School dazed

Katherine is in for one fantastic educational experience!

We visited her school today and took first steps to getting her enrolled.  A 15-minute taxi/bus ride to escuela CEDEI (Centro de Estudios Interamericanos).

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This is a relatively small, private trilingual school that prepares students to become proficient in Spanish, English and French before they graduate. Classes are small, with a Spanish-speaking and English-speaking teacher in each class. Subjects are taught in both languages, with French being available at grade 3.  Music offers guitar lessons along with concerts and other opportunities to sing.

She will begin as soon as paperwork is completed, which entails having all her documents from the US translated and submitted to the Ministry of Education for approval.  She’ll wear uniforms (not such good news to her, but great to me!) and take the bus. Up and out of the house pretty early in the mornings,  but she’ll be out of school by 1:30.

Here we pay $40 a month for bus service, but it will be far less expensive than taxi.  Too far too walk.

CEDEI was founded in 2000 in order to offer students an alternative to the more strict, traditional way of learning that is standard in Ecuador.  Learning is somewhat customized to the way the student learns best.

We toured the school the other day and Katherine’s excitement was quite obvious.  She’ll fit right in.  Only three other girls in her class ( I think the photo above is from the class in which she will be enrolled) and they came right up to her when we visited as if to say, “Finally, another female!”  No words were exchanged but big grins.  She will be welcomed.

IMG_4276Mountains surround the school.  The view is beautiful, despite construction sites across the road.  The computer lab is a bit dated, but she has a computer at home and technology is not what we’re all about these days anyway. She knows enough about computers to get by.

It may take a week or so for all paperwork to get processed, so until then, Katherine is enjoying late mornings and a looser schedule. Things are about to change, chica!

Lots of rain the past couple of days.  The lazy Tomebamba river across the street (just one of the four that runs through Cuenca) is high now and flowing muy rapido.

David and I ate lunch out yesterday at a small out-of-the-way restaurant. The standard lunch (almuerzo) sells for $2.50 (soup, juice, rice, meal and salad with small desert) but I was hungry for la hamburguesa and papas fritas — yep, hamburger and french fries.  And it was, absolutely one of the best burgers I’ve had in my life.  And the  homemade, freshly cut and cooked fries–just delicious!

I complimented the chef as best i could  (big smile, “mi gusto!”). She said (I think) the burgers were Colombian.  Too big to hold and eat, the two soft buns held a  burger with cooked onions, fried egg, fresh tomatoes, cheese and lettuce topped with a sweet barbecue-type sauce.  We should have shared one meal.  Instead, David had leftovers for dinner last night.

2 huge burgers, 2 fries and 3 bottles of mineral waters: $11.25, including tip.  High rollers, I know.  We won’t spend that every day.  Compare that to the Meers burger we had in Oklahoma (hailed as one of the top is the US) with a price tag of $13.00, drinks and fries not included!  Money goes a little farther in Ecuador.

The restaurant was open air, and we found ourselves being courted by a flock of pigeons. We shared our bowl of popcorn with them (Chinese restaurants serve noodles, Mexican provide chips, here we get popcorn) and watched a delightful sideshow. Pecking order indeed!

The proprietor’s son, about 4, walked by our table numerous times, flirting and talking softly. his beautiful eyes will one day make young girls swoon.

A lovely break. From here, David went to make photocopies of Katherine’s documents and I returned home to check on Katherine. And take a nap.  I’m retired now, you know.  Naps play an important part of my day!

One week from today I will attend a writer’s conference to be held just a few blocks from our apartment.  The first of it’s kind here in the city.  I’m not familiar with the speakers but I anticipate it will be an excellent opportunity to meet other like-minded folks from the city and surrounding areas.  I have no aspirations for novel writing, but the camaraderie of wordsmiths will be most welcome. It’s being hailed as international–maybe because the speaker is a New York Times bestseller, I’m not sure. Not really important. What is — three full days of mingling with others who like words.  Should be fun.

IMG_4278No great insights today.  Just awareness of being very much at home in this vibrant, kind city. No one seems in a terrible hurry. Taxi drivers, while at times daring, do feel safe. Night sounds don’t bother us much, although we’ve heard other expats grouse quite a bit.

So far it’s a land that rains every day but always has the sun shining at some point. Life’s a lot like that, right?

Did we really once live in the USA?  Seems so far away.

A good day to you all. Adios.



casa, sweet casa

day four in cuenca and we have found our permanent home:

Ricardo Barquea 2-104 y Victor Albornoz, (Puertas del Sol).

you might think we rushed into it, but one knows when a place is right.

david replied to an ad in the Gringo Post yesterday and we met with the realtor and the homeowner this morning.

we knew immediately–even katherine– that this was the place for us.  a two story home that offers two separate living spaces.  we can live downstairs and have a complete separate apartment upstairs for guests.  until guests arrive, katherine has laid claim to the 2nd story bedroom. we’ll use the upstairs living room as an extra reading area. the second bedroom downstairs will serve as my sun-drenched art room.

at the front of the house, tucked in among the small garden is a shed that will serve as a club house for katherine.  the landlady said with a grin that she’d clean it out as long as katherine doesn ‘t invite her boyfriends. our niña was horrified! to kat’s dismay and our gratitude, no pets are allowed.

the landlady couldn’t be nicer.  her name is susana and she speaks quite good english. i feel we’ll be friends as well as tenants.  she will move into a third apartment in the back of the property with a separate entrance and driveway. we will share a small patio. she mentioned that her past tenants and she have often had coffee in the mornings. sounds like a plan!

susana has a business out of her home–she and an assistant make tortillas, empanadas and humitas (sort of like a tamale but different. maize, butter, eggs, cheese wrapped in a husk and steamed). she sells these to offices and businesses for employees’ breaks. she also makes homemade bread which she is happy to provide for a small fee.  yes indeed!

she’s younger than we are, a peaceful presence and very gracious. her husband and daughter currently live in germany. she remains here to help her brother and sister care for her elderly parents. susana has  a warm personality and very tender heart.  she teared up when we told her we would take the house.  it is hard to move out of this home she has built up over the past 30 years, but she doesn’t need the space.  as a person who cries easily, i felt an instant  connection!  all of us feel we’ve found a good landlady and friend. our ecuadoran community has begun.

we will move as soon as she can get moved out. April 1, 15th or 30th!  we will see if we can remain here at our short-term apartment for a bit longer than our 30 days.  if owner can’t extend it for some reason, we’ll store our suitcases and travel as we had originally planned.


we’re in a country we love.

we’ve found a house that allows up plenty of room guests to stay as long as they want in privacy and comfort, and gives katherine a club house, her own bedroom and close proximity to her school. plus we have a possible new friend in the process–one who cries easily no less!

things i love about this country so far:

*all children get an education. high priority. if families are poor, books, uniforms and  meals are provided.

*taxi across town costs $1.40.

*no mosquitos (at least where we are.)

*we had excellent Hong Kong Chinese last night with menu written in spanish. our very good meals were served with salsa caliente just in case we needed more flavor!

*our new landlady also makes homemade bread and will provide as much as we want.

*cook and cleaning lady (five days a week) comes with the house.  oh. my. goodness.

*parque de la madres nearby is lovely.  as i sat and watched katherine play, i noticed the absence of cell phones.  college age kids have their cell phones out and look at them frequently.  but on the streets, in the parks, in the restaurants–everywhere–you see people talking, walking and living without eyes or ears glued to technology!

me gusta Ecuador!

next time:  the challenge of the 72 steps.


Leavin’ on a jet plane

all good things must come to an end.  and a new beginning.

all the bags are packed, we’re ready to go!  david and katherine are diligently gathering up odds and ends from the car and hotel room. i’m scrambling to write a few last words on terra firma before we head for Hollywood/Ft. Lauderdale International Airport.Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 9.32.00 AM

we arrived in the Hampton Inn last night at 10:30 pm after a long drive from Atlanta.  all was going well until i had the good idea to leave I95 and drive along Hwy 1 to find someplace to eat.  who knew  so few restaurants are on A1A?  we found a good puerto rican restaurant and had one good last supper. got lost finding the hotel (we left our portable GPS at the storage facility in Norcross) and wandered around Pembroke Pines Florida for longer than we enjoyed!  checked in and went right to sleep.

this morning, leisurely packing and preparation.  drop the van off at noon and spend the afternoon in the airport.  the plane departs around 7 this evening.  hopefully our hotel in quito will remember to have someone pick us up this evening …it will be close to midnight i guess.  we plan to spend two nights in quito and then make the eight-hour trip to cuenca. david has arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport and drive us to our new home.

the stomach butterflies are active this morning. katherine is concerned about how airplanes stay aloft and what we will talk to the driver about for eight hours.  (spanish, i say.  we will speak whatever spanish we can think of.  como ce dice….???) david has jitters about myriad details.  i wonder where we will find our first cup of coffee and when to grocery shop.

our five-week-and-two-day adventure across America has ended.  7,800 miles of USA.  an amazing trip and katherine was a trooper every mile.  we visited with 84 family members and close friends–what a gift!  our lives are filled with so many excellent people. caring, big hearted, laughter-filled, joy-producing, open-armed, grace-giving men and women.

so many highlights. an abundance of snow in the heartland and views of two beautiful oceans. big sisters and little cousins. 150′ zip line for katherine. a great birthday celebration by the Guadelupe River and reunion of the Siloam Springs soup kitchen! A leisurely ride along the river walk in San Antonio, seals in La Jolla, breakfast with a niece, katherine’s adventures driving a golf cart, long leisurely talks and comfortable beds.

taco soup was a favorite. and smoked brisket. the world’s best hamburger in Meers Oklahoma (ok, one of the top three in the USA). bison herds and bonding with family members seen all too frequently.

so now we wait.  jet blue will board about six this evening and we’ll be there.  i feel we are still taking too much, although all we own has been reduced to 8 large suitcases, three carry ons and three personal items. still rich by most of the world’s standards.

we hope to keep in touch via Skype (send us your number, please). we’ll keep our emails. phones are off line as of today. and of course, this blog.  i’m looking forward to having the time to reconnect with friends and family.

time to say goodbye, at least for now.  remember you have an open invitation to visit anytime. just give us a few weeks to find a place, settle in and locate a good restaurant or two!

life begins in South America for the Vander Plaats tonight at midnight!

Life is good!