Heading North

Last night I dreamt I felt another earthquake. Weird. Woke up this morning pondering the dream and felt a little tremor. Aftershocks from a dream?! But then discovered we did have another quake this morning at around 3:00am, and the aftershock was real.

Don’t think I posted since the big earthquake, but we were definitely awake for that one. It seemed to last forever (about a minute, solid) So long I was actually starting to get a little seasick. We kept looking at each other and looking at the roof and saying, “wow”, “wow.”

I was impressed in the days that followed, the big lines of cars and trucks bringing food and water and supplies to the park to assist. We didn’t have any spare clothes or spare anything really, but we bought some big bags of rice to tote down there.

Had an interesting talk with an Ecuadorian yesterday about the Buen Vivir initiative. He wasn’t that impressed with it and thought: a) he could figure out himself how to have a good life and didn’t need any input from the government and b) the government officials in charge of the program just sit on their butts all day. Nothing like some on the ground reporting. The Ecuadorians I’ve met do seem like a pretty independent bunch, don’t really trust the government and pride themselves on figuring ways around the system. But that’s a topic for another post.

Flying out today, hopefully. There was a minor mishap at the Cuenca airport last month. A plane skid off the runway and out onto the field. It is a rather short runway, but it’s the first time it had happened in 10 years and no one was hurt. It took them a few weeks to drag the plane across the field to the hanger. Guess they had no procedures, so the airport was closed for two weeks while they figured it out. Soon after, some bureaucrat decided that if it rains, flights will be canceled. Effective until August 10th.

There’s a few problems with that. It rains a lot here, and it’s unpredictable when. Usually it only lasts an hour or two at most, but it may come in the morning, afternoon or evening. We’ve learned it usually rolls in from the east, so we check the sky before heading out. Most people around here don’t even bother and if it lets loose they hang out in a doorway or just walk through it, figuring they’ll dry out later. About 1/3 may actually have umbrellas or raincoats.

But back to the problem at hand. Since the rain is unpredictable, we don’t know if we’re going to fly out today or not. But since we already bought the tickets, if it does rain, we’re out of luck. No refunds. Because it’s not their fault, they didn’t know it was going to rain. Act of God and all… uhhmmm…

So I bought a white rose from the flower vendors the other day. She said 50 cents, I said 25. Started to check the next stand and she decided 25 would work. You’re really not supposed to negotiate for these type of operations, but negotiation is just a way of making small talk around here.

I put the flower in my cool Ecuadorian double high shot glass vase and gave it to my little Ganesha, clearer of obstacles, to help streamline the trip. Another challenge will be getting a taxi during rush hour today since the streets are closed outside our door for the construction. But I have a feeling things will work out.

Looking forward to visiting friends and family and to catching up on some food cravings (cheddar cheese, sushi, indian, a good steak or two. Ale.) And some wrestling with the grand-daughter. Safe travels to the other crews heading north and south east. Got to catch up on our hugs and tall tales!

Back in the Groove

Not quite. Had a very nice xmass visit with family. Fairly uneventful trip except for the part about us almost not making it out of Cuenca because there was a festival going on and every single taxi was busy. Rumiko convinced a random stranger at a stop light with a pick-up to take us to the airport for $10. When we got there the boarding was done and boy was I straining my small pool of Spanish to communicate our dire predicament and explain why leaving the next day wasn’t an option. At the last minute we ran, carrying our check-in bags along with our carry-on through security and they loaded them under the plane and we just made it on. Landing in Houston I took some big snorts of Afril, which prevented my brain exploding from aerosinusitis but gave me congested coughing hissy fits for the duration of most of our visit. It might have also been an unholy trifecta of the medicine, tiredness and exposure to stuff during travel.

Traveling around OKC without a GPS (seem to have lost my phone in the airport saga) in a rental car was an interesting experience. I learned nobody sells paper maps anymore. I also learned that many people working in the gas stations and convenience stores have no idea how to get to any place else, or even which direction downtown is. They might be aliens.

After gaining a couple gazillion pounds from all the good food and treats, for which I am truly grateful, I’m about back in form now. It’s been a slow slog getting back into my healthy morning routines which were pretty much on autopilot before leaving. We had a suitcase of supplies delivered from amazon and waiting for us at grandma’s. Many thanks you guys for patiently putting up with all the UPS harassment as they delivered one piece at a time day after day 😛

In related shipping news, we decided not to cart back some heavy shampoos and conditioners that miko likes and instead order them from here. I kind of knew that was a mistake, but it turned into another educational venture. Ordered from iherb, which had delivered stuff to us in Ecuador before using the postal service. Took about 2 months. This time there was no option to use postal service but only DHL and Fed-Ex. The DHL shipping prices didn’t look too scary, only $16 or so. That should have been my first warning, but noooo. A few days later I got an email from DHL in Guayaquil in Spanish with an additional $20 fee. Then one right after it with an additional $27 on top of that. Then a request for a certificate from the Ministry of Health giving us permission to receive the hair care products since they fall under a “health and beauty products” import tariff. Holy crap. I found out the real trigger was apparently it’s a little over 4 kilos, otherwise it wouldn’t have been an issue. I asked the guy if he wanted a free bottle of conditioner and just send us the rest. He said unfortunately it wasn’t in the DHL office, but being held in customs, but anyway if I was a foreigner with only a  passport, the same restrictions would apply regardless of the weight. I said I’m actually a resident, got a cedula (national id card) but handle it whichever way costs me the least money (sending it back or destroying it.) Man, getting stuff in and out of the country is precarious down here.

We came back on New Year’s eve and around midnight our neighbors were burning effigies of their problems from last year out on the streets (see the pics.) I like this custom, but I’m not sure what I’d burn about last year, it was pretty amazing settling into a new place and all the travels. This year I don’t plan to improve anything in particular (except Spanish), just complete a bunch of stuff that has been in flux over the years and start clearing the slates.

Oh, an this lady in the mercado gave us some free fruit to sample, they looked like pears, but about the size of a ping pong ball. They tasted like pears too. There’s some new fruit appearing on the streets, I’m going to have start my digital scrapbook again…