Another Gem in Ecuador’s Crown

Today I had a wonderful time visiting a wonderful jewel in Ecuador’s crown. It was a trip with a wonderful group of people to the zoo in Tarqui. All the animals there have been rescued and given a new lease on life. They have been injured and nursed back to health. I was amazed at not only the quality of life they have there but that you can get up close and personal with a number of the animals.

The trip up to Tarqui was spectacular with its ever-changing vistas! To look down into the valley and see farms, old Ecuadorian homes and the ever changing landscape was a feast for the eyes and the soul. The gentleman who owns the zoo also does Falcon rescue. Those who are too injured to be returned to the wild, live out their days in peace and become ambassador’s in the education of people on the importance of protecting its wildlife.

An unusual aspect of the trip, and one of its marvelous highlights, was to find out that the ostriches give massages! Yes, I said they give massages. It was something one had to experience first hand and I have to admit, I was the first to volunteer. It was unbelievable, although they were a little heavy “beaked” when it came to giving the massage.

Another wonderful experience, was being able to hold a Golden Eagle that had been injured and was being restored to health. To look into those huge eyes that showed no fear just touched me to my very soul. Those eyes spoke to my Cherokee heart in a way that I cannot explain. It was a very moving experience for me and one I will not forget any time soon.

At the zoo there were monkeys, parrots, toucans, a fox, peacocks, a water buffalo and Humboldt Penguins! Now to see Penguins in South America is something I would not have thought I would see. But these penguins are native to the Galapagos Islands. There were other animals there was well and it was very heart warming to know they are being cared for and given a second chance at life.

After the zoo, we went to a lovely restaurant for lunch where we were treated to Ecuadorian style lasagna, salad, yummy chocolate cafe with some kind of liquor, garlic bread, a delicious juice and a decadent desert that was a combination custard, fruit and granola. After a delightful repast, it was time to head back to Cuenca and home.

It was a truly delightful day spent with new friends and we are looking forward to the next adventure. It could be anything from zip-lining by some waterfalls to visiting a tribe near the Amazon. Whatever is planned, you can bet that it will be interesting and fun. Oh, and what was the cost for the day? Only $16.00. In Florida we could not have found anything at that low a price. I mean, to go to Disney or Sea World would set you back $120 or more and that is only for admission, does not include parking or eating!

Until next time my friends, remember to thank God for the wonders he has given us.

Hasta Pronto!

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

 

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Best Way to See Cuenca

I am sure there will be many different people telling you the best way to see Cuenca. Some will say by car or tour bus, which is nice except that you can’t stop where you want to stop or when you want to stop, unless of course you are driving. Others will say by bicycle, which is very nice on a bike path or a nice trail; however, riding along the streets or sidewalks could pose a hazard. The narrow streets of the historic area of El Centro is not a place I would want to ride a bicycle, much too congested with both vehicles and people and neither are always watching where they are going.

For me, and this is my preference, is walking. If you get tired, you can always find a place to rest, hungry, a place to eat and if something catches you eye and begs for attention, you are free to wander over and examine. For example, in the historic district of El Centro, the narrow streets just beg to be explored. You will find beautiful architecture, carved wood doors or intricate metal works. There are wonderful shop, restaurants, museums and parks to explore and many vendors, Mercados and markets. Hanging outside various shops you will find bright colors to entice you to come closer to look. Be warned, however, there are people there who will try to get you to buy their wares. You can find everything from wall hangings, to rugs, to household goods, to food.

One street may cater to shoes of all kinds. From cheap little runners to expensive leather goods. Another narrow street may have everything from clothing to fabric. As you walk along, a delightful aroma begins to make your mouth water. You turn the corner and there you find bakeries with every kind of bread, roll, sweet, cake or pie imaginable. From the open door of a cafe comes the tantalizing scent of the days Almorzo. I should note here that in Ecuador, lunch or the Almorzo is the big meal of the day. I don’t know of anywhere in the world where you can get a drink, soup, salad, main course and desert for $2.00! Believe me, these servings are not itty bitty and the meals are delicious.

The climate of Cuenca, approximately 70 degrees F most days, with nice breezes and sunny skies, make walking the perfect way to get around. If you are a photography nut, then you will find plenty here to attract your photographer’s eye.

A few things to keep in mind for which ever way you prefer to explore, car, taxi, tour bus, bicycle or walking. You are responsible for your own actions, if you step into a hole or trip on a broken piece of pipe, it is on you. You cannot sue for slipping on a banana peel that you saw but stepped on anyway. Due to the narrowness of some streets, you need to be aware that mirrors from buses, automobiles or trucks come very close to the curbs and many a person has been whacked by those, so rule of thumb, don’t walk close to the road edge. Cars do not always yield to pedestrians, even if they have the walk light, so be sure to look before crossing streets. Unlike the U.S., Ecuadorians do not have a sense of space so don’t expect them to move over for you.

The main thing to keep in mind is that this is a very laid back country and things go at a slower pace. Okay, people go at a slower pace, not necessarily the automobiles. So enjoy the city, take your time and relax.

Until next time my friends,

Hasta Pronto!

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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Much to See and Do

Cuenca is a jewel in Ecuador’s crown from its majestic views atop the mountains to its rivers and walking paths to its beautiful cathedrals. There is just about something for everyone and, it will take a while, but we plan on doing as much as we can at a leisurely pace.

One of the places that I thoroughly enjoyed and plan on a more thorough examination, is the Museo Pumapongo. This museum houses some beautiful pieces of Ecuadorian artwork, sculptures, ceremonial masks, samples of their stunning weaving, a full size replica of a hut used in the Amazon and elsewhere. Behind the museum one will find a walk-able Inca ruin that is terraced down a slope, there is a working farm field, indigenous plants, examples of tools used and more. We were unable to go to that part during our first visit as there was a lot of remodeling being done. Now we want to see not only the Inca ruins but what they did in the remodeling. There is even a gift shop where you can purchase coffee from the Amazon and other items.

On the lower level you will find glimpses of Cuenca’s past and Ecuador’s history. There are old sculptures, various types of currency that was used before they switched over to the U.S. dollar. One of the sad stories about that switch is that people who had hundreds of thousands of dollars in the old currency for retirement, found that when the dust settled all they had left was $400.00 in the bank and unable to retire. The opposite side of the coin, so to speak, is that those who owed thousands of dollars in mortgages and loans and paying hundreds of dollars a month, suddenly found themselves only having to pay eighty cents a month.

On the main level one will find beautiful paintings depicting Cuenca’s past, its history and other things. We noticed some exquisite stained glass while touring that level, but don’t know if  it’s still there after the remodel. On the upper level is where you walk through the native huts, see examples of Ecuadorian weaving skills, their ceremonial dances, face masks, feathered head dresses and much, much more. It is definitely a place one can return to again and again and find something that catches their eye that they missed the first time through.

Until the next time my friends, remember life is for living and exploring to its fullest.

All the best.

Hasta Pronto,

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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Tired but oh so happy!

At 3:45 a.m. this morning, we jumped in a cab and went to mini-bus station where we connected with a special van to go to Machala to get our approved Visas. My husband and I rode in the back, which was fun to squeeze his 6 ft. 4 in. frame and my 5 ft. 9 in. frame into the seats. The passengers in the front wanted to push their seats back and we had to tell them “no, por favor” and pointed to our knees in the back of the seat. They weren’t too happy about that, especially a lady with a baby, but they left the seats where they were.  Thankfully, the baby slept all the way to Machala and when she did awaken was good as gold.

The driver must have either been very angry that we were the last to arrive so that he couldn’t depart as early as he wished or he had decided to try to break the land speed record between Cuenca and Machala. The roads in areas along the way are in really rough shape as they are either in various stages of repair or have been washed out by slides due to the unusual amount of rain in that area. I came very close to being car sick, which is something that never happens to me. We were extremely thankful that we did not have to go to Guayaquil as the roads in that area of the Cajas are a complete mess with ice and snow! Yes, my dear friends, there has been snow in South America.

We arrived a little early, small wonder Mr. Van Driver, so had a light breakfast at a local restaurant. We had been there before when we went to submit our applications and have pictures taken. After breakfast, we went to the Ministry de Immigration and waited to be called. They compared our Passports with our files and then took them to get the Visa stamp. We waited, and we waited and we waited. Finally, we were told it was taking a long time due to the fact that only one person was processing the Visas as well as processing some kind of Certificates for those natives who were re-entering the country and today and tomorrow were the only days they could get them. It was a mad house, but at least they let us know.

Finally, after a four-hour wait, we were given the signal that approval was at hand. They handed me my Passport and asked me to verify that all the information on the Visa was correct. Passport number – check; first name, middle name, last name – check; date of birth – WRONG! Somehow, they had me being born in January instead of June, so MY Visa had to be redone. Luckily, Ray’s was perfecto. After about a half hour, mine was ready and once I approved all the information and signed the necessary copies, we had our Visas.

We left the Ministry and stopped to have a bite to eat for lunch and then it was on to the Minibus station where we had been dropped off to arrange for transportation back to Cuenca. Where the first driver tried to bust the land speed record, this one loved to see just how close he could time on-coming traffic and passing buses and large trucks. There were a few times there when I thought for sure that I would be having my Visa checked at the pearly gates. One thing I have noticed here, most Ecuadorians are gentle, kind, soft-spoken and the nicest people you could meet. That is until they get behind the wheel of a vehicle and then it’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I have come to the opinion that bus drivers, taxi drivers and special van drivers are muey loco en la cabasa!

Once we arrived back in Cuenca, our Immigration Attorney’s Assistant said, “Chao! See you tomorrow!” To which I responded, excuse me, but we have no idea where we are in Cuenca and would like to know how we are to get home. Whoops! He hailed us a cab and we made it home safely. This taxi driver was a good driver and even spoke some English. He wanted to talk, but we  were just too tired. Once home, we took off our shoes and opened a cervasa (beer) to celebrate our Visa Approval.

Tomorrow we go to the Attorney’s office to pay the remainder of her fee and to get a copy of the Visa in a shrunk down version that will be laminated so that we can use that as our Ecuadorian ID until one is issued and so that we don’t lose our Passports with its original stamps.

I need to close this so that I can get some rest as I had absolutely no sleep last night. Until later my friends, take care and God bless.

Hasta Pronto,

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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Beauty Surrounds You Here!

I have done a bit of traveling in my time, to Hawaii, to England, across the United States and a short jaunt to Canada; however, no where have I found a place like Ecuador. Beauty surrounds you here, not only in the scenic wonders, but in the people, its churches and museums.

There are 52 churches in Ecuador and you will find 12 in the area of El Centro. Most of the churches are Catholic, but you will find a few Protestant, Lutheran and International Christian Community. Some of the churches are relatively new, but many go back centuries. Some no longer function as a place of worship and have been turned into museums, such as the Museo Catedral Vieja in El Centro, Cuenca, Ecuador. They are exquisite visits into Cuenca’s past and a chance to view its wonderful architecture, sculptures and frescoes.

When you walk in you are greeted with a view of the Altar at the front of the church. At first glance, it appears there are people sitting on the altar having a discussion, but as you approach, you see Jesus surrounded by his 12 disciples. Upon closer inspection, you see that it is the Last Supper, minus the table. The detail and workmanship are exquisite. The museum contains a scale model of the Church itself, the retired vestments worn by the various Priests over the centuries and a hand-carved stairway that leads to a small pulpit in the middle of the church.  In the room where the scale model of the church is located, you can look down into a class covered enclosure where are what appears to be crypts and a circular area where people have dropped coins.

As you look around at the old Confessional and rustic pieces of the past, you can almost hear the sounds of people speaking in hushed tones as they say their prayers or the sound of the organ playing its hymns. There is a feeling of peace as you walk the old wooden floors.

May you be surrounded by beauty and peace in your little corner of the world. Thank you for letting me share my little corner with you. Enjoy some pictures from our visit to this wonderful museum.

Take care and God bless you and yours. Until later my friends,

Hasta Pronto,

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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Doing Happy Dance

It has been said that good things come to those who wait. While patience isn’t always my strong point, this time being patient was worth it. Today we are doing a happy dance as we have just been informed that our Visas have been approved. On Thursday we will travel to Machala to the immigration ministry and we will have our Passports stamped with our Residency Visas.

While we still don’t know what kind of Ecuadorian ID we will be issued, we will be legal residents of Ecuador and can move forward with our lives instead of being in limbo. Getting the approval also means that we will be able to have our belongings shipped to our new home once we have relocated.

In two years, unless they change the laws again, we will be able to apply for Permanent Residency status and after five years apply for dual Citizenship if we so desire. That is our long-term goal, but who knows what the future will bring. For now, we are content to be able to enjoy our lives here in Ecuador and the building of many friendships and memories.

Until later my friends,

Hasta Pronto,

Terri at the Drakes Nest

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Going with the Flow

Sometimes things don’t always work out the way you plan. For instance, we were suppose to have gone on a trip to a zoo, falcon rescue and then a delicious lunch; however, those plans were canceled due to it being rainy and cold. Unfortunately, we were not notified of the cancellation until after we arrived at the meeting place and there were only four of us there. The cancellation notification came on one of the participants cell phone. It was nice to have been notified, but for those of us living 20-30 minutes away via taxi or bus, it would have been nicer to have been notified sooner. Oh well, you go with the flow.

It is amazing how it was bothersome the late notification, but for some reason it didn’t bother us nearly half as much as it would have in the states. The person responsible was notified that an earlier cancellation notification would have been better, but that was the end of it.

The same can be said of thinking you’ve found the perfect place to live and then after a month of living in the place you discover that it isn’t all it was cracked up to be. We are in the process of looking for a new place to live as this penthouse, as beautiful as the views are and as big as it is, just isn’t working for us. No fault of ours or the realtor who found us this place, but that of the building manager for not doing preventative maintenance on the building, its elevators and security gates. We are lucky in that we are very good friends with the party who found us this place and she totally understands why we are unhappy. We made a point of letting her know none of this is her fault and are very glad none of this will affect our friendship. The outcome would have been much different in the states and we would have been more or less on our own in dealing with the landlord, etc.

My darling husband and I were talking the other night about how different things are here and how much we feel like we belong here in Ecuador and how much we feel like we are home. We have lived all over the U.S. and never had that feeling of “home” or belonging in any given area. But now we totally understand a comment a dear friend of ours made when she had return to the U.S. to visit family. She said that visiting the U.S. was nice, but she couldn’t wait to get home to “her” Ecuador.

With all the challenges of language, culture and getting here, everything always seems to work out. It is almost as if we are “suppose” to be here and that this is indeed home.

Our Spanish lessons are coming along nicely and we have a fantastic tutor. He is from Spain and has been living here for almost four years now. We got a big laugh when he told us that someone told him that for a “gringo, he speaks really good Spanish!” We are finding that we are beginning to understand more and more of what people are saying and even being able to give the correct response. We still have a long way to go, but it feels great knowing that we are slowly making some strides with communication.

Today we took a #3 bus with the intention of going to our favorite restaurant in El Centro as the bus stop was directly across the street from the restaurant. However, going in the direction of El Centro from our area of Cuenca, the bus does not go down that particular street. So we enjoyed riding to the end of the line just to see where it went. We ended up in the Cajas in an area with beautiful views and the homes and businesses looked like old Ecuador. There were a lot of Ecuadorians in the native dress and with as tall as we are, we felt like Gulliver in the land of Lilliputians. My husband is 6 foot 4 inches and we would see people staring at us and off and on would hear the comment “muey grande.” It just made us laugh. We hear that quite a lot when he folds his tall frame into a small taxi. We’ll just laugh and say, “Si, muey, muey, grande!”

Hope that all is well in your little corner of the world. Just remember to go with the flow as we don’t always have control of things in our life. Don’t sweat the small stuff, because it’s ALL small stuff! Take care and God bless,

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

 

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