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Monday, August 30, 2010

Busy Sunday

Dear Family and Friends,
Yesterday was packed with fun and friendship. We started our Sunday off with an early morning walk to the Kookaburra with Rich and Nancy. The walk was invigorating as always. After breakfast, Chuck and I caught a taxi back home. We had made plans to go to La Union with Lourdes (our housekeeper) and her family. They came over to our condo at 10:00am.

We headed out in Puff-Puff. The drive was beautiful and we conversed in Spanish (mostly). La Union has had three days of celebration....Sugar Cane Festival (Fri, Sat and Sun). We were there for the tail end.

Lourdes and William

Their son, Ivan.

We watched Ivan enjoy some of the children's activities and we watched a futbol (soccer) game.

We went back out to the main highway to have our lunch. We had passed several crowded outdoor roadside restaurants on our way into La Union. Lourdes showed us which restaurant she thought was best and by golly her choice was right on.

Us adults all ordered chancho (roasted pig) and Ivan had a chicken (pollo) plate. Our lunches were $3 a plate. We had more roasted pig than we could eat. It was a fabulous lunch.

Everything was prepared out of doors. We ate under on a covered patio right next to the highway. They were so crowded we had to wait to get a table.

In the picture below this lady is cooking soup stock and corn. Notice the banana trees behind the building. La Union, although only an hour from Cuenca is much lower and warmer.

Check out these chickens being roasted over coals. This is only one of several cookers operating at the same time.

Pretty Lourdes....

We stopped along the side of the road and bought cane syrup on the way home. Here is a picture of the syrup in front of where it was made. This is a real treat since I was raised in Georgia and grew up on cane syrup.

On the way back to Cuenca, little Ivan sang most of the way. Such a sweet voice. After we dropped Lourdes, William and Ivan at their house, we drove to the Super Maxi to get pan de yucca. This is the closest I have found to biscuits. I was getting ready to do some serious sopping.

When we arrived home, we had an email from Karen and Randy. They were proposing that we get together for dinner. Chuck called them and Randy said for me to preheat the oven to 350 because they were bringing the dinner over to cook.

We sat around on the patio, snacked and played UPWARDS while the chicken and veggies roasted in the oven.

We had a delicious dinner, although it was a late dinner due to technical difficulties....I did not set the oven to the correct temperature. My oven dial is in Celsius and I just guessed at what 350 should be. took about 4 hours to cook the dinner.

We really enjoyed our dinner....Thanks Randy!

We woke up this morning to horrible news. A passenger bus, traveling from Cuenca to Quito on Saturday night, went off the highway and fell over 300 ft down the mountain side. More than 40 passengers are dead. Chuck and I have heavy hearts.....our thoughts and prayers are with the families.

Share your love today!

Nancy (and Chuck)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Spanish Lessons

Fernando Quito
Dear Family and Friends,

As you know I have been taking Spanish classes for several weeks now.  My friend, Barbara, and I have been taking classes at Nexus.  We absolutely love our teacher. His name is Fernando Quito. Barbara and I are now taking a break from classes at Nexus.  But I feel that I must share with you the great teacher we discovered. 

Fernando speaks excellent English.  He is a graduate of the University of Cuenca.  He has a degree in education and he loves his work.

Having classes that worked around my schedule was very important.  Having to travel to another location for the classes did not work well for me.  Having classes 5 days a week for 4 hours a day did not work for me either.  After all, I do have a life other than studying Spanish.  Fernando is very flexible and dependable. He will be willing to work with you to help you set up your Spanish learning experience to fit the way that you learn best.

If you are living in Cuenca but are surrounded by English in your daily life, you may be like me.  I find that at home I speak English. With our friends I speak English. When I meet my Ecuadorian neighbors I can greet them, tell them to have a good day, but little more after that. I want to be able to have a conversation and really get to know the people of Ecuador.  If you have a desire to go beyond taxi cab and restaurant Spanish, I encourage you to contact Fernando and work out a schedule with him that fits your needs.

I have taken Spanish from other people, but he is the best instructor I have ever had.  He is definitely a teacher at heart and it shows.

Here is his contact information:
Fernando Quito
Porta cell: 081786488
Moviestar cell: 082647650

Fernando, from the bottom of my heart I thank you.  You are a superb teacher.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

German Dinner and a Full Moon Rising

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck and I had dinner last night with Christa and David.  Christa is one of the our oldest friends in Cuenca.  We have known her since first coming to Cuenca back in 2007.  David is our dear neighbor with a generous heart.  They are both very dear to us.

I had not been to Christa's apartment since she redecorated it.  She has done a beautiful job. Here she is, Lady Christa, in her new living room.

Christa, who was born and raised in Germany, prepared us a German dinner.  It was delicious.  She is a great cook and her meal did not disappoint us. 

Here is Christa, David and Chuck after dinner having digestives.

Before dinner, we looked out of the terrace window and saw a most beautiful full moon rising over the mountains.  I made this photo from Christa's terrace.

It was a great evening with wonderful friends.

Happy day to you.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back Home in Cuenca

 Dear Family and Friends,

Yesterday, the first thing we did after leaving Manta, was to get Puff Puff cleaned up.  We almost forgot what color she was.  She got a great bath, including underneath, tires, hubcaps and inside detailing all for $7.

We had never driven from Manta to Guayaquil before.  We went through one town that was almost surreal.  The town could have been a city in Thailand.  Check out these vehicles used as a taxi.

We spent last night in Guayaquil.  We got into Guayaquil about 3:00pm and spent a good hour and a half trying to find the Marriott Courtyard.  It really is not that difficult if you already know where it is.  Now we do.  We had a great room, the price was right and our breakfast buffet was included.  The Marriott is located within easy walking distance of the San Marino Mall.

We got up this morning, had a leisurely breakfast, packed up Puff Puff and headed out for home.  We decided to take the long route to Cuenca.  This route does not go through the Cajas, but goes through tons of little Andean villages.  It took longer, but we had an early start and I had never been that way before.

We stopped at just the right moment to see a man shooing his cattle across the highway.  It was cool watching all the traffic come to a halt and letting the cows have the right of way. 

We made it home to Cuenca without difficulty.  We still have suitcases to unpack, but I put out our purchases from the Fair Trade artisan store where we shopped at with Rox.  I told you I would show you what we got and here it is....

Despite the fact that we did not have sun and did not get to see the whales we had a grand adventure.  Lucky for us, we live here in Ecuador and we can do it again.

Now it is time to unpack those suitcases.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Driving the Coast

Dear Family and Friends,

Yesterday morning we had our breakfast at the Casa Blanca restaurant in Montinita before continuing our trek north along the coast. We pulled out on the highway about 9:00am. Originally we had planned to go north to Puerto Lopez and stay at a lodge that had been highly recommended to us. Then we would take a boat tour to go whale watching. But when Chuck tried to book it online, we were informed that there were no vacancies. We headed out figuring we would find a place when we arrived in town.

We got to Puerto Lopez in a drizzling rain. My personal opinion is I wasn't impressed. The streets were muddy and we did not see one place that we wanted to stay. Since the coast was socked in with very low visibility we decided to skip the whale watching trip this time.

Here is a cute sign on the beach that points to cities all over the world.

We decided to spend the night in Manta, Ecuador.

It was really surprising the number of micro climates we drove through going up the coast. Some areas were very lush, like a rain forest and other areas were so dry all the vegetation was brown and dead looking.

Does this picture remind you of a famous movie????

Behind this building the fishing boats were coming ashore. Birds were hovering low to the ground in hopes of getting a free sample.

We were getting was about 2:00pm, so we stopped at a little hut like this one to have some lunch. We had the freshest most delicious fish lunch you could imagine.

As hungry as I was I remembered to take pictures first.

Chuck's shrimp

As we enjoyed our lunch, we commented that the view up north looked a heck of a lot like the Oregon coast.

We continued on up the coast, sometimes in fog, sometimes just drizzle, but never in the sunshine.

After arriving in Manta we had no problem finding a nice hotel with a nice room right on the beach. We could see the people below enjoying the beach, not daunted by the overcast skies.

This is as close as I have been able to come to getting a beautiful sunset picture. The sun almost came through last evening as it was setting.

This morning we are heading inland and north to Guayaquil. We will spend the night there and drive through the cajas and into Cuenca on Sunday morning.

Happy Saturday,

Nancy (and Chuck)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Rain, Rain Go Away

Dear Family and Friends,

Yesterday morning Chuck had planned to give Puff-Puff a much needed bath. But we woke up to a drizzling, misty rain. So we decided to go to the Fair Trade artisan market instead.

We stopped and picked up Rox and off we went.

There were a lot of woven items, baskets, etc. and a lot of pottery. There was also some jewelry.

Here are Chuck and Rox watching their purchases getting carefully wrapped for safe travel. I will post a picture of our purchases after we get back to Cuenca.

Outside there was a mama donkey and her baby eating the grass. They were so sweet.

We took Rox home and she and Bob offered us a cup of coffee. Bob invited us back for dinner, which we heartedly accepted.

Chuck and I went back to Montanita to look around and shop. . . . . .and to take a picture of the big I love Montanita sign.

Maybe you can tell by looking at this is still misting rain. So I went back to the hotel room and took a nice nap. Chuck relaxed in the hammock, read his book, smoked his pipe and pretty much took a vacation from taking a vacation.

Around 5pm we headed over to the Hedges' and joined them for happy hour and a delicious dinner of beef stew. Bob and Rich both are really good cooks. Must be a family gene. While we were sitting around having drinks before dinner Coquita climbed up into Chuck's lap and snuggled in.

What a sweetie.

Thank you Bob and Rox for a nice visit.

We are off this morning, heading on up the the rain.

Until tomorrow.

Nancy (and Chuck)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Montanita and the famous Casa Blanca

Dear Family and Friends,

Yesterday we had a leisurely breakfast at the Ocean Hideway and then headed out. We got on the coastal route road and started north. All of a sudden the sun broke through and it was absolutely gorgeous. Since it was close to lunch time we stopped at a cabina on the beach for lunch.

Here is Chuck waiting for our lunch.

We sat at a table overlooking the beach. Great view. Notice the shadows from the sun overhead.

I had fried corvina (sea bass) for lunch. Chuck ordered oyster soup.

After lunch we continued north to Montanita. We were lucky to find a nice room overlooking the ocean. Here is Chuck enjoying the hammock, his electronic book and his pipe.

Later in the afternoon we headed over to visit with Bob and Rox. When we pulled up to their gate, we met another couple, Shirley and Patrick, who were visiting Bob and Rox also. Shirley and Patrick are from South Carolina and are down checking out the coast of Ecuador, hoping to find the perfect spot for retirement.

We were given the grand tour of the famous BobnRox ocean front home. They have made some great improvements and I especially loved their new kitchen.

We started out socializing on their deck overlooking the ocean, but by now the sun had disappeared and the wind was picking up. We were all getting cold so we moved inside to their living room.

After visiting for awhile, we all drove back into Montinita for dinner at the Casa Blanca, which has been made famous by Bob in his blog postings.

Casa Blanca lived up to it's reputation. The service was excellent and the food was delicious. We had a great evening together.

We wish Shirley and Patrick success in their quest to find the perfect place on the beach. They are heading south today.

Chuck and I are exploring our surroundings today and hopefully visit with Bob and Rox before we head north tomorrow.

By the way, it is rainy this morning and no hint of sunshine to come. I have heard from the folks back in Cuenca and they are enjoying the sunshine. Wouldn't you know.

Until tomorrow. Have a great day.

Nancy (and Chuck)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Still waiting for the Sunshine

Dear Family and Friends,

As you can see from our pictures we are still under a heavy cloud cover.  The Pollyanna take on this is that we do not have sunburn, we do not have flies or mosquitoes, the temperature is nice and cool, we are not sharing the beaches with crowds of people and the seafood is just as delicious as if the sun were shining.

The first few pictures are ones that I took in Salinas before we headed out.  This first one is of a man that I noticed feeding the pigeons.  In my mind, I decided that this was something he does every day.  He was feeding and talking to them.  It just seemed to me that he probably had them all named.  I felt such a warm feeling in my heart as I watched him interacting with the birds.

Chuck and I decided that we could not leave Salinas without at least getting our feet wet.  Here is Chuck doing his duty.  Salinas is located on a protected bay so the waves are not very big.  This is why there are so many boats anchored out.

Here is a mom and dad playing with their little one. 

About mid morning we headed to the other side of the peninsula to a place called the Ocean Hideaway.  It is located right on the Pacific ocean.  The waves were much bigger.  Here is a view from the porch looking over the pool to the ocean.

This place is very remote.  It is isolated from any type of infrastructure.  We have taken all meals here.....there is no place else to go.  The scenery is beautiful.  The ocean seems very wild here because it is just us and the ocean.

Yesterday afternoon, I could swear that  I saw a spot of sun on the ocean.  I took a quick picture and then it was gone. 

We have had a quiet and peaceful time here but it is time to move on.  We are going to explore the coast north of here today.  This afternoon we will join the famous Bob and Rox for cocktails at their house on the beach and then we will go to the Casa Blanca restaurant in Montanita for dinner. 

Hope your day if filled with sunshine.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nancy and Joe Levin - Expats in Salinas

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck and I are in Salinas still waiting to see the sun.

Yesterday we got in touch with Nancy and Joe Levin. They live here in Salinas in a great condo overlooking the beach. They took us to a great place for lunch and then invited us up to see where they live. WOW! What a view they have from their 10th floor condo.

Exploring Ecuador is so much fun. We hope to see Nancy and Joe in Cuenca soon.

Here we are enjoying their very large terrace that overlooks "everything." Nancy blogs about their day to day life in Salinas. You can follow their adventures here:

The first night we arrived in Salinas we went to dinner at the Amazon restaurant. Our dinner was fantastic so we decided to have dinner there again last night. This time we ordered the grilled seafood dinner. All the seafood was cooked over coals and it was fabulous.

Here is Chuck patiently waiting for me to take pictures before we dig in.

The platter had langostinos, muscles, clams, shrimp, calamari, and grilled marlin. It was fantastic!

Today we will mosey on up the coast a few miles.

I will be sharing more coffee is ready now.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Machala to Salinas

Dear Family and Friends,
Chuck and I left Machala yesterday morning. It rained on us most of the way to Guayaquil. Even so, we had a nice drive. We stopped at a fruit juice stand and we were delighted to find that they had a aviary out back. This first picture was taken looking down the little river. You can see how heavy the moisture laden clouds in the background.

Here are some of the birds and the animal we found out back.

This little animal, I am ashamed to say, I don't know what it is. It is about the size of a small cat. It was cute scampering around on the floor of the aviary. If anyone can enlighten us, we would like to know. FYI - I have received two emails regarding this animal. One from Mike Grimm who suggests it might be a Peccary and one from Jennifer suggests that it is a Paca. I think Jennifer has identified this little can see if you agree by looking at the Wikipedia site. Thanks you guys.

It was pretty much an all day trip from Machala to Salinas. We did about an hours worth of loopy loops through the streets of Guayaquil before finding the road to the beaches. No, believe it or not, we did not have to pay a tax driver to let us follow him. I can't say what an hour of our time was worth...maybe paying for a taxi driver to show us would have been cheaper in the long run.

We made it to Salinas yesterday afternoon. After getting refreshed we went out for, none other than, seafood. Chuck had Grilled Marlin and I had Corvina Francesia. We shared a bottle of wine and both slept very sound last night.

The temperature here is very mild. We woke up this morning to a misty rain. I asked Chuck if maybe we had taken a wrong turn and ended up on the Oregon coast.

We are patiently waiting to see if we get any sun today. I will share more Salinas pictures tomorrow.

Nancy (and Chuck)