Caramel Apple Coffee Cake & Rio Tomebamba

Lest you think I am Alice and I fell down the proverbial rabbit hole into some kind of South American paradise let me dispel that myth. I have been somewhat miserable this past week. Let’s suffice it to say that I have had some kind of allergic/nervous reaction going on that at first caused me to “feel” like I was breaking out in hives, and then I actually did develop hives. One of my friends told me that she suffered with the same thing for about a year when she first moved here, another sister said she had the same thing..for a year and they thought it might be the water. Cuenca has the most drinkable water in Ecuador, but it also has a fair amount of chlorine in it so some immigrants, like myself, don’t drink it. But baths are another story. So maybe gringo skin has to get acclimated I don’t know. Anyway, at times it almost feels like something is taking tiny bites on your skin, and no it’s not my imagination my friends felt the same thing! There seem to be 3 things going on with my skin here, 1. The weather is much drier here at the high altitude so your skin gets dry quick, for instance we hang out clothes and they are dry within 2 hours or less. 2. I had an insect bite and it triggered my histamine system to go nuts, not used to the insects here of course. There are very few thankfully and I have yet to see a mosquito. 3. Nerves, we still haven’t quite settled the sale of our house although we closed on it Friday and my residency status is still up in the air. My fingerprints were rejected by the FBI as being of low quality so we had to go back again on Friday for me to get fingerprinted all over again. This time we took our attorney and the “policia” was extra thorough this time. Hmmmm, I wonder why?

Chet says the itching is mostly my nerves. Alrighty then, he is entitled to his opinion. Anyway, after stocking up on B-complex stress meds and homeopathic allergy meds, downing mega doses of Omega 3’s,  flax oil in my morning smoothies,  Histacalm from the local pharmacy to slather on whenever and wherever, taking coconut oil orally everyday to combat dryness and going back to good ol’ Vaseline as a topical after bath (short, tepid baths not hot) I decided to take my mind off my misery. Ahhhh, hospitality, that’s it! Do something for others and heal thyself!

So we decided to introduce the friends here to mid-morning service break. The groups here, at least in our congregation, don’t take a break. The group meets at 8:30 a.m and they stay out until 11:00/11:30 and then onto return visits, etc.  All walking territory of course. If you know Chet you know he relishes his break time. Good ol’ Chick-Fil-A where art thou? So anyway, the group meets close to our house on Monday and thus the territory closest to our house is worked. So yesterday we invited everyone who came to the group for a short break at our house about 10 a.m. The menu: Caramel Apple Coffee Cake, fresh pineapple, coffee, hot tea and ice tea. As it turned out it was a perfect day for a break, chilly, rainy and windy. Yes!!! Good excuse. I don’t have pictures of everyone (about 10 friends) but I do have the link for the cake. This cake is a bit labor intensive but so worth it and DELICIOUS especially with the caramel drizzle, it got rave reviews, as did the idea of a little break. This cake is perfect for fall, hospitality or to take your mind off of allergic nervous reactions. Here it is: Advance Warning: This cake is loaded with butter and sugar, not healthy at all! Yay!! sometimes you just have to eat it!

I mentioned in an earlier blog that there are 4 rivers that run through Cuenca. Thus the full name of this city, Santa Ana de los cuatro rios de Cuenca. The rivers are the  Yanuncay, Tarqui, Machangara and the Tomebamba. The Rio Tomebamba is a block away from our house. Today was sunny and beautiful so I took a walk after our Spanish class to the Monay shopping center (for fragrance free detergent) about a 1.5 miles from our house along the bike/walking path by the river. Thought you might enjoy seeing some pictures, the last one is just a selfie of me prepping my hair for my henna treatment after I got back home, relaxed, refreshed and not thinking about hives!

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Assembly Hall and a nice experience

Just thought I would share some pictures of the Assembly Hall here in Cuenca. A pioneer sister in our congregation goes up one day a week after they read a letter several months ago asking for help from the friends. She invited me along so we went Wednesday afternoon. The Hall is about 30 minutes away on the outskirts of Cuenca, high on a hill, again gorgeous vistas that I cannot do justice to. There were 7 of us working including the assembly overseer and his wife, a sweet young couple who have lived there 7 years. We repainted parking lot stripes and helped drill and bolt seat cushions to their frames. I liked painting but drilling is really fun!

Ivonne, the sister I worked with, just moved here from a  congregation in the rurals because of her mother’s health. Her older siblings are here and once her mom is settled in she plans to try and move to the Oriente, or what we in the States know as the Amazon jungle. She has served there a few times to help preach to the Shuar speaking people. The last time she went, in August, it took her and the group of Witnesses she was with 2 days of walking to reach the territory, plus a 9 hour drive from Cuenca. Whew! They slept on the floor of a local school but had to get up very early before the kids arrived. She told me the people are just hungering for the truth. It was a highlight of my week to work with her and hear her experiences. She’s been pioneering for 21 years, since she got out of high school and her, her mom, sisters and brothers have moved to different places to serve where the need was greater for years.

What makes this experience so unique is her father, who was in the truth, died when she was a little girl of maybe 3 or 4 years old, over 30 years ago. Her mother was 7 months pregnant with her youngest brother, her oldest brother was about 15 at the time and now he is an elder and serves on the Assembly Hall Committee. All six children, 3 boys and 3 girls are active in the truth. Ivonne, her mom and a couple of her family members support themselves and their full time ministry by baking cakes, etc. for local stores. They have a bakery attached to their house, and make a super yummy handheld cake called a quesadilla. Not to be confused with the savory Mexican quesadilla. When you come and visit we will be sure to get some! Am I always talking about food or what?

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Taking a break after work on the Hall. Ivonne is by the coffee pot, plus Assembly overseer and his wife and two siblings who recently moved from Guayaquil to serve in Ivonne's former congregation in the rurals.
Taking a break after work on the Hall. Ivonne is by the coffee pot, plus Assembly overseer and his wife and two siblings who recently moved from Guayaquil to serve in Ivonne’s former congregation in the rurals.
Last but not least, ecuadorian quesadilla, sweet, pillowy soft when hot and delicious!
Last but not least, ecuadorian quesadilla, sweet, pillowy soft when hot and delicious!

Preaching at 9,600 feet

This past Saturday we went to Chuquipata (chew-key-pah-tuh) to witness in “El Campo” or the countryside, aka the rurals. We left at 8 a.m from Cuenca in car groups and it was only 20 minutes or so outside the city of Cuenca but it felt a world away! About 30 from our congregation and 30 or so from the Chuquipata congregation for a total of 63. They needed help completing their territory for the tract work. What a great way to finish the month! (For those of you who don’t know you can click on one picture in the grouping of pics and it will open up a slideshow of larger pictures.)

We worked with a couple ( Maria and Tero-pronounced like zero) from Finland who arrived here 5 weeks ago with their 3 boys ages 11, 9 & 7. Nicolas, Sebastian and Tomas. They are serving in the Chuquipata congregation and are working hard to learn Spanish like us. They will be here at least for a year. Their boys are terrific and walked (or should I say hiked, lol.) all morning with no complaints! It was cold and rainy most of the morning too! Both parents are pioneering and the oldest son put in 70 hours for August also. They sold most of their possessions in Finland including their two cars and hope to be here a year at least if not longer. The neat thing for them is the coordinator and his wife who have been in the congregation about a year and a half are also from Finland so they have someone to talk to and explain things in their mother tongue.

We had the pleasure of working with the missionary couple in our hall, Jennifer & Eric, for the afternoon. They have been an invaluable source of encouragement, comfort and friendship for us. We walked and walked…and walked. One lane took us to a home that looked like an Austrian Chalet. Complete with mountain views. Most of the “nicer” homes had high fences or gates around their property. The owner of the Chalet was receptive of our message but cautious. Our day ended at 4p.m with a drive back home. We were completely exhausted but happy with the experience. It was interesting to do all rural territory on foot, and see the beautiful vistas that unfolded around virtually every corner. At times it felt like you could reach out and touch the clouds. My photos really don’t do the scenery justice. Although we didn’t talk to lots of people in our car group those we did meet were for the most part receptive…and very curious! Every day is a new day here in Ecuador and we are thankful to Jehovah for this great opportunity!

Side note: Some of you ask us about living expenses, etc., etc., and I forget I had downloaded a great book on my Kindle that I purchased on Amazon before we moved here, cost is $2.99. Living and Retiring in Cuenca: 101 Questions Answered , by Connie Pombo is a great read and packed with information re: housing expenses, buying furniture, restaurants, general living in Cuenca, visa info, etc. Her and her husband moved here in 2010 retiring at 55 years of age and with a monthly income of $1,300. Some of the info may be a little outdated as prices continue to increase and taxis are now metered (supposedly, lol.) however overall I think you would get your money’s worth if you decide to purchase it.