On Monday, the 19th, Chuck flew back to the U.S. He will be there until Saturday, the 31st. He is combining business, family and fun into one trip. He went to Seattle over this past weekend to visit his dad and his brothers and sister. Now he is back in Richland, hopefully tying up some loose ends. He is bringing back a big hunk of hard Parmesan cheese.
I have been holding the fort down in Cuenca. Last week, Randy and Karen stayed here until their apartment became available. I have been living solo since last Friday.
About a month ago, as you may remember, I made up my mind to do two very important things. One was to establish and maintain a walking routine. The other was to enroll in school and learn to speak Spanish. I am happy to report that both things are going very well.
Randy and Karen walked with me last week while they were here. Last Saturday was my first time to walk alone. It was not quite as fun as usual since I love having someone to chat with while we walk. I walked all the way to town (appox 1 hr.) to the Kookaburra cafe for breakfast.
While I was at the Kookaburra Larry and Linda came in. They invited me to join them at the California Kitchen for dinner.
The diners at the California Kitchen grew in number. It turned into a party of sorts.
I love this first picture. It is a picture of Jenny (Kookaburra) and Carol (California Kitchen). Two expat ladies who, with their families, have opened up restaurants in Cuenca. It seems that when Kookaburra is closed, Jenny and Chris eat at the California Kitchen. On Sunday mornings, when the California Kitchen is closed, we always run into Carol and George eating breakfast at the Kookaburra. All are good friends, supporting each other in their endeavors.
As usual, I almost forgot to take a picture of my food. Here is what was left of my delicious salad when I thought to pull out my camera.
The main entre was Coq au Vin with buttered noodles and asparagus.
I chose blackberry cobbler for dessert.
Clarke took this picture of us and......
I took this picture of him and Brenda.
Although I came home after dinner, the rest of these party animals went on to the Eucalyptus cafe for more fun after dinner.
So, Chuck, if you are reading this, I am doing fine and so are the plants on the patio.
Last Tuesday evening, Chuck, myself and our good friends, Nancy and Rich were interviewed by the Ecuadorian national newspaper El Comercio. The newspaper interviewed ex-pats all over Ecuador about our experiences living here.
On our morning walk to the Kook for breakfast today, Chuck and Rich bought some copies of the newspaper.
Chuck went to have the article scanned so that I could post it here, but it was a double page spread so I can only share the pictures with you in bits and pieces.
The first picture is of Rich standing on the bridge across from the adobe. It also includes a picture of Rich and Nancy greeting Holly and her friend from New Zealand at Cafe Austria.
The next picture is of Chuck tending the flowers on our patio.
And the last picture is of someone we all know and love....Chatty Cathy aka Nancy Watson. I am busy pointing to pictures of Matt (our son) and Bryce (our grandson).
So there you have it. We have had a big week. Now it is time to go back to our daily lives.
A couple of days ago I received an email from the founder and CEO of Expat-Blog. He said that the ex-pat blog team had selected our blog to feature for the month of July. He asked if we wanted to accept.
I emailed back..."You bet I do."
He sent me some questions to answer...an interview of sorts. You can read it by clicking here.
Expat-Blog is a site that hosts approximately 5,000 blogs of expats living all over the world. It is a great site to read about others' experiences living outside of their home country.
Our original intention was to go to Loja, spend the weekend shopping and return on Monday. But sometimes adventures take on a different face from what we expect.
Loja is a city that is 200km. south of Cuenca. It takes more than four hours to travel there; not because the road is bad, but because the road is twisting through the Andes. Chuck told me we actually crossed five Andes mountain passes getting to Loja. Here are some pictures of our trip down.
The roads are newly paved with concrete. Good road, but it is shared much of the time with not only other vehicles, but people, dogs and an occasional horse or cow.
The closer we got to Loja, we noticed that many homes had corn strung up to dry. We had not noticed this on any of our previous trips. This must be the season for drying corn for the months to come.
We got to Loja and checked into the Howard Johnson hotel. This is the first time we had stayed at the HoJo in Loja. It is a five star hotel with large beautiful rooms. Very unlike what I think of HoJo in the U.S.
We had eaten in the HoJo restaurant before on previous trips to Loja and knew the food was very good there. On Friday nights, they have a parridilla grill. This is an Argentine style grill, where they cook all types of meat. It is set up by the swimming pool. There is no menu. They bring some of everything they are grilling to you, sausage, pork, chicken, beef, and somethings I did not accept, like heart and kidneys. We got wine and more meat than we could possibly eat. We were fed until we were more than full. Then we were offered a delicious dessert.
During our meal, Chuck suddenly said "Oh No." I asked what was wrong and he said "Remember when you had the idea, that for our security in Cuenca, that we should stop carrying our credit cards and ATM cards in our wallets unless we were going to actually use them?" I said "Yes, I remember." He said, "Well I took mine out last week and I forgot to put them back in my wallet before we started on this trip. I only have enough cash to pay for our hotel, this meal and gas to get back to Cuenca."
I couldn't help, as I did not have my credit card or ATM card in my wallet either. So, our new adventure was cast before us. We had no choice but to return to Cuenca the next day.
We got up Saturday morning, had our complimentary breakfast and went to the other hotel (La Casa Lojana Hotel Escuela) we had reservations for to tell them we had to cancel our reservations.
When we saw the place that we were not going to be staying at, we knew that we would be coming back to Loja to enjoy this wonderful place. It was a large old home that had been converted into a hotel.
Here is Chuck heading into the front door to cancel our reservations.
While Chuck was talking to the front desk, I took a picture of the lobby(?) or living room. It was so beautifully furnished.
It is too bad we did not get to see our room. ..... Next time.
We headed out of town after filling Puff-Puff with diesel.
Since we were heading out of Loja fairly early in the morning, we decided to take some side roads and go through some of the small villages that the main paved road misses.
Here are some pictures we took from some of the side dirt roads.
I have to explain the next picture. We were looking down over the side of the mountain. I saw a small house, several cows far, far below. I took my camera, which has a 15x zoom and started taking pictures of the cows and house below. As I was doing this I noticed that there was a person milking one of the cows. So I zoomed in as far as I could and took some shots. This is the only one that came out half way descent because using that powerful of a zoom without a tripod it is very difficult to get a focused picture.
It was only after I got home and looked at the photos on our computer that I discovered that I had caught this precious little boy doing his business in the field. Just a snapshot of real everyday life in the Andes.
After we got back on the paved highway, we came across a delightful restaurant to stop for lunch.
The inside was clean and cheerful.
We had the meal they offered. The meal of the day, a typical Ecuadorian lunch. Chicken soup, main dish of a small amount of beef, a large amount of rice, small salad with a steamed yucca. We had fresh fruit juice to drink and for dessert we were each served a single strawberry in a sweet sauce. We enjoyed the meal very much and even more so, when Chuck went to pay.....a total $3.50 for both of our meals.
We had not been back on our way very long when Chuck decided we should take another side road into a small village about 5 km. off the pavement. We drove the dirt road until we came to the village. It was very small, but had a church and stalls for their weekly market. There were two men there, one with a horse and another man.
One of the men came up to us, shook our hands and was very friendly. I seriously doubt they get gringo tourists in their village very often. We chatted with him a bit and he told us that if we wanted we could take the scenic road to Santa Isabel and then go to on to Cuenca from there.
Chuck and I looked at each other and we both thought "why not?"
He was so right. The scenery was beautiful..
but, the dirt road began to get narrow.
but we forged on, enjoying the scenery....
It was right after I took this picture of Chuck and Puff-Puff that the narrow road started having a very very steep drop off on one side.
We continued on, white knuckling it, and not noticing the scenery as much as we were. Our eyes were glued on the narrow road and the steep drop off.
To make things even more exciting, we began to go through the clouds that we had been looking down on. They were beautiful from above, but going through them on this narrow road with the steep drop off was almost too much excitement.
Luckily the fog was never so thick that we could not see the road. We inched along until we were finally below the clouds.
We finally came to the bottom and the river we needed to cross to get to Santa Isabel. When we got to the bridge, there was a sign that informed us only one car could travel over it at a time. I thought it was because the bridge was so narrow.
But after we got up on it, and sucked wind, I think maybe it was because it was all the weight this suspension bridge could hold at once.
Chuck did real good keeping the tires on the boards as we went across the bridge. Believe me that bridge got longer as we inched across it.
We were on the scary narrow road about two hours or more from the top of the Andes before we saw pavement again at Santa Isabel. We were so thrilled to get Puff-Puff's tires on something solid.
Once we were back on pavement, we breathed a big sigh. But before we got to Cuenca we had some heavy duty fog to deal with.
We are so thankful that we did not run into this heavy of fog on the narrow dirt road with the steep drop off.
It took us a little over four hours to get to Loja and over seven hours to get back home from Loja.
So, as you can see, even though we did not have the adventure we had planned we did have an adventure.
I have kept my promise to myself. ....walking a good hour - four times a week. Chuck has kept his promise and joined me every Tues, Thurs, Sat, and Sun. So far, so good. I can really tell that my stamina has increased.
I have also kept my promise to myself regarding learning the language. I have enrolled in language school and will continue lessons twice a week until I am able to carry on a reasonable conversation with my neighbors. The number of lessons is not important, my criteria is the end result. It may take me a year, who knows? My school is about a half a block from where we live, so it is very convenient.
Chuck and I are leaving in the morning for a road trip in Puff-Puff. We had originally planned to go to Machala. But the road to Machala is covered by a huge landslide and we do not feel comfortable about the detour. We have decided to go to Loja instead. Chuck wants to get some more pottery from the university and I want to look at their dishes again.
Since we will be in Loja on Saturday and Sunday we will do our walking there. The only down side is that we will not be sharing our Sunday walk with Rich and Nancy.
We got an email this morning from Chuck's brother. It seems that a local newspaper in Seattle has done an article on my 96 year old father-in-law. It is a real nice article, except they made him 97. If you would like to read the article about Chuck's dad, you can do so by clicking here.
I was sick last week, Chuck was sick the week before. I think we now have the "nasty head colds" behind us and we can now get on with our lives.
Even though we were under the weather, our walking routine has continued. I can tell that I am starting to gain a little more stamina. Little by little.
Karen and Randy
Chuck and I moved to Cuenca from Richland, Washington. Before we moved here we came to Cuenca on a tourist visa and rented an apartment for seven months. While we were renting we had many visitors from the U.S. and other countries. Karen and Randy Kimbler, who were our friends in Richland, were among our guests.
Karen and Randy when they visited us in Cuenca over two years ago
After that visit, they told us they were committed to making the move to Cuenca as soon as possible. They are considerably younger than us, but by golly they have made it happen. They sold their house, took early retirement and will be arriving in Cuenca this evening. You can read their blog to follow their relocation adventure.
Today, Chuck and I are taking Brenda and Clarke on a day trip in Puff-Puff to Paute. We will look for plants, eat at the Corvel restaurant, and cruise the market.
When we return this afternoon we should be hearing from Karen and Randy. If they are up to it, we will meet them at their hotel and have dinner with them.
Tomorrow is the Fourth of July. Yes there is a fourth of July in Cuenca, it just doesn't happen to be a holiday. We have invited several friends over for a little celebration of sorts. But first we will start the day off with our weekly walk to town.