Life is Good!

During he past few weeks, I have been doing a Masters in Drawing class with a well know artist here in Cuenca, Ecuador. It has been a while since I have been able to sit and draw purely for enjoyment.

The other thing that has been keeping me busy is the making of banners for our church. I have had to draft the patterns and then design the final product. Quite happy with the way they are turning out. Finally, my husband and I have joined up with approximately 110 other Expats to form Expats with Kazoos. We will be marching in a parade on January 6th, the day of innocence parade. We are the first non-Ecuadorians ever to be granted a permit to participate in a parade anywhere in Ecuador. This is a chance to give back to our communities and to show them that we can laugh at ourselves.

There have been a lot of fires in the mountains of late. Some caused by people burning old fields and the fires getting out of control, some controlled burns and some by people who believe that burning a fire will bring on the rains. Everyday here is a new learning experience in the culture and people here. There is so much a mixture of old ways and new and surprisingly, it all seems to work.

As soon as things slow down a little, I will post on some of our travels. Everything here is so beautiful and fresh. People help each other, children respect their elders and take pride in their country. More importantly, they nurture the family, respect for the elders and to honor and care for the land. Matter of fact, the land has rights according to the Ecuadorian Constitution.

Life here is a challenge but life is good. Our challenge is not the culture or way of life, but learning a new language. This is one obstacle we are determined to conquer.

Until next time my friends, live each day as though it were your last. You can’t change the past, so why let it continue to control you? You don’t know what the future will bring or if there is a future, so why worry. We only have today and should live it to its fullest.

Hasta Pronto and God bless,

Terri at the Drakes Nest

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Still here

I cannot believe that my last post was in April! Where does the time go. I can remember when I was much younger how time seemed to drag by, especially when I was in school. Summer vacation seemed to take forever to get here. Now that I am older, Time seems to fly faster than Haley’s Comet.

I have been busy, busy,busy. There have been several trips, which I promise to share soon. Have had a visitor from Florida, who ended up becoming ill and was sick almost the entire two weeks she was here. Of course that had to happen in the middle of our move from a super large house to a lovely three bedroom apartment that has more room for less rent. So we are much happier and, so far so good, love where we are. Our landlord is a sweetie who lives in the building and owns it as well. He has given us a three-year lease that even tells us what the rent will go up to at the end of the lease. No surprises at the end of the lease and we like that. The last landlord tried to raise the rent before our lease was up and then jumper from $850 per month to wanting $1200 per month! That was for a two bedroom.

I have been busy taking a Master in Drawing class, designing and making banners for our church, helping with an art fund-raiser by painting rocks and will be marching in a parade in January playing a kazoo! More on that later.

Well, this will be short as we are having a thunderstorm and I never play on the computer during a storm. Will leave you with a few pictures of bits of art. Until next time, take care and God bless.

Hasta Pronto,

Terri at The Drakes Nest

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Who Stole My Time.

Well, it seems good intentions mean nothing to,Father Time. I think he must be taking my time away and giving it to someone else. Hard to believe my last post was February! I really thought I posted one yesterday.

It is very hard to believe that we have been here almost a full ten months. Well do I remember our deer in the headlight look when we took our first excursion, alone, around Cuenca. How busy we were looking up at all the majestic cathedrals, the towering fragrant trees and flowering plants. So busy in fact that we often forgot to look down and would just miss stepping into a hole in the sidewalk. Now we can tell the “tourist” from those who live here, we are looking down and out and not so much up unless we have stopped walking.

In the ten months we have been here, we have been teaching English to migrant and immigrant children, have been adopted by two Ecuadorian families, have taken several trips and I have starred in a theatrical performance! We have been so busy, that I have to keep a calendar so I don’t forget where I am supposed to be. Makes me wonder how I ever managed to get anything done in the States when I was working.

It is definitely a good and healthy life style here. We walk everywhere, or bicycle and the food is always fresh with no preservatives or GMOs. Things are so good health wise, in fact, that my darling husband and I have each lost 45 pounds. He is no longer on blood pressure medication or cholesterol medication and I no longer require the cholesterol medication either. Just a baby aspirin and we are good to go. Doctors here have told us our numbers are perfect! That is great news, especially since my husband was considered pre-diabetic and obese.

Right now, I am a little under the weather, must have been caused by removing my shoes and taking part in a cleansing ceremony in the mountains. Was a tad bit chilly for that, but would not have missed it for the world. So, I will sign off for now and will post again on the recent trips so that I can share the beauty that is part of my new home country.

Until next time, live well, enjoy life and God bless,

Hasta,

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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Time Flies

I have had all the best intentions of faithfully posting, but somehow, time seemed to fly faster than I had intended. Guess the old adage “time flies when you’re having fun “ is true. So too is the fact that time moves faster the older you get.

Seems that time has really flown as it is now Almost March. What happened to January? So I guess a little catch up is in order. Husband had to have unexpected surgery for massive infection, that, thankfully is past and he is 100%. The doctors and hospitals here in Ecuador are fantastic and the healthcare is better than I could have hoped for. Doctors here care about their patients, do not rush them out of the office after five minutes and still make house calls! Hospital bill here included the bill of three specialists, all rooms are private rooms,they fixed a bed for me, total was $4500. In States the bill would not have included any of the doctors, private room extra and I could not have stayed in the room and bill would have been over $100,000.

My husband and I are now volunteer teachers teaching Ecuadorian children and adults English at Crea tu Espacio. I teach children 3-9 and he has teens. It is our way of giving back to the wonderful community that has welcomed us.

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It is not easy to learn English and I have a bigger understanding of what they are going through as we are learning Spanish which is not easy when you are seniors. We are determined to succeed.

I am currently in rehearsal for a play scheduled to be performed in April entitled “Kitchen Witches.” Which is so much fun. If you are in Cuenca, let me know and I will provide you with dates and such. We have traveled to some new area, but will provide more on that later.

Wishing you a happy life filled with the love and laughter of family and friends.

Hasta Pronto,

Terri at the Drakes Nest

 

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What a Year!

There have been years that I wished I could change or redo and ones I wished had never happened. I am sure we have all had years like that. The year 2017 has been a roller coaster ride to be sure and some parts an absolute nightmare, but I can honestly say I would gladly do it over again.

Living in Ecuador has taught me a lot about living and what things should be important in one’s life, things like family, friends, ones health, having food for the table and a roof over your head and that all life is precious and should be respected. Family values, trust, respect, faith, and helping neighbors and strangers are at the top of the list.

When we first arrived in Ecuador, a wonderful lady we had only met once at an international living conference, opened her home to us and gave us a place to live until we found our own home. She took us around and showed us the ropes and went with us as we searched for a place to call home. For that we were thankful and have developed a wonderful friendship. She has become a part of our new family here in Cuenca. Thank you Heather Peden for all you have done for us and for your friendship.

During our search for a home, we crossed paths with a realtor who went out of her way to not only find us a humble cottage to call home, but helped us open a bank account, get internet and Direct TV, find a great carpenter and whatever else we needed. Her and her beautiful family are always just a phone call away if we need them. Many thanks Veronica Arpi for all you have done and continue to do. Your friendship and your help over and above what most realtors do makes you a pearl of great prize.

We have been adopted by a beautiful lady and her Ecuadorian family. We met her through our church and without her, we would have never gotten our container released from Customs or obtained all our belongings, well, most of them. She also opened her home to us, traveled with us back and forth to Guayaquil and was there every step of the way. To our new sister, Fabiola, and brother, Vincente, and their families who have adopted us, we say thank you and God bless.

There is so many more we need to thank, like Sara Chaca from Ecuadorian Visas who went, and still does, go that extra mile to make sure we had no problems getting our Visas and, just last week, our Cedulas, or Ecuadorian ID; Luis Eckman, our Spanish Tutor, who has become a dear friend and part of our family, and so many more too numerous to count.

Thank you to the many beautiful Ecuadorian native people who have taken us under their wing, taught us about the culture and customs and made us feel so welcomed and at home. Muchas gracias mi amigos.

My biggest thanks goes to my wonderful and patient husband who is making the journey with me and who keeps me grounded. He is my rock, my soul mate and my best friend. Thank you for being you and putting up with my tears, my bad days and for your unconditional love. May God continue to bless us for many more years to come. You make life worth living and so glad to share this adventure with you.

Looking forward to what 2018 and beyond has to bring and for the lessons of 2017. Life is an adventure to be lived and savored as we pass this way but once. I will remember to not sweat the small stuff, because it is all small stuff. That was a hard lesson to learn, but thankful just the same.

May each and everyone of you be blessed in the coming new year with peace, love, happiness and understanding.

Prospero Nuevo ano mi amigos, Happy New Year my friends.

Hasta Pronto,

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

 

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Feeling Blessed and Thankful

The year 2017 has been a year of dramatic changes for us and quite the roller coaster ride. First we decided we were going to move to Cuenca, Ecuador and began the immigration process last February. Things were going fairly smoothly until they changed the laws on residency and we were suddenly scrambling to get things completed as best we could here. Then they put the Visa-via-Cable on hold and we either had to come to Ecuador to complete the application process or run the risk of our documents expiring and having to start over. So we decided to put our home in Florida on the market, sell what we didn’t want and ship the rest. On June 7, 2017 we put all our belongings in storage until our Visas were approved and then flew off to Ecuador and the start of a new adventure.

We arrived with six suitcases total and stunned that we had actually made it to Cuenca with only the clothes we brought with us, some necessary medications to last six months, and a vague idea of what we were going to do. Other than that, we were playing it by ear, so to speak. We were blessed with the hospitality of a dear lady whom we had met at the International Living Conference in 2016, who offered to let us stay with her until we could find a place to live. She not only acted as our benefactor and hostess, but also as tour guide and showing us the ropes. We will be forever grateful to Miss Heather Peden not only for her hospitality, but for her friendship.

By the first week of July we were living in a Penthouse, the only one in the building, on the fifth floor overlooking the Rio Tomebamba. We were in heaven and thought we had found the perfect place. Two days later we are sitting in our living room watching the sun disappear over the Cajas when a noise like a train pulling into the station roared through the apartment. It was the elevator for the second half of the building whose shaft was directly behind one of the guest bedrooms. Then the elevator servicing our side went out, as did the garage gates, and the oven. The garage gates were fixed the following month, but by then we had had enough and gave notice we were moving. The elevator’s on both sides were taken out of commission as being unsafe and the over, we were told, was fine it was the circuit breakers that were bad – the entire panel! At almost 70, we had no desire to climb 5 flights of stairs with bags of groceries or when we wanted to go exploring, fight with a gate or struggle with doors that refused to open. The owner didn’t agree with our decision, stated there was nothing wrong and refused to return our deposit. So we refused to return his keys until the first of November which would have eaten up our deposit.

September 1st, we moved into a beautiful 3 story home with 3 balconies, and inner and outer courtyard, built-in barbecue, 2 bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths, sitting rooms, eat in kitchen, inside laundry room,  living room, dinning room, fireplace, whirlpool bath, and a huge loft that was to become my studio. Not only were we paying less, but we now had 4400 square feet to live in. The new landlord even had a special cabinet built for our dishwasher, which will stay here as will any improvements we make, if we ever move.

Next came the trip to Machala to submit our application for Temporary Residency Visa. We were up at 3 a.m. for the 3 hour trip, had breakfast there and were the first in line at the Immigration office. When our turn came, the young man behind the counter told us that we could not submit our application as we had changed from Visa-via-Cable to in person application and had not submitted a letter stating we were doing that. Our attorney’s assistant called our attorney who told him she was not informed of that requirement. She convinced him to print out a letter for us to sign, which he did and we signed it and our applications were submitted. Exactly three weeks later we received the word that we had our Visas and had to go back to Machala to get them. Which we did and, like the first trip, I became sick upon return to Cuenca. There is something in the air there that just doesn’t like me.

Now that we had our Visas, we could send for our container and our belongings. Which we did and were looking forward to having our personal effects and the rest of our clothes. We were assured with our inventory there would be no problems. Wrong! We were notified that our inventory did not match the inventory of the shipping company. There was a 27 item difference. What? They had totally emptied our Florida home, wrapped up the King Size Mattresses and bicycles and other items, yet they were not on the shipping company inventory. Okay, we have to go with their inventory and will see what is missing when we empty the container and handle that once everything is here. We traveled to Guayaquil to meet with Customs when our container would be opened and the contents compared to the inventory.

Now this is when our nightmare started. When they opened the container, the first thing I saw was the King size mattress that was not on the packing inventory of the shipping company. Then there were the two bicycles also missing on their inventory. This went on until all 27 “missing” items were uncovered. Since there were 27 items missing from the shipping inventory, we had to pull everything out of the container, open every box, tub and wrapped item, re-inventory and re-number every item, re-seal all the boxes, tubs, wrapped items and reload them into the container. A new inventory was created and translated into Spanish. A week later we were back in Guayaquil and assured there would be no problems. Wrong!

The Customs agent who had assured us all would be well, was not the one with the final say. We had “El Heffy,” as people on the dock referred to him, or the Boss. Anytime there was a problem on the dock, he was at the bottom of it. We went through another inspection and he proceeded to pull aside 37 boxes/tubs of art supplies, fabric and patterns. “This is not allowed,” he bellowed and was even trying to take antique quilts. We assured him that the “legal department” of the receiving shipping company had told me that it would all be cleared as it was used in my art work and personal use and not for commercial use. This company had also badly translated my original inventory so things like plastic milk crates used to hold books were 15 cases of leche or milk. A box of wine glasses was translated as “mas vino” or more wine and the Customs Official nearly had apoplexy  when he saw the notation “el parro” and “el gatto” on the inventory. “You have pets in the container all this time!” It took a while to explain it was a statue of a dog and statue of a cat.

With a lot of talking by our facilitator, the number of fabric containers was narrowed down to 13 and I was given 5 minutes to go through and pull out what was important to me. I hesitated to pull out too much as I was afraid that everything, fabric, clothes and personal items, would be taken. Finally, we were told our container would be sealed and shipped to us in Cuenca by the end of the week. This second inspection totally drained me and I was physically ill from the experience. But at least we had our container and I wasn’t going to let one power-hungry official ruin my view of Ecuador or its people.

After a week, we were notified our container was on its way but only after I paid an additional $1,064 in fees due to the second inspection. I came unglued and told them the shipping company should be paying that as they had caused the problem with 27 items not being on the inventory and not doing what they said they would do. No money, no container I was told. Okay, we’ll deal with the company later, we paid and the container was delivered. Unfortunately, it was delivered at 7:30 p.m. and not at 2 p.m. as promised and the unloading did not finish until almost 11:00 p.m. Our neighbors were not happy as the 40 foot container blocked their driveways, preventing them from getting home, and it blocked the street access as well. Great way to make new friends!

Surprisingly, we only had 2 items broken, plus 2 lamps we need to find parts for as the shipping company when they wrapped the lamps removed the switches used to turn them on and off!  They also jarred something loose in our 65″ TV and we are now trying to get that repaired.

Okay, we thought all the roller coaster riding was done. Then my wonderful husband collapsed during church services. We went to the hospital via ambulance, but the hospital told us their doctor was out-of-town and they had called our doctor who said we were to meet him at his office at 7:00 p.m. that evening. They gave Ray a pill and sent us on our way. We went to the doctor’s office and waited there until 7:30 p.m.; however, no doctor. Bright and early Monday morning we were at the doctor’s office. The doctor was very upset when he heard what the hospital had done. He had told them he was out of town and to have one of their doctor’s see us, but they told us the opposite. Our doctor immediately called the hospital and read them the riot act. He was almost in tears he was so upset at what had happened to us. We assured him that it was not his fault and we were lucky that things weren’t worse.

After looking at my husband, he referred us to an ear, nose and throat specialist as he had another sinus infection, had just finished up medication for the last one and the doctor didn’t want to give more medication. Saw three specialists, who surmised that the cause of the infections was an implant that had been placed in the sinus cavity. Excuse me! It was where? After x-rays, several consults in 2 days, it was determined that the implant had to come out to seal the hole that had been created between the mouth and the sinus. He had such a massive infection that it was affecting his vision and his health and we were told if surgery was put off, he could be dead in two weeks as the infection was starting to affect the brain. I contacted the dentist to get the name of the implant so that we could get the right key to remove it and was amazed when his email started off with “the implant I placed in the sinus cavity was …” and “just have them remove some fat from his cheek to plug the hole and he will be fine, do not let them remove the implant.”

Needless to say, we were not happy to know that the stupidity of this one doctor would be the cause of all the problems with the health. Surgery was done, he has made a remarkable recovery and in four months will have new implants placed. We could not be happier with the medical care we received, the caring of the medical professionals and the way things were handled. Even with our limited Spanish, they made sure we understood what the options were. In the States, the surgery, overnight hospital stay would have cost us $200,000 and that was not including the specialists or consultations. Our total bill here, including the specialists and consultations, was $4500 total! Our follow ups are no charge.

We have recently been notified that we will be receiving our Cedula’s in approximately two weeks times. This will be our Ecuadorian Identification cards and will make things even easier for us. At the end of 20 months, we will begin the process of obtaining our Permanent Residency status and a little further down the road, we will apply for dual Citizenship and an Ecuadorian Passport.

After all we have been through, we are feeling very blessed and thankful that we are here. If we had to do it all over again, we would, preferably without all the drama. But it is what it is and one can not change the past but only go forward. We love our life here in Cuenca, Ecuador and love its people. Even struggling to learn Spanish has not changed how we feel. To us, this is home and we really feel as if here is where we belong. I never felt like I was truly home or that I even belonged in the States, something was always missing. It is missing no longer.

As we prepare to celebrate our first Christmas in Ecuador, we want to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas. May the coming New Year find you enjoying all the best that life has to offer. Take care and God bless. In parting, I leave you with a few pictures looking back on 2017.

Until next time my friends,

Hasta Pronto!

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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Times are Changing

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Well, we finally received our container, but almost did not. We were told that our container would be delivered on Saturday morning and we were excited. Then came the WhatsApp message, “due to there  having been two inspections, you owe … Continue reading

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