Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Our beloved friend, Stover

September 3, 2001 - November 23, 2012

On Thanksgiving Day, we learned our beloved dog's time with us was over.  Stover was our only "child" for nearly eleven years.  We learned many lessons of life from our furry red friend.

What an incredible adventure we've had with him.  Many know the experience of transporting their "family" with them across international borders.  Stover, being 30 lbs. was not able to have the luxury of flying in the cabin with us, so his flight was in the cargo.  But what brave little creatures they are - adapting and flexing to whatever the situation brings them.

We've had the privilege of having our little guy with us the two years we've lived in Cuenca.  What a comfort he has been as we too, have adjusted and transitioned to living internationally.  And what a gift to have him here with us.

Stover had more friends than we did.  Everyone who kept him during our travels came to love him.  When we lived in the US, strangers often stopped us on our mountain hikes and in parks to meet this charming enthusiastic "people dog."  Frequently, we gave the testimony of God's gift and love through Stover.  Unconditional love is completely disarming!

Stover's been to nursing homes with me when I gave concerts and touched the hearts of many elderly with his love.  One of my favorite memories was when one of the nurses picked Stover up and put him in the lap of an elderly gentleman.  As I looked over in their direction, I saw them looking face to face and the man loving every minute of it.

It all began 11 years ago for us, when we talked about getting a dog.  We had already experienced the sorrow of losing a beloved cat, Bilbo (short for Bilbo Baggins from the Hobbit).  And what a cat too!

We prayed that God would give us His choice for a dog. And He gave us the perfect match for us!

In May of 2002, I was at a grocery store in Asheville, North Carolina.  Every Thursday, a shelter would set up right outside their doors as a adoption center for those coming to shop.  Naturally, each week I would stop and visit the animals - just curious to see who had arrived that day.

Yet came this one particular day... I was coming out of the store, with my hands occupied with grocery bags.  The shelter had just arrived to set up for the day and she was getting the carriers out of the vehicle - ready to set up in animal crates.

My eyes immediately saw a dog being inspected by two ladies, who obviously had asked permission to get him out of his carrier.

It was love at first sight.

Gary likes shelties - I love golden retrievers.  However, having a golden was definitely, too much dog for us - more than we really wanted.

But this dog.  He was kind of a mix of both those breeds and a little of collie.

Yet there was something about him.  And I thought to myself, "These ladies probably want this dog..." the next moment, they put him back in the crate.

Now was my chance.  I sat down the groceries on the courtyard, and out of the carrier came what was soon to be our dog!

He was a little sad looking, maybe scared.  Guess I would be too if I had been abandoned.  As I was studying him though, one of those ladies came over and kneeled down besides me.  Her words to me are what I shall never forget:  "I know dogs and I want to tell you, this is a good dog!  I would take him myself, but I already have three dogs!  Yes, this is a good dog!"

That's all the confirmation I needed.  Immediately I went to the person in charge of adoption and said, "I want this dog - but I need to call my husband first and get him to see him!"

Because I had made friends with her over the months, she in a way, knew me.  Somehow she knew we were a perfect match and she said, "I'll hold him for you!"

I called Gary and after a business meeting, he went to the place where they had the shelter set up.  I had not described Stover to him at all.  By this time, Stover was in a pen with other dogs.  Gary however, (I wasn't there) was drawn to Stover - perhaps Stover let him know, "It's me, it's me!  I'm the one!"  Then of course, it was confirmed by our shelter friend, that he was the right dog.

He called me and said, "We've just adopted a dog!"

In thinking upon a name for him, nothing seemed right until the "light went on" to name him my maiden name, Stover!  It just had the perfect "ring" to it.  Sounded good too, when calling for him, "Sto.......verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!"  But Stover needed a complete name too.  Theodore seemed perfect for the first name because it means, "God's gift."

"Russell Stover" is the candy company's name.  When I was in high school, there was a Russell Stover candy store across the street.  The question, "Are you related to Russell Stover candy people?" was asked numerous times.  And since Stover was SO sweet - giving him the name Russell along with my maiden name seemed appropriate.

We did all the usual "stuff" with Stover - shots, having him neutered, and then obedience school!  And was he ever a natural - his temperament leaned towards wanting to please his masters. So he was pretty good at obedience!

Through the years we hiked with him in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of  North Carolina.  Stover enjoyed people so much - he loved to meet and greet people  Because of him, we made new friends!  He also entertained them with his obedience tricks!

Like all who have loved their pets, we have many stories of our life with him and his with us - wonderful, wonderful memories - and no regrets!

During Stover's short illness of almost 3 weeks, he kept his loving, sweet demeanor - wanting to please us.  With him, we had a great love.  And we are grateful to have had him for these beautiful 11 years.  When it came time for Stover to go, of course, we cried and said our goodbyes. 

Then there was the question "Where could we bury him?

The night before the vet was coming to our apartment to put him down (Stover could not have made it one more day - he was so sick!), we called our dear friend of two years now, Tania, of Hotel Inca Real.  One of her family members owns property in the Cajas.  It seemed to be the perfect place to lay our beloved to rest.  She told us she would take care of it and that she did!

It was all arranged.  The vet came a little after 8:00 a.m. We had our last moments with Stover, then proceeded to the Cajas.  Two of our American friends joined us, Mike and Lawrence - Mike graciously drove us to the Cajas.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by those who knew of the arrangement.  We were led to Stover's burial spot.  Everyone so kind.  Enrique lovingly dug his grave.

And there we laid Stover in his special place.

Below are the pictures we want to share where our beloved friend and family member is privileged to be buried.  It seemed so fitting - for as a family, we always loved the mountains and Stover had been on so many hikes with us.

Again, we are SO grateful to have been blessed with our precious Stover.  And we are so grateful for all of his friends and our loved ones who knew and loved him, and took care of him.  There are so many.  

These are memories which can never, ever be taken from us.

We love you, Stover!


The Gate you go through and right after is Stover's grave

 Stover's famous looks
Theodore Russell Stover Gaither
Stover, we will miss you - thank you for 11 wonderful years!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

                     Legal Update

My interest in real estate was recently reawakened as I pondered how to remove more of my shrinking next egg from the devaluing US dollar. “Quantitive easing- unlimited” means the dollar will continue to lose value, robbing savers of their life’s work and retirement income. A 600 square foot terrace with unobstructed views lured us toward the purchase of an investment condo near the historic district.

Legal questions raced through my mind on topics ranging from LLC’s and taxes to domestic help. So, I’ll add to my previous musings with an update.

LLC’s here are much like in the US. Only instead of forming one on line in an hour, several complexities arise. The advantages of avoidance of reporting to the US Treasury as a financial instrument and transferring shares rather than real estate were offset by rules for Ecuadoran taxes and reporting.

An annual tax return prepared by an accountant is minor compared to the 25% tax rate on the first dollar earned!  An LLC must also report property at full value on real estate purchases and sales, causing tax problems for private sellers and capital gains on most properties.

The law requires unanimous consent by all shareholders to sell shares, raise capital or close the company. Gotta catch everyone in a simultaneous good mood!       Or write side agreements.

Domestic help is considered an employee, requiring full benefits, unless one of the following contract requirements is not met:

1.       Payment for services
2.       Supervision by employer
3.       Dependence (setting days for work)

So, you may want to allow your maid or other help to set their own day(s) for work. And since a judge is required to rule in the favor of labor in any ambiguity, write a simple contract stating the person chooses their own day of work. Be businesslike initially…then be generous at your discretion later.

What are the required benefits?  Social security (health insurance, etc) at 20.55% (employer pays 11.15%), 13th month of pay, 14th month of pay, 15 days of vacation, and 8.5% reserve fund after 12 months. They add up to nearly 40% of base pay. Minimum wage is now $280 per month. And not paying benefits is now a felony!      Yes, jail is a possibility!

Most employees and independent contractor s assume you will pay bus fare and lunch.

See my previous postings on legal issues. The prior post on labor law/ maids is now inaccurate.

As always, get multiple opinions on these issues. They are a moving target. And I am always fallible!

                 Still learning,     Gary

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Blog Summary

                                        Summary of Two Years in Blog

Newcomers and potential Cuenanos are frequently asking questions that are covered in our blog. So here is a summary of some topics covered:

              1. Cultural Adjustments for Living in Cuenca
              2. Real Estate: Rent vs Purchase
              3. Legal and Cedula
              4. Cargo
              5. Travel in Ecuador
              6. Household Budget
              7. International Taxation for US Expats
              8. Ecuador Taxation
              9. Spanish
             10. Medical Tourism
             11. Health Insurance
             12. Guayaquil
             13. Banos de Agua Santa
             14. Cotacachi
             15. Villacamba

 The complete Table of Contents may be seen by scrolling down our blog. Look on the right side.
Always check with multiple sources. Remember requirements are constantly changing!

      Come and find yourself in Ecuador    Enjoy your dreams!

                     Rejoicing in Cuenca,

                              Gary & Sue Gaither

Saturday, October 20, 2012

SOLCA Birthday Party

October 5, 2012 Elisa (our co-chairman) of the 2nd annual Color Purple Event and I had the privilege of attending a "Quince Anos" birthday party held for those young ladies and young men who were turning 15.  Ecuador's "Quince Anos" is equivalent to the American "Sweet Sixteen."  The fiesta included young people who are currently in treatment or have been treated for cancer in the past. 

It was quite a party.  As you will see from the pictures below, first there was an empty room, then began filling up family by family, person by person until it was full!  Balloons, colors, festive atmostphere was everywhere.  The guests of honor were upstairs getting dressed into formal attire - almost like it was a prom!

Before they walked down the stairs with escorts to take their reserved seating, the lady voluteers of SOLCA all sang a song.  Elisa interpreted for me of what they singing.  It was a song giving praise to God, thanking for His love, and that He is the One who heals.

A prayer was offered by one of the volunteers and with that, the procession began.  Beautiful young people in their processional with smiles of joy as the crowd admired and cheered them on!

Then here they come...down the stairs with escorts and led to their honored seats.  A festive clown was the emcee of the birthday fare.

Once into the hall filled with people, balloons and the smell of popcorn, they were given a welcome and birthday cheer.  A ceremony proceeded, almost like a wedding!  They toasted their 15th birthday with juice in a goblet and asked to dance the birthday waltz. 

The most touching part of their ceremony was when they asked each young person by name, to come forward with their partner or family member.  At that time they announced whom they had chosen as one who has especially been helpful or special to them during their treatment.  Sometimes it was a family member and sometimes it was a nurse or volunteer.  A garter was placed on their leg (just like in a wedding) to represent that special bond.

As you will see from the pictures below, it was a festive day for not only those turning 15, but for everyone who attended.  All were invited - even the younger children in SOLCA currently receiving chemo treatment.  They were brought into the hall with the IVs and a nurse to see that all was going well for them. 

It was a special day for them and for all of us who attended. 

And last Thursday, October 11th, we held our 2nd annual Color Purple Event.  We will be writing about this sometime next week with pictures!  Professional photographers graciously gave their time and film for the event so we are looking forward to seeing what all they captured.  We will give a full report of all that took place and the gift we will able to give SOLCA!

Enjoy the pictures from the birthday party! 

Sue Gaither



Monday, September 24, 2012

El Evento Color Purpura

                               Color Purple Event II

     October 11 we will host the second annual El Evento Color Purpura.

    It has grown considerably this year form a women's luncheon to a semi-formal dinner for all. Tickets are now $20, representing a first class Cena meal.
Our speakers include Dr Avarado, Director of SOLCA, the children's cancer hospital.
"The Band of Doctors" will play to conclude our program.
    Our four sponsors are providing free promotion from Unsion Television (100 spots), La Famila Radio, El Tiempo newspaper and Arco Language Institute .
    We hope to sell out the 250 seats and obtain donations from our friends in the US. Twenty dollars goes a long way here in Ecuador. Tickets are available at Villa San Carlos, Hotel Inca Real, and El Tiempo
All net proceeds go the SOLCA for the benefit of children and their families. Many are so poor that they cannot afford the bus fare to visit their children in the hospital!
    Sue has written a special song for suffering children. She will play and sing it during the event. Gary will close with a short devotion. (The song is below if you desire to listen)
    Visit our Color Purple Event blog: http://thecolorpurpleevent.blogspot.com for photos, Sue's children song and a link to donate (US Charitable deduction).
 "You Have Friends" written by Sue
!Hasta las Jueves, 11 de Octubre a siete de noche!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cell Phone Number Changes

                       Ecuador Cell Phone Number Changes
Did I read the Claro text correctly?    New cell phones may run out of phone numbers.
Sounds like all cell phone numbers will change at the end of September.

Well, our friend Keith clarified with an email today:

To make a call to a phone number in Ecuador starting September 30, 2012:

   BEFORE September 30, 2012 (9 digit cell phone numbers)

   Beginning September 30, 2012 (10 digit cell phone numbers)

 ****For example the cell number 09 462 1234 becomes 099 462 1234 ***

How to make a call from abroad to a phone number?

   BEFORE September 30, 2012 (11 digits)

   Beginning September 30, 2012 (12 digits)
So let's copy down all our phone numbers stored in our cell phones!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Radioman Returns to Cuenca

Sunday we enjoyed the return of our friend Mark Donham, Radioman, on his second South American tour. We saw him in March, after his US and Central American tours. Visit our March post for details.

Mark recently completed a tour of India, including riding the highest auto road in the world at 18,340 feet in the Himalayas on a rented Royal Infield bike. What happens when the bike blows an engine in the middle of nowhere? Read his blog for the exciting adventure:    http://radiomanridestheworld.com/

 His blog has grown from 500,000 hits to 850,000 since we saw him last!

The link on top will entertain you with videos and musical exploration.

Now Mark is touring south and planning a boat trip to Antartica. He future plans are yielded to the Lord's leading.   Total freedom!


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Missionaries in Ecuador

                    Five Missionary Martyrs in Ecuador

Our visit to Banos and Shell earlier this month encouraged me to ponder the lives of these  missionaries who were martyred there fifty years ago. We knew one of their family members in Asheville NC. The movie "End of the Spear" chronicled their lives and impact. So, with permission, I'll share a bit of the story written by John Cowart several years ago.
Nate Saint, while a maintenance crew chief in the Air Force, decided to become a missionary at a New Year's Eve church service in Detroit.
He wrote, “It was the first time I had ever really heard that verse, 'Follow me and I will make you to become fishers of men.' The old life of chasing things that are of a temporal sort seemed absolutely insane”.

After his discharge from the Air Force, he joined Mission Aviation Fellowship as a pilot.
While Ed McCully attended law school at Marquette University, he worked as a night-desk clerk at a hotel. During the slack hours before dawn he read the Bible.

He wrote, “On the way home yesterday morning, I took a long walk and came to a decision which I know is of the Lord. I have one desire now—to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it... If there's nothing to this business of eternal life we might as well lose everything in one crack and throw our present life away with our life hereafter. But if there is something to it... Well, that's it”.

 Roger Youderian had jumped, as a paratrooper, into the Battle of the Bulge. He was decorated for his part in the fighting. In a letter to his mother he said, “Ever since I accepted Christ as my personal Saviour last fall and wanted to follow Him and do the will of the Lord, I've felt the call to either missionary, social or ministerial work after my release from the service.. . . I want to be a witness for Him and live following Him every second of my life”.

Youderian's call led him to work among the head-hunting Jivaros, and he developed a technique using drawings to teach them to read and write in their own previously unwritten language.

Youderian went through some deep physical and spiritual struggles, but, concerning divine guidance his diary records, “The Holy Spirit can and will guide me in direct proportion to the time and effort I will expend to know and do the will of God”.

 Pete Fleming had been converted at age thirteen through the testimony of a blind evangelist. When he chose to become a missionary, he had already earned his master's degree in literature and was majoring in philosophy at the University of Washington. Concerning his decision to go to Ecuador, he wrote, “A call is nothing more or less than obedience to the will of God as God presses it home to the soul by whatever means He chooses”.

As he decided to move from work among the relatively peaceful Quichuas to the warlike Aucas he said, “It is a grave and solemn problem; an unreachable people who murder and kill with extreme hatred. It comes to me strongly that God is leading me to do something about it, and a strong idea and impression comes into my mind that I ought to devote the majority of my time to collecting linguistic data on the tribe. ... I know that this may be the most important decision of my life, but I have a quiet peace about it”.

The fifth missionary, Jim Elliot, wrote to a friend mentioning his motive for being a missionary: “The command is plain; you go into the whole world and announce the good news.... To me, Ecuador is simply an avenue of obedience to the simple word of Christ. There is room for me there, and I am free to go.... The will of God is always a bigger thing than we bargain for”.

The Auca tribe came to the attention of the missionaries when two Indian survivors of an Auca raid staggered into a mission station. Saint described the victims before he flew them to a hospital:

The woman was being carried on a bamboo stretcher and had a serious-looking lance puncture under the armpit They told us that the lance broke off in the wound. Her attacker was going to jab at her again but she grabbed the end of the lance and hung on to save her life. She is about six or seven months pregnant The man arrived under his own power although considerably crippled up with chest punctures, a hole all the way through one thigh and a hole through his hand where he had apparently tried to stop one of the deadly shafts.

The missionaries decided to reach the Aucas and began learning rudiments of their language from an Auca woman who had been captured as a slave by another tribe.

They made air drops of gifts useful to the Aucas: copper kettles, red shirts, buttons and small knives. Nate Saint devised a method to exchange items with people on the ground without landing the airplane. As his plane circled, he played out a long rope with a basket tied to the end. Centrifugal force caused the basket to gravitate to the center of the circle as it dropped lower and lower. When the rope was fully extended from the spiraling plane, the basket remained almost stationary a few feet above the ground and trade items or messages could be placed in it.

The missionaries used this method to lower pictures of themselves so the people would recognize them when they landed. And as they flew over villages in the dense jungle, the Americans shouted over the plane's loudspeaker, “We like you. We like you. We are friends”.

The Aucas took the gifts and replaced them with fruit, feathered headdresses, live parrots and even a balsa-wood carving of the airplane in exchange. This friendly commerce continued for months before the missionaries hazarded direct contact

Saint landed the plane on a firm sandbar in the Curaray River at a spot near two Auca villages. The Indians first sent out a nubile young girl, apparently intended as a gift, to meet them. The missionaries nicknamed her Delilah.

She left abruptly.

During a supply flight, Saint spotted a large party of Aucas approaching. He quickly landed, and the missionaries prepared to greet their visitors.

The Aucas attacked.

They skewered the Christians with spears and hacked them down with stolen machetes. In a frenzy they peeled the fabric from the fuselage of the plane and twisted its steel landing struts.

Then they crept back into the jungle to await the massive retaliation which their culture taught them to expect.

It never came.

Instead of bombs, Mission Aviation Fellowship pilots continued to drop trade items on the Auca villages, just as though the attack had never happened.

The widows of the five missionaries asked the outraged Ecuadorian government not to send the army against the Indians. These women continued to study the language of the Aucas and to pray for access to the tribe.

Within three years Mrs. Jim Elliot, her daughter, Valerie, and Rachel Saint, sister of the pilot, were living in an Auca village teaching the Indians about a forgiving Christ.

Soon a Christian church was established among the Aucas. Nathaniel Saint's son was baptized on the sandbar in the Curaray by an Auca pastor who had once been in the raiding party which martyred his father.

A Mission Aviation Fellowship spokesman said, “About a third of the tribe are baptized believers, and meet weekly in six different settlements for Bible study and prayer.

“In the years since Saint and his fellows were killed, quite a few Christians—I would estimate several thousand in the overall missionary community—have dedicated their own lives to Christ because of the example of these men. M.AF. constantly gets applications from people who have been inspired by the story. This is still going on right now”.

NOTE: This piece is a sample chapter from Bluefish Books upcoming offering, Strangers On The Earth by John Cowart. Projected publication date: February 2006.

Thank you for visiting www.cowart.info
I welcome your comments at
John’s Blog!
You can E-mail me at



Saturday, August 18, 2012

Banos de Agua Santa

                                          Banos de Agua Santa                           August  5-9, 2012

Our 9:40am Sunday bus left Cuenca’s Terminal Terrestre for the 7 hour pilgrimage to Ambato. Another bus would take us the last hour’s ride into Banos . Yes, the cross country buses still cost a dollar an hour. We reserved seats 3 and 4, right behind the driver to allow personal space and room for our bags and back packs. Since this was my first long distance drive through the Andes toward Quito, I enjoyed the views between snacks. The driver took a 40 minute lunch near Pallatanga, so we arrived at Ambato at nearly 5 pm.
Wanting to arrive before dark, we splurged for a $15 dollar taxi ride directly to Banos’ Chimenea  Hostel.  After a brief visit to the roof top terrace for the waterfall view and city orientation, we strolled past the park to Pappardelle Italian restaurant for a welcoming meal. Sue wanted pasta to accompany her meal, so we devoured three entres, narrowing avoiding an evening food coma.

The lava stone Cathedral at the edge of the park included a small tourist center in one corner. We studied our complementary map for our day’s plan. We must visit the Rio de Cascadas immediately in the sunshine. And nearby Puyo is the gateway to the Oriente. Treking into streamy jungles may have to wait until my back is fully recovered.

The taxista waiting at the park was our divine appointment. Adolfo spoke some English and was an excellent tour guide. We enjoyed each of the many waterfall views, feet firmly on the ground, while the more adventurous folk flew through the air on wire lifelines. The final and most impressive waterfall, Pailon de Diablo, required a couple kilometer steep hike. This reminded us of our annual retreats and favorite trails near Banner Elk/Boone, NC.

We continued to Puyo and the Oriente, passing through Shell, where missionaries Jim Elliot, Nate Saint and three others were speared into eternity by the Auca Indians in 1956. Headhunting is no longer practiced and is illegal in Ecuador. We visited a bird sacntuary and enjoyed observing the mono (monkey) skurrying among the branches overhead.

Swiss Bistro completed our day with a well presented tilapia for Sue and beef stroganoff for me.
Helado (ice cream) cones prepared us for a good nights sleep. We also recommend Hood Cafe and Pappardelle.

Early the next morning, we shocked our bodies for an hour in the cedar box-like enclosed steam bath, accentuated with breaks every ten minutes for the sweetly sadistic attendant to swamp us with ice cold water. Is that what “Agua Santa” (holy water) is about?
Banos beckoned us to further exploration, so we rented a go cart. There are sports shops on nearly every street, but we failed to get a recommendation at the hotel. So our adventure was enhanced by a cart with a faulty muffler and wobbly mirrors. Flying blind was a bit unnerving six inches off the ground.

Banos has several hot spring water parks. The municipal pool at the foot of the cascading waterfall at the edge of downtown is only two dollars, but was very crowded. Several other spas range from five dollars upward. Many include various optional massages, skin/facial treatments and assorted pamperings. Once again we opted for shock and awe with a deliciously painful reflexology and another half hour of back/neck/leg massage.

Every morning we wandered two blocks to the local enclosed Mercado for two large mixed cocktails of fruit and veggies blended before our drooling mouths. We shared orange juice/alfalfa/carrot and guayabana/coconut/mora smoothies prepared by smiling ladies. A buck each.

           Future Trip ideas:

1.       Buy your bus tickets the day before you trip to reserve seats (reserve must be within 24 hours of departure).

2.       Chat with your taxista before engaging him. English speakers will enhance your trip with local history and suggestions. And get a set price. $15-16 dollars from Ambato to Banos; nine dollars an hour for tours. Prices vary widely if you do not know the going price. Tips are optional.

3.       Obtain recommendations for restaurants, tours, rentals for hotel staff. They love to help!

4.       Visit your room and test your bed. Our first room was a walk to the fourth floor, so we opted for the second floor. Our bed was good, but too hard. There are many hotels and hostels in all price ranges in Banos.

5.       Be aware of Ecuadoran holidays. We left a day early to avoid Diez de Augusto (Independence Day).

6.       Hot water or internet may be slow during peak hours. Find out when the English speaker’s hours are.
                                       Banos de Agua Santa, we shall return.

You spoiled us, but there is more to discover in your mile high temperate climate and welcoming citizens.          
                                              Gary & Sue

Enjoy the rest of the pictures:

A public nap!