material.  Today's video is of a local street entertainer. He juggles bowling pins and his hat while he is on his extra tall unicyle.  That's the easy part. He then has to dodge buses and taxi drivers.

So far we have been adapting to the new culture in Cuenca. The local people are very warm an inviting, the weather has been fantastic and the new diet especially the delicious local fruit and vegetables has made this a great first month. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gallinas, Cuy Y Arpa

On my daily walk I passed a marketplace where local people were selling hens and guinea pigs.  Cuy is a delicacy in Ecuador. Half way back to my apartment in front of the Old Cathedral (built in 1557) there was a harpist playing for the crowd.

I walked to the local mall and used my camcorder to record the Tarqui River which is 3 kilomenters from my apartment. Cuenca has 4 rivers that travel through the city. These are quite small when it is dry but move quite quickly after each rainfall.

The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory is our family's favorite TV Show.  We have not purchased a TV in Cuenca and we were having withdrawal pains from not seeing "Sheldon and the boys". Yesterday on my walk into El Centro I stopped off at a local Video Shop across the street from the Gran Columbia Church.  I purchased the complete series for Season Two and Three. Before the Video Shop visit I toured the Flower Market across the street from the famous New Cathedral

On my way back I spotted a street entertainer in front of the Bank Of Pinchincha on Solano entertaining the stopped cars. In a future post I'll do a whole video on street entertainers.

Mas tarde.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Wednesday Walk To El Centro

I try to walk everyday to the center of town. Today I take my camcorder with me. I start 20 meters from our apartment on the Yanuncay River. On the walk I cross two rivers (Yanuncay and Tomebamba) and pass Mt. Sinai Hospital. At the second rondelle there is a young man selling puppies. I also point out some of the cracks and holes in the pavement.

I come across what appears to be a mime but I think he is working for the local environmental agency. I encounter steep steps going up from Solano and down to Doce de Abril.

Cuenca is a city of churches and the video will show two of the over 100 Catholic Churches in the city. I walk a total of 5 miles and stop off at the local supermarket to pick up some peppers and cat food. The biggest supermarket chain is called Super Maxi and Wednesday there is a 20% discount on fruits and vegetables.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Un Hermoso Día En El Barrio

It's about 2 miles from my apartment to El Centro (Old Town). The video below shows the Yanuncay River right by our house. This morning there was an accident on Tres Puentes ( Three Bridges). I also wanted to show the condition of the pavement around town. You have to have your eyes constantly towards the pavement or you can easily trip.

Sharon and I walked in the opposite direction on Primero De Mayo and it was even sunnier than this morning. We spotted 4 cows grazing across the river.

Viva Oster

My darling wife just blended a wonderful concoction of local fruit in our new Oster Blender. They included:  Peach (Durazno), Babaco, Papaya, Pineapple(Pina) Fresh Orange juice. The photos below include our shopping trip to Coopera, the local food cooperative. My favorite part of the trip is finding the local promociions which are the fruit that needs to be eaten that day.

  • 2 Pinas =$1
  • 4 Papayas =$1
  • 2 Cheromoyas =$1

Monday, June 6, 2011

Three Weeks In Cuenca

On May 13th Sharon, Feisty ( our 16 year old cat) and I left Sherwood, Oregon for our new life in Cuenca, Ecuador. We flew from Portland to Atlanta. After a 5 hour layover, we traveled on to the port city of Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador.  The van we hired didn't show up so we hired a taxi to take the three of us plus multiple bags to Cuenca.  The taxi driver seemed polite, exchanged brief pleasantries with us and the fact that he spoke only a tiny amount of English just as we speak only a little Spanish.  Jose started out as a normal-seeming driver  - we already had experience with the breakneck speeds at which Ecuadorian taxis travel.  We already knew that stop signs seem to be optional.  What we did not expect was that with each 1000 ft rise in altitude, Jose seemed to undergo more and more of a personality change.  Guayaquil is at sea level and Cuenca is at 8200 ft altitude so this became a very drastic change over the 3 hour hair-raising ride.

Sharon busied herself taking photos out the side window to avoid terror of watching things rush at us beyond any possible hope of survival if anything went wrong.  After passing banana fields, papaya trees and sugar cane crops with small villages scattered along low elevations, we began to climb into the Andes. Suddenly we came around a large curve into a full cloud of thick fog.  I mean THICK.  Visibility seemed to be only about 4-5 car-lengths yet, unbelievably, Jose sped up.  He was revving the engine.  I asked if the fog would be all the way to Cuenca and he answered "No, only about 10 minutes."  Well, he was correct, it only lasted 10 minutes and we climbed out of it.  However, not before he managed to pass a slow moving truck on a blind corner where there had been a recent wash out so the road was all washboards. 

At one point, we stopped at a view point, very high in the clouds, and soaked up breath-taking views.  Then it was back to the drive.

To make a long story slightly shorter, this trip ended with 4 things: as we approached the city limits of Cuenca, we called a friend to tell Jose how to find the cottage we had rented.  1) Jose got in an argument with our friend and hung up on him.  We then called another person, a Cuencano who speaks Spanish. 2) Jose picked a fight with him and hung up on him also, expressing that they both did not know how to get to the cottage.  Huh?  They both were at the cottage!  3) Jose rolled down his window and asked a Cuencano taxi driver to show us the cottage - a very good solution, except that once we arrived at the cottage, Jose refused to set our bags out of the car and again argued with the people who were there waiting for us.

And the most amazing part of this story, besides the grace that got us here safely? How long was the trip? EVERYONE told us it would be at least 3 hours and could be as much as 5 depending on herds of goats, landslides and related issues on that spine of the Andes highway. Well, Jose made that3-5 hour trip in an unbelievable 2.5 hours!  We were incredibly glad to see our new home and immediately noted the graciousness and friendliness of the people of Cuenca.  Oh, and that 4th thing?  We both promised each other that our first taxi from Guayaquil to Cuenca is an experience we do not plan to repeat!  Chalk it up to a rite of passage to a new continent, a new country and life in a new city.  We are GLAD to be here!