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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North and South America alike, but different

On Friday we attended a presentation on Cuenca and the changes that have occurred here over the years and it was put on by a gentleman from our new church who has lived the changes.

During his presentation, I could see how the two Americas are alike and how much they are different.

North America was founded by people looking for a better life for them and their families. They moved from one coast to the other to find that elusive dream. South America too had its explorers, however they did not come with families to find a better life, but to take all they could from the south and return to their homelands in hopes of returning rich. Where North America slaughtered the native peoples to take the land as their own, the people who came to South America slaughtered the native peoples to take their silver and gold.

In North America the Jesuits came and took the children of the native peoples and put them into boarding schools to learn English and took away their heritage. In South America the Arch Bishop of Ecuador threatened the families who associated with Lutherans with excommunication and anyone who supported these families were friends were likewise threatened. So the people of Ecuador sent their children to Minnesota to Lutheran Boarding schools where they lost their heritage to become indoctrinated into the way of the gringos.

When Ecuador changed from the Sucre currency to the U.S. dollar, many lost their retirements due to devaluation. For example, if they had millions of Sucres in the bank, when the conversion to U.S. currency, their retirement went from millions in the bank to $400. Those who were paying 2900 Sucres a month in mortgage suddenly found themselves paying $0.80 per month.

Where North America has lost its way with greed being the almighty idol many chase and families are disappearing and the elderly being thrown away with the wash water, South America has realized the importance of families, they take care of the elderly and everyone works together to achieve what they need. Here in Cuenca, even the land has rights. They are big on the environment and have some of the cleanest and safest water to drink anywhere in the world.

So where North America seems to be a land growing in stress and tensions, South America seems to be more relaxed and laid back. I am not saying it is perfect by any means as no where is perfect; however I will say it comes pretty close to being perfect, at least for his newly.

With that, I will leave you with pictures from the Cuenca presentation and wish each and everyone of you God’s blessings. Until the next time,

Hasta Pronto,

Terri at the Drakes Nest

 

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Things just got a little easier!

Now I am one of those people who love it when someone comes up with an easier or new improved way of doing things. When you live in a country where you don’t speak the language, must less read it, easier is definitely on my do-to-list.

Thankfully, a wonderful young lady, Frances A. Hogg, has published a delightful book entitled, “What’s Cookin’ Cuenca?” It is an Expat’s guide to buying and preparing food in Ecuador. It is not only filled with where to find what, it has the Spanish names for them, recipes, how to substitute and what you won’t find in Cuenca, Ecuador. She is a delightful writer and the book is not only a great read, but a wonderful go-to-guide written by someone who has been in our shoes, by that I mean someone in a new country who hasn’t a clue on where to find items we are use to being able to obtain on our grocer’s shelves or what to use when you can’t get them.

For example, you cannot purchase a box of Baking Soda here like you do in the states. You can only purchase a tiny bag with perhaps a tablespoon or two in it. The reason is that baking soda is apparently an ingredient in homemade drugs and to help prevent illegal manufacture of these illicit items, they are restricting the amount that you can purchase.

Frances has become the equivalent of a fairy godmother of sorts with all the advice, descriptions and how to’s in her book. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you!

The other thing that is going to make life easier is we will be meeting with a Spanish Tutor tomorrow and will discuss meeting for lessons so that we can, hopefully, become fluent enough that we can carry on a conversation intelligently and not use the wrong word and ask for something we do not want, such as when we are looking for toilet paper and Google translate gives us the Spanish word for tampon! Not something I am interested in nor have needed for quite a number of years now. Or when ordering eggs scrambled Google giving you the right word for eggs but toilet paper for scrambled! I can tell you that got me some interesting looks. Thankfully, a young lady who spoke English asked me what I was ordering and I was able to tell her. She got quite the laugh when I told her the word google had provided. She quickly gave my order to the cook and walked away laughing and shaking her head.

Life here in Ecuador is anything but dull and is full of challenges, but we wouldn’t want it any other way. We are so enjoying things here and the health benefits of all that walking are starting to really show. My belt is on the very last hole that I can adjust, so I either have to get a smaller belt or figure out how to punch in more holes. So far, we figure we’ve lost about 10 pounds in the three weeks we’ve been here. My darling husband, no longer looks like he’s six months pregnant! While that may look good on sea horses it is not a good look on the human male.

Until next time my friends, keep your sunny side up!

Hasta Pronto,

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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Loving Ecuador!

Hard to believe that we have now been here three weeks. Time sure flies when you are having fun. While there are a lot of challenges to living here when you don’t speak the language, we are discovering that the more you try, the more the locals will help you. I am able to understand a little of what is being said and finding that I understand more of what I read. Now if I can just find that balance where I can understand what is being said and able to respond. But like anything worth having, it is worth working hard to obtain it.

Our Visas should be approved any time now and we are anxiously awaiting the word  to take our passports in to be stamped. One of the things we were concerned about was that our apostilized documents would expire before the Visas were approved. That does not happen. As soon as you apply for your Visa and you are in Country, your documentation time countdown stops. That in and of itself is a big relief and took a big weight off our shoulders.

Once you have your Visa in hand, you can order your belongings to be shipped to you. This you must do as soon as you possibly can as you only have the first six months you are here to have them come into country duty-free. After that, there is no guarantee that you will be allowed to have them shipped at all. Unfortunately, a lady who attends our church has discovered this fact the hard way. She has been here for over six years and decided that she wanted to ship her goods here that she had placed in storage. She figured that she would just have to pay customs and a duty fee. She was very wrong and is now upset that she can’t finally get her belongings here.

This is why it is extremely important that you pay attention to the requirements for not only obtaining the necessary documentation to live in the country of your choice, but also the requirements for having your belongings shipped to you.

When we first decided we wanted to live in Ecuador, we were told that yes, we could ship our belongings here without a Visa, but we would be required to place a $9,000 bond and there was no guarantee that the bond would be refunded in a timely manner once the Visa was approved. So we decided to place our things in storage until such time as approval is granted. It will only take 2-3 weeks to ship once we send proof of Visa approval to our moving/shipping company.

The same holds true if you decide to return to your home country. There is no guarantee that you will be able to return your belongings to your home country without being charged a fee by both your home country and the country you are leaving. There is also the possibility that you will not be allowed to return your belongings to your home country at all. Much depends on the rules and regulations that are in effect at that particular time.

We decided when we moved here that once our belongings are here, if we should decided to move elsewhere, then we would just sell everything we have and start anew. After all, it is just stuff and that which we wanted family to have, we already delivered it to them well before we left.

The next thing our on agenda is to prepare and Ecuadorian Will. This spells out exactly what we want done not only with our bodies, but with our belongings as well. Unlike in the U.S.A. where you can have a Living Will that says what you wish done or not done, it is not valid here in Ecuador. You must have a legal and binding document written here in this country. U.S. legal documents are only binding in the U.S. Now if we happen to be in the U.S. and something happens, any documents drawn up in the U.S. are binding while those drawn up in Ecuador are not. Since we currently have no plans to own any property in Ecuador, we only need to spell out what it done with our personal effects and ourselves.

Our son already has been designated on our U.S. bank accounts as having the right to access it and distribute the assets between himself and his sister. Anything we may have in an Ecuadorian account we plan on having it distributed to either a local charity or our church to distribute to those who are in need in our community.

This week, we will be attending a talk on the history of Cuenca and how it has changed over the years, that will be on the 21st of July. On the 26th of July, we will be going to a local zoo where we will be feeding the animals behind the scenes, going to a falcon rescue and then to dinner. Will definitely be reporting on that.

Until next time my friends, enjoy life. Don’t forget to spend time with your family and friends as they are far more important than how much money you earn or how fast you advance up the ladder.

Hasta Pronto!

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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