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Sunday, January 8, 2012

We Finally Have a Car to Drive Around Cuenca, Yippee!!! by Star

Two months ago or so mom and dad came back home with a brand new car. They were extremely happy and, honestly, I have no idea why. I'm not a car lover. So the Yippee above was said with a bit of sarcasm. You see, as a puppy I used to get sick in the car and even though I don't get sick any longer, I really don't like to get in any car ever since. I have loved all of our walks here in Cuenca, so a car didn't sound like a very good idea. But it hasn't been all that bad since we still do most of our business walking. We use the car to go to our new home and watch it being built, when it is too far to walk or to go places when we need to get there fast, but I normally stay home those times when mom and dad are in rush. We also use the car to do the important things in life, like going to my agility classes.

Mom says that our car was probably the only one with an automatic transmission available in the country at the time. It's black like me, so it gets quite hot in the sun. My parents say they didn't have a choice of colors. It's a Volkswagen Gol Motion. Not at all what my mom wanted, but to her surprise, she really liked it when she saw it. If you ask me, I think she was just tired of searching. Dad really likes the process of buying a car and mom simply hates it. In the US she didn't have to even go to the dealership when they bought a car, except to pick it up; dad did everything: the research, the negotiations, the test drive and so on. But here mom had to get involved because she speaks Spanish and dad is still learning. But, she seems to like the car just fine.

Riding with mom is a bit crazy. She has become a very aggressive driver which you apparently need to be here in Ecuador. Also, she is constantly talking to herself. She says she is talking to the other drivers, but they can't hear her so I think she may be loosing her mind a bit. Dad shakes his head a lot when he's in the car with her, so I think he also agrees with me.

Because cars tend to get stolen a lot here they have very loud alarm systems that go off at all times, a truck that goes by or just thunder triggers the alarms. I hate that noise, but I am getting used to it. This car has automatic windows in the front but roll up windows in the back when we are riding. What the heck is with that? Now mom can't open or close the window for me. The car is otherwise comfy and I can see out better than I was able to do in mom's jeep.

My parents knew they would buy a car when they purchased our house in Challuabamba which is a 15 minutes drive from Cuenca. They also say we need a car so we can travel around Ecuador which we hope to do soon. Check me out below as I am arriving to our new house which we hope will be ready in a month. We go there everyday to check the progress and also to bring food to Blackie, a dog living with the security guard who takes care of the building project. We hope she can join our family when we move there; we'll see. She may leave before we move. All in all, having a car is a good thing, even when I am not thrilled to get in at first.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year from Cuenca by Star

A year ago yesterday, my parents were watching House Hunters International in our home in Asheville when they learned about Ecuador. Dad had been looking to move to Latin America for many years already, but mom was not willing to leave the US. They had checked Panama, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina but these countries did not meet all of our requirements. That fateful December 31st of 2010 mom showed a bit of interest in Ecuador and that was enough for dad; six weeks later they were on a plane headed to Cuenca to check it out. They liked it and, without consulting me, decided this would be our next home. 2011 was definitely a busy year-- a year of change, and now we've been in Ecuador for six months already!

The New Year's celebrations here in Ecuador are quite different than in the US. In Asheville we had a few fireworks at midnight for which mom and dad rarely stayed up. Mom always cooked a big breakfast and late lunch for New Year's Day, but that was about it. In Cuenca there are many traditions and celebrations on New Year's Eve.

  • The Monigotes are human effigies that are sold or made for people to burn at midnight on New Year's Eve. A Monigote must have a mask. It represents the old year and all the things you want to get rid of or literally burn. It is the old you.
  • Las Viudas or Widowers is another tradition where a group of people choose one person to dress up as a widow of the old year. They barricade the streets asking for coins. Some of these widows are very scary, if you asked me.
In many ways this celebration looks like Halloween. In a plaza closed to our home they had all kinds of effigies that they were going to burn at midnight.

  • There are many other traditions such as wearing bright colored underwear: yellow to attract money and red to attract love in the new year. Sorry no pictures of that :-) There is also the tradition of going around the block with your suitcase right after midnight to make sure you get to travel in the coming year. And, to attract money, you have to make sure you have cash in your pockets at midnight.
  • There are also fancy parades that mom saw just for a bit. Farmers from all the nearby towns bring their trucks adorned with produce and all the people are dressed up. We didn't really know about the parades and by luck mom saw some of it when she went downtown to lunch with some friend. Dad and I missed it all, so something to look forward for next year.

We have our own traditions that we followed here. Mom made pancakes which I really, really like. These were light and fluffy in spite of not being able to find buttermilk here in Cuenca. Mom used El Pino Yogurt instead and I couldn't tell the difference.
Mom and dad were worried they couldn't find their black-eyed peas to eat on New Year's Day, but with some friends from Asheville they went to the market and found them. They are called Porotos Tumbe here in Ecuador and although I don't partake of them, I have to admit that they looked yummy.

And, of course, there is all the darn noise associated with New Year's celebrations! We were expecting lots and lots of noise since fireworks and firecrackers are an every weekend event. Yet, fortunately, we only had about four hours of it. Mom gave me some Rescue and helped me relax a bit and then they took turns holding me so I wouldn't be all freaked out. I don't really like all that noise! But it is now all over and we can get on with 2012 which I hope brings you all the good things you desire. Happy New Year!