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