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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Orchid Exhibition

There are many things to do and see at any given time in Cuenca. Many to these things are free or at the very least, inexpensive. Usually we get the most pleasure from wandering out of doors, enjoying the river, roaming neighbourhoods and catching up on our vitamin D, but every once in a while there is something so tempting that we actually head to places that we avoid the rest of the time. In this case it was the mall.

Now we don't have anything against the mall, per se, but with so many vendors in our own little part of the city, we just don't feel the need to go there (pay more) and have North American style clothes, but they held an Orchid Exhibition there for a week, so we couldn't resist going and checking it out. It had the added bonus of also hosting the Cuenca Bonsai Society which was unbeknownst to us at the time. The cost was $2 per ticket and the venue offered hundreds of specimens from all over the world. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

While the set up was a little counter intuitive, using bright coloured accessories and coloured lights which tended to draw away from the amazing colours of the flowers themselves, for the most part the exhibition was fantastic.

This one was teeny, like the size of a finger nail!

At the end, visitors were led to the prerequisite sales area which also housed the Bonsai Society, so we got to see a good selection of trees and bushes patiently reared over many years. (Of which I have no pictures for some inexplicable reason. The Orchid Exhibition is an annual event and well worth a visit, if you get a chance next year.

To the people mired down with the prospect of fast approaching winter, you're welcome. There are places in the world where flowers bloom all year round and where the idea of snow is fantastical, mysterious and mildly folkloric.

Until next time, be well, pray for peace, or if not that at least good sense from our leaders. (Is that a paradox??? I think so!)

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Devil is in the Details or So I've Been Told

First of all, I'd like to give a shout out to all of you who take the time to read this blog! I've been keeping track of who's checking us out (countries, not IP addresses!) and people from 45 different countries, representing all the continents except the Artic and Antarctic have stopped by to have a look. This is exciting for me for some reason, probably relating to personal vanity. (Fie!)
Anyhow, it's probably the title that drew you so I'll get on with that. There are many things to consider when making the leap abroad; the classics like feasibility, cultural differences, distance from family, economic changes etc. That paints a pretty wide stripe of things to take in to account. We also asked ourselves what will happen when the government changes, how we would cope trying to learn a new language, what to do when we couldn't get our favourite foods etc. For the most part, we did fairly well in our considerations, but there are a couple of things that just never crossed our minds.
One of the first things we did was visit our friendly Medical Travel Clinic office and got ourselves lined up for any required inoculations; yellow fever, tetanus, Hep A & B and all those fun things. So what did we forget, your wondering? That nasty little inconvenience known as the common cold. Guess what? The strains down here seem to be different and our immunity is limited. (This is a pet theory of mine, which has yet to be verified, but I cling to it, none the less.) Was there something that we could have done? No, sadly, our immune systems just have to catch up. So this might be a fairly big consideration for you, especially if you have a weakened immune system.
There are other silly little things, like not budgeting for sun's not that cheap here and if you're being good and using it every day (really a good idea, for the most part, especially when it's sunny) you can go through A LOT.

We also didn't do a study of bus travel times. We knew that Ecuador wasn't a particularly large country, so figure getting around would be simple and efficient (relatively speaking, of course). But if you don't have or can't rent a car, it seems to take forever to get anywhere here. (The mountains might have something to do with that!) Seven hours to the coast, 10 hours to Quito, 5 hours to Guayaquil etc. Even with a car, the travel time isn't that much shorter. This can put a crimp in travel plans, unless you can afford to fly every where.

All these thing haven't chased us away, or made our experiences less enjoyable (well, anymore than a cold affects things) and we're still enjoying ourselves immensely and looking forward to some lengthy bus rides to get to know more of this amazing country. Whatever and wherever you decide to go (or stay) enjoy the ride and take the surprises in stride. (If not, the journey and your enjoyment could be markedly lacking!)

That's it for now kids, until next time!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

We Remember

Today is a day of remembrance and reflection. We remember those who bravely faced the guns of enemies and fought for freedom for their countries and families. We remember those who have come home; bodies and minds broken from what they have witnessed and done in the pursuit of liberty. We remember those who have sacrificed family members and ways of life for the betterment of others and we shed a tear for the necessity of war.

Today, I read that war is an affront to humanity; counter intuitive to life and justice, but yet we go to war, with bold hearts and steadfast belief. I wish most heartily and profoundly that peace comes, that we can live and let live, that the balance of prosperity levels and we can all rest from our pursuit of equality, fairness and safety.

I thank those who have served their countries and I thank the families for their support and sacrifice. Lastly I pray for peace. I pray that people can cease to judge and seek to understand. I pray that goodness and kindness are stronger than bombs and that hate dissipates into a mystery of the past.

Lest we forget

Monday, November 3, 2014

Wild and Wacky Festival of Cuenca

This is one of the biggest festivals in the city and commemorates Cuenca's freedom from their Spanish overlords (so to speak). The festival draws in large amounts of visitors from Guayaquil,Quito and further afield and the city is literally buzzing with activity.

There's a huge mix of cultural activities highlighting local dance, music and food, as well as inviting the other Latin American countries to share the fun. This results in a wide selection of street food, music and art, not to mention the prerequisite parades.

Variety of Dancers

We went to a concert that discussed (and played) the history of the tango from the 1880's to the mid 1970's. The odd thing was that there were no dancers. The Argentinian man who was host for the evening played the piano beautifully, but his accent was too much for my fledgling Spanish. I did get the gist of the music history part, but the anecdotes about the composers were beyond me. (Maybe one day...)
Mexican dia de los muertos shrine

Yup, those are all real rose petals around the cross

Mask of the Dead

This doesn't even begin to cover the stalls that line the walkways of the Tombebamba River. There are several types of vendors, those that you would normally come across in the mercados, traditional artists from Ecuador and other South American countries and then the "premium" fine artists. There is everything from fine crafted jewellery and clothes, to paintings and sculptures to hand made, one of a kind furniture.
Wood works & furniture
Carvings from the Amazon


The loom they're made on

Adorable little knit/woven dolls

Amazing ceramic llama

Wooden sculpture

Semi-traditional Indigenes Dress
(I think they took some liberty with the skirt)

If you also attend some of the stranger sort of activities like waiter races, laying a bed challenge (which is, I believe a bed making race), the great donkey race and other novelties, there is truly something for everyone.

Waiter Races

They do know how to finish off each of the days with a fairly decent fireworks, but they take the end of day literally...meaning midnight. We forgot about them the first night until they woke us from a dead sleep, even with the sound machine going. The second night we stayed up and watched them from the other side of the river.

Add to that some stunning weather (except the late afternoon) and it makes for a pretty amazing experience. We also got to see some of those things that we call "only in Ecuador" moments, which is probably not even near correct, but here's an example. An intersection was blocked off to set up a stage for a music concert that evening. Were the roads blocked off/redirected? Heaven's no! Here's what happens when you have a wide enough sidewalk:

We're thinking: "Okay, so how do WE get by?"

Safely crossed, the view from the other side

Why let a huge stage interfere with your communte?
We'll leave you with a few more tastes of the fiesta in no particular order. Perhaps it's time that you thought about coming and checking it all out for yourself!

I may eternally regret not buying this pillow!

They added a "food" section this year.

Beautiful women of the Amazon - she is a ceramacist

She is a weaver

She is a wood worker

Puente Roto Art Kiosks

Amazing dragon sculpture

Painting and sculptures
Hormigas (Ants) in an pretty neat installation
Snow cones!!
I know, you're all wondering if we resisted the huge temptation of buying anything once again, and the answer, in short Here's the amazing sculpture that we picked up. (Isn't it Steam Punk-ish?) We think it will bring in a whole new texture to our new digs once they're ready. Until next time, be well.
The artist Luis Moreno

El Caballo
He is NOT eating a small child...despite what it looks like.