Archive for October, 2012

Happy Halloween

When we were kids, many, years ago,
our Mom’s would sew / make us Halloween costumes, not store bought stuff. They put alot of effort into those costumes,
and they were great.
We would go “Trick or “Treating”, trying to get as much candy as possible.  After a while we would go home and dump out our bags of candy so we could “hit” the same houses again that had the good stuff. 
Today, as we walked out to the bus for a visit with our friends Neil and Inge, we both noticed that none of the school children were in costume, they were all in their uniforms.  HHMM, seemed like Halloween didn’t matter.
This is our second October 31st. in Ecuador. 
Last year we didn’t see anything that seemed to commemorate Halloween, we thought that it must not be a big deal in Cuenca.   
We now know that this week includes a bunch of festivals; the Day of The Dead is HUGE here, it is celebrated on November 2nd and
Cuenca Independence Day is Novemeber 3rd.  
There are festivals and parties all week long. 
OK, the point of the blog.  We GOT TRICK OR TREATERS!!!
We had just got home from visiting friends, and there was a HUGE banging at our front door. 
We had Trick or Treaters!!!!!!! 
I have no idea how many there were, but we think they ALL knocked on the door, at the same time.
Luckily, we had some candy in the house.  We asked them to come in so we could take a picture. They were ALL smiles.
It felt like a touch of home, Ecuadorian trick or treaters.
We had a  great afternoon with friends, and then got a really nice chance to share Halloween with our Ecuadorian neighbor’s children.
They were so, so incredibly cute.
Cuenca, gotta love it.


Read Full Post »

Michael Making Soap

Michael has participated in a charity poker event ever since we learned about it last October. It costs $7.00 to buy in, and all the money raised goes to a great cause.  The funds raised buy food for residents that live in an “Orphanage” in the Yunguilla Valley, the facility is named “Messengers of Peace” and is located about an hour outside of Cuenca. 
We were lucky enough to have met, had dinner, and been invited to the home of Will and Valerie Lacy. They were huge supporters of this facility. 
With sadness, I have to say that Will passed away about six months ago, but with happiness, I can say, that the Poker Trophy is now named after Will because of his and Valerie’s efforts to support  “The Messengers of Peace Orphanage”. 
At the end of the tournament, whoever is the chip leader wins the “Will Lacy Trophy”, and all money raised is donated to the Orphanage.
Michael went to the “Orphanage” for the first time this week.  He went with our neighbor Mariela and her husband.  Mariela takes the money raised from the charity Poker tournament and buys food for the residents of the “Orphanage”. 
Her devotion to the facility is amazing,
she is out there two to three times a week.
It is an inspiring experience to go to this place. 
Entrance to the “Orphanage”

Buildings on the grounds. 
 A beautiful setting for the facility.
 The less disabled residents go to work at a nearby estate tending to the gardens, the more profoundly disabled residents stay at the facility.  Some of the residents that spend their days at the “Orphanage” go to school on the grounds, and others work in the “Soap Factory”.

Some Pic’s:

Residents that work on the Rose Farms heading out for their work day. 
It gives them a purpose and pride.

Residents and a few Counselors posing for Michael.

Happy residents with a new puppy.
The Orphange raises pigs for sale and consumption.   Yeah, the little guys are cute, but a fact of life is that these Pigs will bring money to the facility, and feed the residents.
Goats provide milk and cheese, they are also for sale and consumption.
This is the walkway down to the soap factory that Michael spent his day working with the residents.
Soap products produced at Messengers of Peace.  Some of the money from the sale of the soap products is “paid” to the residents for their work, it gives them a little bit of pocket money and the rest of the money goes to the facility.
Michael had a great time working with the residents (that is our term, they are called “kids” at the facility) making and bottling soap products. 

Apparently, one bottle Michael sent down the line WAS NOT UP TO THEIR STANDARDS!!  A worker brought it back to him and explained what he needed to do to correct the problem.  They are really proud of what they do, and Michael was not allowed to make a sub-standard bottle of soap.


This guy was totally enamored with Michael’s beard,  so Michael rubbed the guy’s chin, apparently he had a few sprouts of hair, and Michael told him he was on his way to growing one like Michael’s.  That made this man smile and laugh.
I met his couple when I was there as well. 
They are very devoted to each other.

Workers in the Soap Factory.

Michael with his fellow Soap Factory workers.

When I was there, I was intoduced as a Norte Americano that had come to help, and EVERY resident came and kissed and hugged me.  The same thing happened when Michael went there, although, they were TOTALLY fascinated with Michael’s beard, and blond hair.  He got lots of smiles. 
We are hoping to go back together. 

Michael contributed a few hours working in the Soap Factory, and made the residents of “The Messengers of Peace” facility happy with his smile.
Ecuador, gotta love it.


Read Full Post »

We have always loved taking photographs, it has been a common passion for Michael and I since we met in High School. 
That was a LONG, LONG time ago.
When we heard about a local charity auction to benefit homeless animals in Cuenca,  we decided to have a few of our pic’s printed and framed as our donation to the silent auction.  We donated Six Framed photographs.

Views from the balcony in Cafe Eucalyptus, the restaurant that
the Auction was held in.

As usual, Michael and I arrived at the specified time, and as usual for Cuenca, everything started later than planned.  Then, we were told that the event had been oversold by 50 tickets, that meant there would be a delay in the food service, so the Wine, Beer and Scotch were free flowing until the food would be ready. By then, there were a gazillion people, the place was jammed.
 It was a party!
There was an incredibly enthusiastic singer.  He sang Beatles tunes, and songs in French, Italian and Spanish. The guy was pretty good.

(Sorry for the bad pic of the singer).
It was a really nice evening, but by 10:30 we were ready to go home, so we left before the auction was completed.

All six of our photogragraphs sold!!  We have no idea what they sold for, but we are happy we helped a good cause.

Cuenca, gotta love it!



Read Full Post »

Swimming In Cuenca

We heard about a nice pool to swim here in Cuenca, so we went and checked it out. The complex was really great, so we went again a few days later.  There are three pools, one for diving with several platforms of varying height, an Olympic size pool with ten lanes, and a “Warming Pool”.  
It was really nice and we plan on going a few days a week from now on.  I actually bought a swimsuit, I haven’t had one in about 23 years!!!  LOL.  We went to a “Sport” store in El Centro, and I was amazed that  found one that fit me. 

Pic of the pool:

Michael doing his laps:

 The area where the diving pool and warming pool are located.
The climbing wall at the facility:
The Coopera Restaurant at the Sports Center

So, our plan is to go there a few times a week.
Cuenca, gotta love it!

Read Full Post »


Not Cuenca News, but it is important to us.
Our neice graduated on Friday, she is now a Doctor. 
We had always been there to celebrate the important events in her life. Her First Communion, her gradutation from grade school, her first Homecoming Dance, Proms, her Graduations from High School and College.

It made me very lonesome to miss this important day; her graduation becoming a Doctor.  I guess that is part of living in another country, missing things that are so special. It is really hard to miss milestones.

I wish I could have have seen my Niece, Brianna Murray, become a Doctor.
We are so proud of of her, and not being there for this really important day made us miss her.
We are happy, and joyful for you Brianna.
We love living in Cuenca, but so there are times that you miss being with the ones you love.


My thought for today.


Read Full Post »

I have read that some people are reluctant to use the bus system in Cuenca.  We find it incredibly useful.  Now that the new intersection at Las Americas and Ordonez Lasso is back open, it is even better.

We are always mindful of our wallets, camera’s etc., as we would have always been while traveling on the “L” in Chicago, no different. 

I have NEVER felt any concern about traveling on the bus by myself, and certainly, Michael wouldn’t let me travel by bus alone if he thought I would be in any jeopardy.

OK, that said, we saw a very interesting thing on the bus on Monday.

A man got on the bus, and he started speaking fairly loud, we thought he must have been a guy “preaching”.  It happens occasionally that you get people on the bus selling Gum, candy, whatever,  but this this guy was loud, really loud.

It was the first time that I was happy I wasn’t alone on the bus.  The guy made me uncomfortable.  Most Ecuadorian men are even smaller than me, and I KNEW this guy wouldn’t take Michael on, but it was still weird.  

Apparently the guy was a religious man, but his loud ranting made me feel uncomfortable, I just kept looking out the window, SO, I did not see him put the four inch nails UP BOTH OF HIS NOSTRILS!!!  OMG, OMG.  God guy or not, that was just too weird.   Out of the corner of my eye, I was trying to see  what was going on, while not actually looking. I asked Michael if what I thought I had seen, was what I actually had seen, a guy with nails hanging out of his nose, and Michael said yeah, the guy stuffed nails up his nose. 

That was the weirdest thing I have experienced on any city bus system.  NAILS, UP THE GUYS NOSE!!!

I have to admit, I have seen alot of strange stuff while riding public transportation in Chicago, but this experience ranks as the most bizarre.
Ok, so that was strange, but then the other day, we were on the bus going to El Centro, the bus stopped at a “Non-Bus” stop to let a blind guy on.  He had a guitar and his blind walking stick, once he was on the bus the man found a place to stand between the seats, and he serenaded the passengers with an incredibly amazing voice.  I felt like Michael and I were in the movie Shawshank Redemption, you know that scene where the inmates don’t know what the “Italian Lady” is singing about.  His voice was truly beautiful, the songs were in Spanish so we don’t know what he was singing about, what a shame for us, he was incredible.

After he was done, he felt his way down the the aisle of the bus, he didn’t have his hand out, but we followed what the Ecuadorians on the bus were doing, they would simply grab his hand and give him a coin, so we did as well.

Cuenca,  gotta love it.

Read Full Post »

Michael is Back, YEAH!!

I have been living a fairly quiet existence since September 11.   Michael went to Florida to visit his family and I stayed in Cuenca.  The idea of two airfares was something we didn’t want to do, we live a comfortable life here, but we do try to watch our finances.  Oscar and I hung out together passing the days with long walks on the road behind the house (the one that the Coopera truck picks up the produce from) and I made several “friends” with the people working the fields.  As usual, we couldn’t communicate, but their huge smiles were always the same.  Ecuadorians get a huge kick out of Oscar, you don’t see too many little guys that look like him, and the local people literally crack up when they see him, he is a total ice breaker.  During the time Michael was gone I had lots of time to think, reflect on my life, and our move to Ecuador.  I can say that I feel like the luckiest person in the world, I have a great life, with the love of my life,  I missed him more than I can say,  BUT, Michael is home now!!!  Yeah!

Part of Michael’s plan during his visit to his Mom’s house was to bring back some of our photo albums.  When we made the move, we had to choose what we were going to bring with us, things that would fit in suitcases.  It was easy to get rid of some “stuff”, but really hard to leave some things behind, on the top of the list (besides our family and friends) were our photo albums.  Michael and I have been taking pictures, of everyone and everything, since we were in high school.  We have our life history in those albums, but they were just too heavy to pack.   Michael left here with one HUGE suitcase, and two smaller ones packed inside.  When he returned he brought about 20 of our photo albums with him (along with Coleman’s Mustard, Taco Seasoning, a new Sonicare toothbrush,  and other things we cannot buy here)  We have a bunch more to get, but he lugged three suitcases, for a total weight of 150 pounds back to Cuenca.  Before we left the States we had sent some of our negatives to a company to have them professionally scanned, so we brought those CD’s with us, but when I got to look through the actual albums Michael brought home, I literally cried.  It was so nice to have some of our photos here in Cuenca.  Family and friends are now with us again. 

We still have many albums left at Michael’s Moms house, but he managed to bring back several that were designated as “Family”.  I saw photographs I haven’t seen in over a year, it brought us smiles, laughter, and for me, tears.

It was great timing, Michael got back last Thursday, and it gave me a chance to scan some photos to share with family.  My Uncle, that I worked with for over 15 years, has a birthday today, and my only sister has a birthday tomorrow, so I made Animoto videos to help celebrate their special days.  I couldn’t have done it without our photo albums.

Here are the Animoto Videos, my Uncle’s is the first one, and my sister’s is the second. If you click on them you should get a link to see the videos.  Give it a try, Animoto is such a great way to share memories (No, I don’t get $$ for promoting their service, I just think it is fun and very cool)


Uncle Brian

Copy of My Animoto Video

Kathleen Murray-Russell
Copy of My Animoto Video

By the way, I went with our trusted driver Manny to Guayaquil to pick Michael up at the airport.  We have been through the Caja’s at night several times,  it can be scary.  This trip was astoundingly BEAUTIFUL.  It didn’t rain and and the moon was full, so the light was amazing.  We saw the silhouettes of the mountains, and tons of stars.  It was a perfect ride home with my husband. We wish we could have stopped and taken photographs!!!! 

Gotta love Ecuador!!

Read Full Post »