Monthly Archives: August 2012

A short post today

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A marvelous spirited cat, Feisty shared her life with us for exactly 17 years. I will miss her companionship terribly.

A short post to thank everyone who has been rooting for Feisty the cat to regain her health.  Unfortunately, it turned out she had too much kidney damage to recover.  She died peacefully this morning after a night of cuddling against me, as she loved to do.  I will miss her terribly. She faced life with a whole-hearted, mischievous, curious personality.  She had an ability to be entertaining, spirited and sweet all in the same day.  She was a marvelous companion for 17 years, meeting every challenge thrown her way.  She was a huge comfort to me when we first launched our adventure in Ecuador – she was the stable, loving cat she had always been. She had a good life and shared it with her family unselfishly.

Thank you for your kind thoughts and words,

Sharon

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Gluten Free User’s Group is launched

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A favorite building near Parque Calderon in El Centro

The first meeting of the Gluten Free User’s Group was on Tuesday, Aug 21, and was a great success.  8 people attended with varying degrees of needs.  Some are pondering switching to a gf (gluten free) lifestyle which means eating with no wheat, barley or rye and for some no oats.  Plans were made for future meetings to have guest speakers or to be a focus group.  It was a wonderful gathering of people who normally keep a low profile about food and health issues.  The next meeting will be the last Tuesday of next month, Sept 26. Please contact Sharon  nature93@gmail.com if you would like to attend. You are welcome to come.

Other future plans for the group may include a field trip to shops where gluten-free grains and products may be found.  Some people have celiac disease which is treated by eating a gluten free diet. Some have a sensitivity to wheat.  Some simply want to try living without wheat/barley/rye to see if their general well being improves.  Finding ready made gluten free products is difficult, such as pasta made from quinoa/corn/etc, , bread made from brown rice flour/garbanzo bean flour/teff flour, things of this nature.  One thing the group is seeking is to locate amaranth(either ground flour or whole) and to find if anyone carries xanthan gum which is used in gluten free baking to add elasticity similar to what the gluten in wheat does. Xanthan gum is necessary in tiny quantities to keep bread from collapsing and to add elasticity to gluten free flours.

Feisty, la gata

Now about another topic: my 17 year old cat is at the hospital today with kidney problems – perhaps kidney failure.  I was referred by another ex-pat, Karen, to a wonderful, compassionate vet who speaks English and explained everything as he did various tests – she is staying for at least one night to rehydrate and see if her kidneys will rev up in response to treatment.

Feisty has had a wonderful life – for the first 11 years she lived on a farm with us in Oregon where there were horses and alpacas and plenty of mice to hunt.  For the past 7 years she has been an inside cat.  She moved from the suburbs near Portland to Cuenca, Ec 15 months ago.  She adapted to life here like a champ.  I know that she may not live much longer but, wow, do I love that cat.  She is the best cat with the most personality – and I’ve had a lot of cats- ever since I was old enough to walk.  I’m hoping she will recover for at least a few more life experiences but will accept whatever seems best for her.  Thanks for listening on that.

A bright quilt that is very close to being all completed

And now a word about quilting, since this is primarily a  blog about Cuenca life, quilting and other issues, like gluten free life.    After we moved 3 wks ago, I organized my quilt studio up to a point and then got busy on the rest of the house.  Today, I got my sewing maching set up again on the cabinet HOORAYso I can now organize the cabinet drawers and start sewing again.  I have several quilts to complete.  A couple just need binding, a couple of quilt tops need to be layered and quilted.  And the king size bed quilt needs to be quilted and bound.  Of course what I want to do is start a new project.  I’ll get up there and get to work…and see what happens.

I hope all of your quilting goes smoothly.
I hope you who are animal lovers give your pets an extra hug tonight.

And I hope each of you readers has a marvelous day.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Sharon

Thoughts about Cuenca after 15 months “on the ground”

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Overlooking Solano Ave from Turi   in Cueca, EC

Overlooking Solano Ave from Turi in Cueca, EC

I’ve been thinking about Cuenca, trying to picture the current impact of this influx of ex-pats from different countries but mostly from the US and Canada.  Well, how does this impact the local economy and what do many Cuencanos think of us?  Let me point out that I am not an expert on economic impact so this is merely my speculation from observations and conversations in the past year or so.

Rio Tomebamba

Numbers vary widely but it seems most likely that there are about 4000 legal expats from the US here in this city of approximately 400,000. Fewer Canadians, fewer still from the UK, Thailand, France, Germany, Japan,  Australia and other parts of the world.  Some people say that the price of groceries and housing are higher, that it is the fault of the ex-pats being here with a higher standard of living in their history. They think that is causing prices of groceries to creep up and to cause housing (both rentals and homes for sale) to increase in value.  Lets do the math for a second.  Even if we go wild and say there are 10,000 expat in Cuenca, the US expats make up less than 3% of the population, if I’m doing the math correctly.

That is a pretty insignificant number.  This means for a second, imagine you are in your community and 3 people out of every 100 people has more money than you do and asks for fancier living arrangements than you are used to and may have very fair skin and silver or blond hair.  Would that drive the cost of houses up?  Would that person’s buying groceries cause food prices to go up across the country?
I realize that in the US, there is a serious drought underway and the failure of many crops will cause prices to soar.  It is very frightening.  So with the above paragraph, I’m saying that I do not think the impact of the ex-pats is a huge one.  Ex-pats are easy to spot because, although many Ecuadorians are very light-skinned, our very fair skin, our apparent age and silver or blonde hair often makes us noticeable – certainly not every ex-pat but a lot of us.  I am  not saying we are a target because I do not believe we are, but I am saying that many ex-pats are noticed by local residents.

Beautiful Santo Domingo church near Gran Columbia and Padre Aguirre

Think of it from the Cuencanos’ perspective: there were no good roads to Cuenca until the late 1950’s-early1960’s.  The airport was new around that time.  So until then, very few visitors from other countries made it to Cuenca.  Therefore, people who do not look as if they are a Cuencano or Latin American are noticed simply because of this change.  There is also the small but nasty problem of “ugly Americans” who talk loudly, do not want to learn about the culture, act superior, do not try to learn Espanol,order people around in a superior way, complain about things that are part of the culture and have other behaviors that are simply not good manners. Frankly, I wish those people would stay in their country of origin until/unless they succeed at a cultural sensitivity training and take it to heart.  But that is my fantasy, not the reality.  Ugly American behaviors attract attention and leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. It happens.
But, for the most part, I find the people of Cuenca to be friendly, kind and tranquil.  Not as much road rage, happy to have a holiday, generally lighter of spirit than I was experiencing in Portland or San Francisco, two cities I lived in or near over the past 45 years. Cuencanos are generally interested in where we come from and offer helpful suggestions when asked.  There is a very strong work ethic among the various classes of Cuencanos. They usually do not like to pitch a big fit if there is a disagreement many would shrug and walk away. although the hot Latin temper can flare with some people.  In my experience with the people of Cuenca, some of whom are very dear to me, they are almost always late but that is a cultural difference we need to accept. If you invite people for 6 pm, they are likely to string in about 6:30 – 7:30.  Some of them do not call to say they will be late or they are not coming, something my English ancestors would find to be shockingly bad manners…but it is a cultural difference to accept. Being 1 person out of every 40 Ecuadorians, I’m not going to change the culture and should not expect to.  It is simply different.

Is Cuenca building too much housing?

Housing: well, of course, the economy has been growing in Ecuador so housing would go up.  More apartments and condos are being built to attract foreigners and the middle class of Cuenca.  Personally, I think they are over-building Cuenca like crazy but…time will tell. The good news is that you will not have much trouble finding a house/apartment/condo to buy or rent.  Will housing continue to go up?  If we knew what the economies of the world are going to do, we might have a clue about that answer.

Theft?Yes, it can happen.  Here is one way that ex-pats make themselves a target: if you are wearing flashy jewelry, an expensive watch, carrying a bag that looks as if it holds valuable things AND/OR if you are walking kind of slow/frail/slumped or looking lost or tentative?  Someone may come along and see that as an opportunity to steal all of the items listed in the previous sentence or to grab that IPhone just as you hold it up to take a photo.  Crime happens everywhere.  If you are walking assertively and you are aware of everyone/every thing in your surroundings, you are less likely to be robbed. By the way, this happens to Ecuadorians as well.  I have talked with several people who reported crimes over the past 20 years such as pickpockets,  home invasions, holding up people at night with a knife or gun.  But  these are rare incidents. And remember crime happens all over the world. Being cautious and smart about where you are and what the risks are, while acting confident and assertive, will go a long way toward personal safety.

And here is the MOST IMPORTANT thing to take away from the previous paragraph:  if someone wants your jewelry or IPad or bag, let them have it!.  It is NOT worth getting stabbed or shot or beat up.  It is just stuff!  Your life is invaluable but cosas (stuff) can be replaced.

Hummingbirds – whimsical art in a plaza

So where is this all leading for me?  I love living in Cuenca – mi gusta Cuenca!  Yes, prices are going up, some new government rules make it harder to immigrate to Ecuador but some rules are a bit more clear (at least this week).  Cuenca is a lively, active, gorgeous city with lots to do and see.  There are people to meet and restaurants to explore.  Museums, Inca ruins, the new zoo, galleries, architecture, art fairs all add to the mix of humanity.  The city is a nice size – one can get to know it if you walk a lot.  It is usually sunny during the day and gets cool, sometimes chilly, at night.  There is little humidity, there are no big spiders and very few bugs. The rainfall is half of what Portland, OR gets in a year.  There are luscious, ripe fruits and avocados  to die for.  I’ve been known to tell people that the pina (pineapple) juice at Cafe Austria is reason enough to remain in Cuenca! Hummingbirds show up everywhere in an amazing variety. Lots of flowers bloom all year.  Cuenca is working to improve streets, replace broken sidewalks and assist traffic patterns.  We hear that a light rail will start building in a couple of years and that the very smoggy diesel buses will be banned from roving around parts of  El Centro, the historic part of the city.  There are many things to love about this city. It is not for everyone! But it has a lot to offer people who have a mindset to accept and learn about cultural differences, who speak Espanol or are willing to learn, and who have a curiosity about life in another part of the world.

To summarize my thoughts, life in Cuenca as a minority person is somewhat similar to many cities around the world.  People must face the challenge to accept change and embrace people who do not always look or act like them.  However, many people welcome change, show curiosity about each other and accept that foreigners are moving here.  I had one person in sales thank me for coming to Cuenca.  I asked why and he said “you newcomers have knowledge, skills and wisdom that are all welcome here.  You buy products we have for sale. We need to get along with everyone from other parts of the world so thank you for the opportunity.”    That was a heart warming conversation.

The BRIGHT king size quilt is cheerful any time of day

Hope you are having a terrific week.  To my friends who are on vacation, have a fabulous, relaxing time.

To everyone else, find a way each day to have your own fabulous time, at least for a brief hour or more. Pursue a hobby, get lost in a book, sit in a garden or park.  It does the heart and spirit good. It lowers blood pressure and eases painful joints.  It clears the mind and enriches your daily life. Thank you for reading my blog.

Enjoy!

Sharon

Cuenca Gluten-free Users’ Group/Support Group to begin Aug 21

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The first meeting of theCuenca Gluten-free Users Group is next week, Tues 8/21 from 10:30 am to 12 noon. If you are gluten intolerant (cannot eat wheat/barley/rye) you  may find it challenging to live in Cuenca.  Others have information to share, questions, ways to garner support in a city where few are diagnosed as having celiac disease or being intolerant of wheat.

Future meetings will have guest speakers, a focus group for a merchant who is considering opening a store with gf products, other things related to living safe from gluten in a country full of bread and pasta and soups loaded with wheat products.

Join this small group as it begins a journey together. There will be a drawing for a Gluten Free cookbook at the first meeting.

Directions:

The address:  Los Alamos 3-66 y Av Tres de noviembre.

On Tres de nov. there is an underpass (going under Av de las Americas).  As you come out of the underpass, take an IMMEDIATE right on Urupan, a short street with a right angle – so turn R on Urupan, R at the right angle and R onto Los Alamos.

3-66 is on the R , the 2nd house from the corner of Urupan y Los Alamos.  White house with black gate, clearly marked.

There is free parking on the right side of the street on Los Alamos.

Please email me with your phone number if you need directions by bus.

 Joe’s Secret Garden Restaurant is on Los Pinos, kind of straight through our block, if that helps.

 Sharon