Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Parade

Today was the day of the big Christmas parade. There were floats and horses, and dancers and angels everywhere that went on for miles and miles and miles. Gil took lots of photos.  Here are a few of the festive day.   Enjoy!!

There were so many brilliant colors.

Floats decorated with fruit, colas, beer, candies:

Even strollers were decorated:

Colorful twirling dancers:

Angels everywhere:

Truckloads of Angels!


Horses with ladies (little girls really) with their beautiful dresses draped over the horses:

Bountiful offerings for the baby Jesus:

Note the ribboned guinea pigs above the adorable babies:

Native foods for Jesus -- corn, roasted chickens, peppers, etc.:

It's a little hard to see here, but this sheep is carrying a roasted chicken (head and all) on his back, along with candies and other yummies.:

The sign translates "the little shepard goes to Bethlehem."  Note her bunnies and parakeets, along with all the food bounty:

Senora on horseback with her well-dressed baby Jesus:

And then there are the children. The adorable children:

And of course, Santa knows where Ecuador is too. So there were a few Santas represented:

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Feliz Navidad

Well, I know we've been "dark" for awhile. Sorry about that. It's been a combination of 1) busy, busy, busy trying to get things set up here in our new apartment; 2) spotting internet connections that have been plaguing a lot of people in our building lately; and most importantly 3) getting into that "retirement mode" and getting a bit lazy.

So here's a catch-up.

We moved into our apartment on the night of November 30th. We had a mattress on the floor and a tiny table and chairs that we bought for $28 at one of the mercados where furniture is the main attraction. It is still servicing as our dining room table until we can have one made to our specifications.

We have also managed to get a couple of desk chairs, one for Gil's office and one for my upcoming sewing room. We've also managed to get Gil's desk, a printer/scanner, and cookware. And we had all of our drapes installed before we even moved in.

Our bed arrived on December 1st, and we've been sleeping very well in our new home.

Our next purchase was two lazy-boys for our "reading room." The reading room is an area at the end of the hallway that opens up to a floor to ceiling window and has book shelves. (Our Kindles don't take up too much space on the bookshelves.)

I did mention that we were experiencing some laziness didn't I?

Our sofa is due to arrive on December 31st. So, although we still have a ways to go to get our place set up, we are getting there.

For those of you back home, we've just completed our first full physicals in Cuenca with a wonderful doctor who speaks fluent English. We've both been given a clean bill of health.

We've been having some fun here too. Christmas is a constant celebration from the beginning of December right through (we've been told) to mid to late February. There are a lot of parades right now with children dressed up as angels, Mary & Joseph, the Three wise men, etc. We were in Parque Calderon two weeks ago, and much to our delight a little parade went by. It consisted of decorated pick up trucks, and in the back of each was a little manger scene with the children in it. Some are also in elaborate indigenous dress.

Isn't she beautiful!!  Even more beautiful than all the gorgeous flowers that surround her.

We see little angels walking down the street in groups, and lots of people carrying their little ones all dressed up as angels. We even saw a butterfly one day at Parque Calderon.

We were taking the bus home yesterday when it took a detour because, lo and behold, there was another parade blocking its way. We have been told that these mini-Christmas parades are in preparation for the big Christmas parade that takes place at Christmas.

We also had the opportunity to go to an event that was held by one of the state departments relating to visas. After the talk, there was a reception with fireworks, dancers, food, drink and music. During celebrations, there are often paper balloons lit with fire that are launched into the night sky. Well, we had to opportunity to be standing right next to the launching of those balloons.

They are really a sight to see.

There was also a fireworks tower. Beautiful and fun, and looks dangerous. Not sure how we manages not to catch fire ourselves.

So, we've been having lots of fun as well as doing lots of work setting up our lives here. We continue to thoroughly love Cuenca and here people. They have a very generous spirit and are just plain beautiful as far as we are concerned.

I would be remiss if I did not introduce you to our nearest (out of the building) neighbor. This is one of the things we really love about Cuenca. Although it is a city, the countryside is right here within it.

This beauty is right outside our kitchen window (five stories down.) There are a lot more cows dotted on the hillsides all around us. And about a block away, there is a family that has not only a few cows, but a sheep and a pig. We hear roosters crowing all the time too. City and country living all in one spot. You really can't beat that.

So Feliz Navidad to you all!!! May you all be blessed in the new year, and find much love and happiness.

P.S., I'll try to get the lazy bug to let me be a little more responsible about keeping you all updated in the future. We expect a lot of good photos in the next few days as Christmas festivities really explode.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rainy Days and Guinea Pigs

This is the dry season in Cuenca. But, it's been even drier than usual and the rivers are running to about half what they were this time last year. So, everyone has been wishing for rain. Well, this week, we finally started getting some rain. We've had some pretty good rainfall the last few days, and everyone is relieved to see it.

We've been busy getting the lease for our apartment squared away, measuring and shopping for drapes, buying appliances (for those of you reading this in the US, apartments don't come with appliances, so you have to get your own and you take them with you when you move), buying a bed, etc.

Here are some shots of the apartment we will be moving into. It's huge, and is in a new highrise condo building where a lot of expats live. We have some good friends who live there already, and have already met a few other people in the building. Fortunately, there are a fair number of Ecuadoreans living there too, so we are hoping to become friends with some of our Ecuadorean neighbors.

I, Deborah, am particularly taken with the kitchen. It's larger even than any living room I've ever had before, much less a kitchen, and you all know I love to cook. I'll have a nice big room for a sewing room too, and Gil will have a room for a study/office.

Here are a couple of shots of the kitchen.

Gil says I'm going to lose weight just walking around in this kitchen. I sure hope so, because something's gotta work.

This is a view from the master bedroom (also huge) into the dressing area and then into the master bathroom.

The master bathroom has a jacuzzi. Aaaahhhhh!!!!

There are also these wonderful built-in cabinets in every room. This one is in the room where I will have my sewing room. This saves me from having to have cabinets made for storing all my sewing supplies and my material stash. Also, note the beautiful wooden floors. They are in the three "bedrooms", and the rest of the apartment has beautiful ceramic tile floors, which are very standard in Ecuadorean homes.

And finally, here's the view from the kitchen, dining room, and Gil's study windows. The beautiful mountains, where we will be able to see those gorgeous sunsets to which we are becoming accustomed.

Over the last few days, the wonderful and always fun to be with Fabian has been helping us with the chores for getting ourselves set up. On Saturday, after doing some shopping, getting our coopera account set up so we can get discounts at the organic market, and getting our Supermaxi discount card, we were hungry. Gil has been hankering for cuy, so Fabian took us to a wonderful little restaurant where we could have cuy cooked the traditional way.

The cuy is put on a spit, in this case a long wooden stick, and slowly roasted over hot coals. In this photo, the cuy is getting close to being done, but still has a little way to go. The restaurant is a family affair. This is me with the proprietor and his mother who is the cook. She's been cooking cuy for many, many years and knows what she is doing.

Finally, the cuy is ready to eat. Fabian and I are ready to start.

But, we couldn't start without getting a picture of Gil getting ready to have his first cuy. (I had cuy in Peru about 10 years ago, so this wasn't my first time. Although, this was much better than the cuy I had in Peru, because that cuy was dry, stringy and tasteless. I think it was an old one. This one was young and plump.)

Now, that's one happy man! He enjoyed it too. He's ready to go again. Those other things on the table are potatoes that were absolutely delicious. We had a lot of them, so we brought a "doggy bag" home with us and have been enjoying re-heated potatoes for several meals. There's also a plate of white corn and a little bowl of delicious tree-tomato salsa. The cuy was fattier than we expected. I guess that's why they are called guinea PIGS. They have a fat layer under the skin just like a pig. The roasted skin is fantastic!!!

Now, we realize that cuy isn't for everyone, but we are adventurous eaters, and are mighty glad we are. There are so many wonderful foods here to try, and we are looking forward to each and every one of them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Knight Skies in Cuenca

You know how beautiful the sunsets are on a tropical beach, like those in Maui?  The kind of sunsets that make you take your mai-tai down to the beach each night and sit in a beach chair to wait for the glory?  Well, they can't hold a candle to the sunsets here in Cuenca.

The sun here, near the equator, falls behind the mountains that surround Cuenca, and the sky lights up with fire.  It starts with that bright white flame of light as the sun first dips behind the mountains.

Then it gets a little more orange as the sun sinks lower.

The level of orange keeps increasing as the sun drops further and further down until the sky is a deep dark pumpkin.

Almost every night we have been in Cuenca, we have been treated to this show.

A few nights ago, we were treated to something even more spectacular at sunset.  While I was watching the movie King Arthur on TV, the one with that dreamboat Clive Owen playing King Arthur and Kiera Knightly as a bow and arrow toting Guinevere, Gil noticed that the images on the TV were being superimposed on the sunset by a reflection in the windows.  He came up with these amazing shots.  These are not double exposures.  This is actually what he could see and the camera picked it up.

Eat your heart out Maui.  You got nothing on Cuenca!  Well, except affordable mai-tais.  Anyone know where we can get a good mai-tai?