Sunday, November 14, 2010

Second Day in Cuenca 14 Nov 2010

What's It Like?
The Past Two Days

I've known a few people to move to another country or go back to one after a long stay in the States and wondered "what's it like?" to be in another country immersed in an unknown language and culture.  Little did we realize we get to answer the question.

We arrived in Guayguil, Ecuador after a 4 hour flight from Miami.  Just checking into the international airport is an ordeal in itself.  However, we found this time it was a lot easier than our departure in June (when we visited Ecuador for the first time).

What was different?  For one, the line!  We got waited on almost immediately.  It was HUGE in that we had 6 large suitcases, 2 carry-ons, 2 laptops, a LARGE airline carrier for "Stover",  AND the DOG!

Gary paid the ticket agent for the extra two bags we were taking (we were allowed 4 free ones) AND our beloved dog, Stover (BTW - he cost $150!).  I was expecting the Jeopordy music to begin as he weighed our bags.  "Nah, nah, nah, nah...nah, nah, nah, nah"  Fifty pounds is the limit.

If your bags are over 50 lbs, it may cost you $60.  One of the two extra bags was "over the limit."  But as to how much over the limit, well we were holding our breath!  So we saved it as the last one to be weighed.  It registered 71.5 lbs.   Oops.  If you're going to be over the limit, you can only do so at 70 lbs.

So are you now holding your breath?  Did they make us take something out?  Nope.  He let 'er fly.  We were in!  And the next step was checking Stover into security.  We got to spend another hour with him, before he was taken down to the cargo area.  They load animals the very last thing.

We arrived in Guayguil at 11:25 p.m. on Thursday night.  Little did we know we had to get all our luggage, then wait in a line to go through a security scan again as well as immigrations.  By the time we finished at the airport and snuggled into bed, it was 1:30 a.m.  20-hours travel time.

Next day we had a MARVELOUS Latin breakfast, with "Moon River" playing in the hotel. Now we were ready for our 4 hour van ride over the Andes and through Cajas National Park (think Rocky Mtn National Park) to Cuenca. We rose above the cloud filled valleys and finally, the sky opened up our views. Thank God for new road construction with curbs around precipices.  Stover was adjusting nicely even though he had his moments.

We arrived at our hosts' home at almost 2:00 p.m.   Jack and Claudia had just been in their home for only two days yet had GRACIOUSLY invited us to stay with them, until we found a place of our own.  Their dog "Iggy" quickly became friends with Stover.  Not only had we "dubbed" Stover as an "Ecua-Dog," he now had an "Ecua-Buddy!"

Not long after we were here, the doorbell rang.  The Gaithers had visitors?  Unsion Television's receptionist's husband and daughter were here to deliver flowers to welcome us to Cuenca!  What a surprise!

We had become fast friends with her (Leonor) this past June on our first visit and stayed in touch via email.  It was such a blessing to meet her husband, Alfred and daughter, Sarah with their flower arrangement!

Our hosts took us to an Italian Restaurant in downtown Cuenca.  By the time we finished and arrived back at their home, we were ready for the bed!  And almost to bed we went.  We fellowshipped a little more, getting to know Jack and Claudia.

Next day was Saturday and we awakened with an itinerary already!  Claudia arranged for us to meet the neighbors 5 doors down with a potential furnished apartment for rent.  At 10:00 a.m. we met up with a lady (la mujer!) who arranged for us to see a house, also for rent.  We ended up spending some time with her (Macrina) and seeing another hopeful place.  The real estate hunt has begun!

Macrina introduced us to what she calls, "the best massage therapist in Cuenca" - Nona.  We went ahead and each had a 40 minute "unforgettable" massage.  Macrina is right!  We're going back.  We will have a massage next week for $20 - for the both of us!

We asked Nona to help us call a cab (Nona speaks NO English) so she shouted up to the woman upstairs.  Upon her arrival, we learned she owned the building and spoke excellent English.  Jeanette invited us upstairs to see their apartment.  She and her husband have two "ninos." (boys!)  I commented on the flavorable smell I detected coming from the kitchen so she motioned us her way - to the kitchen! 

Before we could say anything further, she had a dish out piling on steaming hominy corn.  This is a tradition here in Cuenca.  Go to certain restaurants and they bring you a bowl of it.  You dig in - just like eating popcorn!  Next thing you know, Jeanette is bringing out the cheese.  We felt like family - at least we were being treated that way.

We hailed a cab and were on our way back to the house with lots of stories to share with Jack and Claudia over her homemade spaghetti dinner.   Jack is a former CIA agent, prison warden, hearing aid specialist, insurance agent, rancher, and military man.  He gives true meaning to the phrase, "Jack of all trades!"

Claudia has a Master's in agriculture and for many years worked in environmental applications.  She even had her own consulting business after retirement from the State of Oregon.  Now she's really retired!  She is going to teach English to the staff at Unsion Television. 

Now it's off to bed by 10:00 p.m.