Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cabinets, cake and the Coast Guard

Some time ago, Our landlord Dave, acquired some kitchen cabinets for the house. The previous owner had taken the existing ones with them, it hadn't really mattered, since we didn't have but 2 of anything, but now here they are! We've got them in the "Pantry", his wood guy will be around one of these days to retrofit and install them. And when we get the container, I'll have drawers and cupboards, that'll be great! He also talked again about paint next month, a fresh coat of paint makes a ton of difference.

The other day we had to go to Manta, we are pros at this by now! We get on the bus in San Jacinto, $1 for both of us to RocaFuerte, then we get off in front of the panedaria and cross the street to catch the bus to Manta. 

Manta is 90cents each, about 45 minutes and you're dropped off at the bus terminal. From there we know we can walk to the bank, the waterfront is right there, and we follow it around the marina. We saw some interesting things on that mile walk. A bar called Nashville south, had this outside. Not sure if this place is in business, it's never open when we go by, but we've never been in Manta after dark.

The city planners are very fond of traffic circles, all the big cities and little towns have them, most are decorated with statues of what the city is known for...this says capital del atuna.

Both San Clemente and San Jacinto have them also with fish, someday I'll take pictures and post. Usually traveling too fast on the bus to get good shots, but I'll try.

On the way back, we have to purchase tickets inside at the counter, I tell the girl "Dos por RocaFuerte"
Give her $2, she gives my .20cents and two tickets. The bus usually has about 10-20 minutes before leaving, we buy a water for a  $1 and sit in the bus, (to make sure we get seats), but it is hot. The breeze feels so good when you get moving, right on the ocean, but then the canneries get ya! Phew! There's about 3 miles of stink, but to me it smells of money. Local and global commerce, tuna is BIG business here in Ecuador. Anyway, after the stink it's just miles and miles of Ceibo trees, there's a naval base, Cruz verde where we used to buy fruit from Jaime and his family. And back into RocaFuerte, where we buy our cake! I did not being my own tupperwares, which I said I was ( don't really have any) but I brought a different bag, that had a flat bottom, and kept things from toppling over. We bought a couple tres leche, which were in their own styrofoam, and some donuts! Fluffy not cakey, and not near as sweet as US donuts, it was a nice treat. We are finding everything is best fresh, some things are just too disappointing the next day. Queso filled bread is best at the panedaria, can't figure out best way to reheat them. rolls are ok in plastic on the counter for two days, but we have cats that prowl our kitchen at night, so I have to put them in the "pantry". They tore open gallon zip locks, and just bite a little out of each roll...bastards.

And where we catch the bus into San Clemente. This sign says bread store and sweet shop of Rocafuerte, 45 yrs experience. Dulceria is sweet shop, of course nothing is very sweet, and we've decided nothing we need. Dry cookies, meringues and coconut caramel clustery things. No thanks, Can't wait to start baking my own sweets. Mike is missing cinnamon rolls! At least Crucita had casserole dishes, I got nothing, don't even know if the oven works..someday. And cabinets! Yippee

Now, for the Coast Guard. Some of our fishermen go out at night, and we see their lights from shore. They are spread out across the dark horizon, in what looks like a border, they make us feel safe and we started affectionately calling  them "the coast guard". These aren't my pictures, but you get the idea. (Our lights aren't green either)

Just had lunch at home, pb and j, and fresh pineapple. Will go into San Clemente tonight for $2.75 shawarma! We've decided to get three. One and a half each, we tried reheating one the next day and it just wasn't the same. So we'll have our fill and it'll tide us over til next week. Don't want to get burned out. Of course there's talk of a Cuban place called Captain Jack Sparrows we haven't seen it open yet, but some expats went last night and reported they will be open Thursday thru Sunday. They said pricey, but three people for $16, doesn't sound too bad. Maybe next week we'll try it.

Had a promising email last night asking to 'confirm authorization of container delivery', that sounds good! Right?! Of course now it's the weekend, scoundrels! But better believe I'll be getting ahold of someone Monday morning! Fingers crossed everybody! Stay tuned! The adventure continues! 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Groceries vs. Eating out

I sat down with a calculator this morning and was trying to figure out what we spend on groceries, and what we spend on restaurants, so far for THIS week it's been $78 for BOTH. I make breakfast at home, we've eaten it out, but I can do it just as well. (Even with only one skillet) 

As far as groceries goes, it's eggs (7/$1), milk ($1), bread (silly, like .10 cents a roll), peanut butter ($1.89), jelly ($1.25), fruit/veg ($2.50), tortillas ($2), tuna in water ($1.31) *a note about tuna, tuna in oil is the norm here, I bought one, it wasn't bad, but I can't abide the extra calories, so I buy the more expensive canned tuna in water $1.31 in big city, usually $1.50-1.80 in small tienda.

Yesterday I needed to buy more jelly, so we walked on the beach down towards San Jacinto to find something to eat then hit the market. We decided to have al muerzo at the San Jacinto Hotel, it was very good, and as always the atmosphere was terrific. Lunch was $4 and came with soup, entree, juice/soda and dessert, and we shared a beer for $1.25.

The soup had two big shrimp in it, the entree was pescado chicharron, we weren't sure what it was, but on the menu they usually charge $10 so we figured it was good. It turned out to be fish nuggets. Tasty, but certainly not worth $10... The salad was nice, had corn and radishes, the soda...well as most sodas, too sweet for me, kinda like Mountain Dew, and the dessert...hmmm, all we came up with is, the taste of bread pudding with a weird texture. Not great, but nice to have something a little sweet to end with. Hotel San Jacinto has scenery in the bag, it's a beautiful oceanfront patio.

After lunch, we continued into San Jacinto, stopped at the pharmacy, got ear drops for Mike, and bug soap for the pups=$7.80 ( this figure was not added into the $78 I just realized)

Mike got water in his ear from a big wave the other day, and of course all our medicine stuff...all together now...IS IN THE CONTAINER. I found a flea on Shadrach, and have been on the lookout for some kind of flea and tick stuff, decided to start with the soap (we could probably use it too, it says it's herbal). Mike found the ear drops avail online for $38... We bought it for $4!

At the market we bought toilet paper, sugar, jelly, a small bag of dog food, butter, cocoa, eggs, milk. I had a $20 ready to hand over, when he first told me nueve, I thought yep $19, but then I realized he'd said $9! So since we left the house, we'd spent $26? Lunch and two stores? We call that $100 in the States! Ha!

Back home for a nap, then the tummy was growling, so we thought we'd go try Chifa. Pablo had the shawarma ready, but we went with Chinese. Told him to just make us something special, it was like having our own personal chef! He made us sweet and spicy pork and veg, and Thai fried rice. What a perfect pairing, it was Muy Rico! A bit on the expensive side...$13. (of course we had leftovers) and beer.  We tip him $1 because he deserves it, and honestly doesn't charge enough...

Our sunset view, shared a beer...

A pretty expensive day, still under $40 which is unheard of for most places. If we break it down to lunch and dinner that was only $22, we don't do that all the time, but it was an especially nice day. I'm sure when I get my kitchen set up there will be more groceries, and more cooking at home, which is fine, I'm honestly looking forward to more than one skillet! 

So an updated total for the week (including pharmacy) is $86, let's say that's $100 per week, that's $400 per month, we spent that and more in the States just on groceries! I tried to limit our eating out budget in the States to $30 per week, that got us usually one meal out. If after we get the container we stick to $100 a week, our monthly budget would be under $1000. That would be nice, I'll do another calculator day in the future and see how we come out. Stay tuned, the adventure for today, the tide is low, so a walk on the beach is calling. Hasta mañana!

Thursday, August 28, 2014


This post may be a little "all over the place"...a jumble of bits I've been gathering, enjoy.

A story Wolf told us, probably the first day in Crucita, when he drove us to PortoViejo to the Supermaxi for groceries. "An American man in Ecuador fell in a hole in the sidewalk and broke his leg. He tried to sue the city, and when he got his court appearance, the judge sent him to an Optomitrist, when he returned with a clear bill of health from the Optomitrist the judge said, 'well if you're  not blind, you must be stupid, case closed'!" Seems like such a long time ago, June 2nd

Another thing I've been meaning to mention is the Ecuadorean's health. Now this is only observation because of the language barrier. Maybe 3% are obese, I would say there are some chunky ones  but not near what we have in the States! The diet is healthier, although one expat did say the children consumed a lot of sugar, but I can't imagine more than the kids in the US. Big city people of course are different from the coastal fishing villages, but we've spent some time in the big cities too, and by the looks of it, the Ecuadoreans are very well balanced and healthy. Teeth are good, beautiful hair, and not much gray. They seem not to gray until very old, very agile too, now it could be that the ones who are in bad shape don't get out of the house, that's possible...their labeling on food is very vitamin and mineral conscience. Where in the States the label tells you it's "low fat" theirs tell you it has vit A,D &E. And very small windows of time between when a packaged product is made and it's expiration date. Both are on the label, very little in the way of preservatives. Good and bad, good for obvious reasons, but bad because I've lost some stuff in the fridge by not eating it soon enough. The produce is fresh, so it doesn't last, but at 10cents instead of 79 cents I can let that cucumber go. (Neither of us have weighed ourselves since we left in May, we were waiting for our bathroom scale in the container)

This is one of the area street dogs, I've named him Patsy, he is a boy, but I named him after Patsy on the BBC show Ab Fab. Because he (and she) is blonde and nasty (he has bad skin, she is a horrible person). He started following us one day way down the road in San Clemente, probably followed us a mile, then just kind of trailed off. Then he followed us on the San Jacinto side of the Malecon, but then the day this picture was taken, Mike saw him on the beach with another couple. Because of his skin condition we don't pet him, or feed him, or encourage him, but he is kinda cute.

He can walk with us anytime, and when he's done, he's gone.

Some of the expats "adopt" the street dogs, but then they get on a Facebook wondering if anybody has seen the dog when he's off doing his "street dog stuff ". You can take the dog off the street, but you can't take the street out of the dog.

I'm starting a list of things I want from the States, either if/when we go, or when somebody comes to visit:
Qtips, maybe REAL Qtips, not $1 store ones even
Fly paper strips, not for flies so much as fruit flies, those gnatty things are all over my kitchen
   Hmmm, so far that's it, there will be more added to the list if we don't get our container...the fees are still mounting, it's just such a hurry up and wait deal here in Ecuador. Not much urgency in the bureaucratic departments. Donations are still needed, we've collected about $500, but at this point that's a drop in the bucket, storage fees are $1000 every two weeks, and it's been here now 2months. Every little bit adds up and helps, thanks in advance, this will be the last time I mention it. To donate go to the link below:

Ive told Catalina that this HAS to come to an end, we can't continue to live in this unfurnished house. It's either, get our container clear by the end of the month, or we have to start rebuilding. We can't sit and continue to watch the storage fees rise, ridiculous! But, in the meantime, we do this

A final rambling, my grandfather and grandmother bought an Airstream trailer, and after Grandpa's early retirement they attached that trailer to the back of their truck and took off. I'm not even sure where all they  went, up down and around the States, thru some of Mexico, maybe Canada, spent a couple years doing it I think. I remember Grandpa saying that "one should be retired when they were young and could enjoy it". THAT obviously stuck with me. I recently found out that Grandma didn't always like that time in the Airstream, she missed friends and family, but she had Grandpa and he was all she needed. Myrl went "home" to him and Jesus yesterday. A long chapter, full of life has ended. It was a good read.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Shawarma and shrimp

We heard about a restaurant in San Clemente that served shawarma, we headed down there one day, just to find out that he only did shawarma on the weekends, it took us a couple weeks to get there on the right night, but boy was it worth the wait! 

Chifa Surf is the name, and if you remember from an earlier post, Chifa is Chinese food, so not only does he do shawarma, but he does Chinese, great to have two very different options to seafood! He, is Pablo, a young man originally from Lima, Peru, who has traveled much and studied cooking in Israel, he is a master! 

We got there early the other evening, he was just getting set up, but you can see the shawarma doing it's thing, let me see what Wikipedia says about shawarma.

Shawarma (ArabicشاورماALA-LCshāwarmāUrduشوارمہ) is aLevantine[1][2] meat preparation, where lambchickenturkeybeef,veal, or mixed meats are placed on a spit (commonly a vertical spit in restaurants), and may be grilled for as long as a day. Shavings are cut off the block of meat for serving, and the remainder of the block of meat is kept heated on the rotating spit. Although it can be served in shavings on a plate (generally with accompaniments),shawarma also refers to a sandwich or wrap made with shawarmameat. Shawarma is usually eaten with tabboulehfattoushtaboon bread, tomato, and cucumber. 

I'm pretty sure he said this was chicken, and his toppings are lettuce/cabbage slaw, tomato, onions, and the wonderful flavorful sauces. His sister is in Israel and was trying to ship hummus and spices over, yummy!

As the meat cooks, it's juices drip in the pan, then when he cuts the meat off, he let's it fall into the pan, where it swims in the juices just a minute before being placed in the sandwich. This little tabletop meat spit is powered by a gas tank. At one point in the evening he went across the street to another restaurant and came back with another gas tank, we thought this one was out, but...

Somebody had ordered Chinese, so he started up his inside cooking space to prepare it. One of these days we will have to try his Chinese food, but the shawarma is just soooo good! Oh yeah, the shawarma sandwich...$2.75

We tried the restaurant next door the day we went looking for shawarma on a weekday, and it was Muy Rico! (Very delicious) We tried something new, camaron a la plancha, and were not disappointed!

We had been getting pescado frito, and sometimes it was pan fried, but other times it was deep fried (not what we were looking for), but we found a la plancha, is iron plate, so it is more or less seared on a hot grill. Perfecto! So when we saw they had shrimp done that way, we jumped at the chance to try it.

This was 8 shrimp, and I know I got 8 to a pound, so we got a whole pound of shrimp! Very tasty, and so was the fish. We usually get two different things and share, yum. Shrimp $7, and fish $4.50.

The ensalad is shredded cabbage, cucumber and carrots, with a delightful lime/ vinegar dressing, we can care less about the patacones, (plantain rounds) but all in all a great meal. The outdoor seating is in the shade usually, which is always a plus, and only a storefront from the beach, so beautiful view and breeze. Definatly one to try!

Just got word from Catalina, that we have more papers to sign in Manta, so we cancel our lunch date, and will get on the bus. Our lunch date was with someone who also is working with her, but has a furnished condo and was going to loan us an end table and lamp, aww the little things. But there's always tomorrow...Hasta mañana! The adventure continues!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Charapoto shopping trip

On Friday we decided to take the bus into Charapoto, check out their fabric stores, (I'm sooo sorry I didn't get any pics Joan and ladies!) and see if they had a bakery. Rocafuerte has a very nice bakery, but they don't package well, and after a bus ride we end up with squished cake. But, I was talking about Charapoto...bus comes down the Malecon towards San Jacinto a couple blocks from our house, but we were talking and watching the ocean instead of watching for the bus and it passed us! We wandered into San Jacinto to see if maybe one of the restaurants spoke to us, but nothing did, and I just knew as soon as we ordered another bus would have gone by, and it was getting late.

But as we waited, we noticed that this encebollados cart had three flat tires, and Mike commented "that's Ecuador for ya". And I thought, " that's right! F*@# it! We're not giving up!" And just then another bus came, but we got one more picture.

Bus (or motorcycle) is the most popular mode of transportation, and the items this guy sells are bulky and cumbersome: toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and I'm not sure what else, but I'll watch for him!

We got moving, and into Charapoto right about siesta! Wouldn't you know it! I remembered a little restaurant we saw last time, Mike had said it looked interesting, so we ordered al muerzo. And when I say restaurant, it's a shade structure, dirt floor and plastic tables and chairs, this one did have tablecloths. Soup was good, entree was tuna "casserole" made with yucca, very much like potatoes, so I guess more apt would be tuna potato salad. Tasty, and really great naranja jugo. (Orange juice) $3 and filled some time, and if we do find a bakery, it'll be better that we aren't starving. Wandered the four blocks or so up/down and then the two blocks in either direction off the Main Street. (It has two stop light)

The sign out front said entero pollo $1.48 lb, I haven't looked it up, but it either says entrails, or entire...your guess is as good as mine. They looked especially silly as we walked up on them... We found a little panedaria (bread bakery) but what we really wanted was a cake store! But alas, it was not to be. Next time we go thru Rocafuerte I'll take my own Tupperware, and maybe our goodies will have a chance.

By now, the stores were rolling up their gates and opening back up for business. Found the fabric store, she didn't have a great color selection in what I was looking for, but she kept looking and found some teal, I'd gotten this Tshirt fabric in Bahia for $4 /meter but here it was $6, I went ahead and got some anyway, and chalked it up to they evened out to $5/ meter and it had made a BIG difference in our comfort level. We want to go to Bahia again when we have more money, there was a nice nursery, and the Tia grocery store. But then when we get our container, I won't need anymore Tshirt fabric, because I'll have REAL SHEETS! Real chairs! Our bed! Dog beds, Rugs, casserole dishes, cookie sheets, crock pot, microwave! More than one skillet, end tables, dinner table, coffee table! Make up table!!! (Not that I'm wearing much make up these days) shampoo ( big bottles from beauty supply), hair color, slippers, lamps! Ohhhh my lamps! Mirrors, this house has NOT ONE. Pictures, knick knacks, Veronica's dog dresses (I only packed 14), walking shoes, sun screen (I've got like 6 3pks from Target), reading glasses and sunglasses (we stocked up at the $1 store.) You know, a HOUSEFUL...

But, back on track, we left Charapoto and made it in time for a walk before high tide. We didn't take the pups, but soon. They really love it! Some items to add to our "what we find on beach walks" file:

Another wonderful day in Ecuador! Seriously the only thing that needs to change is for us to get our container, and some creature comforts and this is paradise! One of my former clients comments often, (I for the life of me, can't figure out how to reply to comments, but I do usually email) anyway, Joan asked if I would suggest a visit, and I absolutely would! I knew from reading other blogs that we would enjoy the weather, the food, and be ok with the slower pace of life. What I didn't know was how available ALL MODERN CONVIENCES ARE. They don't have WalMart, but close. Shop around, word of mouth from friends, that's what we do in the States too, right? People said stuff was expensive...$12k expensive? TONS of headache expensive? I wish I knew, but yes visit first, because it's not for everybody. The buses,or lack of, the random government office closings, the parades, late night festivals, roosters, barking dogs, language barrier...I was talking to Chase bank, trying to get a pin # for my cards cash advance and they said "just go into the bank with ID" but with the limited spanish, that's not an easy task. Even when I do type out a paragraph for the pocket translator, then the clerk has a question...which I can't understand, let alone answer. 

But we have faith, gumption, and a good attitude, thanks to everyone reading for your well wishes, prayers, crossed fingers and of course donations.( goFundme button at top right) We had some trickle in lately and it warms my heart! Thanks for reaching out, my faith keeps growing thru this trial! I remind myself that this is the BIGGEST move we've ever attempted, of course there will be bumps, but in the end it will all be sweet! Thanks again everyone, keep dreaming, and stay tuned. The adventure continues...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

$70 a day

This is a glimpse into Ecuador:

Monday Aug 11-Passed Customs inspection
Tuesday Aug 12-recoup from long day in Guayaquil
Wednesday Aug 13-Was told to sign papers at Bank (papers not there)
                                 Was told to have letter notarized and sent to Cuenca (told would arrive next day)
Thursday Aug 14-no papers at bank, notarized letter did not reach destination 
Friday Aug 15-still no papers at bank, not until Monday. Notarized letter did arrive.

Monday Aug 18-still no papers at bank, maybe at 3:30pm
Tuesday Aug 19- papers finally at bank to sign...but they weren't. Had to wait almost 2 hours
Wednesday Aug 20-no news
Thursday Aug 21-bad news must pay customs agent $560
Friday Aug 22-no news. total cost in holding fees since inspection=$980

We've had quite a morning, the highs are so high, but the lows are very, very low.
Have been rather depressed about this container business, coupled with the sparse living conditions, it gets to ya. It's been almost a month in the unfurnished house, and almost two months that the container has been here. It's a roller coaster, as the above timeline illustrates a little, and as difficult as that is, it's nothing compared to the fact that my Grandmother is dying. My mom is loosing her mother...THAT's difficult! Grandma is 97 1/2 (at this point those 6 months really mean something), she's been ready for some time, and we all have peace about it, but now that hospice has been called in, it's suddenly really REAL...Grandpa went "home" back in 2007, and what a tough ol' girl that she lasted this long, but until recently she was still having a good time.

We visited before we left the States in early May, and she was pretty alert, tired, but alert. But as this month of August has unfurled she has deteriorated quickly, Mom probably is annoyed with me bringing up our big dogs, but when it was time, they deteriorated quickly too. We had them 15 years, and watching them age and turn into ghosts of themselves, was really hard. Finally they had had enough, and we sent them "home", but we wrestled with that decision for over a year! I wish we could send our human loved ones "home" when they were ready, lived a big, full life, but were tired beyond belief. I'm so sorry Mom, wish I was there to hug you! 

This is one of our favorite pictures, we lovingly call it "dos weirdos". Loki, the black lab/ pitbull and Gargoyle our German Shepard/pit mix, and Mike in the motor home moving across country from Idaho to North Carolina in 2006. Boy they loved that trip! 

I guess the moral of this story, is to count your blessings, not the dollars a day life might cost you. Everybody's got something going on, and sometimes they just need a hug. Go find someone and give them a hug...that could be dangerous, find someone you KNOW, and hug them. We've also learned (again) here in Ecuador that a smile goes a long way. Chins up! The adventure continues...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Papers, papers and more papers

We had this wonderful opportunity to go on a free trip to the cloud forest, but since papers that we were to sign weren't ready, we opted not to go. When we were in Guayaquil last Monday we were told on Wednesday we had to go to Manta to sign papers at the bank. Like good clients, we did as we were instructed, but when we got to the bank, there were no papers to sign. So when Friday came and the papers were STILL not at the bank, we decided we had to stay behind. We had Fernando call this morning...only half the paperwork is there, maybe 3:30? I said forget it, we'll go in the morning, so from last Wednesday to Tuesday! The papers are probably in this pile...gotta be Ecuador

But for every bad, there's a good, and this time (as many times) it came in the form of food!
We have a guy on a bike who comes by with a 5gallon bucket with huge shrimp and ice. They call them langostinos which you may know as the spanish word for lobster, but in this case they are really big shrimp. We got 8 to a pound, and $5 a pound.

We pan fried them with their shell on, and tossed with seasoning, cilantro, onions, peppers and lime. They were very good for our first attemp cooking them this way. We will keep trying, as we get more spices and cooking utensils.

Right before we started cooking, Tarzan the Gardner stopped by with more presents! He had banana trees, and what look like cannas, and a couple croton bushes (the yellow gold dust ones, the red ones don't like all the salt). He saw that I had put in the ground cover, and told us that the pineapple we planted wouldn't do well except inside the wall, too much salt. So we'll move those, but it's coming together nicely, another reason we couldn't go away, we have to water all our new plants! 

We both are feeling kinda lethargic today, maybe a little down that we couldn't go on this trip because of stupid paperwork. Which reminds me, we did hear a story about that, I'm paraphrasing-

When the king of Spain sent his men here to South America, he gave them instructions to send all the gold and silver home to Spain, when the shipment arrived many months later, after stopping inVenezuela and other ports it was about half it was reported to have been. The king was furious, and from then on told every person who touched it to sign off, before passing it on to the next, and the next time he got all his gold. (Well he got somebody's gold). So that's part of the problem of paperwork in Ecuador.

We will try a new place for al muerzo today. It's a place called Bamboo and Ceibo, an Ecuadorean man and his Spanish wife, their daughter Elizabeth and his nephew Fernando (another sweet Fernando) are wonderfully gifted at hospitality. We've noticed some of the restaurants have good food, but not any hospitality skills, we appreciate both. They have a brick pizza oven and very good pizza, hamburgers and some other gringo food. From what we've had their flavors are great, so I'm sure their lunch special will be tasty. Try and find Angel our fruit and veg guy on the way home and nap in the hammock, sounds perfect.

Tomorrow will be Manta bus trip, so stay tuned for all the adventure!