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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Nightmares and Lessons Learned

As you know we were expecting our container to arrive in Guayaquil, Ecuador from Miami, Florida. We traveled to the Port to meet with Customs when they opened the container to inspect the contents. We were confident that would not be a problem as it had been cleared by the receiving company.

There was a possibility of a problem with the shipping company’s packing list and my inventory list, they didn’t agree. My list had 313 items and the shipping company packing list had 286. That left 27 items unaccounted for by the company. Okay, we would wait for the container to clear customs, be delivered to Cuenca, determine what was missing and deal with the Florida company later.

When the container was opened, the first thing we saw was one of the missing items, our king sized mattress. To use a phrase from the Kennedy Space Center, “Houston, we have a problem!” After they pulled a few boxes, we knew there was a definite problem when we saw our bicycles, also not on the list. Also there was the problem of missing numbers on items, double and triple numbers on items and numbers out of sequence.

Customs then ordered everything out of the container, all boxes and wrapped items opened and a new inventory made. Then everything was resealed, replaced back into the container and the container resealed. We were told to return to Cuenca, minus the container, while a new inventory was prepared and translated into Spanish. We would be notified when to return to Guayaquil for a re-inspection.

For me, this was a nightmare come true. Nothing went the way it should. However, I did learn one lesson and am passing that along to you my friends.

First, do your detailed inventory, if the boxes contain appliances, tools or machines, note the make, model and serial number on the inventory and box.

Second, number boxes on all sides and top. If shipping company tells you they have to use their number stickers on the boxes, tell them fine, but they will be in the same sequence as your list. To make sure, arrange boxes in numerical,order with lowest number on the top. Make sure the shipping company’s final number count agrees with yours “before” the truck leaves your premises or you will definitely have a problem when your container arrives in the country you shipped it to.

Third, when writing your description of what the box contains, keep it simple so that if the list has to be translated, it won’t be mistranslated. For example, plastic milk crate translated into Spanish as “Letche box” and they thought I was bringing in milk, which isn’t allowed. When the shipping company writes what is in the box, make sure it agrees with your description.

Fourth, don’t let them rush you or double pack items with only one number. If they pack two items in one box for protection, make sure two numbers appear on the packing list, your inventory and on the box.  That is easier to explain than one number on the outside and two or three numbered items on the inside.

If you should run into a problem, which can happen, it is important to know that you cannot yell, curse or be disrespectful to the officials as you could end up in jail. The hardest thing I had to do was smile when all I really  wanted to do was rip the officials heart out.

I will post on the re-inspection later. For now, I’m taking a deep breath and trying to keep calm, which is hard when you personal possessions are so close yet still so far away.

Take care my friends and have a wonderful day. I leave you with some pictures of My new home country to enjoy.

Hasta Pronto,

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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Passing Time in Bustling Guayaquil

We arrived in Guayaquil on Wednesday, 4 October to begin dealing with Customs and, hopefully, for receiving our container of belongings to continue to our home in Cuenca.

Bright and early on Thursday morning, we appeared at the agent for the shipping company to sign an affidavit stating the items on the container were ours, presenting the Migratory Certificates that will allow the transfer of the goods from Guayaquil to Cuenca and verifying that the funds to pay for the port fees and Customs fees had been completed.

The ship arrived that afternoon; however, the container would not be removed from the ship until Saturday and we were told the inspection would not take place until Monday or possibly Tuesday. At first I was informed that my translator would not be allowed into the warehouse, but a quick call to my agent cleared that up.

To pass the time, my friend, who is also my translator, decided to show us around Guayaquil. Where Cuenca has approximately 400,000 people, Guayaquil is a bustling seaport town of approximately 3 million people. Where you can walk all over Cuenca, transportation is a must in Guayaquil due to its size and large and busy highways. To aid those who must cross thoroughfares, there are pedestrian overpasses, also known as people movers.

In Cuenca one can drink the water, while it is strongly recommended that you drink bottled water in Guayaquil. Cuenca is the safest city to walk in Ecuador at any time, while one must be on ones toes, so to speak traveling in Guayaquil, especially at night. It is best to have a trusted Ecuadorian guide who knows the safe areas and trusted taxi or van drivers.

There are wonderful parks, some inhabited by wandering iguanas, majestic cathedrals, fabulous museums and historic peeks into the past and marvelous indoor shopping malls. The food is delicious and you can get the best and freshest seafood here. A lot of Guayaquil seafood is shipped to Cuenca and other areas of Ecuador, which accounts for a lot of the fresh seafood found in the many Mercado’s.

Further north, is the city of Salinas, vacation spot for many Ecuadorians. Both Salinas and Guayaquil are about 10-15 degrees warmer than Cuenca. Temperatures range around 75 in the winter months and 80-85 in the summer. Having the Humbolt current gives wonderful cool and refreshing breezes. While in Salinas, we saw seals sun bathing among the rocks in one area while surfers were enjoying the surf just a few yards away.

While exploring, we were notified that we will be meeting with Customs at 7:45 a.m. on Tuesday morning. I am keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well.

Until later my friends, enjoy these pictures from our visit to Guayaquil and Salinas. Take care and God bless.

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

 

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Changing with the Times

When once is living in a new country, it is always important that you live in that country according to their rules. As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “You’re not in Kansas anymore!” What she meant by that is that what was the norm in the United States, or wherever you are from, may not be the norm of the country where you are now living.

Here in Ecuador, for example, the immigration rules changed and instead of being able to get a Permanent Residency Visa, you now get a Temporary Residency Visa, which is good for two years. At the end of that time, or right before your Temporary Residency Visa expires, you can apply for a Permanent Residency Visa. As of yet, with the Temporary Residency Visa a Cedula, or Ecuadorian ID, has not been issued. They plan on having one, but so far nothing.

Another change that has occurred is that not only will those who are living here be required to have Health Insurance, but all travelers/visitors to Ecuador will be required to either have Traveler’s Health Insurance or Health Insurance that will be able to be used in Ecuador should the need arise. You will have to have an insurance card or ID and a letter stating that the insurance you have can be used in Ecuador. We have Tricare Overseas, which is a U.S. Government Health Insurance that is available for all U.S. Military personnel or retired/disabled former Military and their families. While you can print out a copy of the benefits letter from their website, because it does not specifically say it can be used in Ecuador, it may not recognized. Additionally, a Certified copy of the benefits letter is required and it could be required to be apostilized like documents that are used to get your Residency Visa.

Getting in touch with personnel at TriCare who would listen to what you needed and not just read script, proved to be difficult so we began researching insurance available here in Ecuador and found that there are many. One needs to do their homework and research the companies to find out which will work for your particular needs. There was one we looked into that is based in the U.S. and offers so-called International Health Insurance. When asked if they provide an insurance card and benefits letter, they kind of danced around without giving any kind of clear answer. The one thing they were sure of was that you needed to either pay $12,000 up front or you could pay in 2 payments. Needless to say we walked away from that one rather quickly.

There are companies who will issue insurance based on your income and your premiums are based on a percentage of that income. So you could be paying anywhere from $150 a month to well over $500 a month. After much research, we found a company that offered 3-4 plans, were not based on your income and there are no deductible requirements. We have the option of either using their doctors and hospitals/clinics, referred to as “in network” or using doctors, hospitals or clinics of our choice. If we go out of network, we pay the bill, then submit the claim to the insurance company and 2-3 weeks later, we are reimbursed and our medical services will end up costing us nothing. If needed, they even offer pet insurance!

We decided to use this company and selected their $20,000 policy. The $20,000 is a cap on medical they will pay per year and will cost us $200 each per month. If after a year we find we don’t need that much of a cap, then we can reduce it to the $15000 policy, $150/month per person, or if we need more can go to the next level. All our prescriptions will be covered and, if needed, can even have the physician visit our home. Nice to know that there are doctor’s who still believe in house calls.

Unlike the U.S., for example, where a visit to a doctor’s office can be expensive, my primary doctor charged $223 per visit, here in Ecuador the cost is nowhere near that. I had to see a doctor for what I thought was walking pneumonia and the visit was $30. Because he felt I didn’t need an antibiotic and prescribed some light medication to help with the cough, my prescription was $5. Here in Ecuador, most doctor’s make their own appointments, have a small office without staff, and thus do not have the overhead you find in the U.S.

Dentists here are not as expensive either. We had our teeth cleaned to check out one dental agency and the cost was $35 for a deep cleaning. I couldn’t believe it, my dentist in the U.S. charged $175 to clean my teeth and I have an upper denture and a full lower permanent implant!

In summary, it is important to be able to change with the requirements of whatever country you are going to call home. It will do you no good to say, “we don’t do it that way back (fill in the blank of where you are from).” You could be told to go back where you came from.

Since my last posting, we have been notified that our belongings will be shipped on the 28th of September and should arrive in Guayaquil on October 5th. I will be posting on the experience of dealing with Custom’s once we have completed our business with them. We will be going to Guayaquil the day before the ship is due to arrive and will meet with Customs to go over our inventory of what is in our container the next day. The shipment had been postponed due to Hurricane Irma hitting the U.S. Additionally, the settlement on our home will, hopefully, be held on September 28th as that too was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. The house had to be re-inspected to make sure there were no damages since parts of Florida had been declared a disaster area. We will be glad when the new owners take over so we won’t have the mortgage and homeowners insurance to content with any longer. In Florida, Homeowners insurance is very expensive and there aren’t a lot of company’s that will insure. Some areas require hurricane insurance, flood insurance, and more.

Until the next time my friends, wishing you all the best that life has to offer. Take care and God bless.

Hasta Pronto!

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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Ecuador, a Crown of Many Jewels

Ecuador has a crown containing many faceted jewels, such as Quito, Cotacachai, Loja, Manta, Salinas, Cuenca and many others. One such jewel is the town of Nabon filled with historic Ecuadorian style architecture, beautiful vistas and beautiful orchids.

On a recent visit, I marveled at how much the town made one feel welcomed. You did not feel like a stranger there. According to our guide, Sole, a native of Nabon, most days one will be greeted by the children who will run out to greet you. The day we visited, it was the last few days before school started again and everyone was out with families and enjoying the last few days of “freedom” from the toil of educational requirements.

Although small in size, Nabon is big in heart and is very clean. The citizens take extreme pride in how the town looks and that pride is reflected in how fresh and inviting Nabon looks when one enters. Even though the buildings surrounding the central park are hundreds of years old, they look as fresh and inviting as if they had been just built. The park located in the center of the town has a large sculptured dish to represent the sun and the park itself is filled with tropidary, beautiful flowers and amazing views.

Located higher in the Cajas, it was a little cooler than Cuenca and this particular day, there was sunshine alternating with fog and misty rain. Even so, Nabon was a delight to see and explore and with a sampling of some of its culinary wares, a wonderful experience.

One of the highlights of our visit was the Orchid center, which contains over 230 orchids that can be found all over Ecuador. Unfortunately, we happened to visit when there were few orchids in bloom, but there were enough to give you an idea of size, variety and beauty. Some of the blooms were so tiny, you had to look twice to make sure of what you were seeing.

The second highlight of our visit was a trip to Laura’s, combination artist retreat, restaurant and Agave products.  The agave plant not only produces some medicinal products, but produces a wonderful honey and liquor. Laura and her husband are a wonderful couple who love to give people a unique experience, enjoy a sampling of their life high in the Cajas and provide a delicious meal. After our lunch, we were invited to wander around their little piece of heaven and enjoy the spectacular views. The encroaching fog and mist, along with the various pieces of art and animals, gave a fairy-tale feel to the area.

Should you come to Ecuador, be sure to put Nabon on your list of places to see, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Before I close, I want to offer prayers to those who have endured not only Hurricane Harvey in Texas, but Hurricane Irma, two of the most powerful hurricanes in recent history, to make landfall within weeks of each other. The destruction is unbelievable. Our prayers are also going to the people of Mexico who suffered an 8.1 earthquake. Mother Nature is truly a powerful force and events like this makes me wonder if this is her way of reminding us that we only have one earth and we need to quit abusing it.

Until next time my friends, God’s blessings on you and may you and yours enjoy all the best that life has to offer. Get out and enjoy all that surrounds you and leave your gaming devices at home, put away the cell phone and iPad and quit texting, as you don’t know what you’re missing on this big blue marble we call home.

Hasta Pronto,

Terri at the Drake’s Nest in Cuenca, Ecuador

 

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New Challenges

Just as it seems like things are beginning to settle down, we get hit with a new challenge. We are in the process of getting our belongings shipped from Miami, Florida to our home in Cuenca. This has been a challenge, but one that we are up to handling.

First I was told that I could not ship all my fabric, sewing machines and art supplies as there was just too much of it. I pointed out that I had told our shipper exactly what I had and that there would be no problem. Wrong! I had to prove that I use the materials in my art quilts, quilts and art pieces and that I have exhibited my work. After much back and forth, the shipper’s legal department agreed that I do use the fabric in my art and am entitled to ship it.

Second hurdle is that we have been told we need to supply the make, model and serial numbers on all our appliances, tools and machines. This we were not told was necessary when we were packing or it would have been listed on the inventory next to the items. Now our shipper will go through the inventory to go to the boxes that have appliances, open them, write down the serial numbers, model numbers, and makes, re-pack them in the boxes and re-seal them.

Third hurdle was that everyone was insisting that we did not need a 40 foot container, until I reminded them that when they picked up the items in a 20 foot truck, they had to go and rent another truck to handle the items that did not fit. Now they agree that we do indeed need a 40 foot container and, of course, that will cost a little extra.

Fourth hurdle was being informed that we needed to provide certified copies of our pensioner’s letters, Visas and the inventory needed to be in Spanish. Our immigration attorney went back and forth with them for a bit explaining that we already had our Visas and all documentation used for approval were at the Immigration Ministry. We had to pay $20 for certified copies of the benefits letters, provide copies of our Health Insurance letters and will be paying $200 to have the inventory translated into Spanish.

Fifth hurdle was being told we needed to put a value on everything and that there could be no zero value on anything, even if it was something I printed out that was a free pattern, for example, I had to put at least a two-cent valuation. Once everything was valued, then I had to put a total as the total value had to be under $4500 for a 20 foot container, now that we are getting a 40, I believe it can be a little higher. The other problem we noted was that I had a couple of duplicate entries and I had to put (duplicate entry) next to the item. I could not remove it or the inventory numbers would be out of sequence.

The last hurdle is being told that because of the fabric, art supplies and duplicate entries, we now need to be in Guayaquil when the shipment arrives and meet with the custom officials to explain everything. So we will be flying down the night before as we will have to be there from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Additionally, we have to find someone who speaks English who can translate for us. It is going to be a L-O-N-G day.

Hopefully, everything will go smoothly and once back in Cuenca, I plan on having a tall, cold cervasa!

So the moral of my story is, if you are planning on shipping your belongings, make sure you do a very detailed inventory, place a value on the item and if it is an appliance, tool, etc. write down its serial number, model number and make, even if they tell you that you don’t need to.

Until later my friends, here are a few pictures of some of my art quilts that helped me convince them of what I do.

Hasta Pronto!

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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