Thursday, July 28, 2011

Soccer, Santana School Visit and Visa Paperwork

This morning was Nick's second day of soccer practice, and we took the bus instead of a taxi. The bus is the same one we rode to Mall del Rio, and it goes right pass where Nick practices. The bus ride took about five minutes longer than the taxi, but you can't beat the cost savings (taxi $3, bus $.50). Nick scored a goal during the scrimmage today, and his teammates seem to have accepted the new gringo kid.

After getting home from soccer we had to take a taxi to the Santana School for a meeting with the Secondary (High School) School Principal Margarita. She explained the school's philosophy, uniforms, academics, costs, and the application process. One uniquely "Gringo Rule" that was explained to us came about because of some previous experiences with gringos. Example, an Ecuadoran family can pay the tuition and fees on a monthly basis, but gringos must pay 2-3 months in advance, because evidently some gringos have just quit midway through the school year without any warning. We have to get a slot or quota from the government for Nick to attend Santana, and evidently there are limited slots in the Santana School. We told the Principal that Nick would be entering 8th grade (completed 7th in US), and she told us there were no slots available in the 8th grade class this school year. We thought great, now we have to search again for a school for Nick. But, after talking with the Principal, she explained that Nick should be entering the 9th grade, because in Santana 1st grade is Kindergarten. Obviously, we were relieved that there is a slot available in 9th grade, but now we must begin the application process tomorrow which includes testing for Nick, and interviews with a School Psychologist for the three of us.

This evening we meet with Linda, who is our lawyer's (Gabriella Espinosa) representative here in Cuenca. Yesterday we received a call from Linda telling us we needed to go to the Immigration Office (near our apartment luckily) to get a "Movimiento Migratorio" for each of us. Susan, and I walked to the office with little idea of what to do or expect, but after about an hour and a half we walked out with the documents we needed, and $15 lighter in the wallet. So, now Linda has all our Visa paperwork to send to Gabriella's office in Quito, and Gabriella told us she expects to have everything submitted within the next two weeks. So, we have started the journey through the visa process, and we hope to avoid any surprises.

A long day is complete, and we are one more step closer to having our lives in order.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Futbol (Soccer) Practice

Yes! Today Nick joined the La Liga Quito (LDU) youth futbol club here in Cuenca under the direction of Pablo Marin a former LDU, and Ecuadoran National Team player. Practice was very much the same as his practices in the states with the exception of the lack of water breaks. The practice was two hours of non-stop activity, and Nick had no communication problems once he was on the field with his new teammates. The registration process was fairly easy since the team manager is Pablo's daughter, and she speaks a little English.

During the practice I had a conversation with one of the other fathers named Luis, and we talked the whole time with my limited Spanish and Luis's limited English. The best part was seeing Nick smiling, and having fun again with kids of a similar age. Futbol has been Nick's main source of interacting with people his age for the last several years outside of school, and it is a place he feels comfortable, and confident. Next for Nick is finding him a school. I contacted a private school (Santana) this morning, which is IB certified like his school back in Decatur (Renfroe Middle School), and now we are just waiting for an email with the instructions for registration.

One thing I relied on in the states was the ability to use Google to find a contact, or information for schools, physicians, futbol clubs, and anything else I ever needed. In Cuenca, It took me ten times as much work to find a contact for Nick's new futbol club, and someone at Santana who spoke enough English to help us. Susan, and I discovered something in our apartment called a "Phone Book".  The funny thing is, we declined and never used one in the states,but here it is actually more helpful than the internet for a lot of things.    

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Teaching English

I started teaching English to our building manager (Edgar), and his nine-year old daughter (Ebony) this morning in our apartment. Ebony has three workbooks for teaching English from her school, and they are very well written in my opinion. The plan is to have lessons Monday-Saturday beginning around 7:30 AM for an hour each day. I was a bit nervous to be teaching, since Susan was an actual teacher in the Air Force (Medic), and I was no more than a guest lecturer, or a Quality Air Force teacher a few weeks a year. Luckily for me, the expectations of my students is relatively low, and I am doing this for free, because I have no desire to work for an income ever again. As soon as money is involved the fun and enjoyment seems to slowly disappear. The benefit for me is I get to work on my Spanish in a low stress environment, and continue helping others as I did with soccer coaching in the states. Day one was fun (Susan joined in mid-way), and I gave homework to Edgar and Ebony, and they gave Susan and I homework as well. In August we resume our daily Spanish lessons with our young trio of teachers, Ana Isabel (11), Juan Jose (8), and Joaquin (8), so we will have 2-3 hours a day of Spanish/English lessons in our apartment, and lots of smiling faces to brighten our mornings. Life is good.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Water Update

We have water, both hot and cold, so we were excited to shower. Also, the new all-in-one washer/dryer was delivered, but the installation team arrived four hours after the delivery. After the installation, the person explained how to use the machine to my wife, and our landlady Martha. He explained it would take 4-6 hours to do one load of clothes! Martha immediately saw her electric bill rising rapidly above an acceptable level. So, Martha told Susan jokingly we could wash one load a week. Well, I spent an hour searching the web for an English version users manual, and found one. After reading the entire manual I discovered that the average time to wash and dry a regular load is 1 to 2 hours. Also, by creating a custom program you could shorten the time to 1 hour for a load. It is a very high-end LG unit with more options than the Space Shuttle, and more options than we could ever use. Well now after thinking about her purchase for a few hours, and the fear of a high electric bill, Martha has decided to return the washer/dryer for a different model. All of this is fine with us, and it just puts off washing clothes for a few more days. Luckily for the three of us we brought plenty of clothes. Just another part of the adventure in our new home.


Need water!

Yesterday, we noticed some problems with the hot water. So, we went down to Edgar (our bldg manager) and asked for help. He worked on it and called someone else they showed up right away and looked at and realized it needed special care. This morning they showed up bright and early to take it to a shop to get it fixed. We are still waiting at noon. We also received our washer/dryer today Yay! Of course we can't try it out until the water is back on. LOL

I've been in contact with a few people here in Ecuador to try to decide what to do about Nick and schooling. We have met with the Yahoo home schooling group here and another family and I've been emailing Trish from New Beginnings in Cuenca blog and our landlady Martha is realling advocating that we put Nick into school here. We have to try to contact the schools which we aren't having any luck yet.
More to come...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

From the Mouths of Babes

Today we began our daily hour long Spanish lessons with Juan Jose, Joaquin, and Ana Isabel. The are 8-11 years old, and they teach us Spanish, and in return we teach them English. They are cousins who we met through our landlady Martha, and they come to our apartment at 8:00AM each day for an hour before heading to basketball camp at the Coliseum. Before we moved here I was a youth soccer coach for a club in Atlanta, and had several players who were refugees from Sudan, and Afghanistan who were part of our family, so it is nice to have children to interact with again. One of the toughest decisions for me personally was to leave my coaching job to move to Cuenca, because my players brightened up even my worst day with their smiles. Also, Edgar our building manager is measuring our windows for new curtains, and the laundry room for a new all-in-one washer/dryer. Our landlady Martha is spoiling us with all the high-end furnishings and improvements to our apartment. Example, we have shower curtains, but Martha insists on installing glass doors to make the bathrooms look nicer. Martha is eager to get Nick into a good school she has taken it upon herself to help us find the best school. One of the reasons we decided on our apartment was Martha and Edgar treat us as family, and are always looking for ways to help make our transition to life here easier. We feel very fortunate.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Our View

Front of Our Building

View from our Living Room

We moved into our permanent apartment four days after arriving in Cuenca, and luckily it is in the same building, and just one floor below our short-term rental. The views from the apartment are beautiful from our living room as well as our bedrooms. We love the mountains in the background, and the view was one of the top things on our wish list in a new home. The apartment has 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, laundry room, dining room, living room, breakfast area, large kitchen, fully furnished (nicely too), excellent internet connection, and a lot more space (1200 sq feet) than we expected to find at a reasonable price. So, we spent 4 days in our short-term rental, which I guess is a very short-term rental, and are now comfortably established in what we hope will be our home for a very long time. 


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Arrived in Cuenca

We are settled into our short-term rental for our first night in our new home. Did some wandering around looking for an ATM, and a mini-market for some stuff for tonight. Nick ordered a chili dog in Spanish, so he has been successfully fed. Tomorrow we plan to venture further from our apartment, which is near the Sports Coliseum, to find the markets and Super Maxi. We really enjoyed the van ride from Guayaquil, and would recommended it to future travelers, because the views were amazing even on a cloudy day. Speaking the language will take some time, but we have been able to get from Atlanta to Guayaquil to Cuenca successfully and without any embarrassing language difficulties.  Sleep will come easy tonight.


Arrived in Guayaquil

We arrived last night on a Delta flight at 11:00PM, and are ready for the drive to Cuenca this morning. A few notes about the trip here. We purchased one way tickets for the trip through Expedia ($322 per ticket), and no one questioned the one-way tickets at anytime during the process. Immigration and customs were easy to navigate, lines are a little slow moving, and disorganized. Our hotel (Hampton Inn) was waiting for us with a sign, and loaded all our luggage, and delivered them to our hotel room. Susan is a little overwhelmed by the language, but we are not having any problems communicating. This morning we are getting a shuttle to Cuenca, which Juan from Ecuador Central arranged for us, and we should be in our short-term rental this evening. So far, so good.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Leaving USA...

We leave in less than 5 hours for Ecuador, and we are still packing, and scrambling to get our daughters settled. Stressful, but not too bad since everyone is helping, and the realization of our move is sitting in finally. Said our goodbyes to family and friends, and our next post will be from Ecuador. Everyone be safe.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

2 Days and counting

We are in Warner Robins, GA saying our good byes to family and friends. I am feeling the stress and anxiety I can't believe we leave Monday for GYE, Ecuador. I was hoping to see our son Frank before our trip but he can't make it out.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

6 Days to Go

Today is the day to get a new tire for Susan's Civic Hybrid that we are leaving for Christina. Well, as things work with us, instead of one tire, we needed three tires and an alignment. Additionally, the catalytic converter is bad, and need replacing. I budgeted $150 for car repairs, but instead we are looking at $1500! Nothing like the last minute surprises to add a little stress to your life. We are leaving tonight to drive to Washington, D.C., because I never received documents that required an apostille by the US State Department. It has been over two months, and I have left phone messages, and sent numerous emails requesting status, but no reply. Today's experiences reinforce my desire to leave the USA. Poor customer service and dedication to one's job is the exception in the USA instead of the norm. Automobiles are expensive to maintain, and depersonalize our movements through society. We hide behind glass encased vehicles, park in enclosed garages, and enter our houses from the back or the garage. Most front doors in America are no longer used, because we do not participate in society as our parents did. If we gain anything from our move to Cuenca, is I hope we are move involved in the world around us.

Monday, July 4, 2011

7 Days!

We are running out of time to get everything done.
last day of work: tomorrow
Washington DC: Tomorrow after work
Find all my stuff I wanted to take:?????
I hate the way we (Steve) moves, I call it a mess he calls it guerilla moving. Computer dying forgot the cord at the girls place.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

8 Days!

8 Days and counting. Steve and I have been staying in a hotel here in Atlanta trying to catch up from last weeks craziness. We took Nick to his friends house two hours south of ATL.
The girls having been trying to organize their apartment so tonight we will be staying there.

We never received Steve's retirement pay paperwork after sending it to the US State Department. So we are driving there this week, it's only a 10 hour drive, Ugh! I think we will head there after my last day of work on Tuesday.

We still have to organize our suitcases. Right now it's just all thrown in there and I can't fit everything I want.

Well, I have to finish breakfast. I will try to update but the girls don't have WiFi.