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Archive for January, 2012

When my Mom was coming to visit, we thought that going to Macchu Picchu would be a great idea, so  we looked into the airfares and it was CRAZY expensive, we had only planned a three or four day trip, and the airfare made it way too expensive.  So we decided to take a trip to the coast and see the Pacific.
OUR JOURNEY TO PUERTO LOPEZ:
Michael and I had gone to the coast in  July, the bus we took was fabulous, A/C, large comfy seats, and movies on the  way.  Really nice. 
This time we were staying in a different town so we looked up the bus line that would take us to Puerto Lopez.  We made our reservations at Hosteria Mandala, the hotel we were going to stay at, then  booked our van trip through the Caja’s to Guayaquil where we would connect up with our bus to Puerto Lopez.  We were set. 
Michael and I have done the white knuckle ride through the Caja ‘s before, it is pretty turny and twisty, but we have become accustomed to the trip , and we promptly fell asleep.  Better to sleep and hope for a good ending than watch the crazy drivers and be terrified, is our thought.
When I woke up, I turned around to see how my Mom was doing.   Her eyes were riveted to the back of the bus drivers head, so  I reached back and said “What’s wrong”?  My Mom was kind of concerned that the driver was wearing sunglasses during the  foggy, rainy trip.   It turns out that my Mom had been steering the van, for the driver, from the last row of the van, in her mind, making sure we all made it safe and sound to Guayaquil.   Thanks Mom, sorry we left you to the driving duties while we dozed.
We got to the bus station in Guayaquil and found the bus line we were told to take to our coastal destination.  All of a sudden it was run, run, run, the bus was leaving in five minutes!!  We paid our $6.00 fare for the 4 hour ride and followed some guy, that we were hoping was taking us to the bus, Well, we got to the bus, and it was a CHICKEN BUS!!???   There aren’t really any livestock, but from the looks of the vehicle you would think there were!!  We had seen these before, but never expected to be on one, we were not real happy with the situation.  Then, before we were allowed to get on the bus, the Policia decided that they needed to look at Michael’s documentation.  ( You are given a Cedula once you become a resident of Ecuador, which is the equivalent of a National ID card, and are required to carry it at all times), so we dealt with that for a few minutes, then they wanted my Mom’s documentation , Passport copy ,etc., and finally we were allowed to board the bus.
The Bus was an experience. No A/C, little weird window curtains. OMG, it stopped constantly to let on vendors selling everything from fruit, to pastries, soda and water and even coconut milk. The driver would pull over and all of a sudden there might be 3 to 4 guys trying to sell stuff. THIS WAS NOT THE COMFORTABLE  bus we had experienced before, and expected  for this journey.
We bumped and hurdled down the roads, every so often still picking up men, women, and children selling things. The bus developed an interesting smell along the way, not to mention the constant music playing over the loud bus speakers. All in all, this was not the bus ride I expected to share with my Mom to the coast. 
After we got off the Chicken bus in Puerto Lopez, this was our transport to our hotel.  The three of us piled into it, along  with our luggage and down the beach we went in our carriage.
 
Well, we got to our hotel, which was right on the beach, beautiful gardens, it was worth the trip.
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The hotel had little cabins set in a beautiful garden,  the owners had five dogs that would charge through the dining room in the morning alerting us to their arrival, and then they would settle down near the entrance to the Hosteria Mandala.
My mom was reading a book in the deck of the Hosteria, where we would usually eat breakfast.  Michael and I had grabbed a hammock to hang out at the beach,  I went back to the hotel  to ask my mom if she wanted to hang on the beach with us , I said “it fits three”, and my Mom was really nice, but just said “No, I think I will read my book.”

Duh, here is me saying it fits three, and I meant to say , the little Cabana would fit three hammocks,  my mom was being really nice not a wanting to hang in a hammock for the three of us, “who would be smashed in the middle”, was her concern.   We got it figured out and spent two nights watching the sunset over the Pacific from those hammocks.  It was fantastic. 

We strolled into town and watched the fishermen bring in their catch.
Mom and I  strolling the beach in Puerto Lopez


Mom and Michael hanging out in the hammocks at Hosteria Mandala in Puerto Lopez. 

One evening at dinner, strolling musicians serenaded us at  our table, they  played a beautiful song,

 ” Bonita Senorita”


One of the beautiful sunsets we saw from Hosteria Mandala in Puerto Lopez.

We decided that we were absolutely not going to take another Chicken Bus back to Guayaquil, so we took a taxi to a town called Olon, and we got the really nice comfy bus, they played  a movie called “A Dolphin’s Tale”, and we sailed along on a great new highway and arrived in Guayaquil earlier than we thought.

A pic of a chicken bus:

This is the type of bus we took to Puerto Lopez, hot, humid, curtains flying out the window as we went down the road.



This is the bus we took home, cool,  quiet and comfy.

You gotta laugh with the weird stuff here, but then appreciate the beauty.

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LUGGAGE:
My Mom’s luggage didn’t make the journey to Cuenca, she had a sort of premonition that her bag would be lost, she mentioned that  even before we left Miami due to the way her luggage was handled.  When we got here, our six bags arrived, and the one with my Mom’s stuff was missing in action.

After messing around with paperwork and officials, we finally  left the airport at 11:00 p.m. our friend Efrian was dutifully waiting for us, so we made the journey through the mountains at night, we arrived at our house around 2:00 am and crashed. 

In the morning Michael started the phone calls to American Airlines trying to track down my Mom’s bag.  After two days,  they finally found it and said they would deliver it the following day.  WHAT!

The Airline wanted to send it with a courier through the mountains, we said absolutely NOT, we had to have the bag THAT day.  Hours went by, Michael made lots of calls, and the airline finally agreed to send it on the next flight to Cuenca,  Michael had to meet the “guy” at a local hotel to pick the suitcase.  The bag was supposed to be there at 4:00, well around 5:15 the dude showed up with my Mom’s suitcase.   Oh well, that is Ecuador time. 

 At least my Mom  got her stuff.

CUENCA:

Before we left for the US we had only been in our new home for 8 days, so we were still learning our way around the Cuenca bus system.  There is a MAJOR intersection that is now under construction, so the very little we knew about the buses, has gone right out the window.  The bus system here is really great and dependable, it costs 25 cents to travel, the problem is, now we have to learn the new bus routes. 

Since my Mom has been here, we have jumped on lots of buses, the bus  drivers are almost as bad as the taxi drivers.  The driver hits the gas pedal the moment you step on, so it is a matter of trying to get to a seat before the driver speeds up so you don’t break a tooth on the darn handle straps or bars.  The whole ordeal of getting off the bus is also interesting, you cannot get off in the front, it must be in the back, so we try to get seats in the back of the bus so we don’t have to push and shove through the other passengers.  The bus drivers barely come to a stop to let you on, and then getting off is like a carnival ride, –  the doors open, the bus chugs along, and hopefully he will stop long enough to let you off.  It’s a gamble depending on the driver.

My Mom has silver hair, and has never failed to be given a seat upon getting on a crowded bus. Mom has mentioned about the courtesy of the people in this city. 

Mom and Michael at Pumapungo

Mom and I  walking around the Pumapungo ruins in Cuenca
The HUGE staircase we had to climb to back to street level after seeing the ruins.

The view from Pumapungo

Resident at Pumapungo

We decide to take a day trip into the countryside around Cuenca and visit a few places.  We hired our friend Efrian to take us around.  We started at a beautiful church in Biblian.

Mom, me and Michael at the Church in Biblian

Interior of the the Church in Bibian, it is built right into the mountain.

Mom, Michael and our friend and guide Efrian at the church.

After we left the church we went on the hunt for a Spice store we had heard about, hoping we could find carroway seeds, we didn’t find it, but we hoped that the Chef at the restaurant we were going to might be able to help us, so off we went to Puate.

Lunch in Puate
In Puate we had  lunch at Restaurant Corvel, a place known for it’s original recipe for traditional Ecuadorian Potato Soup, it was delicious.



From there we went to Gualaceo to see a weaver, known all over the country for the quality of her work and designs

Entrance to the weaver location.

We were given a tour of her workshop, this picture demonstrates the creation of one color of  dye.

The weaver creating her work.

Mom and the weaver displaying her craftsmanship. 

Well,  we got to deal with the nonsense of trying to get my Mom’s lost luggage, and then we got to deal with the beauty of Ecuador in the space of a few days.  Well, that’s how it goes here, it has been so great to share this with my Mom. 

Next update will be our adventure to the coast on the Chicken Bus. Too funny. 

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Christmas In Florida

Hi All, this is a little late regarding the Holidays, Sorry, time has flown in the past few weeks. 

If you have followed the previous posts, you know that finding a place to live with a little dog in Cuenca has been a challenge to say the least.  We spent a lot of time looking for a nice place to live, and  we finally found a great  home. We  moved into our new digs on December 1st, and then left Cuenca  on December 9th to spend the holidays with our families in the US.  

We made sure we had all the proper paperwork to take Oscar out of Ecuador and back into the US, then we packed our bags and made the trek through the mountains to Guayaquil for our flight to Miami.

The ticket agent in Guayaquil asked for Oscar’s documentation and then completely ignored it, but for some reason she was quite concerned about the size of his carrying case, (most people think it is simply a little carry-on bag and are completely unaware that there is a little 16 pound bag of fur in it), anyway the ticket agent measured it, then asked another ticket agent to check it, that guy simply looked at it and said,  “Yeah it’s OK”,  but that apparently didn’t satisfy our ticket agent, so she started the whole re-measure the bag process again, then asked yet another ticket agent’s opinion, this went on again,and again, finally after about 25 minutes  we were given our boarding passes.  

When we landed in Miami we decided that as we passed through Immigration and Customs we would take the advice of Bill Clinton, if no one asked if we had a dog, we weren’t going to tell. We sailed through with no problems. I am not sure if that made Oscar an undocumented Illegal or not!!

We arrived at my Mom’s house on Saturday night, her Palm trees and bushes were decorated with Christmas light and ornaments, it was a great welcome.   Tuesday Michael flew to Chicago to see family and friends.  It was perfect timing, he got to watch our niece Lauren in her Karate competition, and she won a trophy!!


Lauren at her competition

During his visit in Chicago, Michael spent time with friends, including these folks,

Our dear friends Tom and MaryJo with Michael at Champs in Orland Park.

I wish I could have gone to Chicago, but the cost of two airfares made it a little steep, so for all the family and friends that I didn’t get to see, I miss you and wish you a very Happy New Year!!

While Michael was gone I hung out with my Mom, sister, brother, niece and bother-in-law.    It seemed like such a luxury to get into my Mom’s car, it felt like a Cadillac compared to the Taxi’s in Cuenca, AND, AND, I got to use seat belts.   

While  I was hanging out with my Mom, we went to the the barn were our niece Brigid boards her horse.  She competes in Quarter Horse Competitions, she made it to World this year!!! 

Our niece Brigid with her mom, my sister, and Allie, her horse

Allie is a beauty!

Michael returned to Florida with suitcases of clothing and linens and other items that didn’t make the original journey.  LINENS, nice soft sheets and fluffy, thick towels.  These items are difficult to find here, Ecuadorian sheets are pretty close to sand paper, unless you want to pay a fortune for them, and the towels just move the moisture around and annoy you.


We celebrated Christmas dinner at my sister’s house on Christmas eve.   My sister and  her husband cooked a wonderful bird with all the trimmings.  We gorged on food and exchanged gifts, it was a wonderful evening. 







                                                                         Christmas Dinner Table Setting

My sister decorates her home beautifully for the holidays, but it seems odd to see Christmas decorations and Palm trees on the same street, but that is part of the charm of Christmas in Florida.  We didn’t miss the cold and snow in the least, the holiday spirit was in full force in the warmth and sunshine.

On Christmas morning we went to Jacksonville to  celebrate Christmas with my mom-in-law, two of my sisters-in-law, nieces, nephew, great-niece and great-nephew.  Our niece Jill had a great spread of delicious food and we spent the evening eating, opening gifts and playing “Headbands”. 

Our lovely niece Jill

Opening gifts, our nephew Tom was thrilled with his Panama Hat!!
We spent the next week in Palm Coast with my mom-in-law and sister-in-law Maureen.  Michael’s mom is a wonder with Crochet needles and makes beautiful afghans, sweaters and lots of wonderful things, so I asked her to teach me the basics, she had the patience of a saint.  I am hoping I can make good use of my lessons and start exploring the many yarn shops here in Cuenca.  My Mother-in-Law bought an IPad2, so, when I can’t figure out what I am doing wrong I can Facetime with her!!  How cool is that.

                                              Sunrise over the Atlantic at Flagler Beach in Palm Coast

                                                Searching for shells on the beach, Dudley is the cute little white guy.

We strolled the boardwalk and watched fishermen reeling in Stingrays

We returned to West Palm Beach on New Years Day, and my mom spent the next week shuttling us around to pick up the last minute things we couldn’t live without, Certo for my arthritis, more Linens (you can never have enough sheets), walking shoes, etc.  She was a gem, making sure she ran us around to all the places we needed to go to.
 Along with the things Michael brought back from Chicago, both of our Mom’s had stored some of our treasures, so we sorted through all of them.  It was a busy week as we packed and weighed our bags determining what would make the journey. 
When we left Florida, my Mom was coming with us to Cuenca to hang out with us for a month.  We left Florida, with 5 suitcases we went to Florida with two, our carry on luggage which included Oscar.  My Mom got saddled with an extra suitcase that was actually our stuff, so technically she had two checked bags. Long story regarding baggage costs, but it was cheaper for my Mom to have two suitcases than us to have three.    We jumped on our plane, got to Guayaquil, and lo and behold, the suitcases “we” checked came through with no problem, and my Mom’s single suitcase was lost.  We spent about an hour trying to sort through local “Officialdom” to find  my mom’s suitcase to no avail,  we took the paperwork from the airlines regarding my Mom’s  lost luggage and decided to go home.  Then we had to deal with the paperwork for Oscar,  “The Official in charge”  could not figure out Oscar’s paperwork, but she finally accepted his paperwork from last June, when we had originally brought him into the country. LOL.   Then we needed our customs paperwork, but we  had messed around so much with papers during the time we were looking for the lost luggage paperwork, we couldn’t find the Customs paperwork we needed. 
By 11:00 P.M. (we had arrived at 8:45 p.m.)  it was getting late and it seemed that all the officials in Guayaquil that wanted the Customs  paperwork, Oscars stuff and proof for the luggage we actually had,  disappeared, so we simply made a run for it!
Suitcase saga to continue.

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