Sunday, July 10, 2016

June 11 to June 17- One Week in the Life of a jubilada (retiree) in Salinas, Ecuador

I quite often get asked by my friends and family back home ' But what do you do all week in a strange country far from friends and family?'  So I thought it was about time I came clean.

Here is a pretty typical week in what is our early fall. Though usually we spend at least 1 day a week lounging on our beach, this particular week we did not.

Saturday June 11

Every morning, not just this one, starts about the same way for us. We get out of bed about 6:30 or so, read email, newspapers on line and FB. Drink our 2 cups of coffee during and then have cereal, fruit & yogurt for breakfast.
That morning I had an appointment for a medical check up at a new doctor I had not previously met. I just needed a check up, my women's work  & my blood work done. The doctor's office was about a half hour walk away so I took the local bus (.25 cents) and arrived in lots of time for my 10:30AM appointment. Dr. Elke Ruiz was very personable and spoke perfect English- she had grown up in New York!

After my checkup it was off to a birthday party for my Ecuadorian friend, Susana, at a local Hostal with a beautiful pool.

               Lots of her friends attended

               Susana with her birthday cake

            And later much fun in the pool

Sunday June 12

On Sundays we actually try to do nothing! We make no plans and just try to spend time together. For Uwe this means watching all his favorite sports. So to summarize our sports day:

Blue Jays beat Baltimore 10 to 9 ( Uwe has the MLB package so we can watch any & all baseball games)

Ecuador beat Haiti in the America Cup 4 to 0 to move on to the next level- quite an achievement for our National Soccer team!

And Canadian Brooke Henderson who is only 18 years old won an LPGA major Golf Tournament in the USA!

Sundays don't get any better then that LOL

Monday June 13

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we have a 1 hour yoga class in the mezzanine common area of my condo building. Since we have no resident yoga teachers, I lead the class Monday & Friday and my friend Tari leads Wednesdays. The classes are from 9 to 10AM and are geared to us more senior citizens but still pretty intense. I love my yoga sessions and since starting them approximately 2 years ago, I have had no more sciatica nerve problems.

As well, most Mondays, if we both have time, I meet with my student Vicente for our weekly lesson. I teach him English and he teaches me Spanish for approximately 1 hour. We have done many excursions together- shopping at the mercado, watching my guards play in a soccer tournament, fish shopping at the beach in Santa Rosa and many others. We try to split the session between speaking a half hour of each language. This day we were meeting at a local restaurant, Aloha2, where we translated and made up sentences.
During the 6 months we had been doing this, we have become good friends.

After my session with Vicente, I walked to our local grocery store to meet Uwe and we shopped for some supplies.

Tuesday June 13

Every month I go to my friend Tari for a 1 hour massage. She is a licensed Physical Therapist and gives an awesome massage. This is my monthly treat and at my age (well, actually at any age) massages are so good for you. She has a beautiful room with massage table in her condo. Soft music, gently breezes, and aromatherapy complete this amazing picture.

On this particular day, I went to Cruz Roja after to have my blood drawn for my blood work. Cruz Roja runs a clinic for this type of work plus has a doctor on prem for check ups etc.

After, I went for my monthly pedicure at one of the local Beauty Salons. Now, they do not have all the fancy vibrating chairs and foot baths but for $4 they give an awesome treat. 

We ended this great day with Pizza night with friends at Marco's Papa Pizza Restaurant- one of our favorite places.

Wednesday June 15

After my yoga session, Uwe and I walked once again to our neighborhood grocery store to buy beer and sweets for a Music night to be held later at our friends Lynn & Rick's house.

This was the second session of a 4 part Beatles Anthology video series. Part 1 & 2 at Rick & Lynn's, part 3 at our condo the following week and the last at Craig & Tina's house.

We had ordered a taxi to take us there at 6PM as they lived about 30 minutes away. Rick & Lynn have a beautiful new house with a big TV, lots of seating and snacks for half time. Another awesome music evening with +-30 good friends!

Thursday June 16

Today was the 3rd Women's Honey Hunt! Twice before a few of us women, had driven with Randy to buy honey at a village called Colonche up the coast. We all wanted unpasteurized honey for it's health benefits so why not buy it straight from the farm.
Doris & I met Randy at the Ballenita Bus station and away we went.
Colonche was approximately 45 minutes up the coast- a nice drive to see coastal scenery and chat.  When we arrived at the farm, no one was home! Damn! However we knew a small tienda a few villages further that sold the farm's honey so away we went.
The proprietor remembered us from a previous visit- really, how many gringas actually make it to such an out-of-the-way place- and we bought our supplies of honey after chatting with his wife & 5 daughters in espanol of course.

Now for the best part of the day- lobster lunch on the beach in Ayangue. Here is the view from our lunch table.

And eating those delicious lobster tails

And then, margaritas on the beach after- it doesn't get any more perfect than that

Friday June 17

We had both ordered prescription glasses the week before at our local mall. I had ordered both sunglasses & normal- I mostly need them for driving which I only do in Canada and maybe golfing- if my ball goes far enough LOL- and Uwe had ordered new sunglasses only as his were a bit scratched. Mine cost a total of $187 for both but Uwe was a bit more fussy and his were $237. Obviously a wide variety of styles and costs are available.

After picking up the glasses- yes, they were ready- we went to the food court and had a great pizza for lunch.

So ends a fairly normal week in the life of an expat retiree. 

Some of our weekly activities missing on this week- some only occur every 2 weeks- were our Tuesday afternoon Beersbee on the beach (a bunch of people drinking beer & playing games on the beach) and our Women's Koffee or Koctail Klatch. Not sure I would have been able to fit them in on this eventful week.

So do you still think our retired life is boring?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

April 16- The 7.8 Earthquake on the coast of Ecuador

We were just returning from a week's visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The plane was making it's decent to Guayaquil, Ecuador when the captain came on the intercom. His first communication was in Spanish and I know enough to understand that our plane was being diverted to Quito but not why.
Then he said the same thing in English ' Our plane is being diverted to Quito because the Guayaquil airport is closed, There has been an Earthquake'. PERIOD!

Nothing else, no more news about where, intensity whatever. We had no idea whether we still had a home, friends, country. Once we landed in Quito and were able to use our phones, I texted our friends back in Salinas as well as Eddie who was to pick us up at the airport. Our friends in Salinas let us know all was well- no serious damage in our home town- but a lot of shaking for almost a full minute. We also talked to Eddie and told him to go home, we had no idea when we would return to Guayaquil.

The passengers who had been scheduled to go to Quito got off the plane, the remainder stayed behind. After approximately 1 hour, we were told to fasten seat belts, we were on our way back to Guayaquil. So instead of our 8PM+ landing, we arrived back at approximately 11PM. After getting a taxi to take us back to Salinas, we arrived at our condo after 2AM- a very long day.

Walking into our condo we were a little worried as to what we would find- toppled over TV? speakers (Uwe's worst nightmare)? but all we found was our large plant down across the hallway and all our kitchen drawers open! Absolutely nothing else- we were so lucky.

The next morning we read the news. Many towns several hundred kilometers north of us had extensive damage- 50 to 80% of buildings collapsed, a total of over 600 dead- an enormous human tragedy.

The Cruz Roja Salinas sent a truck with supplies, water, mattresses, food, the next day, Sunday, with the help of the Salinas Yacht Club to the epicenter of the quake near Pedernales. For the next week we gathered funds from friends in the USA, Canada and Salinas. We received a total of $2535 to our local Cruz Roja and spent many days buying food, medical supplies, diapers , water etc for the next truckload. As well, many friends from Salinas shopped and donated- we bought out most of Supermaxi!

                            Family boxes of supplies ready to ship

                                          Packing the 2nd truck- the local army base helped

A third truck will also be going soon with the remainder of the donations.
But not only Cruz Roja in Salinas sent help. The 'Church on the Beach', the Municipality of Salinas and many local restaurants including Luccy's, gathered food and supplies and sent help. The whole town pulled together for our fellow Ecuadorians!

Here is a short story of the situation a few days after the earthquake:

A month has now passed and international relief has come plus most places are now in the process of clean-up and hopefully soon, re-building. However we are still experiencing some huge after-shocks which are causing even more devastation in the affected areas.

In Salinas, we  have many refugees of these areas that have local families here. Our Cruz Roja Salinas is again involved in providing help with housing and school supplies for displaced children.
Two families with 7 children are being helped with the completion of additional rooms in their family's house. They need a roof, windows, toilet, sink, mattresses, all of which are being donated by volunteers of Cruz Roja Salinas.

It will take a long time, maybe years, for Ecuador to get over the economic impact this disaster has brought on this wonderful country. Hopefully tourism will not suffer too much since only a small portion of Ecuador was actually affected.

 But people are already celebrating rebuilding in some of the terremoto areas.

Has this soured our desire to live here? Absolutely not. The fault line that caused this earthquake and many others throughout history, runs right through The Rockies including Vancouver, Oregon, California and all along the Andes mountains. Are people leaving California because of this?
So no, we are here to stay!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 9 to 16- Our trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina

At 9AM on Saturday April 9 we were on our way to yet another vacation-this time to exciting Buenos Airies in Argentina. Yes, I know, I know, we are retired -permanently on vacation- and living on the beach in beautiful Salinas, Ecuador. But Uwe and I love travelling and though we had spent time throughout Ecuador visiting and living in many other interesting places we had yet to visit other countries in South America.
So it was time to start!

Our flight went through Santiago, Chile and after a short layover- enough time to hit the Duty-Free- onwards to Buenos Aires. The entire trip was as long as our returns to Canada- almost 8 hours! We arrived late into the evening ( Buenos Aires in 2 hours ahead of the Ecuador time zone) and hired a Remi taxi to take us to our hotel. You can pay for these in the airport and use your visa. We had heard many disturbing accounts of tourists being given counterfeit money as change from the taxi drivers- better safe than sorry!

Our hotel, Design Suites, was an RCI timeshare exchange and was very nice and in an excellent area of Buenos Aires
                          Our suite was quite large- nice living room


                                      And separate bedroom

                     The next morning, a free breakfast buffet was included.

We were off to our first day of exploration. Since we loved walking, we checked our map and decided which way to go to visit the famous Recoleta Cemetery. Buenos Aires is a truly beautiful city- very clean, scenic and very European.

                 Flower kiosks at almost every corner
                           Quiet treed streets

                      Finally we arrived at the Entrance to the cemetery

                                    Lots & Lots of mausoleums

As well, all around the area were many kiosks selling leather goods, souvenirs, paintings etc

For lunch we found a Brew Pub- yes, there are Brew Pubs in Buenos Aires- WOOHOO!

On Day 2, we walked towards the river this time passing by the famous Obelisk

Many of the streets in this area are pedestrian only, great for those of us who love walking.

Next we walked to the 'Casa Rosada' the Pink House, USA has it's White House where the president lives, Well, Argentina has the Casa Rosada!

For lunch on this day and more exploring we went to the Puerto Madero- a river walk with many restaurants, shops, condos all along a scenic river front. We spent a few hours here exploring, a very interesting  place.

                     Lots of big boats including some several hundred years old

And then a delicious lunch of pizza and Argentinian Malbec wine! Delicioso

On Day 3, we took the long walk to the Malba Museum- well worth the effort! We decided that we must have walked at least 30,000 steps every day (for my step counting friends LOL).

We walked past a park with this weird sculpture

For lunch on this day, we decided it was finally time for one of those delicious Argentinian steaks we had heard so much about. We had passed this interesting Steak House the day before that was open for lunch. Argentinians eat dinner VERY late, so we had decided to have our big meal for lunch as often as possible.

                                            Our steak restaurant

Uwe's awesome steak- and yes, these are the best we have ever tasted!

Day 4 started very rainy so we thought we would try some rainy day things. First we walked to this very interesting library converted from an old opera house. Three beautiful stories high!

Next, since it was still raining, we walked to one of Buenos Aires very upscale Malls, on Florida St.,
a little beyond our pocket book!

And then, surprise, another steak lunch!

Day 5 came bright, warm and sunny- a treat as it was after all fall in Argentina. We took another long 2 hour walk to the Japanese gardens- very pretty.

From there we walked to where we believed was yet another Brew Pub. This time in Palermo Soho, another neighborhood we wanted to visit. We walked along some mayor streets past many parks.

                            and many statues- this is Italia Plaza

Our good luck deserted us when we did find the Brew Pub BUT it was only open for dinner- damn!
We consoled ourselves with lunch at an Irish Pub.

That evening we did go out for dinner at an excellent Indian restaurant. I LOVE Indian food.
We were there when the doors opened for dinner at 7:30PM and had an awesome meal.

Our last full day in Buenos Aires started with huge thunder boomers and flooding rains.
What to do! We decided to take the subway to the Horse race track 'Hippodrome'. Even if the horses didn't run there was a casino where we could while away a couple of hours.

The subway was much like Toronto's- older but very safe

After a reasonable walk in much lighter rain we arrived at a wonderful racing facility. Nice paddock area where, if the horses had been running, we could have gotten close enough to touch them.

                              And a very large grandstand

After a couple of hours and lunch in the casino- it was huge, 3 floors- reminded us very much of Las Vegas, we took a taxi back to our hotel.
We did go out for dinner that night for- yup, you guessed it- more steak and that delicious and inexpensive Malbec wine.

The next morning after breakfast, we checked out and took a taxi to the airport and took off for home.
We were almost descending for our landing in Guayaquil when the captain came on and said ' We are being diverted to Quito airport ( another 45 minutes away) because the Guayaquil airport is closed due to an EARTHQUAKE'.