Friday, December 25, 2009

What I have learned about life...

Clarke and Brenda's Christmas 2009, Topeka, Kansas.

Here's what we really wanted for Christmas...

Here' s what we got....

and this...

and this...

HOWEVER, here's what I have learned about life.

When life gives you snow....

Make snow angels!!

Happy Holidays to you all.


Does that sound like sarcasm?
I can't tell.
I am sure that Brennie will post something nice with some pretty pics.

You know how an exclamation mark (!) means 'excitement' ?
Should there be an opposite sign that means complete lack of excitement?

The male opossum has a bifurcated (forked) penis.
The female's vagina is also bifurcated (2 channel).
Thrill your friends with that over your holiday dinner.

Monday, December 21, 2009

We Went to Kansas City for a Couple Days

Kansas City, MO is actually a very cool city.

We stayed at his place....very cool and in a great part of downtown. ......

Lots to do and a lot of different types of restaurants.
We usually share a meal....sometimes an assortment of appetizers.
That way we can be hungry sooner and try a different place.

Had a ball.
Going back soon.
I really like spending time with Brenda.
Now that is cool.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Comment on Global Warming

Global Warming, My Ass!!

I took the dogs for their walk about 4:00 pm. It was maybe 12 or 13 degrees (F).

It can really make you feel alive though....especially when your skin thaws a half hour later and it gets that burning / ice needles thing going as feeling returns to your ears, fingers and toes. Really lovely.

OK....nice positive thoughts about bitter cold weather:
  • Reduced chance of heat stroke...duh.
  • The weeds in the yard are dead. (Maybe only dormant.)
  • You barely feel it when you hit your thumb with a hammer.
  • Blood coagulates faster on wounds.
  • Fewer overweight people wearing spandex.
  • No one expects you to be painting your house.
  • No mosquitoes, deer flies or horse flies.
  • Brennie makes GREAT soups and chili !!!!!!!
  • Save a bundle on air conditioning bills.
  • Better to stand outside naked than listen to Bing Crosby sing "White Christmas". That's right up there with watching the "Wizard of Oz".
  • Snuggling under a down comforter...oh yeah.
  • Everyone else has a cold too.
  • Hot chocolate with marshmallows.
  • No heat rash or poison ivy. In fact far fewer body rashes.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I Read That It Was 81 Degrees In Cuenca The Other Day

These Pics Were NOT Taken In Cuenca.

They were taken from our front porch in Topeka.
Just for fun, I used different camera settings.
Quite Jolly.

Friday, November 27, 2009


We went to Maryland last weekend to see our son Alex graduate from his ten month stint of public service with Americorps. Here is the short version:

In many ways our son was one of those lost kids. He did very poorly in high school (by choice) and made a lot of bonehead decisions by the time he was 18. He was lost, had no direction or knowledge of his potential. His values were confused, etc., etc., etc. We knew there was a great young man buried deep inside him because we knew him from an earlier time. But in many ways he had lost touch with who he was. We also knew that it was necessary for him to get away from us and into some meaningful environment in order to re-discover himself.

Americorps = Public Service

Holy Sh*t! What a change. We could not have hoped for more. His emergence did not go unnoticed in Americorp either. He came home literally covered in awards...and not just participation awards. There are leadership awards and commitment awards and contribution awards. Of the four big awards they give out at the end of the ten months, he got one of them and almost got a second. (This is out of 160 team members.) Only one of the 160 young people got more recognition during their ten months. Nobody wants to read a bunch of I will spare you. I will simply finish with another profound....Holy Sh*t!!!!
And "thank god".


Monday, November 16, 2009

"Twenty Years From Now.......'ll be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the things you did do".

I didn't make that up, I ran across it somewhere. But still.....

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Short Fairy Tale

My sister sent me a little Fairy Tale. I have changed it a little bit. Here it is.

Once upon a time, a guy asked a beautiful girl 'Will you marry me?' The girl said, 'NO!' And the guy lived happily ever after and rode motorcycles and went fishing and hunting and played golf a lot and drank beer and scotch and had tons of money in the bank and left the toilet seat up and farted whenever he wanted AND SMOKED CIGARS IN THE HOUSE
The end

Oh My God!

The weather has been glorious. 70 -74 for days now. Just wonderful.

For the 3rd weekend in a row, I will be bagging leaves. That guarantees that I will get outside to enjoy the weather. (Gotta love these old neighborhoods.)

Yeah, I am reduced to blogging about the weather.

Monday, November 2, 2009

H1N1, etc.

I had a student out sick for 2 weeks. When he came back to school, I mentioned that he must have been really sick.

He said he had:
> H1N1 (swine flu)
> Strep Throat
> Pink Eye, and
> Tonsillitis

Is that even possible?

I am used to the kids all suffering from "hormone poisoning", but this whole germ thing is disturbing.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


"Trick or Treat"

Isn't that extortion?

(Admittedly, not an original thought. But there it is anyway.)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Quotes are Cool

Some interesting quotes about democracy. I am not trying to make a point here. Just amusing myself and hopefully you too. Maybe I am trying to appear more intelligent or deeper than I actually am.

“Democracy is a process by which the people are free to choose the man who will get the blame.” Dr. Lawrence Peters, author of the Peter Principle

“Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least.” Robert Byrne, Chess Grandmaster

“Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.” Oscar Wilde

“There are two things which a democratic people will always find very difficult - to begin a war and to end it” Alexis de Tocqueville, 19th Century French political thinker and historian

“Democracy is the process by which people choose the man who'll get the blame.” Bertrand Russel. This is almost the exact quote as the Lawrence Peter quote above. Peter lived from 1919-1990. Russel from 1782-1970. Who knows

And Finally:

“It's not how you pick your nose, it's where you put that booger that counts.” Tre Cool, drummer for the Punk Rock band "Green Day".

And THAT should settle the question of whether I am deep or intelligent.

FYI: These came from

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

From the Softer Side...

This is my first posting since leaving Cuenca. Quite frankly, we have been less than chipper about being back in the Land of Oz.

Speaking of the land of oz, several years ago the folks over at the Kansas Department of Tourism decided Kansas needed a new image (how would you like to have THEIR jobs?). Unfortunately, they chose to further overuse the gagging cliche from the Wizard of Oz and came up with the slogan "Kansas, The Land of Ahhhhs." We suffered through that one until the new governor came on board and fired all those munchins and hired a new marketing team. They came up with a new branding for us which nobody seemed to get. It was "Kansas...As Big As It Seems". A couple months later Kansas voters adopted a constitutional amendment (by 71%) banning gay marriage and/or same-sex unions. One guy cashed in on this and printed bumper stickers that read "KANSAS...AS BIGoted AS IT SEEMS". Made him a mint but pissed the governor off big time. She must have gotten tired of trying to 'sell' Kansas so she retired to Washington, DC as Obama's Secretary of Health. Now she has an easy job - selling health care reform to Republicans. Bet she wishes she was back in Kansas. (Clarke likes to point out that the Wizard of Oz story is about someone that left Kansas in order to have an adventure.)

OK, I have promised my spouse I would try to see the glass as half full rather than half empty (I've always hated that analogy). So, to assist me in my attitude adjustment, I have started watching funny movies, scanning humor websites, and trying to 'reframe' my impressions of situations to see the silver lining. Did I mention Zoloft?

Movie recommendation: Saving Grace. A British movie about a middle-aged woman who finds herself in financial ruin when her husband dies and leaves her in debt. She decides to make money using her gardening skills...and growing pot in her greenhouse. Yeah, it's pretty dopey (but hilarious) and has some great scenes - especially when her prim and proper ladies tea club brew up some tea using marijuana leaves.

Life is good!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Promenade of the Llamas, or
Parade of the Pekingese?

Brenda and I saw that today there is a Promenade of the Llamas in Cuenca, which we hate to miss. Rather than be heartbroken and feel left out......we decided to have our own little promenade right here in Topeka.
We call it "Parade of the Pekingese".

Corky is the little boy peke (devil)....which is pretty accurate.
Fluffy is the little girl (princess)....also accurate. We often call her "Fluffy the Pretty Princess".
We caught Corky later prancing around in the princess outfit, which only confirms something we have long suspected. Unfortunately we were unable to get a pic of that.

Yes, we have become the crazy old people and their little dogs.

Note that Brennie is dressed up in an apron. She is dressed up as a woman that actually cooks. My saying that is not quite fair to her. She did spend 2 or 3 hours cooking yesterday. Cooking dog food. Yes she cooks dog food on the weekend. Right now she is baking cookies (to send to the kids....our human kids in Portland and New Orleans). I will be lucky if I get dog food for dinner or any burned cookies. Oopsie, gotta go (wash dishes).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Something that I just LOVE TO SAY....

"We are selling our home in The States and moving to our home in South America"

Gawd, it just sounds so pissy! I love it. I am shallow.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Kids

Thought I would throw in a little video of the kids.
Because I can.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Things I Am Going To Miss (or Not)......

....After The final Move to Cuenca (June 1, 2010).

Things I WILL Miss:

- My Harley
- Fast Reliable Broadband Internet
- Speaking English
- Our children ... will have to fly further to visit.

Things I WILL NOT Miss:
- Being on the job at 7:30 every morning for 25 years.
- The US health care system (this alone could be a 1000 item list.)
- A 30 minute lunch break....again for 25 years.
- Mowing the yard. July - September can get 90 or 100 degrees + humidity.
- Mowing other peoples yards. I had a mowing business for 4 summers...... that's what bought the Cuenca apartment.
- Raking leaves
- Pulling weeds
- Automobile ownership (purchase, repairs, registration, gas, insurance,etc)
- The school lunch. Just putting that in for fun seeing as how I never actually eat it.
- Delusional enabling parents that refuse to let their children take responsibility when they screw up. (another possible 1000 item list.)
- $1.50 avocados that are rolled to Kansas from California.
- Mosquito's and chiggers.
- Gangbangers and wannabes.
- Shoveling snow.
- Property taxes of $200+ a month
- Overpriced hookers. (Just putting that in to see if anyone actualy reads this dribble.)
- Gas, water and electricity averaging $420+ a month.
- The Bible belt and people that wear their religion on their sleeve.

Things Brennie WILL NOT Miss:
- Listening to me bitch about the above


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Don't Know If This Is...GOOD NEWS or BAD NEWS

The Lead In:
The house is for sale now. The move to Cuenca is approx. June 1. It would be terrific if we could get the house sold and have that out of the way. But, if it sells now, we have to find some type of temporary home.

The "Good News or Bad News?" Part:
If we have to find a temporary place...... (are you ready?).....we qualify for a "seniors home". I think this is hilarious. Brennie doesn't. Not at all.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What We Are Doing To Speed Up Our Return to Cuenca...

Investing in this highly speculative
but potentially very profitable fund.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Little Bragging Here.....

If you are reading this blog, you are either:
1) an old friend
2) a new friend, or
3) not include in either category above....whatever that means.

Whoever you are, you may or may not know our son Alex

Nevertheless, here is a link to a NY Times article about the Americorp team he leads.
Incidentally, he is one of the youngest Team Leaders in Americorps and one of very few to become a Team Leader their first year in.

Link to NY Times web article:

Link to slideshow at NY Times website:

Link to a pic of our boy at NY Times slideshow:

The hardcopy article is on page A7 of today's (Monday, 9/7) NY Times. Yeah, I went out and bought it.

Some days are just really sweet.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The way Brenda remembers it…

Cake – Clarke baked it himself – carrot cake. We bought a 5 gallon tub of Spumoni ice cream to go with it. We couldn’t afford groceries but we ate ice cream for weeks.

Flowers – Picked from the neighbor’s yard. They were old and blind. The neighbors, not the flowers.

Music – We played George Winston on our stereo from his album called “Winter”. Little did we know we had just moved to a house in Minnesota with inadequate insulation. The winter of 1984 was one of their coldest on record.

Maid of Honor – Sweet Choctaw…the real reason I married Clarke.

Preacher – Clerk of Court from Sterns County. He was the biggest expense of the wedding, ($20)…and the only person in a land of Norwegians and Scandinavians who would marry a couple of heathens from Oregon.

Wedding party – Only family. Of course, we had to have the wedding early in the day while everyone was sober.

Guests – We knew not a soul in Minnesota so Clarke rounded up some neighbors. Ever the tactful guy he knocked on their door and said “I know you’re going to be watching it from the window so you might as well come over and get a good seat. Bring your own lawn chair.”

Clothes – We did not know until the morning of the wedding what we were wearing. I ended up wearing a wrap-around skirt, knee socks and birkies. The blouse was purchased from my favorite thrift store in Oregon…the same place I bought the slacks Clarke wore. He had gained some weight and couldn’t fit into his own. Yeah, he used to be skinny!

Memories – Priceless! The children did not turn out so bad either…

Clarke's version is below.

Sept. 1 - Our 25th Anniversary

We got married 25 years ago in our front yard,
lakeside, on Lake Koronis, in Paynesville, MN.
The whole wedding (absolutely everythng)
cost less than $50.
Twenty five years on a fifty buck wedding ....
you don't see value like that very often.
The only photos are the ones our family took.
The photos are I remember it.
Brenda may remember it different.....
.....if so, she can do her own post.
The dog (Choctaw) was Brenda's maid of honor.
You can click on the pics to see full size.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

So.....How are we spending our time now?

A picture is
worth 1000 words.

For LOTS more words, you may go to:

For like a whole novel.....try: (a great read, but, not for sissies or people with sucky bandwidth)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

More pics of the Apt in Cuenca, Ecuador

Gee..... I hope we can live with the view.
The wall between living room and dining room comes out.
The wall between kitchen and dining room will be opened up too.
So we will have one very large open room for kitchen, dining and living rooms.
There are more pics linked from a couple posts down.
Click on the pic of the balcony.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


It is with great sadness that we are leaving Cuenca tomorrow morning. It has been a fabulous 8 weeks and we would love to stay longer. However there is business to attend to in Kansas.

We love it here and will be returning next June. Duh....we bought an apartment.

What do we love so much about Cuenca? The list is long, but at the top of that list is all the wonderful people we have met here. The main idea of this post it to thank all of our new friends here. You have made this visit wonderful and you are the main reason we are coming back. Without you, Cuenca is just a beautiful city. With you, it will be our home. You know who you are, so I won´t try to name everyone. If I tried to list everyone, I would just screw it up.

Special thanks to all those who encouraged Brenda with all the ¨├»nteresting¨ ideas for improving the apartment. I hope you are around with your checkbooks in June.

See you soon,
Clarke and Brenda

Friday, July 24, 2009

Apartment Signed, Sealed and Delivered

The sale is final. The apartment is paid for. 1600+ square feet. 40 foot balcony. Way less than 1/2 the price of a similar size house in Topeka......which means 1/4 to 1/6 the cost in Portland. Needs some updating in kitchen and baths, etc. But will be wonderful.

We can´t wait to come back and get started on the next phase of our lives.

No new pics or anything because the Internet in our current rented apt has been down for a couple days and Internet cafes here in Cuenca.

FYI property taxes are $20-30 a YEAR ( $2 - 2.50 a month). No heating bill because none of the houses here have heating or air conditioning.....neither is necessary on the equator in an 8000 foot Andean valley. Water and electric will be less than $30 a month...combined. We won´t need a car and therefor no car expenses. Gotta buy a motorcycle of some kind.
Life is sweet.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It Looks Like We Bought an Apartment

We weren't looking.................

It just sort of happened.

It is in the downtown historic district.
The city shots are views from the balcony. (veranda?)

Perfectly livable right now,
but there is a reason that there are
no pics of the kitchen or 2 bathrooms.
We'll knock out walls
and do the remodel next year.

The deal is not final yet
and may fall through.
But we are prety confident
that it is a done thing....gulp.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I Took Some Pictures Today

I took a walk today and actually took the camera with me. Most of the pics (link above on pic or text) were just random pics. Not pics of monuments, churches, architecture or any of the usual "pretty things". I am able to take a couple walks a week of 2 hours or more. (Today was almost 3 hours.) These are exercise type walks...not a casual stroll. FYI the building above is completely faced with tile. Take a close look at it ..... very cool.
Anyway, today I took the camera and would occasionally take it out and take a couple shots in different directions.
On a few of the pics, it may look like I left the city and was in the country. Not true. There are 4 rivers that run through Cuenca. Also you can be walking in a "neighborhood" and see a very fine (expensive) house and next door could be a falling down old place or a vacant lot with old tires in it or someones little corn patch. Neighborhoods as we know them in the US, don't seem to exist here. I don't believe there is any such thing as zoning laws.
Cuenca is a great town for walking! It is not like taking a walk in Topeka.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I WAS WRONG (again)

Before we came to Cuenca, I was afraid that eight weeks might be too long.

I was wrong. I was wrong. I was wrong. I was wrong. I was wrong.

It is going to be really tough to leave, even if it is for less than a year.
<--- Senor Not So Happy To Leave

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Busses, Busses, Busses .......

So here is ”The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” on the busses.

The Good: Lots and lots of busses. They go everywhere in town….for 25 cents. If you stay on the same bus you can probably ride it all day for your quarter. All the lines are numbered and there might be 50 different routes (I really don’t know). I have seen Linea #1 and Linea #50 and lots of #’s in between. By the way, apparently some of the city busses go a considerable way out of town.

The Bad: No route map. Truly, there is no route map. I have asked around and there appears to be (yes I am saying it again)….no route map. The sign in the front window tells you about three of the major stops it makes. However, if you are truly a newbie - that is not much help. For instance, most of them say “Universidad” on the front. Well, I think there are 8 universities in Cuenca. Apparently if you are born here, the routes are part of your genetic memory. For newcomers, it can either be exciting, intimidating or frustrating …..but it is never boring!

The Ugly: This isn’t really the “ugly” but more like the “miscellaneous”. The busses don’t give change. So you must have exact change. Apparently there is a shortage of quarters in Cuenca ….. solution is to get a roll of quarters. I got mine from Nancy Watson. She calls them bus tokens. Take some time (days, months, years …..”time” is a relative term) and ride the busses till you know where they go. I have done some of that and it can be interesting. By the way, none of the busses seem to go in any specific direction. If a bus happens to be going east when you get on…that means absolutely nothing.

What is the worst thing that can happen if the bus is NOT going where you want? You can always catch a cab. Costs about $1.50 - $2.00 and there are 4,000 of those in Cuenca.

For a Good Time.....catch #7 going south on Salano (not east on 12deabril). Stay on the bus until it fnishes the loop. Take a box lunch, bottle of water and a book. make sure you start out well befor dark. Enjoy! For more fun, stay on for the other loop of the figure 8 that it does!

Friday, July 3, 2009

I Thought I Was on Vacation

Brenda made me get up early today.

She went lap swimming.

She made me climb stairs for 45 minutes. She is stupid. I hate her.

(click on pic for larger version)

And oh yeah, .......Here is a pic of the guy that made my hat. I thought he used gestures because I can't speak Spanish. Turns out he is mute. An extremeely likable man. I went to his store because it was truly the most humble place I saw selling hats. He makes them all himself. As it turns out....he is pretty famous around here.

Laundry Day - From the Softer Side

Cuenca was the original settlement of the Canari people who were later conquered by the Incas and the city was named Tomebama – after the river. The Spaniards colonized the city in the 1500’s and the city became known as Cuenca. The rio Tomebamba is the primary river which meanders merrily through this city. Some of the local indigenous women still wash their clothes in the river, using river rocks as their scrub boards. The clothes are then laid in the grass to dry. I’m humbled each time I see it. I will never complain about doing laundry again!

Ecuador is located on the equator, so most people mistakenly believe it is hot and humid here. Yes and no. Yes, it can be tropical on the coast and the Amazon jungle regions. Cuenca, however, is located in a valley of the Caja Mountains in the southern part of the Andes where the weather is ‘eternally spring’. June, July, and August is considered their winter season where the weather is still gorgeous but it rains more often. November, December, and January is their ‘Camelot weather’ – so they tell us.

Cuenca has three rivers that flow down from the mountains and through the city on their way to join mother Amazon. Consequently, Cuenca is known for its pure and refreshing drinking water. We enjoy it right from the tap.

La vida es buena! (Life is good!)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Today is Brennies Birthday!!

Feliz Cumpleanos Brendita!

It's a little strange actually. Yesterday she was 54. Today she is 50.

You think it is the altitude?

Health Care System

We had heard some astounding stuff abut the health care system here before we came down but we were skeptical.

Although it sounded unbelievable....we are finding it to be true. The care is excellent and very reasonably priced. Many people here do not have health insurance, not because they can't afford it like in the USA but because the medical treatment is so affordable! It seems to be a more simple system. The care is by no means primitive: rather it is traditional. There are some extraordinary concepts at work here.

1) your doctor, dentist or physical therapist actually spends time with you. We've heard it's not unusual for your doctor to make a house call.
2) the insurance companies do not run the show
3) rates are reasonable

Like I said "extraordinary concepts". And a real treat!!
For instance, Brennie and I each had our teeth cleaned and I had one cavity filled. $50. There weren't a bevy of receptionists and extra people running around (that we had to support). It was just the dentist. Very personal and good work.

Example 2, Brenda spent 1 1/4 hours with an osteopathic physician today about her chronic hip condition. (Her physical therapist actually walked us over to his office and translated for us.) He did an extraordinary job of examining her. Incredible really. Not like anything I had ever seen. $30. Thirty dollars!!!! And he may actually be finding the problem that has plagued her for 20 years.

Hell, at that rate I might be able to afford liposuction AND viagra! Life IS sweet.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

From the Softer Side

WWJD… (What Would John Do?)

My brother, John, is a certified chef and is known far and wide for his scrumptious creations. I have always admired his ability to create a gourmet meal out of whatever he can scrounge out of the fridge and cupboards. However, I am the baker in the family (at least he lets me believe that). So, today when the baking mood struck in an apartment without an oven, I asked myself “WWJD?”

The strawberries were purchased out of a wheelbarrow near the indigenous market, the chocolate was obtained at the Mercado in a raw slab form (they grow cocoa beans down here, too!). The chocolate has never been ‘cut’ so it took lots of sugar. I also threw in some coconutty, gooey stuff I found in a store called ‘manjar de leche coco’. Maravilloso!!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Went Shopping Today.....

Came home with proof that god loves me .....
.....even in Ecuador.

Peanut butter may be the US's greatest gift to the world.


Friday, June 26, 2009

What is This??

I see these all over the place. Usually stuck on a pole at an intersection. My handy dandy Franklin pocket translator tells men that the verb 'parar' means 'stop'. Google translate says that pare = stop. would appear to mean something more like "slow down enough before proceeding to make sure nothing larger than you is headed your way"

Incidentally.....there must be speed limit signs somewhere, but I don't recall ever seeing one. I'll see if I can spot one.

Despite all my smart alecky (sp) comments on this blog, be informed that I LOVE THIS PLACE!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cultural Observations From ...... The Softer Side

Where there’s smoke…no disculpo!

We do a lot of walking here in Cuenca. One really does not need a car in this town. Buses are cheap – a mere 25 cents. A taxi ride across town is $2.00 – max. As Clarke and I wander this lovely but foreign city, we often ponder on why Cuenceanos do or say the various things they do. I, being the more imaginative one, frequently come up with some creative “hypotheses”. Additionally, being deaf, I’ve become quite adept at reading body language and facial expressions and will frequently “guess-interpret” to Clarke what I think a native is trying to tell us in Spanish. Clarke, being the left-brainer in the family (just the facts, madam), will often look at my rear-end and ask “do you know that for sure – or are you just blowing smoke out your arse?” It’s become our inside joke, reduced to a rear-end glance. Truth of the matter is: we both have been doing a lot of smoke-blowing down here and will continue to do so until we master the language – and culture.

Speaking of mastering the culture, the best thing we did was switch to an English speaking, bi-lingual Spanish language teacher. Our original language teacher was a delightful person but her English skills were limited. After two intense, stressful weeks of the immersion method with no English instructions, I called it quits. There was also a situation that happened with our language teacher that was confusing and hurtful. I knew there were cultural implications but we lacked the language skills to resolve it. Clarke endured for a few more sessions but I found a bi-lingual angel named Mia. Mia is from Ohio with a degree in Latin American studies and is married to an Ecuadorian. But most importantly, for me, she can explain things in English. When I told Mia I wanted part of our language sessions to include a discussion of cultural differences, she laughed and said “ok, the first thing you need to know is that Ecuadorians do not like to accept blame – for anything! Ecuadorians will rarely say they are sorry because that implies they assume blame for something." In fact, they even have a word for it in their language “disculpo” which translated means literally ‘unblame me.’ On came the light bulb! Now that we understand ‘disculpo’, we see it in action quite often here.
The other day we picked up our laundry and after arriving home, discovered I had two pair of socks that were missing a mate. We returned to the laundry with the singles as props to explain our dilemma. You guessed it… "no disculpo!” Luckily, I happened to see one of my mates peeking out of someone else’s basket so was able to reclaim sock #1. Sock #2 (my favorite) is on it's way to Peru, property of a young backpacker from Germany who was staying at the hostel nearby. I’m blowing smoke on that last hypothesis but the cultural lesson gleaned from Mia on “disculpo” is a gem too good not to share. Stay tuned for tomorrow's cultural observation on time and age differences!

Hasta luago!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ecuadorian Shower.....

Pictured above is a bidet. For those that don't know what a bidet is, please go here....

We spent part of the day with a new friend here in Cuenca . She is remodeling a truly wonderful apartment that she has recently purchased. The master bath (bigger than most bedrooms and very elegant) has a bidet. Being a mid-westerner, I haven't seen a bidet and was interested ...... so I enquired.

See the handles in the pic above? It seems the outside handles open up the hot and cold water. The middle handle diverts the water so that it shoots up and does the business a bidet does.

Well, apparently our hostess was as inexperienced as myself. However she was a good sport and offered to show us how it worked. So, she leaned over the bidet and turned on the left and right handle. Do you see where this is going?

Now in the picture above, it would seem that the water is adjusted about right. Maybe her bidet is some type of bidet on steroids or something. You gotta be able to see where this is going now.

Remember the part about her leaning over the bidet.....the bidet on steroids. Well, yes, she did turn the center handle.

We are calling it an Ecuadorian shower. Gave the ceiling a pretty good scrubbing, too.

Our hostess is a wonderful person with a great sense of humor. She laughed harder than we did.

The cleanup was left to the remodeling crew.

Yet another day in paradise.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Panama Hats.......

.....Are Not From Panama

Actually Panama Hats originated in and are made in Ecuador. More specifically, right here in Cuenca.

So....why aren't they called Ecuador Hats???

One explanation that I read is that many years ago when they started to be popular and famous, they were shipped from Panama to the rest of the world.

Before we came down here, I expected that many/most local men would wear them. After all, we are at 8000+ ft. elevation and it is so easy to be sunburned here. (skin cancer you know) But NO, in actuality, very few men wear any kind of hat at all. Even baseball caps are pretty scarce. Most of the people that do wear hats are norteamericanos. If you wear a wide brimmed hat, it pretty much labels you as an outsider.

However being a fair haired boy and prone to skin cancer, I have to wear a wide brimmed hat all the time......well, not actually indoors. So yesterday, I traded in my wide brimmed canvas hat for a Panama. I don't blend in any better in my Panama....I just look a little prettier.

FYI, genuine Panamas are very expensive. I bought mine is a really seedy looking store in a not so pretty part of town. As it turned out, the old guy I bought it from actually made it. He has been making them since he was 6 years old and is well known. He took me out of his store and down a narrow hallway. Then we went up some pretty rickety old stairs to his other little showroomie workshopie type place where the rest of the hats were. All in all, it was very cool. Newspaper articles about him on the wall and everything.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Best Job in Town

Hands down......the coolest job in town is being a cop.

They have the best motorcycles, cool uniforms and get to carry guns. Some even have pistol grip, pump shotguns with 18 inch barrels .......very cool and makes me kind of homesick for mine. No pictures right now. Sorry.

The policia nacional have the coolest motorcycles.

This is NOT a posting from the 'softer side.'


Friday, June 19, 2009

Sacagawea Dollar

The US Mint started issuing the Sacagawea dollar in 2000. In 2008 it minted about 25,000,000 of them. Ever wonder where they are???

They are all in Ecuador. The official currency in Ecuador is the US Dollar. The paper bills get really ratty; but the dollar coins are very durable. Many stores and street stands will not take a paper dollar if it is too ratty....although they will give it to you as change. Therefore many people prefer the dollar coins to the bills. They are kind of heavy to carry around.

Pretty cool.
We got one paper bill back as change that is so filthy and ratty that we are not even trying to spend it. We wrote "sucio" on it to help us memorize the word for dirty. There are also sticky notes on most of the stuff in the apartment for the same reason ...... also pretty cool.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More from the softer side...

When our children were small and had a bad day, I would read them the story “Alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day.” It’s a wonderful story that describes a day in the life of a little boy, Alexander, on a day where everything goes wrong. He fantasizes of running away to Australia where everything is perfect. The moral of the story is that some days are imperfect – even in Australia.

The story always made them (and me) feel better so we coined a phrase from the book that we frequently use in our family…”some days are like that, even in Australia”. Translated it means “even in paradise, there will be bad days and you just have to believe that it will be better tomorrow.”

I had one of those days yesterday. I will leave out all the details. Remember the phrase “Anything that can go wrong, will?” Yep.

Later, after a good cry, our sweet daughter emailed me nine words that helped put it all in perspective. She said, “Mom, some days are like that, even in Australia”.

Out of the mouths of babes…

Hasta la vista!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Learning Spanish

I don't understand why we are not fluent in Spanish yet?
It can't be that hard.
I hear 3 and 4 year olds speaking it all the time.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

CUY = Guinea pig

We had a little treat for lunch today. The language school arranged for some of us to go out to lunch to try a South American delicacy. Cuy is a domestically raised guinea pig. It is larger than the guinea pigs that we have as pets in the states.

The skins are best eaten as soon as the cuy is brought to the table as it is crispy and hot. When it cools off the skin loses some of it's crispness. It is actually quite tasty. Both the crispy skin and the meat is good. It is a rich meat, full of flavor ...... but not lean. The organs are much darker than the meat and much leaner. I really enjoyed them until someone told me that it was the organs. That was fiine .... because I still liked them.

The cuy is brought to the table whole ... head, feet and all. Not too much meat on the ribs by the way. Best to grab a big thigh. I suspect that you can eat the brain, but I was pretty full by the time I thought of that.

Oh by the way, Brendita didn't like cuy so much (HUGE understatement). But she was A VERY GOOD SPORT.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Salsa dancing workout

We had a ball last night learning to salsa. I finally found something I do better here than Clarke. (It's that right brain/left brain thing.) The interesting thing about salsa dancing is that it's much like the language...precise and controlled. Of course, it helps to have a sense of rhythm. Here's a picture of us doing the salsa (stomp?) I don't know who tampered with the evidence!

Salsa Lessons........

.......are not for overweight 58 year old gringos with bad knees. (Brendita said she did fine: probably no mirrors on the walls for a good reason.)

Gee....too bad the pics didn't work out.

As a consolation, I am uploading a pic of a lovely meal we prepared in our own little apartment.

Spanish Phrase of the Day....

"No comiences Brendita."
Don't start with me Brenda.



That big green thing is a papaya.
Click on the image to see full sized

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cars in Cuenca

Very Expensive.
It appears that most drivers save some money by not purchasing their cars with brakes (they must be an added cost option).
After all, who needs brakes when you have a horn????
You can always slow down by running over a pedestrian or 2.

Coming Attractions

Tomorrows blog will nave pics of Brendita (Brennie) taking salsa lessons. Clarke will be edited out of the pics

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Question of Safety

I've gotten into the habit of going out and climbing stairs for about 45 minutes (up, down,etc.) usaually between 9 & 11 PM.

Brenda is a little concerned for my safety.

Most Ecuadorian men are about 5'6".

That is me in my stair climbing uniform.

Really now....? Who do you think scares who? (I just hope I don't get arrested as a menace.)

No Smoking???

The only smokers I have seen here were two US citizens.


Of course the elevation is 8,000 or 9,000 ft: so your lungs don't need to be further challenged.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tall, short, heavy or slim...It is all relative

I am 5'8".

In Kansas, that makes me shorter than most of my male students.

Here in Cuenca, I am tall.

It is kind of cool....until you go shopping for clothes.

I forgot to bring a sweater, so we set out to purchase one.

In the lovely picture, I am modeling an extra large blue sweat shirty type thing.

The mere fact that I would share this lovely pic should convince anyone that I am am most certainly able to laugh at myself. OR. Brenda was going to publish it anyway. She thinks it is hilarious. She was laughing so hard, it is a miracle she was able to take a decent picture.

Musings from the softer side

Greetings family and friends,

"Todo es neuvo"...everything is new! It's scary yet exciting. It's daunting but exhilarating. Each day we venture out of the comfort zone of our apartment presents a new challenge. Did I mention exhausting?? Learning a new language at our age is no walk in the park, but I was unprepared for the emotional exhaustion of being hearing impaired and learning a new language. The pronunciation! E is pronounced like a, i is pronounced like e, g sounds like h but don't forget the h is silent! And that rolling sound made with the tongue with the letter r? Well, that one will have to wait.

I love the Ecuadorian people and have been moved by their generosity and hospitality. While riding in the van from Guayauqil to Cuenca, aside from the astounding beauty of the scenery, two things happened that I will never forget. Our seatmates were a young couple from Cuenca who were in Guayaquil on business, Marysol and Claudio. Marysol and I connected instantly, in spite of our language barrier. She knew a little English and I had my dog-eared Spanish dictionary. For the next four hours, through halting "Spanglish" and pantomimes, we managed to learn much about each other. When we arrived in Cuenca, the driver stopped at the edge of town where passengers are normally dropped off. Negotiations transpired (with lots of gestures) between Marysol and the driver and Marysol obviously won. The driver reluctantly started up the van and delivered us to Claudio and Marysol's home where she insisted on driving us to our apartment. So...we were personally delivered to our front door by perfect strangers who had no agenda except kindness. Many hugs later, we promised to get together for dinner after we know the language better.

The second memorable thing that happened was with the other van riders. Two timid young girls from the rural area were also traveling to Cuenca. At about the halfway point, I bravely announced that I needed to use the "bano" (one of the few words Spanish words I knew). With a disgruntled look, the van driver stopped at a restaurant where the rural girls and I ran giggling like schoolgirls to the outside bathroom. (It's a girl-thing, even in Ecuador!) I finished first and went back to the van. However, the girls detoured into the restaurant and bought lollipops for all of us, driver included. For the remainder of the trip, we all happily sucked on lollipops while I mused over the wonderful lesson I had just witnessed on generosity.

Hasta luego (see you later)!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Crossing the Street

The picture is a 'kill zone' for pedestrians that are not very careful. In some places of the world it means 'pedestrian right of way'. In Cuenca, i believe the paint on the road just makes it easier to wash your blood off the pavement if you carelessly cross the street.

Lunch = Almuerzo

There are a thousand little places for lunch here. Very small places. 3 - 6 tables.

Lunch is called almuerzo. Cost is usually $1.50.

Consists of some type of homemade soup....and other stuff too. The place we randomly dropped into today was soup, rice, meat something and fresh fruit juice blend. And, oh ya....popcorn included in todays lunch

Yummy, nutricious and cheap.

Spanish vs English

Spanishseemstobespokenfaster. MaybethatisthereasonIdon"tunderstandit.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fruit, Fruit, Fruit

Holy Mother of should see all the fruit here! Fresh and cheap.

Brenda is in heavan. She got a blender today so she will probably live on fruit smoothies.

Avacadoes????? Three for a buck! Big, ripe and perfect. (That almost sounds sexy.) We had guacamole and fruit smoothie for dinner.

Peanut Butter. There is a store that does sell JIF. It is very expensive. So what. It is JIF, so I will pay whatever they have the nerve to ask.

Gotta go. Adios.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pretty Pics of Stairs

Click HERE or on the pic of Brennie getting religion to see some lovely stairs. The inside shots are of the stairs in our language school. There are a couple misc pics thrown in too.

ABOUT SPELLING ISSUES: Because I am using an IP address in Ecuador, the blog machine is running a Spanish spell checker. So whenn I spell check...every word is hilited as wrong. So I am not spell checking

Pedestrian Rights

Pedestrians have the right to dodge cars, motorcycles, buses, trucks and all 2 or 4 wheel vehicles

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cuenca is NOT Handicapped Accessible

The picture says it all....all 84 steps if you are counting!

You are looking at our fitness center!

Interesting Fruit

Went to the mercado (local produce...and everything else market) today.

Got an interestng fruit....have no idea what is is called. Has a tough...really tough orange outer skin. Tastes great and is really sweet. It only LOOKS like snot.