Thursday, July 7, 2011

Our First Two Weeks in Ecuador

Again I feel I must apologize to family and friends for tardiness in communication.  Our first two weeks have been very busy, - mostly occupied with the activities of setting ourselves up in our new apartment in Cuenca.  I now step back to provide a bit of a chronology.

We lived in a hotel from June 14 -20 after the closing date of our house in Kingston.  We used this time to make sure we had all the things we wanted and to make final visits with family.  On June 18th I decided to confirm with our travel agent about baggage and other issues.  We had been told that we would be allowed up to 4 bags each with the appropriate fees etc.  Much to our dismay the travel agent checked again with Continental Airlines only to discover that they would only allow two suitcases each during the summer period from June 1 to August 31.  One can imagine our utter despair at the idea of cutting our belongings that we planned to take in half.  Linda put on a braver face than I and began to jettison things she felt she could do without.  It took me a while longer to overcome my frustration and anger at our travel agent for failing to advise us of this issue.  In retrospect, we feel blessed that for some reason I decided to check this on the 18th rather than arrive in Toronto and be told of this restriction.  That would have been devastating.  So that was our first wrinkle.

After a wonderful June 19th Father's Day breakfast and a walk along the beautiful Kingston waterfronton with my Mom, Dad and Jacob - early on the morning of June 20th we set out for Toronto.  We had arranged to meet the "Pet Shipper" at 8:30 am at the rental car check-in.  Unfortunately, he was held up by an accident on the 401 and by confusion in our meeting location.  We had Java all set to go but for about an hour we were in a bit of a panic because we could not connect.  Thank God for Sean and Joyti, our son and his fiancee.  They rescued us.  They took Java over to the shipping location and met with the Pet Shipper there.  Had it not been for them meeting us that morning to say goodbye and a final hug we would have been up the proverbial creek.    That was our second wrinkle.  Linda and I were so thankful for the support of our family that morning.

We flew to Houston that day and Java overnighted in the Continental Airlines kennel.  We flew on to Quito the next afternoon / evening.  We were met by a lovely lady by the name of Sandra Baquero.  She is an international shipping agent that has a special affinity for pets.  Sandra had arranged for a van to pick us up at the airport and take us to our hotel.  It was so good to see her face in the crowd when we got off the plane.

On the morning of June 22nd we were geared up to get Java out of "lock-up" (customs) as early as possible.  Those that think that they can do this on their own should reconsider.  Sandra knows the system and the people that she needs to talk to.  It seemed like an eternity to us but we sprung Java by about noon that day.  He was a bit dehydrated but otherwise came through quite well.  We had been been told stories by fellow Canadian's in Cuenca, the Pangborns, that it had taken them three days to get their pets out.  We feel very fortunate to have found Sandra and thank her for her excellent service.  It was a very emotionally exhausting morning for us until Jav was released from custody.

We spent the day on June 23rd in Quito, unfortunately Linda experienced a bit of altitude sickness that day and needed to lay low for a while.  We were staying at the Hotel Cuba Vieja.  They suggested that LJ drink som Manzanilla Tea, later we found out that this is camomille to us.  It settled LJ's stomach distress and headache quite quickly and we were able to go out walking for awhile.  The hotel staff were very kind to us and Java and we were thankful for their hospitality.  The photo above is Java with two of the wait staff in the hotel.

On June 24th we were picked up by a gentleman by the name of Efrain.  He is the brother-in-law of our friend Alberto Ordonez.  He runs a tour company from Cuenca called Mio Tours but was available that day to come to Quito to pick us up.  Efrain spent 20 years in New York and is very capable in English and Spanish.  It was a long day of driving through the beautiful Andes and we we waited with great anticipation to see if the apartment Alberto had identified would meet our needs.  It was already quite dark by the time we arrived in Cuenca.  At the apartment was our friend Alberto and the landlord and our friend Guy from Oklahoma and his wife's Dad, Tom.  We met Guy and Shelley at Christmas and had the opportunity to develop a friendship.

The apartment was not particularly well lit, but the space seemed to meet our needs very well.  It has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and an incredible terrace overlooking El Centro.  We spoke to the landlord and asked to stay there overnight and make a decision in the morning.  In the morning we realized that there would be quite a bit of cleaning and a number of repairs to do before we would be prepared to sign a lease.  We liked the space of the apartment very well so we decided we would move forward.  Over the last 10 days we have had a lot of cleaning done and the landlord with some prompting from Alberto has made most of the repairs.  We are very thankful for the support of our friend Alberto as we have gone through this process.  The first photo below is of our living and dining area as you get off our elevator.

This photo is of our kitchen.  You can see we have purchased a number of appliances.

This view of El Centro is from our terrace.  The terrace is huge and will give me lots of opportunity for growing flowers.  You can see the signature, blue domes of the "new cathedral"  in the heart of the downtown area.

Love to all of you and our sincere thanks for helping us prepare for this challenging and adventuresome part of our lives.  God bless, Linda and David.

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