More This & That!

Trip Start Sep 26, 2009
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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It is nothing short of amazing just how many Americans have moved here very recently, just after we did.  We are constantly running into them and of course, it is very easy to engage in conversation.  We all want to know how long each of us have been here.  In International Living's annual Global Retirement Index, it ranked the top 23 places in the world to retire — Ecuador ranked #1 yet again.  Here is what IL had to say: "To rank our winners this year, we analyzed 37 critical data points for each of our top 23 retirement havens and, for the third year running, Ecuador won. For retirees, colonial Cuenca is Ecuador’s most attractive city. The third largest in the country, it offers the relaxed pace of a smaller town with the first-class amenities and health care of a bigger one. But Cuenca is by no means your only option in Ecuador. This is a country with something for everyone—beaches, rural highlands, jungle escapes, and colonial cities".

Enjoying our DirecTV for the past month.  DirecTV's larger package is the only way we can get Fox News, CNN and BBC World News in English.  Cable here does not offer English news although it is a cheaper service.  Of course, I really can't quite figure out why I want to see US or World news anyway, as it is very depressing.  Before we got Satellite the Ecuadorian news was all we had.  One evening I decided to watch it from beginning to end, and it consisted of mostly traffic accidents!  (DirecTV here does not require a contract)

Finally found a "bathing suit" for myself, shorts and a t-shirt, as most of the suits seem to be made for the skinny people - Ecuadorians. As I mentioned previously, the Ecuadorians who are from European decent, are usually thin. Anyway, now we can go and enjoy the hot springs and mud baths right up the hill from Cuenca, in Banos. Some friends just came back from the other Banos that is 7 hours away, right on the edge of the jungle, so we'll need to check that place out one day too.

We semi-adopted a tiny little male cat, who actually belongs to our landlord.  His name is Mishi and he looks a lot like Milo but much skinnier - an Ecuadorian!  Our landlord's mom found little Mishi as a kitten by her house in Cuenca, a few blocks from our apartment, rescued him and brought him here to help keep the mice down.  Guess Mishi is doing his job, because we haven't seen any mice yet.  Mishi is about 8 - 10 months old now and such a sweetie.  Fred decided to pick him up one day to give him a little affection and, of course, food.   Well, now we're going through cat food three times as fast, because that little thing can sure eat!  Guess we need more mice?

Fred pointed out something interesting to me, and I must agree.  There are not a whole lot of birds here in Cuenca.  There are about 7 parrots, near Mount Sinai Hospital, that must of gotten loose somehow, and we have hummingbirds, black birds, sparrows, pigeons and bats.  Some say it is due to the heavy pesticides used in Ecuador, or perhaps the traffic fumes that can be pretty nauseating.  Either way, there doesn't seem to be as many birds as there should be, but it is a city after all.  I'll have to be more observant.

The young couple above us came back from a visit to Loja and brought us back some traditional Ecuadorian candy.  My goodness, the Ecuadorian's really like their candy sweet as this candy is muy dulce (very sweet)!  It is fudge-like and very popular here.  Anyway, our Ecuadorian neighbors are just great; when they see us they usually give us a hug.

Then our other neighbor stops by with a fresh pineapple. In fact, Fred lost his Censo card and that neighbor's daughter found it up the street, so both mother and daughter knocked on our door along with John, our landlord, to return it.  (Some say it is not a big deal to lose your ID card, but I beg to differ.  Patrick and Nora said they sell for $500 a pop on the black market--that I can believe!?  

We purchased some bacon recently from SuperMaxi, really like it.  Fred just cooked some up and could not help but notice how very little fat and water came out, unlike the bacon we've bought back home.  We also heard about a fabulous meat shop and bakery, called Bocatti.  We went to the one by Tres Puentes (Three Bridges), there is another one on Gran Colombia, and others. Excellent place for meats, great hard salami, various sauces and marinades, breads, good pastries and cakes, etc., and very clean.  We'll be going there more often. Some friends will only purchase their meats there.  The bake shop is in another section of the store with tables and chairs inside and out.  The bakery sells coffee by the cup, sandwiches and, of course, baked goods to enjoy while there--great chocolate cake, by the way and not too sweet.

We were invited up to our landlord John's farm, actually his mom's farm, up in the mountains near Tarqui.  Ecuadorians have a tradition of getting together in large family groups to enjoy a meal together that centers around the slaughtering and roasting of a pig.  Fred went along but I did not feel like seeing such a sad sight, as the slaughtering is not done in a humane way and the animal is not bled out.  The local's way of slaughtering the pig is a long standing tradition.  John says it is very sad, but they know of no other way.  Fred, of course, did not eat the pork.

John always teases me that he is going to get me to eat Cuy (Guinea pig).  I just laugh.  But that too is not bled out.  Believe me, I would not eat it if it was!

  
A entry from Fred:  You may not want to read this paragraph for it will leave an indelible impression.
It starts with the tying up of the pig. They tie its legs so it cannot run. Then they tie it's mouth closed to minimize the amount of squealing that will be going on. Let me assure you of something, the phrase, "squealing like a pig", has new meaning for me now. To kill the animal they use a 2 foot piece of re-bar with a sharpened point on it. The idea is to stab the animal in the heart. In this particular story the person to pierce the animal was in training. He missed the heart on the first attempt (and second and third). He went probing around until he found his target. All I can say is "poor pig". Once the pig is dead, they cut the throat to bleed. Only three drops came out. Not hardly enough to make blood sausage. You would think that they would gut the animal at this point. But no. They take a big torch and burn all the hair off, scraping it after each torching. There comes a point when the skin begins to cook and turns to this beautiful golden brown. This is when the meal begins. A liquor drink is passed around and a toast is given. The corn and other vegetables are on the table and every one digs in. No plate is used. Just take what you want and eat with your fingers. I would have loved to have had some pork skin. It looked very good. After that, the animal is cut up and put in a pot for cooking. All parts of the animal are used. (End of Fred's entry)

However, John was explaining to us that when their family gets together and slaughters a bull, a lot of blood does come out and they do consume it, either by cooking with it or even drinking it.  We do have a feeling, however, that John will NOT be doing that again.  In a bible discussion with him, we showed him right from his own Spanish bible, how Jehovah feels about the use of blood and he appeared to be very cut to the heart.  He said he couldn't believe he was never taught or shown these scriptures before by his priest, and also said he must show these scriptures to his family.  He also expressed deep concern as to whether God could forgive such a thing.  A good discussion and a very good response.

We are also having an excellent study with a women on Wednesday evenings.  She speaks very good English, lived in the States for 8 years. (Ecuadorians are very well traveled, by the way)  She likes using the New World Translation in English (she's had it for some time); she likes the English language better than Spanish, altogether.  But when we show her the scriptures in Spanish, as we always read from both the English and Spanish bibles, she gets the point better in Spanish, it touches her heart.  So, we have learned to never assume that they understand all the words in English or that they get the point, just because they read English very well.  The same is true with John.

For the best view of beautiful Cuenca we took a trip up to Turi.  The white Church of Turi is very visible from below, perched high on a steep hill in the little suburb of Turi.  To get there, one can take a taxi or catch a city bus at the intersection of Fray Vicente Solano & 12 de Abril--it will say Turi. We also saw the red Double-Decker Cuenca tour bus parked up there and waiting to take it's passengers back down.  Or, you can take the many, many, many concrete steps that zigzag their way up to the top.  That's what we did. Needless to say, we took the city bus back!   Actually, I didn't do too bad.  Must be getting used to the altitude or getting in shape.  Ha! I can only wish!

In the little town of Turi there are artisans selling all kinds of things from ceramics to woodwork. There is a high-end restaurant there, a nice looking dinner theater, their show is called Likapaay Kusina.  You can get the info for that show online.  The building is right on the edge of the hill, so the view at night must be amazing, it sure is during the day.  Sorry, there are no pictures of that place yet.  Did not have a camera, as we were only in the area with the intention of checking out Bocatti.  With the views, along with some old, interesting buildings, it is a great place to take photos.  Actually, I encourage you to Google or Bing Turi for some photos or videos.

Something I think I failed to mention before, but always negotiate even with the taxi drivers, and I don't care how "sweet" they appear to be!  They are very notorious for ripping off foreigners (heard some Ecuadorian even complain about them).  From the airport, they will try to charge you $5.00 to $6.00 dollars, they did us - NEVER!  Pay no more than $4.00 from the airport -- you really should pay $3.00 if you are staying at a hotel downtown, which is not that far.  (Cuenca is really not all that big!)  Negotiate sweetly before you take off,  I saw an Ecuadorian woman negotiate, walk away and flag down a different cab, so do the same!  One Taxi driver wanted to add on a dollar after we arrived home because it was nighttime, which is ridiculous, we told him no and walked away. One women from Venezuela related to me that her American husband took a cab without her one day and the driver asked for $2.50.  He said to the driver, "I'm not a stupid Gringo, you will get $1.50 and no more".  The taxi driver laughed, and said, "you're right, you are not a stupid Gringo".  

Also, as mentioned in another entry, never tip the taxi drivers, unless you feel you need to because they went out of their way for you somehow.  One friend took a cab to our house, but they could not find our place, got completely lost.  The driver still only wanted to charge Shirley $2.00, (and her apartment is not that close to ours) she gave him $3.00 because of how patient and kind he was.  Obviously, balance is needed.

Ranked #2 of 100 things to do in Cuenca by Lonely Planet travelers, and ranked #1 of 47 restaurants in Cuenca by TripAdvisor, we finally went to Tiestos Restaurant at 7-34 Juan Jaramillo & Antonio Borreo!  (Cafe Eucalyptus is ranked #1 by Lonely Planets travelers, at least at this time.) And all I'm going to say is: WOW!  The fusion cuisine is to die for, plus great service and atmosphere.  You must have reservations and you must have an appetite, not to mention about $50.00, more or less, in your wallet for 2 people.  We have to be on a tight budget, so Tiestos, unfortunately, can't be a regular thing for us, but well worth going! 

A few weeks ago, there was an earthquake here in Cuenca.  Friends felt it from one end of the city to the other.  Our neighbor right above us felt it strongly and was scared, a friend a few blocks away felt it strongly and was scared, as everything shook and windows rattled.  Unfortunately, we slept through it -- rats!  It happened around 2am.


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Comments

Eugenia Gray on

The study with John sounds very exciting and promising. what an attitude. Mom & I can't wait to get there. eg

STEPHANIE ARMSTRONG on

LAURA AND FRED, I LOVE HEARING OF ALL THE INTERESTING THINGS GOING ON. ONE DAY I WOULD LIKE TO COME SEE YOU AND STAY FOR A FEW WEEKS. I LIKE THE CULTURE AND HISTORY OF DIFFERENT COUNTRIES. I HOPE WE WILL HAVE THAT DIVERSITY IN CULTURES IN THE NEW WORLD. KEEP UP THE POSTS. PHILIA STEPHANIE

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