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Tuesday, February 14, 2023

There is always a back story.

Dear Family and Friends,

Remember, when you see a selfie of two old folks....

This is what they looked like a few seconds before.

Happy Valentines Day



Monday, February 13, 2023

Ecuador Election 2023

Dear Family and Friends,

We returned from the U.S. to Ecuador about 3 weeks ago.  We are happy to be back in the wonderful weather. 

Today, I have a guest writer for this post.  Last Sunday was election day in Ecuador.  Chuck voted in this election.  I did not.  Since he is involved in the political scene, I figured you all might be interested in how elections work down here.  Chuck offered to share with you about the voting process from first hand experience.

Take it away Chuck:

Ecuador Election 2023

Sunday, February 5th was election day here in Ecuador. All the mayors and provincial officers were on the ballot, as well as some proposed changes to the constitution.  

The process is so different from the USA, that I thought I would describe it to you.

Before the Election

In Ecuador, there are many political parties. It is easy to a new political party. There is a minimum number of signatures required, and there must be a convention or other process to select the candidates for a party.  

Sometimes, the candidate who emerges is the one who founded the party.  This candidate selection process was done this past August.

The parties submit their list of candidates to the national election commission (CNE) for review.

In October, the review was complete and several candidates were rejected. Here in Azuay province, 3 men were disqualified because a review of their records showed that they had not been paying their child support. One prominent woman was disqualified because she had changed party affiliation just before the August convention. The rules required that she be a party member since May.

Meanwhile, the president had proposed 8 changes to the constitution (designed to strengthen the central government at the expense of the legislature). These changes were submitted to the constitutional court. The wording was reviewed and refined by the court. The ballot measures were expressed as a short statement of the intent of the change and a yes or no question – Do you agree with blah blah.

The campaign season, which lasts for only one month, opened in January and closed 2 days before the election. There were informal parades, party members chatting up pedestrians, advertising on TV and radio, and posters all over town.

The dry law went into effect the Friday before the election and remained in effect until Sunday afternoon, after the polls closed. Bars were closed and no liquor was sold throughout the country.

(However, we had dinner on Friday at an unnamed restaurant where the doors were locked and the liquor flowed – don’t tell anyone).

There were two dry runs by the election officials with international observers present. Pictures of people moving ballot boxes to the counting stations were widely published to assure the citizens that the process would be transparent. Early voting was provided to prisoners and shut ins a couple of days before the election.

The Election and Results

You do not register to vote in Ecuador, the CNE has a record of all 18 million Ecuadorans. Each of us has a unique identification number which is printed on our identity card, which is called a cedula. Voting is mandatory for all citizens between 18 and 65 years of age, it is voluntary for those over 65.

I checked on line to see where to vote. It was a school in our neighborhood. There were hundreds of people voting at this school, and no parking for blocks around it. I could not find a picture of the hundreds of people in 2023, so here is a photo from 2021.

The polling places are in classrooms. Women voted in one building, while men were in the other. This is to reduce the chance that a spouse is influencing (forcing?) the voters choice. My classroom was on the second floor. There were solders guarding the entrances to each classroom.

I walked in and handed my cedula to the election official. He found me in his book, and I signed next to my name, cedula number, and my pre printed picture. At the next two tables I was handed a stack of paper ballots. They were quite large because they had colored photos of each candidate. One stack was for our province, Azuay, and the other was for the national issues.

I took my stacks of ballots to one of the secret voting booths. Mine had a chair, but this fellow had to stand.

After I marked my ballots, I deposited them in the collection boxes. I had to make sure the correct pile went into the proper box. Note that each box has a transparent window.

Then, I retrieved my cedula and was handed a card (with my picture) proving that I had voted. This card in necessary for dealing with government agencies and other transactions such as opening a bank account. People who did not vote must pay a fine to get a similar card. Outside the school, there were several vendors offering to laminate the voting certificate card in plastic for fifty cents. Since I am too old to be required to vote or show my card, I did not have mine laminated.

At the close of the day, the ballot collection boxes were sealed and the soldiers transported them to the tabulation building

The next morning we learned that in a very close race Cuenca has a new mayor, Christian Zamora. I think there was not a lot of interest in this race, more people left the ballot for mayor blank than voted for any of the candidates.

Since Christian Zamora is a man, the vice mayor must be a woman (and vise versa). She will be selected by the party.

Nationally, the results showed a massive shift to the left. The conservative party which has controlled Guayaquil for over 30 years was defeated. The new mayor is aligned with the party of former socialist president Rafael Correa. Many other cities, including Quito, also elected members of this party.

In addition to this shift to the left in local political power, all eight of the proposed constitutional changes were defeated. This is a major blow to our center-right president – I predict that he will have a difficult time surviving the two years until the next presidential election.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Our last trip before returning to Ecuador

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck and I returned this past weekend from a short family cruise.  The cruise was very special because my brother, sister and I, along with our spouses were together for five days at sea.  We cruised on Royal Caribbean's "Adventure of the Seas."  in the western Caribbean.  We all live far from each other, and we are getting older, so this was indeed very special.

Chuck and me as we boarded the ship.

This cruise had two stops, Costa Maya and Cozumel.  

Chuck and I got off the ship at both ports.  We didn't do much except gawk.  I did get my footsies cleaned by fishes in Costa Maya.

The beaches were beautiful.

We did not buy one thing.  Not even a t-shirt.  We are at the "throw away" stage in our lives.  We have no need to collect.  We've done too much of that already.  Now days we take pictures and collect memories.

Our state room steward kept us entertained with the towel animals each day.

Here we are, the three Powers kids. (Mary Anne, me and Norman).  Happy to be together for a few days.

And here we are with our spouses.

We are so blessed to have this time together.  

Chuck and I have had several wonderful adventures on this trip to the United States.

Next Monday, bright and early, Chuck and I will be flying from Tucson, AZ to Quito, Ecuador.  It is time to go home.  You know what they say, "There is no place like home."

Love you all.


Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Charleston, South Carolina and Boone Hall Plantation

Dear Family and Friends,

This day we headed north to Charleston, South Carolina.  We took a tour of the city on a bus. It was difficult to take pictures, but I tried.

We saw beautiful old homes...

Actually, after touring Beaufort just the day before, the beautiful homes were anti climatic.

The City Market was loads of fun.  Lots of items for sell, especially since it was close to Christmas.

These baskets are woven from sweet grass.  It is a tradition that has been passed down through generations in the Gullah people of the low country.  These baskets are a Charleston treasure. They are quite spendy = (I didn't buy one).  These are all handmade and take many hours, days to complete.

There were other woven items that caught my eye.  These Panama hats are from Ecuador.  Their name would make you think they come from Panama, but actually true Panama hats are and have always been made in Ecuador.  I think they got the name Panama hat because they became very popular in Panama while the Panama Canal was being built.

The reason I am showing these hats, along with the price, is because Chuck is wearing a Panama hat he bought in Cuenca.  He paid less than $25 for it.  These hats are hand woven.  The women that weave them make very little money.  The sign on the hats in Charleston said they were "fair trade,"  I certainly hope the women who weave them are receiving a descent wage.

Tourists were enjoying touring this city in horse drawn carriages.

However, the carriages had a little competition.  LOL

During our tour we went to see the Citadel.  The Citadel is a military college of South Carolina.  It is a landmark in Charleston.

It was established in 1842, it is one of six senior military colleges in the United States.

Inside the Summerall Chapel

Last but not least is the Citadel Ring Statue.  It was a gift to the alumni from the current supplier of the coveted Citadel class ring.

We were fortunate to spend the afternoon at Boone Hall Plantation.  

The plantation is one of America's oldest plantations still in operation.  It has continually produced agricultural crops for over 320 years.

One of the prettiest things about this plantation is the live oak lined drive. 

The current plantation house is quite new compared to the age of the actual  plantation. It was built in 1936 to replace the original one which had deteriorated.

Photo of the original plantation house.

The newer plantation house.

While we were there, we were fortunate to see a Gullah people presentation given by a direct descendant of the Gullah, Veronica Gillard. The history of these enslaved central and western Africans is very fascinating,  I made a video of the presentation and put it on YouTube.  If you would like to see it you can click here.  Very interesting!

After having our farewell dinner, our tour was officially over.

Chuck and I were not quite through.  We had family to visit.  My nephew, Dan Simmons and his family, live on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.  My sister, Mary Anne and husband Larry were there also.  The family was starting to gather for Christmas.  Mary Anne's and Larry's other son, James and his family joined them after we left.  

It had been a very long time since we had seen Dan and this was our first chance to see our great nephews.  

This stop made our trip extra special.  

Thank you for sharing our trip with us.  

Now that the holidays are over, we are off on another short adventure next week.

Love you all.


Savannah, Georgia and Beaufort, South Carolina

Dear Family and Friends,

I left off about our tour of the southeast coast with our visit to Jekyll Island, Georgia.  I have taken some down time to enjoy the holidays with family and friends.  Now it is time to resume our trip. 

We arrived in Savannah about 5 pm.  We stayed at the Double Tree hotel on Bay Street. We were free to have dinner on our own, so we chose the Grove.  The Grove restaurant was only about a two blocks walk from our hotel, right behind the city market.

Chuck ordered the succotash. He liked this dish very much.  It had great grilled sausage and shrimp with vegetables cooked with delicious spices.  I had a taste and YUM!

I ordered the Baja salad with shrimp.  It was very good.  I scarfed it down so fast Chuck did not even get to have a taste.

If you live in Savannah or if you visit Savannah, this is a great restaurant.   It seemed to be a very popular place.   Here is a link to their menu.

After dinner we went back to the hotel and visited with some of our new friends before calling it a night.

The next morning we had a guided trolley tour of historic Savannah.  

The sky was overcast and threatening rain.  The city is lovely, but it would have been nicer if we had had sunshine.  I made photos when possible.  Making pictures from a moving trolley is difficult but, of course, I will share some with you anyway.  

Historic Savannah consists of many squares.  They are so beautiful and make Savannah unique.  It is wonderful that Savannah was not burned by Sherman at the end of the Civil War.  Our guide told us that a delegation of prominent Savannah men met the Union army as they were approaching Savannah.  They begged that the city be spared.  Upon seeing how beautiful Savannah was, General Sherman agreed and later wrapped it in red bows and gifted the city to President Lincoln.

Below is a photo of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.  Our guide said that back in the early days of America Catholics were not allowed to settle in the South out of fear of their potential loyalty to the Spanish crown and possible secession of the southern colonies from the English-controlled North.  As a result, Savannah had no Catholic church until 1799. 

I snapped a photo of the house below and now I cannot remember the name of this house.  I liked it because the third floor roof reminds me of a house out of "Mary Poppins."  

Here is Chuck coming out of Colonial Park cemetery through an arch memorial presented by the D.A.R.

Below is a photo of the Owens-Thomas House, built between 1816 and 1819.

Below is the Gordon monument.  It was erected in 1883 to honor the founder and president of Georgia's first railroad, the Central Railroad and Banking Company.  He is also known as the grandfather of Juliette Gordon Low, Founder of the Girl Scouts of America.

Below is a photo the Lady and Sons restaurant.  Owned and operated by Paula Deen and her two sons.  We did not eat there.  I wanted to see inside so bad, Chuck walked on in embarrassment when I cupped my eyes against the window to see what was being served.  LOL

Before we knew it, we were on our way to Charleston, South Carolina.  On our way we stopped in Beaufort, South Carolina for a quick tour and lunch.  

Beaufort is a city on Port Royal Island, one of Couth Carolina's costal Sea Islands.  It is known for its antebellum mansions, especially in the historic district.

We were fortunate to have our tour in the horse drawn carriage.  We all jumped on and started clip, clopping along.  

Our tour guide was great too.  So many good stories about this area.  This is where the movie, The Prince of Tides was filmed.  

We enjoyed our tour looking at the old homes.  They were all in very good condition.  A source of pride for Beaufort.  Here are a few:

After touring we were off to Charleston, South Carolina.

I will share about that with you in the next post.  

Happy New Year to you all.

Love you,