Christmas In Cuenca

The Drums go bang symbols clang and the horns blaze away, This is not McNamara’s band but on every street corner there is a brass band playing Christmas carols.The streets are decorated store fronts decorated and Christmas displays are out. Christmas celebration in Ecuador starts on the 8th of December and continues till Christmas day then it’s all over no North American boxing day every one is back to work and the next celebration is New years eve and day, All this Christmas decorum to me is quite strange as there is no snow which I am used too and bands are playing White Christmas but shows how Christmas and the spirit is celebrated in other countries around the world a time of glad tidings and cheer.
What ever your personal beliefs We wish you MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HANUKKAH AND THE BEST FOR 2016

AMARU Zoo Cuenca Ecuador

Well, here we are, back in Cuenca, and settling into a whole new adventure.  It was a rough start with complications on our paperwork, adjusting to the altitude, and immigration problems.  But that one is a whole new blog!

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The view from atop of the mountian Looking down on Cuenca

We went with our friends to the Amaru Zoo, and it was an amazing experience.  We had heard different stories and opinions on this very unique zoo and needed to try it out for ourselves.  The story begins with a 12 cent bus ride (seniors rate) to the outskirts of the city.  Most buses slow down to pick up passengers, and some don’t completely stop, so it is a challenge hoisting these old legs up onto the first step.  Then it is a “hold on for dear life” while you maneouver your way up the turning stairs, swipe your card, grab hold of the bars, rails, passengers heads, etc. and make your way to the back, because that is where the exit doors are, and heaven help you if the bus fills and you reach your stop and there are so many people between you and the exit, that you get off several stops after your destination and have to walk back.  About half an hour later we reached the general area of the zoo and jumped off the bottom steps of the autobus.  High fives for everyone – we arrived alive.  Then we had to find a taxi that would take us to the entrance of the zoo about a third up the mountain.  It was a windy, twisty, curvy five minute ride.  The zoo is situated on a mountain.  Told you it was unique.  And all the animals are in as natural setting as possible without being confined to cages.  Now you begin your trek up the trails to the animals.  These are not asphalt trails with metal railings and endless signs.  This is rugged, dirt and log paths with rails made out of tree branches that were once nailed at both ends.  Some of the logs look rotted and you dare not lift your head to look up as it is a long ways down.  Caution becomes your best friend.  However, the sweat and heavy breathing gives way to seeing the animals happy in their confined quarters, with lots of space to move around and as natural setting as can be provided.  There are forty five exhibits ranging from bears to lions, monkeys from the Amazon and huge grandfather turtles from  the Galapagos.  Slithering snakes, colourful frogs, alligators and tigers are all within clear view, and it is a photographers dream.  Did I mention the tropical birds?  As you climb higher and higher, you pass the indigenous farms with their cows braying and their clothes fluttering on the lines in the breeze and the farms are kept immaculate and produce is abundant.  It is so perfect, you have to pinch yourself to see if it is real.  It takes about 4 hours of following the trails to see the zoo, and it is hard work.  The descent down is much easier and quicker.  Then the trick is to find a taxi to take you back down the mountain.  Or, you begin a slow walk back to the buses.  Either way, it doesn’t get more original  and if you are prepared with a good hat and sunscreen, plenty of fluids and a small snack you will have a wonderful time.  It may be advisable to  get your doctors approval before setting out, because if you fall, or break a leg, or God forbid,  have a heart attack, at least you will die in paradise.  IMG_0005 The zoo2015_18_11_1 IMG_0020

The Pursuit of Happiness

I just read an article (France24.com) on how Ecuador wants to show the world the way to happiness.  While this is not a new idea, it is fascinating to think that a government has taken the initiative to send one of its cabinet members on a two week tour with stops in Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland to promote something as simple and basic to human kind as happiness.  The Buen Vivir (good life) message is to achieve a mindful life and a maximum level of happiness.  Can you imagine a government that has charged itself with building a society built on happiness?  President Rafael Correa has sent Freddy Ehlers, a respected journalist and TV personality on a mission to promote ancient Mesoamerican philosophy.  The mandate is to transform Ecuadorian Institutions and individuals to achieve a mindful life and a maximum level of happiness.  Image life as a happier society, where neighbours look out for each other, where people live outside in safety and joy, and where families enjoy each other regardless of their differences.  Imagine wanting everyone around you to be happier and more serene and teaching children that happiness is not only attainable, but an actual goal in life.  I can attest that this is one of our draws to Ecuador.  The air is more clear – not from industry and pollution, but from the smiles on the peoples faces, from the openness of their children and by the loving care and respect for their elders.  Is it possible that we can rescue this planet with something as simple as true happiness.  A voice inside me resounds with a loud and joyous “yes!”  Could we possibly improve the happiness of a country? And as I blog, a collection of bedtime stories for children “promoting universal values” was on its way to the printing press.  Incredible!  We balance a budget in Canada by spending our future generations money and we leave a carnage of distrust and anger, while this small country tucked in a corner of South America chooses to spend a few of its dollars on supporting its future generations with a peacefulness and contentment that we can only imagine.  We have so much to learn and we need to open our eyes to what is possible.  Today, I am going to pursue not only my happiness, but those around me as well.  If we all pass it forward, we grow, and we hold on to values that are worth keeping.  What a beautiful concept.  I wish you a lifetime of happiness.

 

Putting it all together

We went to the Ecuadorian Embassy in Toronto last week to inquire about a long stay in Ecuador.  There is quite a bit of paperwork that needs to be compiled, but nothing time and effort can’t take care of.  We need to gather our marriage certificate, get a long form of our birth certificates which shows our parents names and heritage (Ecuadorians are very proud of their name lineage and both parents last names are  given to their children).  get an RCMP criminal clearance, show proof of income and have some pictures taken.  There are several ways we can go about getting a long stay and different types of visas including an investor visa if we invest $25,000 US dollars, purchase property, or apply as senior citizens.  Each one has its pros and cons so we need to figure out which is best for us.  Then we bundle everything up, send it to the Embassy for approval and we should be able to stay in Ecuador for six months which would give us ample time to apply for residency if we choose that route.

We are Canadians, heart and soul, but our love for Ecuador and its gentle people keep calling to us, and we would like to become a part of their community, if only for a short period of time.  Stay tuned ….. as we tumble along.

2-tumbleweeds and a slow cooker

A slow cooker has become as much a staple to us as an airline ticket!  We have travelled many continents  and one of the first things we do when we set up “house” is to purchase an inexpensive, basic slow cooker.  Now, I’m not talking the Cadillac versions that cook, braise and roast – I am speaking oval, on, high, low and off.  Give me a good old fashioned slow cooker and I can set up a kitchen.  Some of the best restaurant inspired  meals are those shared at home with friends and we have become experts at producing good quality,  inexpensive and highly nutritious recipes.  The internet is a wealth of information and recipes, but my greatest pleasure is opening the fridge and cupboards and playing chemist and creating a brand new, scrumptious mixture of local produce, canned goods, paper packages and spices.  When we leave for a day of exploration and return to our abode, the smells of a ready made meal are there to greet us, the cost is low, the quality of the food is controlled and our taste buds are ready and eagerly waiting.  We pay for the cost of the cooker is just a few meals and pass it forward when we leave.  Everyone wins that way.  And the pleasures of sharing a lunch or dinner with new friends is immeasurable.  Seriously, give it a try as I am sure you will not be disappointed.  Bon apetite!

My husband’s version of this blog:

Bought a slow cooker, turns on and off, my wife cooks in it.  When’s dinner?

Hasta Luego Cuenca

Today is a sad day for us as we prepare to return to Canada tomorrow, We will fill our day by saying goodbye to our many friends we have made here both gringo and Ecuadorians, we will visit the nursing home of the Little Sisters an order of Nuns who care for the aged homeless. We will engage with the residents enjoy their company leave our Christmas gifts and our donation and this becomes our Christmas gift to us. I have learned that the greatest gifts are those of sharing time with the less fortunate in our societies, sharing a smile a hello, how are you today, a lesson I have learned is their is good in all of us this my son who I love very much taught me.

Paseo de Ninos

                                                         One of the Angels
One of the Angels

On Dec 24 in Cuenca, Ecuador  is the Parade of the Children ( Paseo de Ninos ). This parade starts at 8: a.m. and runs continuously with no breaks until 5:30 p.m. and although it is called the Children’s Christmas parade, families join in and participants from all over Ecuador come for this event which features approximately 50,000 participants and 200,000 visitors. Bands are playing, people are singing, there are  parade floats adorned with little Santas, cuy ( the favorite appetizer of Ecuador) and for you that don’t know what that is, it is  guinea pig, farm raised for consumption, and delicious. The pictures I offer here are a look at the parade and I hope you enjoy.

                                                         One of the Angels
One of the Angels
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Street Dancer
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The smallest Angel
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Traditional Dancers
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The police canine unit
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Mounted soldiers
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Traditional young dancing girl
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Mounted Police

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faces of Cuenca

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            Young woman market vendor
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              Carina La Profesora
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Young Lovers
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                            Having a nap

 

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               Women in the market
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                 Patricia La Profesora
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                      My friend Giovanni

International Orchid Show

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast week Cuenca hosted the International Orchid Show.  It was a fantasy trip of many varieties  of orchids from around the world.  These flowers were shown in a host of different settings and one was more spectacular than another.  They had pots of orchids suspended from trees to create a wonderland of colour and glamour.  Ribbons were interwoven in the displays which was a  visual feast for the eyes, and each country told a story with the delicate flowers.   It was such a pleasure seeing families bring their small children to the displays and teach them about the plants and appreciation for the incredible time and energy put into this show.  Pictures do a much better job of showing you these orchids than my words ever could.  Enjoy.  We wish you could have been there!

McDonalds – my way or no way!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is a lovely 40 minute walk from our apartment to Mall del Rio, crossing two rivers with their stone bridges, the university, and modern buildings hosting businesses and apartments.  The incline to the shopping center is good to get the blood pumping and our landmark is an old church perched on a stone wall.  When we reach the steps and take a little break it is only a matter of minutes before we pass the cows grazing along the side of the road and get a whiff of the eucalyptus plants growing on the river bank.  The food court on the second floor of this modern mall is home to Burger King, a pizza joint, a hot dog stand, helados galore for all the ice cream lovers and lo and behold a Mickey D’s.  (Also known as Rotten Ronnies to those in the know).  And sometimes, there is nothing quite like the thought of a taste of home.

I saw an advertisement amongst all the balloons for a quarter pounder with cheese.  I salivated after six weeks of abstinence and wallet in hand, ordered (in my best Spanish) this delightful concoction.  No quarter pounders.  Ok then, how about a good old hamburgesa.  With fries!  No hamburgers.  Now I’m really leaning on my basic Spanish and order a salad, or a wrap or a cheeseburger or come one – I’m almost ready to say Whopper but catch myself in time.  The counter person points up o the billboard – and there is a clean slate except for a Big Mac.  Are you kidding!  McDonald has one item for sale.  He says it is the promotion and I ask how long they have been opened.  He replies over a year now.  Please don’t tell me they have been promoting the same burger for a year!  So I buckle up my disappointment and order the burger, with fries.  No fries.  Ok then, I will have it with an ice cream.  Lo Siento (sorry) the ice cream machine is broken.  And so was my heart!