Friday, January 18, 2019

La Skina

yes we have no bananas

Near my house is a tienda (small grocery store) which I pass by once a week or so. It's called La Skina. I assume it's a translation of Greek η σκηνή, ee skeenee. It's where we get the word scene. In Greek, skēnē/σκηνη is not a uniquely theatrical term. It essentailly means tent; what the Romans and the King James Bible would also call a tabernacle, or a booth, a plain little shelter. I imagine that itinerant Greek theater troupes would set up a skene, a tent to house their stuff; have one side painted, and would act in front of that painted side. Anyway I'm also assuming that the owner of La Skina knows at least this much Greek. All that being so, he took the Spanish word 'tienda,' which primarily means 'tent,' and translated it into the Greek word for tent, skini. Because skini is feminine in Greek, it's adjusted to suit a Spanish sensibility: La Skina.
I keep walking by without ever going in to confirm all this. Hoping that writing it down spurs me to do so.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


Plenty to eat at the reception
Spectacular day on Dec 22 at the wedding of our, what, godchildren? In Ecuador the church requires padrinos (godparents) for the wedding couple, and we were it for a young man and fiancee whom we've known for a couple of years. Had a great nuptial Mass at La Iglesia de la Virgen del Milagro here in Cuenca. The padrinos accompany the couple through the whole Mass, and once the couple is married, the padrinos put a rope yoke of sorts over their heads. Right behind the church is a small lot with a garden and tiny rough-lumber house, maybe 200sf that a Cañari abuela (grandmother, but also an honorific for any older woman) lives in. Cuenca has an unusually high proportion of indigenous people. Folks like this woman manage to live in a big modern city while residing in a patch of countryside. On any given street you can't see where this could be happening only a few yards away.
Then off to the reception with lots of food, dancing, modest alcohol consumption, and visiting with family members. Many of the older women were traditionally turned out in embroidered blouses, velvet skirts, braids, and Panama hats. All the younger folks wore dresses and suits. I couldn't ID the liquor, it was dark red and reminded me of sweet Vermouth. It was served in 1/2 oz. or so plastic cups which I imagine reduces the chance of anyone getting drunk.
Right before the meal was served we each got a small plastic bag. This was so we could take home what we couldn't eat of the pile of food that we were served: rice, potatoes, grilled pork, salad.
As is typical for us in social situations here, everyone was gracious and interested. Janet's long blond hair always draws attention, and a couple of boys had their pictures taken with her. We are very lucky to always be so well-received.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

It Rents Itself

For Rent signs are all over Cuenca, per above. "Se Arrienda" means "it rents itself," from the infinitive "arrendar." The pic below is from Staraya Rusa, Belorussia. It says "Аренда / arenda," also meaning rent. It's a Romance borrowing. Small world.

Saturday, November 17, 2018


Cloudy now, but the sun could attack at any time.

Putting up solar LED lightstrings in the courtyard. I had been thinking of using electrical alligator clips, but these fence staples (grapas) were cheaper and easy to friction fit with a rubber mallet. The balcony belongs to my neighbor Laura. My wife was on our balcony praying a rosary, and daughter Francesca was having a cigarette (alas) in the courtyard, while I was up & down on the ladder. Laura came out to air blankets. We had a nice visit. We're odd ducks in our no-gringo neighborhood, so Laura is interested in what we're up to. 

We refilled our hummingbird feeders a few days ago. While I was putting the lights up, a hummingbird came by for a snort. They're about titmouse size here, and not as skittish as the North American ones.
Can't wait to see how the lights will look tonight.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


Janet & I, as legal residents in Ecuador, have signed up for National Healthcare. It costs about $90 a month for us both. But as long as we don't have a crisis, we'll continue to pay out-of-pocket for private healthcare. We can afford to, and there's no point in crowding folks who don't have our options.
For the last few days, Janet has been coughy and achy in her chest & lungs, which in her case might suggest pleurisy. Or worse, pneumonia. She was too worn out to walk to Clinica Latino, so we splurged on a $1.75 cab ride.
I explained Janet's symptoms to the receptionist, who referred us to a pulmonary doc. We waited about 10 minutes to be seen by him, a personable and serene kinda guy. After a gentle and thorough exam, he said it wasn't a lung ailment, but mild sinusitis which was causing her chest to work harder to inflate the lungs. We sat at his desk while he legibly wrote out a prescription for 3 meds, and some recommendations for treating symptoms, including gargling with apple juice, which like most juices is thick and pulpy here. Once he was satisfied that I got it all, he gave me a card and said it was fine to call him anytime on his cell. No paperwork, no intermediaries, no hurry.
We paid $40 cash, and headed to the farmacia, where a week's worth of meds cost another $27.
Life is good.
As an aside, I used to wonder why it's "Clinica Latino," instead of "Clinica Latina." It's because the whole name is "Clinica Latinoamerica," and shortening the adjective doesn't change the implied feminine gender.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Cuenca Eye Candy

When we run errands, we usually reward ourselves with a drink, snack or ice cream. Walking home can involve a 250' climb from some parts of town, so a break before that labor is nice. This is a pic by daughter Francesca on the back terrace of Cafe del Museo. The museum fronts east-west Calle Larga (long street), the south limit of Centro Historico. On the back it overlooks the Rio Tomebamba, one of Cuenca's four rivers (Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca/ Saint Ann of the Rivers of Basin).

One of the few places where I can get a Manhattan
The short way to the back terrace is through the museum, whose front door on Calle Larga is about 40' higher than the Tomebamba. One walks down stairs in the museum about 30' to arrive at the terrace which is about 10' above the river (which can seriously flood during rainy season). It's a very tranquil view across the river to the newer town. Even though there's a 2 lane highway on the other side, the sight and sound of traffic is obscured and muted by the greenery and fast-moving water.

Pic looking north across the Tomebamba. This isn't a shot of the Museo, as trees block that view, but it's typical. Buildings that show two stories on Calle Larga will have six on the river side. There's a walk along the river, so people can stroll and stop at one of many places to eat and drink. We had idly considered buying a condo overlooking the river, but Calle Larga is loud until the wee hours, and we're basically house people anyway. Cuenca's only 60 miles from the Pacific Ocean, but on the east side of the Andes, so the water in the photo flows into the Amazon, and empties into the Atlantic.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Panela? Canela?


I don't remember seeing panela in the States. It's unrefined sugar that's very common in Ecuador. We use it in coffee, sweet & sour pork, etc. when we might have used brown sugar in the US. Hard taffy is made from it as well. I've been having trouble distinguishing panela from another edible, canela, finally got them straightened out today. Panela literally means "little bread." Canela means "little cane." But in Spanish, canela says "cinnamon." I kept thinking that the unrefined sugar was canela since it comes from sugarcane; and then would get confused about it being cinnamon. And panela would just mean roll or biscuit.
But panela isn't typically sold in milled (granulated) form (panela molida) but in small hard bricks. Little loaf sized, hence panela. That also explains Queso Panela, small hard cheeses. Got it.
Back to canela. Canela's a cognate of Greek 'kanna,' cane. The root form shows up in all sorts of languages: Arabic al-qandi, candy; kanna, a measuring stick, e.g. canon; and cannon, a tube. Like panela, cinnamon is not typically sold in milled form here either. Instead, it's the raw inner bark product that comes rolled up. We'd call it a stick of cinnamon, but due to the shape it's called by a version of 'canuto,' which is the Spanish word for 'little tube.' Canela, little tube. Similar to cannoli and canneloni. Got this too.