Monday, January 30, 2012

The journey continues...

Aaaahhh, the sunny days in South America are filled with pleasures and adventures.

It's been ten days since I posted to the blog, again because of computer problems. I have my computer back from the repair shop...for the third (hopefully the final) time. My system crashed horribly from the receipt of an "Olympic Torch" virus. This was the WORST. It infected and destroyed things to the point where I had to have a new hard drive installed. Be careful folks! It came to me as a facebook friend request. Don't open ANYTHING you're not sure of! It's cost me several hundred dollars so far, not to mention the data and picture loss and weeks of worry. However, I am cautiously optimistic that perhaps things are fixed now.

When I picked up my computer today, this was the sign in the sky that keeps me cautiously optimistic...


I'd hoped this post would be about the amazingly beautiful churches and cathedrals hereabouts...but the virus ate all those pictures. I'll collect more over the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, let's begin with some flora and fauna. Apart from the vibrant hibiscus, I have no idea what these beauties are, but they ALL grow wild around the streets of Cuenca, leaving me with smiles after every morning's walk. I can garden all year 'round here...hmmm...

These are flowers from hedges all across the city. Now these are not your ordinary hedges folks...these are between ten and fourteen feet tall, and FILLED with these beautiful blossoms.

This is a tree outside my computer repair shop...where I've spent a LOT of time lately... beautiful...

These little things grow in the cracks of sidewalks!

This is in a park...not sure what it is...

Aren't these just so CHEERFUL!?

A double hibiscus in the garden where I'm staying.

Last Friday, I wandered through Parque Caledron, in the old city, near the cathedrals (more about those next post...) when these young people spontaneously started playing the most WONDERFUL Spanish music! I wish I'd have figured out my camera's movie clip recording so you could actually HEAR them....maybe next time...

These pictures are from events leading up to "Carnival..." a celebration lasting till lent...these Spanish Catholics KNOW how to PARTY! Actually, the parades and festivities are all to honour Jesus.

The children are...spectacular...

These children were sitting in the back of a (decorated) pick up truck...

This was at the top of one of the vehicles...

Horses...lots and LOTS of horses!

The pageantry is mind boggling!

Ecuadorian soldiers add music to the they are on a well deserved break!

Friends and I travelled to Chordeleg, about an hour outside Cuenca, to visit silver jewelery markets. Jewelery shops here are called "Joyerias..." GREAT name 'eh!? And yes, we DID contribute to the local economy, like good tourists. Here I am with Jan (from California) and Linda (from Missouri)...a couple of the dozens of older single women (like me!) who travel and socialize together. Life is...GOOD!

That's all for this time.

Future posts will include photos of my week in Puerto Lopez...just click on the coloured link to see where I'm going. It's an eight hour drive away from Cuenca, along the Pacific Coast, in the midst of Machalilla National Park.

Tomorrow my landlady Rucchi is taking me to a very old ceramics workshop. (I am SO lucky to have found this apartment. Rucchi is part of a very old Cuencana family; she's given me wonderful history lessons, and has become such an integral part of this adventure, taking me places and suggesting sites I would never have considered...and helps me continue to cultivate the daily attitude of gratitude.)

Thanks for stopping by. Hope your days are filled with people you love and the things that you need.

Hasta luega!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Oh Happy Day!

My computer is back from the repair shop, running like a charm! HURRAY!!

It's been another delightful week in Cuenca, Ecuador. I started Spanish classes, perhaps to the amusement of the instructor. My brain has had a workout it hasn't seen in years!

Here are some pics from the past few days...miscellaneous architecture that caught my eye.

One word...AMAZING!

This little balcony is typical of those in the heart of El Centro, old town Cuenca.

I liked this building, but I'm posting this particular pic for my son Michael...see the old Beetle? There are DOZENS of them around here, in close to pristine rust...growing old gracefully...we should all be so lucky!

The Colegio Benigno Malo, below, is one of the greatest neoclassical buildings in the city of Cuenca. Founded in 1864 by a Cuencana doctor and philanthropist, it was once a training school for Jesuit priests; it's now a public high school. If you believe everything you're told, I hear that the students are known for their rebellious character and leftist ideology. My grandson Logan would be tickled pink to know this. I say...bring it on kids! the "Panama Hat Museum" located in El Centro...old Cuenca. So why is the PANAMA Hat Museum located in CUENCA ECUADOR? Aaaahhh, I just KNEW you'd want to know! If your curiousity is piqued, click here for the whole story. The indigenous lady in front of the museum is typical of the many who sell their wares on the streets of the city.

THIS pic is for all my friends from the great Republic of Newfoundland! It's a nightclub in Cuenca...who KNEW!? Our impact is felt EVERYWHERE byes!

I'll leave you with a few pics of people enjoying their time in Caledron Park, in the heart of old Cuenca...

Next time...lots of photos and history for the Catholics among us...or the curious...

THANKS for stopping by!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday Jan 14th

Quick post for today...sitting at an internet cafe, can't use my computer anymore...blasted viruses!

Here's a hint for those of you considering coming to South America (and I just KNOW many of you WILL once you have a place to stay! ) Make sure you get your vaccinations and make sure you carry medication to treat a condition called "altitude sickness." My own physician in Halifax is a well travelled woman, and made sure I brought what she calls a "Z-Pack" with me...thank GOD!! This thing hit me a couple of days ago, and OOOHHH MY, just imagine the worst flu you've ever had, coupled with constant headache and coughing, and shortness of breath just walking from your bedroom to the bathroom. I knew what it was as soon as it hit, as she'd prepared me well to recognize the symptoms, so I started the meds right away, and within about 48 hours or so, I was feeling better. This affliction occurs most commonly in folks who live at low altitudes...and since Halifax is right AT sea level, I suppose I was a prime candidate...lucky 'eh? Oh well, it's all part of the experience!

This afternoon I'm making my way downtown, hopefully to catch a glimpse of el presidente, but with the number of police about today, I doubt I'll get anywhere near. Oh well, have to try at least.

I've moved into my new apartment from the hostel, and just LOVE it. It's actually not the one I'd originally booked, which was a 2 br condo in a huge building. Lots of ex-pats I've met suggested I might feel a bit isolated, travelling and living alone. So I took their advice, and found a beautiful huge 1 bedroom apartment in a private home in an upscale neighbourhood... completely private... nicely furnished, all modern conveniences...right across the street from the Tarqui River. The family consists of a Cuencana Mom, an American Dad, and two delightful perfectly bilingual children, who help me immeasurably trying to figure things, f'rinstance, shopping for groceries and not having a CLUE what I'm buying! If they hadn't been with me, who KNOWS what I'd be eating! The children derive great amusement from my pathetic attempts to speak Spanish, but have promised to help me when my lessons start next week.

More adventures to come as I head out next week for a three-community to visit an orchid farm, one to visit a crafts cooperative in another town, and one to visit a village that's apparently the centre of silver jewelry making in the area. Visiting the orchid farm brings me back to a memory when a friend and I were travelling in France, and I HAD to visit Monet's gardens. He was, shall we say, LESS than impressed.."Yep, this is just what I want to do, look at flowers in the rain when we're in Paris!" Fun memory though .

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my favourite son-in-law, Michael, who'll celebrate tomorrow! I am SO looking forward to spending a couple of weeks with him, my daughter, and my four busy grand-boys in March!

Hope all's well in your little corner of the world. Please leave me a HELLO if you stop by...English words from friends...such a treat!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Seizing the Day!

I thought I'd create a brand new travel blog for my adventures, but I've decided to hijack one I've already established instead. I'll be travelling for three months...eight weeks in South America, two weeks in Ottawa, Ontario and two weeks in Victoria, British Columbia.

I suspect that folks who've read my blog as furniture restoration may well drop out...and I hope you'll stay, because I'll be doing so much more of that, but y'now, there are so MANY different phases of our journey through life 'eh?

Oooohhhh, South America! I've been here only three days, and am positively smitten. I'm based in a city of nearly half a million people in Cuenca, which is a colonial city in the interior of Ecuador, in the sierra of the southern Andes. The altitude here is roughly 2500 meters (8200 feet) above sea level. Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage Trust is our own Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. The history, the architecture, the beauty...amazing. "Cuenca" means a confluence of rivers; the four rivers here are the Tomebamba, Yanuncay, Tarqui and Machangara. I'm staying just above the Rio Tomebamba, in the "El Centro" historic colonial part of the city. The "newer" part of the city is across the river, within just a few minutes walking.

So why am I here, and why did I choose THIS place...questions that many of my friends and family asked when I booked my solitary travel plans (as they were thinking, but most not brave enough to say "Is she NUTS!?") . The "why" is easy...get out of the Nova Scotia snow for a few weeks, have an adventure, do something out of the ordinary. This fits!

If not now, then when?

As to why I chose Ecuador, it was primarily the climate and the eco-diversity. The weather here is temperate...spring-like...all year 'round, ranging from late-night lows in the range of 4 to 6 C (that'd be 39 to 46 F for those my age, ha ha) to 20-28 C (68-82F) . Because it's such a high altitude, humidity is very low...a MUST for me. From here, I can travel to white sand Pacific Ocean beaches...Salinas, Manta, Bahia...all within a couple of hours by public transport, and stay in a beachfront cabana for a couple of weeks for under $200...and YES, I'll include THAT adventure while I'm here! I can also travel to the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest in eastern Ecuador, where the humidity is 100% and the temperatures range from 23-35C (75-95F)...ummm...100% humidity...will likely NOT venture there this trip.

A five day eco-cruise through the Galapagos Islands will happen next month.

Did you KNOW...Ecuador is probably the most bio-diverse country in terms of plant and animal species in the WORLD?

Did you KNOW...Charles Darwin conducted the majority of his research right here in Ecuador?

THIS adventure is Phase One of my decision to divest myself of the majority of my "stuff..." YOU know what I mean...all those THINGS we thought we NEEDED and collected over the years...and then to experience life living abroad...who knows where...maybe South America...maybe Bali...the "where" is not as critical as the "why..." just to experience a different culture, looking at life through a different lens.

Here's what I left January 9th, just across the street from my place in Halifax.

Here are some first photos of Cuenca. A little glimpse of Rio Tomebamba

To get there is easy...just walk down these ninety-one steps...

...and then , huff your way right back UP those ninety-one steps!

Here's the exterior of the city library, located just to the left of those steps...

The mix of old and new condos to the right of the steps...

I walk almost everywhere within a three or four mile radius, and the walking has become part of the adventure. There's just SO MUCH to see, and I'm enjoying every precious minute! I've met a gaggle of friendly Canadian and American ex-pats here, and have social outings lined up for the next three weeks already.

I'll leave you with some pics of the HUGE Fiera Libre outdoor market I toured yesterday. The sights, the sounds, the smells...altogether a bit of an overwhelming experience actually...but I'll be going again!

Dress is important here, and the traditions of women's skirts are full of history and place...more about that in another post.

You can buy just about anything at this market...want a puppy? about the beginning of a local delicacy called "Cuy..." I'll leave YOU to google it...and NO, I haven't tried it...

Hunk of roast pig anyone? What dinner party conversation back home THIS would make!

No puppies? No roast pig? about a goat?

PHEW! That's all for now. I'm leaving soon to begin twice weekly "Spanish-for-the-linguistically-challenged" lessons.

I'll visit several churches in old El Centro this afternoon, and who KNOWS what other adventures await! I hear that the President of Ecuador will be visiting Cuenca this Saturday, so I'll trot off to the stadium...won't understand a WORD he says, but I'll BE there! (ha ha)

Life very very...GOOD...I hope YOURS is too. Thanks for stopping by, hope you'll visit again soon.