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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pumapungo, Car Update, Moan/Groan

To my new readers, WELCOME!.  To my faithful flock (oh brother...laying it on thick eh?) and the onesie-twosie readers, HELLO  AGAIN!!  Those who know me, are well aware I can have strong opinions, therefore you might not always find just pretty words about purty places here.  As with life, there is the good, bad, and ugly.  This blog is not one-sided.  That said, in this particular entry, you will find a little of all of it, the good, bad, and ugly.

Pumapungo Archaeological Park

For the past 80-some days, Cuenca has been the host of Bienal (bee en all) XI art exhibition in many venues around the city.  I and a friend of mine from Quito (Alexis) raced around some of the venues this past weekend.  One, in particular, closed at 2pm on Sunday.  We arrived.....at 2pm.   The guard graciously invited us to walk thru the Pumapungo Archaeological Park located behind the museum.   Though not part of the Bienal XI exhibition, it is a permanent park made up of archaeological ruins on land owned by the Banco Central (Central Bank) of Ecuador. 

I drive by PAP all the time and haven't been all that impressed with what I could see, as most of the ruins are no more than rock walls 2-3' high, presumably foundationss of former buildings.  Nothing all that exciting, at least not to ME.  But, to give due credit, they are of the city of Tomebamba, in the late 15th century for cripes sake, so it's not like you can expect them to be in their full former glory!!

However, what I DID enjoy was the 'arboretum' of plants, flowers, water, and bird sanctuary in the lower area.  Well worth the time to saunder along the pathways and take in the awesome varieties of cactus and other eye-catching plants and read the information plaques (albeit only in Spanish).  My favorite was the bird sanctuary filled with large colorful parrots, hawks, and other species.  Some even spoke!!   Ever talk to a parrot in Spanish?  "HOLA!!"

Enjoy the photos below.

Update on the Car Robbery

Two blog entries ago, I told you about my car being robbed, on Christmas Eve, of the computer 'brain' that operates many functions of the car, most importantly....the engine!!  A new computer costs over $2,000 and the electrical wire harness which had been cut, over $1,000.  The Chevy dealer had not been able to find a replacement part in all of Ecuador, primarily because my car is an automatic transmission and 98% of Grand Vitaras in EC are manual.   However, it appears they have located a replacment part in the US.

I did some searching of my own to possibly find a used one.   Friends of mine here in Cuenca read my blog and happened to mention to friends of theirs (native Cuencanans) of my situation.  Same thing had happened to them.  They (the Cuencanos) are a well-known family in the area and had contacts...they would see if they could find me one.    Word came back that a used one was found, believed to be the correct part for my car specs, and would cost $500.  Well, that's a HECK of a lot better than over $2,000!  I jokingly said to my friend...'What?  Is this family the Mafia for used parts in Cuenca?'.  He jokingly replied that I'm probably buying back my OWN part!!!  Well, it ended up the part was already spoken for.  Oh well, we tried.   

With that, I authorized the Chevy dealer to go ahead with fixing my car with new parts that they found in the USA.  Or, I thought I did.  

I sent the email the day I left for my USA trip-that-never-happened.  A week later, I asked for an update.  They said they never received my email.  UGH!!   I checked and double-checked my email and saw nothing wrong.  Finally....ooops....I realized I omitted one letter.   Dang it....just lost 7 days for nothing.  So, I re-sent it and re-started my waiting and, as of today January 31, no word (though I've asked for an update 3 times).  I've been going through car-withdrawal ever since December 25th.   Back to taxi's.

Response to a Readers' Comment

I have received a lot of wonderful compliments from people all over the planet.  They enjoy the humor, they appreciate the information ahead of their own travels to EC, they feel the pain of the UGHS.   Once in awhile I get not-so-great comments...the ones that tell you to 'go back where you came from' or bash me for something I said.    I'd like to respond to one in particular.

In the last blog entry, a person posted the following (excerpts of) comment:   "DANO DONT SET UP YOUR SELF AGAIN FIRST YOU PARK YOUR CAR OUTSIDE OF THE SAFETY OF YOUR HOME AND THEY VANDALIZE YOUR CAR TOOK A VERY EXPENSIVE PART I AM NOT SURPRISE"   "....KNOWING ECUADOR I WOULD NEVER LEAVE THE COUNTRY WITHOUT THE REQUIRE DOCS YOU SHOULD BE ASK INMIGRATION FIRST..."  "...YOU ARE A VICTIM OF YOUR OWN SELF..."  "STOP PUTTING ECUADORIANS DOWN"  "IT IS YOUR FAULT THINK THINK THINK BEFORE"

Hmmmm....where do I start?
  • Yes, I should have parked my car inside my gate, and I regret that I didn't.   But:
    • what about the thousands of people who don't HAVE a garage or inside parking and have to park on the street?  Are they all at fault too should their car be (or has been) robbed?
    • what if the space inside my walls was taken...with another car of visitors or roomate...or debris from construction/remodelling underway?
    • why is the victim getting blamed?  I was blamed by police for not parking my car at home when my car was broken into in Quito.   My home is CUENCA!!!  I was blamed by the hotel for not parking my car in FRONT of the hotel where a bloodshot-eyed guard could keep tabs on it.  I parked it 75 feet away on the corner in full view because there was NO space in front of the hotel.   75 ft made THAT much difference?????
    • What about holding CRIMINALS ACCOUNTABLE and STOPPING CRIME instead of putting all the blame on the victim???   Bassackwards if you ask me.
  • Excusethehelloutame, but:
    •  I have travelled to/from at least 16 countries in my life and never once have I ever needed anything other than a valid Passport. 
    •  I clearly stated that I consulted with my attorney as to what was needed for me to travel outside EC AND be able to return.   My attorney, who SPECIALIZES in EC immigration documentation, reassured me many times, that all I needed for legal travel was the proper EC residency Visa stamp in my passport, which I got in late December.  I SPECIFICALLY waited 9 months for this validation BEFORE making any plans to travel and only once I received it, did I go ahead and make plans to go to the USA.  So, why should I doubt my attorney who SPECIALIZES in this?  As far as I was concerned, I did my due diligence and didn't go willy-nilly into planning this trip. 
    • Why should I go to immigrations and ask the same question...especially when there is typically so many bureacratic inconsistencies in EC???
      • case in point the EC Consulate in San Francisco has different policies/procedures than the EC Consulate in Washington DC...but they are both representing requirements of the SAME country!!!.
  • I am NOT putting Ecuadorians down.   I don't know where you're getting that.  I may be critiquing the way some things are done here.  I also applaud many of the things they do here.  So what?  They are simply MY observations, MY experiences which is what this blog is all about.  Just like my profile says "I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live here."   I take issue with a lot of things in the US, too, but I'm not writing about my experiences in the USA am I?  It is human nature to observe the different ways of doing things and living life, whether it be in Russia, New Zealand, Wyoming, Britain, Abu Dabi, or Cucamonga.  If I make note of something I (emphasis on 'I') believe could be done better (ie; ordering important government supplies BEFORE they run out versus WHEN they run out) I am noting something that is HUMAN-related, not ethnic or nationality-related.
  • You don't know me.  Hmmm...WAAAAIT....maybe you do!!!!  MOM!!!   Did you write that comment!!!???   Well, just in case it wasn't my Mom, let me tell you about me.  I'm a Capricorn.   If that doesn't say it all, my profession in the past 30+ years was as a Business Analyst.  Anyone who knows me, knows I analyze everything to death.  I research, analyze, create spreadsheets, dot my i's, cross my t's, weigh the pro's and con's, consult, and examine what-if's before I decide which bathroom I'm going to use to take a shit!!!  (shouldn't it really be GIVE a shit?).    And, you know what?   After all that, sometimes 'shit happens'.
Dano

Yours truly.  Hmmm....looks like I need a Just for Men color touchup on the beard!!!


Alexis at one of the art exhibits.   He is 5ft 6".  Look at how tall the geraniums get here!!!




An Eagle....but not the American kind.  Eagle Hawk.


This dude turned his back on me just as I snapped the shot.  GRRRR


A house on the arboretum grounds....but who's?





Thursday, January 19, 2012

Friday the 13th

Well, last we chatted, things weren't going so well.   Not much has changed.   I'm not necessarily a superstitious person, but as I grow older (and older) there is a longer span of time of which to observe patterns, or consistent behaviors, right?   For example, when it's a full moon, I really should hunker down in a corner, lights out, doors locked, not see nor speak to anyone.   I usually don't realize it's a full moon until weird things start happening around me (drivers driving insanely, people being ruder than usual, can't find parking, and things don't happen like they should).  It's then that I wonder....'Is it a full moon, or what?'...and 8 out of 10 times it is. 

What the heck are you talking about Dano?   Keep reading.

In my last blog entry, I made note that I had travel plans to the Seattle area.   I was able to salvage my itinerary because one of my best friends, Brian, put it on his charge card.   This was because my new charge card (generated because of fraudulent activity on my old account) had not arrived in Cuenca in time to make the 7-day-hold deadline AA imposed.    Chase ASSURED me it would be sent to my Cuenca address, not to the mailing address on the account...which is my Mom's place.  It wasn't a big deal, no different than if I was on vacation and holed up in a hotel in London and needed a new card sent to me ASAP.  Two days AFTER the airfair deadline, Mom sent me an email stating my new card had arrived...at HER HOUSE IN WASHINGTON!!!!    GRRRRRRR

Ok, fine.  I'll get it from her when I see her in a few days (hint....ain't gonna happen). 

Friends test-driving Cuenca were apartment hunting but not coming up with anything, so I asked them if they would house-sit for me for 2 1/2 weeks while in the USA, take care of my kids (pets) and plants.  SURE!!   That would buy them more time to apartment-hunt.

Thursday, the 12th, I flew to Quito and stayed overnight for my 6am departure in the morning of the 13th....Friday the 13th (play scary musical notes....dum d' Dum DUM!!!!!).     I got up at , and the taxi whisked me thru traffic-less streets to the airport.  Checked in at American Airlines after waiting in a long, slow line, checked my bag, got my boarding pass.    Filled out the immigration form and passed the checkpoint where having ticket and passport were validated and I was allowed upstairs to proceed on through immigrations.

The immigration officer (I'll call him IO) examined my passport and recognized that I in fact am now a Resident of Ecuador due to my newly stamped 9-month-waited-for Visa.  He then asked me for my Censo (an Ecuadorian ID card required of foreigners but not of citizens).   I told him I didn't have it because the entire (expletive) government RAN OUT of the materials (plastic cards) to make them with.  SIDE COMMENT:  Do you THINK someone/anyone would foresee they were going to run out BEFORE running out and re-order the supplies BEFORE running out?  Noooo....thinking ahead is not of the mindset.  END SIDE COMMENT.   I also informed the IO that my attorney, who specializes in this matter, said once I got my residency Visa I could freely travel...that I do NOT need to have my Censo.  I showed the IO copies of the orders for the Censo and Cedula my attorney provided me in case they did ask.    Nothing doing.   He kept saying "no puede viajar" (you cannot travel).  I kept challenging him.  He went elsewhere to consult with others (probably about when they were going to lunch) and came back with the same answer.   I kept asking for someone who spoke English as this was too important to leave to the possibility of language misunderstandings.   Finally, an American Airlines representative came upstairs, but the end result was the same.

The flight was about to leave in 30 minutes.  She needed to get my bag off the plane.   The IO said I could go to an immigrations office near a mall in Quito and, when they open at , get some sort of certificate which would validate (?) me and they would honor it and allow me to travel.  I don't know what needed validation since, after all, I have my passport.   The AA rep said she could re-book me on the flight to Miami.   That meant I would have 2 hours and 50 minutes to get through the certificate validation process, get back to the airport, and go through all the lines again and make my flight.

I decided not to do that because my connections in Miami and Los Angeles would be missed and I would have further problems making it to Seattle.   Also, because of typical Ecuadorian processes, I did not know what I would encounter once I got to the immigrations offices….long lines, a dispute (typing error, mis-spelling, lacking information, someone in a bad mood, etc etc), language barriers, etc that might cause a delay, a requirement to go somewhere and have copies made, a requirement to find a notary, etc etc.   There would be no guarantee that I would leave with a valid certificate AND still make it back to the airport in time to check in, go through immigrations, then security, etc etc and make my flight.   Again, due to inconsistencies in processes between one department and another, I run the risk of having problems when I attempt to RETURN to Ecuador via Miami later this month.  Who knows whether they would accept that certificate in lieu of the Censo….even though Quito will supposedly honor it leaving the country.  If they didn't, I'd be stuck in the USA.


Soooooo….I told American Airlines to cancel my flight and issue me a refund.   I will re-book a trip home to the USA only when I have the REAL Censo and Cedula in-hand.   American agreed to issue a refund, but I must pay a penalty…but they wouldn't tell me how much the penalty was.  I had to take a taxi to an agency in a mall and find out how much I have to pay once I get there….then hope they issue a refund since my airfare was almost $1,100!!

After sitting on the floor and waiting 45 minutes, they finally gave me my bag.  I checked my bags at a storage kiosk as I didn't want to continue to drag them around all over town.  I took a taxi to the American Airlines office.  It was 8am, they opened at 9am.    Luckily, it was located next to Carolina Park, a very large beautiful park full of jogging paths, playgrounds, soccer fields, tennis courts, large spances of lawns, paddle boat lagoon, basketball courts, bicycle-trick areas, etc etc.   I noticed on the ride over, a beautiful display of large hummingbird statues all painted in various designs.  I walked over there and took several snaps you'll see below.   I also spotted an old airplane over yonder (I love old planes) and took photos of that, too.

After the nice walk, the AA office was open.  It basically boiled down to either cancelling the ticket or keeping the ticket to use against a later itinerary, but either way I was going to have to forfeit $200 as a 'penalty' and $75 for a change fee.    GEEZ LAWEEZE!!!

Back in a taxi.  Back to the airport.   I needed to find a flight home to Cuenca.   Nothin doin.   There are only 3 airlines that fly to CUE and at most, 2 flights a day.  They were all booked.   The most I could do was physically stand in a line (no standby list) for the 1:45pm flight.  I stood for 3 hours.  A few people got on, but 5 people in front of me and everyone behind me were toast. 

Back in a taxi.  Back to my hotel from the night before.  Miguel, the owner, was super kind and got me a tiny room for $15.  I immediately got online to look for flights the next day.   All the first flights out were booked, but the evening flight (6pm) had seats.  But, I couldn't reserve them online without a credit card.   AAAAGGGHHH!!!!    I called George who was house-sitting my place and he obliged to use his card and I paid him back when I returned.    With that done, I headed out to Plaza Foch, a well-known party district and enjoyed a nice big burger and 4 glasses of wine (2 fer 1).

The next day, Saturday, I had to kill time between hotel check-out time and the flight at 6pm.  I did a lot of waiting on this trip to nowhere!!!  No more drama after this.  I flew home and in short time I was back in my house as if I had never gone anywhere.   Poor guys who were planning on house-sitting for 2 1/2 weeks!!

  • Taxi to Cuenca airport $5
  • Airfare to Quito $66
  • Taxi to hotel in Quito $6
  • Hotel in Quito $25
  • Dinner in Quito $12
  • Taxi to airport in the morning $10 (but it was $6 last night!!!!)
  • Taxi to American Airline agency to pay penalty $5
  • Baggage storage fee $6
  • Penalty for canceling flight $275
  • Taxi back to Quito airport $5
  • Unable to return to Cuenca today
  • Taxi back to original hotel $5
  • Hotel 2nd night $15
  • Dinner $25
  • Lunch 2nd day $13
  • Taxi to Quito airport $5
  • Airfare back to Cuenca $77
  • Taxi back home $4
$559 wasted on a roundtrip to NOWHERE!!!
Enjoy the photos.
Dano



There are approximately 70 of these statues in the park.   Including the platform on which they were mounted, they're about 8 feet tall.







Ummm....is this supposed to mean the hummingbird is pregnant???


Gee, Mom & Dad never bought ME a plane to make a slide in my playground!!  Hrrrmmmpph!!!

An angry flying Poodle?



Friday, January 6, 2012

Starting the New Year 2012

I was really hoping to write some nifty stories about Christmas and New Years in Cuenca, but it fizzled out.  After having my car robbed on Christmas Eve and having it towed away to Chrevrolet, I wasn't in much of a mood for partying.   Come New Years Eve, I went to bed at 8pm.   How's THAT for sad!!!???

I've been hit with pretty much a wham, bam, thankyou Dan in the past 10 days.  And, it hasn't been good.  Let me tell you about it....

First the robbery.   It has been 11 days since my car was hauled away.  In that time, Chevy has not been able to find the primary part it needs...the computer 'brain' that controls the engine.   Even though there's a gazillion Grand Vitaras crawling all over Ecuador, mine just so happens to be an oddity (but of course) because it's an automatic and 99.999% of the cars in Ecuador are manual transmissions.  Worried about their inability to find the part and my car becoming a very nice ship anchor, I went to see the Service Manager at Chevy.   He showed me the sheet that itemizes all the parts needed to get my car back up and running.   There was a VERY audible gasp in his office when I saw the number next to the computer....it was over $2,000!!!!   Yes...I did not type an extra 0!!!  And, to make the brick of shit (can I say that in blogspot?) that I was passing even BIGGER, they also needed the wiring harness which costs over $1,000!!!  OMFG!!!!   I asked why the thieves took the air filter box and ducting...what did that have to do with the computer?  He said it contained a sensor that works together with the computer.   GEEEEEZ!!!!

I was in a state of shock, looking at a $5,000 repair bill.   There are just no words.

Next.  For the past 10 days I have had lousy internet connectivity.   I've had to restart my modem 10-20 times a day.   No connectivity, slow speed, fast speed, disconnect, hours without, back up again, down again, nothing in the morning, and on and on it went.   Whenever I called ETAPA it would happen to be zippy at the moment and they said it was fine!!   So, I started keeping a log to prove my case.   They finally came to my house today and it APPEARS it has been fixed.  We'll see.  Thus, my ability to write my blog today.

NEXT.  In this same period of time, I ran out of hot water while showering.  Can't happen while washing dishes....nooooo.   Murphy's law applies the same here just like anything with a cord...it WILL, it MUST get tangled in something.  Hot water MUST run out in the middle of ones shower.  I digress.

The gas tank had run empty which baffled me because it didn't seem to last very long.   Then, my hot water heater (Calefone) came on.  It shouldnt't have because no water was being called.    A few days passed and I monitored it.  It kept coming on every 2-3 minutes then turned itself off after about 15 seconds.  I analyzed and analyzed and it just didn't make sense.  It is only supposed to turn on when water moves, and no water was being called...so why was there water moving and where the hell was the water going?  I looked for leaks all throughout the house...none.

I called Patricio, my all-around guy who's done a lot of work in my house.  He believed a pipe broke under my brick patio.   Of course, we had no clue what path the pipe took, so he had to chip out holes in the patio floor...nope, not there....nope, not there....nope, not there.   Finally found it.  The pipe indeed sprung a leak and the water was going straight down into the ground.   Fixed it, patched up all the holes.

Next.  Last Monday, I woke up to NO water.  I figured the city must be doing something so I waited a few hours.  Finally, I decided to ask my neighbors if they were without water, too.   Yes.  Good, I'm not alone.  Deciphering their Spanish, there was a large issue on a street quite a ways from us, so it affected a large area.   They said the water may not be on until 2pm or after.   While we were talking, many neighbors were coming and going to the neighborhood store and filling up on water in various cannisters.   GREAT.   I had a dinner party to go to that evening and I was scrungy.   So, I packed my knapsack, grabbed a taxi, and went to a hot springs resort in Banos so I could bathe.   $4 taxi ride (each way), $4 entry, enjoyed the turkish steam room, showered, and had a plate of fries and a large beer $3 and I was good to go.

NEXT!!  One good thing did happen.  I got my residency Visa after 9 months of waiting!!  Without it, I would not be allowed back into the country if I left for any reason.   Now that I can, I booked a trip back home to the Seattle area.  It took me 3 days to get the airfare booked because every frickin time I would almost get through the process, my internet connection would drop.  Finally, last Sunday I was making headway on getting all the way through.  I decided to forego a New Years Day party so I could be sure I could get my itinerary booked.

I booked my airfare on American and got it ticketed, so I presumed everything was AOK.  Then, the next day, I got an email from AA stating the charge was declined by Chase.  I called Chase.  I found out a slew of fraudulent charges have been hitting my account since New Year.    Chase called AA for me to approve the charge, but AA said they won’t take it because I have a foreign mailing address on the US-issued credit card.  (enter cuss word)  I asked them WHY then did the online system allow me to book the airfare and change the status to TICKETED!!!   No good answer.  AA told me I need to go pay for it in person.  There's no AA office in Cuenca!!!

Chase is expressing a new card to me.    I have to have it before I leave…..7 days from now.    I have to pay for my $1086 airfare before this Sunday or I lose it.  Meanwhile, I've changed my mailing address to my Mom's address, so hopefully I will have the card in time here in Cuenca, before I lose my airfare and (expletive) AA will accept the card charge because I now have a US mailing address!!!

To be continued....

I'm losing my sanity.  I'm a good person.  Why is all this happening to ME???

Please pray to the Chevy Gods for me.

A smattering of photos follows.

Dano

Oh where, Oh where could that little water leak be?   Just start drilling anywhere.
GRACIE....get out of the picture!!!

Nope, not there.

Ah HA!!  There it is!!

Had to put in a new line via a new route.

HUH??   This is part of the New Years celebration.  People buy these clothed, stuffed (with paper I think) human-like figures, then buy face masks (that might represent someone) and even go so far as putting wigs and other paraphanalia on them......then....they BURN THEM in the streets!!!!
 Many resemble political figures, or the devil, or maybe the ex-husband!!  By burning them, it is hoped all the evil associated with them will go away in the new year.

You can even burn effigies of Homer Simpson, Shrek, or Don-kay!!

Sorry for the blurred photos...I was riding in a Taxi...since I DON'T HAVE A CAR!!!!!

About Me

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Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Cuenca and greater Ecuador. I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live here.

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