January in Cuenca

Things have settled down — we’re in everyday living in Ecuador mode.

Ecuadorians are not only fun-loving and friendly but they’re most helpful, too. On Monday, we went to find a place for Bob to get a haircut. We asked our landlord, Richard, about a good place to go. He sent us a Google map and complete instructions on how to get there on one of the buses that stops in front of our apartment. We followed the instructions but when we got off the bus, we walked to the corner indicated on the Google map, and could not find the hair place. We walked around a couple of blocks looking for it, and were standing on the sidewalk looking around when an older gentleman walked by and greeted us with a “Buenos Tardes”. He then came back and asked us something in Spanish which we interpreted to mean “Were we looking for something?” Bob pantomimed that he wanted a haircut and the señor indicated for us to follow him. He took us to one place but they were closed. He then asked directions at a small Farmacia and told us to follow him again. Several blocks later, he indicated a place for a haircut. It wasn’t the one we were looking for, but, hey, it was better than nothing! This man went several blocks out of his way to get us to an open hair salon and we were most thankful.

Probably the best part of this whole thing was that Bob got a decent haircut (not the haircut he got from Sal in New York, but decent, nevertheless) and the total cost was $3 — actually $4 because we gave her a $1 tip!

We spent the last two weeks just doing normal everyday things that are needed for living in Ecuador. Nothing much exciting, but always an adventure. We have formed some habits, especially the restaurants that we frequent. One of them specializes in hamburguesas ( or hamburgers) and we go there around once a week.

I wanted to get a shot of this BEFORE I took a bite, but I was hungry and forgot! The burgers are cooked outside over a charcoal fire and what looks like potato chips are actually real fried potato slices.

It you’re hungry when reading this, you might want to grab something to eat first. This is turning out to be all about food in Ecuador. One thing we found in the supermarkets around Christmas was these strange looking eggs. Don’t know what bird laid them and we didn’t try them (although Bob was fascinated by them).

 

At 8600’, Cuenca is one of the highest altitude cities in the world. There are some higher, but 8600’ is pretty darn high! Water boils at 192 degrees and it is confusing to say the least. Food is cooked on the outside, but could still not be done on the inside. Hard boiled eggs take longer to cook, roasting things in the oven is a trick — the meat gets dried out before it is done on the inside (something to do with the barometric pressure and the air molecules). I tried making magic cookie bars at Christmas, and they turned out edible but there is no such thing as graham crackers in Ecuador so I had to use some sort of vanilla wafers and the cookie bars just didn’t taste the same. The bakeries (or panaderias as they are called here) make cookies but they are all just a tad overdone (and you can’t find a chocolate chip cookie anywhere, I don’t know why). One of the things I had planned on doing when we got here was to start cooking using the fresh meats and vegetables from the local mercado. That plan didn’t work out too well — it will have to wait until we get to the beach and can breathe again.

So instead, we’ve taken to eating out quite a bit. Besides the hamburger place, we’ve found a pizza joint that is owned by an Ecuadorian couple who spent many years in Boston. It’s pretty good pizza.

 

 

 

 

And there are always the street vendors.
(roasted bananas or plantains — not sure which)
So far, we’ve not been sick from buying things at any of these vendors, even though there is no such thing as a health department checking on them.

There are also many small artisanal tiendas selling everything from herbs and spices to cheese and olives. We have no need for them since I don’t cook but they are interesting to stop in and browse.

 

That’s about all I have for this time. We’ll be leaving for the beach on January 29th and are making preparations for that. Since El Nino was originally supposed to hit the playas areas around November or December, 2015, we changed our plans and came to Cuenca. We also packed all our lightweight clothes in Space bags to make room in our suitcases. Now, the estimated time for El Nino to hit the coast has changed. It will be February/March, when we are there. But in the meantime, Cuenca has been having unusually hot weather — it was 81 degrees and sunny for several days with little of the usual rain. So we have all our long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and lightweight jackets unpacked and have been roasting! Haven’t needed a jacket in several weeks. (But I have considered using an umbrella for the sun, like the Cuencanos do. The sun is unbelievably strong!)

We bought a battery powered lantern to take with us to Ballenita because supposedly during the last El Nino there were several power outages. Sounds like fun! But we decided, at least, we’ll experience the playas at their worst — can’t ask for more than that.

Probably won’t write again until we make the move because we’ll be busy changing our suitcases to accommodate the different climate. It’s been in the high 80’s where we’re going, but at least we’ll have the proper clothes for it.

Hasta la vista,

Edana

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