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Saturday, July 13, 2019

What Up, Moncton?

So, we've been living in a bit of a bubble, working on the house, trying to get our tenant settled in and the apartment ready for his family, so we really haven't been up to all that much. We did try to go to the car show, but they wanted $10 (per person!!!) for entry and we don't really like cars quite that much. We did get to participate in taco week, when we first arrived. The heck with Taco Tuesday! Let's do a whole 7 days! (There's still taco Tuesday regularly, too, so it's a win-win.)
Ron playing with the interactive art

Along the river
One of many handsome pheasants we've seen
 Moncton is a little hotbed of summer festivals. We've passed through the Highland Games (kilts and bagpipes galore!), Ribfest 2019, night craft markets, Canada Day celebrations, multiculturalism day and, this week, Festival Inspire, an art event that includes mural painting, art walks and music. 
A Stellar Jay deconstructing a spray can

Detail of a mural by the river

 Quirky mural in a parking lot
3D turtle made out of plastic waste
Yup, a Mr. Turtle pool as part of the garbage turtle
 There are a remarkable amount of murals around the city, so we were looking forward to seeing some in process. As today was an absolutely stellar weather day 25 Celsius, light breeze and clear skies, we grabbed our camera and headed out to survey some of the street art.
Very Vancouver-esque!

We already had some favourites and stumbled across some new things which we were quite taken with. 

A new addition for the festival
We hope you enjoy them as much as we did (and do). There are still new ones that we want to go see, so there might be another post with these little (okay, not so little) gems stashed all over the city, both in hidden corners and high traffic areas. 

Friday, June 14, 2019

Hark, So Cometh the Spring!

We were never sturdy winter folk. No. We made the best of it, but have seldom reveled in the chilly embrace of snow and ice storm. This made acclimating to our new environment...challenging, shall we say?

As we made improvements to our rental suite, the bitter little flakes of snow pelted me, in my attempts to "refresh" the paint on the balcony. Huge white flakes fell after a day of inhaling paint fumes and cleaning detergent. Pretty? Yes, maybe, but nothing like a good sit in the sun porch watching people go by. We huddled by the gas fireplace for the first couple of weeks, as darkness fell at an alarmingly late time. There were no hikes to be had, not with the bitter winter wind still blowing.

Yet, today, there seems to be some hope of spring. (Yes, this is the middle of June.) Spring is horribly late, but it will come as all seasons do. We've moved into double digits on the Celsius scale, trees have budded and leafed, hyacinths and daffodils have bravely flowered, their heads nodding in the rain that has fallen. (A lot, apparently, from local observation.) What was bare when we arrived, has filled in with green and all the signs point to spring.

We're glad. Sure, we'll have to mow the lawn and do the weeding, but at least the earth is warming and we can turn down the thermostat, at least a little bit. We're so looking forward to summer; to patio weather and bike rides (if we only had some) and to watching the people pass by from the heat of the sun porch. I suspect this will be our favourite spot until the temperatures soar.
Fledgling grass little project
The garden (perhaps a bit of a stretch, considering its condition) is taking shape and painting season has come. Until we can find a more ecofriendly solution, we're trying to fill in the bare patches of grass. The grass may be growing, but so are the mosquitoes...we've just come in from being eaten alive, but it was worth it. Here's to summer.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Has Empathy Died?

I read an article recently on one of my favourite websites 3 Quarks Daily. (I recommend the site if you ever want to have your brain tickled with interesting and (mostly) objective articles on varying subjects.

This particular article that has stuck with me was about empathy. Here's the link: Can We Revive Empathy in a Selfish World?  (Spoiler alert: they think virtual reality might help.)

It basically stated that as society moves away from agrarian communities into metropolises, our empathy has been eroding. Why? Lots of reasons, but mostly the anonymity of city life, social media and (most fascinatingly to me) the idea that society is Just. (Capital J, on purpose!) How does that make us less empathetic? It takes away our responsibility. If society is just, then the people operating in that society get what they deserve. This thought allows us to feel secure in our own lives. We've worked, followed the accepted path and succeeded (to whatever extent). In other words "we have what we deserve". The flip side of that process though is that people who operate on the fringes of society: the homeless, the addicted and people with mental health challenges must also have what they deserve. This seems to explain why we can be so outraged over the treatment of animals, but so horribly apathetic to the plight of our fellow man.

If the world, or society, isn't actually just, then could our lives be just as susceptible to downturns of fortune? What an uncomfortable and scary notion. We've lost that whole "there but for the grace of God, go I" concept. I mean that in the most non-religious sense. We refuse to admit that our good fortune has anything to do with plain dumb luck. I know that I'm living the life I have because of a lot of amazing luck. I could have been one of those street kids fleeing from a bad home life, dead from an overdose, or struggling with schizophrenia, bipolarism or dissociative states. Yes, it could be me scrounging for bottles to try and get a hot meal. Dumb luck put me where I am. Did I work to better myself, get an education and did I work hard? Yes, of course. So did a lot of those "other" people. When I see someone asking for spare change, trying to wash windshields to get a few bucks together etc, I actually do see a human being. I look them in the eye, I say hello. If I can't give them money or offer them a meal, I can at least treat them as a fellow human.

For whatever reason this thought keeps coming back to me over the past few days and I think it's key to maintaining some sort of caring for others.  So ask yourself "do I believe that I live in a just society?" Then try and figure out exactly what that means.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Apples and Oranges - the impossible comparison

It's been a month that we've been in our new digs. The most popular comment is "must be a bit different from South America!" (Insert chuckle.) Strangely, in some ways, it's really not that different and in others, so different that it defies description.
Same colours...
...different skyline
The first couple of weeks we were here, the selection of items often seemed overwhelming. There's 75 different types of light bulbs, several options for painters tape, an entire wall of paint rollers and sand paper for different applications. Sometimes, I just had to walk away. It was also hard to remember what we used to use before we moved to South America. "What shampoo did we buy?" Neither of us could remember. (Speaking of products have a ridiculous amount of options...a full aisle dedicated to whatever hair type you might possess.)
Smoked salmon
Baked goods...a la France!
Small selection of cheeses and meats
There seems to be an embargo on some items, as well. This is much like Ecuador where you made do with what was available or went without. Things I can't find: hair mousse (perhaps too 90s?), silicone egg poaching cups and a slotted spoon.

The biggest difference, of course, is the weather. It's bloody cold here...colder than usual for this time of year and we aren't enjoying it. It's hard to carry groceries with a bulky winter coat on. The daylight is also messing with us. The days are much longer and we keep forgetting to eat dinner. We've found ourselves at the table as late as European, that we didn't actually mind. It's sad to know that in just over a month the days will start getting shorter and, as one friend commented, we'll be eating lunch in the dark. (Thanks, Ken! Such a cheery reminder and a slight overstatement.)
Don't like the weather in Cuenca? Wait 5 minutes!
Nearby park, weather only good on Saturdays, so far
We've found the nice weekend market, which is a bit like Granville Island, but smaller. There's a beautiful bakery nearby and also a specialty grocery store that focuses on locally produced products. It's close enough to be dangerous and they have a roof top terrace restaurant during the summer months.

It's nice to be able to walk to nearly everything. We have two major grocery stores within walking distance, as well as a heap of restaurants and pubs, even the weekend market is just a five minute jaunt down the road. This is much like our place in Ecuador, but with a wider variety of ethnic food choices. There's a Mexican "street food" restaurant just down the street. It's not completely authentic, but if you've never been to Mexico and actually eaten street food there, you'd never know. They do some beautiful (almost fusion-like) tacos, burritos and salad bowls. (Right there is how you know it's not authentic Mexican...salad bowls - ha!)   

Our new neighbourhood is quiet, except for the odd truck that rumbles down the street. There aren't any car or business alarms, no endlessly barking dogs or wanton honking of car horns, which is a pleasant change. (No one goes to Latin America for peace and quiet!)

Unbeatable produce
Fruit, fruit, fruit!
Locally sourced meats
 I had an odd hankering for Clos wine the other day: something that I could just open and not worry about it going off or having to pair a nice wine with the right thing...just an inexpensive tetra-pack wine to be enjoyed when I felt like it. I also miss the weather...have I mentioned that it's been cold here? We had a reprieve today with mostly sunny skies and 17C. It was shirt-sleeve weather and we went out to check out a local nature park.

Locally sourced meats
Selection of all natural bath products
More cheese, oh, and olives!

Ron checkin' out the goods
You can't compare Moncton and Cuenca...not with any comprehensive measurement, but both are home, in their own way.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

What Makes Our Home Ours?

It's been a little over a month and we're slowly getting ourselves settled after the manic renovations of the rental suite. (Still no word on that front, but we've left it in good hands.) Ha pasado un poco mas de un mes y lentamente, nos estamos estableciendo despues de una epoca manĂ­aca de renovacion del departamento de alquilar.

Today was a big day for us. We finally got our artwork back from the place that restretched the art over new frames. As many of you know, some of our paintings aren't small, so getting them home made for an interesting walk. (We don't have a car and the Art Shack's vehicles weren't big enough for the larger works.) Hoy dia fue un dia grande para nosotros. Finalmente, nos recibimos los cuadros con marcos nuevos. Como muchas personas saben, unos de los cuadros nuestros no son pequenos. Asi que, fue una camino interesante a hogar con el arte. (No tenemos un carro y el Art Shack  no tiene un vehiculo suficientamente grande para traer las obras grandes.)

Obra de Ariel Dawi 2012

Obra de Diane Buchanan 199?
The blank walls of the house having been driving us a bit mad...we were starved for colour and interest, especially with the builder beige that's on the walls.  Las paredes en blanco nos volvieron pocos locos, especialmente con el  color de beige de constructor.)

That all changed today, and we realized that our artwork is what makes a house feel like our home. Despite the cost of getting the artwork here, having it restretched and the heartache and trepidation of painstakingly taking the canvases off their original frames, it was all worth it. Todo cambio hoy dia y nos demos cuenta que es nuestro arte que hace "hogar" para nosotros. En pesar de los costos de transportar y el dolor de deconstruyendo los cuadros de su marcos originales, vale la pena.
Formal entry...the door no one here uses

So much nicer than the old antiglare glass
We just need a soothing colour on the walls

Obras de Pnina Granier y Bouk Elzinga
Now we just have to figure out a pedestal for Ron's torso sculpture and everything we have will have its place. Today's added bonus was warmer weather and blue sky. We can't wait for summer!  Ahora, necesitamos averiguar como construir un pedestal por la escultura de Ron y todos que tenemos tendran su propios lugares.
Still lots to do...drapes, pretty up the fireplace

So much better with two sculptures, not all of them!
Many things make a home and different people will have different requirements for how that looks and feels, but for us, we're finally starting to feel comfortable in our new surroundings.  Next, on to the exterior! The garden needs tending and there are some spots on the siding that need repainting. Let the good weather come. Muchas cosas hacen un hogar y personas diferentes tiene opiniones diferentes en la definicion de hogar. Pero, para nosotros, nos ponemos comodos en los a alrededores nuevos.  El jardin necesitia atencion y hay puntos en las paredes exteriores que necesitan la misma. Que venga el clima bueno!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Budgeting 101 - It's almost always gonna cost more

Renovations, yup that's my next topic of financial insight. Houses are costly. They're costly to buy, to run, to maintain and then there's the added costs of renovating.

No matter how well you plan, it's always gonna cost more. I rather suspect that budgeting for renovations is a bit like budgeting for travel For travel, the advice goes something like this: pack half the clothes and bring twice the money. For renovating, you just need to adapt the concept slightly, plan to do half of the things you want to and double your costs.

We're at the tail end of renovating our rental suite. We had some old asbestos tiles ripped out. As the inspector said, "if you have asbestos in your home, floor tiles is the best type to have." Two rooms needed new flooring, the walls needed paint and the kitchen need to be functional. Here's the before pictures:

Kitchen, gutted
Next photo is the other side of the kitchen
Prior to gutting, original layout
Bedroom with asbestos tiles removed
Pale yellow (leaky) surround, white tub
The space can't really be described as large, nor really average, but it's a neat little space with a good sized bedroom and great outdoor space for enjoying the coming summer. It's diminutive size also makes it cheaper to heat in the winter, so that's a bonus. It's perfect for a single or a couple who REALLY like each other.

All the trim needed painting and the curtain rods were ridiculous, one was half falling down and the other was a modified shower curtain rod that didn't even fit into the window frame properly.

The shower surround needed an update and we ditched the fabric curtain and replaced it with a nice sanitary blind. The tub also needed resealing, the sink needed a new drain connector and we replaced the tap, as well. 
New bath
Extra expenses? The appliances, the fridge was way too big for the space and the oven was on it's last legs and so dirty that there was no hope of getting it clean. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.
New kitchen
Two weeks after an epic investment of time, energy and (you guessed it!) money, we feel it was worth it, but we're biased, of course. Our biggest tip is let the professionals do the important stuff (major electrical and plumbing), all the other stuff can be done, as long as you do your research and take your time. We're hoping to find someone who likes the place as much as we do and that (just maybe) appreciates all the work we've put in to make it clean, comfortable and more manageable.

Fold down table with folding chairs

New hardware, paint and backsplash

New bedroom floor


Living room

Private deck