Tuesday, November 21, 2017

THREE WHOLE YEARS

 YEP----- today marks exactly three years ago we ventured beyond the safe confines of our home in Tucson and risked starting our new life in the foreign country of Ecuador. Looking back I can now wonder " Why did we not do this sooner. " I could not be happier. I could not have, at the time, foreseen the positive changes that awaited us in this beautiful, friendly , welcoming country.
Now , I must digress into why I have not been blogging for awhile.
Last summer, we had a wonderful experience of travelling to a near-by beach resort with our new found friends, an Ecuadorian family. We planned a week long stay on the beach about a 4 hour bus ride from Cuenca. Upon arrival at the bus terminal in Machala I was rudely introduced to the seamy side of life here.
As we exited the bus and rounded up our suitcases, I became uncomfortable wearing my jacket as it was very humid and hot. I removed my back pack and stripped off my jacket and placed it in my back pack. I then placed my back pack on top of all our suitcases. There were 4 of us standing around, "guarding " our belongings. Just then a man said" Are these your keys" pointing to a set on the ground. As we all shifted our attention to the keys, his accomplice reached in and took my back pack. I lost my high end binoculars, my expensive camera with extra zoom lens, my e-book for downloading books to read, and to me, my valuable bird books with all my notes about bird sightings. I was devastated to say the least.However, since we were just beginning our trip and not wanting to spoil anyone's vacation, I sucked it up and bravely went on. It wasn't until I returned home did I really acknowledge my loss and feel the pain.
I am over it now.  I have replaced my binoculars and camera and have usurped Sharyl's e-book as mine. The loss of my irreplaceable bird books is still a painful reminder of this shocking and devastating event.
That is the big reason for this long hiatus from new posts. I was for a long time not able to take any pictures to illustrate any of my posts until I replaced my camera. I needed my binoculars first.
So that sad story is now well in the past. I do not harbor any hard feeling about Ecuador because of this difficult situation. It could have happened anywhere, and has. Now I just want to celebrate my new and continuing life in Ecuador. Stay tuned---

Monday, February 20, 2017

OUR NEWEST ENDEAVOR


Sharyl and I have ventured into the B&B business, joining AirBNB as hosts. Sharyl has always wanted to open our home as a B&B, and now that dream has come true.
We did some redecorating, and proceeded to go through the licensing process, still pending, and started advertising













 These are the three rooms we offer. All with queen beds  Come visit!!

 I thought we would attract mostly gringos, however so far most have been Ecuadorians, We have had 4 groups so far and each group has been so special. What a perfectly wonderful way to interact with folks here. The most interesting has been two young couples from Columbia, arriving on motorcycles.The first night, they did venture out to sightsee and eat, but the following evenings they just wanted to sit and converse with us for several hours. We learned so much about their lives in Columbia. Very interesting.
Other couples have been from Holland, another from the US travelling throughout South America. This couple stayed for 5 days to go hiking with Stan, AND they did most of the cooking while they were here. How special was that. We liked them the moment we opened our door to greet them.
Then a gentleman, has arrived for two weeks while he finds a permanent place to live. We have been helping him find the resources he needs to locate and settle into his new country.
We also have a young woman, who is a professional musician  staying with us for 6 months as she has been offered a teaching job at the close-by University.
So , we have now found another very special way to become more involved with the people here, and enhance our enjoyment of ECUADOR. How did we get so lucky!!!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

VIVA ECUADOR Two years later




LOVE THE LIFE

TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY


Hard to believe that it has been two years since Sharyl and I made the decision to pick up and move to ECUADOR, but here we are with no regrets 


I came to Ecuador ...........for the standard of living. I can live much better here than if I had continued residing in Arizona or any other state in the US. The value of all our essential needs is much lower without having to sacrifice anything. Now many non essential items are more expensive, but we do have enough extra income to choose or not to purchase them.

I came to Ecuador............for the birds, my passion. Ecuador has the greatest diversity of birds of any other country for it size. I have enjoyed already, travelling here and there to watch and enjoy them.

I came to Ecuador.............for the adventure, enjoy a new culture, speak a different language, and the adventure continues to  happens every day.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

TRIBUTE TO SABRINA


In Tucson, one of my joys was riding my bicycle. Arriving in Cuenca, I was of the opinion that I would not be able to ride a bicycle. The drivers here seemed to be quite manic, and very macho in their driving attitude. I was not as flexible as I was several years ago and was concerned that I would not be able to be safely aware of the cars around me.

However the idea kept gnawing at my mind. A friend had his bike and had been riding it many places and telling me how fun it was and he was now able to get more places more quickly.

THEN, I was talking to his friend who also had his bike. I asked him about his experiences and telling him about my concerns. He explained to me that the drivers here seemed to be aware of bikes and were giving him a wide berth. That he was very comfortable riding around.

So now I was really thinking about bringing my bike down here after all. We had been trying to sell it with no takers. So---- Sabrina was planning a visit---- so I broached the subject with her. Could she possibly think about bringing my bike with her. She said she actually had considered it,BUT between the cost of packing it and the cost of bringing it on board the plane it was going to be too expensive. That perhaps just getting  a bike here would be more cost effective. To say the least I was very disappointed. No bike here was as nice as mine nor as comfortable to ride  and they were not cheap.

What I did not know at the time I talked to her, was that she was already bringing my bike as a Fathers day gift. That was why she already knew so much of the cost. She already knew what was required to be able to bring the bike on the airplane. In fact it had already been boxed.

So imagine my joy when she quietly comes off the airplane and I discover that one of the pieces of luggage is "MY BIKE" I was speechless and overcome with excitement.


HEY


LOOK


AT ME NOW


 I have been happily riding my bike all over town ever since


They have special bike lanes on several of the main thoroughfares



---even some sidewalks will accomodates bikes


------and beautiful  bike paths along the rivers and parks


---and many of the roads are plenty wide enough to allow me plenty of room

So I am now comfortably riding to do shopping at the Mall where they have provided bike racks enabling me to lock my bike,( Sabrina even thought to bring a lock). Riding to visit friends and riding just for fun.

Life here has now taken on another whole dimension for me 

I will be for ever grateful to Sabrina for her Fathers Day surprise and the effort she made to transport " MY BIKE"

Sunday, August 14, 2016

ANOTHER PAMPA MESA

Interestingly enough, I was invited by my landlord, an Ecuadorian, to join him and his family at a fiesta. Turns out the fiesta was for the baptism of several young people. One  was the child an indigenous family with whom they are very close.



The native family on the left and the In-Laws of my friend becoming God parents for the little boy.

After the ceremony, the family will put on a "PAMPA MESA" and feed   everyone and I mean everyone. There must have been well over 100 people who through out the evening arrived at their home to participate.

 The home 


 Food being prepared

The kitchen with more food cooking.


A simple table

With everyone gathered around to eat..

Now understand, I was the ONLY gringo attending this gathering of family members, close friends and it seemed like most of their neighbors. The food arrived in front of me. A full plate of rice-potatoes-shredded pork- and sitting on top was a "CUY"
Cuy is the national dish of Ecuador and is------



Thats right---Guinea Pig!!!!!!



Now I had never before eaten this animal  and really was not sure I wanted to, but what was I to do. There were at least  15-20 people watching this Gringo. What would he do ??????




Eat it of course-----

 This " delicacy" was enjoyed by everyone



-------especially my friend Felix

Me--not so much. I thought it was very salty and wondered " where is the meat"

Afterward we all danced the night away until 4am.
 This beautiful lady is teaching me some Ecuadorian dance moves 



Unfortunately this is where my camera battery died so I am unable to document the rest of the story.
However I am told that  I danced with almost all the ladies there including some elderly ones wearing their traditional dress, ---some younger ones who were even carrying a baby strapped to their back and best of all my friends teen age daughter who said to me " Where did YOU learn how to dance."

Now this was an experience of a lifetime. 

PAMPA MESA

The City Government of Cuenca does an absolutely wonderful job of providing very special events for all to enjoy. One of the most fun, that I have really enjoyed has been, FREE, a bus ride to near-by communities to see their town and their special history and culture. I have now joined 6 different trips so far.
One that was particularly fun and interesting arrived in a town called"Llacao" From there we were asked to walk along a long windy road  to a sacred area called a PACHAMAMA or mother earth. The place was located on the top of a flat mountain  with a just gorgeous overlook back to Cuenca.
 One of two buses transporting us around
 The town dancers put on a show for us
After the dancing., we were asked to walk along a dirt road to the top on the mountain  The hike took us about 45 minutes to arrive at the top
















 A look back from where we came. It really was a beautiful walk and
spectacular view when we reached the top



 Standing on top of the Pachamama

































The city of Cuenca is located in a wide valley know to locals as "The Basin"





At the top a number of Indigenous people had assembled
 This gentleman was giving a very impassioned speech. From what I could understand and was told, he was saying that many years ago, the city wanted to build its airport here on their sacred land . They defeated the plan at the time, however the city is again trying to  revise the idea and he was advising us of the plan and asking no, pleading for support


Afterwards a Pampa Mesa was prepared. A Pampa Meas is a "common table" A mat or cloth  is spread on the ground and food is placed on the mat.Everyone sits around and  shares what they have. The mat is narrow enough so that all can reach the food and eat any and all  that  they wish 
 Prior to partaking of any of the food, the gentleman in this white on the left, asked for the oldest person to come forward. This person happened to be me.Now,  I was one of only a small handful of  gringos on the trip of two bus loads of people.
  As soon as I " volunteered" a little old lady was so happy to take my hand and lead me around the "table". She had in her hand a small pot into which we gathered small portions of most of the different dished spread before us.
The food was blessed with a small ceremony and we then dug a small hole and buried the food. The Ecuadorians present certainly enjoyed my participation and were all over us taking pictures.




After our "feast" we hiked back to our buses using some remaining portion of the Inca Trail. It was now apparent why we were asked to walk up on the road Walking on the Inca trail and participating in this special " Pampa Mesa"
What a special experience for me. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

GONE NATIVE

One of the many reasons we decided to move to and live in Ecuador was to be able to enjoy the huge variety of fresh fruits and vegetables  available. As we explored the markets and learned about the medicinal benefits of many herbs as well, we discovered Coconuts . Many people we talked to were extolling the benefits of this seeming wonder fruit. Drink the juice, eat the meat, AND cook only with the oil.

I have never been fond of coconut in any form, but after learning more about the benefits and learning that it might help with Shary,s health, we decided to try to use the oil. Coconuts are readily available in the markets, however the oil is not. A small amount when it can be found is very expensive. We did purchase some and started to use it. I was totally won over after frying some eggs with this oil. It was sooooo delicious. We started using it for cooking almost everything, including just melting a little on toast. BUT with the expense, we had to cut back somewhat. 

Then , while talking to friends of ours from Jamaica , she said making the oil was not hard and she would show me how. So she did. 

THIS IS WHAT I LEARNED!!!


Start with the brown or already husked coconut


Then drain the milk by poking one of the three eyes. There is always one that is very easy to open Then drain the juice. 


Then gently, using a hammer, bang on the shell until it cracks. You really do not have to hit it very hard



 After just a few hits, the shell cracks


....and bingo its open


Now, almost the hardest part , is separating the meat from the shell


There is probably a better tool, but what I have is a box cutter to score the meat---


...and a screwdriver to separate it from the shell.  



---They work---a bowl full of coconut meat


Now, using a blender, fill with some of the meat and add hot water


Blend it up



Strain

Then use a coffee filter to ---


---wring the most juice out of the meal


Last step is to boil the milk down



Takes about 2 hours


and then it is done. The water has boiled off, the oil has risen to the top and there is a sweet residue remaining



Pour the oil into a jar and I have a weeks worth of wonderful, marvelous coconut oil.

Cost: Each coconut cost $1.25 x 4 = $5.00 and about three hours of my time. 
We also have several big jars of coconut milk, which would cost  $5 which we use in our healthy smoothies. 
The above jar ,if full, would cost $30. My cost $15.
Sharyl is experimenting with the dry left over flour for baking,
So  with the oil and the juice, and the dry coconut flour, we are ahead, AND so much more fun and a great accomplishment. 

Who said you cant teach an old dog new tricks!!!!!