Monday, April 30, 2012

Winding Down...

Well, with our departure date quickly looming on the horizon, we are trying to get ourselves ready to go home...running errands, etc.

Laundry. Check.
Souvenirs. Check.
Final cleaning of rental house. Eh, not yet.

Ah, well...it'll get done. :)

So, today we headed into El Centro to finish picking up a few items. As we were walking through Parque Calderon, we saw the city tour bus, getting ready to go. I hadn't had a chance to take the tour yet, so we decided to go. It was beautiful! So relaxing...as we were going around the city it started to really hit home how much I was going to miss the sights and sounds...and even smells, of Cuenca. The mountains, the flowers, the cows, sheep and chickens roaming the streets, the smell of roasting cuy and pigs along Avenidas De Las Americas, the fragrance of the eucalyptus, wild herbs and the trees in bloom...it is so unique from any place I've ever been, and it made me kinda sad, even though I am looking forward to going home and seeing everyone.

When the bus was on its way back to the center of town, we heard voices yelling "hey, Jack!!"...it was the brothers and sisters from the English congregation out in service!! So, we got off the bus and went to lunch with them all.

We sat and talked in that restaurant for sooo long...we had a BLAST! It has been so fun getting to know them!

One of the young girls in the hall, Emma, has really taken to Jack. She was so cute...when she found out that we are leaving on Thursday, she looked so disappointed. She asked , "when will I see you again before you go home?"...she wanted to know because she wanted to give Jack something before we left. A-dorable!

Well, tomorrow is service, more errands, then Jack is getting a massage and we are going to "tea" with the Kelly's. Looking forward to it!

Only three more days until we head home...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Day With The Kellys

Had a lovely time at the meeting today, although we found out some kinda sad news. Three of the elders in the English congregation have been asked by the branch to relocate to Spanish congregations. All of the congregations in the area are being re-mapped...several congregations are being combined in an effort to have more elders in each congregation, since there is such a shortage of elders in the Spanish congregations. Sooo, that is quite a big loss to the English congregation...but...Jehovah will bless the willing and cooperative spirit shown by all of the brothers and sisters that will have to adjust to the changes.

After the meeting, we were invited over to the Kelly's home. They are a family of four who moved here three years ago from Australia (the English congregation sure does have a lot of Aussies in it!), Brian, Tania, Amelia and Amber. They started out in one of the Spanish congregations, but about 6 months ago, Brian, Tania and Amelia switched to English. Amber LOVES Spanish and stayed with it.

(Left to right: Amber, Amelia, Tania and Brian three years ago)


Anyway...we just went over for lunch, but we all had such a great time talking, laughing, sharing experiences, etc., that we ended up being there for about 5 hours! Jack and I just enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. They felt like kindred spirits. :) Can't wait to get to know them even better!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Artesa

I forgot to mention that yesterday we also made a trip to Artesa, a local ceramics workshop that was started about 40 years ago by two famous Cuenca artists, Raymundo Crespo and Eduardo Vega. They make and sell beautiful dishes, vases, wall art as well as other household items. Take a look:









I had heard that they had a "reject" area with items not perfect enough to sell at full price, so I asked one of the sales ladies about it. She said that it was only open on Friday mornings...awww, rats!! BUT...she was so sweet...she said, "if you like, I can take you to look at it right now".

To get there, we had to pass through the workshop. It was interesting seeing the ladies hand-decorating the pieces themselves. They do an amazingly beautiful job!








I couldn't believe how much they had in the reject room! I am DEFINITELY gonna have to go back there when we move here. Such beautiful items! Just thought I'd share...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Our New Pals...

Just some pictures of the brothers and sisters in the English Congregation in Cuenca...enjoy!!

Some of the friends meeting for service

The Kingdom Hall where the English meet. Also, I believe, the Sign Language.

Daniella Salazar goofing around...

Maria, Eduardo's sister...isn't she cute?

Eight people in a itty bitty van!
/
Hehehee...watch what Eduardo does right before the householder comes to the door...

The group on the bus going home...all smiles!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Great Lavanderia Quest, Out in the Ministry and Making Friends

Quite an interesting couple of days! Monday started out with Jack and I rolling our laundry down the "hill" in our carry-on bag to the local lavanderia on the way to go to the grocery store. We had only a small amount of laundry and, since last week we had more than double the amount and it cost us $11, we expected the charge this time to be about $5 or less, perhaps. Soooo, we get to the lavanderia and the lavanderess (?) decides to charge us $7 (scintillating, isn't this?? LOL). Well, we are trying to be more careful not to go along with "gringo gouging", so we said no and moved on to find another place.

Hmmmm....lavanderias are a leeetle more scarce than we thought. Hehehee...we dragged that stupid suitcase all over and didn't find another one!!

We finally decided to just go to the grocery store and see if there was someplace nearby where we could dump our laundry. So, we get to Coral (the grocery store) and Jack leaves me there, while he heads up the street to continue the Great Lavanderia Quest. Sigh...poor dear...he walked all over the place and STILL couldn't find one, so he finally gave up and came back to the store.

Funny thing, though....as I was sitting outside of Coral at one of the little cafe tables, watching for Jack, a woman I had never seen before rounds the corner, looks straight at me and says "Hi Amy, I'm Rachel!"...I must have looked ridiculous, because I was in complete shock!

Turns out she and her husband Jim saw Jack looking quite lost and tried to help him...then came to say hello to me! It really is pretty interesting how the gringos seem to really try to look out for each other here. Very sweet! In fact, we saw another evidence of that today...but, I'll get to that later...

Anyway...we did our shopping, but gave up on the idea of dropping off the laundry...we were just too tired at that point. So, Tuesday, the quest continued, but thankfully, Jack called Guillermo (the brother who had helped us find the first lavanderia) who told him where to go...hallelujah! Clean clothes! LOL!

So Tuesday, after dropping off the clothes, we headed into El Centro for some souvenier shopping. Found some really lovely items (and did a little better with the bargaining, I think)...a lovely rust colored alpaca shawl, an alpaca sweater, another beautiful crochet embellished dress, some Ecuador T-shirts and a brightly colored purse. Great deals!

We were heading to find an ATM, so that we could do a little more shopping, and were walking through Parque Calderon, when I see this white arm waving...hehee...it was a sister from the English congregation! Her name is Meleah and she moved here not long ago from Oregon. She had been sitting in the park, striking up conversations with people, all by herself.

We stood there talking to her for quite a long time, and I was so glad we did. I really felt like we got to know her a lot better and my heart went out to her, as she has been faced with some serious difficulties. I really admire her attitude, though. She is not bitter, she is just trying to move forward and continue to do what she loves to do...pioneer.

She also told us about a couple of apartments in her buildings that are for rent, and invited us to see her place to get an idea of what they were like, so we set up a "date" to do that today after our morning ministry, then we rode the bus home with her and picked up our $4 laundry!

This morning, there was a large group out in the ministry...Jack, myself, Don, Ginger, Amelia, Emma, Megan, Janice, Daisy, Eduardo (I think), Lasse (a brother from Denmark), Sandy, Meleah and Desiree (not bad for a congregation of 30, right?). I worked with Amelia, whose family came here 3 years ago from Australia when she was about 21. I had a GREAT time with her! She has a great sense of humor and we laughed an awful lot...especially about my attempts at Spanish! My first door, I got so flustered, that I asked the householder (in Spanish, mind you) whether there was anyone who spoke spanish in his house. He kinda looked puzzled and asked "eh...Spanish?" LOL!

I know, I know...can you imagine? "Hi there! I am in Ecuador and I am trying to find SOMEONE who speaks Spanish? I can't find a soul!! Somebody help me!!" Sigh...well...it aint the first time I'm gonna look stupid while learning this language!

After service, we went with Meleah for almuerzo...lunch, before heading over to her apartment. We stopped at a picanteria and had jugo (juice), sopa (soup) and the main course, pollo (chicken), arroz (rice) and ensalada...all for $1.50!! Not bad!!

Meleah's apartment buildings are very nice! Beautifully maintained and very secure (we've noticed that Ecuadorians are super security conscious). As we were leaving, we saw someone in one of the apartments for rent, so Meleah asked if we could look at the apartment to get an idea of what it was like.

It turned out that it was the new tenant in the apartment...a lady named Marcia from Florida. She was there with another gringa who was helping her with her apartment. We got to look around and we really liked what we saw! And this was where we saw the above mentioned evidence of gringos looking out for one another. Marcia told us that the first week she got here, she didn't really know anyone and she got terribly ill. She didn't know what to do, so she put out an SOS of sorts on Facebook and had several gringos in Cuenca come to her rescue. I think that most gringos can sympathize with what it is like to be in a new country, with a new language, new customs...being out of your element...so they are eager to help each other out. It's pretty refreshing to see, actually.

So, anyway...that is the last couple of days here in Cuenca...hope you all are not snoring at this point...

Goodnight!!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mmmmmmm...Rica!!

Had a semi-busy week. A relaxing morning at the park in the rain, a little souvenier shopping, a little sightseeing, some time in service with the English Congregation, a couple of dinners with friends...very nice!

Jack had gone out in the ministry with the English on Wednesday. He worked with Dan Roche and a sister named Sandy who is visiting for a few months from Florida. She is about 28, so Jack enjoyed teasing her about walking with "the dinosaurs"...she is also an LPN, so he was relieved that there was someone who knew CPR if Dan made him walk too fast! (Dan, btw, is a bit of a "walking nazi').

Emma and Sandy (Megan in the background)

Inca ruins...out in service!!

Cool, huh?


Jack had a bit of an experience coming home from service, though. Dan directed him to the number 13 bus, which is close to our house. Jack got on and after a while realized he was not getting closer to home...Dan put him on the bus going the OPPOSITE way!! LOL! Dan told Jack that he was just trying to give him a 25 cent tour of the city, to which Jack replied..."what do you mean, 25 cents?? I gotta pay ANOTHER 25 cents to get back!!"

Ah well...I was able to join the group for service on Thursday and enjoyed myself very much. I worked with a couple from Texas, Mark and Ruth Alvarado, who have been here for several months and are moving here, too. Ruth taught me a little something to say at the door, telling the householder that we are looking for people who speak English..."Hay alguien en su casa que habla Inglés?" I only got to try it out once, but still...its a baby step!

I then worked with Gretchen Roche for a while,. She got a young lady at a preschool who is going to start studying! Not bad! Poor Gretchen was kinda wound up that morning, because of something that happened on the bus ride to the territory. She and Desiree had been on the bus and witnessed a robbery. A man had been standing next to them on the bus (even though there were PLENTY of seats open) and at one point when the bus stopped, he reached out and grabbed the earrings of the lady sitting in front of Gretchen! Yikes!

I don't know what kind of earrings they were, but we had been warned about wearing gold...or any kind of ostentatios jewelry. (Yeah...ostentatious jewelry...sounds like me, eh?)

Anyway, Thursday night we went to dinner with Dan and Gretchen at the number 1 rated restaurant in Cuenca...Tiestos. The restaurant was charming and the atmosphere was very relaxed and welcoming. And the food! Yummm! Filet mignon with tomatoes and a delicious cream sauce...side dishes of white rice, potatoes, mote (a kind of corn), vegetable salad, this pink spotted bean/potato kinda thing and several different types of sauces. Muy rica!

Funny thing is that Dan pulled another...well, "Dan". LOL! He told us that he made reservations for 6 pm. So, we get to the restaurant and....it is padlocked from the outside! Hmmm. We found out that it wasn't open until 6:30 when one of the employees got there and unlocked the doors! Sooo...Gretchen suggested that we look at some of the shops around there. Glad she did, because I finally found the silver earrings I had wanted to get while in Ecuador!!

Great place to eat in Cuenca!

The menu is designed for families...portions feed four. :)

The next day we headed out to lunch with Dan, Gretchen, Desiree and Estevan (Desiree's fiancee) at a brother and sister's home. David and Carol are from Nevada originally, but have been here in Ecuador for a year or so. On the way to their place, we stopped at a bakery owned by a sister and her husband. It is called Maria's Alemania Bakery (Maria's German Bakery). Everything looked incredible! We bought a few things and had to rush out, as the walking nazi informed us that we were late for lunch with David and Carol. Sigh.

Maria's Bakery...soooooo delicious!
We walked the rest of the way to David and Carol's house (being assured at each and every one of the ten blocks that it was just a couple of blocks away...) and what a beautiful house it was!! They live in a row of about 3 or 4 houses that are owned by a brother or sister and all of the homes are rented to witnesses. Their place was just lovely!

(L to R) David, Carol, Estevan and Desiree
Desiree, Dan, Gretchen and me.


Dave and Carol's living room

David had made homemade pizza with Ecuadoran ingredients and it was SO good!! Carol had made a delicious salad and some salsa that really hit the spot. I loaded up on the salad because that is one thing that we have to be a bit careful of here...we have to make sure that any raw fruits or vegetables we eat have been thoroughly cleaned, due to parasites...so this was a safe salad and I enjoyed it!

We had a great time getting to know everyone, even though I felt a teensy bit like the rope in a tug of war between English and Spanish congregations...lol!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Words We Have Learned-Week 2

Hmmm...a lot of food/restaurant words this week...

Cansado=Tired
Fresa=Strawberry
Jueves=Thursday
Viernes=Friday
Miercoles=Wednesday
Carne de res=Beef
Carne de cerdo=Pork
Camarones=Shrimp
Tienda=Store
Cebolla=Onion
Hielo=Ice
Taller=Workshop
Bordado=Embroidery
Nosotros=We
Nieto, Nieta=Grandson, Granddaughter
Cuenta=Bill, check (at a restaurant)
Sencillo=Simple
Papas=Potatoes