Thursday, January 31, 2013


Some things, they puzzle.

I can tell you one thing.

And that is.

There's a lot I don't understand.

Take the immigration office here. It's busy. Really busy.

Because why? Because people have questions.

I understand that part.

And where do you go with your questions? To the experts.

I understand that part too.

Definition: Expert - Someone who can have your butt thrown out of the country if you don't play by their rules.

So here's the deal then.

The immigration office is busy because people want to retire here, and they have questions, and being reasonably smart, they read up and talk to people, and then they go to the experts for the final cut.

And the experts subsequently become busy.

The solution to which is to reduce their hours by half.

And to put up a sign notifying everyone: "The immigration office communicates that the attention to the public will be from 08H30 to 12H30."

Which has the effect of what, for example?

Of making people cranky, and ornery, and irritable, and of making some go away.

Where they go is no one's concern. If they go somewhere.


Dontcha see.

Which reduces the pressure on the immigration office.

So that part I understand.

It's the rest I don't get.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Place For Bill

Freefall at the equator.

They say this is the place to be.


Friendly people...

All services and goods available...

While living well for $600 a month. Or less!

Without even needing to learn Spanish.

Let's see how it's going.

Our guest today is Bill. Bill is recently retired. Bill has just moved to Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador to find the good life.

Bill has no spouse, pets, uppity diseases, bad habits, or debts. He's a clean-liver, as they say.

A clean-liver with a clean liver.


Q: So Bill, how's it going?

A: Well...

Q: Find a place to live yet?

A: No. Can't really say that.

I'm still in a hostel.

Or "hostal" as they say here.

Q: So, "hostal" then. What's that?

A: Think small hotel with private rooms rather than a bunkhouse you share with five other guys and a Belgian shepherd.

In a hostal you have to leave the dog outside.

Q: Sounds great! So what's your beef?

A: Well...

Q: There's lots of cheap apartments, even houses, all over, for under $200, $300 a month. So when are you moving into your dream home?

A: I'm trying.

Q: Trying hard or hardly trying?

A: I submitted a "want-to-rent" notice on that "Gringo-Vine" place, where all the posts have those little happy-face raisin logos?

Q: Great! I bet you got your pick of the prime properties, eh?

A: Well...I did get an email from Gabriela.

She has a half-bedroom, no-bath place above her garage for $950 a month, and all the rain water I can dip from the barrel out back.

Q: Great! What's a half-bedroom apartment like?

A: The bed is four feet long.

Q: Wow! That's a steal! Only $950 a month?

A: And the ceiling is four and a half feet high.

I'm six-two.

And you get into the place by climbing a tree. Which I have had some practice at, so that's a plus.


Q: So then! Gonna snap that one up?

A: Well, I'm not getting any taller, so I may give it some thought.

Gabriela does diesel repair in her garage. The one under the apartment.

She starts work every day at 4:30 by playing the national anthem on the air-horn organ she made.

That would be the Ecuadorean national anthem. Just so we don't get confused here.

Then she lights a few cherry bombs.

Which gets the dogs howling.

And then the chickens go off.

Plus most of the car alarms in a half-mile radius.

Which is not too bad because I'm an early riser and recently misplaced my alarm clock.

But I'm still thinking it over. I do have another place to check out.

Q: Terrific! Tell us about it!

A: No, not really. I just said that to make myself feel better.

Q: Well, I bet it worked! Feeling better already, I bet.

A: I don't think so.

I'm going to start therapy tomorrow. Or whenever the rain lets up.

After all, if you can't find happiness in paradise, well.

There must be something wrong with you.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Adventures In Moving

Don't take your eye off the pea.

Well, I said maybe I had gotten lucky, finding another place to live for $160 a month.

And I did.

And I was.

It was in a whole different part of town, not the center any more.

Up fairly high, and even though my new room was at ground level, I was higher up than my original, sixth-floor room.

Along with the view from the sixth-floor room, there was the rent, which, at $12 a day, came to roughly $360 per month, depending on how long any particular month was.

But let's say $360 per month. Which is more than $160 per month.

So I moved. Planning to save money while I continued to search for an apartment.

Problem 1: There were three rooms on that ground floor of the new place, and I got the one with water damage. Which wasn't a problem except for the wall-wide closet fronting the water damage. The closet had a strong moldy smell when opened. Which I didn't do before I decided to rent the place.

But I could have switched to the other empty room. Which brings us to...

Problem 2: I couldn't connect to the internet.

I don't know why, but I tried everything I could think of.

It wasn't enough.

If I went to the top of the stairs (fourth floor) I got a decent signal there, and only there. But the connection would drop every so often, and I couldn't sit on the stairs all day day either.

So I had to bag that.

Good News: I was able to get another room where I was staying before.

Bad News: Unlike the room I stayed in for two months, this one, though it has a window, that window doesn't open.

The room is on a hallway, so I can't leave the door open to get air. And I have to cross the "lobby" to get to the "bathroom". It isn't much of a lobby, but I'm right in front of everyone. And it isn't much of a bathroom either, though it's all I have.

Another room with private bath will be available at the end of the month at the latest. They say. So I'm only stuck for two weeks.

Lessee. Two days so far and I'm going nuts. I'm going nuts here. I tell ya I'm going nuts here.


Other Good News: The internet connection in this room is a bunch better than when I was located behind the elevator and had fresh air and a private bathroom.

At least I can work day or night. Although it's hard holding my breath for that long. Send air if you can.

Funny Stuff: I was paying $12 a day for the other room, the one with the fresh air and bathroom.

Now, for $2 less a day, I have no air, no real privacy, and no bathroom. Two bucks, go figure. No towels either. And although they no longer come in to tidy up and sweep the place and force me to go hang out somewhere until they're done, they no longer come in to tidy up and sweep the place.

And continue to not provide me with towels. And the in-public-view bathroom has no soap, although there is toilet paper today.

I can be happy about that. And I am. Happy. I'll take what I can get.

So it looks like I'm pretty well stuck here until I can find an apartment or until I hang myself.

Without a decent internet connection I might as well not be here, so I'm not going to chance it again with another place unless I'm sure about it.

I should have checked, right? Ya, you betcha. But I didn't, so there.

A lot of the places offering temporary accommodations or more permanent lodging are pretty slipshod about the internet stuff. Even sitting in the room behind the elevator I got a good connection at least two thirds of the time. Which is kind of stellar compared to some places.

Not many people here understand internet. It's like a gringo thing, so who cares anyway?

Just say you have it and if not, suggest they have broken computers. Which seems to be a common tactic.

The only thing my two-day landlady could do for me was to tell me that she had a student there once who had no internet problems.

So, I guess, the implication was that I shouldn't have problems either. But that didn't help me too much, being the cranky bastard that I am and all. And my clothes now all smell of mold.

Too bad. You should have seen the place. It was nice. Really was.

The owner lived on the first floor, and the second and third floors were fine. Sweet. Solid and clean. Carpeted all over.

I couldn't have afforded one of those rooms anyway. And then there's the non-internet issue.

The ground floor, where I was, was basically steerage on the Titanic. There was an older guy there (older than even I am) in the other occupied room. Pretty decent guy. I got to talk to him only once and then I vanished. He's probably still wondering. He had no mold. Lucky, happy guy.

My room had an east window, which was OK when there were no morning clouds, but he had a south window, which offered more sun.

The third room had a north window facing a brick wall a close 10 feet off, and was always cold. Dark too. But it didn't stink.

Really a shame overall that it didn't work, but the whole adventure only cost me about $30.

I paid half a month ($80) for the new place (for two days, having promised to pay through the end of each month I was there, regardless). But I also saved two days' rent here, and am paying less for the second half of January in my new, tight, airless room, so the difference comes out to only $30, plus some running around, which isn't all bad.

So, no end in sight.

Wish you were here, etc.

Please send encouragement.

From paradise, this is me signing off.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Peckers At Work

It's the probing beakers what done it.

I finally figured it out.

The pavement here in Cuenca is rough. Really rough.

Have you ever been to sea? I haven't, so I don't know what it's like. But I can imagine.

I can imagine a lot of things, but none of that matters here, so let's get on with it.

There are streets here, as you might know. Streets are pretty common these days. You see them all over, in all sorts of situations.

I don't really care much about the streets, except that I have to cross them. That's interesting. We'll cover that later on, some other day.

What concerns me more, because I have feet and use them for getting around, is sidewalks. I guess I should put that in quotes.

Like this: "sidewalks".

The quotes cover a lot of ground. I'll have to go into that in more detail later on. It's an almost infinite subject.

But right now let's talk lumps.

We have lumps here.

Lumps in the streets, lumps in the "sidewalks", lumps in the not-sidewalks, lumps all over.

You could say, if you wanted to say something, that the "sidewalks" are eroded, though some have been hacked up.

You could say, if you wanted to say something else, that the "sidewalks" have been hacked up, though some don't look like it so much. They look like they were assembled at midnight by a bunch of drunks.

But knowing next to nothing about how drunks work at midnight, I'm not exactly sure about that.

I do know, and am a particular expert in, walking on lumps, having spent many days hiking around and on the sides of, volcanoes, some of which are actually famous.

Mt Rainier, Mt Hood, Mt Adams, Mt St Helens. Get it?


Go backpacking then, on the sides of volcanoes, and then we'll talk.

Anyway, I know some things about lumps, and on-lumpy walking. Some things. Enough things, I think.

Not bragging, just facts.

So here. We have lumpy surfaces to do the walking on. And.

I think I know why it is that way.


It's the pigeons and their peckers, always hammering at the pavement.

Pigeons are thick on the ground here, always slamming the sharp tips of their ever-refreshed beaks against the pavement, going after seeds and breadcrumbs and anything that looks remotely edible and is also peckable.

After a few centuries all those probing, pounding fore-pieces, however tiny, do have an effect.

Which is.

Lumpy "sidewalks".

Whether "sidewalks" is the right term we'll leave to the experts, but lumps I know.

And I think the pigeons done it.

Come and see and you'll agree. Maybe.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bleeding Lizards

You see it everywhere.

And I mean everywhere. If you look.

It's a man's world here, a virtual whiz capital.

Gotta drain the plumbing? Do it. Nuff said.

The only requirement is to face away from traffic. Face a wall. Face the river. Stand behind your car, whatever. Just don't show your pee-pee.

Too much.

And if rules are made to be broken, they get broken.

Like two days when ago I was returning to my hotel about 1:30 p.m., when I rounded the corner, and in front of me, across from the blue-domed cathedral, in a major tourist area, half a block from the flower market, I saw a man rising from a squat and pulling up his pants.

Yeah, I saw way more than I needed to.

Being a guy, I know what's down there. Well, I know what I got, and don't want to know about yours.

I think he laid one on the pavement.

He must have been in the advanced class. Maybe it was his final exam. Way beyond watering the curb.

Cab drivers tend to congregate in off hours. They park four or five or six in a line along the river. They stand and talk. Shoot the breeze. Hang out.

Whoops. I'm giving away the plot.

What plot? You know where this is going.

So when the time comes, they stand shoulder to shoulder, their backs to traffic, and nail the lawn.

You can identify that stance from two blocks away. Legs spread for stability, both hands down at the crotch. No walking around. Looking straight ahead. Give it a couple of shakes when you're done and zip up.

All over.

Just delivered a fare? With your cab parked in the street, walk behind it and do what you have to, facing the trunk, then get back to work.

Hanging out with the rest of your fifteen-year-old friends in front of someone's house? Stick your business end inside the doorway of their outer wall and leave some moisturizer.

It happens.

All over here.

And you know what?

I wish I could do it.

Things would be so much simpler.