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Saturday, November 28, 2009


Dear Family and Friends,


If you are living in the USA I hope that your Thanksgiving was loving, peaceful and full of gratitude.

For those of us who live outside of our home country, occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays of our friends and family are sometimes a struggle to get through. This is especially true of Thanksgiving because in Cuenca it is just another weekday. Nothing special here unless you make it special.

Last Thursday our good friends, Rich and Nancy, hosted a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with turkey and all the trimmings. They have the whole story on their blog RichnNancy. I will add a few pictures here but for more pictures you can click the link to their blog.

Rich carving up the turkey.

There were 28 of us all together in their condo. They have a nice large area that accommodated us all quite nicely. Freddi (Brian and Shelley's little doggie) was also there and believe me Freddi did not lack for attention.

Here is Carolina bookstore owner, Carol, taking her turn hugging Freddi.

Here is Chuck chatting with Larry about our upcoming trip to the Galapagos. (more on that later in this post) If you examine this picture real carefully you might see the handy dandy photographer in the background.

All of the food was very good. Everyone brought something to share. Our visiting sister-in-law, Carol, made an "almost pumpkin" pie. There are no pumpkins grown around here that we are aware of so Carol bought some squash. She made this pie and it tasted just like the real thing.

Everyone had a really great time and we are so thankful that Rich and Nancy put this together.


Last week Nancy emailed me and said that some friends of Bob and Rox were coming to Cuenca for a week. She said that they read our blog and wanted to meet us. We were excited to meet someone who follows our blog and we eagerly accepted an invitation to meet them. We all met at the Akelarre for dinner last Sunday night. (It is an odd feeling to sit across from strangers who know all about you already. But we are not the only ones, they know all about Bob and Rox, Nancy and Rich and Brian and Shelley.)

Here is a picture of Patty and Michael (new friends), Rich and Nancy, Chuck and Carol enjoying ourselves in the courtyard of the restaurant.

Patty and Michael live in Houston, Texas. They are planning on moving to Cuenca. As we shared dinner they told they were in Cuenca for one week and they hoped to buy a condo or two before they left. We thought this was quite ambitious of them, but by golly they did just that.

Here is Patty showing Carol the plans to their new condo at our Thanksgiving gathering.

Their condo is in the process of being constructed. They plan to be back in Cuenca in July to check on the building progress. We look forward to getting together with them when they return.

And speaking of friends, Friday night a group of us had dinner together at Zoe's Restaurant after the gringo get together.


Chuck and I are going to the Galapagos next week with our friends Larry and Linda. This is a first time trip to the Galapagos for all of us. We are renting a house together and just planning it as we go. We are armed with information that we gleaned from Brian and Shelley about their recent trip. It is partly a fact finding trip. I will do a post about what we did when we return. I will also share what we learned about doing the trip without going through a travel agency.

I doubt that I will be able to post to this blog while we are away so it will be about a week and a half before I can post again.


When I left the USA, I was on blood pressure and cholesterol lowering medication. I found the blood pressure medication is available here at the pharmacy. So I have continued taking it. But, I have always hated taking the cholesterol medication because of all the negative side effects one reads about.

Since I have been down here I have been eating a lot more starchy foods than I use to eat back in the U.S. That is not hard to do when you get the $2.00 lunches because they usually consist of a small portion of meat accompanied by corn, potatoes and rice. Also, I do like my ice cream!!

When I went to the doctor last week, he gave me paperwork to take to the lab to have my blood work done. I went to have my blood drawn last week and I hand carried the results to our doctor on Friday.

When I was telling Patty last week about not taking the cholesterol medication, she suggested that I take a teaspoon of cinnamon every day. She said it would lower my bad cholesterol and she said it also lowers blood sugar. I was happy to hear this good news because I really am afraid of the side effects of the medicine.

BAD NEWS: The results of the blood work showed that my bad cholesterol was very high. My good cholesterol and triglycerides were in the normal range (I'm thankful for that!)

OUTCOME: Even though I told the doctor about the wonderful qualities of cinnamon, he highly suggested that I take the cholesterol medication he was going to prescribe in order to get it lowered. He said that I should also use the cinnamon each day.

I have also heard that aloe juice is good for lowering cholesterol so I will probably add that to the mix of treatments.

I will get my blood drawn again in 60 days and we will see what my cholesterol is then. He said if I can get it under control with the cinnamon regimen, diet and medication that I could try reduce the number of times I take the medication to three times a week.

I have decided to go with the doctor's recommendation, I got the prescription filled and am now back on cholesterol lowering medication. By watching my diet and taking the cinnamon each day I hope to be able to cut back on the pharmaceutical approach within a couple of months.

I'll let you know how it goes.

I have a picture to share with you before I leave. Chuck ordered lobster bisque Friday night. I was feeling a little ticked that I had not ordered it also. When he got his order he let me have a taste and it was pretty good. Then he dug down deeper in the soup and brought this little critter to the surface. Boy, was I glad I hadn't ordered that dish.

Love to you all.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nice Week

Dear Family and Friends,

We have had a very nice week. Carol Watson, our sister-in-law, is visiting with us. Every morning has been very casual with a late breakfast on the patio. Chuck and Carol go to the market for fresh fruit and fresh bread each morning. Chuck stops and gets the newspaper. Having the enclosed patio has really worked out great for us because we can use it in any weather.

Carol has been going to school each day from 1:00pm to 6:00pm. Several nights this past week we have met her at the school and had dinner downtown. There are so many new restaurants to share with her since her visit last year.

Monday night we met friends for dinner at Akelarre.

Friday, after going to both the Eucalyptus Cafe and Zoe's Restaurant for ex-pat night, a bunch of us ended up going to Otabe, the Japanese grill for dinner. We didn't get home until almost midnight.

And last night we went over to see Bruce and Charlie's new apartment and then on to Indian Bapu for dinner. Their place is fabulous. It is very spacious and the views are fantastic. Sorry, I did not take pictures of their apartment, but maybe after they have it furnished, they will let me share it with you through the blog.

Here are Charlie, Chuck and Carol at Bapu. We went upstairs to sit on pillows at the six inch high table. I am definitely getting too old for this. It is bad enough sitting down but very embarrassing when I have to get on all fours to get up. As usual, the meal was terrific. After dinner, we walked to the ice cream shop for dessert.

This past week I went to the doctor for a check up. Since I was sick I do not have the energy I feel I should have. He did the usual exam, weight (ugh), checked ears, throat, listened to my lungs, heart, etc. I was glad to learn that my blood pressure was normal. I go in Monday morning (after 12 hrs. fasting) for blood work. The doctor said I can get the results Monday afternoon. I will return to the him on Tuesday and we will go from there.

Medical care services are different here than in the USA. For example, I have to take a urine and stool specimen with me when I go to get my blood work done. To do this I must first go to a pharmacy and buy a specimen cup and whatever I will need to get the stool specimen.

Also, when the blood work is done, I will pick up the results from the laboratory and hand carry them with me to the doctor on Tuesday.

Oh, by the way, my visit to the doctor was $25.


Even though we have not had the usual amount of rain, our patio is looking great. Chuck keeps everything watered and the plants are blooming as they should be since it is spring here.

The strawberries are doing great....

This geranium is a very dark red....very beautiful....

This purple fuchsia is very is one of our favorites.

So much for this past week.

We are looking forward to getting together with friends at Rich's and Nancy's house for Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

Last Friday Chuck and I took the first flight out of Cuenca to Quito. We went to Quito to do some shopping and to meet our sister-in-law, Carol Watson. Carol has come to visit for two weeks and is attending Simon Bolivar Spanish Language school every afternoon. She is fine tuning her already good Spanish.

We arrived in Quito before 9:00 am, took a taxi to our hotel, dropped off our luggage and then went out to breakfast followed by a "power shopping" expedition. I wanted to check out the MegaMaxis in Quito since I found out that the Artisa factory is no longer making the pattern of dishes I have. When we were last in Quito we bought some of these dishes at a MegaMaxi there.
Luckily, I found some more dishes to have on hand.

Also, the last time we were in Quito, I spotted a rug that I thought would go in our living room. I didn't buy it when I first saw it and it has haunted me ever since. It is hand woven and the only one like it. To my amazement the rug was still in the shop and I was able to purchase it. SMILE!!

After we got checked into our hotel, I took a nice long afternoon nap as I was still not up to par after my illness. Chuck went out and secured a driver and guide to show him and Carol around Quito on Saturday and also arranged van transportation from Quito to Cuenca on Sunday.

Chuck and I went to one of our favorite places to eat in Quito for dinner. It is called "Adams Rib." The restaurant is owned by a man from the U.S. He makes good ribs with a wonderful BBQ sauce. I ordered the steak and it was so tender and tasty.

We picked Carol up at the Quito airport about 10:30 pm and then we all went straight to bed as soon as we got to the hotel.

On Saturday, Chuck and Carol toured Quito. One of the places they went was the equator, otherwise known as the "Middle of the World." When you tour the equator, one of the things you can do there is balance an egg on a nail head. I'm not a physicist so don't ask me why it works, but it does, because I have done it. Anyway, the picture below is Carol doing the egg balancing trick.

While Chuck and Carol were touring Quito, I did a little more power shopping and napped in the afternoon.

We went out to dinner Saturday night and then to bed because we had a full day of riding ahead of us.

The driver picked us up at our hotel at 8:00am. He spoke English and agreed to show us points of interest and to stop for photos.

One of the first places we stopped was a fruit stand. Here is Chuck and Carol looking over the fruit. We bought mangoes and a watermelon, then jumped back in the van to head down the road.

The weather is very dry here. Usually, this is the rainy season, but we are suffering from a drought. There are many bad consequences because of this drought but one good consequence was that we could see all the volcanoes while driving to Cuenca. Usually, they a covered in clouds and if you can see them it all they are only partially visible.

Here is Cotopaxi, a beautiful volcano in a perfect cone shape.

We had been near Ambato before, but had always by passed it, while driving to Cuenca. This time, Chuck asked the driver to take us through the town so we could see it. The driver took us to the central plaza and said we could walk around and enjoy.

Here is a picture of the wall around the plaza and the beautiful church in the background.

Here is a view of the Madona over the doors of the church.

We continued south and as we neared Riobamba we had magnificent views of Chimboraza, the highest mountain in Ecuador. We have driven past it before, but this was the first time we were able to see it. It was incredibly beautiful.

Our driver/guide stopped south of Riobamaba to show us the first Catholic church in Ecuador. It was built in 1534.

Our driver stopped for us to take pictures of the incredible views.

Normally, it is about an 8 hour drive from Quito to Cuenca. We stopped and toured so many places that our trip turned out to be an 11 hour trip. We arrived in Cuenca about 7:00pm and were so tired. We all headed to bed fairly early.

Oh, by the way, here is a picture of our new living room rug we bought in Quito.


Nancy and Chuck

Thursday, November 12, 2009

No Water = No Electricity

Dear Family and Friends,

Whatever I had while I was sick really knocked me for a loop. I am beginning to feel human again, but am still weak. However, I am thankful for the improvement.

If you follow Rich and Nancy or Planet Irony blogs, you are already aware of the water situation in the Andes. Normally, by now, the rainy season is here. For some reason (some say "el nino") the rain has not begun. Where we would normally have an afternoon shower, we are having sunny days all day long. This is having very drastic consequences on our rivers.

Here is a picture of the Tomebamba, the river in front of our condo, we made in March of 2008.

Here is the same scene, but Chuck took the picture yesterday.

Again, this picture was made in March of 2008

and Chuck made this picture yesterday.

The rivers are extremely low which means the reservoir is low. Most of the electricity for Ecuador is produced by hydroelectric generators and without water there is less electricity being produced. (Only two of the twelve turbines are producing electricity at the moment.)

The government of Ecuador has started having roving blackouts in order to curb electricity use.
Every day, for four hours, the electricity is cut in a sector of the city. Everyone shares in the blackout, but while some have no electricity, others do. The four hour blackout rotates in time, for example, yesterday our electricity was out from 3pm to 7pm. Today our electricity went out at 7:00am and will return at 11:00am.

Our condo building has a huge generator. When the city electricity goes out, the generator automatically starts producing electricity so Chuck and I are not really impacted like many others are.

Everyday we keep hoping that the rains will start. I haven't heard how this is impacting the farmers, but I would not be surprised to see the cost of fruits and vegetables increase at the market. We are experiencing first hand just how fragile our eco-system is.

Chuck and I are flying to Quito in the morning. We are meeting our sister-in-law, Carol Watson. Carol lives in Seattle, Washington. She will be visiting us for the next two weeks. Maybe, she will bring the Seattle rain with her.

Stay healthy.


Sunday, November 8, 2009


Dear Family and Friends,

A picture is worth a thousand words.

I came down with the creepy crude the day after the independence celebrations were over.

I've had a lot of bed rest, aspirin, antibiotics and... rum*.

Something in that mix is kicking in because today I'm starting to feel a little better.


*courtesy of Dr. Chuck

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Independence Day!! Viva Cuenca

Dear Family and Friends,

As if we haven't had enough celebration, we headed out on Tuesday morning, November 3rd to see the Chola Cuenca parade. This is a parade that is similar to the parade we saw a couple of weeks ago when the contestants for the Queen of Cuenca were presented. The difference is that the contestants in this parade are all indigenous. A young lady is selected from each area and of these one is selected to be Chola Cuenca. There were 21 contestants this year.

Besides, electing Chola Cuenca, each area had a dance group to compete in the folkloric dance competition.

The parade was staging at San Blas as we arrived. I have begun to go to the beginning of the parades in order to get pictures. Here are some young ladies adding the finishing touches to their costumes.

This little one was patiently waiting on the float for the parade to begin.

A group of dancers willing to pose...

Another little beauty waiting for the parade to begin...

While I am running around taking pictures, Chuck patiently waits on a park bench.

A little entertainment while the parade is staging...

This sweet one is wearing her mother's hat...

We walked up the street to watch the parade go by and ran into Carl and Linda. Carl and Linda have spent the last couple of weeks visiting Cuenca. We met Carl a couple of years ago when he was here taking Spanish classes.

Yes, Chuck is wearing my hat.

Here are some pictures I took of the parade...

At the end of the parade the float with the 21 Chola Cuenca contestants passed.

After the parade, Chuck and I went home to rest because we were having dinner with Carl and Linda and then we were going to Parque Calderon for the main Independence Day celebration.

Carl, Linda and Chuck at dinner...

Carl and Linda headed off to Quito on Wednesday to continue their tour of Ecuador.

Things are starting to settle down and Cuenca is getting back to normal. Too bad.



Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cuenca Fair

Dear Family and Friends,

On Sunday we went to the Cuenca fair. "Cuenca fair" is my name...they call it "Com-Agri". This is held in Ceunca every year during the independence day celebrations.

Here are the fun seekers... Chuck, Nancy, Rich and Ossie.

We were the only gringos there.

I was quite amazed how similar their fair was to a county fair in the USA. There were some differences...for example, I don't know of any fair in the states that serves up "cuy" aka guinea pig.

But they had commercial displays, agricultural displays, animals, rides and lots of food.

This booth was selling hand made guitars.

This is a display showing how hydroponic lettuce is grown.

Cooking ribs the Argentina method...

An interesting ride. It was sort of like a merry-go-round, but mostly had small vehicles for the kids to ride in. I got tickled at the horses. They were the spring type horse that were bolted to the ride and the kids could rock while going around.

We enjoyed viewing the fair attendees just as they enjoyed viewing us.

Here is Nancy, the horse whisperer. She and Rich had a ranch in Oregon before moving to Cuenca.

The only people taller than Rich at the fair were the guys on stilts.

Last night, Chuck, Nancy, Rich, Bruce, Charlie and I went to the mariachi concert at the plaza de toros (bull ring). I became ill and had to leave, but what we witnessed was quite unusual. We bought what we thought were the best seats, but they were the hardest chairs I have every experienced and the spotlights behind the stage almost blinded us. They kept shining in our eyes instead of on the stage. While the musicians were playing, fireworks were being shot off inside the arena and hawkers were busy selling blinky lights, beer, chips and cigarettes. Since Chuck and I had to bail out early, we have not had a chance to get feedback regarding how the others enjoyed the evening. Maybe my version is tainted because I was not feeling well.

Today is the day of Cuenca's independence. All the festivities have been leading up to today. There is more going on today than can be attended. Chuck and I have chosen to go to the "Chola Parade" and to view the election of the "Chola Cuencana."

Tonight we will meet Carl and Linda for dinner and then go to Parque Calderon for the festivities there.

Will share pictures tomorrow.


Nancy and Chuck