Sunday, November 18, 2012

Volunteering in Cuenca

This weekend I started my new gig as the volunteer, volunteer coordinator for Años Dorados an assisted living home right here in Cuenca, Ecuador. The home currently has 10 residents. It is not like any other nursing home that I have ever been in and I have been in quite a few. Since I was a CNA way back in the day before I join the military.

 Años Dorados is a beautiful home that has many different choices of rooms all having their own bathroom. The residents get to decorate them any way they like. There are an upstairs and downstairs dining room, a TV room downstairs, and sitting area upstairs and even an occupational therapy room. The staff is very kind. I loved meeting the residents.

I attended the Expat Day festival sponsored by Cuenca for Expats and the Cuenca Chamber of Commerce this Saturday.  Años Dorados had a booth there we gave information on the home and I tried to find volunteers. I was happy with the amount of people who signed up, I wish more would have but sometimes people are just here in Cuenca to hide away from real life.

The above picture is of me, Katy Johnson (head RN), Sonya (Occupational therapist), Fabio (Administrator) at our booth. We were giving out Tamales, Quimbolitos, Empanadas de carne y queso.

Now, I have to work on an orientation and a schedule. I hope this all works out for me and Años Dorados.

If you are interested in volunteering let me know. It doesn't have to be a long commitment or hard. You can come and chat, read, play games, help with feedings, work on your Spanish and the most important one just listen.

Update: Email if you are interested in assisting. Thank you!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Up to Seven in the house

Well, it has been a while since we have posted, as we've been busy with the influx of new people in the home. On September 11 our son Frank and friend Bill came to Ecuador. This was Bill's 3rd trip and hopefully he will get his residency this time and this is Frank's first time here. We are happy to have them here, but of course it makes for a more chaotic home.

In our home we eat and cook strictly vegetarian so that is a big change for Frank and Bill. Frank loves to go to the little snack shacks and get almuerzo (lunch) for $2, and if he'd stay there it would only be $1.40, but he brings it home. The first time he brought it home he wasn't sure what to do with the bag of red stuff. I informed him that it was some type of juice. So, he poured it into a cup and drank it all up. Bill goes out for lunch a lot to get his protein fix; he wasn't too sure about eating our "fake meats". I don't think he minds them much anymore.

Frank, Courtney and Steve have all started taking spanish lessons at Carolina Bookstore. They go twice a week. I am afraid they will pass me up, I better start doing my computer lessons :). Steve takes lots of notes and Frank says this is the most he has every learned, he attributes it to his teacher being nice to look at. Courtney doesn't take much notes, but says the class is reminding her of what she has learned already.

The first week Frank was here we let him settle in. The second week he and I worked together at Moca to get him trained. Then the next week he went on nights with Jenny, our Cuencana manager, so she could show him the ropes of nights and work on his spanish. Within Frank's first month here he was invited to attend the Miss Cuenca pagenant with a young lady he had met at the Mall. She was running for Miss Cuenca. Not too bad for only being here a month.

Nick has been doing alright at school. Courtney has been doing well working on her blog, her scarves and Moca. For all of the month of October, Courtney and Frank had been doing Halloween-themed movies on Saturday night for FREE. The turn out was low so I don't believe it will continue. The kids didn't make much money for Moca or for themselves (since they only get paid via tips for now).

Last Friday Bill's brother Tom finally made it to Cuenca with all his paperwork in hand and his life packed in two suitcases. He is ready to become an expat. We went out Saturday night to El Azteca and had some good food and good margaritas. This morning I went to meditation and my family, Bil,l and Tom came to have brunch at the Windhorse Cafe. Our friend Katie was there so she joined us. It is great to have a good bunch of friends.

I am still struggling to find things to do with myself. Being so young and retired is hard. Most of the retirees here are older and have other interests. I want to go to the Cajas and hike and go visit other small places near Cuenca. I have tried knitting and volunteering. I have to find something that I enjoy that makes me happy. I really enjoy meditation but I think Steve may be lonely if I meditate for hours on end. So I need to find something constructive.

We hope everyone is safe on the east coast, we see the nasty storm coming. We will keep you in our thoughts.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

School Starts for Nick

Monday was the first day of school for Nick, and his first day at a new school. He is now attending Centro Educativo Alborado which is a private school located in San Joaquin just outside of Cuenca. The campus is beautiful, and has grades 1-13 (k-12 US). There are a few other expat students, including Nick's friends Sage who is a grade ahead of him. His first two days found him being asked by the other expat students to act as interpreter since his Spanish is more advance than the others. We had to buy new uniforms ($115), luckily his dress shoes fit, but today we found out he needs white tennis shoes instead of brand new black and green ones we bought last week. This week we need to buy his books, and school supplies. He rides the bus to and from school, and it picks him up at 7:00am, which means we wake him up at 5:45am to get ready for his day. So far Nick like this school better than his previous school (Santana), because he says the students are nicer, and more open to talking with him.

Our middle son Frank arrives late next Monday night from Atlanta, and our friend Bill is also on the flight, so my friend Eddie and I will pick them up in Guayaquil at the airport. Also, Frank is bringing Nick and I two new video games for our PS3, so we are excited.

At Moca Cafe we are trying out new items for the menu from a new baker, and so far we think we have found some great new additions for our customers. We have officially closed down the Cuenca Flats Property Management web site, and replaced it with a blog site to list the three properties we have decided to manage for now, and no longer will be assisting people in finding rentals other than the ones we manage. The reality is that the energy required to manage even three properties is taking its toll on my desire to relax more, so we will see what the future holds.

Susan is the healthiest person in the family lately, because I have been sick for three weeks, and now Courtney and Nick are experiencing similar cold symptoms to mine. The recent cold temperatures we have been experiencing in Cuenca have not help my motivation to get out of the house as much. Well not much else going on here, so take care, and everyone stay safe.

UPDATE 9/7/2012: Cuenca Flats Property Management is officially, and completely closed down for good as we no longer have any properties under contract. If you are looking for any future assistance I recommend .

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rumors travel

According to Wikipedia a rumor or rumour (spelling differs between American and British English) is often viewed as "an unverified account or explanation of events circulating from person to person and pertaining to an object, event, or issue in public concern".

Rumors can hurt people, families and business. Rumors have been around from the beginning of time. I myself have listened to them but I would check with the person themselves before saying anything. I think it is the smart thing to do.
Here in Cuenca the Gringo (Gringo (Spanish: [ˈgɾiŋgo], Portuguese: [ˈgɾĩgu]) is a slang Spanish and Portuguese word used in Ibero-America, to denote foreigners, often from the United States. The term can be applied to someone who is actually a foreigner, or it can denote a strong association or assimilation into foreign (particularly US) society and culture. While in Spanish it simply identifies a foreigner, without any negative connotation,[1] in English the word is often considered offensive or disparaging) population is small in comparison to the Cuencano's. So word spreads fast good or bad. For instance if a store gets in American Peanut butter the community will know fast.
In this day we have many ways to receive rumors. Face to face, Facebook, Yahoo groups, Blogs and the list goes on. We have a responsibility to ourselves and each other to verify this information with the source. We should try not to hurt people intentionally.
Last year we met some people that started to try to spread rumors to our landlady but she knew us and asked us and it was fine, but it still hurt to know that people would try to that.
My POINT of this blog post is to get you to THINK before you share news/information.
Rumors hurt! Thanks for reading, Susan

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


We have been living in Cuenca for slightly more than thirteen months now, and hopefully are daily lives will begin to slow down over the next couple of months. Our son Frank is scheduled to arrive September 10th, so we will have three of our five children living with us here. In the USA we would have never considered inviting our older children to move back home, but here families treat each other differently, and it is more accepted to have unmarried adult children living at home. Our oldest daughter Courtney has already taken more of a leadership role at Moca, and the goal is have Susan train Frank once he arrives, so he can work at Moca with Courtney, and our manager Jenny. This will allow Susan and I, along with our partner Trish to act as mentors, and provide assistance when necessary. Susan, and I came here to retire, and the time to sit back and relax is becoming a real possibility with the arrival of Courtney and Frank.

Our other business, Cuenca Flats is gradually winding down, and we are limiting ourselves to managing only three properties for the immediate future. Managing properties is time consuming, and the money we earn does not impact our quality of life, so we have reevaluated the properties, and eliminated all but three. From the very beginning we let everyone know we weren't real estate agents and never had any interests in becoming one. We knew a few people (Ecuadorians) who owned properties, and they asked us to help, and we did for the most part. But, lately as more and more expats move to Cuenca I have become disenchanted with working in an area (real estate) that exposes me to so many expats, and so few Ecuadorians.

Let me explain the reason for my disenchantment. I grew up in San Antonio, Texas. We used to call San Antonio the capital of Northern Mexico when I was growing up. I was always comfortable being surrounded by the Hispanic community, and felt I had more in common with them than people for Minnesota, Virginia or Oregon. The Air Force sent me to live in the Azores for four years, and I loved the Portuguese culture, and left many friends behind when we returned to the USA.  My Air Force career of twenty-five years introduced me to many cultures, and countries beyond the borders of my home in Texas. I grew to understand that there were many great cultures throughout the world, and people regardless of where they were from, were just like me, but shaped by the uniqueness of their own culture and experiences. So, when we discussed moving from Atlanta, Georgia, we weren't moving out of a dislike for our own country, but instead in search of expanding our experiences, and those of our fourteen year-old son Nick by living in a different culture, and by not having to work any longer. Nick is now on his way to being bi-lingual (Spanish-English), and has matured so much in the last year, and I feel is because of his surroundings, and the additional time he spends with Susan and I compared to back in the USA.

So, in the last month in attempt to surround ourselves with more opportunities to experience the local culture, we have moved out of the very nice apartment in an affluent neighborhood to a house in a middle-class Ecuadorian neighborhood where we are the only expats. Our house is older, but our landlord allowed us to refinish the wood floors, paint, and refinish the kitchen ourselves (cost and labor) to make it our own. Our neighbor across the street is very friendly, and greets us with a smile when he sees us, and I have been accepted into the group that plays futsal in the park near our house. I am proud to be a Texan-American, and I am very fortunate to have grown up with an abundance of amazing opportunities that my family and country provided me. I am also proud of the twenty-five years I served my country, and feel great pride in what I accomplished as a member of the Air Force. And as a result of being raised in such fortunate circumstances, I know am blessed with the opportunity to live in Cuenca with my wife, and children. So, I will continue to offer a helping hand to an expat when I see they are in need of one, but I want to spend more time relaxing and getting to know my new neighbors, and understanding their culture.

While I will NEVER be accepted as a local, my hope is to be able to practice my Spanish, and grow as a person through interacting with my neighbors on a daily basis. I don't want to change my neighbors or my neighborhood, but I want to earn the trust of my neighbors, and to be a small part of the community. Hopefully they will gain something from interacting with my family as well. When you get down to it, we are all human beings, very similar in physical form, but our minds and beliefs are shaped by our experiences, and the people and cultures we interact with during our life. So, it is time for a change, and for me to take a big step back from all the things (Moca, Cuenca Flats, etc...) I have been involved in for the last year to relax, and get to know my new neighborhood, and my new neighbors.     

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

First Dentist Visit in Cuenca

About two weeks ago I started having a toothache. We were in the middle of moving into our new house when the pain started. I self medicated with motrin. Last week I started trying to call some dentists that were on a list on a Facebook group. They must have been on vacation or busy. I wasn't able to reach any of them.
My husband emailed our friend Oscar to get his wifes information so I could go see her. Today I got to go see her. Dr Paula Dominguez 097-868-908. She was very gentle with me since I am not a good dental patient. Her office is located just off of Solano on Daniel Cordova Toral. so far with my experience with the doctors and dentists in Cuenca they don't have assistants when you call you usually talk with them directly. Even at her office it is just her.
I asked her how much a cleaning would be for those of you interested she stated that it would be $30. I am not sure what others charge, but she is really nice and gentle.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Children in Ecuador

Today a friend and I went with our lawyer (who is bilingual) to visit Tadeo Torres. It is an orpanage just on the outskirts of Cuenca, that is currently caring and housing 24 children under the age of five years old. They were so adorable. It is sad to see so many children without loving families. The orphanage has a nice main house where they dine and the infants room is there then out in the back are play areas and rooms which they call their houses. The rooms that open to the outside courtyard. There are playrooms and therapy rooms and a medical office. On the back part of the property is the nuns house.

We found out that in order to adopt in Ecuador you need to be a resident for 2 years, which puts a damper on my friends plans. She would really love to adopt a child and give them a home right NOW, but she will have to wait. They also have a screening process (more to come on that) and classes that you have to take once approved.

Here in Ecuador you don't get to chose your child. You can ask for a specific age range and gender and they give you a resume (basically) of a child. You then have two weeks to review it and make the most important decision in your life and theirs. You have to ensure that you are willing to become this childs everything.

We asked what they needed. They asked for diapers size medium to large and a formula brand called Nestle Nan 1 and 2. If anyone is interested in donating please bring the items or cash to Moca Cafe Bar on Gran Colombia y Manzaneros, Moca sits in between Unidad Nacional and Las Americas at the base of Edificio Excalibur next to Banco International.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Busy in Cuenca

Finally my life is starting to get busy and guess what? I miss the days of taking it easy. I don't miss being bored but I miss not having things scheduled so if I wanted to stay in I could.

Last Tuesday my friends Craig and Lucy were having their soft opening of their restaurant the Windhorse Cafe on Calle Larga y Hermano Miguel. Steve and I walked in to the smell of breakfast cooking and people chatting it was great. Steve ordered oatmeal with brown sugar, bananas and nuts and a coffee. I ordered a fruit salad with yogurt, granola and a tea. We enjoyed or meal and the rushed off to the hospital ( it's not what you think).

We had taken our friend to Monte Sinai hospital on Sunday and they were admitted and on Tueday they were being released. We got there at 10:30 just in time I thought, but sadily they still had to remove the IV. Steve and I waited with our friend for an hour and a half longer and finally someone removed it and we went down to pay the bill. We couldn't believe how inexpensive it was, it was only a little over $600 for 2 nights and 3 days in the hospital. Wow!

After taking our friend home Steve and I went on a search for a new panini maker for Moca. Ours has broken twice now and we have had it fixed both times (they can fix anything around here) so we think we should have a new one on stand by. One of friends told us of a restaurant supply store so we went there to check it out. Wow they had some nice panini makes with really expensive prices, but they are restaurant grade. We also went to the normal places Coral and Super Stock and had no luck finding what we were looking for at the price we are looking for.

We took on a new property to manage for Cuenca Flats that has a tenet in it for the next two years, so pretty good we thought. Well, in between all these errands on Tuesday we also got a call from the tenet that the hot water wasn't working in one of the bathrooms. So in between helping our friend and looking for a new panini maker we went by the apartment and checked on the hot water heater. Oh my did I miss my apartment and being bored :). Steve played witht the water heater and found a temporary solution until we can get a plumber there.

Through out the rest of the week we feel as if we are on the move non stop. On Wednesday I had to go in to Moca in the morning to work since Steve and Courtney had to try to get an extension on Courtney's Visa since our lawyer apparently didn't file the paperwork in time again. On Wednesdays it is also ladies lunch day at noon, where a group of women pick a place once a week and we meet up talk and try out a new restaurant. We also started doing a donation fund for ARCA a foundation to protect animals. This week it was supposed to be at San Sebas so I told another friend about it and she was going to head there and then at 2pm head to a NEW weekly scrabble game. At 12:45ish she appeared at Moca and said the taxi drove her around for 45 minutes and couldn't find the cafe or the park that it is next to. So, she had lunch at Moca. It was great to see her. Wednesday nights is reserved for Book Study. Every Wednesday night we meet some friends to talk about a book. The book we are studying at this time is "Shambhala the sacred path of the warrior". It is a great book. Some of these people also meet on Sundays for meditation. I started a new Facebook group for Meditation in Cuenca in case others were interested in meditation.

Today is Friday and about 6 weeks ago I started Afternoon Tea at Moca a Ladies Social hour where ladies can get together have tea and coffee for FREE and chat. I have also set up some guest speakers. This week was supposed to be a cosmetic surgeon but he had to cancel last night due to a emergency surgery that he is doing today. On the 22 of June, I have a lady coming to talk about Essential Oils.

As you can tell I am not as bored anymore as I was in my earlier posts :). What do you plan to do when you get here? or if you are here already what do you do?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Changes is in the Air

Change: "(verb) to become altered or modified, or to become transformed or converted."

The last three days we have had wonderful sunny days with a slight breeze, and beautiful moonlight nights. The weather has changed, for how long, I don't know, but I hope this is what to expect for the immediate future. We are changing as the weather changes, and it feels great. Nick's Spanish skills have progressed to the point he impresses Susan and I each time we hear him converse totally in Spanish with an Ecuadorian. Courtney has become comfortable working at Moca, and seems to be smiling and talking much more than I remember from when she lived in Atlanta. Susan is involved in several projects (Mediation group, Women's Group, and helping out our friends), and we are both spend Wednesday evenings in a book study group. The family seems to be smiling more, working together more often, and I can't remember seeing our home so calm. At Moca, we are gradually building a regular clientele, and welcoming new customers daily. Deportivo Cuenca Southern Express Fan Club, an idea for an expat fan club of the local futbol club by Thomas Golden has created a buzz in the community, and it is nice to be involved in futbol again. In the last week, we have sold our friend's second car for her, leased her rental apartment for two years to nice lady named Judy, and helped an expat get his upholstery, and rugs cleaned in his apartment. Additionally, we enrolled Nick in a new school for the fall, Centro Educativo Alborada.

Change, for us started with moving to Cuenca in July2011, and now after almost eleven months all the experiences we have had, the good and the bad, have changed who we are as human beings, and as a family. We are at peace with our surroundings, and the new culture, and no longer fighting uphill against things we can't change. Now we accept our friends, family, even strangers, and most importantly ourselves for who we have become. Cuenca has changed us for the better, and for that we are agradecido (thankful). 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Friends trip to the emergency room

Guest Post
Hello. My name is Marsha. I am a 60 something retiree who moved from Florida to Cuenca Ecuador seven weeks ago. I have arthritis in both knees and thought it wise to bring a walker with me. In the States I used electric carts in the stores to shop. There is only one store that I know of Supermaxi that has one. So my walker has been great.

Last night I went to bed and felt a considerable amount of pain in my left knee. The pain kept me up all night and by morning I could barely walk with my walker. Not good. With much ado, I got dressed and called for a taxi. The security guard at my condo complex was very helpful as well as the taxi driver. Getting in the taxi with a knee that does not want to bend is challenging.

I called Steven as I knew Susan was out at that hour. Steven and their daughter Courtney met me at the hospital. Susan was not far behind.

I went to Monte Sinai via emergency. The emergency room was clean and quiet. The nurse got my name, address and phone number and asked if I had any money. I gave her my credit card and it was good. Thank goodness I speak some Spanish. The female doctor got my history. Then it was decided to call Eddie who is fluent in Spanish and we had a three way conversation.

The doctor said she was a general practitioner and asked if I wanted a specialist. No. Not at this time. I was given a shot for pain and then had x-rays taken of my knee,

The diagnosis was bone on bone. Ugh. The doctor called an orthopedic specialist who showed up within 20 minutes. I started explaining what happened in Spanish and then he asked if I spoke English. Yes. The remainder of the conversation was in English. Yes! He explained my situation and was very kind. I have a follow up visit with him in a few days.

When it came time to pay my bill, I did so in cash..not with my credit card. The emergency room, pain shot, x-rays, exam by two doctors came to $92! Susan and Steven then got my 2 prescriptions filled for $10. As a retired nurse I know I received good medical care. I was seen in a timely fashion and treated well.

Hopefully not, but should I require further medical care here, I will go without qualms. The same care in the U.S. would have taken much longer and certainly would have cost much more.

Thank you Marsha for the guest post.

I also wanted to let you all know that with a Supermaxi card at Monte Siani you get a 10% and 5% discount on some services.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Vegetarian in Cuenca

When we arrived here in July I was concerned how I would maintain my vegetarian diet that I have had for the last six years, my vegetarian friends that I met through Facebook assured me that it would be easy because, fruits and vegetables are in abundace here. The only problem is I didn't cook.

In the US I could buy frozen vegetarian food like Morning Star and Quorn and throw it in the microwave or oven, but when we did our first trip to the grocery store, Supermaxi I was disappointed. What would we do. For the last two years in the US we hadn't even cooked meat in the home even though the other family members eat meat they would just eat it when we went out. We had to learn to make other things, we had to learn to cook.

We started with trying to add eggs in meals since they are a high protein source. We bought different types of peas in a can, since I don't like frozen peas and they weren't right either. One day at Supermaxi or Coral (the other big store here) I saw TVP and on the package it said Soya. Could this be a protein source? I didn't buy it yet I went home and did some online research. Wikipedia stated "Textured or texturized vegetable protein (TVP), also known as textured soy protein (TSP), soy meat, or soya meat is a defatted soy flour product; a by-product of extracting soybean oil. It is often used as a meat analogue or meat extender. It is quick to cook, with a protein content equal to that of meat."

I found out that I can use TVP in almost anything that you would use ground beef in. Meat loaf, hamburgers, lasagna, and tacos. Wow this is very versitile. Why didn't I every try this in the US? Oh because I didn't really like to cook. We also found out that a local restaurant sells Tofu. I was so excited I went and bought some but it was soft tofu and it didn't work to well I had more of a scrambler effect with it LOL. Then I went back and asked if they sell firm and she sold me some and said it wasn't real firm but it worked I was able to fry it up in our stir fry. I was so thrilled.

On Wednesday of last week Courtney and I were walking through El Centro trying to get some of my goals done. As we were heading home I noticed a picture of meat in a nutrirional store and I thought that was strange. They were real busy so I didn't go in. We continued our walk and I saw it again. This time the store wasn't busy so we went in and I asked the young man about it and he said it was completely soy. I was so happy something else to add into our bland meal rotation. They had hotdogs, chorizo and a steak all are veggie friendly. When we got home Nick was so excited that he was going to be able to have hotdogs. On the package it states they also have bacon, salami, bologna, chicken, ham, BBQ, and cocktail (not sure what that would be). We will have to try some of the others.

There are tons of vegetarian restaurants here in Cuenca so if you like to eat out you won't have any problems. I would list them but I don't know all of them, so I would leave some out. You can go to Vegan and Happy to find some of our local vegetarian restaurants.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

5 Goals in Cuenca

We have been here over 10 months now and I still don't know where certain places are or where to get certain things done.
We have also made a new friend who has interests in knitting and I have no clue where those types of stores are so this week I have some new things to do.
According to
There are three main obstacles that make goals hard to achieve; stress, our subconscious, and emotional addiction.
I know stress makes it hard for me to achieve my goals at times. I stress about my spanish communication skills which in turn makes it difficult for me to go out and look for the things I want. What obstacles are in your way?

Five goals for me this week
  1. Find knitting stores for my friend
  2. Find someone to make a few wood projects for me and my friend (step stool, meditation stool and an over the sink shelf)
  3. Find someone who can make me a cushion for the meditation stool and maybe one to go under it (helps with my ankles)
  4. Find a copy place to make color copies for my meditation group
  5. Find low cost sturdy furniture for my friend (maybe a bed frame for me)
I have a general idea of where to look, El Centro :), but I usually don't have the patience to look for places on my own but Steve has been busy at Moca so I must do it.

Wish me luck as I attempt these goals!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Approaching 10 Months in Cuenca

In three days we will celebrate our ten-month anniversary of living in Cuenca, and it is time to share some of my impressions of our new home.

1. Weather: The weather is not spring like everyday unless you are from Canada or Montana. Spring in Atlanta means thunderstorms and high temperatures in the mid-80's to low 90's. Here expect morning temperatures in the mid-50's, and afternoon highs in the mid-60's, with an occasional sunny day in the mid-70's. Rain is frequent, but usually only an hour or so late in the afternoon, and it is rare when it rains all day. As you all have heard we do not have central heat in Cuenca, so homes can feel a bit chilly at times, but it is nothing a sweater, or a space heater can't overcome. I am a rare individual that wears shorts most of the time, because I don't want to be confused for an Ecuadorian. LOL. Actually, I used to play a lot of golf, and soccer, so shorts have been plentiful in my wardrobe. When we move here I tried to change, but I just can't get used to "big boy pants", so a fellow expat, and I are now known for wearing shorts around town. We walk a lot here, so the temperature is perfect for shorts for me, but some, including my beautiful wife feel the weather is on the cold side.

2. Finding an Apartment or House: Susan and I have a little property management company we started after being asked by an Ecuadorian friend to help with her properties. It has grown to include several apartments, and even a home for sale, but as I tell people we are not Realtor's. Yes, we have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, but the one we stayed did not include a real estate course, so we leave the searching for potential homes to the true real estate people. Expats in Cuenca are some of the most helpful people you will ever meet, and many helped us when we were the newbies. But, even after being here as long as we have, I still don't feel comfortable recommending a certain area of Cuenca to live, or if you should get a house or an apartment. But, I have come to the conclusion that if you have specific needs in mind for a new home you should use a local real estate professional. We list properties for customers, we show the properties to interested clients who contact us, but we do not feel qualified to act as a Realtor in helping clients find a new home. We have turned down many opportunities to earn $10 or more per hour to help newcomers find their new home. One suggestion I do share with newcomers is to rent first, and do so for 90 days, and no longer. Newcomers need to get their bearings, and make new friends before settling on a home to purchase or a long-term rental. Many expats move to a new apartment or house within 6 months of arriving in Cuenca, because they have learned the city, and made new friends, or found a better place to live. So, please rent short-term initially, settle in, and explore your new city before making any long-term commitments.

3. Schools for Expat Children: We discovered with our 14 year old son Nickolas that six-weeks of Spanish lessons is not enough to drop him into a Spanish-speaking school. After one semester at the private school Santana we realized we had made a mistake with our son. It is difficult enough changing schools in the states when you understand the language being spoken. All schools have their cliques, but imagine the adjustment to a new language, new cliques, and teachers that are unwilling to challenge a student, because he is from another country. So, we decided to home-school Nickolas through the use of an on-line curriculum, and spend the time before the next school year improving his Spanish with lessons three times a week. Nickolas is ready to get back to a regular school, and his Spanish has improved significantly.

4. Television: We were once a five television household! Now, we are a household that has a 20" television which we only use for our PS3, and our weekly movie night. No Cable, no Direct TV, and to be honest I don't miss it as much as I thought I would a few months ago. Our apartment is wired for Direct TV, and there are all kinds of televisions here for sale, but it has become something I have learned to live without. We spend more time talking (not as much as we should), reading, surfing the internet, or watching specific television shows on our computers when we are at home.

5. Learning Spanish: Susan and Nickolas are both speaking Spanish much better than I am at this point. They both have the accent down well, and a much bigger vocabulary than they did just three months ago. I can still get things done in Spanish on my own, but I feel a little ashamed that I haven't taken the time to learn more.

6. Social Life: Susan and I have never been social animals, or a couple who spent evenings out with friends very often. We have met a lot of interesting, and friendly people during our time here, and luckily we even consider many of them our friends (hopefully they feel the same way). Being an expat creates an environment to where people tend to be more open to new friends and experiences. There are plenty of opportunities to meet new people here. Just this morning I met my friend Bob for breakfast with four other gentlemen, and enjoyed good food, and conversation. This afternoon, Susan enjoyed lunch with several women, including our friend Maxine at a nice inexpensive vegetarian restaurant in El Centro. So, the opportunities are there to meet new people, you just have to get out there, and meet them.

7. Missing the USA: Personally, I miss our children back in Georgia, and Illinois, the friends we left behind, and the soccer players I was lucky enough to coach and mentor during my time in Decatur, and Warner Robins. I don't miss the depressing political environment, and constant complaining about the status of the economy, government, educational system, immigration, and the lack of compassion for the less privileged in society. Susan misses the ease of getting in her car, and hitting thrift stores, grocery stores, and of course our children. Nickolas misses his friend Emanuel, and fast food, and maybe his siblings. Courtney is still in the honeymoon phase.

8.  Helping Others: The uniqueness of being retired at this point in our lives has provided us the opportunity to help others. We have shown people the beauty of the indigenous markets, how to safely use the buses, where to find certain items, or just showing someone where to get their "Movemiento Migratorio." Last week we got some friends together to paint a newcomers apartment, because she wasn't able to do it herself, and to reconfigure her bathroom to make it handicap accessible. A friend donated a bed to save her some money, and Susan has taken her shopping to make her new home comfortable. We don't expect anything in return for helping people, we just feel good knowing we had a positive effect on someones life, and hopefully they will pass it on one day. Our daughter Courtney has noticed the change in my behavior since she has been here. I am more willing to talk to strangers, or take the time help an expat with his internet problems, or walk a new couple to the Immigration office to get a form they need for their visa application. We are truly blessed to live in Cuenca at this time of our lives, and it feels great to help others when the opportunity presents itself.

9. Patience: Nothing happens in Cuenca quickly, or when you expect it. There is not one store where you can buy everything you could ever need. Restaurants are not in a hurry to serve your food, but are in no hurry to see you leave either. I spent parts of three days looking for one brass fitting for a Whirlpool dryer, and visited over 25 different stores with my friends (one Peruvian, one Ecuadorian, one Expat) before the item was found. We laughed at our inability to find this one part, but we discovered several new hardware stores, and shared a remarkable adventure. It seems Super Maxi the big grocery store has cameras following me when I shop. I will find something I like and buy it, but whether it is cereal, cheese, or peanut butter, the very next time I try to find it, it has disappeared to never return. I swear someone is doing it on purpose just to toy with me,  but I refuse to let it frustrate me, I am way too competitive to let the mystery people win.

10. Beauty: I wake up each morning next to the most beautiful woman (my wife Susan) in the world, and the rest of my day is filled with the smiling faces of children on the way to school in their uniforms, and the beautiful green expanses along the Rio Tomebamba  that separates old town from new town. It is hard to have a bad day when you are surrounded by family, friends, and the limitless beauty of Cuenca.

So, try your best to smile, and enjoy life, because it is far too short to waste even a single day being unhappy!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Wardrobe Malfunctions? Talk to La Rapida

Guest post by Bill Mann.
Bill is a technical writer, instructor and partner at Ecuador SB Marketing

One thing that seems to happen to us expats when we get to Ecuador is that we tend to lose significant weight. Whether it is the weather, the food, the lack of stress, whatever it is, after a little time in country, our wardrobes need some help. One option is to buy new clothes (assuming we can find stuff that fits), but here in Cuenca there's another option. There are still places you can go and get your clothes altered just like in the olden days in the US. One such place is La Rapida.

La Rapida  is a chain of shops that can alter your clothes, repair your shoes, fix your luggage, put new holes in your belt, basically do whatever it takes to make your clothes fit you once again. There are a total of 8 locations scattered around Cuenca. Since I was lucky enough to be one of those who lost a lot of weight since I got here, I decided to test out the services at the primary La Rapida location at Tarqui 6 – 38 y Calle Larga Matriz.

I made two trips to La Rapida. First time I showed up with two shirts, a pair of pants, and a belt, all of which were now too large. Once my turn came up, they led me to the back of the shop, where a small bathroom under the stairs had been converted into a dressing room. If you are old enough to remember going to the tailor decades ago in the US, you know what happened next. I put on some of the clothes that needed to be altered and stepped out of the dressing room. I was greeted by a tailor with her measuring tape and chalk who asked what I needed done. For my pants, she not only measured and marked off the waist, but she also suggested that they could narrow the legs to fit better. When it came to the shirt, she marked off the sides to make it fit better along my torso, she also altered the sleeves.

Now it had been a long, long time since I visited a tailor (so my memories are fuzzy), but I don't remember that kind of thing happening back then. Even better, they told me that my clothes would be available the next afternoon. That was a 24-hour turnaround time. Even better, the total cost was $14.

When I got back the next day, they simply bundled up my clothes and sent me home. When I got there I tried everything on and am happy to report that everything fit just right.

I took a larger load of clothes back the next day and went through the same process, with the same results. This time, it was 4 shirts and two pairs of pants for $22. Again, everything came out just so. If your clothes (or leather goods, or shoes, or luggage) need repairs or alterations, I suggest you give La Rapida a try.

Thank you, Bill Mann for your post.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Quito and the Cedula Plan, Part 2

The continuing saga of Quito and the Cedula Plan...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012
After leaving our lawyers office at 5:30pm, we needed to find a place to spend two more nights, and of course some dinner. We checked out Casa Bamboo, a hostel near our lawyers office, but it didn't quite meet our needs, so we continued our search. We ended up returning to the Travelers Inn, and got a different room (106) for the same rate. We bought some snacks at a tienda nearby, and settled in for the night with low expectations of anything happening the next day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012
We attempted to sleep in, but we're awaken by guests entering the dining room directly above our room for breakfast beginning at 7:00am. So, not being able to sleep, Susan attempted to take a shower, but there was no hot water! Old hostels with wood floors tend to be noisy, and have a limited supply of hot water, so beware of room #106. Nick wasn't feeling well after breakfast, so he decided it would be better if he stayed in the room, and played on his laptop. Susan, and I decided to check out the Basilica del Voto Nacional, and enjoyed a nice 30 minute walk from our hostel. The Basilica was beautiful, and after reading Dano's blog,  AHHH Cuenca!, and seeing his pictures we decided we too would climb to the top of the Basilica. We definitely would not have been able to climb the many stairs, and ladders when we first arrived in Ecuador eight months ago, but we were surprised how well we held up now.

Once we returned to our hostel to check on Nick (he was fine), we took a siesta (yes, my favorite part of Ecuador!), and later called our lawyer to check on the status of our Cedulas. We talked to our lawyer, and was told she would call the next morning to fill us in on the next phase of the Cedula Plan. Dinner out again, this time we enjoyed a nice meal at an Argentinian Steak House with an eccentric Italian owner who loves to tango with his staff, and guests. A another nice walk to the hostel, and to rest up for hopefully our last day in Quito.

Thursday, March 29, 2012
We woke up early to shower, thus we had hot water, YES! We waited for a phone call as usual from our lawyer, and lo and behold she called to tell us I was needed to help convince a clerk to speed up the processing of our corrected Cedula form in order for us to possibly get our cedula on FRIDAY!. Well, I rushed to the Registro Civil to meet our lawyers assistant, who after seeing me arrive, explained in Spanish that we needed to go to a different building, which happened to be very near our hostel. I spoke to a clerk, and she agreed to assist with the form, and then I was told there was nothing else we could do today, but wait for a phone call. Back to the hostel, and requested one more night in our room, and luckily there was space. Susan and Nick weren't in the room when I returned, and later I found out they had gone to Subway for lunch. Where Nick enjoyed his first sub in over eight months. So, we had another dinner in Quito at Papa Johns later that evening, and prepared for one more chance at getting our Cedula.

Friday, March 30,2012
We checked out of our hostel at 7:00am, and headed to the Registro Civil to meet our lawyers assistant at 8:00am. Eventually at 9:30 the assistant arrived, and once again I was participating in begging a clerk to fix my problem which was created by our lawyer in the first place. Finally, at 10:30am we were told the forms were waiting on a supervisor at another office to sign the corrected forms along with about 30 other forms from others. We headed to lunch to await one final call telling us whether we would or would not get our Cedulas. The three of us had a little hope at this point, and around 12:30pm we received confirmation that we were not getting our Cedulas, and we had spent 5 nights/6 days in Quito for nothing, Next step was finding our way to the bus station, and to get home to Cuenca. Of course, to cap off our thrilling week-long trip, we got lost going to the bus station. After finding the bus station, buying tickets, and boarding the bus, we were on our way back home to Cuenca.

Saturday, March 31, 2012
The final few hours of the bus ride to Cuenca was the toughest. We were tired, but couldn't sleep, and due to some rain, and fog the bus seemed to be going very slow. The return trip to Cuenca took ten hours, and it felt really great to be back in Cuenca. After the quickest cab ride we ever had in Cuenca, we arrived at our apartment at 3:00am, home sweet home, at last.

So, nineteen hours on buses, five nights in a noisy hostel, hours sitting in uncomfortable chairs in three different government offices, three different assistants, one really long discussion with our lawyer, and the biggest accomplishment of the whole time was that I finished reading three books during the trip. The plan now is to return to Quito once our daughter Courtney's residency visa is approved, and we will all make the journey again. But, we have the residency visa stamp in our passports, so that is what we really needed. The Cedula is something we can wait to get eventually, or at least before I turn 65 years old, so our lawyer has a little less than 12 years to fix her mistakes.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Quito and the Cedula Plan, Part 1

With our residency visas approved on February 16th, the next step was to travel to Quito to get our Censo updated, and receive our Cedulas. Our plan was to leave Cuenca on the morning of March 21st by plane, and return the same day. The goal is to get our Censo information updated, and to get our Cedulas in one day, or in worse case two days. Below is how the actual plan played out.

Problem #1. The first change of plans was the result of the cost of airfare. The best rate we could find for a round-trip fare, Cuenca to Quito was $152.40 per person. Of course I waited until 72 hours before the trip to purchase tickets, so that affected to prices, but I did look forward 10 days, and never could find a lower price (in-person or on-line).

Solution #1. We decided the cost of bus tickets ($12 per person) vs. the price of airfare ($152.40 per person) was enough of an incentive to take the bus option, and travel a day early on Sunday, March 25th.

Sunday, March 25, 2012
We left at 6:40am, and eventually arrived in Quito nine hours later, but overall it was a good ride. We used Flota Imbabura bus company, and the office is in the Terminal Terrestre near the airport. The bus was clean, comfortable, and safe.We arrived in Quito at the new bus terminal south of Quito, Terminal Terrestre Quitumbe at 3:30pm. Terminal Terrestre Quitumbe is a modern, airy, and safe terminal with buses arriving, and departing 24/7 too many destinations to list. From what we have been told the old bus terminal was outdated, dirty, and very unsafe for travelers, but the new terminal was nicer than several airport terminals I have passed through in the USA. They have clearly marked signs to direct you to ticket counters, bathrooms, security, and LEGAL taxis. We took a 30 minute taxi  ($10) to our hostal called Travelers Inn, which was recommended by several members of the Ecuador Expats Group on Facebook of which we are members. Travelers Inn has hostel-type accommodations, and with available rooms with private bathrooms. Our triple room (Rm 101) included two twin beds, one full bed, a full bathroom, a small TV (no cable or Direct TV), two windows, and a closet for $45.74 per night. The shower provide very little water pressure, and depending on when you showered little or no hot water. You are not allowed to eat in your rooms, but you do get free, but slow WiFi, and breakfast is included in your room fee. We settled into our room, and later found a Papa John's three blocks from our hostal for dinner, and then returned to our room to get some rest before the busy day ahead of us on Monday.

Monday, March 26, 2012
Monday morning we woke up, ate breakfast in the dining room. The breakfast consisted of fresh fruit, croissants, juice, coffee/tea, yogurt, and eggs. It was enough to get you going in the morning, but on a scale of 1-5 (5 being Excellent), I would give it a 3 out of 5. Coffee was weak, the portions small, but the service was good. We met with our lawyer, Dra. Gabriele Espinosa in her office at 9:30am to review our account, and submit documents for our eldest daughter Courtney's Visa application. We headed out to update our Censo first with Juan, our lawyers bi-lingual assistant. It took us until 2:00pm to finally get paperwork that updated our Censo information, expiration date, but as well all know, we could not get the actual Censo Card, because Ecuador is out of the official Censo Cards. So, we have a letter stating our new information, and will be able to get our Censo Card in Cuenca once the new forms arrive. Next we took a taxi to the Registro Civil to get our Cedulas, or we had thought we would be getting our Cedulas. Eventually by the time we arrived at the office they had already given out all the numbers for the day, so were told at 2:45pm that nothing else could be done today. With nothing else to do we headed to McDonalds for a snack, and stopped at a nearby SuperMaxi for some supplies before walking (25 minutes) back to our hostel. We were disappointed, but not too upset at this point. After a siesta (one of my favorite things about Ecuador) we headed to Plaza Foch which is a collection of restaurants, cafes, bars, galleries, and hostels in the Mariscal District. We decided after looking at several menus of eating dinner at the Magic Bean (Restaurant, Cafe, and Hostel). The atmosphere was pleasant, but the food was average at best. I would try it again if I was in the area, because the menu was impressive, and it could have just been an off night. Once again we headed back to our hostel to rest for what we hope is our last day in Quito.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012
At 6:45am we checked out of our hostel, and headed back to the Registro Civil to stand in line to get a number. The lined formed thirty minutes before the office opened, and after standing in line for an hour we received numbers 250, 251, and 252. Next step was to head downstairs to wait for our numbers to be called, and our lawyers assistant to show up. After waiting another two hours our numbers are called, and we head to three separate desks with our one assistant Raoul. Susan and I are at desk next to each other, but Nick (14 yr old son) is out of sight at another desk. I hand my paperwork to the person across the desk from me, and within 30 seconds she tells me my form has an error, and I will not be getting my cedula! I inquiry about the nature of the error, she informs me the word SECUNDARIA is misspelled SUCUNDARIA. Now realizing my lawyer had filled out this form, then submitted the form to the government for approval, and then reviewed it after receiving it back from the government, but NOW as I set across from the person who can give me my Cedula a misspelled word is discovered that stops the entire process in its tracks! The nice lady also tells me it will take 8-10 days to correct the error before I can return to get my Cedula. Unbeknownst to me, at the same time Susan is being told that not only does her form have the same misspelled word, but her City/Country of Birth is written in ENGLISH! And it only takes a few minutes for Nick to walk over to us to tell us that his form is messed up in the same manner as Susan's.

Problem #2: Obviously, the form required for our Cedulas is filled with errors, and these errors have resulted in another problem as we seek our Cedulas.

Solution #2: We leave the Registro Civil, and head by taxi to another office to try to get the forms corrected. After two more hours of sitting in another office, our lawyer, and I approach a lady to beg her to correct our forms on the spot instead of letting them go through the proper process (8-10 days). We convince her, and the changes are made. All that has to happen now is for the corrected forms to be signed, and sent back to the Registro Civil.

So, we have done all we can at this point, so our lawyer tells us to have lunch, and she will call us in two hours to tell us what happens next. Crepes and Waffles is a restaurant we chose for lunch, and enjoyed some unique spins on crepes (Nick and I), and waffles (Susan). Reasonably priced place, with a large menu, and a lot of vegetarian choices which is important for Susan. Next we walked to the nearby mall to hang out until our lawyer was to call.

Problem #3: Our lawyer called eventually (hour late), and told me that the government had not sent the form to the Registro Civil office yet, and it looked like they may not do it until the following day. At this point we make a visit to her office to discuss a possible change in lawyers.

Solution #3: Well, I meet alone with our lawyer to discuss our displeasure with the course of events throughout the entire visa process which has caused us one unnecessary trip to Quito already not to mention the unnecessary 12-IX Visa needed to allow the 30 days required to submit our applications for residency. In the end after much debate, we agreed on a fee reduction to compensate us for the errors on her and her staffs part.

We leave our lawyers office at 5:30pm, tired, frustrated, angry, and in need of a place to spend two more nights in hopes we can get our Cedulas on Thursday. I decided we had already made the commitment to close Moca in order for us to make the trip, and no one wanted to return to Quito again, so I decided to roll the dice to see if we could salvage our trip to Quito.

Coming soon....
Quito and the Cedula Plan, Part 2

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Looking for furniture

This afternoon Steve and I decided to go look at some furniture stores and see what deals are available. We need to find a living room and dining room set but we are on a tight budget. First stop was Vitefama on Manuel J Calle y Alfonso Cordero, there we were greeted by Diego and followed around until we had a question to ask and he quickly was able to assist. He spoke some english which made it a little easier for us. He told us that it would only take 15 days to have a couch done in the fabrics we liked.

Next store was Gout on Av. Paucaarbamba y Manuel J Calle, if you are ever looking for lights this place has some nice choices and reasonable prices. Patricia helped us there she spoke no english but that was fine and walked around and she would turn lights on and off for us. They didn't have very much indoor furniture but they had some nice outdoor pieces. She didn't seem to agree with me when I said that the couches were to hard and she told me no. I guess I don't know what hard is.

We continued our search for more furniture stores on the same block and we came upon Mora Chocolate Factory we stopped in and picked up 10 pieces of chocolate for $4. My favorite was the chocolate covered strawberries. On to look for more furniture

Last stop Ovelinea on Jose Peralta y Paucaarbamba, There was a young man names Diego working there who spoke english very well. He knew the prices off the top of his head he even showed us what he liked, he was very personable. He knew a lot about the company and told us we could change out chair at different tables.

We had a great afternoon out looking at all the furniture choices out there. I think the prices are the same as we would pay in the states. We haven't made any decisions yet on what we want. More to come on that...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Residency Visa...

Our residency visa was approved February 16, 2012, and within the next few weeks the three of us will be heading to Quito to get our Cedula's. A little over a year ago we began to seriously discuss relocating to Cuenca, and after a seemingly discombobulated process we are about to become official residents of Ecuador. We survived changes in residency requirements (criminal background check), missed filing deadlines by our attorney, an unplanned trip to Quito on a very cold bus, last minute requirements for additional paperwork, and a system which evidently does not believe in first come-first processed way of doing things. BUT, all-in-all, after surviving the process to this point, we are thankful the end is near.

Our oldest daughter Courtney arrives in 11 days, and it will be nice to see her expressions and hear her comments as we show her Cuenca. We moved into a larger apartment to make room for her, and have discovered our weekends are now filled with music from the reception hall (Villa San Carlos) next door, and construction in the apartment above us at 7am on a Saturday morning. So, we have a beautiful modern apartment with wonderful amenities, but instead of bus noises outside, we have music, and construction sounds.

Racquetball Court

Our friend, and my business partner Bill is moving next week into a new apartment across the street from us, so we hope to play racquetball several times a week in our building. We have decided to work out of Moca as we get Ecuador SB Marketing fully developed, and supporting clients. Last week we picked up three new clients that I designed websites for totally is Spanish, and they are very happy with the results. The goal is design primarily in Spanish, because we are not looking for clients that are targeting the expat community, but instead Ecuadorian clients. We don't want to be in the expat referral service, or imply by designing websites for clients that we recommend any business over another. Well, enough about work, and now it is time to get away from the laptop, and enjoy dinner out with the family. Take care...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Top 3 Reasons I love Cuenca!

#1 I get to spend time with our youngest son and my hubby
In our previous life there was never time for us at least that is how it felt. We were always on the go, working, running to soccer practices and coaching. It never felt like we had tome to enjoy each other, but here we do. Sure Monday thru Friday Steven runs Moca for a few hours in the morning, and during that time I am getting to spend quality time with Nick as he does his online classes. We walk most places, so we get to talk, and just share things more often, and with a lot less stress.

#2 Fresh produce everywhere
We can get fresh produce any day of the week and it is CHEAP! I love the availability of all the fresh produce. I won't lie to you I don't know how to cook most of it, but I am learning. At first we thought it was all locally grown, but when I saw grapes in a USA package I asked the lady and she said that it was from the USA. "Strange" I thought, "I am in Ecuador and I can eat grapes from the USA." Shopping at the local markets is enjoyable, and you tend to look forward to the shopping trips here rather than dreading them as I did in Atlanta.

#3 The weather
The last place we lived was Atlanta, Georgia, and its' nickname is "Hotlanta". In the 7 months that we have been living in Cuenca, I haven't had any hot days that ever felt like those summer days in Atlanta, and I am SO grateful. I will tell you that I have been chilly and thats when I just grab my thick socks and a sweatshirt and I am good. It's usually when I am just sitting around the house that I feel a little chilly, but Steven and Nick they can wear shorts and short sleeves most of the time. Atlanta has wet winters, and springs, so the rain we have been experiencing here isn't anything unusual, and at least we haven't had any tornado warnings or woken up to ice covered sidewalks and streets.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Restaurant for us

Where we used to live we knew what was around us and where our favorite places to get certain items where, but we've moved now to a different area. So we must find new places.
Tucked away off of Solano is a little sandwich place called Top Sandwich Market. The owner Jose Luis speaks Spanish, English and Germany. He is from a nice guy. The great thing about this restaurant at least for our son is they have Bratwurst and it is great! (according to Nick), I am a vegetarian so I won't be able to judge that, but I can tell you by the smile on his face while eating it, it must have been good. I liked the fries and the potato salad was pretty good too.
Top Sanwich Market serves; hot dogs, Pita's, fries, German potato salad and so much more.
If you are ever in the area of Solano by Crespo look for the Primax (gas station) and a little down the street on Remigio Tamariz you will find it. It is right next to the Boom travel office. Across from Villa San Carlos.They have indoor and outdoor seating.
We also found a nice little store that we call the commisary, I never remember the actual name of it but it is great when I don't want to cross Solano and walk around the stadium to Supermaxi. Now, if I could just find a good bakery near here. Any suggestions?

Monday, February 20, 2012

New apartment

We have moved to our new apartment. We had more stuff then I thought a person could accumulate after only 7 months, I think it just multiplies.

On our second day here while sitting out on the balcony I looked up and noticed a rainbow in the sky. Normally the rainbows that I've seen the ends seem to touch the ground but not this one it was circling the sun. It was very beautiful and it made me happy about all the things I do have in my life.

Steve had to take a new way to Moca, which seems to be working out well.

Nick had to learn how to take the bus on his own. He and I set out to learn which busses to take. We found that he would need to take 2 busses to get there and we would have him take a taxi home from there. Save a little bit of money. So the next day he went out on his own to catch the bus. I thought he had caught the bus then all of the sudden I heard someone at the door. I thought it was Steve returning home, but it wasn't. It was Nick he was so upset. He had waited for the bus and saw several with the same number that he needed but none with the appropriate title on the top. He finally got on one after four busses went by and then the bus driver was able to communicate that he was going the opposite direction then the way Nick need to go. He was very upset. So he calmed down and we both headed down to find the bus on another street that won't have the same bus going to two different places. Now it was my turn to get upset.

We were looking for the bus stop and kept walking until we could find when all of the sudden there was our bus. I flagged him down in normal Cuencano fashion (we ride the bus often so we know how it's done), but he wouldn't open his door. He had stopped because of the traffic but he wouldn't let us on. Ugh! I understand we weren't at a marked stop but that was never a problem before but this driver was not interested in letting us on. So, we walked and found the next stop and we waited and we waited and finally the bus came. Nick and I rode together to the next stop and there he and I went our seperate ways. Steve was waiting for me across the street at the stop going towards home so we could ride together and Nick was waiting for the next bus to get him to spanish. At that moment rain started to downpour. I felt so bad that Nick was waiting on a street corner and Steve and I were waiting at a covered stop. Oh, did I feel like a bad mom, but I must remember he is fourteen and he can do it. He had his rain protectant jacket on...

In the next few months we will try to design/find furniture that we want built and get what we want. We are currently borrowing our friend Trish's excess stuff that she brought over in her container.

Friday, January 20, 2012

First doctors appointment in Cuenca

I ran out of one of my medications five weeks ago that I didn't count as being critical to my health at the time. So, I went to a pharmacy to see about getting it like I did with another medication, but it was going to cost over $80 for 28 pills. After hearing that I decided that I was going to make an appointment get my levels checked and see what other medications Cuenca has to offer.

Five weeks later and I finally made an appointment to see Dr. Anthony Guillen who I had heard that he spoke English, because we got his number when we first got her for Nick, but then never met him. I also referred some friends to him, and they loved him so it was finally my turn. On Tuesday I got the chance to meet him. He speaks English as clear as an American, so there are any misunderstandings, he is funny, and young. Dr. Guillen and I had a very through conversation about my problem. He took my vitals, listened to my lungs and heart. We decided that I needed to have my labs done, but I wasn't symptomatic. I asked if he knew how much they would cost he excused himself and came back to tell me $60. "$60 oh", I said. I really was thinking how that was a lot more then what I anticipated and I had only brought $60 with me. I rarely ever carry money. I asked how much his fee would be and he told me normally $20 but he would charge me $15 today. I told him I only has $60 and he said that I could pay him on Wednesday when I come back to review my labs.

Across the hall I went to have my blood drawn. Dr. Banegas (sp?) was a very pleasant man and spoke only a few words in english. He started looking for a good vein, but I had been fasting in anticipation of having labs drawn and they were a little hard to find. He finally decided on one and by that point in my medical opinion the tourniquet had been on longer then needed. He stuck me and on the first try he was successful and I was grateful. He didn't use the typical vacutainner or syring to take my blood he stuck a needle in my vein and let it drip into the tube. Don't worry it feels the same it was just odd to me. I've only drawn blood like that on a newborn infant. When I was done he asked me for the money which now was $65. I told him I only had $60 and I would pay him the $5 tomorrow. I am not sure what changed why I had to pay $65 not $60 maybe there was any extra lab he wasn't aware of. I think there was a total of 6 tests performed. I was told to come back Wednesday at 9am.

Wednesday morning I was at Dr. Guillens office a 8:50 and he was there waiting for me. He asked me to go to the lab to get my results, so I went across the hall paid an additional $5 that I owed the lab. Then went accross the hall to speak with Dr Guillen. I told him about my concern of the costs of the labs he explained that 2 of the tests I had were usually $20 tests and that he would talk to Dr. Banegas, because he thought the cost was a little high, but he was a new lab doctor there, so he wasn't sure. My results were elevated and it was nessecary to go back on my medication. I explained to him about the cost and asked if there were any lower cost medications. We talked he went downstairs to the pharmacy and spoke with them and came back with some options. I paid Dr Guillen $15 and no more I thought I would have an additional fee from review the labs but nope not required. We decided on one and off I went with perscription and told to call if I had any concerns and to come back in six months to have labs re-checked.

My overall opinion is that it was good care and I will go back to see Dr. Guillen and I will have him see my family also. Dr. Anthony Guillen is located on Av. Remigio Crespo and Las Americas upstairs from the Farmacia Salvador (that his parents own) it is the red and white pharmacy on the round about. His number is 095 398 105 you must call for an appointment.

The medication cost was $19.50 for 10 pills. So I will end up paying almost $60 for 30 pills.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Outside the Box

Susan, Nick, and I leaving Atlanta

There are endless opportunities in Cuenca, and sometimes it is good to think outside the box. During my twenty-five year career in the US Air Force I was fortunate to have some brave mentors who listened to my ideas which were outside the box, and even implemented many of them, most successfully, and luckily only a few bombed. The military is not always receptive to people who think outside the box, and I was not only thinking outside the box, the joke was I had lost sight of the box entirely. Sometimes people have a tendency to over-think, over-plan, and are over-cautious, and these tendencies can handicap any any project, idea, or in our case  relocating to a new country.

Thinking outside the box for Susan, Nick, and I has led us to retiring to Cuenca at an early age, but keeping our eyes open as we experience a new culture. We have allowed ourselves to be more social, and welcoming to new people we meet at Moca, or through facebook and our blog. By allowing ourselves to open up to these new acquaintances we have made some very good friends, both Cuencanos and ex-pats, but we have also been burned by a few people who we thought were close friends. But, by allowing ourselves to act outside the box, and open up to the people, and the culture around us, has enriched our lives more than we could have ever imagined, and have by far over shadowed any negative experiences. While living in Decatur as we first discussed our move to Cuenca, our hope was to change our behavior, and try to make new friends, and create new friendships to enrich our lives just as we hoped to enrich our lives by embracing a new culture. After six months, I feel we have just begun to understand our new surroundings, but by allowing ourselves the freedom to act outside the box we have experienced much more than we anticipated.

So, the point to the post, if there is such a thing in a blog like ours, is to let go of the restraints we all place on ourselves, and think, or even act outside the box to free up the endless opportunities here in Cuenca. Try new foods, get out of your comfort zone by riding a bus, offer help to a person you see who needs a hand, or just do something new today that you didn't do yesterday. You'll never know what surprises are around the next corner if you never turn off the path once in a while.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Beginning of a New Year

Well, 2012 is here, and we only have to worry until sometime in December according to the Mayan calendar. Personally, I think the chief Mayan calendarologist figured they he had created the calendar several hundred years into the future, and liking even numbers decided to stop 2012. He must have chiseled a note to himself on an ancient post-it-note to add more years to the calendar in 1812, but unfortunately the Mayan civilization ended much sooner. so, relax, enjoy the entire year, and buy a 2013 calendar for Christmas 2012.

Susan, Nick, and I have already made  a few changes for the new year. We decided after a lot of discussion with friends, and classmates of Nick, to remove him for Santana for the rest of the school year. The reason for pulling Nick out was the teachers were not involving Nick in the class, and not even attempting to hold him accountable for any homework, or even work done in class. They decided it was easier to treat him as a foreign exchange student, than to take the time to work with him to make sure he understood any assignments. So, for the rest of the school year Nick will focus on his Spanish lessons, take online classes through Global Student Network, and tryout for the Deportivo Cuenca u14 soccer team. He will stay in touch with his friends from Santana, and have them over to the house as often as possible. We hope to enroll him in a new school in the fall that can provide a challenge academically, but at the same time allow him to have a social life.

Cuenca Flats, the real estate and property management company Susan and I started in September 2011 continues to grow as we add properties to our listings of residential, and commercial properties for sale and lease. All of our listings have been referred to us by friends, and satisfied customers, so we haven't had to search for new clients. We want to remain a small company, and focus on providing a level of personal service that wouldn't be possible with a larger company. For us personally, we are moving upstairs in our building to a new apartment, which is a little big bigger (3BR/4 Baths), and we will have a terrace off the master bedroom on the second floor. Susan has wanted an outside space, and we like our building, so moving upstairs was an easy solution.

Our friend Bill Mann, and I have discussed some interesting ideas over the last couple of months, and we have decided to start a new project together this year. The new company we have formed will allow us to use some of our past IT, marketing, and management consulting experiences to help local businesses develop some new methods of attracting customers.

Susan has begun Yoga with her friend Lizette, and though she was sore after the first day, she is looking forward to her next class. Moca Cafe Bar, which we co-own with our friend Trish is continuing to attract new customers, and recently Susan began baking jumbo apple-cinnamon and banana-walnut muffins, and everyone loves them. Susan, along with Moca's manager Jenny have developed some new marketing ideas, and we added Direct TV, so we could show the Ecuadorian national soccer team's World Cup qualifying matches during the road to Brasil 2014.

The big news of the last few days for our family is that our oldest daughter Courtney has decided to join us in Cuenca sometime in March. We are hoping she can take over some of the work at Moca, and spend her free time working on her photography, and writing as she tries to make her two passions into a career. Susan will be heading to Atlanta to help with the move, shop for some things we are wanting, clear out our storage rental, and with luck she all the rest of our children (Ryan, Frank, and Christina), and her father and brother. It was hard having our first Christmas without our four older children, and next Christina will be turning 19 on the January 13th, so this will be the first year Susan isn't there for Christina's birthdays.

We are hoping the new year brings us good health, new friends, and many new adventures as we continue to live in our new country, and we wish the best to all our friends.