Archive for September, 2012

Recently Michael and I had concerns about where we would be living after November 1st.  When we signed our lease last year it included an option that the homeowner would have the contingency to raise our rent by 10%.  We decided if that happened, we would look for another place to live.  The rental contract stated we had to tell the landlord by October 1st if we wanted to stay, and he had until the same day to let us know if he was going to raise the rent.  Because it took us so long to find a place that would accept Oscar, we thought we would try to get this issue taken care of in advance of October 1st.  We contacted our realtor, and she called our landlord.  He decided that he “respects” the way we take care of his property, so he will “respect” the rent, and not raise it.  (I think the choice of the word “Respect” is so interesting). We were very happy about that, we DID NOT want to move.  We really like our community.  Many cab drivers have come into our little enclave and comment on the fact that is so pretty, one guy couldn’t believe that he had never seen it before and called it a Secret Garden.  We have very convenient access to bus lines to El Centro, but at the same time we are sort of rural, and we like that, alot.
OK, that brings me to the subject of the blog.  We have a balcony off the master bedroom, one of the first things I noticed when we moved here was a “lean to” shack type thing, with a tin roof.  I thought to myself, well, that is a bit of an eyesore, but oh well, whatta’ ya’ gonna do. 
That “lean to” has been an amazement.  We get to watch farmers bring their produce there for pick up by Coopera.  For the  non-Ecuadorian followers of the blog, Coopera is a market that carries fresh fruits, vegetables, Meat, Fowl, Seafood, dairy products, some of the BEST bread I have ever had, and an assortment of other stuff, at incredibly LOW prices.  Coopera is different from the Indigenous markets in that they have cash registers, accept the Experta card, and there is no bartering, but the quality of the food is amazing. 
In the States, things are labeled as Organic, and several dollars are added to the price for that label, here, that is simply a given. You are not over charged because the food is Organic, and it is actually much cheaper to buy these items at Coopera rather than at the supermarket chains. 
We get to enjoy incredibly fresh food, at low prices, with the knowledge that the fruits/vegetables haven’t been sprayed with anything, and the meat and fowl are steriod free. I think some of the seafood might be from Fish “Farms”, but I can tell you that Michael has never been a fan of Shrimp, but he thinks the the Shrimp we buy at Coopera are delicious.
Sorry for the digression, for the second time.
We watch the farmers bring their produce to the “lean to” across the road from us.  OMG, they are such hard workers, we wonder what they get paid?   They carry the produce in baskets tied around their shoulders to this spot, and then transfer the cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers, or whatever produce they have into crates to be picked up by the Coopera truck.
This the road the farmers walk down with their produce, it
is right behind our home.
These are the baskets that they wrap around their shoulders to carry the stuff, hard, heavy work.
In previous posts, I mentioned that I ask permission to photograph people, well that is true 95% of the time, but a few of these pics were taken from the balcony without their knowledge. 
The father seemed to be lost in thought while he took a break.
This is the Dad washing out the crates in a stream behind our house.
I felt a little weird taking pictures without their consent, so I decided to go over and ask this father and son team if I could photograph them.  The Dad was more than happy, but the son seemed reluctant.

Before the food gets to Coopera, these guys check it over and rip off dead leaves and stuff.

Michael and I like to take photographs of peoples hands, to us it seems like a road map of life. 

I found it interesting that the son preferred to wear gloves, and the father didn’t.  Maybe old school versus today’s standards.  It was sweet, they seemed to understand  I was trying to photograph a family bond, and they cooperated. 

Again, me – no Espanol, them, no English, simple communication through smiles. 
On another day I noticed these ladies carrying the big heavy baskets to the “lean to”.  I decided to go and ask if I could take their photos instead of being covert about it, asking permission worked out well with the guys, so I thought, what the heck! They said “Si Senora” and stopped working to pose for me.

I stopped taking photographs and started helping them with their work.  They were loading up a truck with broccoli, but the stems and leaves had to be chopped off.  I think they thought the “Gringa” was a little crazy for jumping in with the work, but I thought it was the least I could do for the privilege of taking their photographs.
Normally, within a few hours the Coopera trucks shows up and takes away the produce that we will probably buy the next day.  How cool is that????
The Coopera truck usually has a stencil of Che Guevara on it,
I find that intriguing.

I am just including this pic of the neighbor across the back road, he was out cutting roses when I was going over to see the “Broccoli” ladies.  When you smile and ask permission for a photo, sometimes you get really good ones, what a nice face.
Cuenca, gotta love it.



Read Full Post »

Our journey to Tunguragua Volcano.

This a long blog, with lots of pictures.
Maybe you have read about the Tungurahua volcano that started erupting on August 19th.
A friend, Al Bourassa, thought it would be cool to make a trek to see it, he tried to organize a trip fairly quickly after the eruptions started.  Michael and I wanted to go, but we had our whale watching trip planned and paid for already, so we told Al we would be back on from the coast in four days, and we would be ready to go on Tuesday morning.  So that is what we did.  We got back to Cuenca from the coast around 6:00 pm. on Monday, dropped Oscar off at our friends, went home, downloaded all the pics from the coast, unpacked our warm weather clothing and repacked cold weather clothing so we could sit on a mountain top.
We were gone again by 7:00 am. on Tuesday 
Our friend Al had arranged for a really great guy named Miguel to do the driving.  He has a big Van, unbelievably comfortable, and since there were only the four of us; Miguel, Al, Michael and I, we had LOTS of room. 
This is Miguel.   He is a GREAT guy.
We had heard the volcanic activity had slowed, but was still going on. 
We were ALL really excited about what we might see.
We drove along and Miguel would stop whenever we asked so we could take pictures.  It is impossible to drive through Ecuador and not stop and enjoy the vistas. 
Our first stop along the road.  Ecuador is beautiful.
I was taking pictures of the scenery and I noticed a man walking down a hill on the other side of the road. He was smiling the whole time.  I thought he had a beautiful, joyful face and I wanted his photograph,  I asked our driver Miguel to ask the man for permission for me to photograph him, (I am uncomfortable pointing my camera at someone without their consent), Miguel and the Gentleman had a short conversation and Miguel felt that the answer was “No”, the man thought I should photograph his beautiful country, and not an “Old Man” like him.  So I abided by that wish.  I handed my camera to Michael, and suddenly this gentleman had no problem having his picture take.  Go Figure!!!
We stopped in the town where “The Devil’s Nose Train” trip originates, Alausi.  We had all decided to skip the train ride, it is several hours long, and we wanted to get to Tunguragua, however Alausi is a really nice place to spend time in.  We ran into what we think might have been an important meeting for local Indigenous people.  We weren’t sure what was going on, but it was a feast for the eyes. 
This is a young man serving a drink to the women that were in the plaza.  Their clothing is so colorful and dynamic.  We bought one of the “local” hats with a peacock feather when we were there.
Town meeting, or something. 
A few young women wearing the traditional clothing.  We have been told that this tradition might not continue with future generations.
Loved this guys Poncho.
The Devils Nose Train.  They used to let people sit on top of it during the journey through the mountain, that is no longer an option.  
Monument in Aluasi.
We traveled on to Riobamba, and during the drive Miguel kept in contact with a friend he has that lives near Tunguragua, it seemed like a “Go” for volcanic activity.  When we got to the hotel in Riobamba, from the street the hotel seemed like a place that I would have told Michael to drive right by, but it was clean, quiet, and nice, $25.00 per night for two people. 
We should have been able to see the volcano from the lobby of the hotel, but it was too cloudy, so while we waited for the weather to clear, Miguel thought it might be nice to take us to a town not far from Riobamba that is known for their leather crafts.  That sounded good, so off we went to a town named Guano.  Yeah, Guano, we all laughed at the fact that we were in a town named  SH _T in English. But as usual, Miguel was right.  It was a really charming little town.
Remnants of the original church.  It was built in the 1700’s, but burned down. 
OK, what is the deal with the skull??
 Decoration on the new Church, right next to the old one.

A Llama hanging around the church.

After our trip to Guano we went back to our hotel to meet with Miguel’s friend Bolivar.
Bolivar is a truck driver, and he knows the back roads to the volcano.  We jumped in the van and left Riobamaba around 5:00 pm.  OMG, yeah, Bolivar knew all the back roads, unfortunately his usual routes were now blocked by the Ecuadorian Military.  I GUESS THEY KNEW THEM AS WELL.  So we had to find another way up the mounain.  We twisted and turned and went up roads that a mountain goat couldn’t challenge.  I was kinda, no, not kinda, very freaked out going up the mountain.  We finally got to the summit around 7:00 – it was dark, pouring rain and foggy.  You could not see more than ten feet ahead of you in the fog.  Bummer.  NO VOLCANO IN SIGHT.
So we sat, and hoped for the weather to change.  Miguel, Bolivar, Al, Michael and I waited.  Miguel dropped down his DVD player in the Van and we watched the movie “Transporter”.  Michael and I were sitting on a mountain, in total darkness, waiting to see a volcano, and watching a movie at the same time.  It was surreal. 
Some of the local people came out to see what we were doing, Miguel explained we wanted to see the Volcano.  They said they had watched it, but for the past fews days it had been too rainy and cloudy.  So Miguel said it would be a good idea if we got off the mountain before too much more rain.  So we traveled back down to our hotel.
A pic in the  town named Penipe, evacuation routes in the event of volcanic activity.
Michael and I had seen Tsumani signs when we were in Washington State, this reminded us of that. 
We tried again the following morning, we traveled back up the mountain and we passed mudslides that had happened after we left the mountain the night before, we were lucky we got out when we did. We traveled back to the top of the mountain and it was still too cloudy to see the volcano. Well, we missed that, but got to see the local people.  Miguel, our guide was thrilled that he had found this very rural part of Ecuador, so you can imagine how we felt. 
It was beautiful.
People were coming and going all morning while we were up there, I think we we an oddity. 
Some pics from the morning, the local people were going back and forth with animals to sell their milk.
 We had seen this little girl the night before, she was bringing in their sheep.

 Horses tied up after bringing their load of milk up the mountain.
Curious kids checking us out.
Nice mountain people.
This poor guy only had one horn.
Scenery along the way home.
I have never seen the Smokey Mountians,
 I wonder if they are as beautiful as this?

A mountain stream.
On our way back to Cuenca Miguel stopped to let us take a picture of the Chimborazo Volcano.  We went in search of one, couldn’t see it, but one the way home, we got to see the one we had climbed, how cool is that.

These folks were just waiting for a bus.

 Ecuador, gotta love it.



Read Full Post »

Medical Care In Cuenca

I had my first encounter with the medical system here in Cuenca. 

I would like to start with a little background info.

When we were researching our move to Ecuador, we left several messages on blogs of people that had moved here, we asked their opinions about getting medical insurance.  It is such an important thing to have in the US, so we were curious.  Not one person we contacted responded to our questions.  We think we understand why there was total silence on this subject.  Medical care here is a FRACTION of the cost in the US, and we think alot of Ex-Pats don’t bother to buy it. 

We bought health insurance anyway.  We thought it was a prudent thing to do. 
Our policy expired on August 24, so we had made arrangements with another company that will cover us anywhere in South America, a small policy to cover expenses in the US and Europe, and for some reason they throw in a life insurance policy, and travel insurance.  We were scheduled to sign the paperwork this morning, it just made us feel better to have something to cover medical bills.

OK, back to the original story.

We had some house guests last night and I was chopping up a watermelon, with a very, very sharp knife.  Well, it went right through the rind, into my index finger on my left hand.  Don’t mean to be gross, but blood starting squirting EVERYWHERE, all over the dishes that our guests would be eating on, just everywhere.  Michael wanted me to go to an ER, but me, being the stubborn person that I am,  just kept saying, “Honey, it is just a cut, it will be fine”. 

This morning when I took the bandaid off, I got kinda queasy, it looked pretty bad.  We had washed the fruits and vegetables that we were going to eat last night, that would have the skin on, the  tomatos and lettuce, etc.,  in a “special” liquid we buy here.  But the watermelon had a rind and we were just going to eat the “flesh”, so I didn’t wash it.  This morning I thought that the “cut” might have bacteria contamination so I decided to go to the Doc.  And believe me, I am not one for doctors. 

We already had the appointment to sign the papers for our health insurance this morning so we went and did that first, we won’t be covered for 30 days, so we knew we had to pay for the treatment I was going to need at the hospital. 

We walked over to the hospital, and were directed to the ER.  NO WAITING.  They examined my hand and asked if I wanted a plastic surgeon so that I wouldn’t have a scar.  I laughed and said no.  The doctor and nurse were so gentle, explained everything in English (well the doctor spoke English, the nurse not so much, but when we explained in our broken Spanish that we were trying to learn the language, she smiled and did her best in English.)  Michael stayed with me, they gave me an anesthetic to numb my finger, and some sutures for the cut. The doctor inquired about my medical history, allergys, etc.  He decided I needed to have a Tetanus shot and pain meds.  Pain medication here is simply Ibuprofen.  Narcotic drugs containing codeine or stuff like that are STRICKLY monitored, and rarely prescribed.  I didn’t need that stuff anyway, it was just a cut.  They did not want to bandage the “wound”, they believe fresh air will help it heal quicker, so I feel kinda weird walking around with thread hanging out of my finger.  LOL!!

We were seen in an ER within minutes, a deep cut was anesthetized, sterilized and sutured,  I was given a Tetanus shot, and my medical history was inquired about.   I think the Doctor spent about a about 45 minutes with me.  I was VERY well cared for.

The cost for the care for all of this treatment was $44.00.  My follow up visit will be free.

Michael took pictures of the event in the hospital, but since I am the one that posts the blogs, I overroad the idea of including pictures.

I do have to say the Doctor was great, but looking at him, I would have assumed he was about 12 years old. Too Funny.

Ecuador, gotta love it. 


Read Full Post »

We decided to go whale watching in Puerto Lopez,
we needed a Whale “Fix”. 
We went whale watching last summer, we had only been in Ecuador less than six weeks at the time. We did our research and learned what buses to take, and off we went. 
This was our fourth trip to the coast, and our third trip to Hosteria Mandala. We LOVE that place. Last year we saw whales and visited Isla De La Plata, which is often referred to as the Poor Man’s Galapagos. The island is nice, but we have been to Galapagos twice, so we decided to skip Isla De La Plata this year, once you have been to Galapagos, NOTHING compares to it.
Hosteria Mandala arranged for the whale watching trip for us, the boat was designed to carry 18 passengers, there were only nine of us, so it was nice and comfy. We traveled out into the ocean and within 1/2 hour we found a female humpback with her calf, and the whale show began!!!!!

We didn’t get to see a whale breach, but we were treated to the Mother Whale doing Spy Hoping Activity.  That is when they pop their head out of the water, and watch what is going on around them. 
Mom and calf, you can see the little guys fin on the right side fo the pic.

The Mom is spy hopping.

The Female Humpback with her young baby.


The calf was having a blast with all the tail slapping.

There was a party going on in town, we have no idea what it was about.

 We were just stolling around town and found this place.  Michael thought it was really convenient, caskets and copies in the same place.
This little guy fell asleep in the melons. 

These are four of the five Hosteria Mandala dogs. 
Two of the hotel dogs checking out Oscar.

Carbon is the the huge black dog, Oscar didn’t even come close  to Carbon’s elbow. 

   A Typical cab in Puerto Lopez. 
A short video of the typical transportation in Puerto Lopez.
A merchant in Puerto Lopez.  He enjoyed having his picture taken.
A young boy, giving a younger boy a haircut in the market.
We strolled down the beach to see the fisherman. I wish we liked Squid.

 The fisherman in Puerto Lopez.
This little boy was waiting for his ride down the beach.

Our trip to the coast was great.

Gotta Love Ecuador.

Read Full Post »