Monday, November 7, 2016

Shopping at the Cuenca Mercados

We love shopping at the mercados here in Cuenca, and have recently gotten some great deals from the Feria Libre mercado. You can get wonderful prices at the other mercados too. The prices are amazing:
This GIGANTIC papaya (see photo) along with 10 beautiful oranges was only $3. I wanted to give you a sense of the huge size of the papaya so included some other fruit in the photo along with the dollar bill so you can see the comparison.
This HUGE bunch of green onions (see photo) was $0.50. We cut them up and froze them!

The 6 DELICIOUS mangoes were $1.
The SUPER BIG 3 cauliflower heads and 2 SUPER BIG broccoli bunches were only $2.
A MASSIVE bunch of bananas was only $1.
A LARGE pineapple was only $1.50.
A BUCKET of tomatoes was $1.00.  
Two "cubetos" or 60 (30*2) large eggs were $6.60 (Yes, we eat a lot of eggs)
Bargaining is expected, and we did for most items. But even I couldn't bring myself to bargain for less than $0.50 for the green onions.

Helpful Hints:
1. Greet the vendors first with: Cómo estás. Buenos días. This is the way business is done in Cuenca and it is so nice to make that personal connection first!
2. Know your numbers in Spanish - makes it so much easier to recognize what they are telling you and when you are attempting to bargain back.
3. When bargaining, whenever possible, ADD to what is being offered, rather than offering less.  For example, instead of 4 mangoes or avocados, add 1 or 2 to the group, and offer the same amount.
4. When bargaining, buy more than one item from the same vendor, for example bargaining for both cauliflower and broccoli with the same vendor. Another example: the gigantic papaya was priced at $2.50 and the oranges were 8/$1 - we bargained for both asking for the papaya at $2 and 10 (not 8) oranges for the $1.
5. Always with a pleasant smile on your face and a small frown when you hear that first price. Remember that "por favor" and "gracias" works wonders. 
4. Have your money out, preferably exact change, and be ready to pay. (A bird in the hand...)
6. Go to several vendors, and find out what their going prices are. Often you will see other transactions happening so pay attention to what is being offered.  Don't be afraid to experiment.
7. Be prepared to walk away if you feel the price is not right. There are many vendors offering the same thing. They will often call after you if they are willing to accept your offer.
8. Be fair, but also remember they won't sell you items for less than they wish to.
9. When you find a wonderful vendor, ask them their name, "¿Cómo te llamas?" Usually they respond so sweetly and will ask you your name too. Most likely, then you will enjoy engaging in some other friendly conversation with them. And remember where they are and go back to them!
10. Have fun!

I'm sure others will have even more helpful hints. We enjoy our mercado shopping excursions, and try to do as much of our shopping at the mercados as possible. 

Good News Shall Come To You From Far Away

“Good news will come to you from far away.”

On the day my dad died, I drove home from work and stopped into our favorite Chinese restaurant for take-out food. As you can imagine, I just didn’t feel like cooking. The meal was delicious as always, and when I opened up my fortune cookie I read, “Good news will come to you from far away.”

My mouth gaped open in shock at first. What a fortune cookie to get on that particular day, when it was anything but good news. Yet my dad has always had quite an unusual and wry, even rude sense of humor, and this would have been just like him. I shook my head in disbelief, smiled and saved the fortune cookie message.

This was in 1997, almost 20 years ago. I continued to go to this restaurant frequently for the next 5 years but never got that fortune cookie message again.

Then in late 2001, I met Michael and fell head over heels in love with him. I’d moved away from the area at that point, but eventually we made the long drive and treated ourselves to dinner at the same Chinese restaurant. I shared with him over hot and sour soup, egg rolls and other delicious dishes including the best egg foo yung ever, that I really wished he would have met my father – they would have definitely hit it off together. I imagined how both their wits and senses of humor would have connected, and especially how Michael, the come-back King of all time, would have skillfully bantered with my dad. My dad truly respected someone who could deftly spar verbally with him. In fact, when he and his second wife (not my mother) got married, we joked that their wedding vows should include the promise to “love, honor and bicker in perpetuity.”

Imagine my surprise when I opened my fortune cookie and for the first time since my dad’s passing, found the SAME message received years previously. “Good news will come to you from far away.” I couldn’t speak and was quite choked up, even in tears. That was not exactly how I liked to present myself to the new love of my life. I wasn’t quite in the “it’s ok to be vulnerable” space with him just yet. However, it was apparent to both of us that my dad and/or his sense of humor was quite present during dinner, and perhaps he did have the pleasure of meeting Michael after all. I took it as a good sign that Michael and I would indeed be very good together.

Ok, so fortune cookies speak to me. Apparently, the angels definitely like communicating in this  forum, at least with me.

I remember attending my going-away luncheon at work, and being the only one to receive a fortune cookie message, “A new job is in the offering.” And I remember getting a fortune cookie with the message, “You have a calm and unassuming manner.” Well, that wasn’t me (or so I thought) so I asked for another fortune cookie, and got the same message; I didn’t ask for another one. And when I was running a life purpose workshop and had created fortune cookie messages, everyone chose exactly the right message for them. Including me – mine was “Forgive yourself. Then act as though you truly are forgiven.” There seems to be something divine percolating through in those messages.

Another time, when I was having a depressing challenge connecting with the joy in life, I drove to downtown Issaquah. First I saw a license plate including the word, “Joy” on it. Then I browsed around a metaphysical bookstore where I saw flyers advertising “Linda Joy’s” offerings and drew a fortune cookie message offered in a dish; it said “Joy is the feeling of grinning on the inside.” I went to the library after that, and as I walked in the door, there was Martha Beck’s book, “The Joy Diet” in front of me. So I got my “joy” reminders that day! 

So I was with my best college roommate friend some years later, celebrating the 4th of July weekend together. We treated ourselves to dinner at a Chinese restaurant (different place – 100 miles away), and I was commenting to her how it was July 3rd that day, which was my dad’s birthday and sometimes I still missed him. Yes, you know what’s coming – my fortune cookie message was practically the same, something like “Good news from afar can bring you a welcome visitor.”

You can’t make this stuff up. I loved getting my “good news” messages!

There were only a few times in the 19 years when I got other messages such as “You will hear good news today” and “An unexpected phone call will bring good news” and “Good things will come to you in due time.” I always smiled and quietly said hi to my dad. And I saved all the little slips of paper.

In 2016, Michael and I decided to move to Ecuador. This move was quite a leap of faith, as we were both officially retiring from the corporate world, we had little idea what was going to really happen next, and we were anticipating our upcoming adventure with joy and some wariness. Even though, a fortune cookie message had declared, “You are going to have a very comfortable retirement.”

I drove up to Bellingham to say good bye and visit with my best friend again. Along with another couple (we had all been college friends many years ago) and their son, we went to a Chinese restaurant, to celebrate this new adventure. I hadn’t had one of those auspicious fortune cookie messages for many years. As we were all choosing our fortune cookies, my best friend and I looked at each other, in memory of what had happened in years past. I was last to choose. This time, my message read, ‘Good things come in invisible packages. You will be delighted.” We were both kind of shocked and stunned.

I was so grateful for that wonderful reminder that there’s “something” out there that is caring for us, and sending us confidence and love and “atta girl’s.” Whether it’s my dad, or guardian angels, or God, it works for me. I loved getting that last message, so serendipitously, just before we embarked on our Ecuadorian adventure.

I taped all the messages I’d received over the last 19+ years on my laptop keyboard and brought them with me to Cuenca. They do have Chinese food here in Ecuador, but they don’t serve fortune cookies. So it will be interesting to see how future “messages” get delivered. In the meantime, I have my daily reminders of the precious love that transcends time and space.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

OMG? WTF! Need an eye doctor in Cuenca? This one has a sense of humor that only an English-speaking gringo would understand.  Here is their eye chart displayed prominently just outside their office door. They're on Ordoñez Lasso around the corner from the Super Maxi.  I'm ROTF! :P

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Hola from Pumapungo!

We started a fun Wednesday with a quiet morning at home, then walked into El Centro for a relaxing cloud-watching idyll at our favorite San Sebastian park - a very young boy was playing with the fountain spray and the pigeons were alternately nesting on the roof of the church and swooping down and back again.

We followed that with a delicious lunch at El Pedregal Azteca with new friends, Sparky and Linda, who've been in Ecuador 6 years. And guess how we met - we were out walking and just happened to bump into Sparky coming from the dentist, and we all introduced ourselves - voila - new friends!  Such wonderful serendipity!

See our TripAdvisor review on the El Pedregal Azteca restaurant - a little more expensive than the usual Cuenca almuerzo and well worth it!  

Afterwards we walked to one of our favorite panaderias on Huayna Capac for some great pan de chocolate, custard-filled pan, coconut/custard-filled pan and some with cheesy-goodness. Yummy!


We continued our walk to the Pumapungo Ruins, also one of our favorite places. We've enjoyed the museum before, so headed straight for the stairs down to the bird sanctuary, laguna and gardens. I feel like this is my own private and precious park sanctuary and so relish walking through, enjoying the cool breezes, the lovely shade, the rockery and many varieties of trees, plants and flowers throughout the gardens.

There's always something new! Today it was this purple flower!

We were treated by some beautiful macaws at the bird sanctuary - repeatedly telling us, "Hola!" This was a first - previously they'd simply squawked and cawed.  What a fun treat! You're going to love it!  Enjoy the "Hola from Pumapungo" video!

We didn't walk back home.  Instead, we walked a few blocks and hopped on a bus (25cents per ride) that brought us within 1 block of home. There were still over 11,400 steps recorded on my Pacer app.  All in all, another excellent day in Cuenca.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Traveling from USA to Ecuador - Here's a synopsis of our trip in May, from our Issaquah, WA home to our new life in Cuenca, Ecuador. Another post will review our feelings and unbridled emotions, intense at times, that we were feeling.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

We had little or no sleep on Tuesday night, as we planned to leave for the airport at 12:45am early Wednesday morning, thinking to be really early to avoid issues with long TSA lines. Michael tried snoozing on our bed, now in the dining room, while I did some last-minute stuff, like packing our airplane snacks, and wandering through our home saying goodbye. By 12 midnight though, we were both up and making sure we were ready for the Shuttle Express.

Our precious “Monkey” had already said goodbye and his batteries were packed. He would take special care of “Sweetums” as we traveled to our new home.

Our bed was the last item in the house, and we moved it to the garage, and positioned all of our luggage at the end of the driveway. So excited to be on our way. Thank you Shuttle Express for a complimentary upgrade to the SUV.

Our Shuttle Express driver arrived around 12:45 and we loaded up our seven (7) 50-lb suitcases / black cases, and four (4) carry-ons, plus ourselves and the all-important bag of snacks. We each had layers of clothes and jackets on, with our pockets full of “necessary” items not packed otherwise. Why pack two jackets, when you can wear both? Great idea, but we looked rather stout. And warm.

Fortunately, although there were moments (reminders to "breathe" and "trust"), our ever-present guardian angel team (thank you!) did an outstanding job, and we were very blessed to have everything go smoothly, as we flew out of Seattle, to Los Angeles, to Miami, and then to Guayaquil, Ecuador to start our new life adventure!

We arrived at the airport about 1:30am, a bit early for our 5:05am flight, but that’s how we planned it that way. Unfortunately neither American Airlines nor Alaska Airlines (our 1st flight was under American Airlines but provided by Alaska Airlines) was open and wouldn’t be open until 3:15am. So we would have only 1 hour 50 minutes to make it to the gate! Note to the airlines: they need to handle the timing issues at this early hour, because we know that many people have not been able to get through baggage check-in and TSA security in time for their flights!

We made great use of the wait time from 1:30am to 3:15am. Deborah saw the airline scales and had to verify the weight of EACH one of the checked bags. Whew – each one was 49.5 to 50.0 lbs. None were over the 50 lb limit. Such a relief! Back at home, one of us would get on the bathroom scale to weigh ourselves separately, then step off, and step on again with the heavy case, while the other read the scale. The scale seemed to be accurate, but periodically would weigh a few pounds higher or lower. Stressful but such a comedy as we stepped off and on, off and on, again and again, for each of the seven (7) bags, many times over! We didn’t want to be charged hundreds of dollars for overweight baggage. What to bring? What to leave behind? Especially at this late stage, it had been an ongoing stressful process that we could only hope would end well in our favor. And now, it was confirmed! We were NOT overweight.

We had decided on the less expensive economy booking, rather than first class. With first class, you get one more free checked bag and the checked bags could be up to 75 lbs each.  Apparently this extra bag bonus is going away, so check with your airlines as these baggage rules are always changing. And sometimes there are cargo embargos (usually out of Quito) where you are limited even more. We paid for our extra checked baggage, but still saved many hundreds of dollars with our economy flight choice. For us it was worth it, as we decided to bank that money to use in setting up our household in Ecuador, rather than schlepping even more stuff down.

We couldn’t check in on our own, as ours was an international destination with stops in between. The Alaska Airlines desk opened at 3:15am, and by the time the attendant had weighed each of our bags, charged us for our three additional bags, walked elsewhere to record the charges, handwrote the receipts, and sent us on our way, it was 3:50am. The only TSA line that was open was very long, and we knew we just wouldn’t make it through that line in time. Fortunately, we overheard someone talking about a second TSA line opening at 4:00am, and we scooted over to that one, being second in line there. Serendipity!

Getting through that newly opened TSA line was fairly easy. We just had to keep our shoes on, remove all those jackets, remove the lap top, and personal liquids bags, and voila, done! Although Michael had to unpack his blue backpack stuffed full of electronics. They just couldn’t make out what was what.

Finally, TAKE-OFF!  I could finally fall asleep on the flight from SeaTac to LAX.

We made the flight connections at LAX (it was a long, long walk but no complaints as it was nice to really stretch our legs) and Miami (only 53 minutes there - whew! but we easily went from Gate 41 to 44 to catch that flight easily - woo hoo!). I wouldn't chance such a short layover in the future though. Word to the wise!

We had to check the 8th bag at Miami since that flight was super full and prayed that it would make it through with the valuables inside with only one lock (we had ran out of locks so not all compartments were secure, but it made it through A-OK with nothing missing, and nothing broken).

For the international flight from Miami to Guayaquil, we had extra leg room being at the bulkhead (Michael at 6'2" was even more appreciative of that). Thank goodness for our packed snacks as no meal service is included in the airfare price any more between SeaTac/LAX, and LAX/MIA, although they did have some pricey offerings that weren't very appealing, and we enjoyed munching on our good snacks. On the Guayaquil flight we were treated to a nice, albeit small dinner (by then, we were ready for a "real" meal and the caramel brownie was luscious. Nice touch.).

We arrived in Ecuador an hour late last night (if there had to be a late flight, at least it was the last one with no more connections needed). And the travel ease continued. Our angels had definitely been preparing the way for us and I know I sensed their calming presence directly and often.

At Guayaquil, Ecuador customs and baggage inspections, we sailed through so quickly, like there was a wind at our back, with our 12 pieces of luggage – now eight (8) checked and two (2) carry-ons plus by then an additional bag of extra coats and of course the snacks. We easily streamed through the initial passport check (no questions!) and then luggage customs check (they only wanted to know what all those tiny bottles were – they were my Doterra essential oils), and quickly connected with Jorge Lopez, our driver / B&B host, and got to his B&B easily.

We had come with one-way tickets, and had purchased online bus tickets to Peru - many times, if you don't have residency status, they will refuse to let you into Ecuador unless you can show that you are leaving, even though you are not. You can do this a number of ways and we felt the lowest cost risk was booking the bus tickets. Many times, they won't check, but it's best to be prepared if they do.  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Jorge made us a great breakfast this morning (thanks again for your hospitality!). We met a lovely couple from Georgia (hello to Elsie and Walter!), and enjoyed the 4-hour drive trip with his driver, Ivan to Cuenca today.

Travel note:  We decided to fly to Guayaquil instead of Quito, just to make sure to avoid any issues with possible Cotapaxi volcanic eruptions since it has been recently active. Of course, with the coastal earthquake that had happened one month previously, on April 16, maybe we should have considered that possibility too, but our tickets were booked.  Also, we didn't want to take a chance on flying into Cuenca and experiencing issues with getting our luggage to come along with us. Sometimes there can be issues with a local airline accepting all your luggage. Plus, the Cuenca airport had been known to close due to rain, and no refunds would have been given if that was the case. We also knew that there would have been no flights until the next morning, any ways.

We liked our decision to travel by van from Guayaquil to Cuenca. The scenery through the Cajas is amazing!  We chose a safe driver too, essential in Ecuador! Our AirBnB studio apartment in Cuenca on Mariscal Sucre is quite lovely and our host is very gracious. We chose one with a private kitchen and a modern bathroom. We booked a full month to give us time to explore and shop for our more permanent home with ease. No pressure, no rush, and we get to ease into Cuenca living slowly!

We're here! We're really here! We were thrilled to be back in Cuenca after our exploratory trip in September 2015. This is our view from our home for our first month in Cuenca. The first photo is looking to the left, the second photo is looking to the right out of our window on the third floor.

Our "Monkey" got his batteries back in, and his first words were "Ahhh...that's better". And then he said, "This is cool, I'm getting dizzy." Guess he's acclimating to the 8,400 feet altitude. More on Monkey later. "Sweetums" also joined us on our travels and both are quite relaxed in their new digs.

We had a great trip and feel quite blessed that it went as smoothly as it did. We could both feel ourselves decompressing at this point. Major whoosh! And we're actually in Cuenca, after all the planning and traveling!  What will it be like? Time will tell.

For now, we got to decide what will be our first dinner in our new home: Raymipampa at Parque Calderon, chosen especially for their delicious humitas we’d experienced before. Dessert was at Tutto Freddos – we enjoyed a tiramisu and their chocolate torte.

Monday, September 5, 2016

In the book, "The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts" by Gary Chapman, he describes five (5) love languages.  They are:  physical affection, acts of service, gifts, quality time together, and words of affirmation. Most people have a primary love language, and then a secondary one.

You know you feel truly "loved" when your partner "speaks" your love language. This is not always easy because if your love language is "acts of service" and his language is "gifts", then if he tries to express his love for you by speaking his language (not yours) and gives you gifts, it could miss the mark and fall short, since your love language is different.  So the key is to identify your partner's love language and then "speak" their love language (not yours) as often as possible. It's fun to find out what each other's love languages are.  Usually it's pretty obvious, and no, the guy's primary love language is not usually "physical affection."

My husband, Michael's primary love language is "quality time together" and knowing this, I focus on being fully present and engaged in our time together.  His secondary love language is "physical affection" and that's an easy one for me to "speak" to him, since that is my secondary one too.  Touching, caressing, physically cherishing him really says, "You are loved."

And Michael definitely speaks my primary love language" which is "words of affirmation." He is a writer, so I lucked out. For years, while in the corporate world, I'd receive a "Good morning, Beautiful" daily email from him and it often included some tidbit of appreciation. I never tired of this, and glowed and basked in his expression of his love for me.

For my 60th birthday, he wrote 60 affirmations.  I've already got some of them memorized and even reference them by number.  For example, #60 sure reflects our new love of the delicious and addictive Ecuadorian "pan" or rolls.

Enjoy - I've posted them below. I hope it inspires you to start speaking each other's love languages more and quite often!

I am happy. Not the kind of happiness where one tries to make lemonade out of lemons and pretends that it is working, at least somewhat.  Or where one tries to be as happy as can be, given the circumstances, and tries to be grateful for the tiny specter of happiness that glints through at times.  No, I’m simply happy – not because I’ve attained perfection in all aspects of my life – but because the dense layer of despair and thick numbing fog has lifted and dissolved.

I can really feel the love of God and the Universe. I can truly feel the love of my husband and friends. I can truly feel the beauty of my surroundings and I can enjoy with childlike glee all the moments of my day. I am ME, not that I ever was not ME, but that true essence of ME has percolated to the surface and is being expressed more than ever before, in all its innocence and fullness.

I’m approaching life with a sense of happy anticipation as I identify what comes next, sometimes inspired, sometimes perplexed, but always with a delightful sense of basking in a happy and loving surround. Not perfection per se, as many would define it, but simply a beautiful attitude of relishing life unfolding, in a lazy way or productive way, without a script or quota, yet with an inborn intention to experience and appreciate it all.

I’ve always been a seeker of Truth and spiritual unfoldment and that resulted in many healing and sustaining insights. And last September I embarked on an intense retreat with my husband, Michael, where we experienced several Ayahuasca and San Pedro ceremonies in Ecuador. The insights gained were powerful, and when I returned to my life in the USA, the impulse and insistency to listen to AND follow my intuition was irresistible and could no longer be ignored. In short order, I completed my sales career and retired, reveled in precious time in Hawaii where I snorkeled and cared for a loving family, disassembled a household, and made plans to spend some time on a new adventure in Ecuador. All in perfect synchronization with my husband’s desired next steps.  

While I’m so grateful for all the good that came from my previous life as it paved the way for where I am now, I’m enormously grateful we moved to Cuenca and are resetting, recharging, resting, relaxing, rejuvenating, and relishing life. It’s a good day on this 60th birthday of mine (Sept 2), and a good life. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

There's something quite wonderful about waking up at 8:30 (no alarm), having a delicious breakfast of healthy eggs (the yolks are a rich orange-yellow), Ecuadorian "pan" rolls (our new addiction), homemade orange-pineapple juice (using produce from the mercados) and Ecuadorian coffee ($4 per pound).

In our beautiful apartment overlooking the Tomebamba River, looking out of our picture window at the skies and mountains. With the best partner in the world, my husband Michael. For all this, and so much more, I'm incredibly grateful and appreciative!