Some FYI's and Thyroid Results
Trip Start Sep 26, 2009
71Trip End Ongoing
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Also, do not tip here. Only tip at a higher-end restaurant, and only 10%, unless they automatically add the tip on, which some do - no where else
I cannot tell you how many times I have nearly killed myself. This is one city not to live if you are a klutz. You must be careful with each step you take and always have your eye to the ground and ahead at the same time. There are open man-holes, uneven sidewalks everywhere, very narrow sidewalks downtown, uneven cobblestone streets downtown, the not so occasional dog droppings, and the list goes on. I did manage to fall flat on my face in downtown Cuenca and nearly twisted my ankle. Was nearly knocked over by a bus because of standing too close to a corner curb in the downtown area as well. The streets are so narrow, so when a bus is coming up from behind you to make a right-hand turn, don't just stop there at the curb to wait to cross the street -- step a-waaay! However, we did just hear that they are working on eliminating the amount of buses in El Centro (colonial downtown Cuenca). Instead they will have certain key spots where they will build terminals for people to catch the buses, perhaps trollies, that will go there
While at an ATM, I was glad I stood at the machine until it went back to the screen that asks for you to enter your card. Even though you must press the button to request English, the last few screens are in Spanish, so I wasn't real sure. So, after I was all done, this young pretty woman who was just at the machine next to me, rushes behind me to my machine. Instead of walking away with me, Fred just stands there and watches her, then proceeds to tell me what happened. So, we both stand there and watch her as she just presses buttons. She then finally puts her own card in, makes a transaction and walks away. Needless to say, as she walked away, I looked directly into her eyes and if looks could kill, she would not have made it to the corner! We could tell that she got no money from us, but went home and checked our account anyway.
We are pulling no punches with these Ecuadorians who see gringos coming from a mile away. A Swiss friend who speaks excellent Spanish, purchased some coasters for $3.50 while I was shopping with her. So the following day, I took Fred back to the same stand to purchase the same set. The guy told me $9.00. I don't think so! And I did not just walk away, I let him know that I was just there the day before with a friend who only paid $3.50, and then I walked away
One very important purchase to be extra careful about is when buying Alpaca. We were informed that many will tell you that an item is made of Alpaca when it truly is not. So know your stuff or know who you are buying from. I bought a vest for $30.00 from a friend's bible study who knits them herself in her own shop near the Casa de las Mujeres. She let me know she only had 2 items of Alpaca at that moment, while I suppose the rest was wool. My friend talked her down from $35.00. If you hate negotiating, do learn. We prefer to learn the price for an item and look it over. After we learn the gringo price, then we'll tell them firmly what we want to pay. If they don't like it, we usually walk away. Some want that sale, so they will call us back, some will not, then our negotiating begins.
It is a very good thing to always carry an umbrella whether it rains or not, Skin cancer is very high and it's a great protection from the sun, as well as from one of the myriad of loose dogs who might decide it's in a bad mood when you cross paths.
Our landlord told us that there are complaint forms you can fill out if you get a crazy bus driver, which you can pick up in front of the bus, although I have not seen any
We are most grateful for the extensive bus system though. Unsure if I mentioned this before or not, but we like the fact that you can purchase a bus card, fill it up with money, waive it in front of the machine as you enter the bus and it deducts 25 cents, 12 cents for seniors. When it runs out, you just get it refilled. That can be done several places where you see the Urbania sign. We go to a place downtown on Grand Colombia and Tarqui. You may purchase a brand new card at that shop as well. The tourist office told us that to purchase a new bus card required a taxi ride, as the place or office was quite far -- that is not true. It was true for a time, because the bus company went through a transition of owners just recently, or something like that. Also, this bus system is very different from Quito's, where you must carry change. (Although, Seniors will need to go to a different office for their card, as they will need to have a picture taken, but just handing the bus driver 12 cents in change works also -- it did with a visitor in her 70's.
A few days ago they painted traffic lines (3 lanes) on the De Las Americas. Wow, perhaps the concept to stay in one's own lane will actually catch on
Bought an avocado tree for our courtyard. Sure hope I don't kill it! Will also buy a lime or lemon tree. A small nursery up the road has a baby one with lemons or limes on it already -- instant rewards.
Had my biopsy done to check for any thyroid cancer. It all came back benign. There is no malignancy in any of the three nodules. Supposedly, the Pathologist is the best in all of Ecuador and specializes in the thyroid.
I must say, I love my doctor, Dr. Parra. He brought us down to the Radiologist for the biopsy, stayed with me the entire time. Made sure the biopsy samples were good ones, while assuring me that the Radiologists is also one of the best here; then waited with us for the biopsy samples, then walked the samples up with us to the Pathologist office. He told us that he knows how it is to live in a foreign country where you cannot speak the language. That was Tuesday and the results were ready by Thursday afternoon. I have been to Dr. Parra five times all for the cost of the initial visit, which was $25.00. The biopsy was $30.00 and the Pathologist was $40.00.
Learned a little more about the hospitals around here. Solca Cancer Institute is probably the most expensive hospital. Monte Sinai Hospital is privately run, very good, yet one of the more expensive and more luxurious. Then there are the government run hospitals that are free? or close to it. Some say they are bad, but it depends who you talk to, but so far, everyone we know has had a good experience. And lastly, there are the clinics, as far as we know. A friend had her appendix taken out at a clinic, but not here in Cuenca, paid $1,000 and also had a good experience. Update: There is also the newer Hospital Del Rio, where a friend from Las Vegas had an operation. She said it was very good, like a 5-star hotel.
Doctor Parra saw me downtown Tuesday morning, while I was on my way to my biopsy appointment actually. He pulled up with his car to say hello and asked if I was alright. I must of looked confused as I was turned around a little. We had to take two buses to Monte Sinai that morning, but I had left all my previous tests results back home, so Fred left me to return home to pick those up and so would meet me at the hospital, while I would get on the second bus and go directly to Monte Sinai. Dr. Parra would of given me a ride but had an appointment at another hospital before my appointment. But I was pretty confident I could get to the right bus stop, which I did
Something to think about: Heard a little story about a taxi driver who received a $5.00 tip from an American. The taxi driver was so touched and has never forgotten that. Then Fred told me just yesterday about a native woman he dealt with in the Feria Libre, whose prices are very reasonable. Fred said he made a slight face when she told him what the price of the carrots were, so she threw in a few extra. Fred is not going to negotiate with her as she is very reasonable in the first place. I'm not saying you should start tipping everyone, and therefore contribute to the prices going higher. There is a balance that is needed. Learn the prices, learn what you should be paying, avoid the dishonest ones who want to stick it to foreigners, and reward the merchants with your business who are reasonable, and/or exceptional.