Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I have been meaning to update my blog for forever now. But one thing led to another, and then I fell up the steps and tore a ligament in my hand. Two weeks in a brace and two more in a cast. Typing was very difficult with only my left hand, so updating had to wait. All better now. I need to first update our trip to Montanita and the trip home. Then I will try to catch up on the last three months if I can remember anything. My memory is foggy on a good day.

Another reason I love Ecuador. You can be in the Andes Mts. in the morning and then 6 hours later you are on the Pacific Coast enjoying the sunset, the ocean and the warm, warm weather. After Finn threw up, the remaining ride was uneventful. Driving along the coast is very barren and dusty. There are speed bumps through every small town so the going is slow. We found Balsa Surf Camp with very little trouble. It is a gorgeous hostel on Pont de Surf. The owners are surfers. We mostly dealt with Julie. She is from France and could speak French, English and Spanish. We made ourselves at home in our little room. It was very brightly decorated with one queen and a bunk bed. It was the only room left, so the idea was to have Patrick sleep on top and Finn and Tali sleep together on the bottom bunk. Outside the door hung two hammocks and we spent a lot of time in them. There were also 6 hammocks on this dais next to our room, and 6 more hammocks around the fire pit. The place was an invitation to kick back and relax. On our last day while waiting for our van we all fell asleep in the hammocks on the dais.

After settling in we headed out to the beach and Mark put his toes in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. It was Sunday and very crowded with lots of umbrellas and young people. I felt a little out of my element, but there were some older hippies there too. The kids played in the water as we strolled along looking for a place to eat. I wanted to get sandals and some bug spray so we walked up to the main street. We got into a predicament with the sandal salesman who was trying to gringo us. We stupidly had already pulled the tags off of all the shoes and were already wearing them when we began to haggle. We didn't have much bargaining ground when we were already wearing the shoes, but my feet were so hot and I was sweating so badly that all I could think about was getting my hiking boots off and getting those sandals on. Well, the guy would not accept my bargained down offer. At all. He wouldn't even budge, which was really pissing Mark off. He kept looking at me and I didn't know what to do, so I told him to just pay him. In the confusion of the moment, the guy forgot the price that he wanted and gave us the wrong change back. I knew it right away and so did his friend who was trying to catch his eye, but the guy sent us on our way. Serves him right. We were buying 5 pairs of shoes and he was trying to screw us. Made Mark feel better after the ice cream fiasco in Parque Paraiso.

We stopped for some cold beer and lemonade and watched the people pass us by. We strolled back towards the point and found a good hamburger joint to eat on the beach. We made friends with Cacique and a little girl about 5 years old. Finn and Tali looked for shells with her. Patrick went off on his own after dinner and made friends.

The next morning I rented a couple of beach chairs and an umbrella. $5 for the day. We played in the ocean and sand all day. Hit the same restaurant for dinner. Sipped some beer and watched for the green flash. Mark and I walked on the beach in the dark.

The next day was more of the same, but in the morning we went and investigated the tidal pools. We were a little late, but we still got to see some cool stuff and watched the power of the waves as the tide came in. Our van was coming to get us at 5:00 so we came in a bit early and took a shower, dressed and had some lunch. Then we passed out in the hammocks. Our van showed up and we headed to the Guayaquil airport. We really enjoyed going to Montanita and seeing a different side of Ecuador.

The only mishap we had on the way home was in the Miami airport. We were so tired after the stress of getting on the right plane in Guayaquil and then traversing the Miami airport that we fell asleep on the floor of the airport while we waited for our plane. Luckily Patrick woke up, got restless and started to walk around. With only 15 minutes to spare he realized that we were at the wrong gate, came and woke us up and in a stupor we dashed to the right gate. We just made it onto the plane before it took off. That sucked. Dad was there to meet us at the airport in Cleveland and we were very happy to see him.

As far as our trip in June we have accomplished a few things. We have: contacted a lawyer in Cuenca (haven't heard back yet though), gotten the informatin needed to transport Scout, figured out what type of Visa we need to get residency and how to get it, booked and paid for our flight, bought a hard trunk to try out, found a new home for Scooter and Fiona, made a list of all that we need to do before leaving, sent in our resignation papers, filled out separation papers, got an auction date, found a place to stay in Quito, and looked into the Ohio homeschooling laws. Mark still needs to update his passport, we have to get police reports from the sheriff, start the actual visa process and figure out where we're going to stay once we get to Cuenca.

Today is our last day of spring break. I had a cold for most of the week so we took it easy. It was very relaxing all in all. On Friday we went to the new Cleveland Aquarium. Not worth the money, but okay as aquariums go. For lunch we went to the Market Garden in Ohio City. On the way out we came across a glass blowing shop that was open to the public so we went in to watch. Yesterday we went to Walmart to see what kind of luggage or bins they had for traveling. We lucked out and found these heavy plastic cases that can be padlocked. They are the perfect size and will work for packing things like the computer, the Vitamix, etc... We stopped by Jamie's flea market to see if anything else popped out at us, but that was a waste of time. Then we stopped to see Great Nana. I always enjoy spending time with her. The kids played in her room for awhile while we talked and then Aunt Gretchen stopped by. Since Brady died they have been trying to find a new resident dog. The new puppy was arriving so we went down to meet him. He is a 12 week old golden retriever, cuter than anything. The workers went around asking the residents what they wanted to name him. We left before they decided, but I think everyone was leaning towards Romeo. We hit Bob Evans on the way home.

Did a bunch of cooking prep today, cleaned a bit and now we are going to go for a walk. I have an hour of Rosetta Stone to get in tonight. Almost halfway through Level 2. A couple of weeks ago I was dreaming in Spanish and the other day when the nurse asked me a question I said, "Si". It was pretty funny. We both laughed. Have another drs appt. tomorrow at 7:15 for a thyroid ultrasound. She is determined to help me with my fatigue and get me off the hydroxycut. My heart is flipping again so she wants to also get me on a holter monitor for a few days.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Last Day in Cuenca.

Yesterday we had planned on going to Cajas, but the day decided something different. Since we were trying to not buy anymore food before we left we went to San Sebas again for breakfast. There were a ton of gringos. Since we have been getting up so late and since there are three of us to one shower we always get a late start. After breakfast we headed to the market to pick up some last minute gifts. We dilly dallied around the market for awhile, so that when we got back we couldn't really get our act together to go to Cajas. We putzed around a bit and then decided to go to Feria Libre. Feria Libre is the biggest market in Cuenca. And by big I mean BIG. It is at least one whole football field long and I'm not sure that even includes the inside stalls. Going on a Saturday was probably not a good idea. There was so much going on that it was completely overwhelming. In one section aisle after aisle of just potatoes. In another section, every fruit imaginable over and over again stacked sky-high. Then there was the meat section, and the fish section, and the section for baskets. Then the puppy, kitten, chicken, guinea pig, bird, bunny section. After only 15 min. we had had enough sensory overload and headed home. We managed to buy two mangoes and one pineapple.

We had planned on having dinner with Erin. (Michele...Erin is a woman we met who is adopting a little Ecuadorian girl. Adriana has down's syndrome and she is 4. She has completely charmed me. Our Erin did not come with us.) Erin also invited her interpreter, Carmen, and her boyfriend, John. John is building a house in the hills of Paute. Supposedly he is building this 2 bedroom 2 bath house for $35,000. We are going to go see it when we come back. It will probably be done by then. Carmen was lovely and I really enjoyed meeting her. She has a son who is Patrick's age and she is eager for them to meet. We went to Raymipampas for dinner. We just love it there. The food is super cheap and fantastic. I got a chicken crepe for dinner and a banana, chocolate, creme crepe for dessert. Yum!

It was a great evening and a great way to enjoy our stay in Cuenca.

I can't remember what day we did this, but I forgot to mention that Jemma took us to see Lily's house. Lily and her family own a house a bit outside Cuenca is San Joaquin. They are going back to Maine in July for two months. Jemma thought it might work out for both families if we were to rent their house for those two months, so we took a drive out there to look at it. The house is in a really pretty area with Eucalyptus trees in the backyard and a great view of the mountains. It has a nice back and front yard and it is very pretty inside. They might leave their dog or dogs for those two months, so if it works out Scout would have a buddy. We'll see.

On Sunday we got up early because our van was supposed to pick us up at 8:00. I confirmed it with the company, but when 8:00 came around no one was here. We asked Sarah to call and it was such a mess not being able to communicate with her. I couldn't figure out what she was trying to tell me after talking to the company. Finally I asked Patrick to take out his computer and I used Google Translator to communicate with Sarah. Thank you, Google! The van arrived 20 min. later and we were soon on our way.

I was really enjoying the ride down the mountains. It was a beautiful Sunday morning. There was very little traffic and the mountains were breathtaking. I started to feel a bit queasy after Donovan, our driver, took a few more turns at high speed. I realized that I forgot to give Finn his Dramamine. I could have kicked myself. Soon he wasn't feeling well at all and we had to stop and let him get out. I tried to get a Dramamine into him at that point, but there was no use. It kept coming back up and it tastes terrible. I gave him some gum to chew and that seemed to help. For a little while anyway. Then he started breathing heavily and Patrick was talking him through it, but soon he threw up anyway. Luckily Patrick moved like lightening and most of it went into a bag.

We drove about 6 hours to get to Montanita. I think Salinas might be closer, so maybe we will go there next time and check it out.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Nothing Much

We really didn't do anything exciting yesterday. The weather was iffy. On and off all day. We ate breakfast at San Sebas, which is the restaurant where we ate the first day. Our waitress remembered us and asked us how everything was going. After a good breakfast/lunch Ryan took Finn and Tali out to the square to look at the pigeons. Ryan and Eric are staying at the Otorongo. They are in their 60's and in fantastic shape. Ryan does yoga and she has that very tall, thin, yoga body. I'm envious. Mark has talked to them more than I have and he says that they are very interesting people.

We walked back to the Otorongo to get Erin and Adriana for a walk, but Adriana was ready for a nap so we headed out without them. We were trying to find a neighborhood that Melissa had told us about. Only she wasn't able to be very specific so we just walked down Doce de Abril trying to find it. No luck. All of the artesian stores were closed as well, so not much doing there. The kids were tired so we took a taxi back to the room. We were feeling kinda mellow, so the kids and I just hung around the apartment and relaxed.

We had planned on taking Chelsea and Brian along with the kids out for dinner to thank them for lunch at their place. One thing we didn't count on was the rain. Oh, and Three Kings. AND it being a Friday night. We were supposed to meet them at 6:45 at Tiestos, which is a really nice restaurant in Cuenca. We couldn't get a taxi to save our lives so we started to hoof it. It isn't far at all, but we forgot the map and got turned around. As we were starting to get near we got a call from Chelsea. They had finally found a taxi, but the driver wouldn't go anywhere near El Centro because of the Three Kings parade. Many of the streets were already closed. They invited us to their place, but there was no way we were going to find a taxi either. We decided to flag it and headed to Magnolia. It started to really pour and we were soaked by the time we got there. Good thing we had our trusty new raincoats. Simon welcomed us with open arms and we were soon settled at Magnolia. We found out that Simon designed and made his own jewelry and he brought out his case to show us. His stuff is very high quality and expensive because it is all made by hand. He had a necklace that was made out of all of these tiny little circles. It was amazing, and it must have taken forever to make.

Today is our last day in Cuenca and we are sad. I have really fallen in love with this city in all of its stinky diesel glory. What I originally thought of as dirty I have come to realize is just very old. In reality this is an immaculate city (barring the graffiti). The Cuencanos take great pride in keeping it clean. Once the light-rail system is up it will be even better. I have also realized that the very old looking outer walls of the city hold little gems within them. As I walk down the street and glance into doorways I am amazed at what I see within the walls. Truly beautiful spaces.

I love the way Cuenca is nestled in a bowl amongst the Andes. I will never get tired of the way the vista changes hourly as you look upon the mountains. I like that when you walk down the street you see something different every day, or you discover some new place tucked away. I love that if the need arises I can always find someone to speak English with. We are really going to miss Cuenca and its people. I am not looking forward to the work that these next six months will entail, but I am looking forward to moving to Cuenca permanently and figuring out where we belong here.

Friday, January 6, 2012


We decided to walk to Mocha Cafe in order to meet the family that owns it. I have been exchanging emails with Susan because she has a 21 year old son and a 28 year old daughter who will be moving to Cuenca. Susan wasn't there, but her husband Steve was. We ate breakfast and talked to Steve. We got a lot more information about how Cuencanos think and some business opportunities for Patrick. Some good news is that there are plans already in the works to create a light-rail system in Cuenca. Supposedly there is supposed to be an outer ring and an inner ring connected with spokes. That will do wonders for the breathing here.

After breakfast we walked to El Centro to check out a silver handmade jewelry store I had read about. I wasn't that impressed and the owner was not very friendly, so I'll take my business elsewhere.

We took a taxi to the bus station and spent about 15 minutes trying to figure out how to get on the right bus. We finally got on and it was crowded again, but we all got a seat except for Finn who sat on Mark's lap. It wouldn't have been that bad of a ride if the Ecuadorians would open just one teeny tiny window. I don't understand how they can sit on a bus for over an hour and cook. I was miserable. And then we hit construction and it made the trip all that longer. Riding that bus made me lean towards buying a car here. After an hour and 15 min. we finally arrived in Paute.

One good thing about the bus ride is that Patrick sat next to a very nice girl who was coming home from University. A lot of the people on the bus where young people coming home from school. That is a long ride to take twice a day! Anyway, Normis can write very good English, and understand it, but doesn't speak it well. Despite that, they were able to communicate quite well. When we got off the bus Normis showed us a good restaurant to eat at and we had lunch. The owner spoke great English. He had lived in New York for five years and saved money to come back and open the restaurant. We had a nice chat with him. He recommended us going to the Claro store in town to get our phone fixed. We had bought one the day before, but it wasn't working. It took awhile and a couple of people, but it was finally fixed and I was able to get a call from both Chelsea and Jemma.

Normis met us on the sidewalk and took us on a tour of the town. Paute is very, very small compared to Cuenca. Only about 20,000 people. Crime is low and there are actually some gringos living there. Supposedly, according to Erin, her doctor friend is building a 2 bedroom 2 bath home with all the upgrades for $35,000 on the hill. She said she would put us in contact with him and we could go see it. The mountainsides are a little close for me, but if we were to live up higher it might be better. Paute looks like it might be a possibility. We'll see.

We decided to take a taxi hom3e since I didn't want to deal with the bus again. $15 for a 45 min. trip. The driver lived in South Carolina for 3 years and he spoke acceptable English as well. It was great talking to him. He was very nice and offered to show us more of Paute when we come back.

We met Erin on the stairs and we went to Magnolia for burgers and fries. Erin was feeling down and started to cry when she saw us because she was told that her lawyer had made mistakes on her paperwork and the earliest she would be leaving would be the 18th. We felt very bad for her. She is already going stir crazy with Adriana.

I went with Pat to the pharmacy to see if we could get some meds for his shoulder. It was another experience to figure out how the pharmacy works, but a nice lady and the guard at the door helped us. We explained to the pharmacist what was wrong and he prescribed three days of meds for Pat. $3.33

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Parque Paraiso y Rymipampa

Today was a pretty easy day. We met a Facebook friend, Diana Spalding, and her son, Nico, at Parque Calderon. We were going to go to Supemaxi and pick out some groceries for lunch and then head over to Parque Paraiso so the kids could play. It turned out that they were too far away from each other and we convinced Diana and Nico to go to Rymipampa's for lunch instead. Erin and Adrianna were tagging along for the day so there were 9 of us. Luckily we got there at 11:30 because the place really filled up and there was a line outside. Mark and I have been wanting to eat there ever since we saw the restaurant on the Living in Cuenca CD. We were not disappointed. The atmosphere was very nice, and the food and service were excellent. Prices good too.

After lunch we took a bus to Parque Paraiso. This is the park where all of the expat families with children meet every Sat. It is a very large park with futbol fields, playground, lake with paddle boats, carriage and horses, and lots of pretty green space. I guess on weekends it is very crowded with lots and lots of families. Not just immediate families, but extended ones. The Ecuadorians are very family-oriented and Sundays are strictly for family.

Nico and Diana left us after the park and we grabbed a cab back to Parque Calderon. We went to an indoor artisan market and I got a bunch of souvenirs for the family. Erin got a purse and a blanket. Then we headed to the "hippie" market. Finn and Tali were so excited because they had their own money and purchased their own items.

Dinner at our regular place, Delicious Chicken, and ice cream at Tutto Freddo and now we are back home. It is raining and pretty chilly right now. We are hoping to go to Cajas tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Riding in the Torotillas

Today we went riding on Jemma's farm. She picked us up at Supermaxi at 8:00, but first she took us to see her house in San Joaquin. A lot of expat families live there, not retirees, and I really like it because there is a lot of green space. I don't know if we will be able to find a house to rent there, but we can try. We met her husband, Aaron, and their 4 children. They are from Ireland and own several farms here in Ecuador.

After picking up some snacks for the ride we headed to her farm high up in the hills. It was a long and very bumpy road. The back roads are terrible and you definitely need a 4 wheel drive. Once we got there it started pouring. Jemma's guardia (farm hand) helped to saddle up the horses and get everyone on. We started out pretty well until we rounded the bend and came upon a stallion on the other side of the fence and some dogs. Tali's horse started to run from the stallion and that was that. She was hysterical and there was no calming her down. Jemma had to walk next to her for a long time. Tali was still a mess though. We stopped at the half way point and got off for a snack and some rest. We ate bananas and apples and drank some water. The horses munched nearby. Tali did not want to get back on her horse, Fleur. Finn was riding a lovely, little mare called Martha. Martha was the farm favorite and all 0f the kids loved her. I convinced Tali to ride Martha back and Finn rode on Fleur. Finn did great the whole ride no matter who he rode. He really, truly surprised me. He had a blast and thought it was fun when his horse would trot to catch up. Tali, however, was still a mess. We got her up on Martha, but Jemma ended up having to pony her the whole way back and whenever Martha started to walk in the grass Tali would start to wail. Ugh. What a ride for Jemma. I felt very sorry for her.

Mark and Pat were troopers, but I don't think they enjoyed it all that much. Pat's horse would not listen to him and kept trying to eat. Mark's horse, Annie, was very sweet, but one time semi-bolted up the hill with Pat's and that was a little scary for me to watch. All in all I had a good time, but I don't think I will be getting Tali, Pat or Mark on a horse anytime soon.

On the way home we stopped at Coopera. It is the organic cooperative grocery store. I bought some avacados and some dragon fruit to try. We really liked it. It is big. Like a grapefruit. When you cut it open there is a creamy white inside filled with little black seeds. You scoop it out with a spoon. It tastes almost like kiwi. Loved it.

One embarrassing thing that happened was that we dragged mud all the way through the Coopera. I didn't realize what we were doing until I turned around and a man was following us through the store with a mop. How embarrassing! We promptly left, but had to go to Supermaxi for salt. We stood off to the side in the mall while Pat ran into the store. We had tracked mud from the stairs over to where we were standing and mud puddles soon formed around our feet. You could see all of the Ecuadorians following the muddy footprints over to where we were standing. Who knows what they were thinking, but I can only imagine. One thing I had read before coming was that you should always brush your shoes off before coming to town. Also, the streets, sidewalks and parking lots are spotless. We were mortified.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Chelsea's House and trip to Giron

Yesterday we were invited to Chelsea and Brian's for lunch. I got my wires crossed and thought we were supposed to meet them at the park. We waited and waited, the whole while watching another parade line up in front of the church. There were a lot more horses this time. The park was packed. Finally we decided to head home and give them a call. That was an adventure in itself because the phone wouldn't work and we had to wait for someone to call for us. Finally we figured out that they were still waiting for us where she had initially told me to go. I felt so bad. We jumped in a taxi and headed there. They were very gracious and did not make us feel bad about it, although Chelsea did urge us to get a prepaid cellphone. I didn't think it was going to be necessary, but it probably would have helped this week.

We met their two children, Anaya and Yonggi. Anaya is from China and Yonggi is from Korea, so we have a lot in common with their family. They actually used the same Chinese agency as we did for Tali's adoption. Chelsea made lunch while we talked with Brian about things like good places to live, who to know, how to go about doing things, places to shop, etc... We then had a very nice lunch and then the kids disappeared upstairs for the next three hours. At one point Yonggi fell asleep (it was the day after all of the New Year's eve festivities and they had gotten home late) and Anaya took Finn and Tali up to the park to play for awhile. We ended up talking the whole time and had a great time with Chelsea and Brian. We didn't leave until around 7:00. When we got home Pat and Mark went to a tienda and got some things and then made french toast for everyone.

Today we decided to go to the falls at Giron, only when we got up it was very cloudy and the mountains were shrouded in clouds. So, we decided to go to a breakfast place that Brian had told us about. It was about a 20 min. walk but we had gotten up too early so nothing was open. We found out that the owners of the restaurant had left town for the holidays. We ended up at Coffee Tree for breakfast and it was very good. I had eggs, fruit and toast with cheese. I was really craving some protein after all of that bread. Finn was very happy to see a huge bowl of fruit put in front of him. After breakfast the sky started to clear so we decided to try to go to Giron after all. We took a taxi to the bus terminal and then an hour bus ride to Giron. Once you got out of the city the scenery was stunning. Lots of farms with tons of cows set amongst the tree covered valleys surrounded by the peaks. Very beautiful. Once we got to Giron we had to take another 5 min. taxi up to the falls. They have a very nice restaurant and a little tienda. We really wanted to take the hour and a half hike up to the second lookout point, but it was very, very muddy and the guide did not recommend it. So, we settled for the 5 min. hike and he was right. It was a mud bath. We slipped and slid climbing up there, but we made it. The falls were glorious and very powerful. The spray was a strong blowing mist. Some people stood right in the way and soaked themselves even though it was cold!

We decided to have lunch at the restaurant. Finn, Pat and I had a thin-sliced butterfly pork chop. Tali had chicken. All the dinners came with popcorn (an appetizer in Ecuador), rice, beans and a salad (which we don't eat). $3.50 While we were waiting for the cab we decided to try a local alcoholic beverage. It is called canelazo and it is served warm. It came in a small, metal pitcher, with tiny plastic cups and you could smell the fumes coming off the top of the pitcher. It tasted like rum apple cider and it warmed all the way down! We realized that even with the three of us drinking it we would not be able to finish the whole pitcher so we invited some of the other people in the restaurant to have a glass. They accepted with a lot of gracias! and we all smiled at each other as we sipped and made faces. It would have been a nice relaxing ride home on the bus after all that rum except that the bus was full and we had to stand the entire ride (even the kids). An hour. I have to say the two of them have been troupers. Finn has his moments, but we are doing so much walking! The other day we walked for 4 1/2 hours. Today we walked half an hour to breakfast, half an hour back, hiked to the falls and then stood an hour on the bus. I give huge kuddos to my kids!

We got home around 4:00 and Javier was out front cutting down some of the pine tree. Pat offered to help and then they started a fire with the cut branches and the kids (Javier's and ours) roasted marshmallows. I was upstairs loading pictures when Finn walked in with a look on his face and told me that a marshmallow had hit his eye. It sure did! It seems the marshmallow flung up and hit him on the eye while it was burning. Luckily it did not hit his actual eye. He has a nice burn on the lid and some burns under his eye where the marshmallow clung to it. The eyelid is puffy and his skin is pink and sore looking. Poor guy. I read fairy tales to him while he held an ice pack on it. He seems to be feeling a bit better, but he is swollen and sore. I put some Neosp0rin on it, but I think he is going to be feeling pretty bad for a few days.