Place #2

Moved in and we’ll be here until February 16th, with a little sidestep for one day on January 17th to vacate the room for a prior reservation. Internet connection is a little wimpy here, so skype and magicjack may cut our calls short sometimes šŸ™‚

All of our Possessions

Place Numero Dos

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Traveling Light

Tomorrow we move and I haven’t even started packing yet. I figure it will take me less than an hour. Kind of liking this aspect of minimalism! Heading to the middle of el centro for a little over a month and then to our final destination for the rest of 2015. Also discovered that instead of fumbling with the unlock on my android phone, clicking the camera icon and then framing a shot I can just swipe from right to left and the camera view comes up ready to snap a shot. QuĆ© bien!


More living logistics ironed out today. Seems like I’ve been consumed with this, but then we’ve only been here a week and our current roof over the head ends the day after tomorrow. It’s pretty much boiled down to the following, with the final confirmation on the last and most important long term option nailed down tomorrow.

Out of here on the 7th. It’s been fun being so close to the Tomebamba. The river at night lulls one to sleep and whispers all sorts of secrets about the andes and the civilizations that have lived here since 8000 BC. Most of which is translated into western dream images like the acting lessons from Robert Downing Jr. to prepare us for an undercover assignment a few days ago. Somewhere in those images is probably the secret location of the lost gold of El Dorado, for which Cuenca is allegedly a prime candidate.

January 7th to January 16th – moving uptown in the heart of “el centro” for 10 days, until we are bumped by a prior reservation and then back until February 16th or so.

February 16th – if things go well tomorrow, we move into our “permanent” quarters. A very suite 1 bedroom, king size bed, kitchen, living room, all utilities, cable internet, flat screen TV with DirectTV (which we’ll probably only use to cast netflix and amazon) for $720 a month. A bit pricey here, but pretty amazing, smack in the middle of downtown in a renovated colonial building with interior courtyard and 24 hour security. Not too shabby. We looked at a similar offering but the layout didn’t have the right feng-shui for us.

Chatted with a person over facebook that lives here and teaches Karate, mostly using google translate. Not really sure whether I want to get back into the martial arts or whether I’m ready to close that chapter of life and move into some old fart regime like qigong and tai-chi. May check out a wing chun place near here tonight while I mull over this.


Now that I have a data plan, I can leverage google maps somewhat to orient locally. Unfortunately there are some disconnects between Google Maps and My Map (ex-Maps Engine.)

Using My Maps ProĀ you can drop custom pins for locations, and access these custom maps from the android with the My Maps app. The compass function seems to be busted on My Maps, but at least the GPS shows where you are, if not which direction you are headed. It’s also kind of clunky if you start adding layers to put pins for different purposes (restaurants, businesses, etc.) as you can not move things from layer to layer without some hackery with KML exports and imports. But it does shore up some weaknesses with Google maps in that you can actually save a new and unique location rather than just star a favorite place that has already been previously assigned. And add some notes to it…somewhat.

I tried Map Factor and it did a good job with orientation and tracking distances (had it installed for the first 3 days and we walked a total of just over 18 miles!) It uses OpenStreetsMap data but was so cluttered with icons it was difficult to see where you were going and was clunky to add your own markers.

Meh, this is probably a better topic for one of my other techy blogs. There may be a nice opportunity for an application that leverages google maps but adds intuitive features like location drops and notes, compasses, pedometer and location based reminders and notes in a single app.

We looked at a couple of places today. Will probably go for the one we saw available in April 1st, but also checking back when the manager is in on another that was a few blocks up the street that “may” have vacancies. Had some of my favorite Ecuadorian soup: potato, cheese and avocado.

Phones and Software

Didn’t plan to do this so soon, but ended up getting my phone setup for Ecuador. A sim card, voice and data pay as you go plan, total out of pocket: $35. Technically I think you need a cedula, a national id, to get a local number, but the guy used some one else’s they had on file. Kind of cool to be able to use google maps on the go now to keep from getting lost. And give a local number to people. And call places to make reservations and such that won’t be able to understand me.

Walked by this little software tienda…didn’t check the prices on the Windows 8.1, MathLab, AutoDesk, Adobe and other pricey packages. They are probably around $5 and most likely are torrent downloads burned to DVD šŸ™‚

I think my game plan for learning Spanish is going to consist of a four prong strategy:

  1. Platiquemos, which is the updated FSI program that is for people really serious about drilling spanish into their brain. One quote from a language forum kind of sums up the consensus: “Great observations about FSI. I’ll add one more… I have not seen anyone who has finished FSI and says they do not speak Spanish reasonably well. You never see people who have finished it recommending against it”
  2. Combined with the “Telenovela” method. Which is basically just tackling a movie, song or other media and parsing it until it’s completely understood, skimming the new vocabulary and grammatically structures to anki where it will be retained. This way the topic is actually something personally interesting and gives you something to talk about with others a little more exciting that “I think I lost my pen under the table.”
  3. Finishing up the Pimsleur program. I’m on Level 3, I’ve got about 25 lessons + 15 more in level 3.5 to go.
  4. And, of course, the daily immersion and attempts to communicate provided by daily encounters…i.e. today’s new vocabulary:
    desbloquear (as in, the phone is unlocked, it’s cool)
    llave (what the sales lady keep asking me to do when my phone locked her out)
    crema de afeitar (shaving cream…long story)


Today we met an acquaintance from last March for lunch at a mexican joint. Mexican food is harder to find here than one might think. We had a couple of cervezas and bought her lunch as she was leaving Cuenca in a couple of days for Cotacachi, probably our second choice for a spot to live in Ecuador. It’s not that well known outside of Ecuador, but is one of the cooler places to live for those who have explored the country.

Afterwards we hit the “Prohibited Museum” a weird little dark goth art place that the city has been trying to shutdown for some time without success. It was closed the last time we visited. Most of the work was done by a single artist. Not really my taste. View at your own risk.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My current project is trying to organize all the various bookmarks and notes I made on learning Spanish into some sort of coherent track. More on that later.


logistics and strange smells

we didn’t get around much yesterday, but didn’t have to move very far to witness bonfires in the middle of neighborhood streets and impromptu fireworks launched everywhere. We had planned to hook up with some people we knew and hit the town for revelry but decided to lay low instead and let miko’s leg heal. the plan seemed to work as today we took a long, beautiful walk on mostly deserted streets and she’s back to cruising speed.

the tiendas, most restaurants and businesses were closed. people were at home with their families. the weather was perfect, cool, a light breeze, occasionally the sun peeked out and mixed warmth with the cool currents of air. We walked along the Tomebamba then cut up to downtown and found a cafe that was open and had some ice coffees with lunch. word of the day: contraseƱa as in “tiene la contraseƱa para el wifi?” to get the password for the cafe’s public wifi. (which was “conbuencafe” btw)

after that we went up to check a missing piece in our logistics puzzle. Our stay here ends the 7th, the place I’m thinking is the long term solution starts April 1st. Contact with the “gap” provider was a bit problematic over email, so we walked by to pay a visit in person. The complication was the 17th of January where they had everything booked, for that single day. What we worked out was we move there for a month to month starting the 7th, we move out the 17th (they put our stuff in temp storage), spend the night in a hotel a block down the street and come back the 18th and continue until end of March. We’ve got it all worked out now….i’m pretty sure :)~ We will look at the April 1st place this Sunday to see if it will work. it’s a pretty sweet setup if it does.

so just a quick word about the toilets and this missive is complete for today. this place we’re staying now has old plumbing. not uncommon here, a little weird, you throw the toilet paper in a wastebasket beside the toilet rather than in the toilet. and there’s a little potpourri type pot running all the time to mitigate the smell, but it kind of added to the problem. I don’t know what brujo mixture of stuff they had in there, but it looked like at least 6 different types of strange plants which combine to produce a smell akin to stinky socks. so I dumped it, refilled it with water and dosed it with some essential oil (lemon) and (to me) this works much better!

and here’s the only picture I took today on our walk.

little adventures

now it’s serious. this language learning stuff. we’d been messing around, 30 minutes a day going through a program for a while, since last October and it’s now December, of the following year. the pimsleur stuff is fun, we focused just on the auditory, the dialogs, trying to pick up the grammar by osmosis. “I wanted to rent the monkey yesterday” … I can totally say that. but it wasn’t very useful asking for toilet paper at the local tienda. and why is toilet paper so hard to frigg’in remember (papel higiĆ©nico) Then asking for matches… cerilla, while technically correct I guess in mexico and central america but prompted a confused look and then a flash bulb of “ah, el fĆ³sforo?!” Which is cool, and created a similar flashbulb in my own cabeza cause the head of a match is actually made of phosphorous. we’re at a frustrating stage where sometimes we know what to say and it doesn’t come out and of course sometimes we do and because our accents are pretty good (a nice side effect of a pure audio learning track) we feel good for a second and then get lambasted by a response or question that is unparseable.

yesterday at the laundry mat was a complete disaster. lesson learned: need to build up some contextual vocabulary.

we’ve got until the 7th to find other accommodations. I was thinking we might like this place, sight unseen, and extend it to make our search for more permanent residence more languid but it doesn’t really match us well. Although the Tomebamba river is only 10 meters or so from our kitchen and bedroom window and there is a nice little commons area with rampant and diverse vegetation. But I may have negotiated us a nice place beginning in April, we meet to see it this Sunday. Then have to figure out the between.

We’ve been here two days now. Shopped a bit for food…great, rich tasting bananas from the mercado (a big open flea market of meat and produce, sans fleas. Or flies even.) Went to a mini-mart type place for some things like milk and eggs (unrefridgerated of course?) then hit some tiendas for water and finally a big supermaxi today where gringos and rich Ecuadorians go for the good stuff, like peanut butter. Pasta de mani (aka good old peanut paste)

tonight is new years eve. later we may head out and cross the mighty Tomebamba to Plaza del Otorongo, our range is somewhat limited for a day or two as miko sprained her leg yesterday when she missed a step. I almost did the same last March on our reconnaissance trip at the top of a long flight of stone steps. The terrain here is notoriously unpredictable.

I saw a lot of fat purple grapes for sell all over the place. Evidently one is supposed to eat 12 of them before midnight to ensure a prosperous year follows. In the southern US it’s black eyed peas, in Japan it’s toshi koshi soba. I suppose if you wanted a global guarantee you’d be eating a lot of strange stuff tonight midnight.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.