Four days of sunshine - the river is running low

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Although cool in the mornings (running in low 40's right now), the days here quickly warm up into the 70's and maybe even low 80's at times. This is the 4th day of all sunshine and it was truly a gorgeous day. We decided to keep it low key with a walk into El Centro for lunch and then back home.

As we passed the river we noticed it was running lower than previous days and the water was quite clear. During the downpours on two days last week (and showers on most other days), it was higher and much muddier. We've been told that if we see the locals doing laundry in the river that it won't rain that day. So far, that has proven true. I took photos on the way into town and more on the way home of the washing.

As we approached our foot bridge over the river, we noticed a little celebration on the other side of the road and crossed over to see what it was all about. It turned out to be a group of high school students displaying their projects either on technology or tourism (similar to our science fairs in the US). We stopped to listen to a young girl sing, she did a great job. As we looked at the final display, the teenager asked if we spoke English.

He was the one who told us what it was all about. He came from an Ecuadorian family, was born in Queens and grew up in New Jersey until three years ago when his family returned to the area. He is in 11th grade. Extremely well spoken, he explained his project which was a tour of the various parts of Ecuador. He had some regional food products and we sampled the chicken which had been cooked in a husk of some sort. Spiced perfectly, it was delicious.

We continued on into town, snapping photos of events taking place on our stairway up to El Centro. From there we took our first trip to California Kitchen which had been highly recommended to us. It's on the second floor with the first being a historic hotel. Paintings done mural style line the walls and show amazing pictures of local life.The food was delicious and the servings large enough that we brought half home for dinner tonight. It was fun practicing my Spanish with our waitress who spoke wonderful English.

We ran into several friends while in town, always nice to see a face you know. After lunch we stopped in Carolina Bookstore to look for a Spanish workbook someone recommended to us. They didn't have it so we headed towards home. I wanted to snap a sunlit photo of the sculpture we accidentally discovered last week when we tried to eat at Oliveto (which have now found).

Before we made it that far, we heard shouting across the street and ended up sharing a beer and some laughs with friends Susie & Kent at Chiplote, a little hole in the wall with food that smelled wonderful. Next was the sculpture and a lot more photos.

As always, you can see ALL our Ecuador photos on SmugMug. Here are some final miscellaneous shots from today. The first one is for reader, Phil May. Internet is not an issue here - WiFi abounds in many spots as well as little Internet kiosks. The WiFi in our apartment complex is good enough that Stu watched the Orioles game today.

Our adventures today...

Friday, April 26, 2013

No meetings were planned today but I wanted to get up early and take a taxi to Artesa, a local pottery store that has some amazing things. On Friday's they open up their discount/seconds area and if you're careful you can find some great stuff at low prices.

We easily grabbed a taxi and arrived by 9am. We walk in the store and immediately spot two expats that we know. They told us the main store opened at 9 but the discount store opened at 8 and things were disappearing quickly.

We enjoyed browsing and picked up two pretty coffee mugs that we will use now and bring home. I also found two little knick-knacks for our eventual cabin. One is a little vase and the other is a Panama hat. The photos aren't the best quality since I took them at night here in the apartment.

We thought we'd grab a taxi and head to Mall del Rio to grab something to eat but a gentleman overheard us and mentioned that it was maybe 15-20 blocks away. We've been walking that easily, the weather was terrific, so we headed out on foot.

Well, long story short, we missed our turn and walked WAY out of our way. We finally grabbed a taxi because I needed something to eat. LOL! We headed for the food court and had a little Chinese, then walked some more. I got real brave and tried out the ATM at the bank. Worked fine, got to chose English as the language. Phew!

We took a taxi home and Stu took a nap while I did a little online stuff before heading out to the garden to read for a bit.

When he got up we chatted about our French Press coffee maker. The one we picked up here works okay but only makes a cup at a time. We've now ordered this Thermos Nissan 34-Ounce Vacuum Insulated Stainless-Steel Gourmet Coffee Press from Amazon. While we love our Keurig coffee maker, we have found we are spening WAY too much on coffee for it. Hopefully this way we can have good coffee at a reasonable price.

Speaking of reasonable prices, just had to grab a shot of the prices at the local gas station. Yes that is in US dollars and it's per gallon!

We continue to meet wonderful people....

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The weekly meet and greets continue and we are slowly finding our way around better and better. We've now eaten at Cafe Austria and Fabiano's (where we had some wonderful pizza). We've visited The Coffee Tree (bit overpriced but nice outdoor seating) and Carolina Bookstore (run by a retiree from NC). Today we met two folks who have a Royal Enfield motorcycle with a Ural sidecar. We met at San Sebas and before we were done, at least 5 or 6 others that we knew came in.

After our late breakfast/early lunch, we walked up to SuperMaxi and Sukasa. Sukasa is a more upper end department store and we picked up a French Press for our coffee. Bit pricey but we miss our morning cuppa joe. ;-)

We then got a few necessities from SuperMaxi and took a taxi back. Nice to realize we can walk one way there and if our packages had been lighter we could have walked back.

Few things we have discovered:
  • Trademark protection is not really enforced here (see photo below)
  • The noise and pollution everyone prepared us for, isn't that bad
  • The tagging everywhere is sad but it's a cultural thing (the locals like it)
  • Even when someone doesn't speak any English we have mostly managed to accomplish what is needed. Now if ordering food, we might get a surprise...LOL!
  • Pedestrians NEVER have the right of way - you have to keep your head on a swivel
  • The locals and the expats have all been wonderful
  • The fruits and veggies here are AMAZING (and inexpensive)
  • We are eating fresh fruit daily, some old standards, some we've never had

Here's the latest batch of photos taken with my old iPhone while walking through a new to us section of El Centro.

Week One Down....Three More To Go

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

We have been here a week now and are enjoying the charm of Ecuador in so many ways. Since we are concentrating our trip to the Cuenca area, we won't get to see some of the other parts of this beautiful country.

The first week (and this week) have been heavy with meet and greets with other expats. We've met some really nice folks and will be meeting up with more. We attended a great party and have another (a pizza party) on May 4th. We had lunch with new folks today that took us around the the biggest market in the area. Stu got some delicious strawberries and we also FINALLY got our passports copied in color. (Our originals are now tucked away safely).We have both late breakfast/early lunch and late lunch/early dinner meet and greets tomorrow and another on Thursday.

We've met authors, retired doctors/chiropractors, young couples with children (homeschooling), retirees and more. What an interesting blend. We continue to meet and chat with locals, even the taxi drivers enjoy trying to teach us more Spanish. The waiter at one of our favorite restaurants, Magnolia Caffee, is especially good at that.

Last night we tried to move outside the box a little and find a different place to eat. Everyone gave us suggestions and Stu thought he located a good Italian restaurant on the map. Well - we missed it. But I did grab a few photos with my iPhone (which I am now carrying instead of the US phone). As you can see, the clouds were rolling in and the rain soon started. We ended up back at Magnolia Caffee.

We managed to get my iPhone activated with Claro, the biggest cell phone provider in the area, and bought $10 worth of minutes. Each call is .20 so I don't expect we'll use it all up before we leave. It's nice to be able to call the new friends we are meeting as well as taxi drivers and the most important, Mr. Wash. Got two large laundry bags (10+ days of clothes & towels), picked up, washed, dried, folded and delivered for $13. :-)

Oh, and the best news of all? Stu pulled his belt in a notch this morning and I put on jeans without having to lay on the bed to zip them (which I haven't been able to do with this pair for probably a year). Yup, eating good and walking lots at high altitude agrees with us.

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