What a busy, and fun-filled Thursday and Friday it has been for me. I had the opportunity to meet with fellow bloggers, Brian and Shelley, of "Planet Irony." We met for lunch at Raymipampa Restaurant, which is a favorite with Ecuadorians and expats alike. I had the chance to meet Freddi, who is the most adorable Shitsu, and lives just to be contentedly petted. Brian explained that Shitsu dogs over the centuries had been bred to have the aggressiveness taken out of them. A shitsu then served as a lap dog, who obediently sat on the Chinese empress' lap without causing a disturbance. A shitsu has hair instead of fur, and so does not shed. Freddi felt just like a ball of soft, fluffy fur; even though it was hair. It was so nice to be around a small dog that always wasn't yapping.
Later in the afternoon, Brian and Shelley invited me to their beautiful apartment. The wood throughout the home was done in laurel wood, which has a luxurious look to it, and appears to be the same color and hew of the wood I mentioned in a previous post seeing at an upscale pizza restaurante by the SuperMaxi. I had never heard of laurel trees before, so I learn something new everyday. Shelley assisted me with my blog. She gave me a lot of good pointers, and I very much appreciated her help. Shelley promised that when I return to Cuenca, I should be ready for her "graduate course" of statistical disaggregation analysis of blog viewers from around the world to my site, etc. With a course title like that I may have to pay university prices.
Brian, Shelley, and I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of buying, or of renting a furnished or an unfurnished apartment. This a major point of discussion that comes up frequently with expats and visitors like myself, with whom I meet and socialize in Cuenca. I will focus on this point specifically in a later post. We ended the early evening hours with a Ecuadorian beer, and what for me was an interesting afternoon of conversation.
Friday I had dinner with Lourdes, who had recently returned from Pennsylvania. Lourdes was born in Ecuador, but left at an early age with her family and grew up in the United States. She is at least for a period of time returning to her roots, although she does have a love affair with the "Big Apple" as well. We ate at the El Cantaro, which was the first visit for both of us. Lourdes had a pasta dish. There are quite a few pastas in Ecuador, but Lourdes told me that in the preparation of the sauces they generally are quite different from Italian pasta dishes. I had a steamed-trout dish prepared with a mustard-based sauce that I had found to be very good. Ecuador is also known for its fresh seafood dishes, both fish and shell fish. I intend to return to El Cantaro to try their sea bass. I understand that if I do not want to deal with the bones to be sure I order fish fillet. It seems fish that has not been filleted is more oftentimes served in Ecuador than in the states. Both dinners including our drinks and the two coffees following dinner came to about $16. Not a buy price for one of Cuenca's more upscale restaurants.
Lourdes is very busy refurbishing an apartment that she has just moved into since she returned from the states. She chose to rent an unfurnished apartment. Apartments in Ecuador do not come with light fixtures. The electrical is in place, but the fixtures around the bulbs must be purchased by the renter, and are taken by the renter when vacating the apartment. I met Lourdes through a blog link of expats in Cuenca long before I came to Cuenca. The blogs are a great way of not only learning about Cuenca, but also making contacts with people once you arrive. You will be able to link to Lourdes blog, "Looloo in Ecuador" as well as many others, right from my blog as soon as I get my blog links inserted. (Thank you, Shelley.)
Lourdes speaks Spanish very fluently, which I greatly envy. The advantage to being with someone who speaks fluent Spanish is that I can get so much more from a conversation with a Spanish-only speaking person, as Lourdes can quickly translate for me. On the other hand, having a translator is the type of "easy" which I do not want to take advantage of too often. It is only through my struggle with the language that I will improve in my use of it. I use the word "struggle", only because I wish I could communicate more with Ecuadorians using their language, since to date I have not met many who speak more than a modicum of English. Otherwise, the urgency of being in Cuenca pushes me forward to learn, and to make a game out of it. When I'm not listening and practicing "Spanish for Dummies", or practicing the elementary basics to procure a taxi ride or make a purchase; I can always practice or try a new sentence or two of Spanish on Jose', one of the security men here at the condo. Jose' makes me write down every new sentence I want to say to him, so he can see exactly what I am trying to say. Then he can correct my grammatical mistakes, pronunciation, or sentence structure order. I usually have to spend time first looking up the words in the dictionary, and stringing them together in sentences trying to apply as best I can what I remember about conjugations and so on. Jose does a good job with me, particularly considering that he hardly speaks a word of English.
Friday, it must be an evening at Zoe's for expats. What a great place to meet other expats and visitors like myself. There are so many fascinating people, who have done interesting things with their lives. These evenings at Zoe's are not only good for making social contacts, but also sharing information and being helpful to one another. These Friday evenings give expats who are interested the opportunity to meet and make an endless number of contacts and friends; which are always being replenished as new visitors come to vacation, study, or settle in Cuenca. It is generally impossible to meet with everybody in attendance over the course of a two hour social period. While many conversations are cursory, there are both old acquaintances and new to offer anyone in attendance some time for in-depth conversations. This evening alone I met with Larry, an investor from Los Angeles; talked with Doug, an entrepreneur from Atlanta; and conversed with George and Lillian of Houston, Texas, who have just settled in Cuenca, and who were the first couple I met my first day in Cuenca. I had time to touch bases with Ali and with Regina, who I met the previous week at Zoe's, and with whom I have spent some time since. Besides a quick hello to some people I met from the previous week at Zoe's, I also met Gil and Deborah from San Francisco; and I met Martin, who is about to take a college position teaching English in Kuwait, and has taught in a multiplicity of countries. People who meet at Zoe's will often break into smaller groups and head out for some evening activity. This Friday, Martin, Gil, Deborah, and I had dinner at a Columbian restaurant that Martin frequents. The meal was good, and the conversation was scintillating when talking with people who have such wide experiences of travel and study to bring to the table. All and all--a very good day!