Monday, April 29, 2024

I’m terribly sorry for the delay. My father’s passing is a reasonable explanation for a few weeks delay. But this is inexcusable.

Now for the bombshell. We were at a friend’s house last Friday for a dinner party. She’s Ecuadorian, as were most of the guests. She lives in a classic three bedroom, Cuenca townhome, as described in the book. So it was very cool when 25 people showed up seated in a room that was designed to comfortably seat 6. They moved the dining room table out of the way, brought chairs in from outside and from upstairs. A few stood, but most had a seat and ate on their lap – and had a faboulous time. No smaky mouths, no rolled eyes, everyone just enjoyed the company of whoever was seated next to them. I had seen something similar on my first visit in 1978. But it was nice to see it again.

The bombshell occured before many showed up. Our hostess and her best friend were talking about the extortion that is now becoming rather common on the coast. Let’s preface this by saying this is 2nd and 3rd hand conversations, so one must take this with a grain of salt. One spoke of someone sitting on the beach in the pueblito called Playes, about 1.5 hours southwest of Guayaquil. A woman was sitting on a towel watching the phones of her family as they swam on the beach. When one or two men approached and demanded all the phones.

Another account was of a Doctor who was in Salinas, another beach town. He was sitting on the sand while his family played in the water. These men walked up, asked him what he did for a living. They then proceeded to say that he was going to have to pay them $60 for sitting on the beach, and another $20 for parking his car in a public parking space. The public umbrella was going to cost them another $20. These prices were all per day. Well even doctors can’t afford $100/day to go to the beach. So the next morning they packed up their belongings and went back to Cuenca.

Another story was of a man in Guayaquil who had shippped in a good sized machine, for the company he owned. He explained to my friend that they were going to have to come back and pick it up. It seems that he had been told by some men that he needed to pay for some “insurance” so that his store would not be bombed. He refused, and they bombed his company – the machine was slavageable.

Another man was kidnapped as he was closing his store and the wife couldn’t pay the ransom.

A school in Cuenca was switched over to Zoom because of an “insurance” bomb threat.

The point is, things have changed fairly dramatically in the past 9 months. We’ve gone from thinking of building a house here, to wondering if we’ll be here in a year.

Entering a Traffic Circle.

On a lighter note, when we were studying for our recent driver’s license test, we came accross a very good explanation about how and when to enter a traffic circle. It said, “When it is safe to do so”. What a logical and simple way to phrase it. Duh. Again, what that means in a busy traffic circle is that when there are cars exiting the traffic circle in the opposite direction to the way a person is entering, they provide a natural barrier – I call it running interference for us. That gives us a hole and in we go. Of course, once in, one can go round and round until they run out of gas, if they so desire.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

We were getting our Calefone fixed, had a house-guest from the States, were busy car-shopping, registering our car to be sold, and renewing our Driver’s license. Let’s take these one at a time.

Getting our Calefon fixed.

Ok, we’ve had problems with our Calefon, off and on for about two – three months. We took it twice to the same repairman. Then once to a second one, and lastly to a third one. We’ll skip to the last one as it was most interesting. First one needs to know that there are about 6 major pieces to a Calefon. There’s a place where the flame heats the cold water that then goes down the hot water pipe to a shower, dishwasher, etc. There is a sensor that says, ‘Hey, someone turned on the hot water. We better get it warmed up!’ There’s a gas ignitor, very similar to what’s on a standard furnace in the States. There’s another valve that sends gas to be ignited, a gauge that says how strong the battery is that ignites the flame, and a brain that interprets all the inputs and sends signals out to the respective parts.

So, I went to the third shop and said, ‘Look, you may think this is going to be easy, but we’ve had this calefon to two other shops on 3 other occasions. We’ve had 4 of the major components replaced or repaired.’ Before I could say anything else, he was attaching it to a wall and hooking up water input, gas, and water output. Then it fired right up. He repeated this several times. I then bent down in disbelief and did the same – only with squinty eyes and dangling mouth ajar. He suggested it was the water intake volume at the house that was broken and suggested he follow me out to check it out. Generally, I try to avoid workers being at the house. They may be good people, but odds are they’re going to have a bad cousin, etc. who isn’t. Anyway, I was desperate, and we were making arrangements to do so, when his assistant began reattaching the exterior panel. Just to make sure he reached over and nothing. Now it was his turn to watch his mouth drop open. Suddenly he was all over this thing. He was testing this, testing that, checking this. He finally put in a different brain, and that seemed to do the trick.

How much for the brain? $20 or $45. The calefon is a good name brand, so I went with $45. How much to install it? $20. Can you get it today – a Saturday? Sure. When will it be done? 3:00 p.m. Well, it was actually 4:00 p.m., but guess what? I took it back to the house and – that’s right – nothing. Then I had an idea. The gas tank sets in a concrete box with a metal door and a padlock. The tank has a valve on it, which has a tube that connects to a tube in the wall. Then there’s a tube about 3 ft. away that comes out of the wall and connects to the calefon. I took the tank out of the concrete cabinet and connected it directly to the calefon, and everything’s been jake ever since. Now how in the world did the tube in the wall get clogged? Who knows and frankly who cares. All we care about is that now we have dependable showers.

Our Houseguest from the States.

We found it odd that our houseguest, a friend of my mom’s, was a little skittish about coming to Ecuador. ‘Am I going to be safe? We’ve heard of some unrest.’ Etc. We sent her reassuring messages, but afterwards we were laughing among ourselves – oops. At this point, it might be best to read the entry for Wednesday, January 10.

Anyway, we were amazed at how relaxed she was when we told her about some of the unrest we had seen on the news and social media. She could see the compound in which we lived, the pantry we keep fairly well stocked, and our general demeaner. She was unfazed. She did go down to the Coast with my Mom for a few days before flying out on January 22. The Coast is considerably more unstable that here in Cuenca, but we sent her with very explicit instructions, and my mom was also very prudent, as well. They stayed in a very secure complex, with several resident towers, a country club-style restaurant, pools and bar as well as a guard shack at the entrance.

Despite it all, she seemed to have had a wonderful time. Though, if she’d known what was going to happen, with the civil unrest, she probably would have come at a different time.

Car Shopping and Registering Our Car.

First of all, our car is properly registered. However, having inherited citizenship from my Ecuadorian Father, I was allowed to bring down a container, duty-free, including a car. Since auto duties run between 65 – 85%, that’s a pretty significant savings. However, there were a number of restrictions. One of these, was that I was not allowed to sell the car until it had been in the country for five years. That date turned out to be on exactly January 14, 2024. However, due to everything that was going on in the country, the Aduana’s office – the customs office – was closed until Thursday, January 18. Because I was eager to sell the car – long story – we went car shopping two weeks before it came ‘of age’.

I didn’t notice, but on our Ecuadorian registration, there was a “non-negociable” label at the bottom. Only the Aduana can have that removed. If we’d gone there before the five years, there would have been a prorated penalty to pay.

Now in the States there are generally A, B, and C used car dealerships. Well, it’s kind of the same here. 80% seem to be B style car dealerships, with A and C splitting the remaining 20%. Of course, dealerships generally have only the A used cars.

It also needs to be said that it is not uncommon to see a car 30, 40, or 50 years old going down the street. Since all cars have to pass a general inspection every year, they’re not in as bad a shape as one might expect. Also, the 65 – 85% duty, makes cars with a lot of age, pretty pricey. We found a lot that sold older cars with lower mileage that are in fairly good shape. We’ve picked out a Hondo Pilot EX-L that’s 11 years old with 65,000 miles on it, or 101,000 km. Its price, around $30,000 – we’re still haggling. But that’s about 30% more than it would be worth in the States.

We were told by a friend that someone that went to test drive a car and never returned. While word-of-mouth can be suspect, it lent weight to the idea of simply trading the car in.

Anyway, we went to the Aduana, with all the needed paperwork, and they said, ‘Everything looks great. I’ll turn this in and you should get your new title in 20 – 30 days.’ (Insert sound of slide whistle going down the scale.) The dealer was well-versed in this sort of thing and was willing to wait. Does that sound like we’re paying too much, getting too little, or both? We’ll see.

We did take our car to a detailer before we took it to a dealership. Wash and wax cost $30, 4 hours, and a $5 tip. Two of the three dealers were very interested in it, the smell of fresh wax wafting from every surface. According to the final dealer, when all the paperwork is ready, we will simply go do a notary and zip, the deal will be done. In the meantime, we needed to renew our driver’s license.

Renewing our Driver’s License.

I was so intent on finally selling our car – a 2018 Nissan Rogue Sport – that I failed to recall that my wife and I had gotten our Ecuadorian Driver’s License at about the same time as the car landed in Ecuador. So, they were both coming due at the same time. Last week my Wife said, ‘Hey we better get our driver’s licenses renewed.’ “Ah”, I said, “We’ve got plenty of time.” Rather than debate, she pulled out hers and my hair all stood up on end. Yikes! We only had 10 days.

Now, as is mentioned in the book, among other things, the original license requires a reflex test – psicosensométrico in Spanish. Having just taken it I can tell you that we went through a company called Aconducir – Having just taken it, I can say that their reflex test – there’s no way I’m writing the Spanish word again – consists of a red light, green light test, with a brake and accelerator. A bright light followed by a set of letters that must be repeated, a hearing test – which I failed – and video game with a squiggly roadway on the left and right with a car in each one. There are two toggles, one for each hand. As the road moves, so must the cars. Of course, the road is different for each hand. That was quite a challenge.

Ok. Obviously, nothing else I’m going to write will make any difference, until I talk about the hearing test. So, let’s cover that. I wear hearing aids. I worked near diesel engines for 10 years, big surprise. So, when the tester told me I had to take the hearing aids out to take the test, I looked at her a bit quizzically. In the book there are several good reasons why rolling one’s eyes is a very bad idea here. But let’s just say I’m rather well-rehearsed in keeping a straight face. Anyway, of course I failed. So, then I looked at her as if to say, ‘am I hanging up my keys at 61 years of age?’ She explained that I needed to find a hearing aid doctor that could properly test my ears and then come back with the results. Well of course, there were several offices within walking distance of AConducir. I looked them up on my phone and made an appointment. At 1:30 that afternoon I had an official analysis that said I have hearing loss in the higher tones.

She said, ‘great! keep this with the original test’, which she put in a plastic sleeve, ‘and take it to the driver’s license bureau when you go to renew your license.’ ‘Ok’ I said smilingly. But inside I was thinking, ‘But won’t that tell them I really do have a hearing problem?’ Anyway, that’s what I did, and zip zip, they moved on with the process – go figure.

Let’s stop for a moment and talk about things that might be better here in Ecuador. I’m sorry, but I lived in Florida for four years and there are A LOT of people who should not be driving in the U.S. (Now we’ll skip the huge discussion about AARP’s political strength, U.S. accessibility, transportation policy, etc.) But surely, we can all agree that we’ve seen a number of blue-haired knuckle drivers – you can only see their knuckles through the windshield – that should be letting someone else do the driving. Well, there are a number of Ecuadorians that also should not be driving, but it’s more of a judgement, rather than a reflex, issue. Anway, a reflex test is required every 5 years, when one goes to renew their license. BTW, I’ve promised my wife I’d hang up my keys the day I turn 70. But autonomous cars should be pretty common by then.

Now for most Expats, if they apply for their license within 6 months of arriving here, they are not required to take a practical test. For those who wait too long, there is a 33-hour course over 8 days that only costs $165.20 in 2024. Why the 20₵? Why does the U.S. still use the penny? How should I know?

Anway, currently AConducir uses a car that probably has an engine smaller than our lawn mower. They have these tiny little Chevy’s driving all around town. They’re hard to miss, being painted Red and Yellow, with Several “AConducir’s” plastered all over them. And if the timid driving style doesn’t say it, the paint job simply screams, ‘HEY WATCH OUT EVERYBODY, THERE’S AN IDIOT DRIVING THIS CAR WITH A PETRIFIED GREY-HAIRED INSTRUCTOR SITTING NEXT TO THEM!’ We all give them a very wide berth. When I went to take the reflex test, the main lobby was filled with a bunch of scared 18 year-olds and their parents.

After we had all the paperwork we needed, we went to set up a cita – appointment. Kim’s sailed through, but mine said I had a $135 multa – a fine – that had to be paid before I could get a cita. A very effective system. So, I looked it up, and it turns out I had pulled into a toll booth too fast. You see, every Ecuadorian driver must have their own email address. That way each one has their privacy if there is a multa, it can remain between them and the government. My wife and I share a common email address. I only use the other for oddball things, such as this. Do I check it? Sure, once or twice a year. Anyway, though the email said I could pay it at any Produbanco, they said otherwise. So, I went to a pagoservicio in the middle of downtown. They informed me that because I was over a month late, I would have to pay the interest. ‘Ok. How much is that?’ $20. Oof. Guess I should watch my speed going into toll booths, as well as my personal email address.

But an hour later and I was able to set up an appointment. My wife and I looked up the Cuenca location and found out that the next available appointment was two weeks away. We drive a good deal, and being without a car for two weeks was going to be a problem. I asked her to look up a different location within the same province and we found out that Girón, a city of about 2,000 people, 1 hour away, had an opening just a few days later, the day before our licenses expired. She tried to change hers, but one of the charms of living in Ecuador is that their websites are less than robust. So, she’s got to wait a few weeks and I got mine last Monday.

Fortunately, there’s a website where one can practice as much as they want. I took the test at least 50 times before going in for the real thing. (The reader is probably waiting with bated breath for the website address. But there is a cost to maintain this website and if I can’t find someone to help with the bills, I’ll have to shut it down. It’s only $9.99 for 3 months.) I got 18/20 and had a wonderful trip, as the drive to Girón is quite nice and we dodged a bullet.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024 (Written on Wednesday, Jan 24.)

First of all, terribly sorry for the large gap in updating the newsletter.

On approximately Saturday, January 6, the guards at one of the medium security prisons in Guayaquil went to transfer the head of a Narco-Gang to a maximum-security facility. However, when they went to the cell, the inmate, nicknamed ‘Frito’ (yes, as in Frito Bandito), was missing. Now all indications are that he paid several guards to get him out of prison. His story is that he feared for his life in the maxi-prison where he had been previously. Ok, so far everything seems like a pretty mundane escape story. However, for reasons that have yet to be understood, many of the narco-gangs went nuts throughout the country. Many of them took over jails and sadly, some 11 people were killed. About a dozen or so actually took over a television station in Guayaquil for a few hours. Then Ecuador’s version of SWAT moved in and all of them went to jail.

That’s a pretty healthy amount of information, right? However, someone, I suspect some 14-year-old, thought it would be funny to begin posting a bunch of false information on social media to see what would happen. Well, it turns out, everyone pretty much lit their own hair on fire. First the story. It got out that Feria Libre, an open-air market in Cuenca about 1 – 2 times the size of a mega-Walmart, had been taken over by 60 armed gunmen and that they had shot all the guards there – mind you there’s a two story, police annex on the north-east corner of the grounds. Then they said that the gunmen went across the street and looted a small grocery store, completely emptying it of all its goods. Lastly, they said that a bomb had exploded at the mayor’s office downtown and that there was major looting going on there. The only point that was true was that the city prison had been taken over by the inmates – most of whom were there for gang-related causes. The Cuenca prison, known by the name of the barrio where it resides, Turi, is not visible within the majority of the city. It’s over the hill of Turi.

Well guess what broke loose at that point. When it began, around 13:00 on Monday, I was at an empty gas station facing the wrong way. By the time I had turned around, there were 15 cars in front of me. I thought, ‘that’s odd’, but there’s three islands, with pumps on both sides, so we were out of there in about 10 minutes. We went to the Avenidas America’s SuperMaxi, grocery store, where there were very few shoppers. We got 20 – 30 items and as we were getting ready to leave the store, we noticed that they had lowered the large metal doors that secured the store. Now to get some perspective, in a country that’s 80% Catholic, this is the store that’s open on Christmas day. It requires an electric motor to open and close the 20 ft. high front door. Here they have closed this store at 1:30 on a Monday afternoon. My wife and I looked at each other and scrunched up our faces. After we left, we noticed a long line at the gas station. We thought, well, don’t know what’s going on, but we’ve got enough food, natural gas, and gasoline to survive for several weeks. So, we headed home to find out what had happened.

At the same time, unbeknownst to us, the Cuenca Mayor was on television refuting each and every falsehood – except of course the jail. But to no avail. People were driving like it was the end of the world. I went down to our local tienda at around 4:00 p.m. to see what was going on there, and there were around 5 – 10 cars double-parked in front of the store. It was physically impossible for anyone to actually get into the store. I went down at around 8:00 p.m. and it was even worse. I felt sorry for Jose and Maria, the owners. The next day they confirmed that it had been a zoo – all for a false posting on social media.

Ecuador did make international news for the next four weeks. The newly elected 36-year-old President Naboa declared a 60-day state of emergency. For one day, Cuenca was shut up tight as a drum. Fairly quickly everyone found out they had mostly been duped and went back to work. None-the-less, military personnel were suddenly very visible throughout the country. An unconfirmed report was that those wishing to drive out of the country were required to provide a 5-year criminal record. Mr. Frito told the President, he would turn himself in, if the President could assure his safety. ‘No dice.’ Said the President.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Had to take our Calephon into the shop again. This time I took it to a different place and they were much more knowledgeable. (Fortunately it was simply: Turn off the gas, Turn off the water, Disconnect the three hoses [water intake/outake and the gas], Lift it off the wall and put it into the trunk. I’ll add a video of this soon.) I dropped it off with the technician and he replaced a gas valve, an electric switch, and a voltage meter. It cost only $40 and I was off to the races 4 hours later. He did explain that the “tank” (Tanque”) was burt and would probably give out in 6 months for a cost of $150. But I was only willing to cover the first cost. We plan to leave this house in 11 months, when our lease expires, as there are structural cracks developing throughout the house, and she continues to talk about raising the rent. (Unlike the U.S., Ecuador generally has far too many properties available, and they continue building – go figure. Landlords prefer to rent to Expats as they are generally more reliable payer/tenants.)

In other news: For those few Ecuadorians* living in the U.S., which I was, they have a stimulous package to try to tempt them to return. If an Ecuadorian lives outside the country for more than two years and decides to return, they can bring an entire shipping container of household goods, including 1 car – tax free, a 65% discount. (Yes, you read that right. There is a 65-85% import tax on virtually all cars. Though we recently found out there is a prorated exemption for those who are disabled.) For the container, there are a number of conditions, for instance 1 laptop, computer, and tablet per person, X liters of alcohol, etc. One of the conditions is that the car cannot be sold for 5 years. So that will expire in a little over two weeks. We’ve been looking to replace it, but we must have the “Non-Negoiable” removed from the Registration. I went to the Aduana (Prounounced A-dwana), the Customs house, and 10 minutes later they gave me two pieces of paper that require three others, and with that I can get a clean title. Good news.

*Ecuadorian as in citizen, vs. those with just a visa. I inherited mine from my father, who was born in Ecuador.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

On a trip to Las Vegas, to see my 86 year-old dad*, we went into a Walmart. While the size was about 4 time bigger than a MegaMaxi here in Ecuador, it was the locked cabinets that we found shocking. Ok, having much of the electronics behind lock and key, that was understandable. But we saw an entire aisle of laundry detergent behind lock and key. My sister explained, “it’s the pods. They open the lid and steal a few pods and put them in their pocket.” Suddenly Ecuador’s putting Band-Aids behind glass seemed a bit more normal.

*It’s ironic that my Ecuadorian dad lives in the U.S. and my mother, born in Texas, lives here in Ecuador with us.

While we were gone a MegaMaxi and MegaKiwi opened in a new shopping center located near the Parque Paraiso in Ceunca. Kiwi is a hardware store and MegaMaxi is perhaps an upscale Walmart. Cuenca already had 4 SuperMaxi’s, which are U.S.-styled grocery stores. Despite it’s name, Expats will likely be blasé with regard to its size, as it is about 1/4 the size of a large Walmart. The reason it deserves mentioning is because of the larger variety of items to which local Expats will now have access. Here is a link to a 30 minute infomercial ((1) Inauguran el MEJOR MEGAMAXI del Ecuador – Marcas Que Impactan – YouTube) that helps one get a better understanding of what type of items it provides. dragging the little round circle at the bottom, one can more easily see the things of importance to them.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

It has been reported that there was an attempted kidnapping in Salinas. Up until now, this was just a congested tourist trap on the very western edge of the country. A motorcyclist reportedly stopped and tried to abduct a woman forcing her onto the back of his motorcycle. Besides being one-on-one what was odd was that the woman was Ecuadorian. Normally such behavior would be aimed at an Expat, who would be more likely to fetch a significant ransom. The fact that such happened in Salinas is also unusual.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

I saw zippo lighter fluid for sale at a common downtown fishing joint. It’s not strange that it’s for sale, it’s just odd that I found it. Bic-style cigarette lighters are so common and inexpensive, and smoking is so rare, that it surprised me that I came across it. True, it was prominently displayed in a cabinet on Mariscal Sucre, just past Ave Tarqui.

Though rolling neighborhood blackouts are still common in Cuenca and regularly advertised by the Water/Electric company, ETAPA, we’ve found that they rarely occur in our neighborhood. Other neighborhoods, yes, but for some reason we’ve only lost power 2 or three times thus far.

Tuesday, November 7, 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

Bandog Studio

I watched several videos on making a sound recording for 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.

El Niño

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!”

Things that make one go, “Aaaaaaagh”.

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.