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Sunday, January 20, 2013

New House, New Neighbors, New Art

I’m finally settled into my new digs after moving at the end of the year.   I've been doing a lot of cleaning, primarily because of continued work on the house…things that were supposed be done over a month ago.  There was the guy who installed the moldings around the hardwood floors who decided to do all the cutting with his power saw IN the rooms!!!  Dust everywhere.   Then, after several promised dates but resulting in no-shows, the guy who patched the holes in the ceilings.  White goop was splattered everywhere.   I found splatter on photos that were ten feet away!!!   Then, came the sanding which coated everything in….dust.  On top of that, he used a homemade wooden ladder to lean against the walls, with no protection, so I had to go back and repaint over all the scratches and scrapes.  Oh yeah, and when he hauled his sawhorse upstairs scraping the freshly painted walls along the way.  GRRRRR!!!!

There’s been a lot of miscommunication with the owners.  I was asked what color I wanted the outside of the house painted.  I suggested the same colors as it is now because it would save $$.  I was informed painters would be here on Saturday morning.   Friday night the paint was delivered.  ONE gallon of light green and ONE gallon of cream.   HUH???    Is this like the story of breaking a loaf of bread and feeding 600 people?  Two gallons will miraculously coat the entire house?    Apparently, the owners changed their minds and decided to only touch up the house.  How was the paint going to match something that was 3-4 years old?   Somehow, it did.  I’m sure the painters mixed in water to stretch it out.  The touch-up really turned out nice…surprisingly.

Where I come from, we’re so geared towards safety, threats of liability, can’t do this/can’t do that, must have the most sophisticated equipment or no-go, etc.  Here, I’m always shocked at what they can get away with, with a little bit of creativity and 'can-do' attitude.   My house is 3 levels high on one side, so they need to bring in scaffolding right?   Noooo.   The guys showed up with homemade wooden ladders and if they needed to go higher than one ladder would take them…they used rope to strap two of them together end to end!!!!!  When they were painting outside the upstairs bedroom I heard a bunch of knocking.  I went to see what was up.  One of the painters wanted me to open a bedroom window so he could, with one hand, hang on inside while outside on a doubled ladder that was bowing significantly, use the other hand with the paint roller.   EEEEEK!!!   They had a roller, yes, but to reach extended areas, they found a long slender branch and jammed it into the roller handle to use as an extension pole.   Us?  We’d be out buying an adjustable aluminum pole for $79 at Home Depot!!

A lot of brush had grown up against the house since it sat unoccupied for a few years.   I’ve been hacking away at that, revealing nice bricked planters running alongside the house.   There were a lot of ‘stinging nettles’ in the mix…those suckers hurt!!!  Finally donned rubber gloves and got rid of it all.

Next was to clean up the garbage flung about the property.  Drives me nuts that construction workers tend to fling whatever they no longer need out into the yard for someone to clean up later.  I found shelving cast off into the high grass.   Then there was the area they obviously used to dump all the pieces of broken tile.  A lot of grass had grown entwined in it.  They were filling holes in the yard with it!!   How dangerous it could be if anyone was playing in the area due to all those sharp edges.  So, out it came, piece by piece by hand, some shovelfuls, into my new wheelbarrow (a birthday gift to myself) and up to the front of the property.   I even found a big mesh bag of broken tile sat into a hole that I lifted out whole.   SHEESH!!!

I have 5 large niches in the walls leading upstairs, plus a large wall space over the front door in the foyer, so I’ve been on the hunt for unique art.    About a year ago, I saw an artist in a downtown space who’s work encompasses the use of various types and colors/roasts of coffee beans, black-eyed peas, pistachio shells, pumpkin and popcorn seeds to create 3-paneled scenes.   The amount of time and tedious effort it takes to glue every single piece in place is mind-boggling.  Each of his wall art contain more than 2,000 pieces!!   I’ve had it in my mind to buy one of his creations all this time.   I gave him a call.  He remembered me.   I brought along a friend of mine (Manon) plus Monica to translate for us, and went to his house where he put on a private show for us.  He dragged out piece after piece (each creation comprised of 3 panels) and lined them up around the living room for us to view.  Plus, he had table-top items that stuffed away in a cabinet that he took out, unwrapped, and displayed for us.  Each new one outdid the one prior to it.  It was hard to make a decision.  Well, Manon bought one, I bought one plus a table-top piece and off we went happy campers.

Oh, you’re probably wondering how the new digs fare on the factors (car alarms, barking dogs, horns, privacy) that caused me to flee my previous location?   I’m happy to report…thus far….it gets a 9.5 score out of 10!!!!    Nothing is perfect, right?    My new location is about 3 miles outside the densely populated area of Cuenca, via a fast-moving highway and no stops along the way.  So, in a matter of minutes, I can be home in a semi-rural area, or smack dab in the middle of the city.

There are NO houses butted up against mine.  I have ONE neighbor who lives in a ramshackle piecemeal ‘house’ across the road.  Otherwise, zilch.  The other two sides are just undeveloped land and corn fields, and the last side has a new house under construction but it is at least 75 feet away behind a row of eucalyptus trees.   I have yard space on all 4 sides of the house.  The dirt road that accesses my house is about 500 feet from the highway.  The only noise I hear is chickens, roosters (who like to crow at 3am, 4am, 5am, and 6am), and at night a very odd new sound I’ve never heard before…kinda like “TOCK”!!!,  I’ve been told it’s made by a bug in the high grass.  From my office, I can see for miles, clear to the other side of Cuenca.

I don’t have internet yet.   For the past few weeks, I drive to the mall on a daily basis to use their WiFi to send/receive emails and post my blog!!  That's where I am right now and what I'm doing right now!

Enjoy the photos!!!

Dano

My new digs. 

I had them cut out a cabinet and re-size the one next to it so I could have a dishwasher.  
When I first looked at the house there was no place for the stove and refrigerator…so I designed this for them to build.
There were no closets so they built these with the stain I chose

I had the entire interior of the house painted.   I painted these lighted niches…now to find the art for them.
Office (before)
Office (after)
Dining room (before)
Dining room (after)
Living room (before)
Living room (after)
Bar
When the driveway portal was originally built a few years ago, the road was lower.  For some reason, the road got built up about 20 inches higher.  So, the portal had to be torn down, the gate track raised, and the portal completely rebuilt.

Luckily, I hadn’t burned this old wooden door lying out in the yard.  The painters made use of it!
Notice the two ladders connected via rope and the paint roller extension pole made out of a branch.
My coffee bean art!! 

Meet my neighbors….The Cluckers! 
Someone is confused here.  The baby is a duckling but follows the hen around everywhere she goes.
Meet my neighbors….The Heffers!!!   No, we don’t feel the need to be politically correct here so I’m not going to be all PC and refer to them as ‘Beefy’.  They are HEFFERS!!! 
Meet my neighbors….The Waddlers!!
I dunno.   It’s about 2 inches long, with a 3 inch wingspan.  Found another one the next day, but it was bark-colored and about 5 inches wide.   Maybe it’s The Tockers??

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Christmas, New Years Eve, and Dummies

This year seemed to be a lot different than last.  For some reason, there seemed to be more festivities and just more of everything than 2011.

Here, Christmas is a wee different than where I’m from.   Yes, there’s the commercialization of it all.   For example, Christmas displays in stores were popping up as early as September.   Sound familiar?  It USED to be after Thanksgiving, then it slid forward to after Halloween, now it’s as far as Back to School!!!

We don’t have fir or cedar trees here….we have a lot of eucalyptus and a smattering of pine.  Therefore, there are no Christmas tree lots selling fresh cut trees.  For those who even put up a tree, they are fake.  The malls have towering plastic trees decorated with plastic baubles.

Decorating houses with lights is not done much either, though you can find a few balconies draped with lights.  Nor are streets bedazzled with swags of lighting.   In the old centro, there were a few street decorations but not very noticeable.   Though, along the river Tomebamba was a great display of lighting that I posted in my last blog.   It wasn’t there last year.

With our mild weather and me wearing shorts all the time, the atmosphere doesn’t seem Christmasy either.  It’s not cccccold and there’s no possibility of snow.   Of course, I’m comparing to where I used to live in the Pacific Northwest.   I remember living in San Diego and I’d be in shorts and a tank-top in warm, sunny weather singing outside a mall about snow.   Just didn’t seem right.

I wondered what Christmas music might be like in South America.   There’s always that popular latin song ‘Feliz Navidad’.  I was surprised to hear many of the traditional Christmas songs I’m familiar with being played in shopping centers…in English!  Once in awhile I heard a Spanish version of songs I knew, such as ‘Silent Night’.  Never did hear ‘Grandma got run over by a Reindeer’.

Here, Christmas is really focused on the child.   Stores convert large sections from regular goods to toys, toys, toys.   One 2-level store cleared out its entire first level and converted it to nothing but toys.   Parades are all about the kids.   And, it’s not just ONE gigantic parade, there were parades all over town…even down the highway.  Children are dressed up as angels, shepherds, kings, etc in intricate outfits.   Horses are not just for riding.  They are decorated, too, with some very strange things….strands of candy, fruits, vegetables, beer bottles, flowers, you name it.

Last year, Christmas was deader than a doornail as everything was closed.  Streets were barren.   Oddly, this year the streets were fairly active with traffic and quite a few businesses were OPEN!!!    WEIRD!

I spent the vast part of Christmas day….moving.   Then, I got cleaned up and went to a party, stuffed myself with food, and enjoyed some al-key-hall.   Late into the night, I puked.   Something I ate didn’t set well with me.   Lovely, eh?

Again, this year seemed to be far more active in the lead-up to New Years Eve.   All over the city, streets were lined with dummies.   No, I’m not insulting the people of Ecuador!!    There is a tradition here…the burning of effigies…also known as Ano Viejos to get rid of the bad from the old year and bring good luck to the new year.   The dummies are generally made to look like human beings.   People take clothing and stuff them full of waste paper, cardboard, and/or straw to fill out the clothing and take on a shape.   Legs and sleeves are sewn shut to keep the stuffing inside.   I was amazed at some of the clothing…what good condition they were in!   Some dummies only have a neck stub, but some have a head and people purchase masks to place on the head to give it a character.  Many of the masks are of well-known people such as the President, the devil, Hillary Clinton, etc, whereas others might simply represent a woman or a man.  Some are life-size (ie; 6ft tall) and some were as small as 3 ft tall.

Also, there were scads of dummies made up to look like comic book characters (Spiderman, Captain America, etc) and cartoon celebrities such as Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner, Tweetie, etc.  Who’d want to burn TWEETIE???!!!!!   Most of these were made out of paper mache….a lot of work to simply burn up!

Many people even had dummies made to represent themselves or their business.  For example, one gas station had a dummy of a gas station attendant wearing their company uniform.   Dummies were strapped to the fronts of cars and pickups.   One of the city busses had a dummy strapped to the front of it.  The driver had a string attached to one of the dummy’s arms and he would manipulate it from inside the bus to make the dummy ‘wave’ to people on the street.

I’ve had a series of crappy things happen to me in the past several years, instigated by some really sh_tty people.    I decided I was going to participate in this Ecuadorian ritual.    I purchased THREE dummies from two cute young boys who kept shouting THREE DOLLARS, THREE DOLLARS!!! every time I walked by them.   After looking at several stalls of dummies, I decided to buy mine from them and they helped me haul them to the car.  I don’t know how they could make a profit given the clothes they used, the stuffing, sewing, transportation to selling site, etc.  I swear one of my dummies had a brand new pair of jeans on it!

One was dressed sort of Corporately.   I used a black felt pen to write names of specific companies I wished to have burn in Hell.   In some cases, I wrote the names in specific places on the dummy…such as the ass.   I won’t tell you which companies I wrote, but one of them goes by the initials BofA.

Another was a female dummy.   Again, I had a handful of names that deserved to suffer a fiery demise.   One, was of an attorney who sued me to take property away from me, lied in front of the judge which caused her to win the judgment and me $15,000 poorer for the lousy representation I got from my attorney.  Now that I think of it, I should have bought a 4th dummy to represent ALL attorneys and stuffed a bunch of firecrackers up you know where.

The 3rd dummy was a male.   I almost ran out of space writing names on that sucker.  The guy who scammed me claiming he was a home builder, my old boss at WaMu, the person(s) who stole my cars’ computer/brain, the bullies from junior high school, neighbors (yes, plural) at Rocky Point, and a male cancer which took my Dad away from me.

The tradition is to burn these effigies at midnight.  To really seal the good luck part of it, you’re supposed to jump over the burning corpses 3 times.   However, some dummies are stuffed with fireworks, so I chose not to do that part lest I suffer an explosive enema.   All over Cuenca, there are fires in the streets, on the sidewalks, in parking lots, wherever.  The next day there are piles of ashes everywhere.

Many burnings aren't simply acts of "good-riddance," but are conducted with hopes of cleansing bad habits.  The male half of a ‘lovely couple’ I know decided he was going to stop smoking.   His wife made a giant stuffed cigarette and that was what their effigy to burn and, yes, he did jump over it 3 times.

I must admit, I did feel a sense of catharsis watching my dummies get torched.   Even the action of lighting them afire gave me satisfaction as I held my lighter under their asses.  I just hope the ‘real’ dummies felt it wherever they were at the time.

Another fun part of New Years Eve is the ugly widows.  You read correctly.   The tradition is for men to get dressed up in drag…but not pretty drag…ugly drag.   They hit the streets, approaching cars for donations.  The typical routine is to pair up with others and devise a barrier (such as a rope) to prevent you from passing unless you toss some change in their purse.   I was driving some clients around that day and we got stopped many times.   I don’t remember where the donations go, but I think the proceeds go to orphanages.   Anyhoo, it was great fun and we had a lot of laughs at the verrrrry bad drag.

Enjoy the photos!!!

Dano

A typical display of dummies lining many streets in Cuenca the week after Christmas.



Masks you can choose to adorn your dummy.

These are made of paper mache.

Recognize anybody?


My 3 dummies and the 2 boys I bought them from.  $9 bucks.

Ugly widow.


Ugly widow working the highway near where I live.

Traffic stoppers.   Looks like one lost a shoe!

Chasing after a truck for a donation.

Stuffed dummy riding on top of pickup.

My 3 dummies, saying their last prayers.

First up....Mr Corporation.

The female.  I hope 'DR' felt the fire wherever she was at the time.  GRRRRRR!!!

BURN BABY BURRRRRRRRRN!!!!!

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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