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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Pretty Things

Hola!   I've had 2 children and they've grown up and gone off to college in the time that I last wrote an entry to my blog!!!   Just kidding, but it feels like it's been that long.

Since it's Christmas Day 2014, I have a lot of time on my hands to get things done that I've been procrastinating over.

And, since it's Christmas, I'm not gonna gripe about one single thing!!   It's all going to be pretty posies, kittens, smiles, laughter, puffy clouds, cheesecake, and not-a-damn-thing-wrong-in-the-world,!!

Since I last wrote, I bought a 'new' car and actually managed to sell my 'old' car in fairly quick fashion.   I wanted a slightly bigger car than what I had because I'm so often asked to drive people to different parts of the country along with their luggage and, too, I pick up all my guests from the airport, bus station, or van company and one never knows how many bags they are going to bring.  Plus (as if I need to justify any more) much of my driving is at high elevation with lots of climbing and curves, so I wanted a bit more power.  Not whiplash power, just torque to get up those hills while ascending to 13,000 feet which one must do every time one drives between here and Guayaquil.

Oh, what did I buy?   A 2007 Hyundai Terracan SUV, cuatro con cuatro (4x4) with a 2.9 diesel engine.  Part of my plan was to save a bit on fuel which this does nicely because diesel is only $1.03 a gallon here and diesels tend to get better fuel mileage overall than comparable gas engines.  Unlike 90% of the cars in Ecuador, it's an automatic.  Soon after I bought it, I took a drive up into the Cajas (mountains outside of Cuenca), to the summit at 13,000 feet and the engine never bogged down.   I was even able to accelerate and PASS others!  Woohoo!!!

I've been extremely busy managing the 5 short-term rentals I have as well as helping others transition to their new home in Cuenca by helping them find a home in the first place, where to buy furniture/appliances, connecting them with a handyman to make fixes/improvements, showing them around the Feria Libre (indigenous market), setting up utility accounts, getting a cell phone, etc etc etc, and generally answering a zillion emails asking everything between what language is spoken here and are farts a different color in Ecuador?

After my house robbery, I had very little clothes to wear and clothes for my height and size are hard to find here because Ecuadorians are generally much smaller.  For example, the ceiling for shoes is usually 10 or 10 1/2.   Size 11?   VERY hard to find unless you go to Payless Shoes but they are MORE expensive than the USA becuase they're imported.

So, I had an airline voucher that was about to expire.   I used it to pay my way to Miami for a clothes buying spree in such high-end stores like Tarzhay, Ross (cross dress for less), Burlington Coat Factory (though I didn't buy any coats), and Walmart (blech!!).

Let's see, what else.

Thanksgiving happened.   I went to a gathering at Joe's Secret Garden (or as I call it Joe's Secret G-Spot).  He has a large house in a beautiful garden setting.   Once a week, he stages a prix-fixe menu for 50 or so paying guests.   For Thanksgiving, it was deep-fried turkey, garlic mashed potatoes and much more, topped of with BOTH a slice of pumpkin and pecan pie.  YUMMY.

Here's a few photos.  Sorry for the dark exposure, my stupid camera requires me to pop up the flash for it to work, versus being automatic.   Thus, the dark photos.

Prints of people Joe has worked with.  Kitty Carlisle on the far left, Tammy Faye 3rd down.

The official 'greeter' in the bar.

Joes back yard.  Notice the size of the perfectly symetrical palm tree in relation to the chairs.

Joes grand piano which he will sometimes play for his guests, if he's not too busy back in the kitchen..

Large oil painting of TF in the library room where we were sat.

Our table in the library room.  I think there were 14 at our table.
Ohhhh.....I house-sat for 6 days and took care of FOUR big dogs there.  Ain't no way I could've handled including Gracie in with that mix (making a total of 5), so I drove home twice a day to feed her and my two feline kids.  I had to walk the 'gang of four' two at a time, or I would've been dragged face first down the streets.

Ok...it's pretty photo time.   Time for the posies, kittens, and all things cuddly.

Large ornaments hung at a Guayaquil mall.

Same mall, a Christmas tree filled with a youth choir singing typical Christmas songs in English.

I was shopping for large pots for the rooftop patio I was developing and saw these little cuties hanging out at the nursery.  See?  Told'ja there'd be kittens in this blog!!!!

A recently restored adobe building on the side of a typical plaza in El Centro.

On the same plaza, a re-creation of an Ecuadorian tradition.

View from the plaza.

Throughout the city, various organizations build a re-creation of the Nativity scene.  This one on Plaza San Francisco (where 3 of my short-term rentals are located).

Locals dancing around a maypole.

 A little village with farmers and their sheep, donkeys, and horses.

A snow scene.  Apparently it only snowed on one side of the Nativity scene.

Note to Ronnie.   For cripes sake, is Louis in EVERY pageant???

Donation dish left in front of the Nativity scene.   I ask...what is going through your mind right now?
Yep, that's what crossed my mind, too.

Well, heck...if kittens get to be in this blog, so do doggies, right??

Happy Politically Correct Holidays!!!


as we are still allowed to say here...

Merry Christmas!!!


And now a word from our Sponsor....ME!!!!!

Need a place to stay while you visit Cuenca but want more space and be able to cook (not eat out for every meal)?   Moving here but need temporary digs while you find your 'permanent' home, but prefer not to be stuck in a hotel?

But, book in advance.  Some of my places are booked through April as of this writing.  I even have reservations out as far as August!

You can see mine and other properties available in Cuenca by going to Airbnb, FlipKey, and/or VRBO and searching for Cuenca, Ecuador, then filter the results down by price range as well as whole house/apt (versus room in a house).

Check out my FIVE short-term rentals below:

San Fran 1

San Fran 2

San Fran 3

Rooftop patio my guests at San Fran 1, San Fran 2, and San Fran 3 can use.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cuenca Independence Days - #4

Yep, it's my 4th time experiencing Cuenca's week-long independence (from Spain 194 years ago) celebrations.  My first one happened to be the starting days of my initial exploratory trip, though I was delayed getting to Cuenca because American Airlines left my bags behind in Miami.  So, I was stuck in butt-ugly-hot-humid Guayaquil waiting for my bags to catch up with me.  That was 2010.

November 3rd is 'THE' day, which this year fell on a Monday, so we had a long 3-day weekend to party.  Concerts were all over the place, craft fairs, a carnival, parades, a classic car show, comical races, food up the wazoo, fireworks, and much more.   There was even a band at the airport to greet visitors coming out of baggage claim while, at the same time, greeters handed out orchids and other small gifts.

I thought I was going to miss out on almost the whole darn thing.  I had a guest arriving Friday night so I had to ready their apt and pick them up at the airport.   Then another guest arrived Saturday around noon...yet another apt to clean and run to the airport.   After I got them settled and ran a few errands, I decided to drive home to change into clean clothes, hop on my motorcycle and explore the festivities.

When I got home, Gracie (my dog..but you should know that by now) ran out to greet me with her 'squeaker' toy.  I thought...odd....she's not allowed to have her toys outside.  Then I spotted Chip (my cat...again you should know my kids names by now) saundering outside.  What?  He's not supposed to be outside, how did he get out?  I noticed the back door open.  Did I leave the back door open?  Noooo....I'm sure I didn't.   I got out of the car to open the steel gate to the driveway and noticed, to my horror, the 'person gate' (a steel walk-thru gate embedded within the larger vehicle gate) was open.  I NEVER use it.    It had been ram-rodded with some heavy device that forced the deadbolt to push out the steel casing it was engaged in.   I went inside the house and looked to see if anyone was still there.  My whole house had been ransacked.  All the cupboards, drawers, closets, everything was open and stuff was yanked out and strewn about.  The first thing I noticed was the gaping space where my 40" flat screen TV used to sit.   And, the new wireless headset I had just purchased.  And my Zune (I was the only person who bought a Microsoft Zune...the 'equivilant' of an I-pod).  But, not the DVD player.  Odd.

I went upstairs to my office and saw my printer was still there.  Odd.   Thank GOD I had my laptop with me or it would've been gone and I would've been looking for razor blades!!!!    Took my binoculars.   The closet in my office held all my old fat clothes (I lost 25 lbs earlier this year).  They had all been yanked out onto the floor.   I went into my bedroom.  SHIT.    All my 'thinner' clothes I had just purchased earlier this year while in Miami and Seattle....were GONE!    I don't know who they would fit since, generally, Ecuadorians are much smaller than me.

There were so many things they COULD have taken, but didn't.  Microwave, printer, about 100 dvd's, the DVD player, artwork, gas tanks (very valuable here), tools, and on and on.

All this was done IN BROAD DAYLILGHT!!!   I was only gone from 10:30am to 2pm.   My neighbors and I believe it was done by one/some of the construction workers building the new houses up the road.  They walk by my house every day.  They've figured out I live alone.  They determined if my car is gone, so am I.   But, what about my next door neighbor in the big all-glass house...wouldn't she see the vehicle stopped in the middle of the road (there's no other parking) and people running in and out of my house with a big -ass TV and a bunch of clothes?   Well, they must know her routine as well, because when her car is gone, so is she.   Her car wasn't there that morning.

Big help Gracie was.  She was probably like 'oh goodie, friends to play with!'.    I'm not speaking to her.

Ok...skipping ahead.

So, Saturday was a wipeout.

Sunday, I was kinda depressed.  I had yet another client arriving at the airport at 9;45am, so I had to get up early, go clean the apt, and meet him at the airport.   Afterwards, I went home and crawled back in bed.  When I finally got out of bed (again) I just wasn't in the mood to join the festivities as I had planned.  So, I spent all day putting my house back together and cleaning it from top to bottom.   Sunday was toast.

Monday, last day of the once a year event.   It was great to have my motorcycle as driving during all the festivities would've been a pain in the arse with traffic jams, finding parking, etc.  With a moto, you can go around cars and park just about anywhere.

First stop, the plaza where artisans showcase their hand made metal art.   One of the nice things about Cuenca is people still MAKE things.  In one of my apts, I had an artisan make a wrought-iron chandelier for me ($75), a couple of 5ft tall candelabras ($45 each), along with other wall ornaments.

Next stop, the military parade.  I've never quite got why have military parades (a la North Korea) where all the personnel and tanks and bombs and other killing devices march (or roll) by the stands filled with expression-less leaders inspecting with a critical eye.

But, somehow I was rather impressed with the display here.   Each branch of the military had amazingly perfect uniforms, whites were WHITE!!   Geez laweeze, they even brought along their tanks!!!   I wonder just how much it cost to transport all that stuff (and the humans) up to/down to/over to this city at 8,200 feet in the Andes!!!  And, I had to wonder...what do all these military people DO????   In a country the size of Colorado???   In a country where we haven't been at war in who knows how long??  Versus the USA who loves to be in multiple wars SIMULTANEOUSLY!!!   But I digress!!!

Next stop, the crafts fair lining the Tomebamba river.   It was the largest I've ever seen.  It must have been a quarter mile long, on both sides of the river.  Hand-crafted jewelry, hats, scarves, wall art, lamps, food, things made out of gourds, things made out of a petrified nut, ceramics, dancers, music, ice cream, dolls, wood carvings...it just went on and on.

After that, I went to one of my apartments in El Centro which had just been vacated, to have a nappie-poo.   Later, I saundered over to Parque Calderon to see what might be going on there.  There was a gathering growing outside one of the government buildings and lots of police around of various branches.  I finally asked one of them what was going on.  They said the President was coming.

The crowds continued to build.  President Correa was giving an assembly speech inside the building and it was being aired outside on a big screen.   Outside the building was the lineup of vehicles for the 'secret service' (or whatever they are called here), the obligatory ambulance, and the President's car...not a limo....just a regular sized SUV.

Out he came, waving to us from about 50 feet away.   A police body-line kept the public from crossing.  He jumped into his car, then popped up thru the sunroof to wave to 'his people' as they sped away to the airport where he would board his presidential jet to fly back to Quito (the capitol).  Just to give perspective, his jet holds about 14 people, unlike the monstracity 747 the American president flies in.  After all, we're just a small country the size of Colorado.  It was interesting to observe there were no snipers lining the rooftops (NONE), the streets were not closed off to vehicles, and the public was a mere 50ft away from the President.  In Quito, you can walk right up to the Presidential Palace and cars stream by just a few feet away from its entrances.

Alas, I will let the following photos speak for themselves.


Buns of Steel (just like MINE!)

No, not tombstones.  These are markers with contributors names and location (many from USA) that apparently help fund this plaza.  The taller the marker, the more they gave?

Lamps out of Salt Rock

Bicycles are a favorite for recycling into art.  This one used the handlebars as legs, wheel/spokes/tire as the base for the glass top and looking through the glass you'll spot a wine holder!

This bike art has a desk-like platform where the seat was (maybe to be used as a restaurant host station?), potted plant holders, and the obligatory wine bottle holder.

Serpent made out of wood.

The guy in black is setting up a demonstration of how they make metal art.   He's the one who made the various wrought iron art I have in my rental apts.

I wasn't able to capture photos, but Ecuadors equivilant of Blue Angels flew by several times.

Ecuadorians love Colilbri's (Hummingbirds)

This guy was weaving (via this manual loom) bracelets you wear around your wrist or ankle, with people's names in them!

I love art made out of old scrap metal, parts of computers, motors, nails,/nuts/bolts...u name it.  So creative and fun discovering what they used to create the end result.   For example, you can see in this creation an old saw blade (mane), piston arm, gears, and nails.

Puente Roto (broken bridge) was restored recently....though it's still broken (doesn't cross the river).  Concerts and art exhibits are frequent here.

These metal ants were 8-10" long.

Couldn't get a very good angle.  Look closely and you will see a 'soldier' ramming a spear through the flying dragon's mouth.

This little girl was screaming and crying (hate it when they do that!!) so I thought I might cheer her up by asking to take her photo.   Just as I snapped the photo a big ol tear came running down her face....then back to crying.  Didn't work.

These are common everywhere in Cuenca.  A vendor pushes a cart which makes the equivilant of a sno-cone.   He turns the crank which spins the big block of ice against a blade which produces shaved ice in the basket below.

That's En Ter Tain Ment!!!

Crowd on the steps watching the dancers.

One of my favorite museums in an old colonial mansion.  I want this as my HOUSE!!!

Made out of gourds.

No, not an actor.  Simply a piece of art about 12" tall.

Gourd figurines suspended from parachutes.

Two fat birds made out of gourds.

Doesn't translate in this photo, but these are full-sized chairs.

The lonnnnng row of craft vendor tents.

You can make a lamp out of a hat!

This boat is about 5ft long.

At the flower market, these were made out of roses.

See the same rose display at the bottom?
Looking up at the Cathedral at dusk, waiting for the President.

This building, next to the cathedral, was quite run down as of just a year ago.

The body-line of police barracading the public from the presidential vehicles and the Pres himself.

Yep, there he is.  Mr President.   But, could I get a good picture....NOOOOOOO!!!!

The obligatory ambulance that accompanies the motorcade.   Nary a single limo in the fleet.

About Me

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Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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