Please help right an injustice.

October 16, 2012 1 comment

A fellow was denied his Boy Scouts Eagle pin just because he’s gay.

His mother started this petition and I encourage you to sign.

Follow this link:

Thank you,



I’ll write more about Ecuador soon.

Categories: The Beginning

Cuenca, 6 a.m. Oct. 5, 2012

October 5, 2012 3 comments


A new venture will be a success

Last weekend, I decided to be touristic and visited Pumapungo an ancient archeological ruin/park in the historic district of Cuenca. If you want to know the details of the place, go HERE. Otherwise, here are some photos:

The gardens of Pumapungo from above

A friendly critter

Andean lawnmowers

Cheers to all!


Categories: Getting THERE

The bells, bells, bells, and frying pans!

September 9, 2012 3 comments

At 7:30 a.m., the bells started ringing. First there were robust, deep sounds. The there was a sound something like someone clanging cast-iron frying pans together. This went on for about five minutes, then silence.



Another sound. What was that? A toot. Another toot. Then a string of toots. An Andean pan pipe. It was playing “Hey, Jude.” Good Sunday morning in Cuenca, Ecuador!

After prying myself from the warm bed on a chilly morning, I went down the seven floors and walked to the park, in front of the New Cathedral. I found the Latin American experience that I’d been looking for — a shoeshine man. His name is Luis and he looked a wrinkled 70 years old. No matter. In 10 minutes he made my wizened 10-year-old Bass hiking boots look shiny and new again. He said he’s been buffing shoes at the same spot for 37 years.  He probably has many stories to tell. Another fellow was standing nearby waiting for shine, so I didn’t have time to chat more with Luis. Next time, I will.



I asked a cop in the park for directions to a market where I could buy fruits and vegetables. It turned out to be only three blocks away, down Calle Hermano Miguel. It turned out to be a block-sized building, with three stories. Meats and seafood were in the basement. Fruits and vegetables were on the ground floor. Prepared food was on the mezzanine.

I walked up the steps, sat down at a little counter and had some of the best roast pork I’ve ever tasted — and that includes South Carolina. A young woman served it up, along with hominy and marinated sliced red onion. I then topped it with a sauce made of tomates del arbol (tree tomatoes), cilantro and hot peppers. On my. I was stuffed.



I wandered around the market, buying some zucchini (calabasas) and red onions (cebollas rojas). The selections were massive, including some fruits and vegetables that looked like they were from Mars. Next time, I’ll need to visit with a local, who can explain all this wonderful-looking stuff.



So what’s up with y’all??


Got here!

September 8, 2012 9 comments

This is what greeting me when I arrived at the Cuenca airport on Thursday afternoon.

ImageMy landlady, Martha met me with a taxi and we made the short drive downtown. I was gawking all the way.

My studio apartment is on the 8th floor of the Edificio Alfa, which is two blocks from the center of town, the Parca Calderon. A bank is in the basement, so there’s an armed guard (often with a machine gun) on station most of the time.

To get to my place, I get into an elevator, ascendImage

seven floors and open a gate. Then, I walk down a parquet hallway and open another door. Next, is a one-flight stairway and another door to a foyer. Then the lock to my place. All of this requires an impressive key collection.

The place is tiny and that suits me just fine. It’s just one room, with bed and kitchen stuff, plus a bathroom. The most stunning feature is the view. Below you have it from  left-to-right.


So far, I’ve just strolled within 4-5 blocks of my place. The architecture in this colonial area is quite something. Here are some examples; I don’t yet know details of the buildings.






More to come!

Categories: The Beginning


September 8, 2012 Leave a comment


Categories: The Beginning

Itchy Parts, Part II

July 19, 2012 2 comments

And some got scratched!

I returned to Flagstaff last evening, after a two-day stay and a six-week process. All of this involved getting a visa for Ecuador longer than the 90-day tourist type.

The process involved:

  1. Getting a letter from the Flagstaff Police Department concerning my blank police record. It needed to be notarized. This is where I started, visiting the office next to the Coconino County Jail. I showed them my drivers license, filled out a form, handed over $8 and was told I’d be called when it was ready.  Two days later, I got the call, went back to the station and received the notarized letter. Fortunately, I sat in the cop shop lobby to look it over. My police record remained blank, but my birth date was wrong. I pointed this out to the lady behind the glass window, was told to return the next morning. I did, receiving the corrected form.
  2. Getting a letter from the Social Security Administration showing that I received, monthly, a payment of $800 or more. Off I went to the Social Security Office. A guard at the door asked me if I was carrying any guns or knives. Responding in the negative, I was directed to a computer screen, where I typed in my SSA number, a numbered piece of paper spewed out and I planted my self in the waiting room for 45 minutes. I did have a nice chat with a woman from Jalisco, in Spanish, before my number was finally flashed up on a screen.  Getting this letter took about five minutes. No notarization available.
  3. Next was a trip to the Arizona State Credit Union, where I need to get a letter showing that I had at least $1,000 in my account. This was accomplished quickly by my personal banker (a former US ARMY RANGER, a personable fellow with a serious bald look).  It was also notarized, I thought.
  4. Finally, I needed two passport-style photographs, which I got at the Fedex office. They’re worse than the pics on my drivers license.

Meanwhile, I maintained my routine in Flagstaff. Almost every morning starts, at 7, with a two-block walk down San Francisco Street to Late for the Train, a coffee shop with a fresh, tasty product.

Early morning on San Francisco Street in Flagstaff, AZ, USA

Later in the day, I often go to the bar at Monsoon (which I call “The Office”) for a whiskey and soda.

Me at “The Office” at my favorite time of day. It’s like having a private club.



Living in Flagstaff makes this easy to do with out guilt — even with apparent government approval. See the photo below.

The clocks on all four faces of the Coconino County Courthouse are frozen at 5 o’clock. I’ve always assumed that it’s perpetual cocktail hour!

This past Tuesday, my sister, a family friend and I traveled to Phoenix. I needed to visit the offices of Arizona’s Secretary of State and the Consulate of Ecuador, in that order.

At the Secretary of State’s office, I needed to have the aforementioned documents apostilled. I explained this in a previous post. If you REALLY want the details, go HERE. I strolled into the State Executive Building, through a metal detector, went to the office and presented the documents. The woman behind the desk looked them over, hmmmmed, and pointed out that the notarization on the letter from the credit union wasn’t correct. It was in the wrong form and had to be redone. Off we went to the credit union, which, luckily had an office three blocks away. The letter was redone, correctly notarized and we returned to the Secretary of State. Throughout all of this, by the way, the temperature in Phoenix was about 110F.

The apostillization process started with the Social Security letter getting notarized, over my signature. Next, a form was attached to each aforementioned document, complete with a big golden round seal. I felt like I was back in kindergarten. After paying $3 for each special paper, I was off to the Consulate of Ecuador.

The next bureaucratic hoop!

At the consulate, where we arrived five minutes before closing,  I turned in the documents to a nice lady named Gaby Castillo, who asked that I should return the next morning with a $240 money order.

Wednesday morning, we were back at the consulate. I signed a couple of papers and turned over the bucks. Ms. Castillo presented me with Spanish translations and approvals of the aforementioned documents and put a big stamp, denoting a 180-day visa in my passport. All of these carry a holographic little stamp, making me feel as if I’ve made it to high-tech high school.

Ms. Castillo said I could take all of these stickered documents to the Department of Migration in Ecuador and apply for a long-term retiree visa — for a further fee of $200.

I’ve already got my airline ticket, including a stop in South Carolina to visit family over Labor Day. I’ll fly to South America on Sept. 5. Por fin!

To celebrate, we went to an Ethiopian restaurant in Tempe. I joyously stuffed myself.

Yes, one eats with the fingers. Delicious.

Categories: Getting THERE

I Bit The Bullet

My long-time friend and colleague, Bill, in Charleston, SC, noted that I occasionally like to jump off the cliff. He’s correct. Several years ago, I went to Oaxaca, Mexico, not knowing anyone there. I wound up spending three years there.

Now, I’ve jumped off yet another cliff. This time I’m heading for South America, Ecuador, to be specific. Cuenca, to be even more specific.

I few days ago, I bought the airline tickets. First, I fly to Charleston in late August to spend a few days with my daughters, grandchildren and, of course, Bill. Sept. 5, I head further south, flying first to Quito for an overnight stay, then on to Cuenca the next morning. 

I know nothing of the place, other than what I’ve read on the Net, and that sounds pretty damn good.

I’ve been in Flagstaff, AZ, for almost two years. If one needs to be someplace to recover from aortic surgery and having one’s teeth replaced with plastic, it’s a pretty good place to be. A lot of this has to do with sister Nancy, who has been wonderfully supportive all the way.

Now, it’s time to move on again. I’ve been in the Andes before, in Bolivia, and really enjoyed the culture.

So, off we go.



Categories: The Beginning