Our last two nights in Ecuador were spent in this beautiful hacienda in Paute, about 45 minutes outside of Cuenca. Top shelf service! From the moment we were picked up by our driver, Christopher we were treated like royalty. Christopher was attentive to our needs and pointed out many places of interest along the way as well as giving us some history of the area. Fernando, the rooms division manager was/is maravilloso! He is impeccable in his attention to the customers needs and even called our cable company in Quito for us to make sure we had discontinued service as we are leaving Ecuador.
It turns out we had the place to ourselves since last weekend was a holiday weekend and they were packed. The food is delicious, fresh and mostly organic as they have gardens on the premises. The customer service is outstanding! The staff has catered to visitors from around the world and it shows in their prompt attention to your comfort without being cloying. The superior rooms speak of days gone by yet they are updated for modern convenience. Plenty of hot water, gorgeous patios, pools, Turkish baths, massage rooms and two restaurants. A charming fireplace in the original part of the home is surrounded by comfy couches and a bar nearby where you can drink warm canelazo to take the chill off even more. Or sip your drink of choice as you sit on the veranda overlooking the original entrance of the Hacienda overlooking the Rio Paute.
Fernando gave us a tour of the grounds and told us the history of the Hacienda which dates back to the 1790’s. It was a sugar cane plantation and rum distillery. There is also a salon that invokes old Spain and houses beautiful antiques and tapestries from the original home and can be used for meetings, weddings and the like. A lovely pond for paddle boating and horse back riding is included in your room rate. If you EVER get to Uzhupud/Paute you won’t be disappointed by this elegant historic inn from another era.
Monday, November 2 is officially the first of a two day celebration of the Independence of Cuenca. However, the celebration really begins on Saturday. Monday was a surreally gorgeous day here. The city sparkled. The humidity was low. School and work is out and the streets in El Centro, the walkways along the Tomebamba river and the nooks and crannies throughout the city are filled with the booths of artisans and crafters of every genre from all over Ecuador. There are huge woven rugs from Salasaca (must see), artistic jewelry from the Amazon, macana (ikat) weavings from Bulcay and Gualaceo and yum, delicious ceviche that is as good as Peruvian. People are happy and women walk arm in arm or hand in hand with their daughters and friends. I smile as I watch them, I am drinking it all in. The artwork of the Ecuadorian culture is amazing, I think creativity oozes from their pores! It seems like they are in constant artistic motion.
Artisan from Amazon
Weaver from Salasaca, many of these rugs are made with red dye from the cochineal insect.
Jennifer and I enjoyed the many artisans booths in town along the river.
On Tuesday we left for Baños de Ambato, about 7 hours away by bus. Some of the most spectacular scenery I have observed since we’ve been here along the way. Ecuador is one of the most beautiful countries in the world I think, but then again I haven’t seen every country. Our trip included mountain biking down the avenue of the waterfalls (me of course, Chet took a taxi) visiting the thermal baths, thus the name of this town, taking a trip to view the volcano Tungurahua and swinging off the edge of a cliff (not as bad as it sounds and very fun).
road to/from Baños de Ambato
snow capped Chimborazo an inactive volcano
another view of Chimborazo
A view towards Tungurahua, an active volcano.
View of Baños de Ambato
Baños de Ambato
along the avenue of waterfalls Baños de Ambato
fellow mountain bikers on the avenue of the waterfalls, 20km/12 miles of pure joy!
Pailon Del Diablo/Devil’s Cauldron waterfall
crawling through this cave is an experience, brings you to the higher point of the falls.
swinging bridge at Pailon del Diablo
Chet at Salada thermal baths in Baños de Ambato
Cascade in the center of Baños
It has been said that life changes quickly and dramatically. Just when you think you have the pieces in place someone or something moves the pieces. As a modern day (trying to imitate) Sarah (and boy do I have a loooong way to go) it is time for me to pack up our tent and head out.
Many tears have been shed as we get ready to say goodbye to Cuenca. Yes, we are moving back to the States for various reasons, nothing traumatic, serious or life threatening. Chet and I have prayed and reevaluated our situation here and some responsibilities back in the States and made the decision to return. To ease the transition we also are enjoying the English meetings once again. It has been quite fun actually to have the whole of Cuenca as our territory!
Our plane leaves Cuenca on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 headed for Alabama. We plan to settle in a small city in northern Alabama that is renowned for the blues. I mention it simply because I happen to love the blues so what a happy coincidence to land in an area that hosts a great Blues Festival every summer. Most importantly we are eager to meet our new congregation and get busy in the work that Jehovah has us to do there. We made a small wish list, prayed and lo and behold we have a place to live when we arrive, that will make the transition easier as well. So on to a new adventure! How long will we be there? Who knows?!
I will forever be grateful for this awesome experience, we recount almost everyday the exciting times we had here, the things we learned about ourselves, each other and this beautiful country and culture, we will miss so many things but especially our dear friends in Paraiso Congregation. There were ups and downs true and I am so happy that you all shared this journey with us. Your encouraging words and prayers for us were very much appreciated. We hope that we have inspired you to take the proverbial leap and taste and see what Jehovah still has in store for you! Whether your move is across the globe to Myanmar or around the corner to Chocolate Bayou, Texas or Whynot, Mississippi (real places) for a week, a month or the rest of your life in this system we are certain you will never regret it! After all…Why Not?
In February we bought airline tickets to visit the States for a month in September. June and July were quite chilly here as the seasons are the reverse of the Northern Hemisphere. Many people we have met think all of Ecuador is hot. Nope. Cuenca gets quite chilly, not snowy true, but at night it can get into the low 50’s during the chilly season and with it can come lots of rain. Factor in the lack of central heat or fireplace in our apartment and well…I had had enough by August. We left for the beaches at the end of August a few days before our flight.
Lest it sound like I am complaining I must make the disclaimer that I am a summer girl. I was born in July in the Midwest and I love summertime. My best memories include the tic tic whir of the sprinkler as a 7 year old me danced through it’s cold spray on an 85 degree day in my ruffled yellow bikini, the smell of freshly mown lawn my dad had just cut with the push reel lawn mower wafting in the sticky heat; sleeping over at my friend Lisa Jurgens house on her back patio watching the white hot stars and the fireflies in inky stillness, whispering to the night our deepest, darkest 12 year old secrets, the next day I hike to the falls with Lisa and her older brother, Mike (my painful adolescent crush) and we savor egg salad sandwiches and ice tea their mom packed in thermoses and I swear I will never forget that day. And I don’t. Traveling by car with my family for hours to the “district” convention in various cities across the U.S.A and our vacations afterwards; visiting my grandparents in North Alabama, running a country road with my dad in the early morning mist and returning back to the house with my freshly straightened hair in a fuzzy AFRO! (yeah, my 15 year old self about died of embarrassment!); the calm, cool quiet of the libraries my mom and I would visit every week in summer, an oasis of words and dreams that enhanced my summers and took me to far off places; laughing with my friend Melanie as we “vacation” pioneer with our moms who were each other’s partner and stopping at the Dairy Queen after field service, ah yes strawberry sundaes.
The memories with my own children, summers in Connecticut, are even more vivid of course. Beach days at Rocky Neck and Misquamicut, picnicking at Topsmead in Litchfield and camping on the Cape, late summer in Martha’s Vineyard renting a house with friends. Memories of working at a pricey summer camp and my own kids ( who were able to attend for free) smelling of sweat, chlorine and pine needles from playing Capture the Flag in the pine forest and freshly churned ice cream afterwards up the road at a creamery. Wandering the trails and climbing the fire tower at Sessions Woods and watching my 10 year old son climb the massive, slippery boulders toward the waterfall. Later the three of us sit, my son, my daughter named after this beautiful, green season and I dangling our feet in it’s churning icy waters.
I write about those memories even as Chet and I are making new memories here. We enjoyed the beach immensely. We stayed outside of Montanita this time close to Olon. I loved the large waves and had the best one hour massage ever right on the beach…for $15! Altogether we saw 8 whales right from the shore line in two days, so cool.
Going back to the States was interesting. It was wonderful to see family and friends and meet up with some who have followed our blog with an enthusiasm we could never have imagined. We traveled to 7 States and 3000 miles in a month. Yep. Never again we say. However, we enjoyed 3 circuit overseers visits and it was great to hear the talks in English, lol. My girlfriend of 30 years, Jodi, traveled down from Connecticut to see me for one day in Delaware along with her sons and it blew me away!! She has no idea what that meant and still means to me. Proverbs 17:17 is so true, eh?
Although I have felt lonely many times in Cuenca and I battle clinical depression (and I realize that no matter where you go there YOU are so it’s with me till the end of this system) it was good to come back home to Cuenca. The States overwhelmed me a bit. It is my culture and yet my eyes became more opened to how much STUFF there is and how much we hurry and scurry, consume and SHOP!! We shop when we need things, when we don’t need things, when we are bored, celebrating, hungry, sad, tired, depressed, angry, lonely, ecstatic…did I leave out anything? We came to the States with our wish lists of things we needed to take back and yes I was happy to walk into a Walmart, Target, TJMaxx and Trader Joes, etc. However, one day I stood in a store and I stopped…I turned around 360 degrees and thought….wow, so much STUFF!! If you have ever been away from the States for any length of time you know what I am saying. If not, well try it sometime, you will be amazed at your perspective when you return. Or maybe it didn’t take you leaving to feel that way…good for you!
Now I must retire from my soapbox and share some photos. Stay tuned as Chet and I have a big surprise in store for you in the next few months! And NO, I am not pregnant! Yikes!
P.F Chang’s on Sunday in Delaware with friends from Kim’s congregation & Jodi & her sons Murphy & Shea.
Me and Jodi
Chet, his daughter Kim in Delaware and Moi.
Dear Friends in Orlando; Wendy, Me and her mom, Beverly
This “little” Rhinoceros beetle was on our porch to welcome us home!
Ecuadorian mountain views
Riding above the clouds on the way home to Cuenca
views from the bus ride back to Cuenca
…and more mountains
Our long and winding road through Tennesee
Home to Ecuador
Our bus drivers from Guayaquil stop and comtemplate their prospective purchase…no hurry!
July 1st marks our 11th month here in Cuenca and to celebrate I signed up for a fairly strenuous hike to Cajas National Park this past weekend. Did you notice I did not say “signed us up”? Yeah, Chet bowed out on this one, I love (with a capital L) to hike. Chet humors me on vacations and we go for short meanderings in the forests, etc. and we have a nice time. This time however, he wished me well as I donned my daypack and I think I saw a faint smirk on his face…he must have known what I was in for.
However, there had been serious hankerings on my part to go for a mini trek into the Cajas. I felt a trip there was long overdue. Last week my Pilates instructor, who is also an adventure guide along with her husband mentioned they were taking a group to the Cajas for a 10km trek. She asked would I like to come since they had room for one more? I had my hiking boots laced before she could say “cloudforest”.
My Pilates instructor (Sky) and her husband (Axel) German/Canadians, run an adventure travel company that organizes trips for people who are from everywhere in the world to anywhere in the world. This particular trip was organized for a group of 4 sociology students from Colorado College and one of their instructors who is about middle age. Their were three of us “50 somethings” in addition to our guides who are 55 and 60 respectively. However, they are incredibly fit since they’ve been doing this for 30 plus years and thus not in the same category with us “seniors”!
Cuenca sits at 8,000 feet. We drove a little over an hour outside of Cuenca to began our trip. We started our hike at 11,000 feet and eventually climbed to 13,000 feet during the 3.5 hour trek. Aside from a brief respite at a lake (we saw about 10 altogether) we NEVER stopped climbing and walking over the grasslands, through the cloudforest and over ridges. Through the rain, the wind, and a smattering of sunshine. It. Was. A.W.E.S.O.M.E! The best $20 I spent so far this month, and it included besides transportation, a snack of which the homemade carrot bread/cake was the best. We ate on the move because every time we “seniors” and Sky (who was watching over our motley trio) would catch up to the 20-somethings and Axel they would take off again! Sheesh! However, the last 1 1/2 hours I had acclimatized and the going was a lot easier. I found myself leaping over rocks and almost bounding down the path. And yes, my quads were SCREAMING for two days afterwards!
Cajas National Park is a beautiful, wild, pristine environment. We hiked the Patul trail which spans the length of the park and I didn’t see one speck of trash the whole time. So unlike some of the well loved and used trails elsewhere in the world. This trail is more backcountry than some of the others in Cajas (there are much easier ones) but from what I understand many of them are the same, beautifully clean. If you have a chance to visit and explore you won’t regret this wonderful opportunity to enjoy yet another gift from our loving Father, Jehovah.
Balloon plants, the bulbs look like tiny balloons.
A tiny, mossy world on a rock along the trail.
This is a Quenua Tree, belongs to genus Polylepis spp. It constantly sheds it’s paperlike bark.
Our first (and only) bathroom stop at the beginning of the trail. And it’s outside the building, not inside! The girl behind the building is taking a pic of her friend as I take a picture of her taking a picture…ok, enough of that!
How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?
Starting off this post with a bit of whimsy from one of my favorite poets. Time is flying, that’s a good thing right? The end of April we had the visit of our circuit overseer here in Paraiso congregation. Chet has been very busy in the congregation and is getting to know all 88 publishers by name! No mean feat! The beginning of May we decided to attend the English congregations C.O visit. We are so glad we did. We needed the extra boost and we heard a really neat experience in the pioneer meeting that Brother Lundmann gave about making effective return visits…it goes like this…
There is a pioneer brother in Japan who made a goal of having 100 return visits for the month. His goal was also 5 return visits every day he was in the ministry, at least. He thoroughly prepared for them. At the end of the month he had 240 RV’s and 10 new Bible students! He made a point of even going back on those who hadn’t shown a lot of interest. Brother Lundmann encouraged us to set goals for the amount of RV’s for each month and each time we go out. He encouraged us to ask ourselves the question, “Are RV’s an important and regular part of my ministry schedule?”
With that meeting, and after prayerful consideration my ministry took a wonderful new direction. Chet and I had been using half of our pioneer time to learn the language because the branch here gives us that allotment if we want it. For the month of May I set a goal to not use that time and spend it in the ministry with Jehovah’s help. I also set a goal of return visits. Well, I was able to meet and even exceed my time a bit! Yay! I won’t tell you my goal of return visits but surprisingly I exceeded it and have some new Bible students all with the help of our loving Father!!
We have had some nice experiences too with the public preaching and metropolitan witnessing work. Yesterday in Metro witnessing at the Feria Libre bus terminal, the largest Mercado here in Cuenca, one young woman, obviously expecting, stood at a distance and kept eyeing the cart. After sharing with me that she was 20 years old and this was her and her hubby’s first baby, due in October, I asked if she’d like to see a video. She agreed. She really liked the video, “Why Study The Bible” and then I showed her the picture in Chapter 3 of the Bible Teach book. She was happy to receive it! It turns out she just moved to this area from Quito and goes to the Oriente (near/in the jungle) for work with her husband for a couple of weeks at a time. My partner at the cart spoke with her further about getting more information and it looks very promising that she will come back for more information when she returns.
To end the month we took a weekend trip back to Vilcabamba, stayed at a different place, Madre Tierra which we loved. Our package included a hiking/taxi tour and of course, (love when this happens!) our tour guide turned out to be a brother! He and his wife were the first Witnesses in Vilcabamba. They now attend the sign language congregation in Loja, about 40 minutes away because their young adult son is deaf. So Cool. I was asked to do a review of the resort for TripAdvisor so if you want to know what the place is like check out their site.
Guess What? We finally received our permanent visas, also called a cedula the middle of May. Basically this means we can now call Cuenca our official home for as long as we want! No getting out after 3 months and Chet can ride the bus for 12 cents. Yesssss! Think of the money we’ll save! Lol. Anyway, now you can solidfy your plans to come see us.
So here are some old and new pictures, in no certain order…I miss you all and love you tremendously! May Jehovah continue to bless you and yours as you stay busy, busy, busy in his service…
Mandango or Sleeping Indian or Sleeping Giant Mountain, turn your head sideways and you can see him
Took a trip to Salinas beach in ? and this was the highway.
Chet and Little Crab and Big Crab.
Madre Tierra, exercise space…lovely huh?
Pool at Madre Tierra Resort & Spa
View from our room at Madre Tierra
Welcoming flora at Madre Tierra
Part of Madre Tierra dining area
Hiking scenery in Vilcabamba
This donkey started braying really loud at Chet as we hiked by…why???
The waitress and I at the Juice Factory (super healthy, yummy smoothies) in Vilcabamba…I think she spiked my smoothie!
Views from a hiking tour of Vilcabamba
More views from above Vilcabamba
Road to Vilcabamba
Another view from our room #15 in Vilcabamba
Time will pass, we will be THERE soon…
a weight will be lifted, no sign of the gloom
we know and hate and have come to deplore,
This world of Satan, alas, NO MORE!
Where did the time go, how fast it went
The days that passed were very well spent,
In preaching and teaching and encouraging others
Those in the field and most important our brothers!
And if this is too corny, or even a joke
Just imagine one day you will awake with A POKE!
It’s all come true, nothing is missing
Our dear Family is here, that ol’ snake isn’t hissing!
Death and darkness, sadness and pain
A thing of the past under Christ’s magnificent reign.
The joy of the real life and all that it holds
Is in your hand now, so watch it unfold…
Time passes quickly of this I am sure,
it streams toward the Best Life…So Fight To Endure!!
Hi everybody! If you have been following our blog you know I’ve contributed very little to date. So, here’s a couple of thoughts (hold onto your hats). First, I would tell you that things are really beginning to take shape. Even so, the language and culture is still a challenge, but with Jehovah’s help we are enduring. We just got the approval for our permanent visa, which means we will most likely get our cedula. Our cedulas will allow us to get discounts and medical benefits very inexpensively in addition to other benefits. I can ride the bus as a senior for 12 cents!
Secondly, I want to comment on what I’m eating as this was a question asked of me before we left the States. There are all kinds of vegetables; carrots, brussel sprouts, lettuce, tomatoes, cauliflower, zucchini, squash, onions scallions, corn and potatoes (several kinds) beets, turnips and many more indigenous to the area. There is also lots of meat including poultry, roasted pork, sausage, hot dogs, steak, ground beef and of course fresh fish and seafood including shrimp and calamari. I can get chicken roasted, broasted and fried as well as baked. There’s also cuy (guinea pig) but we haven’t eaten that.
As Chante’ may have mentioned we cook a lot of meals at home so when we do go out it’s a real treat. We both have a few favorite restaurants including a place that serves the best BBQ (not cuy) I’ve ever had, both here as well as in the States, and a great bakery that sells delicious little pecan pies. So I said all that to say this: don’t worry about what you will eat when, not if, you come here. The food is good and there is plenty of it!
Can you believe it? The Memorial has come and gone for another year! Our prayer is that you all were able to attend and enjoyed it with your family, friends and Bible students. This year the Paraiso congregation had a peak attendance of 243! Our hall is not that big but fortunately we have an overflow room upstairs that fits about 40 persons. The other two congregations that are bigger than ours met elsewhere so we didn’t have to juggle that. How was your Memorial? I’d love to hear about it.
I never get enough of seeing the mist over the mountains on a rainy morning…
No, we aren’t moving to Arabia, lol. I thought it appropriate to refer to the talk given by Brother Noumair “Good To The Last Drop” on the Gilead Graduation. Every bit of the graduation was so wonderful don’t you agree! Depression, anxiety, exhaustion…familiar feelings for many of us in this old system. My last post touched on that and then lo, and behold BAM! There it is, just what I needed! A friend of mine kept telling me about it, every day for a week! I thought to myself, (yes, I did ungrateful wretch that I am) “Why does she keep on talking about it??? Finally, I sat down to watch it and yes, I was blown away at how timely the information was…For ME!! I had to keep rewinding! I felt Brother Noumair looking right at me. Ok, get over it Chante’ he wasn’t but you get my point. Chet and I both loved how he encouraged the students and by extension all of us to go back to Arabia and supplicate Jehovah to replenish our energy. The sister who talked about scheduling prayer made such a nice point about lingering in prayer with Jehovah, the longer we talk to him the more we open up! Brother Heard’s talk about keeping our eyes on Jehovah and how he wants us to find him was the icing on the cake! Read, read, read that’s what those brothers do and what a great example for us. Missionaries, need greaters, pioneers, publishers, all of us need so much spiritual energy now and we have access to it, wherever we are.
If you haven’t watched the graduation yet on jw.tv wellllll…what are ya waitin’ for, hmmmmm? I’ll let you go right now!Ciao!