Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Importance of Change

This is not a philosophical treatise on the nature of change.  This is about change -- coins, to be exact.

Coins are important here.  The clerks in the stores always ask for exact change or as close as possible.  The other day, I was shopping at Gran Aki (part of the SuperMaxi family of stores) and spent $11.86.  I had a $20 bill and a lot of change -- I automatically gave the clerk $21.86.  The first or second time I shopped there, the customer ahead of me paid with $10 worth of dimes -- not in coin rolls, either.  The clerk thanked the customer profusely. Can you imagine what would happen in a checkout line in the US if that were to happen?  Actually, I've seen what happened in one case in a store in Springfield, Missouri: The clerk sent the customer to one of those coin machines at the front of the store.  The man wasn't happy about it; he had just enough to pay for his purchase and if he had gone to the coin machine he wouldn't have had enough.  Another customer stepped up and paid for the man's groceries (under $5, as I recall).

The buses in Cuenca cost 25 cents a ride.  You can use a quarter, two dimes and a nickel . . . I've seen people hand the driver 25 pennies.

At our local bakery, rolls are 12 cents each.  When I buy two, or four, and pay with a quarter or a half dollar (when was the last time you saw a half dollar in the US?), I tell the clerk to keep the change because I know that she will probably be short on pennies.

The owners of the little stores around here are always in need of change. 

Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency.  If you want to know where the $1 Sacajawea coins are, they are here.  Although there are dollar bills around, they are dirty and torn, often, and there have been times when a cab driver or store clerk refuses to take them.  I have learned to appreciate the dollar coin.  In fact, I wouldn't be averse to having all bills converted to coins.

For denominations of a dollar or more, US coins and bills are used exclusively.  For half-dollars and less, US coins are used, but Ecuador mints its own versions of them. They are interchangeable. Here is a picture of the Ecuadoran versions of the coins:

They are the same size as our coins but the metal composition is different.

So, when shopping in Ecuador, use cash, and make sure you have plenty of change. 

Por favor, tenga un  año nuevo feliz, saludable, y próspero.
Please, have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.


Friday, December 2, 2011

One year in Ecuador

On Dec. 1, 2010, we got off the plane in Cuenca, with our four suitcases, two computers, and two backpacks.  We are a year into our adventure, and it isn't ending.  We progress.  I've had a stumbling block or two along the way, but I am adjusting to being right-eyed, after five months, and I'm starting, I think, to come out of the funk I've been in.  I'm not sure Ray would agree with that, but I feel I am. 

I like it here.  As I read about the bad weather in the US, both summer and winter, I rejoice in the moderate temperatures year-round.  We have had quite a bit of rain this year but no snow, no debilitating humidity, no tornadoes (thunderstorms, yes, but no tornadoes).

I will teach online for one more semester, and, at the end of that time, I'll move to LaPaz.  Ray has promised that the addition to the guest house will be finished enough by then.  There will be painting and stucco work to do.  I'm investigating internet services for us to use up there -- no wired internet there!  But it is so quiet, compared to Cuenca; that will be great.

My latest project is to start investigating the native animals that are likely to be found in our area.  I'm particularly fascinated by the spectacled bear (Andean bear), the only species of bear in South America.  It is somewhat smaller than North American bears, forages in the daytime, and is endangered.  I doubt we'll see one, because they stay away from other large animals, including humans. I'd like to see one, though.

Image Detail

I obtained that picture from the web.

My particular interest (I'm an animal behaviorist by trade) has always been mammals, but I'll be investigating the birds and reptiles of the area, too. We've seen deer tracks, and Digger flushed what looked, to Ray, like a small white-tailed deer. 

Of course, I plan on a Galapagos trip. 

As my research goes on, I'll be writing you about it.  I am, although retired, a university professor and I can't keep myself from lecturing, I guess.  I'll try not to bore you.

Until next time, be well.


Thursday, November 3, 2011


It is holiday week in Cuenca, and there are hundreds of things to do around town.  Today I decided to go to the IX National Fair: Handicraft Excellence Fair, held at CIDAP at Hermano Miguel and Tres de Noviembre, right on the river next to the Escalinata.  There were artisans from all over there -- jewelry from Lima, Peru, for example:

But of the dozens of vendors there, I liked the work of two the best; both are from Cuenca.

My brother is a ceramicist, and as I go around the city I look at ceramics and pottery quite often.  At the exhibition, there were many examples of pottery, but I was particularly taken by the work of two young potters, Ivan Webster and Natalia Carrasco, of Valle Fuego.  Here are some examples of their work:

As you can see, they do decorative and utilitarian pieces -- all creative and beautiful. 

The other artisan I was taken with was Jhon Moyano Jimenez, of Arte en Hierro.  He makes art from recycled materials, particularly from iron (the "hierro" in the name of his shop). 

I have to say that I like the frog the best, but everything was well-crafted.

There was so much to see and do.  In addition, all along Doce de Abril there were dozens of vendors, on both sides of the street, selling about anything you can think of. 

If you come to Cuenca during the first week in November, be ready for all the activities.  The feriado is wonderful!

Until next time (and I hope it won't be two months from now), be well.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Eye Update

For those of you who asked . . . the infection in the retina of my left eye was worse than expected.  I have had no improvement in vision, after two and a half  months.  I doubt there will be, although my doctors won't say that explicitly.  I have had laser treatment on my right eye, and it's doing well (except I need a new prescription).  I have been getting great treatment; what happened was an accident, of course.

For those of you who asked . . . the new puppy's name is Digger.

Until next time, be well.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

The New Alpha Dog

We finally got our puppy.  We got her at the Clinica Amigos Fieles on Juan  Montalvo in Cuenca.  Her mother was brought to the clinic -- where they take in stray dogs and cats -- pregnant.  Our puppy was one of a litter of six.  On the right, you see her out in La Paz, fighting with the grass.  Her motto is  "If it moves, I'll kill it."  She's also a digger.  Here she is in the sand pile.

And here's a picture of her face.

She and our cat are still working it out.

We haven't settled on a name yet -- there are several options on the table.  But we're happy to have her; we missed having a dog.

Until next time, be well.


Friday, August 12, 2011

A Day in the Country

I hadn't been to our place in La Paz for a while -- in general, Ray stays there for a few days at a time while I stay in Cuenca putting drops in my eyes and, most importantly, letting the cat annoy me.  Today, we decided to go up for the day.  It was a beautiful and peaceful day, and I enjoyed it very much.  Ray did a little work on the footer for the addition and tried out a stucco mix for the walls; I sat in the sun with my sunglasses and hat protecting my eyes.

I did take some pictures of the wild plants that grow on our property.  I don't know the names of them, but they are beautiful.

Next time, I'll go across the creek and take some pictures from there.  The cold weather we've had for a while seems to be ending, and I'm sure more plants will bloom.   

Until next time, be well.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bob Schloredt and me

When I was a kid, back in the late 1950s, the University of Washington had great teams:Rose Bowl champs in 1960 and 1961.  (I grew up near Seattle; my father and grandfather were big UW fans.)  The quarterback of those teams was Bob Schloredt.  I've been thinking about him lately because, at least for now, we have something in common -- blindness in the left eye.

I had injections of Avastin in both eyes about a month ago.  It's a standard treatment for diabetic retinopathy, especially in the case where blood vessels rupture in one eye.  Somehow (and no one knows how it happened), my left eye became infected.  None of the ophthalmologists here had ever had that happen before, and it never happened to my ophthalmologist in Springfield. I may regain some vision in that eye -- it isn't clear enough yet to know -- but I may not.

I'll admit I felt sorry for myself.  But my right eye is okay.  I can see to do things.  I've been tired and not doing much (no Spanish lessons for a while; I miss them).  I have been able to start work on my fall online classes; they start in three weeks.

Ray's helped me every step of the way.  We've come up with a technique so I can give myself my eyedrops and I felt well enough for him to be able to go out to the property in La Paz and do some work.  (Cities drive him crazy, and he's been here in Cuenca for more than a month.)

I can cope with whatever happens now, I think.  Bob Schloredt led the UW Huskies to two Rose Bowl wins with one eye.  He played in the Canadian Football League, was an assistant coach at UW for a while, and had a good life.  He was my hero when I was 8 years old, and it's good to have his example to help me 50 years later.

Until next time, be well.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

More on my vision problems

I saw Dr. Vazquez again today.  He said that my eye had improved but he decided, after consulting with one of the other physicians there, that I needed shots to clear up my vision and that I need more laser surgery.  He thinks three more rounds, but maybe only two.  I'm doing fine today, although I have to do the eye drops thing for a while.

Some of you have asked about the clinic.  They have a website, in Spanish, but Google Translate or BabelFish will do a decent job at translating for you.  Navigating the site will give you an idea of the services they perform.

Until next time, be well.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Since Ray posted about my eye problems on his blog, Construction Projects in Ecuador, many people have written borh of us offering advice and support.  I thank you for this.  For those of you who worried about my blood pressure, it is 110/80 in both arms.  Not bad for an old broad.

I have a wonderful ophthalmologist, Dr. Arioflo Vazquez.  He did a retinal scan yesterday (I had dye injected in my veins, so I was a lovely shade of yellow yesterday) and gave me some Nevanac drops to clear up the blood in my eye.  He also found a problem in my right eye.  I see him again Tuesday.

I will, of course, keep you informed.  But if you haven't seen your eye doctor lately, go!

Until next time, be well.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Drawing on the Walls

Cuenca is like other cities all over the world.  Graffiti is common.  Much of it is slogans about politics (a lot went up around the time of the referendum in May) and the usual topics you see in the US.  Like the US, there are some very artistic versions.  Here's an example from a wall near our house:
There are also more formal, organized murals done by children.  From the wall outside Christo Rey church, in our neighborhood:
And some photos of a large mural, covering two walls, between Mariscal Lamar and Gran Columbia, across from the Mercado 9 de Octubre, behind Plaza Hermano Miguel:

I see these often, and enjoy them.  There are many examples all around Cuenca.

Until  next time, be well.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It's Noisy Here . . . Sometimes

Okay, I can hear what you're thinking:  Of course it's noisy there.  Cuenca is a city that is large in population but small in area.  There are a lot of people and cars and buses and trucks in a relatively restricted space.

True. And US cities are noisy.  But Cuenca is noisier than any US city I'm familiar with.
  • The noise on the buses:  During certain times of day, the buses are very crowded and, of course, people talk to one another.  What makes it irritating is that many bus drivers play music very loudly so people have to talk louder to make themselves heard.
  • Horns honking.  I often think that drivers honk their horns just to hear them.
  • Car stereos and radios:  Owners of cars play their radios and stereos when the cars are not moving.  I know when one of our neighbors is washing his or her car if I hear the radio playing.  The taxi drivers at the taxi stand down the street from us are prone to this, too.
  • The stores that sell music and movie DVDs:  In el Centro, you can find at least one of these, and often more, on every block.  To advertise their wares, the owners play music or movies, with the volume very loud.  This makes for some interesting juxtapositions; the other day, sitting in one of the plazas before going to my Spanish class, I heard three kinds of music at once: Andean flute music, a Mozart sonata, and 1980s US rock and roll.  
  • Music equipment stores:  The speakers available here are huge.  Those stores that sell speakers and amplifiers have to demonstrate how well they work, right?  
  • The vendors on the street:  There are vendors selling fruit, coca oil, lottery tickets, food, sunglasses, remote controls . . . an incredible array of merchandise is available from street vendors.  They all call out to attract attention.
  • Animals:  Barking dogs, crowing roosters, cackling hens.  (In fact, I like these noises.)
  • Fireworks:  I don't know why this is done -- sheer love of noise, I guess, or scaring away evil spirits, or to announce events -- but a lot of fireworks are shot here.  And we're not talking little fireworks; we're talking big ones, with big noise.  If it is for protection, we live in the safest neighborhood in Cuenca.
  • Parties:  There are many parties here, for feast days and national holidays and local holidays and for the sheer love of parties.  Last night, for example, someone near us had a big party, with the music, explosions, and loud singing and talking until . . . well, I don't know when it ended.  I finally went to sleep.  You have to cope with it as best you can, because it is their right to have these parties.  When we first came to Ecuador, I read a posting on an expat forum from an expatriate woman, living in an Ecuadoran city, who complained to the police about a noisy party.  The police were puzzled about her complaint.
Yet it can be incredibly quiet, too.  Right now, at about 7 on Sunday evening, it is very quiet.  This morning, we went into el Centro to have breakfast at the Kookaburra (it was about 9:00), there were few people and cars on the streets.  It was lovely and peaceful.

I like Cuenca.  I am learning to deal with the noise; it doesn't bother me nearly as much as it did two or three months ago.  For those of you who haven't visited here, be forewarned.  But don't stay away -- come visit!

Until next time, be well.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Random Thoughts on Six Months in Ecuador

On December 1, we stepped off a plane from Quito and started our new life in Ecuador.  We've had our ups and downs during these six months, but I believe that things are going our way now and that our lives will be great, especially once we can move to our property in La Paz.

So, the random thoughts I'm having today:

Toilet paper is not flushed in Ecuador.  In each bathroom, there is a waste receptacle to put used TP in.  It took some getting used to, and I still flush once in a while, but disposing of it isn't really a problem.  The plumbing here isn't vented like it is in the US and the sewage treatment plants can't handle TP anyway.  And here we have scented TP, something that disappeared in the US a long time ago.

It helps that trash pickup, at least here in Cuenca, occurs three times a week.  The bags of trash go out to the curb, and city employees pick them up.  Recyclables go in a blue bag.  Other trash goes in any color bag you happen to have.

I don't think that anyone in Cuenca has trained as a butcher.  The meat here is fine, but it is not cut the way it is in the US.  It is expensive, too, or at least it seems to be to me, but we tenderize the tougher cuts and we are okay.  Chicken is very expensive, relative to the cost of other meats, and the chickens for sale in the stores are older than those you would buy in the US.

High altitude cooking continues to be a challenge.  We are at about 8000 feet (we are surrounded by mountains, so it seems that we aren't so high) so water boils at a lower temperature.  It takes longer to cook vegetables, rice, pasta, and other such foods, and one has to be careful when making a meat-based soup because the meat might not get to a safe temperature.  Cooking dry beans can take many hours.  I'm going to invest in a pressure cooker and a crock pot as soon as I can.

There is cheddar cheese here.  It isn't very good, by our standards.  Ray loves cheese, and the lack of it has been a challenge; it was his major source of dairy.  However, he's found a substitute: ice cream, which is very good here.

It is hard to find cat-related supplies here.  Dog supplies, not such a problem.  We, of course, have a cat.

We'll be getting a dog soon.

I didn't think I'd get used to not having a car of my own.  I have.  We have a car, but we don't use it in the city.  If I buy something too big or too heavy to take home on the bus, I hail a cab.  There are always cabs around the large shopping centers (unless it's raining) and there are many cruising the streets of the city. I have ridden in cabs more often since I have been here than I had in my life before coming here.  But most of the time, I walk or take the bus.

The cold season has started in earnest here.  Time to buy some sweaters -- houses and apartments tend not to have central heating -- and continue my search for a shoe store that sells shoes for my big, fat feet.  I may have to break down and order from the US.  Fortunately, Ecuador's post office (Correos del Ecuador) has a service called Correos Club -- a shopping and shipping service.  Members have merchandise shipped to Florida and Correos Club ships it to Ecuador for a very reasonable rate. It's inexpensive to belong ($11.20 a year) and shipping is cheaper than it would be otherwise.  I ordered some things from Amazon -- I qualified for free shipping to Florida and it cost me $12.88 to get it from Florida here.  And they delivered it to the apartment.

Until next time, be well.

The Blue Domes of the New Cathedral, Cuenca

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fundacion Amauta -- my Spanish school in Cuenca

Once we knew that we were going to stay in Ecuador, I decided that it was time to learn some Spanish.  I asked our friend, Cathy Vicente, for a recommendation, and she suggested that I go to Amauta.  About 10 weeks ago I signed up for classes there -- three days a week, an hour a day, $8 an hour.  I like going to school there a great deal; in Spanish, "me encanta Amauta!"

The school is in the el Centro district of Cuenca.  (There are branches in Quito, Manta, and Montanita, as well.)

The school offers other activities as well -- on Tuesday afternoons, for example, they have salsa lessons.

The interior of the building is lovely.

When you walk in, you see this.

Here is the second floor.

This is a view from the bottom floor up to the skylight.

There is a kitchen area, with coffee, tea, and water available.  It is here that I first tried toronjil tea.  If you get the chance, try it!

The people here are warm and gracious.  They are very patient with me -- languages are not my strong suit, but I talk and they correct me, and I learn. 

This is Lily, who runs the place.

This is Tatiana, my first teacher and now my teacher again.  My second teacher, Adriana, was not there today when I took these pictures.

For more information

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New blog site.

Orginally this blog was started to keep friends and family updated on what we are up to in Ecuador and to that end it has worked well. As our new life unfolds and the Alphadog part of this family starts to get in gear it has become appearant that building projects will take over the forum and dominate the intended purpose of the blog - isn't that what a man does ?

In an attempt to keep that from happening and boring our friends and family to death, I will put most of the information about construction details on another blog ( ). If you're interested in this kind of stuff - check it out.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A warm sunny day in LaPaz.

With the dry season coming the days in the mountains of southern Ecuador are becoming a lot clearer and warmer as a result. It is as close to perfect weather as I have ever experienced. The views of the landscape are just amazing, everywhere. We have been all over the place and once you get out of the cities life improves dramatically.

We have been working on the property in La Paz two days a week for a while now and have made some progress but it will soon be time to put more effort into getting things squared away for our move to La Paz in 7 months.

I was played out the other day, so Barb had to take over digging in the driveway. I really should have had a dozer clear the driveway but Barbara only has about 150 feet to go. She has picked out the final house site - I've given her such a hard time about it I'll be surprised if she tells me where it is.

On the lighter side of life, I have finally done it. I knew I would do it at some point in time, it was just a matter of time. Now that I have done it, I am not sure what to do about it. I bought a circular saw with a 20mm arbor and now I can't find a blade to fit it. I have had such good luck with tools here I never even thought about blades, there are all kinds of blades at every hardware store. That is true but the mounting holes are all 7/8th or 5/8th. In a world of meteric tools american standard saw blades.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Final site location - until it changes.

Barb has been  working on the house site now for a couple of days. Good southern exposure, the creek runs right behind it and there is access to power. It's within a hundred yards of the old adobie house on the property so there is an established pasture just to the south on a flat before the valley.
This is a view from the site looking due south. It's a nice site but I saw her heading into the brush north of here yesterday afternoon - from the driveway ( where I am working ) I can see everything to the south for miles.I think she maybe looking for a new location but won't say anything until she is sure.

I talked to her yesterday about her selection for a house site and how it won't be carved in stone until I bring in a dozer or backhoe to do the clearing. I have to add on to the guest house before I start the house, so she has a good 3 months to decide.

Another week or two and the driveway will be done, then the front gate and awhile on the addition to the guest house.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The start of the site selection.

Well, we've been working on the property and Barb has decided to start clearing what she thinks is the house site. She walks the southern half of the land, stops at a spot, looks around and thinks - this would be a good spot for the house. She has done this proceedure a half dozen times, I kinda hate to tell her the other half of the property is north of where she has been scouting for a house site. She is out there on hands and knees cutting brush with a pair of lopers - before it's done she will change her mind.

My task of clearing the driveway is slow going so I took a little break yesterday to see how hard the digging is going to be for the footers on the addition to the guest house.
That is some pretty nice looking dirt. I don't think we will have any trouble growing stuff here. The grass around the addition and the southern half of the property is Tussock grass as opposed to the 6 foot razor grass in the driveway and the northern half of the property - the difference being the composition of the soil.

We are still trying to get a transformer set on the pole 100 feet from the guest house, I suspect it will take as long as our residency paperwork did, with ever changing requirements and no one knowing anything about it. The project will progress, with or without electricity, someday when we least expect it they will show up to do the work.

On the Cuenca front - everything is good in Cuenca, Barb is getting pretty good at this spanish stuff. I have to take her with me to the hardware store to translate, there are some things that pointing won't get. Barbs cat is growing like a weed and is turning into quite a handsome lady.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Here we go

In the last two weeks I have made a half dozen day trips to LaPaz, to scout out supplies for the eventual building project on the property there. The hold up has been getting all the legal stuff done on our Ecuadorian residency - and now it is finally done.

When we visited here back in September of 2010, we were assured of a 10 day completion time on our papers provided we got all our proof documents apostiled in the U.S. before we came back to Ecuador. We did and even sent the, now official papers and document ahead of our departure from the U.S. so they could get a jump on the process. The day after we came back to Ecuador we visited our lawyer and were told everything was in order and the process would be complete in 2 weeks, no more. Now that the process is complete, I can tell you the process took exactly 6 months, no less. The moral of the story is this - the law doesn't change here but the administration of the law changes daily. Sometimes you get lucky and things work out - when we bought the car here it took 45 minutes, taxes, tags, registration and title - done. When I bought the land in LaPaz it took 2 days from the time I said I want it, to the time I was handed a clear title and water rights to the property. Things are done a little differently here but it has nothing to do with who you know or some other factors that are widely claimed, it has to do with who is messing around with the processing of the law.

Now that, that is all cleared up I can get down to business. The driveway to the house site on the LaPaz property is about a quarter mile long and grown up with razor grass about 6 feet tall.
The stuff with the fluffy heads is the grass I have to cut down with hedge clippers, then dig the roots up with a pick and hoe. I've got it about half done, a bull dozer would come in handy about now.

This is a view from the driveway looking due south. On a clear day there are a half dozen mountain ranges in the background. Once the driveway is cleared out and I can get some sand, gravel, steel and blocks delivered I can start on the Guest House. It really feels good to be working again.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

30 days later and maybe a solution in sight.

My last post over a month ago acknowledged the end was in sight for our residency paperwork and that the legal stuff had been completed. Well here's a update on that process. In the last 5 months we have continuously been submitting documents, paperwork and waiting on the political system that has changed the process for residency 3 times since we started the process, the latest being 2 weeks ago. Barb and I both have our Censo cards which register us in Cuenca and is a prerequisite to the Cedula which is a national ID card in Ecuador and we have the little silver stamp in our passports. To this point we are into a 10 day process that has taken 5 months and still isn't complete. We are legal but not registered. This isn't a real big problem except that the national ID card is required to be able to do some stuff like buy a car, get a drivers license and open bank accounts. The point is the political system here is constantly changing in ways that affect everything - it's a frustrating system that is hard to get used to - I guess that is why there are so many ways around things here, at some point the way around may be the law.

On the building front in LaPaz - zero progress because of the redo, undo, restart and new regulations involved in our residency statis. Someday something will get done but I am no longer willing to speculate on when that will be.

The flower market on Mariscal Sucre in Cuenca.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Caught up in other things.

Well I am supposed to be working on the new place in LaPaz but we have gotten caught up in other stuff.

First it was the Carnival, which lasted 5 days, and I didn't want to press my luck with police check points everywhere - you know driving without a license, no passport and an expired visa. Maybe we should check on our visas, so that would be the second thing slowing down progress. One day turned into two which produced results in 5 more days. We'll have our residency visas Wednesday, then we need to go to Quito for Cedulas and of course our Censos for Cuenca. So I guess it will be a couple of weeks before we get back to business.

In the mean time Barb has decided to start her animal collection.
This is where she started, at the Feria Libre in Cuenca. After hours of looking around - there must be a thousand vendors there - for the vendors with dogs and cats, oh did I mention she had directions - this is what she found.
She has a way of finding the most deserving animals for a new home. Her name is Mocosa Poco (little brat). In less that one day she has taken over the house and is lying asleep on my lap as I type this post.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Back to work - finally

Well, I think we are finally settled into the new apartment in Cuenca. Barb has yet to set up her office area, she is still working on a plastic card table with one bookcase and a plastic patio chair. I'll see if I can talk her into picking out some office furniture this week, then my job here will be done.

We have made several trips to the property in LaPaz in the last few weeks to determine the priorities of projects, get the land registered and test out the endurance of the new car - the road to Nabon will test the limits of any vehicle.
These young heifers have been hanging out on the place for a while, the land is flatter and the grass better than their home place about a half mile away.

The first thing that needs to be done in LaPaz is to secure the property. Because of the easy access from a brand new road going to Loja from Cuenca, the entrance to the property looks like a nice area for a rest stop. I met a military transport there yesterday who had that exact thought in mind. At any rate it seems my vacation in Ecuador is over - it's time to go back to work.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Las Cabras Viejas

Finally - some linear progress. We have been in Ecuador almost 3 months and have been working on visa paperwork for nearly 5 months in total. Our passports have been in Quito at the Immigration office for the last 3 weeks, our T-3 visas are expired  and no one knows when or if we will ever see our passports again. So where is the progress ? Well, we have been continuiously making circular ( chasing our tails ) progress, taking care of setting up internet, water and electric utilities, direct t.v., only to have to redo the entire process 30 days later. We are approaching the 90 day mark and we are having to redo it all again. I guess because we don't have our paperwork ( cedula and censo ) they don't take us seriously. It really doesn't matter, we knew coming into this country there was a lot of political and public hijinks, we were hoping for the best.
This is a picture of the linear (foward) progress. I finally found some land that had a legally clear title, water rights in writing, legal access and electricity on the property. The process wasn't exactly in a straight line, but of course I am not legal here, so I had to get a Ecuadorian to buy it on my behalf. During the closing process it became clear the Ecuadorians don't like gringos buy property outside the designated gringo areas. I've been told to let a Ecuadorian handle any problems from the neighbors - I got the message - there is only 1 neighbor who is over a half mile away and there is no one else in the entire valley. It is a nice property with frontage on the Pan American Highway and the lawyer who closed on the purchase said I doubled my money the day I paid for it.

Barb and I will go to the canton ( county ) of Nabon to register the property day after tomorrow, then we'll see how things go.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

One step further

For a few weeks, we had been "sweating out" part of the process of getting our residency visas.  When we came back in December, we were told that we would have them in 30 days -- our paperwork was all in order.  Our lawyer needed another copy of my passport with the date my tourist visa ran out, but that was easily taken care of.  She sent all our paperwork to her colleague in Quito for presentation to the Ministry.  Well, the very next day, the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, fired the Minister because there was rampant corruption (selling of visas, for example) in the department.  He appointed a new minister, but the office was closed for a month for house cleaning.  It reopened January 12.  We kept waiting and waiting, but no one seemed to know what was going on.  Our visas were due to expire on Feb. 17, and we had return tickets to the US for Feb. 7.  (One of the requirements to get in the country on a tourist visa is, of course, a return ticket, although no one checked to see if we had one either time we entered the country.)  We went to our lawyer and told her that if we didn't hear that our visas were approved, we would be leaving the country on our flight.  Within a couple of days, the lawyer in Quito called our lawyer and told her that our visas HAD been approved.  Our passports were sent to Quito for the application of our "silver certificates"; we should have them back this week.  We then go to Quito to get our national identity cards -- our cedulas -- and then we have to get our census cards -- our censos -- here in Cuenca. 

This means that we can look for property in earnest.  We had found a couple of places on the internet that interested us.  We saw one on Friday -- very beautiful, but remote with no access to it and no way to get electricity to it.  It was in a valley, and we suspect it floods (a river runs through it) and that it is government land; it is past the checkpoint to El Cajas National Park.  We were scheduled to look at a place in Nabon, about 50 miles from here, on Monday, but yesterday Ray received an email from the real estate agent we talked to, telling him that the property had been sold.  There is another place, also in Nabon, that we are interested in, but we haven't heard back from that real estate company yet.  The system here is unlike that in the US.  Anyway, we're giving it another month, and then we'll evaluate and make a decision.

Until next time, be well.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Medical cost and New York style pizza

At our apartment in Cuenca, Barbara and I sit across the table from each other to use our computers, do our planning, research and paper work. It seems that even though we share space, I wait until she posts on the blog to respond to her issues. That sounds about right, doesn't it ?

Barbara's last post was about the medical system in Cuenca but I think she left some things out - I hope I am still allowed my opinion. Here's the scoop - Barbara has one of the very best health insurance plans known to man ( only Congress has better ) but it doesn't apply in Ecuador. So what good is it ? It is a good point of reference. The fact is that she had a medical procedure here in Cuenca that she has had done in the U.S. many times. A process that determines her overall health and how she is doing managing her diabetes. The difference is the tests and lab work was all done by MDs and was way more extensive than in the U.S.. Normally taking 2 weeks the whole process was done in 24 hours, from 1st contact to prescription. Out of all this only the 1st consultation at the clinic was subsidized ( $6 ) the rest is all private business. Her prescription is name brand and the cost is 25% of Canadian prices, I forgot to say she paid less here for all of this than her co-pay would be in the states and her test results and ultra sound are her personal property.

Moving on - we have often said that you can find just about anything here that you are used to in the states, pizza isn't one of them. For the last 2 months we have been pointed to New York Pizza, well we finally found it. The only things New York about New York Pizza in Cuenca is a waitress who speaks a little english and New York prices.

We are finding there is a lot of misinformation being disseminated to gringos in Cuenca and it isn;t coming from Ecuadorians.