Tuesday, July 31, 2012

To Cuy, or Not to Cuy

July 29, 2012

Todd and I just returned from a 10-day trip to Cuenca (our 6th visit there since end-April for our dental procedures, which are nearly complete). I also had a post laser surgery checkup (to seal a tear in my left eyeball – the beginning of a retina- detachment) with Dr. Carpio, and my eye is healing well.
This time we rode to Cuenca with our Olon friends (and Jardines de Olon neighbors), Doug and Pam. Doug did an excellent job driving  through foggy Cajas passes, and we made it to Cuenca in record time from Olon – around a 5 ½ -6 hour drive this time, (partially including a stop for lunch in Guayaquil).
Doug and Pam recently bought a town-home in Cuenca, and are (for now) renting a spacious apartment to use while they oversee the remodel. Todd and I stayed there, rather than a hotel this time; it’s conveniently located at the end of Benigo Malo, near the SuperMaxi, and their landlord, Regina is just a hoot. It was fun getting to know her better on this visit.

This trip we had plenty of opportunity to explore the city more (parts we hadn’t seen yet) and one day ended up around the iglesia San Blas, and the adjoining park. It is a lovely area, with another church book-ending the opposite side of the park.

Before that, we stumbled onto the “Mercado Municpal” – Norte and poked around the vegetable stands and had delicious pork plates at one of the top-level stands that offer numerous chancho dishes (unfortunately, we didn’t get there until 4PM, when everyone was closing down, so our choices were limited, but one of our favorite meals during that trip).

Another night, Doug and Pam and Todd & I treated ourselves to fancy cocktails at Mansión Alcázar, and walked their beautiful gardens, before heading to one of our favorite restaurants “Mangiare Benelocated in the “Hostal Posada Del Angel”.  Todd and I had breakfast one morning at the friendly and cozy Kookaburra’s (we met the new owners, Carol and Rick a few weeks ago, on our last visit).
And one extra special evening, Doug and Pam, Regina, Todd and I had an extraordinary dinner, served in “family sized” main portions, at “Tiesto’s”. The food at Tiesto’s was spectacular, including the talented chef personally serving and greeting the guests.   Definitely a place to celebrate exceptional occasions.  Call for reservations first.

We went to a few Cuenca “gringo gathering” events. These are actually a lot of fun.
One was at California Kitchen on Friday night – the last night in their current location – and we spent a fun Sunday afternoon at the “Inca Lounge” (killer hamburgers) with an entertaining crowd.

Several nights we ate at home, one of which we tried cuy “(“koo-wee”).  Poor little guinea pigs, but they are considered a delicacy here (more commonly found in the Cuenca and Quito areas than it is along the coast), and I tried a small finger nail size piece of it …”tastes like chicken”, my foot.  I guess it wasn’t too bad – more like gamey duck, but thankfully we also bought a roasted chicken to eat as well.

Click on ----   "The Hamster Dance …’nuff said.

(give it around 30 seconds for the sound to load).

Elizabeth and Rocky
Before we left Olón for our Cuenca trip this time, our friends and neighbors, Rocky and Elizabeth (from South Carolina) were here for a couple of weeks; it’s always fun to have them around again. There were a bunch of parties we went to then, and in the last few days home, it has been back-to-back partying until today, when Todd and I are grateful for some “down” time.
On a rather more nostalgic note, our Texas neighbors, Randy and Fonda recently sold their home in the Jardines de Olon. We’re going to miss them, but looking forward to meeting the new neighbors from (I think) Alabama.
It’s a rough life, but someone’s gotta do it. So much more to write about , but just beat now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Non Neo-Liberalism??

July 17, 2012

I recently received an email with a great link to a “YouTube” video entitled “Is Ecuador's Economic Policy a NonNeo-Liberal Alternative?  It is about a 15 minute clip that I think anyone considering moving to Ecuador should watch. I thought the clip was – for the most part – a well-balanced viewpoint of Ecuador’s response/solutions to the current world economic issues.


PLEASE click on this link to view the video:

I also need to confess that I didn’t have a clue what the term “Non-Neo-Liberal” meant before:. I’m still not sure I get it:

 According to Wikipedia:

Is an ideology based on the advocacy of economic liberalizations, free trade, and open markets.[1] Neoliberalism supports privatization of state-owned enterprises, deregulation of markets, and promotion of the private sector's role in society.[1] In the 1980s, much of Neoliberal theory was incorporated into mainstream economics
The meaning of neoliberalism has changed over time and come to mean different things to different groups. This lack of agreement creates major problems in creating an unbiased and unambiguous definition of neoliberalism.
In academic social sciences outside of economics, the term "neoliberal" is often used to condemn privatization and its advocates. This usage gained popularity after being used by dissident intellectuals in Chile to criticize Augusto Pinochet and his US-backed military coup. After this coup, scholars began to make direct connections between the theory of neoliberalism, advocated by the Chicago school of economics, and the practices of neocolonialism advanced by Western economies through military and economic interventions. The term "neoliberalism" has been used to describe the whole system, even when the policies of leaders such as Pinochet have not fully corresponded to the economic theory.
The Wikipedia definition of this goes on for 3 more pages, so I will leave it at that.

Road to the beach in Olon

As I mentioned earlier, I felt the interview to be a fair perspective, though for sure, not without controversy. I really hope many reading this will have the time to watch this video --- and I am curious about your responses.
As in the United States, not everyone agrees with the president, government policies/involvement, or country-wide mutually agreed-upon priorities. In our Olon area, we have personally witnessed progressive improvements (since the last five years of owning property, coming here, living here). 


An example of an Olon house we believe
to be Gov't subsidized.
A number of these homes are in our area.
They appear to be well built, always have the
"MIDUVI" plaque in front.

Since then, the progress of the government infra-structure programs, such as road and transportation advancements, government-assisted housing, educational, technology, and health-care improvements have been rather impressive, especially compared to the United States situation now.

That’s not to say we’ve always agreed or not been frustrated at times with Ecuador’s policies/laws, and their slower than molasses, nebulous-as-hell procedures.

I also think that folks making the move here must definitely read the book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” by John Perkins.

It is a great book to better understand why the governments of developing/resource rich  countries (in this instance, South America, in particular Ecuador) may be taking a harder stance against the U.S.A. and profit-driven internationally based corporations.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dry My Onion

July 7, 2012

Pic I took of one of my
favorite murals in Cuenca.
About 3-weeks/month ago, I started to notice rapidly diminishing vision problems in my left eye – there was no particular specific trauma to that eyeball (unless you count looking directly at the sun – for about five-seconds – during Venus’ transverse across the bright sun one Cuenca late-afternoon.   But I had already noticed the vision problems shortly before then.  

And I will admit I was scared, because my left eye vision had been noticeably deteriorating daily. We talked to several friends of ours, and a (free and well-spoken of) clinic in Ballenita was referred to us by several folks.

However, because we were in already in Cuenca and time clearly was of essence, we opted with an ophthalmologist there that was recommended to us by three reliable different sources (Dr. Carpio, who speaks ingles better than we speak español, which is especially appreciated when speaking “medical talk”).

Another picture of a
mural in Cuenca
Dr. Carpio was able to schedule a same day consultation when we called ($40). He diagnosed a rapidly growing tear on the top of my eye (i.e. – a retina beginning to detach). He scheduled an early appointment the very next day for laser surgery first to try and seal the wound (and a follow-up check-up the day after that). That procedure cost $250…..I’m curious to know what the same technique would cost in the United States, and I’m damn sure I would have waited weeks before insurance companies there would approve (after I went blind in the eye). I may still need surgery; I have another follow-up appointment in a couple of weeks, but for now, the laser surgery seems to have halted the progression.
We also had extra dental work appointments scheduled that week, and needed to stay in Cuenca longer than planned, but in the meantime, we had a great time.

We met Karen and Randy Kimbler (“Kimbler’s Exit to Ecuador") and Nancy and Chuck Watson (“Nancy and Chuck - Retirement in Ecuador”) for dinner one night at one of our new favorite restaurants – the Italian “Mangiare Bene”, located at the “Hostel Posada Del Angel” on Bolivar y Estévez de Toral. It was fun getting together with these interesting and entertaining friends again – we had a great time together (!), always fun to be with them, and Todd and I are particularly grateful to Karen for bringing back my new February-delivered computer (and straight-from-the-box broken, which took a return trip back to the States a few months ago) after her a recent trip to the U.S.A.

At Hotel Inca Real, there is a great bar and restaurant called “Akelarre” which is owned and run by a wonderful Spaniard call Inigo, who we’ve gotten to know pretty well after all our stays there. Inigo was understandingly excited about the final soccer game between Spain and Italy, and totally decked out the bar with los colores de espana for the Sunday game. 

We helped him blow up some balloons beforehand, and the game day was a lot of fun…..Needless to say, Inigo was beyond excited when Spain won the match.


There are a number of words that sound very similar to me in Spanish, and I have a tendency to get them mixed up at times. In particular:

  •  cabello  = “hair”
  • caballo  = “horse”
  • cebolla  = “onion”
 As I was in a rush one morning between appointments, I asked the maid to give me about ten more minutes to get ready because I was drying and doing my hair….except I realized after she left that I had just asked her to wait because I was “drying my onion”…..She was nice about it, but pretty sure she thought I was an utter idiot.

Though our language skills have improved, my Spanish still sucks and leaves a lot to be desired.