Sunday, March 13, 2011

Carnival: Food, Fun, and Family

Last week was Carnival in Cuenca.  The whole town comes to a stop for four days to celebrate before the beginning of Lent.  Kids are out of school, taxi's and buses take a holiday, parties in the park and family outings.  We were invited to share a day of Carnival with friends at the family farm in the country near Deleg on Monday.

Looking toward Deleg and part of the farm
Part of the lunch was cooked in the wood kitchen
Summer is in full bloom.  One of the bees that makes its home in the farm bee hives

Kids of all ages playing Carnival  

Carnival, as you have probably read elsewhere is "played" by throwing water balloons and squirting foam on each other, a wet game of tag.

Mateo wet and foamed

Big brother Rubin ready to strike again

Dad on the run from Rubin and Mateo

Sitting down for a huge family lunch

First course was a soup with beans and hominy, grown on the farm, that was cooked in the wood kitchen above, fabulous!

The family enjoying lunch

There was more food than could be consumed, three salads, chicken, pork, rice and corn, hominy, fresh fruit and gelatin dessert.  I must admit we went home after lunch and slept for two hours!  It was a lovely day in the country.

The balance of Carnival we tried to stay in and stay dry.  We visited new friends who live east of town in their beautiful home on Tuesday for a BBQ lunch, Wednesday was my cooking class, I thought I had my camera to take picture of the empanadas we made but . . . then I got distracted with having fun cooking. . . next week?  Thursday was English classes and dinner at friends, and Friday was Jack's 75th Birthday.  At this point I thought I had lost my camera and rather than ruin his day by telling him it was gone, there are just no pictures of the event.  I had an open house for the birhday party Friday evening, food and cake of course...high altitude baking is turning out to be no big deal!  So many new friends came to share the big day.  We were truly blessed.

Saturday were got to know more new arrivals to Cuenca who may rent the house next door, then out to special dinner.  Had a great Skype call to "family" in Grants Pass and then turned in.

The good news is today, Sunday, I found my camera, in my LITTLE purse.  Getting blind in my old age, so pictures will be forth coming for the next weeks events.  Take care.  We had a lovely 75 degrees in the shade day today....

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Before Carnival Begins

This has been a very busy week, as I last posted we went to Guayaquil for our visa renewal on Monday.  Tuesday was my cooking class, maracuya ice cream, and Tres Leches cake. Wednesday was a wonderful tour of then AltaFloras rose production greenhouses ( More below). Thursday is my day to teach English, and Friday we had a new friend here "kicking tires" from England over for dinner.  This morning we headed in to town to get a package picked up at the post office (Club Correo) and had breakfast at California Kitchen and chatted with other new friend expats enjoying the morning.

But back to Roses.  They grow the most beautiful roses here.  If you have already checked some of the other blogs you will see the production through their eyes.  Wednesday morning we gathered at the Pizza Hut and boarded a tour bus for the trip to the farm.

Bus at Pizza Hut
Drove through the country side

Arrived at the entrance to the AltaFlor facility
The facility employs about 200 people and they are very proud of the certifications they have for compliance with the Flor Ecuador Social Environmental Certificate.  That means they do not employ children, they provide an hourly wage with overtime, employment here includes a provided lunch and a doctor that comes twice a week.  This is a huge facility with acres of green houses.  Roses are shipped from here all over the world.  USA and Russia being the largest customers.

Juan Pablo, on the left, giving the tour

Rows and rows of roses

Cutting the roses, note how tall they all are.  Long stems are highly valued, specially by the Russian customers

Freshly cut roses wrapped for transport to packing room


Beautiful rose ready for harvest
The bundled roses ride to the sorting room

They are graded by size of the bud and length of the stem
Then carefully packed


The blue are a special order going to California

Roses in the cooler being organized for shipment around the world

Ready for a trip by truck to Quito to fly out

Or for transport to Cuenca the old fashioned way
 After the tour we loaded into the bus again and went to Hosteria Uzhupud for a great lunch and relaxing afternoon.

Back through the country
Entrance to Uzhupud

Part of the facility, origionally a hacienda
Dining terrace

And dine we did.  I had the trout, locally grown.
As usually happens when a bunch of expats get together lunch conversations centered on who found what where, how to get things done, where did you come from etc.  It was great to meet new people and make new friends.   
After lunch lounging by the pool, Ed and Cynthia even brought swimming suits but only sunned
More of the grounds, water proof ping pong tables
Beautiful humming bird in the garden
More of the gardens
 It was a lovely day with perfect weather.  Juan Pablo said that they plan to offer this tour now on a regular basis so I hope you get to enjoy it!

It is now raining, started about 3:40, I am wondering how it will effect the carnival events for the evening.  Carnival is like Mardi Gras.  Here it is a four day holiday.  Even the major grocery stores will be closed for two of the days and we have been told not to expect to have cabs running so we are stocked up and planning to stay home for the most part.  There are parades and parties all over town. There was a big parade this morning, guess they know it usually rains in the afternoon!  The celebrations here include the throwing of waterballons and the use of squirt guns....

Take care everyone and thanks for following us on our adventure.

Claudia and Jack

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wow March 1st Already

Life in Cuenca has been slow and busy at the same time.  There has been much to celebrate and Carnival is not even here yet.  Since the last post we celebrated Valentines Day with a BBQ at a friends, had torrential down pours, celebrated a 10 year olds birthday, had beautiful warms days, and made a trip to Guayaquil.

So let's see, pictures always make it more interesting:

Birthday Boy on the left. 
Party at the newly remodeld Pizza Hut

Intersting insect on the wall in our sun room

Find the bright orange bill of a momma Chiguanco Thrush nesting in our front hedge

The biggest adventure of the month was a trip to the US Consulate in Guayaquil to submit our passport renewal applications. We completed the forms on-line, made an appointment on-line, got new mug shots taken, arranged for our favorite cab driver to pick us up Monday at 8AM and we were set to go. We should have guessed that things would not go as we had planned when the cab driver had car trouble with his ususal cab and had to arrange Monday morning for a different car... he was 45 minutes late but that was OK, we had allowed a magin of error for the trip down. The drive was beautiful...

We head off through the Cajas National Park

The stark terrain of the Andes in the Park

With beautiful lakes

Decending into the clouds

Overlooking the lowlands outside Guayaquil

The US Consulate

We arrived in plenty of time for our 2PM appointment so we enjoyed the beautiful buffet lunch at the OroVerde Hotel.  What a spread. . . .sorry no pictures.

The experience at the conuslate was not what we excpected.  Should only be a few minutes to turn in paper work pay the $110 each and be on our way.  Wrong.  Secutity check that included surrendering all cell phones and cameras, batteries removed first, bottle of Advil, and hard candy.  Go upstairs and wait for our name to be called.  Turn in application and mug shot and passports, get ticket to take back downstairs to pay the fee.  Turn in receipt.  Wait and wait and wait and then go to window #2.  Swear that the info is correct, get your old passorts back stamped "CANCELED" and holes punched in it, guess we are not going anywhere for a while, and then go across the street, around the corner to DHL, take a number wait 45 minutes, pay $11 to have the new passports shipped to home in Cuenca.  All in all it took over 2 hours.

The traffic was so bad it took 45 minutes to clear Guayaquil and that included about 15 minutes of complete grid-lock in downtown.  As we started back up the Andes the fog and rain hit and we had to crawl at about 25 km/hr in the dark arriving safely in Cuenca at 9:15.  Oh well, at least our new passports should arrive in 10-12 days... yeh right, we will see!

Today I took a cooking class that Noshy has started.  Had a great time and made Maraquia Ice Cream and Tres Leches cake . . . had such a good time forgot to take a piucture!!  Oh well, the taste was fabulous!!!

Tour of rose production near Paute tomorrow . . should have lots of picture to share.  Until then...hasta luego!