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Saturday, December 31, 2011

What? No Snow during the Holidays in Cuenca, Oh No! by Star

Some of you may be like my dad who doesn't like the snow. I, on the other hand, simply love it. I had no idea that part of the deal about moving to Cuenca included that I wouldn't see snow anymore. Last year in Asheville, NC I had absolutely the best time ever during the holidays and all winter long, for that matter.

I can't understand why anyone dislikes the snow... rolling in it, making and playing with snow balls, eating it... it's just heaven and so much fun. I will certainly miss it.

Christmas is different here in Cuenca. The street decorations are unique, but sparse compared to the ones in the US. There are stores that have some ornaments and lights, but nothing at all like we do it in the States. The same goes for houses, some have lights, fake trees and nativity scenes, but that might be one out of all the homes in a block. However, we enjoyed a huge nativity scene by the Broken Bridge, the stars and flowers by the river and the big tree in Parque Calderon by the Cathedral.

A close up of tree decorations shows that the ornaments are very Ecuadorian looking. Baskets, hats and miniature traditional costumes adorn the tree of Parque Calderon.

The street vendors sell stuffed animals, Christmas cards, wrapping paper, and Santa  hats and other related stuff. Mom says that Santa is called Papa Noel here.
Ecuador is a very religious country so during Christmas there is a lot of activity in the many churches of the city. They also hold Christmas pageants and parades for which people, specially kids, dress up.

We missed the big parade on Christmas Day called El Paso del Nino, so we'll have to check it out next year.

There doesn't seem to be too much crazy buying here in Ecuador, although the main mall in Cuenca was impenetrable for two weeks. Many days it truly didn't feel like Christmas, although the traffic was crazier than usual downtown.

Families and friends get together and celebrate with big meals like we do in the States, but here there is no cranberry sauce, apple or pumpkin pie served AND my mom decided not to cook turkey this year, which means I got none.

How does mom want me to feel like Christmas without turkey. Many families have it here, they even sell them in some bakeries to go, cooked in wood ovens. But since dad didn't want any, I got none. Did she ask me? Nope... Yet, she forced me to wear this ridiculous Santa hat so she could make a Christmas card with MY picture. She had to take multiple shots since I was not cooperating with her. On this shot, you can tell I'm not too happy, can you?
There was no Christmas tree in our house this year either. But my parents are not all that bad. Mom ordered a stuffed polar bear from the States. I guess she thought that since I can't have snow, at least I can have a polar bear... pretty good logic, ah? Hmmm... humans! However my bear is soft like my headless camel and I just love him. So different? Yes, our Christmas was quite different, but not bad after all. I hope yours was also a nice one.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I Love my Agility Classes in Cuenca by Star

A few weeks ago we started our agility classes with our awesome teacher, Lily Goodale. We are now practicing at her house and we are having the best time ever. Of course mom has the hand coordination of an elephant, the poor thing! She can't get the hang of the clicker, treat, leash and so on, and confuses the daylights out of me; but we still have lots of fun together.

Agility is all about bonding, about paying attention and about focusing. I've learned to really pay attention to mom when we are at the beginning of the course. I only make a mistake when she does, which is too often.

I love the jumps the best.
Our agility equipment is home made but I wouldn't know the difference. I do miss the A frame though... it used to be one of my very favorite obstacles. And then... there is the seesaw... not my friend at all... here we are all trying to get used to the movement with miniature ones... it's not working for me. I don't like the noise and the movement.

One of my favorite things about agility is that I get to practice it with my friends. Maly is one of Caty, my super groomer, many dogs and she is really good. Chimbo is one of the Goodale's pack members. He's just a puppy and is Adrianne's dog. He is very smart and lots of fun; and like me, he loves the jumps.

I can't wait till Friday to go back and practice some more. Cuenca's beautiful sunny mornings are perfect for doing agility.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving in Cuenca by Star

I LOVED Thanksgiving in the States because I got to eat lots of turkey and I had my buddy Marley come to stay with us. Mom and dad and Rhonda sat around after dinner and they talked and talked and all was happy and everyone was at home. Thanksgiving in Cuenca left a lot to be desired, at least for me. For mom and dad this Thanksgiving was different but very enjoyable. They went out to Villa San Carlos and had a feast. Dad had lots of turkey, but he didn't bring me any. Mom had the fixings and the veggie lasagna, and I wouldn't be interested in that so I'm not angry that she didn't bring left overs; with dad, that's another story. They bragged and bragged about the food and the company and I had to stay home by myself so I guess I could be angry with both of them.

Mom explained to me that we have a lot to be thankful for and I know that's true. We take so much for granted every day. Thanksgiving Day here in Cuenca reminded us of that. For one, we didn't have any water all day and mom and dad had to take their baths with buckets of water that mom keeps just in case. Mom is too impatient to heat the water up in the stove so she used mostly cold water to bathe and she screamed as she poured it on her... it was very funny. Dad is the sensible one, so he waited patiently and methodically to bathe without a fuss. The only thing I cared about was that they had enough water for me to drink and they did so all was well. Not having water during Thanksgiving made mom be thankful for every day we do have it, which it's most days.

These last few days have been of thanks giving. We have a wonderful lady who comes to clean twice a week. Her name is Norma; I really like her and so do my mom and dad. She has quickly become part of our family. She has a cute boy, Mateo, who comes with her sometimes. He talks incessantly and he is very sweet.

A week ago Sunday after Norma was finished cleaning the house we took them to their home and we learned a lot about their lives. Norma has a very supportive husband and she goes to seamstress school every day. She loves to sew. They live about 45 minutes away by car in the mountains close to Cuenca. Norma has to be out of her house by 6 AM every morning so she can get to class on time. She takes the bus every day and because the buses come full she waits and waits and it takes her 3 hours to get to town. The roads to her house are dangerous and so are the buses. Going back home is the same ordeal. However, we never see Norma upset or anxious; she is always smiling, always happy. Mom says she reminds her of my sunny disposition how I not only accept things as they come but embrace life with joy.

Norma loves to study and is learning how to start a Cuy business. Today she had to leave early because they were teaching her how to kill the Cuyes (Guinea Pigs). This made mom sad but the Cuy is a staple in the Ecuadorian diet so I told mom to get over it. I would definitely eat a Cuy if given the chance. They are probably delicious. Maybe my dad will take me one day without telling mom.

We have found that Thanksgiving is not just a day for us here in Ecuador. It's a way of life. We are thankful for the beauty that surrounds us, for how blessed we are and for the opportunities we have to realize how much we have. We are thankful for the warm and nice people we have met, Gringos as well as Ecuadorians. We are grateful for the lessons we learn every day.

However, I did miss Thanksgiving Day this year and hopefully my sad eyes when mom and dad returned last night will make them feel guilty enough for them to make me turkey soon.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cuenca Knows How to Throw a Party by Star

During the first week of November Cuenca celebrates its Fiestas, and Cuencanos know how to throw a party. It's a whole week of celebrations with parades, art shows, music, dancing, fairs, carnivals and circus for the children, fireworks and visits by government officials.

I only went to the best day of the Fiestas which was the 3rd of November when Cuenca celebrated its independence. But mom and dad enjoyed other days and showed me the pictures; it looked like a lot of fun perhaps next year I can go to all the activities.

Mom especially liked the kids. She always has a soft spot for children and dogs.

Thursday, Nov 3 started early. We wanted to see the military parade, but mom and dad had been invited to attend the presentation of a book called "The Flight of the Hummingbird" to the vice president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno Garces at the Parque San Sebastian. Both events were scheduled at the same time, and I'm  glad we went to the one on San Sebastian as I got to see the vice president up close and personal.
Here is vice president Moreno arriving. It was shocking how close they let people get to him. We tried to get a good look but I really couldn't so mom had to show me the pictures. She says I am too heavy to pick me up.

Mom was really impressed with the vice president's speech. She is never captivated by politicians so he must have been really good. She said that he talked about quantum physics, about our oneness and about the hummingbird's wisdom. It was all very nice, she said; but there were other speeches, and I was getting bored so I went to see a puppy who was very cute. I really like puppies.

After I played with the puppy I had fun with LT's boots. Remember the LT who brought me my treats from the States? Well, she joined us and she had a great pair or boots on... very colorful. I like LT.

But, as colorful as LT's boots were I got distracted by this cute little girl who was wearing some Minnie Mouse ears and then she started to dance. It was quite the show.
The event was long and I was getting hot and bored until this handsome Basset mix came to my rescue.
I first thought he was really nice, but then he got a bit pesky so I tried to ignore him but I think he fell in love with me because he followed me everywhere. He even offered me some flowers. I have to admit he was really cute especially among all those beautiful flowers.
From there we went down the street to Parque San Blas where they had the food stands. It all smelled so good. They were cooking the guinea pigs or cuy... the poor things.

After quickly checking out these culinary activities we headed to the Escalinatas to check out the art students' work. Mom had to take lots of pictures while dad and I waited patiently for her. You can see us beyond the mask by the bridge.

As we headed home we went by the Parque de la Madre and here again there was more celebration and dancing. It was quite beautiful and happy.

It was a great day and I can't wait to next year. Perhaps I can convince mom and dad to let me enjoy the entire week. Life is a lot of fun here in Cuenca.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Practicing Yoga in Cuenca by Star

Moving to Cuenca, Ecuador meant that mom couldn't go to her yoga classes at One Center Yoga in Asheville, NC to learn from her incredible teacher Cindy Dollar. Mom was all sad about this loss, so I told her not to worry since we could practice yoga together in Cuenca. After all, I do the perfect Downward and Upward Dog poses; remember when I showed Java the other day? I figured though that I needed to learn a few other poses if I was going to practice with mom regularly. I know mom learns a lot from her Yoga Journal magazines, so I decided I should study too.

Mom says that in addition to the perfect Downward and Upward Dog poses I do a flawless Mountain Pose... even my jaw is relaxed, and mom tells me this is a good thing which I confirmed by reading mom's Yoga Journal magazines.
Mom and I have lots of fun practicing yoga. I've tried to do head stand with her, but I have a bit of trouble with that pose so I created my own. Mom says it is not Iyengar approved, and I have no idea why... I call it the Kissing Upside Down Face pose, and it makes my mom laugh a lot.
A month ago mom found an Iyengar teacher here in Cuenca; her name is Lily and she taught kids in Maine. Mom is thrilled; and, although I can't go to yoga classes her, we continue our regular home practice together. And the best thing is that Lily is also a dog agility trainer, so mom got a yoga instructor and I get an agility trainer, all in one person. I can't wait to start my classes. Mom and I feel blessed.

All the little pieces are falling into place and we can truly call Cuenca home.