2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage

2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage
VIVA CUENCA

VIVA CUENCA!

My mission in publishing this blog is first to provide a living history of my settlement and life in Cuenca, and to provide myself and the reader with a journal account delineating my reasons for why I have chosen to settle in Cuenca. Second, the posts are my way of staying in contact with family and friends back in the states, and to provide them with an understanding of a country and culture that most North Americans have little knowledge and awareness. Third, the blog is open to one and all who wish to compare and contrast the experiences of expat bloggers living in Cuenca, so that you can determine whether or not from your perspective Cuenca is an appropriate move for you. Fourth, my blog provides another example of how expats view and interpret life in Cuenca. Ecuadorians and Cuencanos who may read this blog are especially invited to post comments that may enhance all expats understanding and appreciation of Cuneca and its people, or to correct any misinterpretations in my assumptions and perceptions of Cuencano culture. Finally, I hope I can convey the feeling of love and appreciation that grows within me each passing day for this heavenly city nestled in the Andes and its very special people.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Moments of Our Lives: Part II

It was a cloudy Saturday afternoon as I was taking a walk back to Parke Calderon from both the Flower Market at the San Francisco Square in front of the San Francisco Church, and from another open market nearby the square. I was walking along the side of the New Cathedral, which was built in the 1800’s and which is the largest church in Cuenca. Along the walkway, I saw some flute players, who I assume where taking a break. I immediately thought back to Chicago, when beginning back in the 1990’s we would hear what started out as Peruvian flute players, who played street music to the passersby who strolled through Grant Park along Lake Shore Drive.

I approached a young man who stood at the forefront of the four instrumentalists. He obviously handled the marketing and selling of the C.D.’s. The young man, possibly in his late teens, was perfect for the job, with a respectful attitude so common in Ecuador, and with a winning smile, and charm. I asked him if the players standing behind him were from Peru. He stated that only one of the musicians was from Peru. As he pointed to the musician, the musician waved back at me and extended a greeting, and then each of the other three musicians did likewise. The young man and I stood by an instrumental lectern which allowed him to place four different recordings before me. As I prepared myself for the upcoming sales pitch, the players picked up their instruments and began playing. I had no intention of buying any of the C.D.’s. I had bought one from the flute players in Grant Park many years ago. I no longer wanted more of what I thought would be the same type of Andean flute composition.

Much to my surprise, these Andean flute players began playing Simon and Garfunkel’s, “Sound of Silence”, one of my all time favorite soundtracks from one of my all time favorite movies, “The Graduate”. I could not believe that they were playing “Sounds of Silence” in that place, at that time, while I was standing there. As the musicians played, my mind went back to the memories I associated with 1967 and the things I was doing when that soundtrack was constantly being played.

Meanwhile, a nun wearing a short veil and a habit that covered her knees came up next to me, and began to look at the C.D.’s as well. I noticed that the four C.D.’s laid out before me and the sister were all flute compositions of contemporary music. The young man was not about to let this moment pass without opening a large plastic bag filled with many C.D.’s of their music, some of which were more traditional compositions of Andean flute music. About this time as a larger crowd began to gather around the playing musicians, it began to sprinkle. I opened my umbrella, and held it over the young man, the gray-haired sister, and myself. The sister said to me “gracias”, and although I did not understand the Spanish discussion going on before me; it was obvious sister had no intentions of being fleeced by the young man. I saw him open the C.D. cover, take out the C.D. and show the nun that there was no scratches on the under surface of the C.D. I waited to see what the sister was going to be charged, and then I would know exactly what it would cost me for the two C.D.’s I now intended to buy.

I saw sister open up her small change-purse, as she then clutched the top of each side of the tiny purse. Inside her purse, as I continued to hold the umbrella over our heads, she had a carefully folded-in-four parts, solitary bill of five dollars. She extracted the five dollar bill and meticulously unfolded the bill before handing it over to the young man. He thanked the sister, placed the C.D. in a small plastic bag and handed it to her. She looked up at me, and extended another “gracias” before she went about her business.

I then concluded my purchase with the young man by giving him the ten dollars for two of the C.D.’s, “Only Melody” and the “Melodies of the Soul”. Now I listen to beautiful flute renditions of “Romeo and Juliet”, “Hotel California”, “Color of the Wind”, “The Power of Goodbye”, “Let it be”, ”Imagine”, “The House of the Rising Sun”, some of the compositions may also be from South American pop music, and of course, “Sound of Silence”. I proceeded on my way around to the front of the Cathedral and across the street to Parke Calderon. I heard the flutes for another fifteen minutes before the playing stopped again.

Three people who had never met each other before, who may never meet each other again; and yet for a brief encounter they were brought to that place at that time. They shared what they had to share in the way that they shared it, and then went about their business. A mundane event, in an ordinary day, repeated an inordinate number of times throughout the day by countless numbers of people throughout the world--an event, which is soon forgotten, if not already out of mind as soon as the transaction is completed. Yet, the most ordinary can be extraordinary when consciously lived. It only appears ordinary, when we fail to heed the sound of silence--the sound of conscious awareness.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Moments of Our Lives: Part I

When one has had a career in education as I have had as both a teacher and an administrator, and when one cares about what one is doing; if an individual does not enter the career of education as anal retentive and a Type A personality, one will certainly leave the career as both. Any time when large group management is involved, when a myriad of activities and interruptions keeps one frequently distracted with a need to refocus one's self and the class back to the lesson again, and when one attempts to engage students even when they are cooperative with the learning process; these factors can be wearing on a teacher. Not to mention how wearing it can be on a teacher when students passively or actively choose not to be engaged. Not to mention the drain brought on by educational politics, and a management style that may range from pro-active to simply "putting out fires". All these factors can take their toll and provide a high pressure work environment. It is not surprising to the typical American educator, to discover that psychological studies and surveys conclude that teaching in the United States is a more stressful occupation than being a police officer.

The "American Way of Life" in the Estados Unidos, not only in teaching but also in many other fields is a pressure-cooker existence for many Americans. Not to mention the barrage of images and noise that we and our children almost from the time of birth are constantly subjected. The life styles of many Americans are further compounded by the constant need for activity and distraction. For better or worse, the American Way of Life is not a culture that encourages reflection or that provides very many opportunities to savor the minutes of our lives.

Retirement has provided me with two mundane events in my life in one day in Cuenca that would normally transpire and quickly be forgotten in the rush to the next activity, and to the next scheduled and not so scheduled outcome. These are two events that simply by reflecting on them, and by taking the time to post and share them become moments I will remember for many years. These are events of ordinary things done by ordinary people that have meaning when we have the time, take the time, make the time to be fully aware and conscious in the moment.

I was in need of a telephone. I decided that I would purchase one in the neighborhood where I live. I thought that possibly phones would be less expensive than in the shops in the high rise type of buildings where I currently live or in the Cabanas directly in El Centro. I had no idea if my assumption was true. However, coming from Chicago. I know that upscale stores in upscale neighborhoods charge more; not just because the clientele have higher incomes, but also because the shops are paying pricey rents. I also factored in my decision that as long as I was living in this neighborhood, I was a part of the neighborhood. Therefore, if the products and service were reasonably priced and adequate the local vendors deserved my patronage.

I entered a local cabana west of El Centro on Simon Bolivar. The lady spoke hardly a word of English. On the other hand, I am highly fluent in Spanish, now approaching maybe 150 words in the language. Well what can I say, Spanglish was going to be difficult. Luckily through demonstration, and some pictures she was able to to communicate to me what phones she had available, and I was able to communicate to her what phone I wanted. From this point on the transaction began to break down as language became a greater obstacle. I loved this lady because she was so patient with me, and we would laugh and smile our way through the miscommunication and frustrations of attempting to understand one another.

Suddenly a guardian angel appeared and came to our rescue. A man entered the cabina, who understood some English and he was able to serve as a translator between the two of us. Her body language, facial expressions, and intonations expressed to me how she now understood the varying things I tried to communicate to her. I imagine as the gentleman explained to me what the lady was attempting to say, that I reflected back to her an understanding of what I was trying to communicate to her. So we agreed that I was to come back in a couple of hours. I was to leave her with a ten dollar deposit, and after whoever did whatever had to be done to the phone, I would return to pickup the phone and pay the balance. She asked me if I lived in the neighborhood, and I told her that I did. There were these surprising moments when our limited capacities for one another's language where overcome, and we both were like gleeful little kids when we succeeded in successfully communicating with each other.

When I returned at the appropriate time, the lady had the phone with its card and batteries installed and whatever else had to be done to provide me with a number. She checked out the phone to be sure it was working, but she was having a problem. I had no idea what the problem was that she encountered. I just simply waited while she played around with the phone. They she signal for me to open up the phone cabina door directly behind where I was standing. At first I thought she was going to call me with my phone, and that she wanted me to answer when the cabina phone rang. She motioned, however, that I should be seated rather than in effect continue to just stand there waiting. I assumed at this point, that if she wanted me to take a seat, then this wait was going to be awhile.

At this point, another guardian angel appeared as a neighborhood teen male entered the cabina. I assumed he was from the neighborhood, because the lady seemed to know him. He helped the lady with my phone, and after a few minutes he left. Then the next thing I knew the phone rang, and I assumed that the teen had called her to be sure the phone worked. She laughed and smile with that success, and she then encouraged me to call my friends as I had requested earlier, so I could be certain the phone worked and I could make contact. I suppose the lady was very happy with the sale. I have no idea what profit she made from it. I think we were both quite happy that together and no doubt with some help we pulled this sale and purchase off, much to each of our own satisfaction.

It was in that moment of jubilation of shared success as we smiled and laughed; that this lady who was simply a neighborhood lady--a lady who was matronly, older middle-age, and free of sophistication--that for one moment I saw in her eyes and in her smile as she looked at me, the young girl that she once was and was no more. I think in that moment of connection she saw the same in me. The young man who once was but was no more. As I paid her for the phone, and she gave me my bag. I thank her for her time and trouble, and in so doing I impulsively touched her upper arm just for a moment to demonstrate my appreciation. We made our goodbyes, the moment passed, and I was on my way.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Getting Settled In

I’ve been busy getting settled in, so this is my first post since arriving in Cuenca last Wednesday. I’ve been hoofing the pavement trying to get reacclimated to the sights, sounds, and locations. Some locations and directions I remember well, while others I have to re-engage again. I plan to take my time finding an unfurnished apartment. Most of this week, I will be busy with a number of luncheon and dinner engagements with friends. Can some of you back home ever believe that this Monday will be two weeks since we ate out at Aladin’s. I wonder if the time has gone as incredibly fast for you as it has for me? I still have some unfinished business from back home of which to take care. I also need to buy a printer this week.

Today has been slow, which is good. It gives me a chance to post. The day started out absolutely gorgeous; warm, very sunny summer-like day with not a cloud in the sky. By 1:00 p.m. the clouds were rapidly forming, and by 2:00 p.m. it began raining and has been drizzling now for the last five or six hours. I thought, well this weather episode will give me time to finally take out of its new packaging, my Franklin Spanish/English translator, and use it. Oh, but I have no triple A batteries. The triple A's must have gotten dumped with my other overweight cargo at O'Hare Airport. I’m not going back out in the rain, so I just studied Spanish the old fashion way without any electronic gizmos. Much of my time has also been taken with emails to particular individuals and their inquiries, which is another reason to get this post up. I've also been busy buying and getting my phone sort of setup, and getting my phone number distributed. I had my first video-phone communication with my son, Marc, the other day. I was better prepared for it, than he was. As he scrambled around searching for his camera and microphone to hook up to his laptop so he could communicate with me by video, I was amazed that for once, I had my act together when it came to technology.

Some of you have inquired as to why you no longer get an email from me directly as my post is published. The problem is my blog creator only allows for a maximum of ten names that can receive immediate blog posts when published. Why that is, I have no idea. But since the blog doesn’t cost me anything, who am I to complain. Therefore, now that I am in Cuenca, I keep those immediate postings for family members and a few friends back home. Those of you who live in Cuenca or who have visited Cuenca and at one time were receiving immediate postings from my blog are encouraged to bookmark my blog URL, and just check occasionally to see if I have posted.

Much of what I am experiencing right now in Cuenca I have written about in past posts from my previous visit last summer, so at the moment there is little new to report. For those who wish to learn more about Cuenca and what other bloggers have to say, I encourage you to click on to any of the links in the right hand column of my blog page to see what other expats are experiencing. A number of them have taken really beautiful pictures. Particularly take note of the "South of Zero" blog, which provides the viewer each day with a synopsis of many of the latest posts in Cuenca and in Ecuador. I will blog occasionally when I have something to say, or have had a new experience to share with you. In the meantime, those of you north of the Equator, God bless and keep you. Those of you south of the Equator, let’s get to know one another better. Cuidense.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Visiting Quito

Hotel Boutique de Sucre is located in the heart of Quito's El Centro, the historic area which like in Cuenca is recognized by UNESCO as an historical preservation area. The hotel was very clean and well kept. It has the furnishings identified with a traditional Ecuadorian hotel. As I began to explore it, the hotel was bigger than I first imagined. The lobby was attractive, and had overhanging balconies encircling it. Throughout the hotel and in the rooms were rich, heavy, beautifully carved doors and closet cabinetry. The hotel had many large paintings on display throughout its foyers and guestrooms, which were also available for purchase. The guestroom draperies were of a traditional style with the multi-layered cornices (panels) at the top of the draperies. The floor in my room appeared to be a wood similar to parquet. I had a very comfortable double bed, with the usual amenities of phone, T.V., hairdryer, WIFI, and a luggage rack. The bathroom was beautiful with very nice ceramic tile that looked like an Italian marble design which went up about a third of all the walls. There is no bathtub; but a large shower, glass-enclosed, which is spacious enough to have a party of three or four, if anyone is so inclined. The tub and sink appear to be relatively new. Included in the price of the room was a buffet breakfast, which included having your eggs prepared as you like them. The hotel is also protected with a gate over its initial entrance. One had to ring for the gate to open. The rooms are sound proof, and the hotel itself was extraordinarily quiet during the day. I thought only three or four people were staying there. However between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., I was amazed at how many people were entering from their evening activities. Since my WIFI connection could not be made from my room, I had to sit in the lobby area to make connectivity.

Hanging out in the hotel lobby was also a great way to make connectivity with people as well. I met a lady from Hawaii whose brother is a doctor and has his own health center and blog. The two of us ate Chinese for dinner. There was a young doctor from the states, who was quite knowledgeable of about many things, and he and his family have done a great deal of traveling. He was doing some kind of emergency work in various hospitals. I also met a fellow from North Carolina, who can you guess, is thinking of retiring to Ecuador. Terry Fenny will be arriving in Cuenca this Sunday for about four days. Maybe, you will meet him if you are at the Gringo Night this upcoming Tuesday at the Italian restaurant. Terry lived in Quito fifty years ago, but so far not one thing looks familiar to him. Terry will be staying at the Santa Monica Hotel in Cuenca, since I knew nothing about it; I was no help to him there.

The best feature for me about Hotel Boutique was the location of the breakfast buffet. The room was on the top floor and had a beautiful view of a nearby church steeple and clock tower. From another vista one had a close up view of the large statue of the Blessed Virgin with wings, which was the first time I had ever seen Mary represented with wings like an angel. Her statue is on a high hill top and hovers over the city of Quito as its protector.

What where the negatives about the hotel? Well, like anything, it’s a question of what your budget can afford and what you are accustomed to in the way of amenities. The price was approximately $55.00 a night. First, don’t expect to be greeted by a doorman ready to help you with your baggage. The hotel clerk did help me with my luggage to my room once I managed to get everything to the check-in counter. There were no elevators in the hotel, but there were three floors. On my departure, I called for a “bell-hop” to assist me with my luggage. A young man who appeared to be a teenager responded. I had seen him doing plaster work and other odd jobs in the hotel. I had the feeling he was “volunteered” to bring my bags down. I had to give him a good tip. Each of the two big bags of luggage weighed about as much as he did. He smiled and looked very proud of himself that he had accomplished his task. Whether the tip will be enough to cover his hernia surgery is another question.

The lighting in the rooms and the bathrooms could be brighter. The sink had no vanity, but there were racks above the toilet where toiletries could be placed. Besides the fact that my WIFI would not connect, there was no desk or table in the guest rooms. There was a nice arm chair, but that was it. Finally with all the spacious closet space, which included a safe for personal possessions, there were no hangers in the closet. Certainly the lack of hangers is a minor expense that could readily be remedied.

When I arrived in Quito I was exhausted. I was to meet with Gabriela Espinosa at 11:00 a.m., but she was delayed at immigration, so I was asked to come back in an hour. I walked around for twenty minutes, and then I stopped at an upper floor open terrace restaurant about a block from Gabriela’s office. The restaurant was owned by a Spaniard from Seville, who has lived in Quito for eight years. I ordered a hamburger. I was not expecting much considering what beef generally tastes like in Ecuador. Was I ever surprised. It was exceptionally good, and put most hamburgers back home to shame. Being the lunch hour, the restaurant was attracting a large number of high school students. They were loud, but in a friendly, conversational kind of way. No hijinks. Just kids enjoying their time together.

When I met with Gabriela, she told me everything was in order. There was no need for any other action at this time, and that I was to return in a month and receive my sedula and legal residency. I would be able to complete everything in one day, and I could fly in and out of Quito all on the same day. Gabriela also informed me that after three years of accomplished legal residency, I could apply for dual citizenship and become a citizen of Ecuador as well—no other requirements.

I went to bed at 11:00 p.m. that evening and slept until 1:00 p.m. the next day. I was only interrupted at noon when the house keeping lady knocked on the door and awakened me. I shouted, “Haste Luego a 2:00 p.m.” She said something in Spanish I did not understand, so I put the pillow over my head and tried to go back to sleep. Five minutes later, the telephone rang. The desk clerk said, “Mr. Mola, would you like housekeeping to prepare your room in an hour?” I repeated very graciously, “Please have her prepare my room at 2:00 p.m.”, and I had no problem falling back to sleep for another hour.

I spent my last day in Quito with an older gentleman who stopped me on the street and offered to be my guide. He was a devout Catholic, so I not only saw three architecturally exquisite churches, but came to know the history of every saint of every statue in each of the churches. I enjoyed his sharing his knowledge, but was disappointed that I did not get to see the basilica, whose spired-steeples to the heavens are so impressive from the outside. A little less time on the saints may have given us time to visit the basilica. There were many beautiful paintings in the churches. One church had the sanctuary walls draped opposite each other with magnificent paintings that I was surprised to learn were not done on canvas, but on burlap.

My guide only reminded me a dozen times why did I not bring my camera. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was take photos, not to mention my camera is new and has yet to be taken out of the box. I have not had the time, and I have no inclination at the moment to tackle another piece of electronic equipment. The same is also true for the Kindle sitting in its unopened box in my luggage. The young doctor let me play with his Kindle, but he didn’t know how to use a lot of the features I asked him about. He said, who has time to learn how to use all these gadgets. My response, Amen!

My guide said that Quito’s El Centro is about ten miles long and three miles wide. It is quite impressive. Some blocks are even closed off to traffic, and serve as pedestrian-type open malls that were in vogue in the states back in the 70’s. Only cabs and limos to hotels or delivery trucks are allowed to enter these areas. I don’t know if all the buses are electric in Quito, but the ones I saw in El Centro were. Coming from Chicago and the U.S.A.’s industrial heartland, it is difficult for me to empathize with expats who complain about Cuenca’s bus fumes. However, there is no doubt that such action toward electrical lines would further enhance Cuenca’s already fresh air.

There are many new buildings done in the Spanish Renaissance style being built in El Centro. My guide claimed that a couple of the buildings he showed me were new hotels that cost three to four million dollars to build, and would cost $400-$500 per night. How accurate that is, I have no way of knowing. On the other hand, so much of El Centro dates back to the 1500’s. There were roads that looked like the skeletal remains of the original brick roads. I did not see any cars use these roads, until the next day when my taxi driver went down the block of one of them. How these guys preserve these small taxis with the way they abuse them is astounding. He took this ancient road fast; and no axle broken, no bent rims, no ripped tires, no body knocked off its frame—go figure.

My perception is that more of the buildings in Quito's El Centro are better kept or freshly painted than in Cuenca. There is no doubt that while Cuenca has some very nice churches, Quito's are difficult to beat when it comes to size and design. However, when my guide took me to what was Quito's central square, there was nothing in Quito's El Centro that could compete with Parke Calderon in Cuenca--a magnificent gem. Overall, Cuenca is much cleaner. Less trash is spewed around, and while Quito has more attractive sidewalks that coincide with the architecture and time period, Cuenca's walks are not covered in lots of discarded gum.

What I did not like about Quito is that everywhere I went people were trying to rip me off and overcharge me, except for the fellow from Seville who operated the restaurant. The hotel staff was also very accommodating. It cost me eight bucks to take the taxi from the airport to the hotel, and then the next driver wanted twelve bucks upon my return trip to the airport. He finally settled for ten. Last summer I paid $5.00. I could go on and on about the overcharges and other shifty business practices, but I’m glad to be back in Cuenca, where Cuenca's good people make me want to be better as well. My trip from the airport to Caudra Dos was ONLY TWO DOLLARS. I’M A CUECANO NOW. VIVA CUENCA!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Back to Cuenca

I am almost out of battery power. Long story, but I won't be able to write a post tonight. I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be arriving in Cuenca tomorrow, Wednesday, March 16th. I hope to meet many of you at Zoe's Friday evening. I slept for fourteen hours last night. Oh what a difference a night can make. Hasta Luego. Jim

Monday, March 14, 2011

Quito or Bust

Hi, Everybody!

No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, at least not yet. Nor have I fallen off my surf board. I’ve still riding the crest of the wave. No wipe outs yet, despite the literal and metaphorical tsunami warnings, but I will be plenty exhausted once I surf on in to shore and arrive in Quito this evening. I am writing this email to you, while on my flight from Houston to Quito, so I can’t be sure when I will have Internet access to post it. I get into Quito at 9:00 p.m. I anticipate in Quito a two hour ordeal of getting luggage and passing through customs like when I went through customs at the Guayaquil Airport last July, so it may be almost midnight when I get settled into a hotel room. (However, much to my surprise, unlike entering Guayaquil, I received my baggage and completed customs in less than half an hour.)

The past month has, as you expats all well know from your own experiences when you moved to Cuenca, been extremely nuts. The past week began Monday with the Salvation Army picking up everything I had not sold or stored. It's nice to be free of all that stuff. I am a firm believer in what you own owns you. I feel like I’ve been on an eating marathon all week as I’ve put away two Italian meals, and dinners at two Indian restaurants, and one Middle Eastern restaurant; as food so often becomes the way to celebrate occasions like “going away” parties. I said goodbye to various friends and relatives just about each night of the week. I’m ready to slow down the dining dramatically in Quito. I know all the good eating will pick up again in Cuenca.

I enjoyed my weekend with my son, Marc and his friends, in the Baltimore area. I had spent a number of days going through family photo albums earlier, and finally came to the realization that there was no way I could take all of these albums with me. Thanks to Lenny, I decided to have all the photos scanned by a professional company. It took quite a while for me to put all the photos in some kind of chronological order; matching clothes and Christmas packages, etc. to determine which photos were from the same time-frame and identical events. The company, which was out of Arizona, did a beautiful job with cropping, clarity, detail, and color. I could not be more pleased. They took the photos in the order I sent them, and put them into a video slide show with music. The family enjoyed them, and my son, Marc, was very appreciative of viewing and receiving his copy. Marc thought it would have made a perfect Christmas gift from me. However, I never know when I will see either of my sons again, so it seemed to me like a good time to present him with the video. Young people today no longer keep physical photo albums, and now after I watched these photos on big screen television and experienced what digitalization can do, why would anyone? It was a great viewing experience, and makes all the sense in the world to process photos this way.

Viewing the photos with my son which covered from my marriage in 1980 and watching as my kids grew up was the only time I gave in to emotion. Until then I had been way too busy to even consider what I was leaving behind, which included not only friends and family; but also those events of our lives that could never be relived again except vicariously though the snapshots of isolated memories that meld how we come to perceive our pasts.

I have been blessed with good friends and a great family. I was fortunate to be blessed with wonderful parents, and two fine brothers who were a real help to me as I prepared my move. Needless to say, my sons have never given me a reason not to be proud of them. The three of us have been through so many incredible changes over the last three years, with a great deal more of change on the horizon.

My trip had been uneventful, except for the fact that I stupidly parted with my bathroom scale before I packed. One bag was seventeen pounds overweight. While the other bag was seven pounds overweight. I dumped quite a few things before I was going to pay the overcharges, and I am still bringing too much. I have to admit six weeks ago, I couldn’t wait to get to Cuenca, find an unfurnished apartment, and get settled. Now, after just getting rid of everything, I’m in no hurry to start shopping for household goods again. Right now, I just want rest and vacation. Maybe, I’ll feel differently in a week or two. Now, I just want to take my time, and get back into what retirement is suppose to be all about—a slower pace of life, and I won’t sign a lease until I find exactly what I’m looking for. I sure am glad I have Bob and Roxanne’s condo to return to—no household shopping there, and nice and relaxing diggs. I can't wait!

Mary, thanks for the safe travel post. Gil and Deborah, I'll have a better idea how long I’ll be in Quito after I speak with Gabriela tomorrow. I am not staying at the Radisson, but am staying at Hotel Boutique, which I will have more to share with all of you later. It’s a small hotel in the historical section of Quito. If I stay long enough, and get beyond the point of just wanting to crash (not literally in the plane), but just pull a twenty-four hour sleep, I may look up Marco at the Radisson. Otherwise, I am looking forward to getting to Cuenca and seeing everyone. As soon as I know, I’ll post what day this week I’ll be arriving in Cuenca. I’m sorry, Barry, I haven’t had time to read your emails in the past week. Sorry, Clarke, I was going to surprise you with a jar of JIFFY SMOOTH PEANUT BUTTER, but that was one of first items to get tossed at O’Hare as I attempted to get my luggage weight down. I suppose some homeless guy hanging out at O’Hare, or the custodial staff member, who emptied my plastic bag of discarded items came into a virtual gold mine of stuff. I read someone is sending you a case of peanut butter anyway, so I guess my one jar won’t make a difference to your delight.

Hasta luego, It's 1:00 a.m.,Lunes. I’m going to bed. Jim