Hacienda Uzhupud

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.

Beautiful lemon trees grace the grounds of the Hacienda
Beautiful lemon trees grace the grounds of the Hacienda
Love these lemons!
Love these lemons!
When the Paute flooded several years ago this tree grew like this, it was seeking light.
When the Paute flooded several years ago this tree grew like this, it was seeking light.
Grounds of the Hacienda
Grounds of the Hacienda
Several species of trees that are not indigenous to Ecuador were brought here by the original owners in the late 1700's.
Several species of trees that are not indigenous to Ecuador were brought here by the original owners in the late 1700’s.
This basin was used for boiling sugarcane at the Hacienda's plantation.
This basin was used for boiling sugarcane at the Hacienda’s plantation.
Artifacts from the original planatation
Artifacts from the original planatation
More artifacts from the original plantation
More artifacts from the original plantation
A view of the Rio Paute
A view of the Rio Paute
The four rivers of Cuenca and another river converge to form the Rio Paute
The four rivers of Cuenca and another river converge to form the Rio Paute
We visited La Casa Makana in Bulcay near Gualaceo to see them weave macana. These urns contain plants, nuts and indigo to dye silk, wool and cotton to weave the scarves, shawls, etc.
We visited La Casa de las  Makanas in Bulcay near Gualaceo to see them weave macana. These urns contain plants, nuts and indigo to dye silk, wool and cotton to weave the scarves, shawls, etc. Your tour can be arranged by the Hacienda.
Leopard of Ecuador, hanging at the weaver's factory.
Leopard of Ecuador, hanging at the weaver’s factory.
Cotton that was dyed with walnut hulls. The stripes are made by tying off the threads with strips of agave plant.
Cotton that was dyed with walnut hulls. The stripes are made by tying off the threads with strips of agave plant.
Master weaver at his loom. Each piece can take anywhere from 15 days to 4 months.
Master weaver at his loom. Each piece can take anywhere from 15 days to 4 months.
Master weaver's wife on right and helper at their looms.
Master weaver’s wife on right and helper at their looms.
Terrace view Hacienda Uzuphud
Terrace view Hacienda Uzuphud
View from patio outside room 302 Hacienda Uzuphud
View from patio outside room 302 Hacienda Uzuphud
Ground floor patios at the Hacienda
Ground floor patios at the Hacienda
Exquisite landscaping and flowers of many varieties adorn the grounds
Exquisite landscaping and flowers of many varieties adorn the grounds
The Salon is used for meetings, weddings, etc. includes a kitchen and gorgeous antiques
The Salon is used for meetings, weddings, etc. includes a kitchen and gorgeous antiques
Original carriage used by the owners of the Hacienda
Original carriage used by the owners of the Hacienda
Current entrance of the Hacienda, they are working on getting the original entrance from the Rio Paute restored.
Current entrance of the Hacienda, they are working on getting the original entrance from the Rio Paute restored.

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What does Chet eat? By none other than Chet!

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.

From this....
From this….
To this...we hear bbq cuy is great!
To this…we hear bbq cuy is great!

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!

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Memorial, Mountains and “Back to Arabia”

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…

View from the veranda one misty morning
View from the veranda one misty 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!

From left to right: Yvonne, a single sister moving to serve this week where the need is greater in the jungle among the Shuar speaking people, her mom Bolivita a zealous pioneer in our hall, another sister visiting our hall to check on her bible student (standing between us) who recently moved to our area and of course moi.
From left to right: Yvonne, a single sister moving to serve this week where the need is greater in the jungle among the Shuar speaking people, her mom Bolivita a zealous pioneer in our hall, another sister visiting our hall to check on her bible student (standing between us) who recently moved to our area and of course moi.

 

Project 333…whaaaaat 2 posts in 1 day???!!!

Minimalism, that is the official theme of this blog. But wait Chante’ I thought you simplified? So did I! And I have not bought clothes since I’ve been here. Ok, don’t count the 2 pairs of Ecuadorian hippie pants I bought for $5 and realized I looked absolutely ridiculous!! Even though I only wore them in Mi Casa. They are gone. Donated a month ago to a clothes swap. And although we arrived here with only 2 large suitcases each I still felt unsatisfied when I looked in my closet. I wondered did I need more clothes? Less clothes? Different clothes? More contentment? or What?  And then Holy Clothes Horse BATMAN! I ran across a blog called Project 333 ( in the course of gathering ideas for organizing my sewing/dressing room) I decided to incorporate some of the principles I read about, read it here…http://theproject333.com/about/. Now some of you are already there, got it, simplified and moved on, and for those of you who are happy and content with 3 outfits and 2 pairs of shoes (No, I am not being sarcastic) read no further. This post is obviously not for you. However, for those of you who loooooooove clothes, retail therapy, imagine Paradise as one big consignment boutique, or dressing according to your mood (the latter is moi) read on!

In a nutshell with Project 333 you downsize your wardrobe (excluding workout clothes, loungewear and underwear) to 33 items for 3 months. The 33 items include shoes, outerwear, accessories and jewelry. I read about this blog on an online article by NY magazine. Both article and blog advocate purging your closet and only keeping what you really love. You start the Minimalist Fashion Challenge with 4 piles. See the rules here…http://theproject333.com/getting-started/.

You only keep Pile #1, the pile you really love for 3 months. Everything else goes in the trash, in storage or donation. I allowed myself a few more items because of field service and the fact it is chilly and rainy here as well as sunny and hot all in the same day so I needed a bit more flexibility. I am thrilled with the results so far! I now see some nice pieces that go great together and some ideas for pairings I couldn’t see before. Plus, a suitcase of clothes to donate to Bethel. The Bethel here doesn’t get a lot of clothes I was told by one of the special pioneers, just FYI in case you visit, Lol.

This process has unfolded for me over the past couple of days and already it has moved me to repair a couple of things I had been putting off and helped me to reorganize the small amount of mementos, sewing items and books we do have. I did NOT go OCD on this and Project 333 doesn’t advocate that either. Nor is it about suffering or competing with others who downsized with less. However, it is a neat approach to simplifying and figuring out what REALLY brings you joy and contentment.

Sooooo, I am officially starting March 1 if any of you want to join me for 3 months…I would love to hear how it goes for you and see what you’re wearing! Here’s some pics of my downsize process.

Amaru is NOT a Zoo

Ok, I had to get my rhyming in, there isn’t much rhyming in Spanish. So, the country has been on vacation this past week due to Carnaval…you may think “oh, like Mardi Gras” and that’s close, true. Monday and Tuesday this town shuts down! It wasn’t like this on Christmas Day. Very limited bus service, some field service is cancelled and stores and mercados are closed for the most part too. However, an added bonus for Carnaval celebrants is the indulgence in throwing water and other liquids (let your imagination run wild here) and spraying large cans of foam on family, friends and unsuspecting passersby. Chet had water thrown on him. I had water thrown on me, twice, both times from a passing car but no biggie. Thankfully both times it was only water and not….(again, let your imagine run WILD…ok. stop.) And yes, I’m serious.

Anyway because the students have been out of school for a couple weeks after service one day some of the young sisters and I visited the Amaru Zoo. It’s more like a preserve spread over acres and acres of a mountainside overlooking Cuenca. Lots of hiking up and down to see the 5 different ecosystems of Ecuador represented in 43 animal habitats.  Some of these animals could leave if they wanted, but they stay…it’s a really neat place as zoos go. It takes approximately 2-3 hours to see everything, you cannot bring food in with you because of the monkeys especially but there is a snack bar halfway through. And if it’s a workout you’re after well you get 2 for 1! What a deal for only $4.00! Less if you are a student.

 

 

Beach days…Mancora, Peru

Just for posting this I know I risk being pelted with snowballs by all my friends who are braving the snowstorms in New England but take heart…the sun IS shining somewhere! The past two weeks in Cuenca, or more, have been very rainy and I felt the ol’ SAD kicking in. For those of you who are not blessed with SAD it’s an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s like a bad case of the blues…for me anyway. It’s definitely milder since I came here because the sun does shine more than it doesn’t and it’s very green. However, some former residents of Seattle who make their home in Cuenca say it reminds them of that drizzly city. Suffice it to say someone told me we are in the wet season as of mid-January. I believe them!

Tripadvisor and I have a little vacation research party after deciding sun is what we need, because even Chet was feeling a bit ho-hum. I booked us in at the EcoLodge and off to the bus we go. It’s an overnight bus leaving at 10pm from Cuenca’s Terminal Terrestre. The bus is 8 hours they say. They being the ticket agents who leave out some crucial information. The bus trip isn’t 8 hours directly there. It’s more like a 5 hour trip with a middle of the night (or should I say wee hour of the morning) stop at immigration that took 2.5-3 hours standing in a HUGE line, so our trip really took 9 hours. Someone told me that it sometimes takes only 5 minutes. I think they might have been on something but… If one were to drive, well that would be shorter but from what I hear the rigamarole of going through immigration still makes the trip 6 plus hours. However, we were not discouraged.

We arrived at 7a.m quite groggy and took a mototaxi to our home for the next few days. We overpaid for the taxi, the guy charged us $4 USD when it should have been only S/2. That’s 2 Soles. Basically it’s 3 of our dollars for every one of theirs, our favor. So our taxi driver really took advantage of our early morning-suspended-animation stupor, we paid him the equivalent of $12 for a 3 minute ride when it should only have been about .60 cents. We had to laugh, there won’t be a next time!

Now normally when we’ve arrived at a hotel early they come up with some reason why we cannot get into our room right away…the other guests are in there, it’s not clean, we look dirty…etc., etc., however not at the EcoLodge. They promptly showed us our room, and this is in high season. There are only 7 rooms in this sustainable, environmentally friendly place, constructed almost entirely of bamboo and stone. Plus, they let us stay all day with no charge on the day of our departure. Whoot, whoot! We liked this place.

Brilliant sunshine, great food, a therapeutic massage by a masseuse who turned out to be a sister and regular pioneer! All in all a great, relaxing retreat! Mancora is filled with a lot of young (A LOT) mostly European backpackers but staying a block over from the main drag really helped. We didn’t hear any of the partying that Mancora can also be known for. Just forewarning you. Yes, Ecuador has beaches too, but we wanted to try something different and be assured of great weather. I had heard that Mancora abuts a desert so I knew rain would be unlikely. Yeah, no rain the whole 4 days. Last night we hopped on the bus again at midnight. The immigration ordeal only took an hour this time. Not too shabby. Will we return? I vote yes. I think Chet does too but for now he’s taking a much deserved siesta.

The most expensive mototaxi we will ever take!
The most expensive mototaxi we will ever take!

EcoLodge

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King size bed and chocolate awaits us after a long night ride on the bus. The mosquito netting was a very romantic touch. Very little mosquitos though…a good thing!
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View from the yoga studio/veranda of the EcoLodge

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These mototaxis are everywhere and cheap! We found out the hard way!

Corn cakes with parmesan cream sauce

Mancora 2

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Grilled Tuna with soy sauce, ginger, fresh mango and veggies. And of course the ubiquitous rice at Sirena Restaurant.
Sunset Mancora
Sunset on Mancora Beach, Peru.
Chet, Curtis, Eric
Chet and Eric with Curtis, he and his wife came to Quito for the International Convention.
me, Karolynne, Jenn
Jenn and I and Karolynne (Curtis’ wife) cheezin’ for the camera. Why are we soooo happy?
quito delegates
Lunch with delegates from Quito, most of them from Chicago. A real treat.

Piedra de Agua

You ever have a moment, day or days when you felt like you just wanted to be led by the hand and have someone else make the decisions for you? To be given all the answers before you even ask the questions? Then come to Piedra de Agua.

Between cedula business, our ministry, getting the apartment finished, getting to know our way around, i.e navigating on the bus system, and being sick with stomach illnesses (me, not Chet and that’s another blog entirely) we haven’t really been “tourists”. So we decided to take a couple of days and take a much needed vacation in our hometown and surroundings. Ecuador is approximately the size of Colorado but it packs a significant punch when it comes to diversity of things to see, do and experience with all your senses.

Piedra de Agua is a natural thermal spa about a 20 minute ride outside of Cuenca. We decided to take a taxi but you can take a #12 or #200 bus. The taxi was $5. I am going to let the pictures speak for themselves but let me just tell you that this was beyond relaxing! We chose to do the Wellness Package for two. The package includes a 30 minute relaxation massage, a steam bath, a soak in a volcanic red mud pool that is full of minerals like magnesium, copper, zinc, iron, calcium and potassium. Next a shower in a volcanic shower, then soak in the blue mud pool (manganese, gold, and quartz minerals) and again back to the shower. Next there is a soak in the contrasting underground thermal pools, yeah 10 minutes in the hot pool and a heart stopping, gasping plunge into the cold pool for 1 minute. Ahhhhh, ooooooh, yikes!! You do that 2x, my friend. For your reward you now get a treat of a fruit plate, some dipping chocolate and your choice of champagne, wine, or fresh juice. No, the pampering isn’t over yet! On to the steam boxes for 10-15 minutes, shower and back outside for the thermal pools, hot and cold, your pleasure. You can swim, float, soak, etc. for as long as you like. Altogether we spent 4 hours there and could have spent all day. We did not have to think about what to do next The. Whole. Time. they lead you where you should go next as smooth jazz plays in the background. There is also a beautiful restaurant on site for lunch or dinner.  Piedra de Agua is open from 6a.m to about 10p.m. I heard it’s absolutely beautiful at night, and there’s 2×1 some afternoons/evenings and on Mondays. Check it out when (not if) you come down here, you won’t be disappointed! Oh, and btw the package was $55 per person ($110 for 2 and you have to have 2 for that price). Yes, I’m serious it includes the delicious snack. If you are flying solo no worries, it’s $30 for all the pools and as much mud as you can play in. Massages are $20 extra.

Pictures coming right up. The last picture is of my first talk in Spanish last Wednesday. The friends said they understood it…they are so loving.

Piedra de Agua entrance
Piedra de Agua entrance
Massage room & table
Massage room & table

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Grounds of Piedra de Agua
Grounds of Piedra de Agua
Steam boxes
Steam boxes
Thermal pool
Thermal pool

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1st Spanish talk in Paraiso congregation
1st Spanish talk in Paraiso congregation