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Monday, February 28, 2011

Saraguro Adventure - Part I

Dear Family and Friends,

We found a brochure for a one-day tour of Saraguro at the restaurant, California Kitchen. Although we have been to Saraguro before, there were things listed on the tour that spiked our interest. Saraguro is located about an hour north of Loja. It is a long way away from Cuenca so, of course, the tour started very early in the morning. We invited Jeanne and our neighbor, Bea, to go with us.

Here is a picture of Bea and Chuck waiting for the van that took us to Saraguro. The van was due to pick us up at 6:00am. However, the van driver was from Loja and was not very familiar with Cuenca. He arrived about 6:30am, after Chuck talked him in by cell phone.

After picking us up, the van picked up Jeanne, and we were on our way. The Andean scenery was beautiful the whole way.

We arrived in Saraguro about 8:30am. We met our Spanish speaking guide and the English speaking interpreter who would guide our tour. We were then served breakfast at a new restaurant that overlooks the city. We learned that Saraguro (named by the Incas) means city of corn.

It lives up to its name. There is corn growing everywhere. They even have a huge statue of an ear of corn at the entrance to the town.

I am going to break the trip up into multiple posts because we did way to much to cover in one posting.

After breakfast we went out of town a little ways to see the place where the Inca royalty bathed. This was a ceremonial ritual and it is practiced by some of the inhabitants to this day. Once a year on June 21, the leaders of 4 villages come together to shower in this spot. The leaders and many inhabitants of the villages make a pilgrimage up the mountain side on this date each year starting at 3:00am.

(Side note) - June 21 is the shortest day of the year south of the equator. I don't know for sure, but I think this ritual certainly is connected to the solstice since the Incas worshiped the sun.

The following pictures were made by Chuck. When I looked at the mountain we had to climb, I handed him the camera and asked him to take pictures for me. I waited below, reading my Kindle.

Chuck told me the way was sometimes quite steep. They climbed stone steps that were probably made by the Incas about 600 years ago.

He said the path was narrow in places and there was one place where the narrow path had a mountain side on one side and a drop off on the other. (Glad I opted out)

The hike up was worth their effort. This is the beautiful waterfall they hiked up to.

This is the pool where the Inca royalty bathed. The water is very cold.

They also explored a cave up there.

This terrific picture is a sillouette of Jeanne. You can see how far they climbed for this adventure.

Chuck said it was well worth the hike, but he agreed that since I have trouble breathing, I was probably wise to stay put.

Saraguro is a very unique town in Ecuador. I will share more next time.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ecuador Peanut Butter Taste Test

Dear Family and Friends,

Yesterday Chuck and I were shopping at Super Maxi (our local supermarket). When we started to buy peanut butter we noticed there were several Ecuadorian brands that we had never tried. On the spur of the moment we decided to buy one of each and have a taste test.

This morning before we started the test Chuck suggested that we add the peanut butter that he buys at the market. So, off he ran to the Feria Libre market to get some of their fresh ground peanut butter.

Now we were all set. We decided to do a blind tasting. I quickly chose to be the researcher and Chuck agreed to be the victim taster.

Here is the selection:

I arranged the peanut butter samples on a plate.

I hollered to Chuck and told him it was his turn...

He did his job very well. Tasting and describing each sample.

Here are the results:

Sample 1. Too thin, sticks to roof of mouth.

Sample 2. Not as oily or sticky and doesn't have as much peanut taste as #1.

Sample 3. Almost identical as #2.

Sample 4. Smoother than #2 and #3. Not as sticky as #1

Sample 5. Darker in color. Wouldn't spread very well.

When asked which peanut butter he preferred, Chuck chose #1. He said it tasted closest to U.S. style peanut butter.


The preferred brand #1 was Schullo. It was the most expensive of the five tested. $2.82 for 200 gms.

Brand #2 was Ile. It cost $1.25 for 200 gms.

Brand #3 was Nuppy. It cost $2.41 for 200 gms.

Brand #4 was Dorita. It cost $1.65 for 200 gms.

Brand #5 was from the Fiera Libra. It cost $.75 for 200 gms.

All of the brands claimed to contain only peanuts or peanuts and salt. No additives.

By the way, if any one living in Cuenca (CLARKE) would like to do their own taste test, come on over to the Watsons....we have plenty of each brand for your tasting enjoyment.

H and K,

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chuck's Garden

Dear Family and Friends,

We were sitting on the patio this morning and the beauty of the flowers made my heart swell so much that I went and grabbed the camera.

Here, my friends, is Chuck's garden.

The closer we get to finishing the furnishing of our new condo, the harder it is for Chuck to leave this old condo.

Over the years, he has turned our walled patio into a private paradise. To us, this is the most tranquil place in all of Cuenca. are my joy!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bright Enough?

Dear Family and Friends,

Hugo is painting our new apartment. He painted some sample colors on the wall so we could decide which color would look best. The second picture is the color we chose.

It is starting to come together.

Life is good!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jason's & Donna's Country Home

Dear Family and Friends,

We had lunch today with Jason and Donna at the Good Affinity restaurant. After lunch they took us to see the progress on the home they are building just outside of Cuenca.

We had not seen them in several weeks so it was really good to catch up.

The Good Affinity restaurant is vegetarian and has wonderful food. They have indoor and outdoor seating and the setting is very tranquil.

We chose to eat indoors.

After lunch, they took us to their property. The workers are really coming along on their new home. They walked us through it and explained the layout. It is going to be fabulous.

This is the view from the kitchen window.

And, this is the view out the back.

It is going to be very nice. A lot of fresh air and good country living. If you would like to see the architect's drawing of the house click here.


Meet Bob and Bea

Dear Family and Friends,

Our neighbors, Bob and Bea, moved to Ecuador over three months ago. They invited us for dinner on Sunday and it was fantastic.

Bea had printed a menu. She said this way we could pace ourselves so we would be sure to save room for dessert. We could see by the menu that we were in for a treat.

Bob pouring wine...

and serving the hors d'oeuvres...

The cauliflower, chicken and blue cheese soup was delicious.

This is the wonderful lamb and lentil stew...

We ate dinner on their patio, enjoying each others company.

The dessert was the most divine chocolate on earth...

Thanks Bob and Bea, we are fortunate to have you as friends, and the best part is that we are neighbors too!!

Nancy and Chuck

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Another Milestone

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck reminded me last week that we have passed another milestone in our Cuenca experience. We have now had our Ecuadorian residency for two years. During the first two years of residency we were only able to be out of Ecuador for no more than 90 days a year. The milestone we passed means that we now free to leave Ecuador as much as we please. For us, this is huge! During the last two years we have butted up to the 90 day limit, being careful to not go over.

Actually, in two more months, we have spent a total of three years in Cuenca. Our adventure here started four years ago, in 2007, as tourists. We liked it here so much that we returned a few months later and rented an apartment for seven months. At that time, we had no intention of living here permanently, but Cuenca drew us in and after living here for seven months we decided to return forever.

Here are some of the changes we have seen during our experience here:

One of the biggest changes is the modernization of the city buses. When we were first here the buses had a driver and an attendant. The buses had the same routes as today, but back then, even though there were bus stops, you could flag the bus down most anywhere along the route. After boarding and finding your seat, the attendant would come to you to collect the fare. He would make change if you didn't have a quarter. In some ways I miss the old bus system. We could get off the bus in the front or back. The attendant would help people on and off the bus when they had toddlers or large parcels. And, the attendant always kept an eye out to make sure the passenger was clear of the bus and tell the driver when it was safe to proceed. One thing that hasn't changed is the bus fare....25 cents and seniors, students or handicapped persons...12 cents.

We remember when the Carolina Bookstore was the ABC Bookstore. Back then it was located directly behind the new cathedral. In 2007, the building housing the bookstore burned and Lee and Carol relocated to their present location and changed the name of the store to Carolina Book Store.

In 2007, the taxi fare within el centro was $1.00. If the taxi had to cross Las Americas, the fare was $1.25. Now the taxi fare within el centro is $1.50, if you cross Las Americas it is $2.00.

We remember the flower market in Plaza del Carmen before it was remodeled. And, we remember the flower vendors going on strike because they did not like the new kiosks that were designed for them to use. The city had to tear out the kiosks. The vendors moved out of the plaza across the street until they were satisfied with the new design.

We remember when "Gringo Night" was at the Eucalyptus restaurant. In one evening there might be 20 people to gather there. We sat around one long table. The table seemed to grow as each new person arrived. We even knew everybody's name then.

We remember the 9th of October market before it was remodeled. It was pretty much organized chaos. Now it is a beautiful market with a nice plaza in front. The rotary market was remodeled at about the same time.

Here are some pictures I took in 2007.

Chuck standing at the plaza by Iglasea Le Merced on Presidente Borrero and Calle Large before it was decorated with graffiti.

Here is how the flower market looked before the changes.

Here is the 9th of October market before it was remodeled.

And looking at the price of these eggs, I would say another change we have seen is inflation. Today at the market you can get eggs 10 for a $1.00.

This scene is the same as now and we hope it will always be. I took this picture of the new cathedral in the light of a late afternoon sun, on our first visit here.

Here is a picture of Chuck and me at the Eucalyptus restaurant during our first visit. Little did we know back then that Cuenca would be our home.

We are so thankful for all the wonderful friends we have made during the last few years in Cuenca.

Life is good!!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Take a Deep Breath!

Dear Family and Friends,

It has been a long time since I last post on our blog. Quite a bit has been going on the past couple of weeks.

My brother, Norman, is continuing to heal and is doing very well. He and Nan, his wife, are planning a cruise at the end of March.

After returning to Cuenca, I started being very short of breath. I was wheezing and carrying on so that Chuck made an appointment with our doctor, Dr. Martinez.

I went for an exam and shared with Dr. Martinez the new development in my family history...Norman's quadruple by-pass surgery. He set up an ultrasonic-cardiogram and pulmonary test for me.

The ultrasonic-cardiogram showed that I have diastolic dysfunction. It can, however, be reversed with weight loss and lowering my blood pressure.

The pulmonary test showed that I have some asthma symptoms.

Dr. Martinez has me on medication to help my lungs and stronger medication for my blood pressure. He told me the weight loss is totally in my hands.

We decided to move back to our old condo because it is like comfort food. We were just camping out in the new place while we decorate it anyway. We have been back in our old condo for a week now. With the medication, my breathing is much better.

These are my new friends, a blood pressure monitor, medicine for my lungs and a mask to wear to help cut down on diesel fumes.

Things are coming along in our new condo. We have already connected Direct TV, internet, bought and installed all the appliances for the kitchen, washer and dryer and bought dining room furniture, a sofa, a television, and mattresses.

Being back in our old condo is good too. I don't have a panoramic view of the city, but the patio here is quite tranquil. I am doing much better. Weight loss and keeping my blood pressure down will help me feel even better.