Friday, March 3rd
Our Last Week in Cuenca
We had lunch at Pam and Eddy’s on Sunday. Pam invited us over as a last hoorah with them before we move away from Cuenca to Olon, Ecuador. It was of course terrific because Pam and Eddy are great cooks. They also invited a friend, Rosie, who they met on their recent flight back to Ecuador from Miami.
Rosie is a crack up. A gregarious 70 year old women from Venezuela who seems to embrace life in each of its moments. She did get confused which building Pam and Eddy lived in. She first was at the wrong building, but pressed every buzzer anyway, sometimes more than once, insisting to the occupants, “I know Pamela lives here”.
As she told the story to us she just laughed, and said “I’m sure the police were on their way to arrest me for disturbing everyone’s peace!” We had a nice time eating and sharing stories together, and when it was over we said our goodbyes to everyone. Pam and Eddy are two of the kindest people anyone will ever meet. I’m glad we got to know them while in Cuenca.
On Monday we invited Scott and Colleen over. Heidi wanted to give Colleen some of the plants on our terrace. She agreed to take whatever would fit in a plastic tote that she would bring with her to our place. After the plant selection process we headed up the street to have lunch at a new restaurant that opened up, Guayoyo. It is in the same location where Popacuchu’s was located.
When we got there it was closed. Carnival is this week and today is considered a business holiday. Lucky for us Monte Bianco, the ice cream and sandwich store was open. We went in, ordered our sandwiches, and sat around a big table and had one of our last conversations with two people we have really come to know and appreciate for their awareness and humor of life, Scott and Colleen.
Packing and preparing for our move to Olon continues as it rains in Cuenca. Each day this week has brought rain at various times of the day. We need to buy some totes and other items to bring with us to the coast, so our outings each day are scheduled around the rain.
On Tuesday we split up. Chase and I went to the mall and Heidi and Easton headed to Feria Libre. It is the last “official” day of Carnival where throwing water and spraying foam on people is the norm here. As Chase and I walked toward the mall we would see groups of young kids, and even adults, standing in front of their homes with buckets of water chasing each other and getting one another soaked. We, smartly so, would cross the streets before passing them.
Heidi and Easton weren’t quite so lucky. It was harder to avoid the rabble-rousers at the huge open air market as they terrorized unsuspecting shoppers with spray foam and water. Easton got sprayed with foam from a little kid who actually was encouraged by her mother.
An older teenager ran up to Heidi and with a devilish grin said, “Aha! Ha ha ha” holding a bucket of water over her head. My poor wife. She looked at him pleadingly, and with hands folded said , “Oh no, por favor!”. Mercy won out and Heidi was spared a drenching by this crazed Carnival youth.
When Chase and I got to the mall to buy fans at Corral, it was closed. The trip wasn’t a total loss however as we spotted a man selling colorful nylon webbed lounge chairs in the grass outside the mall. We negotiated a much better price than where he started us at and bought four of them to enjoy watching the ocean on our deck at our new place outside of Olon.
Wrapping It Up
My last day in Cuenca started with some sunshine. I went to PuntoNet to discontinue our internet. I’ve already paid for all of March, and I was assessed a penalty for ending my 24 month contract early. I didn’t want a 24 month contract but that is all they offer.
They credited me just two weeks of March because they said my internet will not get turned off until Mar 17th. Today is the 2nd. Wow. Seems ridiculous it takes them so long to disconnect me. They also wanted to know what time, after the 17th, to schedule the technician to come and remove the modem hard wired into their system.
I said I’m leaving today, and gave them my landlords number. Hopefully this turns out ok. My credit card is on file and I am on auto pay. They said my “penalty less remaining credit for March” will be $49. Basically one month of service. I guess that beats having to pay for the remaining 15 months on my contract!
Packing and Travel to Olon
Heidi, Chase, and Easton took the noon bus on Thursday headed for Olon. They arrived around 7:30 pm and met with our landlord to get keys and take care of paperwork. The movers showed up at 9 pm and quickly loaded our things into the truck…after they ate.
Chase and Easton took more than half our things down the 3 flights of stairs to the covered porch before they left. It seems like we have a lot more stuff than what we showed up with arriving in Cuenca! After the truck was loaded the movers said they were coming back at midnight to pick me up and head for Olon.
It was a long 7 hour drive through the middle of the night. I tried my best to stay awake with the driver and it was difficult. The second mover guy was in the cargo area sleeping when we left. It wasn’t until 4:30 am in the morning when the driver pulled over and woke his buddy up. When the new guy was driving I was able to sleep for about an hour.
We were probably 1000 feet from our new place outside of Olon, when we encountered a police check. The police waived our vehicle over and the process began. Cops here work on the bribery method. They pull vehicles over, look for infractions that come with heavy fines, and take bribes to not write the ticket.
The cop came to the driver side window and spoke to the driver for a few minutes, then went back to his car that was parked in front of us. I looked at Jorge, my driver, and asked what was up? He said the cop wanted money, although the cop never said that. Jorge pulled $15 from his wallet, exited the van, and walked to the police car. He returned without his money, and I asked if we were good? He said the cop didn’t tell him.
We waited in the van and watched the cop pull forward and flip a U-turn. Jorge watched the cop drive by, and then watched him in his side view mirror and saw the cop pull up behind us. With a big sigh Jorge took some more money and exited the van. When he came back I asked if we could go and he said yes. I asked how much he had to pay the police, “$40” he said.
During this whole time I could see my sons up ahead coming out from our gate and looking down the road at us. So close…and yet so far. I asked Jorge what the fine would have been for not having the proper permit? He told me $700.
It is an unfortunate reality of the economy here in Ecuador. Police aren’t paid enough, so they supplement their incomes through these types of traffic stops. There is also a cultural acceptance, or at least resignation, of this corruption. I reimbursed Jorge for the “fine” he paid. My move was only costing $200 for these guys to load my things, drive seven hours, and then unload them. It is a mystery to me how they make it.
In spite of having no sleep, Friday was a full day. But before we began unpacking we had coffee on our deck and watched the ocean waves. The early morning cloud cover hasn’t burned off yet and as I sat sipping my brew with my family, a double rainbow appeared. I felt like it said, “Welcome back guys, you are where you belong.”
We made some good strides in getting things put away and organized. It is hot and humid and I would be lying if I said it was perfectly comfortable, but I am happy. I love being back to the ocean, the sand and beach, and the general feel of being around people not in a hurry. There are no packs of barking dogs where we live, no heavy engine noise of the buses driving by, and no loud horns of car and taxi traffic, only the sounds of the ocean and the birds singing in the nearby trees.
I enjoyed an ocean swim with Chase and Easton. The water is warm and the waves are fun. I can walk out a couple hundred feet and the water is at my chest and the sand is under my feet. It was just what I needed to get refreshed. Heidi came down to the beach and we watched a beautiful sunset.
Ahhhh, I’m back.