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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

This is Ecuador - The Oven Saga Cont'd.

I've been finding it really hard to concentrate after the attacks in Paris, Beirut, Syria, Mali etc, as well as the natural disaster. The wave of fear that has stuck usually logical and kind people is saddening. With all that I haven't had much time to celebrate the fact that our oven is now working.
No Oven Required
It feels a bit like a MasterCard commercial.

Part: $280
Shipping: $180
Import taxes and handling: $67 (usd)
Installation and further repair: $135 (usd)
Working oven: Priceless

This is part of life on another continent. On the same day that oven was up and running, our cable box went on the fritz and seemingly died. (Sigh.) However, after arranging to get a "tecnico" out the next day, we woke up and the darn thing was up and running. This is a perfect example that encapsulates what it is to be in Ecuador. Like any place, it isn't perfect, but you get out of it what you put in to it. Of course, this isn't always my forte. I'm a worrier and can't seem to help but imagine the worst case scenario for any problem. I like to think that this prepares me for bad outcomes, but it drives my poor husband crazy. He's more of a "don't worry about it until you actually know it's something you need to deal with" kind of guy. It doesn't matter where I'm living...I was the same back home, but it can make for extra stress, especially if you're trying to function in a second language.
Not my kitchen, but only slightly less useful...
The folks at TVCable don't seem to understand that speaking a bit slower might resolve the situation more quickly. I've also come to realize that Ecuadorians don't phrase things the same way. For example, I'm an English tutor to a 17 year old girl and her mother (inexplicably) wants me to help the daughter with a large Spanish writing project; a book about the young girl's life. (This is a school assignment.) So the mother wanted to know how much I would charge to help with the book, but she didn't ask me "How much will you charge to help with the book?" She asked (in Spanish or to be more PC: Castellano) "How much will the book cost?" I don't know how much it would cost to print up a book or buy the supplies to hand write it, so I replied "I don't know." I can now see why they had perplexed looks on their faces, but it took me overnight to understand what it was they were actually asking.
Something pretty to look at for when
we don't have cable or internet
Another example is speaking with TVCable. The account is under my husband's name, so of course they want to know who I am...I'm obviously not Ronaldo. They don't say "who are you?" or "who am I speaking with?" No, that would be to easy; they say something akin to "with whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?" Now, in English that doesn't seem so bad, but when it's cast at me in rapid fire Spanish, I usually miss this gist. I've called them enough now, that I pretty well have the drill down and I'm slowly getting to understand what it is they're saying, but as the title of this blog entry says "This is Ecuador."
How we feel now that the oven works!
Living abroad is a bit like a baseball game...long stretches of boredom interspersed with moments of excitement and sheer terror. So if you're considering it keep in mind: the quirkiness and unexpectedness; it's all part of the adventure.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sea of Tranquility

So, I thought that it might be a good idea to start mediating. Something that I've always liked the idea of, but have never been able to achieve. (You know that scene in "Eat, Pray, Love" where she has to mediate for an hour or two and is already crazy in the second minute...that's me.)

I'm one of those mind is constantly busy. If I was solving world problems, I wouldn't feel so bad about it, but it's mostly just drivel, interspersed with the odd moment of inspiration. Being a writer, I spend a lot of time just making stuff up in my head. Anyhow, due to a series of  unfortunate events, I've been feeling stressed out. (I know, what could possibly be stressful in my life? It's all relative...seriously.) Now, after all the horribleness and discord, it seems even more important.

Ron was out, I chose a nice relaxing piece of music that I used to use when I did yoga and positioned myself on the sofa, cross legged. I told myself that I could make it at least five minutes. I admit that it was a struggle. My mind is preprogrammed to roam. I realized that I could actually hold a quasi-mantra in my head and still think of things in behind it. I'd kill the rambling and refocus on breathing. It was hard work in a way. (I occasionally caught myself saying "shut up, stupid!" and that's not a healthy thought process, so I switched it to "not right now". It seemed to work.)

Now, I have no problem sitting still. Those who know me well, know that I'm notoriously lazy and can loaf around all day with little difficulty, but I have yet to achieve the same thing mentally. Sure, I had to shift my foot a couple of times to prevent developing pins and needles, but besides that I was still. I pushed through to the end of the song and then realized that it was 17  minutes long. I'd done it: passed the 5 minute mark and then tripled it. I'd managed to rein in my thoughts, sometimes for more than 30 seconds and I actually did feel calmer.
So what did I learn? Like anything, finding that moment of peace, no matter how fleeting isn't going to be easy. I'll need to work at it (especially since our oven still isn't working and needs to have all the thermostats tested...sigh), but it is possible - I hope. Here's to maybe five to eight months. 
However long it takes, let us find peace.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lest We Forget

I come from a military family, so Remembrance Day is an important day to me. I feel it in my heart and soul. Thousands of people have fought  to keep Canada the welcoming, inclusive country that I know and love and I'm glad to say that it looks like we might have that back now.

This is a quick note to say thank you to all of those who have served our country, protected our freedoms. Thank you to those of you who paid the ultimate price for the privileges I have enjoyed in my life. Thank you to those that have come back forever changed by what you saw and did in the name of Canada; your sacrifice has not gone unnoticed and I am grateful for it. 

Thank you to my two nephews who served, my father and all the way back to Charles Michel de Salaberry, who served in the war of 1812. As I said, I'm part of a military family. Thank you to the families who were left behind and had to worry and wonder about our military personnel being safe, or coming home.

I remember everyday, but today, at 11:11 specifically, I'll be thinking about all of you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

When Things Go Wrong...And They Will

Okay, so most people traveling the globe will be reluctant to tell you about the down side. The unexpected illness from food you're not used to, the miscommunications due to lack of linguistic skills, stores not having the things you are desperate for, wearing the same clothes for days on end as you try and get to where ever you're going. I guess you get the drift.
Disasters happen...get used to it
Things do go wrong. We know this, but we keep it on the down low, at least most of the time. The people we keep it from know that we do, but don't ask. They're as infatuated with the fairy tale as we are.

So what do you do when things go wrong while you're abroad? The first thing to do is take a deep breath. Case in point: our oven.

We have an oven that we bought in Canada, specifically for our apartment here. We uncrated it at the end of January, which makes it about 10 months old now. It's a self-cleaning oven, so one would think that it know...self-clean. We ran the cleaning cycle for the first time at the end of August in preparation for our home exchange. Well, the thing hadn't even run the full cycle when the display went black and the "safety" lock seized up and nothing could be done. We did a bit of internet research (what did we do before the internet?) and discovered that this isn't unusual for modern ovens. (Surprise, surprise!) We did as was recommended and replaced the thermal fuse. The door unlocked, the display came up, the interior fan ran...we were in business. Thinking that all was well, we headed back home for a nice long visit.

On our return, I went to bake some heat. There were still lights, displays, the fan was still running, but not a lick of heat. Sigh...the mother board was fried.(Special note: there is a board to run the display panel and a main control board.) Whirlpool would not do anything as our warranty was void because we'd taken the unit out of the country. (That's a whole other story, unto itself, but know that Whirlpool will not take responsibility for design flaws, known or otherwise.)

So what do you do? The part cost us $280 (including shipping within Canada). Then we had to get it here... that's another $190. We'll see how long it actually takes, but it was sent from Vancouver on the 3rd of November and is supposedly going to arrive on the 11th. (Yup, that's right...$290 for a delivery that takes more than a week. Oh, and we'll likely need to pay duty on the part as well. Working over? Priceless. Don't mistake me there was plenty of blue language between the discovery, Whirlpool's inability to admit that there was a problem with the design and actually ordering the part.

What's the lesson in this? Obviously, if you're abroad, things can be more expensive...anything that involves something back home can cost dearly, so you have to be prepared for it. A contingency fund is a necessary thing, so is a good sense of humour and patience...patience...patience. (Did I mention patience?) 

No road is completely smooth, there are pot holes, construction zones, dead ends and just getting lost. You can try and be as prepared as possible, but nothing is perfect, so paste on a smile and take care of business.

We're still waiting on the part and have confirmed that there is $25USD in duty outstanding. Fingers crossed that all goes well. Stay tuned.