Sunday, November 5, 2023
So, November 2 is the celebration of the day of the dead and November 3 is the celebration of the independence of Cuenca from Spain. So, the city sets up a couple hundred tents throughout the city and people from as far away as Perú. (My wife pulled out a shirt we bought in Perú last year. That’s when I realized that they put an accent on the “U”! All this time and…) Anyway, we like to go down and see all the arts and crafts. We saw paintings in the range from $250 – $1,850. The latter was a painting about 2 m X 3 m. It turns out that the prices tend to drop around 3:00 p.m. on the last day. (It was $2,500)
The Tomebamba river was so low we were actually able to cross it on foot. Here’s a picture of the Puente Roto (Broken Bridge). Now imagine, that tiny river took out this giant bridge back around 1950. It just occurred to me, that if the foundations to the pillars were undermined, it might not be that difficult or if the mortar were mixed incorrectly… Regardless, it’s the reason why we live a good mile up the hill from the Tomebamba.
Thursday, October 26, 2023
I watched several videos on making a sound recording for Audible.com. I was already committed to creating audio files for the website. I just assumed that there were no studios in Cuenca, and if there were, they would be too expensive. So, I tried making my own. I’ll spare you the details, but after 3-4 hours of editing, I decided it was time to see exactly how much studio time in Cuenca actually cost. I was very surprised to find two very nice studios with an alarming number of guitars and various other instruments.
Both of them were very quiet, but one was actually noticeably quieter than the other. Furthermore, the quieter studio was only $15/hour for recording and $35/hour for editing. So, I went with Bandogstudio on Gran Colombia, very close to Ave. Americas. Wow, what a nice setup, and the sound was fabulous.
Back, around say, July 2023, I was driving down Ordoñez Lasso when I saw a line of cars about 3 – 4 blocks long, waiting for gas. I parked the car and ran over to ask why there was such a long line. They said something about social media. I already had something pressing to do, so we continued on our way. Later I went and found a much shorter line and filled up, just in case. It turned out there was a story on social media that said there was going to be another parro and that there would soon be no gasoline.
So, back in August I saw another long line. I asked what the issue was, and they said, “El niño”. I later started noticing that there were gas stations with signs that said they didn’t have any gas. It turns out, the hot, dry weather was preventing gas shipments from getting through the Panama Canal. It turns out one of the lakes that are needed to complete the trip was running dry. Now I knew that Ecuador had petroleum and oil refineries (3). But a quick Google search shows that Ecuador can produce 175,000 barrels/day, but that it consumes 250,000 barrels/day. Ooops.
So, I quickly filled up, when the opportunity arose. Why does this matter? Well, it turns out that Ecuador gets almost all of its electricity from hydroelectric. However, when there is very little rain, which according to one account is common in August and September, the dams can get pretty low. Normally the rains start again in late September, early to mid-October. Well, we got to the end of October 2023 and nothing.
Furthermore, it turns out that Ecuador was buying 12-13% of its electricity from Colombia which was also facing drought conditions. Wednesday or Thursday of last week they called up and said, “Hey, we’re going to have to cut you guys off.” Ecuador said, “How much.” “All of it.” “Ok.” Said Ecuador, “When?” “Tomorrow.” And so it was, that Ecuador suddenly started having rolling blackouts throughout the country. [Now we’re going to skip the long boring story of a previous president who built a huge dam adjacent to…wait for it…A VOLCANO! An ACTIVE volcano! It was designed and built by Chinese companies, and would you believe that dam had over 1,000 cracks? What are the chances?]
So, all of a sudden on Thursday night, we got the news that there will be rolling blackouts the next day. Ready for this? They didn’t have the schedule written. So, Friday morning we were looking at their website to see when the blackouts would occur. Since my wife works part-time using Zoom, she was a little more than a bit concerned.
I mentioned that it might be a good time to consider buying a generator. “Can we do that?” my wife asked. “It seems reasonable to me.” I said. So, we called our electrician, who strongly suggested a Honda generator. Then on Friday we went and found a 3000 W generator for $550.00 and it was delivered on Monday. Tuesday, October 31 we’re supposed to get the connections hooked up and with $300 in parts, zip-zip, we should be good to go.
Monday, October 23, 2023
Well, a very close friend suggested that I take some Spanish classes, because he couldn’t understand what I had said. I was a little frustrated with the way he said it, but I did understand the sentiment and so today we went downtown to see about some Spanish classes. The first place we went to was the Spanish Institute on Mariscal Sucre between Ave Tarqui and General Torres. They said that they had group classes, individual classes, in person or via zoom. We asked the price and they said $15. We said, “Each?” “No.” They said, “Together.” We looked at each other and said, “Ok”.
Now we’ve been here for five years. So, the instructor can teach in Spanish, which he prefers. But when we described what issues we were having, he smiled, because they were common problems. “Por” vs. “Para”, “Estar” vs. “Ser”, Imperfect vs. Preterite, etc. My wife is more timid than I am so I asked if she could practice speaking. That’s what they did.
Now let’s talk about the good and the bad. The price is obviously fabulous. Furthermore, it’s in an authentic old Ecuadorian home. However, some of the hinges on the doors need attention. Many of the whiteboards are in need of replacement. The grease pens are often very faint and there are frequently other parts of the room needing some attention.
But the education is good, and we’re making progress. We will likely continue with them indefinitely.
“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes!”
I did have an Alfred Hitchcock moment around August 2023, when I turned around in the shower to find a tarantula between the stool we keep in the shower and the wall. The shower is about 2 square meters. So, I was more than a little concerned. My mom had been adjusting the firewood outside our window the day before and we often keep our window open during the day to air out the room. Anyway, here’s a picture of our friend from that day.
There’s been a good little written in Mas Despacio on this subject. My favorite point is what prevents a person from yelling, “¡Ladrón! ¡Ladrón!” at someone that has merely upset a person and isn’t a thief at all? Imagine a gang of neighbors pouring out of their houses to inflict “justice” on an innocent person. As much as its pace frustrates us, there is a reason most countries outlaw Vigilantism, and oblige people to use the court system. Regrettably, the following photos are examples of a plague of signs that sprang up all over Cuenca in the summer of 2023. They speak of lynching and burning anyone caught stealing in their neighborhood. Recently, on two separate occasions, accused thieves had their motorcycles completely burned by mobs. Of course, this was before the police even arrived.