Friday, 31 December 2010

Wednesday, 29 December 2010


Our internet was down from December 24th until the 29th.  When we could finally phone our carrier and get an answer, they told us they'd be by within 2 days; they advised they thought our modem needed to be exchanged.  How they can tell this over the phone is close to magic.  We then phoned our carrier on the 27th, the 28th & the 29th because no one had come around as promised.  Magic happened again about 10 minutes after our last phone call on the 29th, in that our internet suddenly began to work again. 

In any case, it was a pain in the butt.  We missed talking on Skype with the kids over Christmas, we missed our daily routine of checking into our favourite sites and wandering the net, we missed updating our blog & reading our e-mails, we missed the the camaraderie one develops with their computer, a kind of strange friendship if not an outright dependency.  After the first 2 days, we took to sitting down at our Mac and playing games & checking out preferences & looking at pictures, just to get the hands-on feeling.

Back to Habit:  The first day it was down and we'd rebooted 13 times and were sure we were "screwed" we stoically resigned ourselves to the situation and mentally counted the days before we could get in touch with our carrier.  Christmas season is a joy but it doesn't bode well if your furnace quits working, your water turns off or your internet cuts out. 

Usually, Brian gets up and walks Fredi and then spends some time on the computer and then watches TV and then wakes up Shelley.  No, Shelley does not sleep in until noon; she usually gets up around 8 o'clock.  Brian has at this point placed her coffee next to the computer and Shelley does her morning check-in; FaceBook for the kids, email, a few Twitters, a couple of Stumbles & a quick check of the newest news. 

With the internet definitely down, Shelley instead grabbed Fredi & cuddled with her on the front room couch watching the news on TV and slowly waking up.  It was Christmas day and we were having company for Brunch but prep work had been done the day before and nothing had to be taken care of until around 10 o'clock.  Shelley felt incredibly logy and put it down to a Christmas lassitude, content to snuggle with a compliant Fredi and laze away her morning. 

Ten o'clock came and preparation were made, Fredi was taken for yet another walk, our company came and we enjoyed french toast casserole, fruit & homemade hash browns cooked with bacon.  Our company left and we cleaned up and eventually Brian went down for his regular afternoon nap.

Now...about a half an hour before Shelley wakes Brian up from his nap, she prepares a pot of coffee and gets the cups ready with cream & sugar for Brian's awakening.  He often shouts "I'm up!" before she needs to disturb him and Shelley then turns on the coffee and goes to lie down with him for a 6 minute cuddle. 

The problem was, when Shelley went to prepare the mugs with cream & sugar, she couldn't find hers.  She looked in the cupboard, she looked near the computer, she looked in the front room, she went through the garbage, she did all that and more one more time and then gave up and prepped another cup. 

"I can't find my cup!" she told Brian when it was time for the cuddle.

"Well, it's around somewhere.  Did you look in the garbage?" he asked.

When Brian got up, he too checked the computer room, the front room, the kitchen, the cupboards & our bathrooms. 

"It was here this morning" he said.  "I gave you you coffee."

Shelley agreed.  It was a true mystery.  She drank her coffee from an unfamiliar mug and pondered the strangeness of it all.

Now normally, Brian would have been on the computer at this afternoon coffee time but since internet was down, we instead were watching more CNN on the TV.  Shelley sipped and heard about bad weather in Europe & terrorists & the President of the United States and suddenly got up and went to the microwave. 

"Ah huh!" she exclaimed upon opening the door for the microwave, for there was her cup waiting to be warmed up after Brian had made his pot of coffee and before she normally gets up in the morning. 

"No wonder I was so logy in the morning" she went on.  "I didn't get my coffee!"

Because our routine had been disturbed, our reality had been skewed and we'd both lost our minds.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Cuenca Christmas Eve Parade 2010

Pasa Del Nino Viajero is a children's parade, that starts at about 10 a.m. on Christmas Eve day and lasts hours and hours, honouring the traveling Infant Jesus. The origins of this religious festival dates back to the early 1960's when a statue of the Christ Child was taken to Rome to be blessed by the Pope. When the statue returned, someone in the watching crowd called out, "Ya llegó el Viajero!" (The traveler has arrived!) And the statue became known as the Niño Viajero (traveler boy).

The processions for Christmas are famous across Ecuador and attract huge numbers of spectators and participants.

Every village, parish, school, civic organization and just plain folks are represented in this huge procession.

The senses are assaulted with vivid colour, proud noise, drums, choirs & bands, blaring music from sound systems, packed crowds, horses, sheep, llamas, pigs, blue exhaust from old trucks & babies crying from decorated strollers.  

Strong emotions also come into play:  excitement, delight at seeing the joy in youngsters' faces, parents warm & protective, children overwhelmed by the grandness of it all, hot sun beating down, dogs in costumes tired of all the "fun", proud Grandfather's showing off their grandchildren, Mom's straightening a skirt here, a sombrero there.

The sheer size and the thousands of participants can't help but fill one with a kind of awe.

What a huge community effort!

To see pictures of other parades in Canada and Ecuador click here and here

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Cheshire Cat Only Smiles

Time on my hands, I search the web for "contact". 
Is there any body out there? 


We are unknowns to each other, although I've been the explorer. We dance, an Internet minuet, while I take a pit stop on my travels. 

Searching for despair, I bumped into a lawyer from Ohio and we discussed my path to him, corn, hope being the last thing out of Pandora's Box, boats, more corn and Canada vs. the U.S. of A. 

It was all very civilized.

I forwarded the lawyer a story about Mr. Shaw. Mr. Shaw is a Wicca. The Cheshire Cat came languidly out on its branch and settled in for a good smile. September Eleventh came and went and I believe the last e-mail I had from him was somewhat pompous, evoking God personally for the President of the U.S. of A. 

He was an earnest young man. He worked for The People. His father was a mailman. He told me the worst thing he'd ever done was to drive down the freeway too fast with a Coca-Cola in one hand. I was sad he was so very wary of Mr. Shaw. Not too many Wicca's in Ohio I suppose. My brother had just died too. 

Angry whenever I catch even a glimpse of the Cheshire Cat, nothing left to lose, my reply to his e-mail was venom. I spoke to death, September Eleventh, irrational fear and pomposity, told him to examine some of his base beliefs and reminded him I'd only stopped for a visit seeking despair.

"It's not a requirement you are obligated to supply."

I received no reply. 

The Cheshire Cat faded ever so slowly from his branch leaving only that shit-kickin' grin. Helpless I examined even while the smile faded. I forwarded e-mails from time to time. They weren't bumped for quite awhile.

Six months.
Then the address,
shortly after I forwarded one of my
bitter-er stories,


Raining hard the other day - Biblical Rain - I shouted from Dowager, "Merry Christmas Mr. Shaw!"

Head uncovered, arms burdened, Mr. Shaw stopped, turned to me and said, his voice serious but with that ever present twinkle in his eye, "Well, actually Madam it's Yule."

I smiled and laughed, "I know Mr. Shaw Merry Christmas any ways."

Riding on the Internet.
Is there any body out there?

I am.

The Cheshire Cat as depicted in American McGee's Alice

Reprinted with Permission from:

Friday, 17 December 2010

Men at Work

Shelley's been taking pictures of "Men at Work" for quite some time now.  If you're interested in seeing more, click here.

It's to the point now, that if Brian sees "Men at Work" he'll point it out to Shelley and she'll snap.

Coming from Canada to Ecuador we're often horrified at the working conditions we see.  Not knowing statistics, accidents in Ecuador vs Canada or the U.S. or Europe by population, it's hard to make anything but a gut observation. 

Ecuador is a country of entrepreneurs.  If there's a buck to be made, someone will be out there making it.  With fewer restrictions (licenses, insurance, benefits, union wages, etc.) comes a freedom to sell fried fish at a road block on the highway and tubes of tomatoes from your house garden on a downtown street. 

There doesn't seem to be the sense of urgency in the workplace that exists in Canada at least.  You're allowed to sit at your table in a restaurant until you're quite ready to leave.  Although an eagle eye is kept on you in a clothing store, there's no hard sell.  Shoe shine boys will pester you and often it'll take several "no's" before they'll go away, but there doesn't seem to be any rancor.  Brian often says he bets there aren't as many ulcers in Ecuador as in North America because of this more casual attitude.  

Much is spoken about the "corruption" in the system.  True, minor bribes have been paid from time to time and time lines are less etched in stone, but we ourselves have never encountered anything more shocking than we'd seen in Canada.

Ecuador is a hard working country but with a healthy disregard for the pressures that tend to stress us out in North America.

To see more pictures of Men at Work click here.  Also there are albums chronicling the building of a Bridge & Park in Ecuador and also pictures of Industry (both Canada & Ecuador).  

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Gathered Quotes

Money won't buy happiness, but it will pay the salaries of a large research staff to study the problem. ~ Bill Vaughan #quote

A person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused. ~ Shirley MacLaine #quote

Philosophy, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing. ~ Ambrose Bierce,  The Devil's Dictionary #quote

Loneliness is a choice. ~ Chris Carter (maker of the X-Files) #quote

I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it ~ Fosdick #quote

Life may have no meaning. Or even worse, it may have a meaning of which I disapprove. ~ Ashleigh Brilliant #quote

Seeing ourselves as others see us would probably confirm our worst suspicions about them. - Franklin P. Adams #quote

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote! ~ B. Franklin #quote

So long as governments set the example of killing their enemies, private citizens will occasionally kill theirs. ~ Elbert Hubbard #quote

The advantage of literature over life is that its characters are clearly defined, and act consistently. ~ Jerome K. Jerome #quote

Poetry is the impish attempt to paint the color of the wind. ~ Maxwell Bodenheim #quote

Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. ~ Aldous Huxley #quote

The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a heaven of Hell, a hell of Heaven. ~ John Milton #quote

When I cannot sing my heart, I can only speak my mind. ~ John Lennon #lyrics

Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe #quote

Of all the things I've lost, it's my mind I miss the most. ~ Ozzy Osbourne #quote

Passion and prejudice govern the world; only under the name of reason. ~ John Wesley #quote

Though the rich of this earth find no difficulty in creating misery, they can't bear to see it. ~ Bertolt Brecht #quote

Weep not that the world changes -- did it keep a stable, changeless state, it were cause indeed to weep. ~ William Cullen Bryant #quote

It's easy enough to preach morality on a full belly. ~ Erwin Sylvanus #quote

At any given moment, public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation, and prejudice. ~ Gore Vidal #quote

If I make dark my countenance / I shut my life from happier chance. ~ Alfred Tennyson #quote

Personally, I don't think there's intelligent life on other planets. Why should other planets be any different from this one? ~ B. Monkhouse #quote

Sometimes it is harder to deprive oneself of a pain than of a pleasure. ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald #quote

Reality is a formless lure / And only when we know this / Do we dare to be unreal. ~ Maxwell Bodenheim #quote

Note:  More Graffiti Art can be seen by clicking here and more Quotes can be seen by clicking here.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Parque Paraiso

In Vancouver, British Columbia, the largest park in the City is Stanley Park.  It's over 400 hectares and has open air theaters & hiking paths & a large aquarium & a very small zoo  It has picnic grounds & fields for playing games and places to snack & places to fine dine & swings & beaches & art displays and the list goes on and on.

A couple of years before we left Vancouver, they had terrible wind storms and many of the old growth trees in the park were knocked over.  Driving around was surreal, travelling through the carnage left behind.  They still hadn't completely cleaned up the park by the time we left and the damage was still evident, particularly near the beach.

We looked on the web for statistics about Cuenca's Parque Paraiso but couldn't find any.  They have a play ground with equipment for young children and exercise set-ups dotted around the park.  They have a couple of large fields for games, a track for running & a lagoon with water birds in it, bordered by a river.  Some days you can rent a paddle boat and take a mini trip around the lagoon.  They have a bridge set-up over a marshy area and various benches & logs where one can sit and contemplate.  They have a forest of trees that you can meander through on cleared paths and from time to time the park sponsors events, a concert or a lecture or a greased pig chase or a food fair. There are also vendors selling hamburgers & hotdogs as well as places where small groups or families can picnic. 

Between the two of us, Brian & Shelley, we spent countless hours at Stanley Park, getting exercise, watching events, taking gleeful young children & sullen teenagers for an outing and always appreciated the gift the city of Vancouver had given us by providing this wonderful place.

While about 1/4 of the size of Stanley Park, Parque Paraiso also provides that green peace or a place of entertainment. 

Public parks are every man's property, a place where even the most humble can enjoy sculptured nature & gather for quiet enjoyment and raucous fun.  Parque Paraiso lives up to that tradition.  

As mentioned before from time to time, Parque Paraiso is our dog's Fredi most favourite place.