Thursday, June 28, 2012

A First for Daisy

June 28, 2012

Some of our local residents

Okay, so last time I left off, we were in the midst of trying to find room for the new, comfortable, and very LARGE sectional couch that our thoughtful landlords (Klever y Eulalia) had delivered to our place recently (refer to the pics from last post), which took up ALL of our living room. The solution to the problem was to remove the bunk bed they also kindly left for us (in the second bedroom that we use as our office) to make room for a few of the sectional pieces.

In the meantime, all the other living room lamps, entertainment unit, bookshelf, decorations, side tables, assorted barstools, etc. needed to be parked in the middle of our kitchen for a few weeks and dodged around whenever we cooked or entertained at home.

But we’re past that now, and here is how our place looks since we’ve re-arranged:

Despite our modest accommodations, our new place has become sort of a “hang-out” for local and expat friends and neighbors, especially our friends across the street, Manino and Nick. It reminds somewhat of my “Elko days” during my twenties.

Also the dancing in our Olon Park is still going on (see the video posted on “Olon Flash Mob") which happens on Mon/Wed/Fri from 5-7 PM for at least a few more weeks and is SO MUCH FUN and great exercise. For various reasons, I’ve not had a chance to participate in these as much as I desired, but am hoping the town’s enthusiasm for it will endure for a while longer.

We also welcome a number of new expats to our area: Rebecca and Wil from Texas, Joe and Elizabeth from Durango, Colorado, and in particular Charlie and Nique (most recently from Costa Rica, who have become good pals). We have also had the chance to spend time with other interesting friends - Brian and Holly (expats living in Cuenca who have visited us on the coast) and other fun visitors passing through (many who are considering moving to Ecuador).

We recently went zip lining with some vacationers staying at Sarah’s house. The nearby zip-line (“Montanita Canopy”) has nine lines, and is a blast…not counting a couple of hills or steep terraced steps to get to a few of the lines, which is the most challenging part for us old farts.

Our adopted stray beach dog Daisy (who is now around two and half years old, we think) had her FIRST much needed bath this last week. Actually, Daisy pretty much belongs to everyone in our Jardines de Olon neighborhood and spends most of her time hanging out at Doug and Pam’s house since our temporary long-term move to the new barrio a few blocks north. She loves her Daddy Doug and Mommy Pam.

For a beach dog, she doesn’t like getting wet, so Doug, Pam, Todd and I approached this undertaking with a certain strategy and a great deal of humor. Actually, Daisy handled the experience better than we expected, but she may be giving outdoor hoses a wide berth for a while.

See the video below.


We are now back in Cuenca this week for our 5th trip since May (arrived on Monday afternoon/checked in at the Hotel Inca Real, as usual) for more dental work and other medical appointments (some anticipated, some not) and are staying longer than normal this time, probably until at least next Tuesday. As always, we are enjoying our time here when we are not sitting in doctors’ chairs, and much to write about in my next post about this Cuenca trip.

And PS to all my cousins and family gearing up for the reunion this weekend in Kansas City....Love and miss you all, and wish I could be there.  Have a great time, take lots of pics and send them to me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

But Officer....

June 18, 2012

Todd and I truly enjoy living in our new rental house in a wonderfully friendly local barrio. Our neighbors are kind; they are aware when we’re absent during our Cuenca dental trips, and keep a thoughtful eye on our place. Our landlords, Klever and Eulalia are easy to work with, and have gone above and beyond making us feel comfortable in the home we rent from them. Typically, most locally-owned long-term rentals have cold water kitchen sinks, suicide shower heads, and do not include appliances or furniture or other amenities, but they left us a bunk bed, and Eulalia sweetly picked out and provided all the curtains.

Pre-couch delivery
We bought a bed and a full-sized fridge when we moved in earlier this year (and brought a few other sparse furnishings and appliances).   We still have lacked any living room furnishings other than a couple of plastic patio chairs (“please, make yourself comfortable on the rug on the floor in the meantime”), so imagine my surprise when I walked into our new house a couple of weeks ago after a few hours absence to discover a lovely (and large) sectional in our living room and four new barstools. I literally thought that I had stumbled into the wrong house, and had to back up outside again to make sure I had the right place.
Klever and Eulalia also thoughtfully provided/delivered a small coffee table too (along with four more nice barstools to add to the two we brought,) and we are ever so grateful for the additional cheer it adds to our home, that now comes “furnished”.

Our living room with the
new sectional.

Where everything else that WAS in
the living room NOW resides until
we can re-arrange.

But it is BIG…so vast that we have to high-hurdle over part of it to enter the living room, and we asked Klever and Eulalia if they would consider moving/finding a new home for the bunk bed in  our spare room (office) to make room for some the sectional  pieces, to which they agreed. I’m looking forward to re-arranging the furniture after the bunk bed is removed; our new rental home is getting more organized and quite cozy.

Where we plan on putting some
of the sectional pieces after the
bunk bed is removed.

We took our fourth trip into Cuenca a couple of weeks ago. We had a great time, especially now that the most unpleasant dental procedures are behind us.  We have a couple of more appointments to make before we’re done, and we really look forward to our trips there.

Shel, Doug, Pam, Marsha
 As chance would have it, our friends and neighbors – Doug and Pam –  were also in Cuenca that week, as were our friends Shel and Marsha from La Entrada, and it was a fun week. We all drove back together to the coast on Saturday (in two vehicles). However, a word to the wise – prepare to be pulled over at the police checkpoint leaving Cuenca, (located just on the outskirts) whether you are using a shuttle van or in a private vehicle while the cops make sure all driver/vehicle paperwork is legitimate. Todd and I are getting pretty used to being van passengers during this routine shake-down stop and we just smile brightly from the backseat while the authorities confirm that the documentation is “in order”. Depending on which cop pulls you over, it can be either a somewhat intimidating situation and/or comical predicament to resolve. **

The festival of Corpus Christi began about half-way through our trip, mostly centered around the Parque Caldron with lots of food booths (virtually ALL selling sweet goodies, but other stands selling savory grilled treats were served up at night). It was crowded with people (and of course, lots of nighttime fireworks are part of the fiesta), and the holiday lasts for a week or so. It’s fun to walk around as turistas, but I rather imagine it drives residents near the park crazy after the first few days.

Prepare for sugar over-load


During this trip, we took a visit up to the “El Mirador de Turi”, which overlooks Cuenca.

I had been once before, on my first 2007 trip to Ecuador, but it was a little surprise jaunt for Todd who had never been there (we recently celebrated our second wedding anniversary). It was a breathtakingly beautiful sunny afternoon, and the view of Cuenca from Turi is stunning.  Also nearby is Eduardo Vega’s ceramic studio and workshop, and both Todd and I are huge fans of his work (we had several of his pieces in our Palm Springs home which are now in CA storage, including some of his tiles we are going to use in our new home construction here).

Like most guys, Todd is not much of a shopper, but he was captivated by the wares, and we saw the artist Eduardo briefly in the shop. 
This time, we also visited the Museo “Banco Central” (interesting) and the adjacent “Pumapungo” 500-600 year-old Inca ruins (which is mostly grass, with various sparse stone foundations left, but we did enjoy the bird aviary, the gardens, and other free-roaming wild-life on the grounds).

We walked a lot, spent several afternoons at the Cuenca Microbrewery (located across from the Iglesia Merced). It is the “best microbrewery in Ecuador – and the only one in Ecuador" (according to one long-time coastal expat friend of ours here). We pigged out on authentic Mexican food at El Pedregal Azteca, had a couple of tasty $3.00 “almuerzos” (lunch-time specials) at “off the radar” restaurants, and spent one lazy afternoon and evening eating take-out and watching movies in the room.
We got together with Doug & Pam and Shel & Marsha for dinner one evening (and bumped into each other often), and on our last night there, I popped into the Friday “gringo night” at “California Kitchen”, where I had a chance to see again (or finally meet for the first time) a number of Expat Facebook or forum friends, in particular Nancy and Rich who write the blog “RichAndNancy”.

We’re headed back to Cuenca in the next couple of weeks for more appointments, and looking forward – as usual – to our next trip there.

** By the way the shuttle van company “Operazuaytur” is back in business, and we used them to get from Guayaquil to Cuenca on our journey there this time.
We were going to use them for the return, but tacked on an extra day (darn!) to hitch a ride home with Doug and Pam instead.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Olon Flash Mob

June 11, 2011

Mural on a
wall in Montanita
It’s a Monday, and we just returned back to Olon from Cuenca late Saturday afternoon (our fourth trip there thus far for our dental work). We have a couple of more dentist’s appointments to finish in Cuenca before we are done and have become infatuated with the beauty and the culture of the city.

We are delighted by the least little conveniences we discover (“golly, Todd — there's a DRY CLEANER’S!).
So it always is with some reluctance when we depart from Cuenca to return to our more rustic, seaside Ecuador village.  That feeling generally lasts for a couple of hours after our return to Olon, until we watch a sunset here, or walk along the beach, or stroll around town for a while.

And late this afternoon, Todd happened upon a dancing event in our Olon Park as he was walking over to Sarah’s House (our former one, in Jardines de Olon) and alerted me by phone. I made a bee-line there (a minute away) and after taking a few pics/videos, I had a great time joining the dancers being led by a teacher on the town stage.

Some boys playing
cards in the park
while the dancing was going on.
We’re pretty sure this isn’t going to be a onetime event, but rather a regular town gathering in our park to dance together during the slower season, and it made me fall in love with Olon all over again.
I would estimate there were at least 100 people (old and young) participating in the dancing tonight and their exuberance was contagious.  

See the video below.