Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I've been busy!!  A few blog fans have mentioned, "You haven't blogged in awhile...."  I haven't even taken photos in awhile - except for my recent walk along the Yanuncay River.  Oh, and a few photos of my apartment as I endeavor to decorate and make it colorful and fun so it feels like home.

TRUTH:  I still struggle sometimes with the "home" thing.  Living in the same house back in the USA for 40 years is making it difficult for me to completely surrender here and call this apartment "home."  We went from living in the beautiful Oregon country to living in the bustling noisy city of Cuenca in AN APARTMENT!!  Of course, it was our choice.  However, it still isn't easy to completely embrace a very different lifestyle in a very different environment in a country far away from what was truly "home."

Things are very different here!  After almost one year of "Life in Cuenca," I find myself fantasizing about going back to the USA and resuming my comfortable and familiar life in my beautiful Oregon home.  Thus, a good reason to have sold EVERYTHING before coming to our retired life in Cuenca.  Well, we didn't!!  For many reasons:  not enough time, no exploratory trip first, and not knowing how to do this - moving to a foreign land without ever having been there before.  So, we still have our home of 40 years and our STUFF in storage on our land. We're continually thankful for our God-sent wonderful renters.

Well, here we are, STILL in APARTMENT #5 - and I continue to decorate and make it ours - yet it will NEVER be ours because we are renting and every penny we put into this place is not going to benefit us when we leave - but it makes me happy while we're living here.  Why am I sharing this?  Because it's always my hope that my personal experiences here will encourage someone else coming into this far away and strange land.  That when you have your doubts, meltdowns, or panic attacks (and you will!!!), you'll know that it's understandable, expected, and that "this too shall pass."

Here's a "Living in Cuenca" story for you:
In the process of my continued passion to decorate this place, Bo and I have had to add guardarropas (closets) to our apartment.  It did not come with ANY storage space.  Hey, you make due when the rental price is right!!  So, we purchased one very large wardrobe for our bedroom from a furniture store, which was so easy - ready made and delivered right away.  Well, we needed another one for the guest bedroom in case anyone comes to visit us, and also so we'd have more storage.  Again, not one closet or set of drawers in this humble little Ecuadorian flat when we first moved in.  

A "Tienda de Madera" owner referred a very reliable and excellent "Maestro" to us who would get the 2nd closet job handled.  Of course we knew we could trust the wood store owner who confidently referred this expert cabinet builder.  Well, long story short - this turned into the closet from hell nightmare.  Maestro Sr. S....... came over, got our drawing and measurements and asked for 1/2 the dough (that's my New York slang for money).  We gave it to him.  After some thought and changes on our end, we call Maestro Sr. S......, and he returns a couple days later to go over our revision.  He then proceeds to tell me his niece died and was buried the day before and it cleaned him out financially.  If we could give him more money towards the closet, he would be so grateful.  So, WE DID!  Yeah, yeah, I know.  You NEVER give most of the money for an unfinished job here - or anywhere.  Sometimes the circumstances and the heart of God says, "Break the rules."  So we did.  He wrote on a piece of paper that he would complete and deliver the closet in 14 days.

That was over a month ago!!  After many phone calls to Maestro Sr. S......., no return calls, or return calls saying, "I'll call you "manana....."  and me saying, "Don't call me, bring me my closet......"  we finally decided to go to the wood store and visit the referral man.  He is a man of integrity - truly.  He ends up driving us the next morning to "El Maestro's" house (oh, you should have seen the Maestro's face when we got out of the car....) and I was able to tell him in my not-so-gentle Spanish that he was not a man of his word, had and continued to lie to us (when I asked him to show me the closet being made, he couldn't because it wasn't there in his shop - he never bought the materials!!!) and that he had our money and we didn't believe him anymore.  The referral man was so unhappy about this situation and ended up intervening for us telling El Maestro that if he didn't deliver the closet the following week he had to give us our money back.  Yeah, right.  As if he still had the dough!!!

We ended up driving around with the Wood Store Owner, visiting his family and town, again realizing that it is now about the relationship we now have with J... than the rip-off Maestro who we no longer trusted in for our closet delivery.  J.... dropped us off later that morning and said, "If he doesn't come through, I will personally give you your money back."  Who does that??  Of course, we would never take the money from J...., but just his heart of integrity impressed us.  We asked him not to refer this Maestro to any "gringos," since we didn't want this to happen to anyone else.  

Over the weekend, J...., on his own, returned to the home of Maestro Sr. S....... and called me from there.  He said that our closet would be ready and delivered by Wednesday at 8 am (that would be today).  Again, J.... was watching our back because he had referred this expert cabinet maker.  Today, by 8:30 am, I already knew that our closet was not coming.  Surprisingly, at 4:30 PM (better late than NEVER) "El Maestro" called me, and 1/2 hour later he was downstairs with all the closet pieces.  Well, most of them.  He had his two helpers haul the parts up our 4 flights of stairs (NO, we don't have a luxury elevator - how do you think we are staying so fit here????).  The two helpers begin to assemble the closet parts.  I notice that the sides are white.  I say, "These were supposed to be Cedar!"  El Maestro tells me he can do that.  He then asks me for more $$$$.  Can you even believe this????  "Can I have $30 so I can run and get the hardware to finish this?"  NO!!!! I practically scream.  He quietly says, "Please, Leen-daa.  I want to finish this for you now."  What in the world was I supposed to do or say?  At that point I give him $40 because I don't even have change.  I'm not happy with myself, but again I reason, just finish the closet and GO!!!!!  Of course, he can't finish it today.  The sides are white, not cedar.

You know, I truly am thankful that the closet is here - though it isn't finished (white sides - how cheap and tacky after what we paid for this job from hell), we still have a closet.  I'm trying to focus on the small blessings that come from the waiting and aggravation.  Oh, can you believe that Maestro Sr. S....... tried to tell me that none of this was his fault.  He had ordered the materials back in October and they were never delivered to him.  He wanted to save J....... face when we showed up at his house.  Ask me if I believe him?  I said, "You know, S.........,  you and I aren't going to quibble about this.  Just finish the job and I'll be happy."  He then asks me if I'll forgive him.  "Yes, S........, I'm not upset with you anymore.  Just finish the job!"

The job is STILL not finished.  He has promised to return "next week" with the Cedar to finish the sides of the closet.  He has his money (except for $20 I still owe him).  I have my closet, though it's not done.  If he comes back, I'll be very surprised.  I won't be calling him.  I won't be using him EVER again.  I WILL NEVER RECOMMEND HIM TO ANYONE!  

I KNOW, I KNOW.  NEVER GIVE too much money to the hired Maestro.  Never expect that the material used will be what they promised.  All the more reason to have the product delivered and finished before paying for it.  Never expect it will be delivered in the time they say it will be delivered.  Just don't expect anything!!!  As for referrals, I so appreciate J.......  He was truly taking on this referral to make sure we were not abused.  He has our utmost respect and gratitude for putting the boot to the Maestro's back.  I wonder if J..... gave him the materials after Mr. Maestro spent our money?????  Vain imaginations, I know.  Just wondering.......

Yes, this could happen anywhere.  But, it happens here A LOT!  It's not fun feeling like someone is ripping you off.  It's not fun paying for something that never gets to you or gets to you and isn't what you paid for. Oh, did I mention, it isn't what we asked for either (apart from the white sides)???  Doesn't even match the drawing - go figure!!!  It's not fun having to explain and reason and try to have the person ripping you off take SOME responsibility, if any, for not delivering what they said they would when they said they would.  IT'S NOT FUN WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU!

This is one of the NOT FUN TIMES we've had here - dealing with Mr. Irresponsibility.  Yet, they are far and few between the wonderful and worthwhile times and relationships we've made and have here.  I share this only because it may help someone else stand strong and say "NO" when they are asked for lots of money for a custom made and non-delivered product.  It may help someone know that in spite of their seeing the best in someone, they may get taken advantage of.  It may not be because of your wisdom and carefully thought out decisions - you may get screwed anyway!!

I still love Ecuador and living here.  I love the wonderful, honest, and caring Ecuadorians who now consider us family and who are watching our back.  I love the opportunity God has given us to leave the USA and live in another country and culture, to be retired NOW so we can enjoy our still youthful days, and to continually add to our wonderful friendships and relationships here.  So, having to deal with Mr. Maestro Sr. S------- is another opportunity to learn patience and forgiveness, to speak truth in love, and to be able to speak words of integrity into his life.  I don't think he heard me.  He continued to look at me pitifully and try to make me believe "It's not my fault."  I'm not expecting him to come back and finish the job.  If he does - Hallelujah!!!  If not, we're moving on........That's my story, and I'm stuck with it!!!!

Some updated "Apartment #5" pics - still in process!!!
When you move to another country with a few suitcases, 
it takes time, PATIENCE, and money to start all over.  
Remember to KEEP IT FUN!!!

I've been color washing some of my walls - getting rid of the bland yellowish color we painted back in April before moving in.......

Next, I'll be making a fabric headboard (Yup!  I'll do it myself!!!) and then hanging my IKEA wall lamps for reading (thanks Rod and Jan, for muling in my IKEA bulbs!!) - then up will go some of my framed photography. 

I color-washed the dining room wall too!  We also got a larger dining room table custom made at the ROTARY, rustic-painted it, and now we have seating for six and more table room (gotta accommodate our dinner guests).

A few new touches to our living room walls and furniture!  Can't wait to get our custom-built coffee table.  Poco a poco......

My office is coming along too!  It was difficult these last few months not having my office space to retreat to.  So, now I'm really happy!!!

If the "Maestro" doesn't return, I know we can finish the sides of our closet ourselves.  For now, I'm thankful the closet is in, and all the stuff that was thrown in this room is now behind closed doors!  This is the last room to furnish and decorate as Bo's "Man Cave." We're making progress!!! 

Getting ready to color-wash the hallway.....

 I never liked this color.  It was supposed to be a mustard gold, but it was way TOO YELLOW and bland for me.  So.......

.....I splashed bright ROJO y ORO on my flat yellowish walls, color-washed them, and.......

.....now I LOVE my hallway.  It's delicious!!!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

ART IN CUENCA ECUADOR - Cuenca's November 2013 Festival De Artesanias De America - Oh, how I love ART!

A fabulous weekend of amazing art!

I love art!  I love music!  I love vendor food!  I love decorating my apartment! I love Cuenca!!  Back in April, we enjoyed the art festival so much, and bought fabulous colorful wall art for our apartment #5, which we had just moved into.  It needed such attention, and with colorful splashes of paint and beautiful art from the festival, it was starting to look like our place.  I couldn't wait for the November show that everyone said would happen - and it finally did! 

This past weekend was the celebration of Cuenca's independence from Spain 193 years ago, and it is Cuenca's largest yearly festival!

For three glorious days, Bo and I perused the vendor booths along with the crowds, making some very special purchases for our small apartment.  We are happy with our choices, and it was such a joyous time for us and Cuenca's shopping crowds.

I'll let my photography tell the story!

All along the Tomebamba River and in different areas of the Historic District, talented musicians played fabulous music and marketed their CDs. 

The indigenous music added so much to the flavor of the festival.

These were my favorite musicians, and oh so talented.......

......and I bought two of their CDs, which I continue to enjoy immensely.

A very talented harpist drew in the crowds.

It isn't a festival without music AND dancing!!!

Both sides of the Tomebamba River were lined with vendors, tents, and shoppers.  All weekend, the weather was perfect - comfortably warm and just a sprinkling of rain!  

The Tent-lined Tomebamba River was the perfect place for relaxing and cooling off.

Fragrant and spectacular flowers are always abundant during Cuenca's many festivals.

We stopped to visit our favorite flower vendedora, Anita, and she lovingly bought Bo and me Guaguas de pan.  These are traditional Ecuadorian sweet bread figures. They are shaped like babies or dolls and have a cream filling inside. Guaguas are a part of the Day of the Deceased holiday which is celebrated on Saturday, November 2nd.   Anita also bought us a hot drink called Colada Morada, a traditional beverage for Dia De Los Muertos.  They were a delicious treat, and we were touched by Anita's thoughtfulness towards us.

While we were enjoying our special treats and talking with Anita, suddenly motorcycle cops flashed by with secret service men and military and security cars.  President Correa was being escorted to a military parade that was going on along Huayana Capac.  Darn, I missed getting his photo!

Some drink too much and end up sleeping along the city sidewalks.

This beautiful aged woman resting hugged me when I told her my name, gave her a coin, and then prayerfully blessed her.

Ahhhh, the beautiful children of Cuenca.  How precious!!  Love her outfit, and her innocent fascination with the big bug.

Some of the children had their faces painted for the festivities.  

There was a huge variety of wares for sale - from those "killer" high heeled shoes......

.......to beautiful handcrafted masks (we had to have these!!!)......

and unique and colorful pottery (and these too!!).

A large tent displayed the history and unique work of the Amazon people.  This woman glaring at my camera made sure I put a coin in the basket at her feet.  You betcha, I will!!!!

The light rail display at the Otorongo Plaza drew quite the crowds.  They had a fabulous display showing the future routes throughout the city that this modern railway will be traveling.  It is going to eliminate the loud and stinky buses from the Historic District - Yippee, since we live right on a main and noisy bus route!!  What a beautiful city we live in - and it's going to be even more amazing with this transportation addition.

While many were spending money at this amazing art show, the poor were hoping for a coin or two.  You will see Luis hanging around the market steps or sitting along the historic area streets, always ready for someone's blessing.

Bo was drawn to these inexpensive stick figures.....

....and ended up buying the $5 colorful Iguana from this humble artist.

We always get the names of the people we meet and buy from.  Servilio Sarango proudly wrote his name for us in Bo's little book.  He then picked a simple stick figure and gifted it to us, asking us if we would bring him a copy of the photos I took of him and his work.  We know where he lives and works, so we will definitely honor his wishes.  It's so important to us to know the people we encounter here and to somehow bless them.  My photography always makes them smile.

We followed this unique old woman as she hobbled along the city sidewalks....

.....all that weight on her frail and aged body.......

.....and when she stopped at a food vendor booth, we bought her meal.  She was so tired and so grateful.  There are so many people to bless here along the city streets. 

Yes, some of our favorite foods will come from the hardworking street vendors.  We loved having Llapingachos (yap-in-gachos), a traditional Ecuadorian oh-so-delicious potato cake that is stuffed with a white cheese.....

....and served with finely diced raw onion and tomatoes.  Five for $1.00!!  Bet ya can't eat just one, or five!!!!

For us, it's so convenient to live right in the heart of the Historic District.  The art show along the river is just a few blocks from our apartment, so we were able to continually go home and rest, and then back out shopping!  This particular route home along the Tomebamba river is quite colorful.  Yes, Cuenca is a happening city, and this artsy festive weekend was one of the best yet!

I hope you enjoyed my pictorial essay of our fabulous weekend in Cuenca!  Always, thank you for your comments.  It's always so nice to hear from our Blog Fans.