Sunday, December 26, 2010

Twas the Day After Christmas...

The week of Christmas has flown by with so many new experiences blended with the familiar it is hard to know where to begin. 

All events in Ecuador are celebrated with firecrakers, and not little ones but big ones that seem to rock the house sometimes.  Iggy is not a lover of that kind of noise and has found a safe place to retreat to when the noise begins.  Well actually, it can happen any time of the day or night and any day of the week!  I have no idea what it is all about but Christmas was celebrated with many loud cracks of firecrakers that's for sure well into the wee hours of the morning Christmas day.

Wednesday the 23rd an evening of caroling was hosted at the California Kitchen with an old fashioned sharing of cookies brought by everyone who came. The hardier then went to the Parque Calderon and sang carols for the Cuencanos . . . we took the cab home but not before eating way tooo many great cookies.

As you will read on many of the blogs we follow the biggest celebration of Christmas is the the festival of the traveling Infant Child, the Pase del Nino Viajero on December 24. It’s an all day affair, with a parade that illustrates the journey of Joseph and Mary. Led by the guiding star, and accompanied by angels, the Three Kings, officials, shepherds and huge numbers of costumed children. There are floats illustrating religious themes as well as the principal float carrying the NiƱo Viajero, borne by clerics. Along with the religious nature of the procession, there is also the native influence. Horses and llamas, carrying local produce, chickens and sweets march together with musicians, creating a rich, colorful and musical display.  Jack was not able to stand for the parade so we took a bus to our favorite pizza place, La Fornace on Solano.  The pizza is cooked on a wood fired oven It was great!  On the way home, again by bus, the traffic was stopped by the parade so we got to see some of it anyway!
Christmas day was filled with preparation for the dinner we hosted.  The turkey was barely able to fit in the oven weighing in at 19.8 pounds! 

While the turkey cooked a small parade passed by our house on the way to the church.

It was a great time with lots of food and fellowship with our new friends in this new land.   On the surface it appeared to be a true American dinner, but the sweet potatoes Sue fixed were  purple and there are no pumpkins so Rachel and I used a local squash call zapallo for "pumpkin" pie and "pumpkin" cheese cake and the uninformed were none the wiser!

Our Feast

Alfredo, Noshy, and Jack

Jim and Rachel, Jim and Debby, back of Bev 
Noshy on Cleanup duty

Sara, Gary and Sue, Alfredo and Noshy and Jack
One of my gifts included this parrot plant on my window sill and a beautiful arrangement.

Hope you all had a blessed Christmas and that the New Year is filled with peace and love.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Week Number 7

I am not sure were the days go.  We have been so busy that the weeks just slip away and I don't sit down and share our adventures with you all as regularly as I should . . I will try to do better.  Wait I said that before...

It is hard to believe that Christmas is next week!  There are Christmas trees decorated in all the stores. We are making plans to share the feast with new friends.  As it stands there will be about 12 of us, expats and Ecuadorians.  If any of you reading this are here in Cuenca and I have not invited you to dinner please get in touch with me!  Christmas is a time for family to share the day and remember why we celebrate.  Jack and I, Noshe and Alfredo, and Gary and Sue would love to have you join us, as here we are all family. 

Sunday we gathered with several gringos at Capilla Calvario, Calvery Chapel Cuenca, for church.  We understant that Pastor Freddy is considering having an English serivce due to the growing number of expats attending his church and even Spanish lessons.   we will keep you posted.  That evening we met with Mike and Patty Grimm at a great new Cafe for dinner.  Gourmand Cafe is a little hard to find (Calle Humberto Ma. Cordero 1-60 y 10 de Agosto) but what great food and lemon meringue pie!  Sorry no picture, we eat the pie too fast!

Our adventures this week have also included a great evening at Di Bacco's. Tuesday nights expats and Cuencanos gathering over adult beverages and Italian food.  Lots of good consversations and sharing what adventure the previous week held, where to find sour cream, the best chocolate in Cuenca, etc. 

Wednesday included shopping for crockpots and things to keep Christmas dinner warm at Coral in the Mall del Rio. The challenge is ovens here are very small unless you buy a big US brand and our rented house did not come with one.  It is a good thing that the Gaithers live down the street and can walk some of the dinner over when it is done in their oven!  Wednesday night the Ministry of External Affars, Trade, and Integration hosted a lovely evening for expats to answer some immigration and business opportunity questions and then there was entertainment, and local food and drinks.  We wore out after the first dance troop performed.

This morning Jack and Iggy had their recliner delivered.  I am pleased to announce that the delivery was scheduled for 11 AM and they arrived at 10:35!  Jack and Iggy had to try it out immediately.

Today was also a tour and luncheon at the new, one year old, Hospital del Rio, a beautiful state of the art teaching hospital.  It is very impressive and only about 5 minutes down river from us.  By the way, doctor visits are $25.  One of the gals there today had had an emergency apendectomy and the total bill was $1700!

Tomorrow we are having some electrical work done.  We want a porch light installed so we can see the front steps better. There is also a performance of the Nutcracker in the evening.  Always something to do, or just stay home and curl up with our Kindles and Christmas music stored on a thumb drive I loaded before we came.

Chao for now!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reflections on the First Four + Weeks

It is hard to believe we arrived in Cuenca a little over four weeks ago.  Saturday was the first day we felt like we had slowed down to the pace we remembered from our "tire kicking" visit in August. But then Sunday came, complete with broken hot water line and a lake in the kitchen, but that's another story for another day.  So goes life getting settled in Cuenca. 

Sooo much has happened and we have learned so much it is hard to put it all into words.  In setting up house in a new country shopping is alway the first chore.  Finding familiar brands or good substitutes was and is fun.  There is very little liquid dish soap here.  Most people use this tub.  It is a hard soap you just rub your sponge across and then wash with the sponge!  It lasts a long time and is very reasonable.  I did finally find a few bottles of liquid soap but hey, this works great! 

Speaking of washing if you are not careful you will only have a surprise during your first shower.  You see C on the handles and naturally think COLD but actually it stands for Calor which means HOT!  The other handle has an F for Frio obviously COLD.

Laundry can be done at the corner Lavanderia, you simply take your load and they wash, dry, and fold it.  The price depends on how much and how long it takes to dry it.  My big fluffy towels I used to cushion things in our ten suitcases take a long time to dry!  Three towels and two pair of jeans was $3.50.  This is just a long block form our house. I do have a washer and clothes lines which I use most of the time.  The process takes me back to childhood picking clothes off the line.  The line is under a roof so afternoon showers don't slow the process too much.

Speaking of near our house the best part of where we live the proximity of the Coop I have mentioned before.  It's a nice walk about 4 long blocks to shop for fresh produce and meats.  The Coop also is a pay point for your utility bills so it is very convienent.  I got in trouble from the guard taking the picture so don't tell.... 

Across from the Coop is a bus stop in case I have over done it and don't want carry the watermelon and other goodies home on foot.  Of course there is entertainment most afternoons and weekends in the park at the bus stop so it's a great way to wait for the bus (and only 25 cents to ride anywhere in town!).

Other things that take getting used to is Christmas just south of the equator.  Days are like spring in Oregon, cool nights, late morning sun, afternoon light shower, sun sets at 6 pm and the cycle starts over.  Of course seeing hybiscus in December takes some getting used to!

Church as been fun and challenging.  One Sunday we went to a fabulous church, of course all in Spanish, which is the challenge as we are progressing very slowly with our Spanish.  But the worship was fabulous and the people so warm and welcoming.  Some Sundays we sleep in and catch church online at Parkway, our home church in Grant Pass.

Well my spelling editor thinks I am typing in Spanish and is questioning every word in this blog. . .I still have not figured out why or how to fix it so please don't count the words I misspelled and send me a note!  I also see it wants to date this last Thursday, when I tried to start this . . actually today is December to figure that our too. 

Oh well.  Hope you all have a great Christmas season, as others have posted Christmas is coming to Cuenca. 

Chao for now!