Tag Archives: Retirement

Takin’ Care of Business . . . Everyday

Or “No Time to Write!”

I’m referring to the business of life, of course, because our loyal readers know that we are retired.  Four and a half months have slipped by in a heartbeat with busy days, travel, church and music activities and a few life events as well.  I’m going to try to catch you up on the past few months and post some pictures of our travels within Ecuador as well as trip #2 to Spain.  As always, I ask you to pardon the length of time it has been since our last post.

Let’s start with the Life Events.  After being renters in a large condominium complex for 15 months, we bought a furnished house about 2 kms away.  Although we weren’t really looking to buy, this home caught our attention and within six weeks, we were home owners again.  Our “villa” is on a small gated street called “Urbanización Terra Verde” in what would be called townhouse condominiums in the US.  We continue to be close to the various services we frequent as well as three different bus lines but we are set back from any busy streets so it is much quieter than our apartment was.  This was a good move!

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Two major events occurred in our lives almost simultaneously.  My worst nightmare of “what could go wrong” while living in a different hemisphere than the rest of your loved ones came to pass when I needed to make a rather hasty trip to Seattle, Washington to help our son Bryan who was having several major health issues all at once.  I am glad to report that Bryan is much improved and now I know I can survive this kind of crisis!  However, I need to publically thank dear friends Kurt and Teresa Lutterman, Don and Kyp Bisagna, and our daughter Kathleen and her fiancé Chaz, who all helped get things under control before and while I was in Western Washington.  Good friends and family are how we can do this thing called life.

On April 16, a devastating earthquake shook Ecuador’s north coast.  I was in Washington at the time but Glenn experienced the intense and prolonged shaking here in our mountain city of Cuenca.  No significant damage was experienced here but many communities suffered catastrophic destruction, death, injuries and loss.  It will take Ecuador many years of rebuilding to recover from this.  As often happens in disastrous circumstances, the citizens come together to give aid in whatever way possible.  This has been true for Ecuador as well.  Please keep the recovery of our adopted country in your thoughts and prayers.

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Even without new houses, emergency trips and earthquakes, we keep pretty busy with our “retired” life.  Let me tell you about three major activities of this new year.

Cuenca Christian Church, the body of believers that we worship and serve with here in Cuenca, moved to a new location in late December of last year.  We had been progressing toward a fully bilingual church for several months and our congregation (Cuencanos and Expats) had been increasing steadily and we needed new space.  Glenn and I are the primary musicians for worship and we spend a lot of time searching out songs in English and Spanish and learning to sing both.  Glenn also is responsible for keeping accurate contact information of the ever increasing church family as well as maintaining the church’s website.  Mother’s Day brought our largest crowd ever (74) as we enjoyed worship together, a special children’s program, and a Mother’s Day lunch with typical Ecuadorian foods including roast pig (roasted in the church yard!)

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Since last November, I have had the incredible opportunity to produce four house concerts in the homes of some of my friends.  Each concert has featured wonderful musicians from Cuenca and Quito and the audiences have been enthusiastic and generous.  This is an activity I plan to continue and expand, to the point of giving it a name:  Colibrí Conciertos (Hummingbird Concerts).

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Daniel Brito
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Sandra Echiverri
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Daniel Brito, Eddie Jumbo, Carlos Andrade
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Daniel Brito, Bernarda Holguin
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Diego Carneiro Oliveira

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Since the day of our arrival to live in Cuenca in October 2014, we have been a part of the Cuenca International Chorale.  This spring was no different as we prepared for our biggest musical endeavor to date:

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Both Glenn and I had challenging and fun solos in the Broadway portion of the program.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any links to provide in this post.

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Traveling is one of the main reasons we retired and moved to Cuenca more than 19 months ago.  We have enjoyed some beautiful places in the Andes Mountains to the north and south of Cuenca.

Saraguro is two and half hours south of Cuenca on the Pan American Highway.  The people of the area wear distinctive black clothing (skirts for the women, calf-length pants for the men) single braided hair, beautiful collar-like beaded necklace, and very hard black and white hats.  The area is agricultural despite the very steep mountain sides and the production of quality woven products is a significant part of the economy.

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You can find more pictures from our trip to Saraguro by clicking on the Page entitled “Saraguro” at the top of this blog post.

A little further on down the road toward Peru, is the little town of Vilcabamba.  It is located in a valley that is sometimes called “The Valley of Longevity” because of the higher than average number of people who live to be very, very old.  We enjoyed a couple of nights in the beautiful Hostería Izhcayluma with our friends Greg and Brenda.  We ate, hiked, got massages, played games and relaxed in the hammocks on our verandas.

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The rest of the Vilcabamba photos may be seen on the page entitled (you guessed it!) “Vilcabamba”.  Check it out.

And you can head north on the Pan American Highway, too!  That’s what we did when we traveled to Alausí where the famous Devil’s Nose Train is located.  El Nariz del Diablo is famous for three “true” switchbacks in order to manage the very steep grade from Alausí to Silambe.  It is a true engineering feat.

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And dozens more pictures can be found on the “Devil’s Nose Train” page.

Some of you may remember that in February of 2015, Glenn and I traveled to Spain to participate in an English language program called Diverbo.  We posted about it in two different posts:  “The Rain in Spain. . .” and “Diverbo Pueblo Inglés”.  This year we did the same sort of thing but with a company called Vaughan Systems.  The idea is the same:  native English speakers enjoy free room and board at a 4 star hotel in Spain while spending many hours each day talking and listening in English to help Spaniards improve their English.  Check out http://www.grupovaughan.com/vaughantown if this sounds like something you would be interested in.  We loved it and plan to participate again next year.

Prior to attending VaughanTown, we visited Tenerife, Canary Islands and Barcelona.  What beautiful places!  It was quite cold in Tenerife but we enjoyed our time with our great friends Elisa and Paco.  The island has 25 micro climates and we visited most of them.  Here is just a smattering of the pictures from Tenerife.

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Barcelona is an amazing city and we had sparkling sunny but cool days there, which is perfect in our book for walking and sightseeing.  The highlight of Barcelona for us was La Sagrada Familia, the famous cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudí.  We were fortunate to be renting an apartment just a block from this incredible structure.  We understand that the cathedral will be completed in June of 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death.  I plan to go back!

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I would really like to upload all my pictures from Spain but I’m running out of WordPress memory!  Instead, I will leave you with just a few more pictures from Ecuador.  The first four are from a quick trip we took into the Cajas National Park just miles from Cuenca.  It may only be a few miles away but it seems like a different world.  Our friend Hugo was our guide this cold day!

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The picture above was taken with a couple of my “Comadres” during Carnaval – the crazy festival before the beginning of Lent.  In Cuenca it is celebrated with lots of fireworks, water, and foam.  Carly Barly and Kathy and I had just finished participating in a major foam fight with a bunch of our fellow Cuencanos.  We were all smiles and laughter until our eyes started stinging from the foam!  Still, it was a great evening.

In less than one week, we leave for the US for a three week trip.  We will visit Glenn’s mom in Boston for a few days and then head up to Alaska for our daughter’s wedding.  We can hardly wait!  Maybe we will see some of you while we are in Anchorage.

What we have learned:  Cuenca is still the greatest place to live!

What we need to learn:  One shouldn’t let five months go by between blog posts!

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Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo!

or “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” But you probably already new that.  And of course, both of these holidays have come and gone.  This post will feature some pictures from Cuenca’s “Pase Del Niño” parade and Youtube links to the Cuenca International Chorale Christmas Concert.  For more information about how Christmas and New Year’s Eve is celebrated in Cuenca, please see two of our previous posts: “I’m Dreaming of an Unwhite Christmas” and “Burn, Baby, Burn”.

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Glenn and I are both members of the Cuenca International Chorale as well as the small Ensemble.  This year Glenn also sang with a men’s quartet.  Last year’s Christmas Concert in Cuenca’s Old Cathedral was standing room only so this year we had two concerts and both were very well attended.  Below are links to the concert we gave at Iglesia San Roque on December 17.

Hanaq Pachap (Song to the Virgin of the Flowers) https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=6tcX_HAQPEc&feature=youtu.be 

A Christmas Gloria https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=MwSvsQe_eN0&feature=youtu.be

Good News  https://youtu.be/l-PhZKdYnCQ

Nochebuena https://youtu.be/ONszjS2GsbY

Dadme Albricias Hijos d’Eua  https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=y4RE0UsBF1M&feature=youtu.be 

I Wonder As I Wonder https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=g4lldjs1r5Y&feature=youtu.be

Silent https://youtu.be/A2NmsvJMp6w

Ding Dong Merrily On High  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCsZgK1X9Q&feature=youtu.be

O Come, O come, Emmanuel  https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=HFfnkGXneyw&feature=youtu.be 

Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming https://youtu.be/tE0NMozAFfA

Dansaron (E la don, don, Verges Maria) https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=Biul5bjshew&feature=youtu.be

Armen Estrepito  https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=AWzRxk2z1qY&feature=youtu.be

I Will Joyfully Sing https://youtu.be/kFd6G7Qd1DQ

A Joyful Madrigal  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fq-2Uaq_COE

Un Flambeau Jeannette Isabella  https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=1n4jnlNPuoU&feature=youtu.be

Carol of the Bells https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=BwWpNGeStVc&feature=youtu.be 

Ave Maria https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eesqntis4g&feature=youtu.be 

This Little Babe  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWbJC77a2dk&feature=youtu.be

Still, Still, Still https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=WVZv3sWm8dc&feature=youtu.be

Christmas Time Is Here https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=2vqpSq6M1DE&feature=youtu.be

African Noel https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=aG_NUcQHTpQ&feature=youtu.be 

Joy To The World  https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=gwH5kACZ8TY&feature=youtu.be 

O Come All Ye Faithful  https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=wfN7JBi3qHU&feature=youtu.be 

The First Noel  https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=ADLbOsm76nQ&feature=youtu.be 

Silent Night https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVeOEWSrmdI&feature=youtu.be

As I mentioned above, a highlight of the Christmas season is attending the Pase del Niño parade on Christmas Eve.  This eight hour parade through the center of Cuenca is an important family event.  Even with the crowds (estimates are that 100,000 spectators enjoy the parade each year) the mood of the people was joyous, fun and exciting.  Enjoy the pictures!

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The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a bit quiet which is what we needed to recover from the frenetic pace we’d been keeping during the month of December.

We spent New Year’s Eve with friends Holly, John and Rob eating fajitas, playing games, and watching the incredible fireworks display that came to a climax at midnight with pyrotechnics exploding whichever direction you looked for about 30 minutes.  We had the added delight of watching all of this from John and Holly’s 17th floor apartment.  I’m sorry I didn’t take any pictures or videos.  I was just enjoying myself too much!

In Other News

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, posts from “Los Gano de Cuenca” have been coming fewer and further between recently.  It is certainly not from lack of things going on in our lives worthy of sharing with you.  Just the opposite!  It seems to be the plight of Cuenca Expat bloggers:  the Catch 22 of having so many wonderful experiences to write about but the experiences leaving little time to spend writing.  Nevertheless, I will persevere and continue to publish the occasional post – emphasis on the word occasional!

In the last three months since our previous post, we’ve had quite a few major events.

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I helped produce a House Concert featuring our friend and pianist Daniel Brito and soprano Sandra Echeverri;image

I traveled to Alaska to help my dad move from his house of 35 years to a smaller apartment and buy our daughter her wedding dress; image image

we took two trips outside of Cuenca ( I have pictures in my photo library and thoughts bumping around in my brain about these that need to make their way to a blog post); and our church moved from El Centro to a larger location.

And what does 2016 hold for us?

Well only God knows but if He wills it, we hope to do some international travel, attend our daughter’s wedding this summer, continue to improve our Spanish, and a few other surprises we’ll tell you about as they occur.  Until then, we wish you all a very blessed and full new year.

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Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da Life Goes On

or “We’ve Lived In Cuenca For One Year!”

October 8 was the anniversary of our move to the Southern Hemisphere.  We had such a busy day that we didn’t even remember until after 6 pm so we didn’t do anything special.  However, the Cuenca Fire Department had a parade of all their trucks in our honor!

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So on this  occasion, and since it has been over two months since I last posted, it is time to get everyone caught up on the momentous and mundane of Los Gano de Ecuador!

Kathleen’s Visit

By far, the most important event of the last two months has been the visit of our daughter Kathleen.  We did a few touristic activities but mostly we enjoyed being together.

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Kathleen’s arrival at the Cuenca Airport after more than 24 hours of travel. There were lots of tears and Kathleen will probably kill me for posting this picture but I’m sure the inalienable rights of a mother to show pictures of her children will stand up in any court of law!
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We had a lovely daytrip out of Cuenca to the Yungilla Valley where this waterfall “El Chorro” was a perfect backdrop.
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This was the highlight of Kathleen’s trip as far as I am concerned: singing together at Cuenca Christian Church.
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Here we are about to embark on the double decker bus tour of Cuenca. Many cities have these tours but what is unique about Cuenca’s is the possibility that you might not return with your head attached to your body. There are many low hanging wires and tree branches to watch out for!
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Of course Kathleen’s mere presence was all we really needed but it didn’t hurt that she brought all this loot for us, too!
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In honor of Kathleen’s visit and our almost one year anniversary in Cuenca, we threw a party! 45 people graced our home with their presence that Sunday afternoon.
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We could not have enjoyed our 45 guests at this party without the help of my “Empleada del Dia” (maid for the day) Brenda! She is amazing but very expensive. You have to be her really good friend. I love you, Brenda!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning Spanish

The process of becoming at least “functionally literate” in Spanish takes a lot of our time but I love it!  I can really tell I am improving and that spurs me on to work harder.  I have to be careful not to get a big head when Ecuadorians tell me I speak Spanish very well.  Ha!  They just are such nice people 🙂

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This is my awesome Coffee Club Spanish teacher Ana Luisa whom I adore! I have completed five regular courses with Ana as well as a few week long intensive conversation classes. Ana also has organized several of the great day trips we have been on.
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Johnny Pinos is our private tutor, Spanish pastor, and our great friend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also participate in a Spanish Language Meet Up once a week in a local restaurant.  For two hours we speak only Spanish (usually) with Gringos learning Spanish and generous Ecuadorians who give of their time to show us how it’s really done!

Teaching English

To reciprocate for the Spanish conversation time mentioned above, both of us also attend the English Language Meet Up.  Glenn usually works with Hugo and I work with Helena.  This activity really brings home how weird the English language is.  For us, pronouncing Spanish is not that hard as letter sounds are very consistent – it’s the grammar and syntax that get us.  But for English learners, it’s all about the pronunciation!

I also teach English to children three times a week.  I know, what a shocker, right?  Once a teacher, always a teacher.  But I receive great joy in the planning and implementing of the lessons and activities.  And as in my past as a professional teacher, I always find some great people to work with!

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Two days a week I teach at the Language Connect English Kids Club which is one of the many effective ministries of “Ministerio Pacto de Fe” run by Bobby and Lori Leek.
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We have had anywhere from one to eight students, ages three through ten. They are huge fun! Here, I am using finger puppets and trying very hard to get a couple of these little girls to remember the words “brother” and “sister”.
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One morning a week I join my friend Kathy (also a retired kindergarten teacher) at the Fundación Solitierra Centro Infantil to teach 17 second, third and fourth graders. This is a challenge but Kathy and I work really well together, I think, and we are making progress.

Social Life

It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with the social opportunities as they present themselves but somehow we manage.  Going out for lunch or dinner with new and old friends tops the list.  We also try to attend most of the free concerts by our symphony orchestra and chamber groups.

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Ensamble de Cámara Ad Libertum was the most recent performance we attended. It featured our friend Daniel Brito on piano (not shown in this picture, sadly), three string players from the Cuenca Symphony, and Colombian soprano Sandra Echeverri. It was awesome and free!
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Dinner at Anubis with new and old friends.
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Mara’s birthday dinner at our favorite restaurant “Mastranto Life and Food” with some of our very favorite people, Greg and Brenda Angstrom.  Mastranto’s is owned and operated by our Venezuelan friend Marco Acosta and his family.  If you live here in Cuenca, you should give Mastranto Life and Food a try (Juan Jaramillo 8-21 y Luis Cordero).

 

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When our daughter Kathleen became engaged to Chaz Hart back in August we were not able to physically attend the engagement party. However, through the miracle of SKYPE, we were able to celebrate with Greg and Brenda in our Southern Hemisphere Satellite Party. Not quite the same as being there but a lot of fun anyway!

This and That

Another major activity in our lives is serving at our church.  Cuenca Christian Church is now a bilingual church!  Glenn and I both play and sing in our worship band and I usually put together the lyrics in BOTH English and Spanish for the powerpoint slides.  We have been singing more and more of our songs in both languages which also helps with our language acquisition.

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Our church is housed on the second floor of a colonial house in the center of Cuenca (6-23 Simon Bolivar).
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We will once again sing in the “Old Cathedral” on December 21. Another concert is planned at Iglesia San Roque on December 17.

The Cuenca International Chorale and Ensemble has resumed rehearsals for the second half of its 2015 season.  We sing in both groups and gain much enjoyment from our time spent preparing and performing the music.  This December we have two concerts scheduled.  Glenn is also singing in a barbershop quartet for the first time.

Speaking of Christmas, guess what I saw being erected in Mall Del Rio on October 5th?

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This is pretty early by anyone’s standards, don’t you think?

We’re coming pretty close to the end of this marathon blog post (phew!) but I must leave you with a couple of animal pictures.

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Here is one of our “pet” hummingbirds that eats us out of house and home (slight exaggeration!)
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This little dog is NOT in jail and seemed perfectly happy to watch the cars and pedestrians go by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What We’ve Learned:  That we have a lot of great friends.  Thank you to everyone who came to our party.

What We Need To Learn:  To like soccer (fútbol) but I don’t think it’s going to happen!

Mercado Tastings and Cuenca’s Epicurean Delights Program

or “Still Tourists after Eight Months”

I’m sure we will be tourists for a long time to come as there are so many things to learn and experience here in Cuenca.  AND we have several guests coming over the next few months so we will visit and revisit some significant sites in Cuenca and its surrounding area.  Stay tuned! We were so glad to be involved in one of the dress rehearsals for this tour conducted by friend Rick Duda and his company Experience Cuenca Ecuador (www.experiencecuencaecuador.com).  In addition to the Mercado Tastings, several other tours are either up and running or in the works.  We look forward to those experiences as well.

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Rick Duda, owner and guide of Experience Cuenca Ecuador

The focal point of this 3 1/2 hour walking tour was the “Mercado 10 de Agosto” in Cuenca’s El Centro (downtown).  Although not the largest market in the city, it has a lot of activity and variety with the advantage of being in the heart of the historic district. image image As this was a morning tour, we began with a refreshing cup of juice, followed by a breakfast of several typical Ecuadorian foods.

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For 50 cents, Glenn had a large cup of fresh mora (blackberry) and pineapple juice. Mara had tamarind juice which, to her, was reminiscent of apple juice. Both were great!
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This is an humita. It is a ground corn, egg, cheese, spices delicacy steamed in a corn husk. We love them!
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Bolon de Verde – or Fried Green Plantain Balls
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Ecuadorian style Tamales
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Tortilla de Choclo – one of Glenn’s favorites – a slightly sweet pancake made from a type of white corn grown in the Andes.

image image After breakfast, we toured various stalls selling fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, coffee, sweets, seafood and herbs.

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These women are selling and using herbs for indigenous medical practices.
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Granadilla
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Maracuya
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Tamarind
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various beans and corn
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Mote – a variety of white corn grown in the Andes
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Naranjillas and Tomates de Arbol
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Tuna – not the fish – but rather a prickly pear
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Naranjilla – makes a great juice
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This vendedora was selling all sorts of nuts, grains, and sweets.

In addition to the Mercado 10 de Agosto, our tour took us to a coffee roaster/shop, a tienda selling honey roasted nuts, a convent in which the cloistered nuns sell wine and honey products, an Italian artisan cheese maker’s shop, the oldest drugstore in Cuenca, with the final stop being a centuries old church where the nuns still make bread and cookies to sell to the public.

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Loja Coffee
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Coffee grinder
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The oldest drug store in Cuenca
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The oldest bread oven in Cuenca in Todo Santos Church

17755285428_741fa7a5d3_o 17755327078_13d225732d_o               Of course, this blog post and these pictures do not do this tour justice.  If you live in Cuenca or will be visiting, check out this tour at http://www.experiencecuencaecuador.com and the others that Rick has. What we’ve learned:  Google images is my best friend (I needed it to help me remember the names of many of the fruits we saw.) What we need to learn:  To make sure our ipod/camera is fully charged before going on an outing.

The Rain in Spain . . .

Hardly fell anywhere when we were there in late February and early March of 2015.

As promised (but of course much later than intended), here is the second of our now three part series about our trip to Spain.  The main purpose of the trip, as you probably know, was our participation in Diverbo’s Pueblo Inglés program in La Alberca, Spain.  But we also had a few days to see the sights of Madrid, Toledo, and Cuenca (Spain, that is!)  In the interest of getting this post published before we forget what we even did, it will be heavy on pictures and lighter on text.  If you are cheering that fact, I don’t want to hear about it.  This post will focus on Madrid.

We flew non-stop from Quito, Ecuador to Madrid (10 1/2 hour flight) on Iberia Airlines.  Since it was a night flight and we advanced six hours in time, we had a nice sleep and arrived in the early afternoon.  After checking into our hostel in the historic center just blocks from Plaza Mayor and Puerto del Sol, we enjoyed a self-guided walk in the brisk but clear early evening.

When I think of Madrid, I think of plazas.  It seems that at every turn, a sidewalk or narrow street opens up into a plaza.  I loved the surprise of it.  Probably the most famous plaza is the Plaza Mayor.

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On our first full day in Madrid, we went on a “free” guided walking tour (we were expected and were glad to tip our guide).  This is a really great way to get your bearings in a new city.

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Tatiana, of ogotours.com was our guide on the 2 1/2 hour tour of Madrid’s historic center.
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Bart Simpson did not go on the tour with us but Lauren from New Zealand did. We met in Puerta del Sol which is kind of like the Times Square of Madrid.
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The bear eating from a strawberry tree is the symbol of Madrid.
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Restaurante Sobrino de Botín is said to be the oldest restaurant IN THE WORLD, established in 1725. Their specialty is suckling pig. Many famous people have eaten here including Ernest Hemmingway who had his own table.  Apparently, he was quite the glutton and was said to have eaten an entire suckling pig by himself to impress a date!  Prices were a little steep for us  but we were still able to tour the restaurant.

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We did eat here, however. The Museum of Ham is not a museum at all but just a really great place to get ham (of the Iberian sort) sandwiches for very little money.
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You can also take care of any and all your cured meat needs.

Speaking of food, you can eat just about anything your heart desires in Madrid but eating with friends makes it all taste so much better.

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Some Huevos Rotos (broken eggs)
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Jamón and Chorizo
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Pinxtos (tapas of the Basque region)
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This meal was eaten in the late afternoon. Not sure if you would call it lunch, snack, supper, or what? But dinner would not have been until after 10 pm so I know it wasn’t that.

 

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Mexican restaurant in Madrid
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Churros and Chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines, probably the most famous place in Madrid to get your fat and sugar fix!
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Churros taste like a lightly sweetened donut in the wrong shape but are perfect for dipping into your cup of very thick, rich, pudding-like chocolate. I do believe we had to lay down after this “snack”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides the walking tour, we sprung for a two day unlimited pass to ride the Hop On Hop Off double decker sightseeing buses.  After riding both routes and listening to the audio at least two times, we felt a little more comfortable with the layout of the city center, the history of Madrid, and how to get where we wanted to go.  Here are some pictures from those rides.

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Because of our limited time, we did not tour the Palacio Real or the Museo de Prado but will definitely do so on our next visit.  However, we did enjoy the free admission at the Museo Sofia on Sunday afternoon as well as walking through the beautiful Parque Retiro.

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The Reina Sofia Museum is housed in a building that, compared to others in Madrid, seems kind of plain. However, the artwork inside is anything but.  We especially enjoyed the Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali works.
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Parque Retiro is the “Central Park” of Madrid. We had an incredibly beautiful afternoon to enjoy a small portion of this oasis in the middle of Madrid.
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This is a juniper tree. What?!
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Children dancing to a little band. Sunday afternoons in Retiro Park are meant for families. There were magic shows, boat rides on the “see-ment pond”, skating, biking, music, food, etc.

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Near our hostel was a little alley that was adorned with these wonderful mosaics.

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For next time:  Our third and final post about Spain, featuring the cities of Toledo and Cuenca – two very easy day trips from Madrid.

If you were hoping and expecting to read about life in Cuenca, Ecuador, we’re sorry for the deep disappointment you must be experiencing.  But we think we can help.  Our friends Lance and Kathy Mentink write a wonderful blog about their life here in Cuenca and their most recent post was excellent.  Why don’t you head on over to Rambling On to see what experiences the Mentinks have had recently.  Go to http://lance-kathy.blogspot.com/

What We’ve Learned:  We did more in Spain than we thought we did!

What We Need to Learn:  Don’t procrastinate in writing a blog – it only gets harder!

There’s a Full Moon on the Rise

or “This, That and the Other Thing”

I knew it would happen sooner or later – I don’t have a specific topic for this post!  But when I took a minute to make some notes about what we’ve been doing and experiencing over the past two weeks, there seemed to be quite a bit to write about.  So please accept our hodgepodge post which is written neither chronologically nor in order of importance.

The picture above the title was taken Tuesday evening around 7:30.  Usually we don’t see the moon at all (too cloudy) and have never seen the full moon while here in Cuenca.  When we do see the moon, it is almost straight overhead so I was happy to snap these pictures as the moon was rising to the northeast of us. image image

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Sue Gaither – awesome worship leader at Cuenca Christian Church. Glenn and Mara are so fortunate to be able to work with her.

A very important event of the past two weeks was the purchase of a used electronic keyboard for our home use.  I AM LOVING IT!  Thank you to Sue Gaither for upgrading so that I could buy hers!

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My New Baby! Now we can practice for worship leading at Cuenca Christian Church and learn our parts more quickly for the Cuenca International Chorale.
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A couple of great deals at our local Mercado this week: $2 haircut and a beautiful bouquet for $1.

No picture for this, but I was honored last week when our neighbor Eduardo asked if I would be his scribe for a letter he was writing to his granddaughter who lives in the US.  Eduardo lived in the US for quite a number of years before moving back to Ecuador and his English is far better than our Spanish, but he wanted to have his letter to Gabi just right!  Of course, I was more than happy to oblige.

Like many of our friends and family in the US, we had a date with the TV last Sunday afternoon/evening.  Since we haven’t done too much to set up our television yet, we were grateful to Greg and Brenda for letting us watch the Super Bowl with them.  We watched the Patriots defeat the Seahawks via USTVnow.com which is one way expats, travelers, or anyone outside of the US can watch American television over the internet.

The first 3 quarters of the game, we had very few streaming issues.  But the 4th quarter was another story.  Good thing we had all this good food to eat while the TV was "buffering".  It also helped us with the grief we felt when the Seahawks did not prevail!
The first 3 quarters of the game, we had very few streaming issues. But the 4th quarter was another story. Good thing we had all this good food to eat while the TV was “buffering”. It also helped us with the grief we felt when the Seahawks did not prevail!

In case you can’t quite make out what our Super Bowl menu was, we had chips and dip, ham and cheese sandwiches, homemade pizza, and because we wanted to be “healthy”, fruit salad!  Later we drowned our sorrows with Brenda’s homemade ice cream and some other sweet treats from a local restaurant/bakery called Popacuchu.

This is my favorite Facebook post about the game.  "The Blind Side" is my all time favorite movie!
This is my favorite Facebook post about the game. “The Blind Side” is my all time favorite movie!
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We spent a lot of time on “reflexive verbs” and so I am proud to be able to tell you this says: Juana wakes up at 6:00 but  doesn’t get up until 6:30, then she wakes up and dresses her son.  Profound.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, we attend Spanish classes.  Our teacher Ana Luisa is great and we really enjoy the friends we have made through attendance of “Coffee Club Spanish”.  Recently, we had the opportunity to attend a lecture and demonstration of Andean musical instruments.  I’m sorry to say that I do not remember the name of the man who presented the seminar and made all the instruments but we enjoyed it thoroughly.  It was all in Spanish but Ana Luisa translated when necessary.  Here are a few pictures from the event. image image image image image image image

Last week, I was asked to help a new blogger set up her site.  Jaga was just hours away from her departure for Santiago, Chile as we did a crash course in a local coffee house.  It was great fun to meet Jaga.  She is from Poland, speaks 22 languages, is a Linguistics professor here in Cuenca, and has traveled the world!

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Jaga hard at work setting up jagatravelblog.wordpress.com

Mara

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Garry Kaulitz with us in our home. Kathy is behind the camera, a little reluctant to be in a picture after her recent “up close and personal” encounter with the sidewalk.

We had the great pleasure of meeting two Alaskans who might well become Cuencan Expats in the near future.  Kathy and Garry Kaulitz recently toured Ecuador, staying in Cuenca for a little while.  Unfortunately, Kathy had a face plant with a Cuenca sidewalk and ended up in the emergency room of a local hospital.  She reports that within seconds of her fall, several Cuencanos raced to her aid, taking her into their home to clean her up and attempting to stop the bleeding from her split lip and other scrapes.  When it appeared their ministrations weren’t going to be enough, these generous people drove Kathy and Garry to the closest hospital.  While in the ER, Kathy was attended to by no less than four people during the two hours she was there, receiving general first aid, stitches in her upper lip and a prescription for pain medication.  The total cost was $37.  By the way, there is no such thing as suing the city of Cuenca for a hazard on a sidewalk, street or other public property.  It is each citizen’s personal responsibility to WATCH WHERE THEY’RE GOING!  Here are some examples of what one needs to look out for.

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Lest you think that Cuenca does not care about its citizens, I need to tell you that a lot of sidewalk reconstruction is occurring all over the city as we speak.  We know this because we have to navigate quite a minefield of open ditches, excavation equipment, and makeshift bridges to get to Spanish class.  In the US, this street would be closed both to pedestrians and cars.  Not here.  There were times when sidewalks on both sides of the street were being worked on at the same time.

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Okay, last story.  This morning I walked into our office and saw this view.

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Apparently one of our neighborhood birds had to relieve itself midair and the wind must have caught it just right and plastered it all over the window!  The first order of business this morning was to remove the offending window art.

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I was able to clean most of the bird dropping, or flingings as it were, by stretching out the window with a soapy rag.
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Glenn managed to clean the biggest and furthest away splat with a soapy rag attached to our shower squeegee.

What we’ve learned:  Christmas isn’t over in Cuenca yet.  This “Pase del Niño” parade went by our apartment on February 1st.

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What we need to learn:  How to clean off bird poop from fourth floor windows without leaving unsightly streaks.  Not sure it’s possible.

We leave for Spain in less than two weeks so we’re not quite sure when the next post will be – perhaps not until after we return.  But don’t worry – we’ll have lots to post from our Pueblo Ingles experience as well as about the sights we’ll see in Spain.  Until then – Hasta Luego!

Ingapirca, Take Two

Or “Duncan and Sandra Come to Town”

Glenn’s nephew, Duncan and his wife Sandra, of Alberta, Canada receive the award of “First North Americans to Visit the Ganos”.  Their prize was deluxe accommodations in Edificio La Glorieta (our apartment building) which included a private room, en suite bathroom, and INTERNET!  Duncan and Sandra had already been in Ecuador for more than two weeks by the time they reached our swanky digs.  The majority of that time had been spent in the beach community of Montañita at Spanish school and living with a local family with six kids.  No wonder they gave our little hostel 5 stars!  image

While the Canadian Ganos were in Cuenca, summer seemed to have put itself on hold and we experienced heavier than usual rains during the entire week they were here.  But that didn’t stop us from eating at a variety of restaurants, shopping for produce at the market, seeing the sights in El Centro and Turi, and having lots of great conversations.  After all, we had never met Sandra and the last time we saw Duncan was, at best guess, 28 years ago!

imageMidweek, Duncan, Sandra and Mara took a daytrip up to view Ingapirca, the archaeological site about two hours north of Cuenca.  Avid and attentive readers might remember that Los Gano de Cuenca already visited Ingapirca back in December of 2014.  Click on the December archives and go to the post entitled “Doctor, Doctor, Gimmee the News” (half way down the post) to refresh your memory about Ingapirca, or just ‘fresh’ it if you haven’t ever read it.

Our two and a half hour bus ride cost $2.50 each way and it rained a bit along the route.  But by the time we reached Ingapirca, the rain had stopped and we had an enjoyable walk through the ruins.  Back in December, we were unable to take the two kilometer hike behind the ruins due to two approaching thunderstorms.  Our luck was better this time.  In addition to walking through the peaceful, bucolic valley, we were able to see four rather unusual rocks connected to the site, the most impressive being “La Cara de Inca”.

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The Face of the Inca.  Pretty cool, huh?
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Intiwatana (or Intichunka) – “Place where the sun is bound”. This was thought to be used for various rituals and astronomical observations.
La Tortuga or the turtle rock.  Other than looking like a turtle, I don't know what its purpose was.
La Tortuga or the turtle rock. Other than looking like a turtle, I don’t know what its purpose was.
Intinawi or "Face of the Sun"
Intinawi or “Face of the Sun”

As interesting as these rocks and rock formations are, the views of the farms, fields and animals were the best part to me.  Ingapirca is an important archaeological site and is visited by many tourists each year.  But it is home to the Cañari people whose families have most likely lived there for generations.  Here are some of the views we enjoyed.

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The Cow Whisperers. Duncan and Sandra were cattle ranchers in Manitoba for several years so they have a special affinity to the many cows in Ecuador.

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And just in case you didn’t get enough pictures of the actual ruins from our previous post, here are some more.

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As we waited for our bus, we enjoyed a $2 almuerzo while the rain poured down.  Thanks, Duncan and Sandra, for letting me tag along on your trip to Ingapirca so I could take that hike!  The Canadian Ganos have now moved on to explore other parts of Ecuador.

And Los Gano de Cuenca stay busy with Spanish class twice a week, Cuenca International Chorale rehearsals, helping lead music at Cuenca Christian Church, eating out with friends, and living the retired life.  It’s pretty awesome.

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Picture from Gringotree.com posted January 19, 2015.

Here’s What We’ve Learned:  Good weather doesn’t last forever!  We had enjoyed several weeks with very little rain and beautiful sunny days during December and most of January.  That all ended on Saturday, January 18 when we had the most intense rain we had ever experienced.  The rain came down, or should we say sideways, in sheets causing our four rivers to rise near to the tops of their banks, flash flooding on many city streets, and the need to mop up water entering our closed windows.  Since then, rain and thunderstorms have been the norm each day.

Here’s What We Need to Learn:  Past tense Spanish verbs.  Living in the present only goes so far.

So who is going to be our second guest from North America?  Second place prize is just as good as first.

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One of our frequent fliers! Thanks to Duncan’s patience, he got this shot of one of our four colibris (hummingbirds) that visit our feeder many times a day.

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