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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Minnesota Mickelsons' Here We Come

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck and I are on our way to Minnesota to see Merri and Ken and the kids. Our grandchildren are home schooled and are heavily involved in 4-H.  We are going with them to go to the Minnesota State Fair to see their accomplishments.

We left Cuenca on Monday via the bus to Guayaquil.  Our local airport is closed for a month and we cannot fly direct to Quito.  When we arrived in Guayaquil, we had lunch at the bus station and then took a taxi to the Guayaquil airport.  We flew from Guayaquil to Quito.  A little inconvenient but it worked.  It turned a morning flight to Quito to an all day adventure.

We have been relaxing and enjoying Quito since Monday.  Our flight to Minnesota leaves tonight about midnight.

Here are a few pictures from the last couple of days to share:

Here is the entrance to Park Eido.  We enjoyed shopping from the vendors there for gifts to take with us.

We went to the museum, Case de la Culture Ecuatoriana, across the street from the park.  Here is a picture of the beautiful paintings on the wall in the museum lobby.  Unfortunate for us, they were remodeling the museum and we were not able to see any of the exhibits. We will do it on a future trip.

We take a lot of refreshment breaks when touring.  Here is Chuck keeping us on track by checking the city tourist map.

I love the reflection of Quito on this glass building.

And, of course, more shopping for gifts to take to Minnesota.

I am lugging along my computer in hopes of sharing pictures of our family and the Minnesota State Fair.

We are very excited about this trip.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Bus Trip through the Cajas

Dear Family and Friends,

Awhile back, maybe six weeks ago, Chuck and I needed to go to Guayaquil. We had to go to get a Chinese visa in our passports.  We are headed to China the first of October.

Driving through the Caja National Park (Andes Mountains) is nice, but with fog and all it can be tense, especially for the driver.  Guayaquil is a big city and driving there is not fun.  So we decided to take the bus.

We have not taken the public bus since we bought Puff Puff (our car) many years ago.  We rediscovered what an easy and comfortable way this is to get to Guayaquil.

I sat by the window and took pictures.  Even though the window was dirty I got some nice pictures of the Cajas to share.  I have never been able to do this from the car because in the car I am sitting much lower.

Nice view of a valley.

A little house in the Andes.

Another beautiful valley.

Climbing higher and we are almost in the clouds.

This little church looks mystical perched in the mountains surrounded by the clouds.

Another little house in the Andes.

We had just come out of the Cajas on our way back to Cuenca when I took this picture of the road that lay ahead.  One of my favorite pictures ever.

This picture is of the houses that are along the Tomebamba river just before you arrive in Cuenca.

We really enjoyed taking the bus.

In a little over a week we are leaving for Minnesota.  We will be going to the Minnesota State Fair with our kids and grandkids.  The grandchildren are involved with 4-H and we are excited to share this with them.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Whale Watching Adventure

Dear Family and Friends,

After my brother, Norman, and his wife, Nancy, left to go back to Texas we went with Audrey and Jim to the coast to go whale watching.  Although we have lived here a long time, and been to the coast many times, this is one trip we have not done before.

It was an all day drive in a tourist van to reach Puerto Lopez.  We were exhausted from the trip and walked on the beach before having dinner.  We went to bed early because we had a full day ahead of us.

The next morning we were taken to the pier.  From here we were loaded on a boat to begin our adventure.

While waiting for our turn to board the boat, I noticed this fishing boat in the water. Looking at the pelicans, they most likely had a successful fishing trip.

We started our trip away from land and about 45 minutes later we were in the middle of the humpback whales.  Our guide did a good job of spotting them and the boat driver did a good job of staying with them.  The photographer (me) did a hit and miss job of capturing them.

Oops...almost had that one.

Wow! Another tail.  I got better though and when we returned on our way back to shore I got some nice pictures.

This is another tourist boat, very much like the one we were on, out enjoying the whales.

Here is another whale shot.

We continued on to Isla Plata (Silver Island) also known as the poor man's Galapagos.  We were excited to go because we heard that you can see Blue Footed Boobies there.  We spotted these two pelicans on a buoy as we approached the island.

We enjoyed watching the green sea turtles.  Our guide threw a little food out for them and they surfaced so we got a real good view of them.

We got off the boat and went on to the island.  No people live on the island. It is protected and the nature is phenomenal.  Here is a little Long Tailed Mocking Bird.  They were very friendly and because they are protected they have no fear of humans.

Chuck, Audrey and I hiked to the top of the island.  Since it was only a little over a week since my thyroid surgery and it was 90+ degrees, I kept saying to Chuck I could never have done this before the surgery. The rest of the hikers continued on for another mile of hiking, but I chose to rest in the shade at the top of the island.

I am glad I stayed there because the Blue Footed Boobies came to me.  I was entertained for about an hour by them while I waited for my fellow hikers to return.

Here is a male, stomping his feet, trying to catch the attention of his female partner.

They came right up to my feet and stayed there the whole time.  They were not one bit frightened by me.  The big bird on the right is the female.  They are larger than the males.  Also, the guide said to notice their pupils.  Females have larger pupils than the males.

They were so close that I could get a close up photo of their feet.

The hikers finally returned and we made our way back down the island to the shelter where we could get back on our boat.  Here is Audrey and Liz, another tourist, resting in the shade while waiting their turn to get back on the boat.

Another group of tourists waiting to get on their boat.

Here is a tuna boat that was anchored off the island.

Another photo of the Long Tailed Mocking Bird.

After leaving the island, our boat stopped so we could snorkel.  Here is a picture of a near by boat and the passengers getting ready to snorkel.

I knew I could not go in the water because my scar was still healing.  Even so I was treated to some beautiful fish.  Here is a snorkeler from our boat admiring these Angel fish.

They look distorted because of the water, but they were so brilliant in color.

After snorkeling, we headed back to Puerto Lopez, stopping to view the whales again.  I am so glad we had a second chance.  This time I was lucky to be able to capture the whales breaching the water.

The trip was fantastic.....a complete success.

It was an all day adventure.

Here is a shot from the pier of Puerto Lopez.

The next morning we started our long drive home.  We reached Cuenca about 7pm.  We were in bed asleep before 9pm.  Tired but feeling very happy.

On the next post I will share some Caja pictures I made when Chuck and I took the bus to Guayaquil about a month ago.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Norman and Nancy Come to Visit

Dear Family and Friends,

I am doing incredibly well since my surgery.  Thank you for your well wishes.

The morning after surgery I was released from the hospital.  I felt terrific.  No pain.  Chuck took me home, I went to bed for a nap and he went to pick up his sister, Audrey and our brother-in-law, Jim at the airport.

They are staying in our old apartment for several weeks; escaping the heat of Tucson, Arizona.  I will share about our adventures with them in the next post.

My brother, Norman and our sister-in-law, Nancy arrived a few days later. Chuck and I flew to Quito to meet them.  We toured Quito on the double deck tourist bus one day and went to the equator monument and Otavalo the next day, before returning to Cuenca.

Here are some pictures of our fun visit.

Here is Norman straddling the equator.  One foot in the northern hemisphere and another in the southern hemisphere.

Norman, Nancy and Chuck strolling through the park.

Balancing an egg on the head of a nail can be done at the equator.  Here is Nancy trying to balance an egg at the indigenous equator park.


Here we are on Sunday at Parque Calderon in Cuenca.  Norman, Chuck, Jim and Audrey keeping the bench warm.

We had a wonderful visit with Norman and Nancy.  Sharing time with family is a beautiful gift.

They are now back home in Texas, unwrapping the new dishes they bought at Artesa.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Near Death Experience

Dear Family and Friends,

I am sharing this experience because I believe that there could be someone that might learn or be helped from my experience.

I tend to only go to the doctor when I have a real problem.  I hate going on a regular basis because I dislike having to get weighed, learn of my short comings (that is how I perceived it) in taking care of myself.

Last Wednesday I had a life saving experience.  If you know me personally, you are likely aware of my difficulty breathing.  When we first visited Cuenca nine years ago, I noticed a small amount of wheezing when we would be taking walks around town.  Nothing to be worried about because it only happened rarely and only when I was exerting myself physically.

The following year we moved here permanently.  The wheezing, when I breathed, would come and go.  It was more noticeable when I was physically active.  My walking pace slowed because I was not getting enough oxygen.

I did go to the doctor here in Cuenca complaining about my difficulty breathing. He sent me for a chest x-ray, which came back negative for any problems.  He suggested that since I had high blood pressure, this could be effecting my breathing.  I even had a stress test and the doctor who did the stress test told me my heart was fine, but agreed that my problem was due to my high blood pressure.  My doctor even sent me for a breath test which also came back negative.

I decided to just live with it. I assumed that if I could get my blood pressure under control all would be fine.

A couple of years ago, when I was feeling run down and completely low on energy, I started going to a health coach here in Cuenca.  He determined, among other things, that I was extremely deficient in vitamin B12.  We got that remedied and I changed my life style (juicing vegetables, walking more and addressing my mental outlook).  I honestly felt like a million dollars.  BUT, the wheezing continued...sometimes just a little, sometimes more.

I really thought that maybe the wheezing was from the altitude and the air being thinner.  Chuck bought me an oxygen machine.  I used it every day to get the oxygen levels up in my body.

Chuck and I travel a lot.  It became apparent to me that the wheezing was not totally due to the altitude because even at sea level I continued to wheeze.

I basically resigned myself to living with it.  This decision almost cost me my life.

I can only equate this to the frog in the water scenario.  My breathing, over the years, got progressively worse.  It happened so slowly over the years and I was just "living with it."

Last Wednesday, I was on the oxygen machine, sucking in air to breath.  Since I was getting oxygen, I didn't feel like I was in trouble, but I knew that my breathing would not be better ever.

Chuck suggested we try a specialist in lung disorders. I was reluctant and said I really didn't want to go to the doctor.  At this moment, many things happened almost simultaneously.  Lourdes, our housekeeper, overheard my reluctant reaction.  She immediately went to our neighbor, David, and told him I needed to see this doctor NOW.

David, called his doctor and the doctor agreed to see me immediately.

David insisted on driving us to the doctor and waited there while I was examined.

After taking about a 5 minute history, he examined me, had me do a breath test. He determined that there was nothing wrong with my lungs.  He examined my throat and determined the problem was my thyroid.  It was extremely enlarged and instead of protruding out from my neck it had grown inward and was choking off my trachea.

He said the remedy would be surgery to remove the thyroid.  When he said this I started thinking...we have company coming to visit us, arriving today, and more company arriving next week.  Maybe I would get the surgery in a couple of weeks.  This thought never made it out of my mouth, because the next thing the doctor said was. "If I cannot get a surgeon to operate right away, we will do a tracheotomy so you can breathe.  You are at a high risk of suffocation."

I had walked into the doctor's office at 10:00am and I was rolled into surgery at 3:00pm.  Between that time I had blood work, chest x-ray and a sonogram.

My surgery went well, I woke up in recovery experiencing immediate relief.  I could tell that my breathing was so much easier.

The next morning (Thursday) I was released from the hospital and have been recovering very well from the surgery.

I owe my life to Lourdes, David, to a very smart doctor, who was not satisfied until he found my problem, and a very good surgeon.

I do not know how rare this is, but if you are having breathing difficulties, especially living here in Cuenca, don't just assume that it is the altitude.

Now, if I don't get run down by a bus, I am looking forward to many more healthy years ahead living in beautiful Cuenca.

In closing, I will quote the late comedian Minnie Pearl.."I am so GLAD TO BE HERE."

Much love,