Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Aeropuerto Empanada

Image result for grande empanada con pollo receta

Cuenca excitement before noon:

Walked to the airport to pick up wife & daughter, who will be living with us & going to school at the Universidad de Cuenca. It's only 1.5 miles, no big deal anymore. Got there early and paid airport prices for breakfast in the waiting area: a big homemade-style chicken empanada (in-bread-ed), and cafe con leche (cf. lactos, galaxy) for $3.50. In small places like this, cafe con leche means a cup full of hot milk with instant coffee added to taste. Today they had added the coffee; other places may give you the instant in a little bowl. None of the dishes match; it's a thrifty country.

The restaurant business here is competitive (of course). Restaurants will often have a greeter outside with a menu. At the airport there are three little fastfood joints in a row. If they aren't busy like today, when someone comes in a worker will strike a Vanna White pose and feature the food, e.g., a platter of robust empanandas. No kidding, except for the unfancy attire, they look just like this:

Image result for game show hostess

The women said they prepared the empanada. I didn't ask if they made them at home, but I will next visit. The typical small eatery is a public space off of a domicile, so unless the restaurant is a full-blown business, the food is essentially home-cooked. In general, Ecuadorian food is seasoned, but not spicy. If you want spicy, you're better off at a Mexican restaurant. Yep, there are such things in Ecuador.

 I sat at a window-wall and had a lovely view across the runway of the nearby mountains. I watched the plane land, park right under my nose, and let Janet and Francie out. In the cab home I had a nice time defending the US not allowing folks to walk across the border. I pointed out that Ecuador doesn't allow it, even for starving Venezuelans. No ID, too bad; and this even though V and E have free-passage rules like say the US & Canada. Etc. Anyway that wasn't the only topic while the cabbie fought traffic, we had a pleasant visit.

 As we approached home the cabbie says, wow this is a nice neighborhood (which it is) and a nice big house (also true). I responded that we sold the house in the US and used that money to buy this house, and that it's the biggest, nicest house either of us has ever lived in. We think it's almost a palace. He thought that was interesting: that a gringo's house in Ecuador could possibly be nicer than its American counterpart. It was intended as a compliment of sorts, and I think he took it as such.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Glamorous Life of the Expat

We've had workmen in & out of the house for months, including times when we were out of town; nothing was ever amiss. We seem to be done with mods now, so it's time to get main locks changed.
I walked into Centro to a small locksmith shop (photo) that's across the street from where I pay the "light" bill. A few people were ahead of me, getting keys made. As it got to be my turn, a young man in an official jacket and big shoulder bag came in. He saw I was next- what did I need? Well, I need locks replaced on two steel gates at my house. We take off right then, a 15 minute walk up to the house. We have a nice conversation the whole way. This is the longest one-on-one chat I have had so far, it was pretty painless. While we are looking at the front gate, Mauro, my Italian neighbor, walks by, smiles & says hello. He's headed home from the tienda where he got his one cigarette for the day. Instead of saying 'como esta' I say 'como va su cigarillo/ how goes your cigarette?' He laughs, says 'muy bien!' and walks on.
Security locks can't be re-cored; the whole assembly has to be cut off each gate and new ones welded on. Apparently they are very hard to defeat. Total cost, $70, Patricio will come back tomorrow morning to do the job.
The new locks are in. Turns out they are welded to the backside of a plate that remains part of the steel gate, so from the front it's intact. The backsides need a little touch up painting. My house and its electrical system are 40 years old. I had to stand by the circuit breaker box, and every time the welding machine tripped the breaker I'd reset it. This was after switching off everything in the house including the fridges and computers. I turned it back on about 25 times.

Locksmith lower left. It helps to already know where it is.

Lluvia, lluvia, fuera de aqui!

Bourgeois life in Ecuador today:
I'm doing a crossword in the family room, which is a former courtyard with a glass roof. It's raining and I hear an unfamiliar drip sound. That is, as opposed to the usual drip sounds. Because the glass roof overlaps older tile roofs, two now-interior walls have gutters & downspouts. There's lots of rain-noise, but no leaks since we re-glassed the roof last Spring. I look around- don't see any issues.
But the the rain gets heavier, and the unfamiliar drip changes to a gush- water is pouring into the room from an overflowing gutter. But one can't see into either gutter from inside the room. I run up to the stairwell so I can look through its window into the stopped gutter from the outside. 

Nominal view of virtually-inaccessible gutter though stairwell window.

I can barely see a plastic bag, which has gotten into the gutter; no small feat considering the roof layout, but obviously not impossible. But I can't access the gutter from the outside- that would mean creeping over a 40-year-old terra-cotta roof. I run back inside, grab a stepladder. I can just squeeze two fingers into the gutter from the inside, and by feel pull out the bag. A mess, but not a catastrophe. Thank God that we were in Ecuador; that we were in town; that I was in the house; and that I was in the room to hear the trouble.

Interior gutter & downspout. Pushing hard, I could get fingers into the gutter from this side.
My whole life as a homeowner has been a war against water- either it's where I don't want it; or it's not where I do want it.
Rain, rain, go away!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Lingua Franca

First day in Stockholm (Winter 1988) I get my first real shot at using Swedish. At the bus stop I ask a woman which bus goes to the Krigsarkivet on thus & so street. She gives me an uncomfortable look, doesn't make a peep. Uh-oh. I ask again, carefully. She stays mum.
Then she says in English, "Do you speak English?"
"Yes, I do."
"I'm from Finland, I don't speak Swedish."
"Oh. Thanks."

I have Swedish on my mind a bit. A couple of weeks ago I was at Da Likka Sto' and overheard a couple of men discussing vodka in what sounded like Swedish or Danish. I asked them were they speaking one or the other, they said Swedish. They joked about being Scandinavians in the Vodka section. I said, "Jag talar inte bra Svensk. (I speak/talk not good Swedish)." That was unexpected! We all had a good laugh, and it was useful for me to say just that one sentence and be understood.

Never pass up a chance to practice a second language.