Our California Trip 2016, Part 2

I left off with Mendocino. From there, most of our time was spent looking at redwoods and other nature, and hanging out at a very comfortable airbnb home in Crescent City

There are several Redwood State and National Parks between Mendocino and Crescent City. We spent one day driving the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods and walking among the giants there. There are even three redwoods I know of in NW California which you can drive through. I know. Tacky tourist stuff. But Myung’s never seen anything like trees of this size. For those who don’t know, this tree is alive and well. They don’t live to be 3000 years old for nothing.

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I don’t know how much you can say about walks in the forest. I’ll just post some of the better pictures. A couple are from Humboldt and the others are from the Jedediah Smith redwoods near Crescent City.

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We really, and I mean really, don’t do hard traveling anymore. In the old days, this trip would have been luxurious and super easy. Now, we just plunk down when we want. Crescent City and the environs, and our airbnb place and the hosts were so nice, we just asked them if we could stay several extra days. No one else had booked with them, so we just stayed there till four days before returning to Cuenca.

For Myung, our airbnb place was the best ever. The hosts were Chinese, only three years in the States. I must say I liked them a lot but could talk much because of their limited English and my nonexistent Chinese. Myung, however, felt right at home. They made us feel at home, too. Plus, we had two big rooms to sleep and hang out in, when we weren’t socializing in the kitchen or hanging out in the huge living room and enjoying the view of their lovely 16 acre property. It really was sweet. Here we are, having dinner together.

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That picture was actually taken by their 8 year old boy. Pretty good, eh?

I had never spent any time to speak of in Crescent City. It’s still little and quiet. The supermax prison a few miles north of the city (and about a half mile from our airbnb place) has no effect on the city’s aesthetics. There’s nothing very photo worthy right in town. There’s a city beach, an old lighthouse and a rocky shoreline directly on the west side of town.img_0383

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I’ve got a few other pictures worth looking at. North of those rocks in the last picture and west of where we stayed is an area called Tolowa Dunes State Park. There aren’t any dunes, really, but sandy grasslands, some hilly areas and a driftwood strewn beach. It’s not exactly remote, but you can pretty much have the place to yourselves.

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Then it was time to get back. Myung wanted to go to a Chinese medical clinic in Oakland for a couple of health issues. That place closes at 5 on Saturdays, so we bolted all the way down from Crescent City on that last Saturday. Sunday-Wednesday was shopping and saying goodbye. Wednesday night we took the red-eye to Quito. Thursday we spent an interminable day doing nothing in the wifi-less Quito airport, then took a 7 PM flight to Cuenca. Here we are.

I’ll blog later about all the changes the owners made around here while we were gone. It’s like a new place.

So, that’s about it for now. It might be a while before I get up to the States again, or do anything real exciting. We’re already practically back to our normal life. Until later, be well, all of you.

Banana slug. They can grow up to about a foot long.

Banana slug. They can grow up to about a foot long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our California Trip 2016, Bay Area to Mendocino

We’re baaaack. Myung and I just got back from our six week trip. I spent the whole time in California, while Myung spent a couple of those weeks in Korea. It was a combination getting some stuff done, shopping and visiting friends and family. We pretty much got it all done, then it was time to come home. I ran out of money, anyway. The business and shopping parts aren’t worth relating. Business is business. Shopping was for things we can’t get in Ecuador or are prohibitively expensive. Visiting friends and family was nice, but there isn’t much to say about that. As I think about what to put in this post, I’m thinking it’s going to be mostly pictorial and commentary about what seemed fun and/or  might be interesting, especially to someone who isn’t familiar with Northern California.

As soon as I started thinking about going, I started thinking about having some of the food that isn’t here or is better there. I thought about the restaurants I used to like, and looking forward to eating there again. Our first airbnb place was in Berkeley. Right nearby is a well-known establishment called Brennan’s. We ate our first dinner there and had their famous Fred Flintsone-sized bronto turkey leg and fixin’s. Yeah, I really used to like these, and they’re still good.

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We did a lot of eating out. “Sardine Can” is a heckuva name for a restaurant.

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As always, food is always on our minds, especially Myung’s. She bought foodstuffs from Korea. Fortunately, most of the Asian things she wanted to bring back is available in Oakland’s Chinatown. There are many Chinese stores there and farmer’s markets are increasingly popular all around the East Bay. Oakland’s are great, with high quality at good prices, especially at the Friday market in Chinatown.

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Oh, it’s very Chinese there. But I saw this old busker at another, more yuppie market the next day. I’m told he goes to all of them.

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Myung went to Korea for business, shopping and family and friends for two weeks just four days after we got there. I spent the time visiting and having alone time. I took exactly zero pictures, but it was good. Myung took a few photos. Here’s one of her friends.

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And here’s one of picturesque places in Korea. Korea is full of lovely settings like this. As you may know, we spent about 9 months there between 2008 and 2010. For a lot of great photos and my thoughts from that time, you can type “Korea” in the search box right above “Archives”.

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One of the things we did before going on a road trip up the coast was go to the last San Francisco Giants game of the regular season. As you may also know, I’m a huge San Francisco Giants baseball fan.  The Giants had to win to clinch a wild card playoff spot. They won, but went on to lose in the next round.

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I wasn’t only huge fan. This lady beside me was pretty enthusiastic.

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Here’s a random shot from the most popular trail in Tilden Park, part of the 120,000 acre (488 sq. km) East Bay Regional Parks. That’s the Golden Gate bridge out there across the bay.

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So, up the coast, north of San Francisco, we went. It gets real nice, real fast. It’s such a beautiful coastline, one of the best in the world. I’m not just saying that. I’ve seen a lot of coasts. There are spots, but this coast goes one and on. Most readers of this blog are quite familiar with the sites.

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There are plenty of coastal photos coming up. I need to keep this post from getting interminable.

No blog about north of San Francisco would be complete without a picture of the Napa wine country.

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There are many cute towns all along the way…

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… but the cutest one is Mendocino. If it looks familiar to you, it’s because it used for many TV shows and movies. It’s a lot different than when I first went up there forty-some years ago. The buildings are still there and they haven’t messed with the shoreline, but it’s become like a theme park. There is little small town feel to it now. Plus, it’s gentrified and everything is expensive. Oh well, it’s still a nice place.

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In the old days, you didn’t see all these expensive cars. You could also get lunch for under $15. Now the cheapest sandwich to go, off this main street, is $9.

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You still can’t beat  the setting. Again, the coastline goes on and on like this. these next three places are within a couple hundred meters from that main street downtown.

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Staying overnight in one of the inns in town is prohibitively expensive for us, so we stayed in a cabin in the forest. That was really mellow. Here’s the road to it.

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Here’s the place.

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There was even wifi out in the chairs near the big house where the owner of the cabin lives.

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A short walk from the cabin through the trees brings you to Big River, which comes out in Mendocino.

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We stayed there three nights.

Going up the coast, before you get to Mendocino, there’s Fort Ross State Park. Fort Ross was a Russian settlement and trading post when Russia had a presence along the coast. They pulled out of Fort Ross in 1827 and eventually all of North America when they sold Alaska to the US in 1867, but the buildings here remained. Obviously, it’s totally restored, but you get a glimpse of how they lived.

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I’ve always found that place interesting.

Anyway, that part of California inland is pretty dense trees for the most part. You get the idea from the Big River picture. There really aren’t many roads through there, even. The more north you go, the more forested it becomes. Finally, you get to the Humboldt Redwood State and National Forests.

Y’know, this post is getting too long. I need to break it up. I’m going to publish it up to here and do more later. See ya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Going to California Sept 6-Oct 18

It’s been awhile, again. I’ve finished my radiation and all went well. I barely had any side effects and feel normal except for the hormonal changes due to the androgen deprivation injections. I’m pretty used to them now. No big deal.

I’m going to celebrate life by going to N. California with Myung from Sept 16-Oct 18. We’ll be there together till Sept 11. Then Myung is going to Korea till Sept 26. When she gets back, we’re going on a little road trip up the coast for a while. We’ll be doing some shopping for things that cost a fortune in Ecuador, taking care of some business, and visiting people during the rest of the time we’re here. While she’s in Korea, I don’t think I’ll be too busy. I’m really looking forward to getting out of Dodge.

It’s not like we haven’t had the time to get out of town. We’ve just been content to stay around here. As I’ve said many times, we’re a little jaded, having seen so much of the world, and got so burned out traveling all those years that we’re fine being homebodies.

Myung is a little busy two to four days a week. She’s been selling Korean food by advertising once a week on the local internet bulletin board for gringos, GringoPost. Her business is actually kind of taking off. Her prices are lower and the quality is better than from the Asian restaurants in Cuenca. Word is spreading fast. Soon, she’s going to have to get a bigger kitchen and/or some help besides what little I’m qualified to do.

Unless you want to look at pictures of sushi and the dog, I find only two pics taken in the last two months. One is up a street downtown toward the domes of the cathedral. the other is of the domes, which Myung took one day from a usually closed courtyard beside the cathedral was open.

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I’m going to fire this off. We’ll see some of you when we get to California.

Be well, all of you.

 

 

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It’s been a while

Not a lot going on around here, but here’s the news.

I’m about halfway through my 39 radiation treatments. So far, so good. I’m starting to have some minor side effects, but it’s fine. The side effects are supposed to start some time around now. I’m thinking every day there’s nothing is a gift. I’d report more if there was something to report, but there isn’t.

I’m not doing much. Myung has just started this week trying to sell kimbap and California rolls.

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One of her first customers used to go to Korea frequently on business. He wants some kimchi and a couple of other Korean specialties which are unavailable here, so maybe Myung will make that for him and, presumably, others. Maybe. This just started this week, so who knows what will happen.

Other than that, there’s nothing new going on right now. I decided to reward myself for going through this treatment with a trip to the States. We’ll go up on Sept 5. The  next weekend, Myung will go to Korea to visit her family and friends for a couple of weeks while I stay in California. Then the plan is too drive round and be tourists for about three weeks, then return home on October 18.

Here is where I normally use photos to give me something to talk about. Would you  believe I only have photos of kimbap and the dog?. Altogether, there are maybe a dozen photos since the post before last. Well, like I said, there isn’t a lot going on.

Gotta put something…   Here’s Luna. It’s her or the kimbap.

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Be well, all of you.

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Ecuador Earthquake April 16, 2016

We’ve been getting emails asking if we are okay, if the earthquake affected us. We and everyone else in Cuenca are fine. The quake was at least 300 km from here, up on the north coast, and only rattled everything here. In fact, I was out walking the dog when it happened, and didn’t feel it. Myung told me about it when I got home.

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Wazzup

I’ve gotten a couple of “Wazzup?” emails. It’s been a while, so here’s wazzup.

Not much. No new news about my prostate cancer. I started the androgen deprivation therapy and am told radiation will start around the end of the month or early May. The ADT ain’t nothin’, except I sort of get hot flashes and lost my sex drive, which was to be expected. That’s about it on that.

Are we getting to the age where health talk is wazzup? Yuk. No pictures, unless sonograms and CT scans count, and I’m not going to try to post those.

As usual, I’m not that busy. I’m glad baseball season has begun. I’m watching games. Myung and I still walk all over town. The last few days there has been a fair at several locations in the center and along the river, which gives us a reason to walk, other than wandering. It’s much like the 3 de Noviembre fair last fall. This one is the 12 de Abril feria, commemorating Cuenca’s founding in 1557.

Most of what goes on is vendors selling stuff. The government promotes it as a way to generate traffic for the artisans. There are lots of vendors selling factory stuff, too. Some of it is Chinese total rubbish. There’s food, too. Some is local fare. There’s a little of everything. Myung sold sushi and kimbap at the 3 de Noviembre fair. You saw those pics. Here are a few of one of the parades.

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For sure, not everything is traditional. This was a booming electronic rock music show under the Broken Bridge.

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Maybe you remember, a friend of my friend, Mary, visited with us in Antigua a couple of years ago. Her name’s Susan. She still travels the world several months of the year, looking for artisan stuff to sell back in the Bay Area. She came to Cuenca for a while and we hung out for several days. It was very nice to have her around.

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Unfortunately, artisan stuff around Cuenca isn’t much. The best city for that is Otovalo, which is back up north near Cotacachi. A lot of the crafts that are here are from Otovalo, in fact, so Susan was a little disappointed in that regard. We tried to find stuff in nearby Gualaceo, Chordeleg and Paute. Despite them being mentioned in the guides as places where crafts can be bought, there was virtually nothing doin’. Oh well.

There was some kind of event in either Chordeleg or Gualaceo, I forget. A couple of these pictures are Susan’s.

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This one man band was in Paute.

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I said I wasn’t that busy. Myung’s pretty active though. She’s got a garden out front. She’s got four or five kinds of lettuce, beets, kale, radishes, spinach, several herbs and I’m forgetting something.

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Our eating experience is better than ever.

I think that’s going to do it for now. I’ll be in touch. Be well, all of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The story on my prostate cancer

I’ve had a high PSA for about 12 years and had 4 biopsies between 2004 and 2011, all negative. I’ve known I have an enlarged prostate for that long. It was getting harder to pee, so I went in and asked for a transurethal resection of the prostate (TURP). The urologist said I needed another biopsy because of over 4 years since the last one. I did that, even though he said after so many other negatives the chances of having cancer was about 3%. Besides, my PSA, which I continued to check, had gone up to 43 from 22 in two years sincce my last check. Lo and behold, I finally do indeed have prostate cancer. When I blogged the time before last, that TURP was the procedure I thought I was going to have.

Without getting into the minutia of the considerations in deciding a treatment plan, in short, my type and stage of cancer has a high probability of cure but is beyond “watchful waiting”. It was a little agonizing to decide on a prostatectomy vs androgen deprivation therapy (ADP) and radiation. ADP and surgery has long been considered the way to go, but recent studies show surgery followed by radiation if necessary might be better. Again in short, I chose the ADP and radiation. Neither way is inviting, but I studied hard about it and got three other opinions plus that of my niece who is a highly respected urological oncology surgeon.

I start on ADP tomorrow. I get an injection every three months. In two months, I get a blood test. If my testosterone is down enough, I start radiation 5 times a week for about two months. Then ADP continues for about two years.

How do I feel about all this? Well, I think I’m fine. I was shocked at first, and worried. Then I lost some sleep trying to decide which treatment to have. Now that I’ve decided, I feel better. I’m that way, not one to second guess myself or regret a decision I tried to make as best I could. I’m going to just go forward from here and be mindful of how lucky I am in general. Myung and I are going out for pizza tonight. I’m a little more conscious during my bites than before. How lucky we are to be able to have pizza.

Be well, all of you.

 

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Cuenca– Year end holiday edition

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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It’s been a couple of months again, I know. But not a lot has been going on again. That picture of us is from Myung’s birthday last month. We went out to Sole’s restaurant. I let it out that it was her birthday, so they all were there.

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They or one of the cooks, I don’t know, made her a cake. They don’t know her age, hence the question mark. I didn’t know you could get a question mark candle.

Feliz Cumpeanos Any, Happy birthday Annie. Myung goes by Annie here.

Feliz Cumpeanos Any, Happy birthday Annie. Myung goes by Annie here.

 

Actually, something big is going on with me. I got prostate cancer. (No photos) It’s low grade and if I get a prostatectomy I have a 99% chance of dying of something else. At this time, I plan to get one. I’m not prone to dramatics, so I’m going to let it go at that till the end of next month when I make a final decision whether to get it done here for free or in Korea where I’d have to pay. It wouldn’t be too expensive because I can get into Korea’s health care system. The health care in Korea is much better. It’s kind of  long story which I’ll tell next month.

Whew, I’m glad I got that announcement out of the way. Now on with my life.

I’ve got lots of photos of fairs in Cuenca. The first bunch is of the big fair for Cuenca’s independence. As you might know, especially if you’ve read my little histories, after Napoleon defeated Spain, the Spanish empire crumbled. The vice royalties and other entities in the New World fell like dominoes to Bolivar, Sucre and the others. Cuenca’s turn was Nov 3, 1820. We happen to live on 3 de Noviembre Lane, off of the gravel and pothole end of 3 de Noviembre Avenue. This fair was all along the renovated stretch of Avenida 3 de Noviembre. You’ve seen lots of pictures along the Tomebamba River. In this one, you can see some of the tents the government set up for vendors for a fee along the river. IMG_9720

While I’m being historical, Tomebamba was the name of the northern Inca administrative center where Cuenca is now. The ruins which you’ve seen in this blog are all that’s left of that after the Spanish used the stones to build Cuenca. Actually, the Spanish used squat. They used Canari/Inca slaves to build early Cuenca. Let’s not go into the whole thing. Almost 500 years later, here Myung and I are, retired in modern Ecuador, going to thoroughly modern fairs along the river.IMG_9705

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Well, maybe not everyone at the stalls is thoroughly modern. I’m thinking, these Kichwa speaking people don’t even want to be thoroughly modern.

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Here is Myung on the Broken Bridge and a view down the street below…

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… and a couple more down on the street.

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As long as I’m posting fair pictures, I’m going to skip to fair this month. Myung decided to make and sell sushi and kimbap. She worked hard to keep up with the demand…

Homemade in our little home was a logistical challenge.

Homemade in our little home was a logistical challenge.

… and made a couple hundred dollars profit. By Ecuador standards, that’s a huge success.

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The government entity that promotes these events even made a "Comida Coreana" sign, provided the tablecloths and some Christmas decorations

The government entity that promotes these events even made a “Comida Coreana” sign, provided the tablecloths and some Christmas decorations

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We were both pretty glad when it was over. The organizer wanted Myung to sign up for another in April. She passed on that for now, but gave out her phone number to many people. She may do some business, the details of which are nowhere near decided.

One difficulty is getting Asian food here. Most of the quality product can be found in Quito, 8 hours away. We went to Guayaquil, the biggest city in Ecuador and only 4 hours away, in an attempt to see if anything was available there. There isn’t, but we got to see Guayaquil for the first time. Everyone says it’s a fairly undesirable port city. They are sort of right, but it didn’t seem as bad as many cities we’ve been to. Shoot, it’s definitely way better than some.

The market area where Chinese shops are has no Chinese food, much less Korean, and it’s not photo worthy. So let’s go to the most popular “tourist area”, if you could call it that. That area is along the River Guayas waterfront. There’s a developed promenade for a couple of kilometers called the malecon, as such areas are often called n Latin America.

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At the end of the malecon is a cute, upscale neighborhood.

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Of course, there is a plaza and a cathedral.

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From Lonely Planet and what the tourist-oriented hostal guys told us, that really is about it for Guayaquil. At least the weather was nice. It could have been very  hot and sticky. No mosquitoes either, which surprised me. There are lots of events, if you live there, but for most people it’s good for shopping (for stuff not Asian) and as a transportation hub. For that it’s really good. The airport is right near the bus station, not on the outskirts of town like in Quito.  Many international flights are to and from there at about the same price as Quito.
Movin’ right along, we discovered the zoo in Cuenca is actually quite nice. I knew there was one, but assumed it was not good. This one is up in the hills bordering Cuenca on the south.

View of Cuenca from the zoo.

View of Cuenca from the zoo.

The paths are all up and down and hidden in the trees. That chain link fencing separates you from the animals.

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Some areas are more open.

The zoo is a couple hundred more meters above Cuenca. Gotta take a break or three walking around there.

The zoo is a couple hundred more meters above Cuenca. Gotta take a break or three walking around there.

Animal photos.

These Galapagos tortoises are big.

These Galapagos tortoises are big.

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So are these pythons.

So are these pythons.

and crocs.

and crocs.

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Maybe I should have taken photos of the lions. In Africa, we never got closer than 3 meters. At the zoo, you can be just on the other side of the chain link fence. I guess I’m a little jaded from the Africa experience. No fences there.

As far as pictures go, I’ve only uploaded these random shots in Cuenca.

People sitting on the curb

People sitting on the curb

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At the Christmans concert in Todos Santos church.

At the Christmas concert in Todos Santos church.

We had a low key Christmas, as we usually do. We went to a party and a couple of concerts, and went out to eat a couple of times. That’s about it. After years on the road and in China which barely does Christmas, we are kind of out of it.

So, again, Happy Holidays. See you next year.

 

 

 

 

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Ecuador vs the States

Let’s say things were different. Let’s say I won the California lottery and could live this comfortably in the States, or inflation here reaches somewhere between Argentine and Venezuelan proportions so Ecuador becomes expensive for what you get. And let’s say, for some hypothetical reason, I had to choose between the States and Ecuador where to live. Which would I choose?

I guess it would depend on “what you get”. That, in turn, depends on what you want and how bad you want it. Do I want faster internet? Sure. The fastest connection you can buy here is 28 Mbs, shared with 8 customers, which means sometimes I can’t stream baseball games or the resolution is pathetic. Would I like the variety of restaurants you can find in a city of this size in America? Sure. Despite the cosmopolitan nature of Cuenca, it’s cosmopolitan by Ecuador standards, meaning it’s only three times as cosmo as Stockton and a third as cosmo as Oakland (much less San Francisco). Even in Stockton, the shopping is better. Do I not like the way Ecuadorans will cheat you at every turn if they can? Sure. The list goes on and on.

But all those “sures” should be qualified by “but not that much”. Slow internet? Remember, it’s not like I’ve been traveling in Europe all these years. The only place nearly as developed as the States I’ve been is Korea, unless you count the city-states of Singapore and Hong Kong. China’s the next most developed and it’s got a long way to go. Like, internet is even slower. I’m used to dealing with it and have accepted what is. Same goes for the restaurants. China is meager as far as foreign food goes, though I must say Chinese food there is much better than the Chinese food elsewhere. Duh. Cheating? Hey, this is Latin America. China, the rest of Asia and Africa are way worse, anyway. I’m used to it and fortunately, we don’t get cheated near as much as newbies.

Speaking of “Hey, this is Latin America”, security can be an issue. Some places are less secure, like most of Central America, a lot of Mexico, certainly Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil. And South Africa! OMG! Most of Ecuador is better than most of those places. Cuenca isn’t as safe as China or Korea, but it’s safer than Oakland or Stockton. So, on that matter, Cuenca is fine with me. Myung is, too. She walks anywhere she wants whenever she wants.

The real difference that makes a difference is still communication. My abilities in Spanish get better all the time, but we kind of stick to ourselves and don’t try to blend in as much as we could or would have to if we were in a more thoroughly Ecuadoran city. 2%, or about 10.000 people, in this city of half a million are gringos. Parenthetically, many long time gringos haven’t learned any Spanish, which leaves a poor impression on the locals.

Comparing the anti-immigrant/racist tendencies of the two countries is a whole other subject

You may be wondering if I will say if I would prefer the States or Ecuador. Okay, I’ll give you the verdict and explain. Ecuador. Here’s why.

After a long time doing without commonplace things in the US, I no longer need them, or even think about them most of the time. A car would be way too expensive for what I’d get out of it. In the US, I’d need to work again just to maintain a car, which is necessary with the crude public transportation system in the States. Slow internet is okay. I’ll wait till later to watch the game. Myung doesn’t like to go out to eat much, so meh, let it go. Just let it go. It’s good practice.

Myung wants to add that she always wanted to live where it’s spring all year round, like here. Others might like the seasons, but she likes spring all year. I know, though, that she’d like a lower elevation. She used to have all kinds of endurance, and now she doesn’t climb hills or long stairs well, and takes iron supplement to boost her hemoglobin and blood oxygen so she doesn’t get headaches.

Oh, and there’s zero air pollution. Clear as a bell every day.

The best thing about living here is the food we make at home. The produce here is much, much better than what is readily available in the States. And cheaper. I must say, the beef is not. Let it go. Maybe at Whole Foods or a top produce store like Monterey Market in Berkeley, the produce is half as good, but at what cost. Yum, I like how the tomatoes, avocadoes, mangoes, etc., are never Safeway rocks. Even the oranges are better. Apples and pears are better in the States. Greens are somewhat better here. I have to admit, I like genetically modified corn in the States better than the several kinds of indigenous corn here. Oh, and peas are fresh and very cheap here. Let’s see. I could go down the list, but the fresh food here is much better in general. Cooking has really become Myung’s thing, so that matters. In fact, it may be the difference maker.

Enchiladas. The tortillas are made down the street.

Enchiladas. The tortillas are made down the street.

Some things we haven’t been eating here, even though they are popular.

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Guinea pig, called cuy, is very popular, even more so in nearby Peru. I’m okay with them and they are inexpensive, but they are little like game hens and squab. Too labor intensive.

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Cuy and chicken for sale in the market.

Cuy and chicken for sale in the market.

So  there you have it. It’s easy here and the food is good. I admit it’s easy because for me it’s easy. I don’t miss a lot of the lifestyle I had as a middle class American. There’s little I personally can’t do without.

I may change my tune entirely after I have some surgery that’s coming up. You don’t have anything if you don’t have your health. I think it’s going to be fine, and everything is covered here for $85/mo for the two of us, but the care here isn’t as good as the States. If I lose my health, a thousand bucks a month for US health insurance might not look so expensive in retrospect. It’s all part of my personal risk reward calculation. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out I live fewer years. Quality vs quantity.

That reminds me, I don’t miss dealing with health insurance, Obamacare and all that. Here, you have your health care premium deducted from your account, and all you do for anything including most meds is flash your card. On the other hand, for non-emergent things, the wheels sure turn slowly.

I think I’ve gone on enough on that subject. News update? Well. things are about the same. We like to go to the almost weekly free classical music concerts by either the Cuenca Symphony or the University of Cuenca Symphony. there’s plenty of other free stuff to go to. I like going to the Jazz Society of Ecuador where the jazz is often good. I went to “Greater Tuna’ a couple of weeks ago. It was fun laughing at Americana.

Sole and Augustine are just about to launch their restaurant, La Hermita, which is attached to All Saints Church. It’s been fun for us, watching that come together. I had doubts it would fly, but they seem to be doing all the right things. They’re creating a lot of publicity and hired good staff and a renowned chef from Quito. They had an infomercial made. We’re in it, pretending to be customers. The food was made hours earlier, but we tried to look like we were about to dig in.

Sole's mom and dad during the shooting of the La Hermita commercial

Sole’s mom and dad during the shooting of the La Hermita commercial

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Parts of the church and this, which is attached, are over 200 years old. The church itself is nearly new, built in 1927.

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I was told this brick oven is in the same spot as one 400 years ago.

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Myung and Sole

Myung and Sole

A couple of days ago, the restaurant was part of what will be a half hour program on Iglesia Todos Santos. Most of footage was under the “Broken Bridge” which you’ve seen before…

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Iglesia Todos Santos

Iglesia Todos Santos

Here’s the chef and Sole all made up for the TV show.

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We ate the display afterward. I kinda look like the grim reaper. That’s Augustin on the left.

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Myung is preparing to make and sell bakery goods there. Probably, she’ll start making things here and in Sole’s kitchen, but she wants to familiarize herself with using the kitchen and industrial sized ovens at the restaurant. I’m not sure about the health department regulations here, but likely she will have to use the approved kitchen there. She’s totally got a bee in her bonnet. Given her life history, I suspect she’s going to do it. Upcoming posts will keep you informed.

That was a lot of pictures for that, but we don’t take many photos these days. They are what we have.

Here’s one of the flower market.

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Here’s one of Luna who usurped my pillow.

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Here we are watching the World Series.

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That’s the news and my blathering for now. Be well, all of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s old is new again

I’ve been thinking about what’s new and what’s old, about phases of my life and what the future looks like. Myung and I went to Quito last week. On the one hand, getting out of town was good. On the other, three days in Quito was plenty and we found ourselves just wanting to go home. For sure, hard traveling won’t be happening again in the near future. That would definitely be “old”. Having a place? Well, we had a place in China until a couple of years ago, so having a place in Ecuador isn’t really new. Plus, we’ve both been fairly stable in places for much of our lives. So, is this old or new? Both, I think. In China, I never felt it was likely I’d end up there. I may end up in Ecuador, however. I say “may” because one foot out the door is characteristic of my thinking. It’s been over 10 years since I felt more or less permanent, so I’m going to call it “new” this time.

There are some obvious differences between any of my former “permanent” lives and this one. Obviously, one is that I’m retired. Another is I feel like my relationship with Myung will continue. It’s been a long time since I felt that way about a woman. Funny thing. When I was younger, there were so many years in front of me, I never thought about spending the rest of my life with someone. Now, with let’s say 20 years left, maybe that’s how it will work out. That’s makes for a new, fundamentally different outlook. Permanence isn’t a 40 year anything anymore. What will I do in retirement? “Be married” may not have been my answer before.

So, here I am, settled down. ( I always want to say “for now” or “whatever that means in my case”.) There are some new things about settled down this time. For sure, there are some big differences from when I was living in the States. The most obvious is what and how I eat. Mostly Americans will be reading this, so you know how it is there. As an example, I almost never made spaghetti sauce. Now I always do. (I cook the Italian stuff in our home.) I was middle class, so I could afford “good” jarred sauce and thought that was great. Plus, the tomatoes in the US, even right there in Northern California, were hard and usually tasteless. In developing countries ( I see China as a developing country.) farmers markets are where you buy produce. They’re not the piddling boutique markets you see in the States, selling high priced, perfect, artisan produce.  Here, the sellers are often dozens of local farmers in direct competition selling much the same stuff. They have to compete on quality and price except for a few things for which the prices are regulated so it’s only on quality. To be sure, there is price fixing within any one market, and some markets are cheaper than others. The produce is fresher and riper. When the tomatoes are riper and tastier, and you have free time, why not make fresh sauce? Like, it’s not that hard to throw tomatoes in the blender and surf the net while it cooks down. Funny thing is that it wouldn’t be that hard in the US either, and the tomatoes aren’t that bad, but most people usually  don’t do it. That’s just an example of what’s new about this time being settled. I have to admit, the price of decent canned/jarred spaghetti sauce, i.e. imported, is sky high and I can’t bear to pay so much.

In fact, we make most sauces. Salad dressings, soy sauce based stuff like teriyaki, barbecue  sauce, most of that, we make. We do buy ketchup and mayonnaise. Myung has some Korean sauces she just bought in Quito, and we have quantities of oyster sauce, fish sauce and a few others. If it’s easy, we often make it, though. I’ve learned how easy it is to make most of things. It’s better, and a little different every time.

Another one is bread. “Good” was Semifreddi’s bread or Noah’s bagels. Warm bread was super special. We make our own, now that we have an oven. Again, so easy. Myung makes the bagels, buns, cookies, muffins, focaccia, meusli and most things. I’ve been making the bread and pizza. I never made bread before. Why pay $3 per loaf?

Who knows? Maybe we’ll have our own chickens like about half the Ecuadoreans.

Maybe we’re going native. It happens. If most immigrants to the US become Americanized, why can’t it go the other way? In fact, it does go the other way. In hard numbers, there are many, many expats who eventually just blend in, learn the local ways, the local language and etiquette, and so on. Hey, it’s something to do in retirement.

That reminds me, one reason China was hard for me was the language. Hoo, Spanish is so much easier.

All that said, you can take the girl out of Korea but you can’t take Korea out of the girl. We went to Quito to get a document for my taxes and to shop for Asian stuff you can’t get in Cuenca. We lugged daikons, sesame leaves and other greenery, jugs of sesame oil and oyster sauce, tubs of gochujang (most popular Korean sauce made of chili powder, glutenous rice powder, fermented soy beans and salt) and doenjong (which is similar to gochujang) rice noodles (You’d think they would have rice noodles in Cuenca but they only have the thin ones and those are a terrible Ecuadoean product yuk.) and some other stuff I can’t think of right this minute. At least they sell  tofu here. I am not carrying bags of tofu on the bus. Not! Daikons, well, okay. They are only heavy, and worth it as Myung makes terrific radish kimchi and I get to eat some if I’ve been good.

As long as I’m comparing new, old, before and after. I can’t imagine needing a car here. If we go on a road trip or something, I can rent one. Meanwhile, we get around just fine on foot or in a bus or cheap taxi.

Speaking of buses, last week there were protests against the government. One of the actions was closing the road from Quito to Ecuador. So, we had to take a circuitous, 11 hour route back. Ugh. It was like one of those endless flights between Asia and the Americas. At least we’re in a country where you can challenge the power and agenda of the 0.1%. It’s not like that everywhere, ahem.

This stuff was running around in my brain and I thought it was about time to post something on this site. It needs some pictures.

Here’s a typical breakfast for us. Fresh farm raised eggs, Myung’s bagels, her blackberry jam, raw milk Greek and regular yogurt and butter, local honey, ripe fruit and Myung’s granola. Not in there is the fresh ground Ecuador coffee. In the name of full disclosure, the kiwis are from Chile. They are perfect every time, though.

IMG_9510Here’s at Sofia’s sweet 16th birthday party…

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…and during her singing the Beatles’ “My Love” with the Cuenca University Symphony under the direction of her cousin, William, who you might have seen in the barbecue picture in the last post. Yes, just maybe that’s how she got a spot on the stage, but she really does have a nice voice.

IMG_9523Here’s Luna and the other couch potato around here doing what we do best.

IMG_9548And here’s the one town picture we’ve taken in the last month.

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I think that’s going to do it for now. Be well, all of you.

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