Sunday, September 4, 2011

Concluding a joyous week of social activities

 Hammocks on patio at Vilcabamba lodge.

Let's talk about money for a moment.  Ecuador is a primarily cash society -  credit or debit cards and checks are rarely accepted by everyday merchants for smaller items. Did you know that Ecuador is "dollar-ized", using the same currency as the US.  When you are here, US gold dollars (Sacajawea coins for example) are very popular, handy and in demand.  Ecuadorian 50 cent pieces are also commonly used each day.  There are many small merchants, taxi drivers and the bus fare - all require small coins.  Well, the bus is only 25 cents so quarters are great also.

If you are reading this in the US, you may recall the quarters from each state that some of us carefully collected?  Those are very popular here too! And those books that hold one quarter for each state - Cuencanos love to collect that whole assortment and have a difficult time locating one of those quarter books. If you are moving to Cuenca and can find any of those "quarter books", it will help you break the ice here with some merchant, such as the video store owner or the leather hat maker. The children often are collecting the state quarters. You will make acquaintances quickly if you can give away a cardboard quarter book.

A twenty dollar bill, that standard of daily life in the US, is nearly useless.  You need change, MAN, and small change at that!  And you may need to go to the bank during open hours to get lots of small change.  If you are coming from another country soon, I recommend bringing as much US change as you feel comfortable carrying.  My esposo (spouse) thought I was wacky before we moved when I got 3 rolls of quarters, 2 rolls of dimes and one of nickles as we left the US.  Also a big wad of $1 bills is practical as most merchants can make change for a dollar. Definitely carry on items.

One day we were at an organic market where all the merchants were farmers.  A large cabbage was a dime. A bucket of potatoes was 50 cents. A large bunch of swiss chard was a nickle.  You get the picture. My esposo bought an item for 10 cents and gave the merchant 50 cents.  The merchant asked if he had anything smaller.  It is understandable. This is a cash society but many products are priced well under a dollar so they need to collect and hang on to the smaller coins to make change throughout their sales day. At the indigenous markets and organic produce markets it is good to have a pocketful of dimes, quarters and a few nickels with a few bills in case you buy something much larger.

This is my 93 yr old mom, Maxine, in Idaho with a lap quilt I made for her a year ago.  She and my dad just celebrated 71 years of marriage!

This morning we are out of fruit. This is the first time it has happened in 4 months!  Lenny says he must go buy fresh fruits and veggies so that he can continue to explore his wonderous ways with pitajaya and other tropical fruits in smoothies.  The last one he made had pineapple, tangerine, papaya, pitajaya and just a little cheramoya. And some pina coco yogurt (pina colada). It was heavenly with many delicate flavors teasing the tongue.  I personally love the pulp of guayaba  - guava (which one can find in the frozen section at grocery stores called "pulpa") to add a little at a time.  There are many combinations and permutations to be explored  - Len frequently brings home an unknown fruit to try in a new smoothie. It is 10 am and he is heading out now to get some provisions.
We are taking a van to the famed Vilcabamba gorgeous valley of the centaurians (later disproved but a good myth, nonetheless) later this week to read in hammocks, hike, maybe ride horses, get a massage. It is a lower altitude and quite tropical, south of Cuenca toward the Peruvian border.  Honoring18 years we've been married.
 This week we had several opportunities to meet with other ex-pats in various settings.  It is very pleasant, chatting about our search for the right place to live, exchanging stories of our lives before moving to Ecuador, comparing and recommending tiendas, restaurants, Spanish classes, where to locate a hard-to-find item. And it is surprising to me that friendships can begin to form so easily among ex-patriots. Retired people have more time to socialize, ex-pats enjoy hearing the stories of others, people enjoy a good meal and telling their own experience, etc.
Lightly sauteed carrots, beets, garlic, onion and pepper

Len and I also had a wonderful evening with two Cuencano families who have sort of adopted us.  It is such a delight to be with them.  There are always 3 generations present and all give the wonderfully warm Cuenca greeting of a gentle hug and air kiss to the cheek, even if we are meeting this particular family member for the first time.  The children and teens sweetly and willingly participate.  The rule of these evenings is to speak Espanol only so I am language challenged.  However a couple of the young women in the family help out with translation.  Everyone is patient with my basic struggles with a new language.  My next round of classes begins in 8 days. Hooray!

Here is a shot of Len with a few of the grandchildren transfixed by things he showed them on the IPad.

Have a terrific week.  For  many of you, your children are returning to school this week. When my children were young, it always brought a little sadness along with the excitement and joy of a new year of exploration for the children.
Happy September!


  1. Great Post Sharon.. and those sauteed veggies looked wonderful.. we sauteed leftover veggies with potatoes and eggs this morning.. Randy threw in some hotdogs left over from our BBQ last nite.. it was a nice hash to start off our cold blustery morning!

  2. Sharon - just to clarify, many of us living in Ecuador are very patriotic citizens of our countries of origin. We are certainly not "ex-patriots". Perhaps you meant to say "expatriates".

  3. Anon - Of course that is what I meant - "expatriates" it is. Thanks.