Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We’re Bringing Down The House

O.K. we’re not really bringing down the house, just the roof for now. Now we are finally seeing progress after six months of trying to find an architect for our long neglected house. It took a long time to get to this point, but now it seems like we are really moving along. Sebastian (one of our architects) is religiously sending us photos of the roof progress along with emails explaining what is being done. We are thrilled with the results and very pleased that the architects are keeping us up to date in such a timely manner.

Scraping All Of The Old Bamboo Off

Building The Framework

Putting The Plywood Decking Down

Putting The Liner Down

The roof project was estimated to take approximately two to three months, but it looks like the weather has been holding out and the workers are able to keep moving forward. I had asked Sebastian why we didn’t have the temporary roof, but he indicated that at this point it was not necessary because of the weather. Regardless this is a huge job and judging from the photos a real mess.

Even The Roof On Top Of The Chapel Needs Repair

After The Tiles Have been Cleaned They Are Laid
Down And Tied On Top of The Wood Frame

The Beautiful New Roof On The Chapel

At the same time the roof is being repaired the exterior walls are getting some much needed repair as well. The adobe had come off in several places and new adobe was being applied. Unfortunately we learned that the skylight frame was not salvageable and was destroyed in the demolition process. Now we will have to decide what kind of skylight we will be installing, something we were hoping we wouldn’t have to do.

The Now Defunct Skylight Frame

Meanwhile back in the States, Mom is busy painting kitchen cabinets at the ranch and we are getting our second location ready to open. Last time I talked to my mother she told me that she had put some freshly painted cabinet fronts outside to dry. Apparently one of the cows had come by and rubbed against what ever she had the cabinet fronts on and knocked them into the dirt. I had to laugh at the thought of that picture.

Every time I talk to Mom she says the house in Ecuador is a piece of cake compared to the ranch project. Unfortunately there are no workers at the ranch and it’s just Mom and Bob chipping away at the project as best they can. Sometimes we have to remind each other that all of our hard work is for the common goal of getting to Ecuador.

At the same time we have been busy getting our second business location ready to open. The planned opening date is the first part of November. I’m not sure how we are going to meet that deadline, but miracles do happen.

The Front Of Our New Building

The Bays

The other day Kevin fell off the ladder and skinned his arms up pretty badly. He had to be driven to the clinic to determine if an emergency room visit was necessary. Fortunately he didn’t break anything, but he did require stitches and had strict orders to not use his right arm until the 28th of the month. Rod had to pickup where Kevin left off and help finish the painting. In the meantime it has been a battle with the City over the sign ordinances.

Kevin Taking A Break From Painting
This Was Before He Injured Himself As You Can See He Is Smiling

Rod’s Dad drove up to help out with our project and Mom decided to come with him. During the week I have to work at the shop, but on the weekends Mom and I are on the go. Today we’ve been having some severe weather like much of the country is experiencing, but this weekend if weather permits, we are planning a drive to Tennessee to have a girls day out. The leaves are starting to change and the drive should be beautiful. We will head to Franklin and have a nice lunch and do some shopping and experience some quiet time before the pre opening storm.

I have been busy at work as well as my online business. I was shocked to discover that I had sold another birdhouse to someone in Cuenca this week. I immediately emailed to see if the buyer by chance knew the lady that had bought my other birdhouses. I never did get an answer, so I suspect they may not speak or understand English. I can’t believe that this would be a pure coincidence and the buyers didn’t know each other. What a small world this truly is.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Cold Hard Facts

Gorgeous Restaurant At Santa Lucia

Today I was thinking about our last days in Ecuador and I remembered one night in particular after we had met with the architects. Mom, Rod and I decided to go to dinner, naturally the discussion turned to the house renovations. Mom and I were going on and on about the ideas we had for the house and I guess Rod had dollar signs dancing in his head. Being the level headed one of the bunch, he had to lay down the law or as we would say in the South, We had to have a “Come to Jesus Meeting.”

 It was not a pretty sight and was soon apparent that the grandiose plans Mom and I had made would have to be reigned in and more realistic. The whole time we had been in Cuenca, Mom and I had run the streets and stopped into every hotel that caught our attention, all the while making notes for our own renovation. Of course it didn’t help that the very first hotel we stayed in was at the top of the budget and most of the other hotels we looked at most likely took hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate if not more.

The Skylight At The Santa Lucia Hotel

We had visions of crystal chandeliers, extensive woodwork, rich wood floors and persian rugs dancing in our heads. Of course Rod was not without guilt as he planned his kitchen of granite countertops, commercial grade appliances and an outdoor kitchen the size of a football field. By the end of the dinner after a reality check, the mood had dampened considerably and I think we were all overwhelmed with the task at hand.

The Parlor

That night I didn’t get much sleep and I know Rod didn’t either. I lay awake half the night wondering what we could do to fit our dreams into a doable budget. I think Rod was thinking what the heck had he gotten himself into with two seriously delirious dreamers such as Mom and Myself?

Hand painted Murals Throughout The Santa Lucia

The next morning I got up early and headed to the breakfast room at the hotel we were staying in. I had my notebook and pen in hand and immediately started jotting down ideas of how the budget could be cut. It wasn’t long before Mom joined me and the two of us put our heads together to try and come up with some sort of solution we could all be happy with. One of the first things we decided was that we could cut the flooring budget hopefully in half by going with a less expensive floor such as Eucalyptus, which is very durable and plentiful in Ecuador. Next we decided we could live without the wood framed skylight and the metal frame would be just fine.

More Murals

After breakfast we decided to walk around the hotel we were staying at as it resembled our house more closely than any other place we had seen thus far. We paid careful attention to the details and were able to come up with some more budget cutting ideas. We decided that even though the high end hotels were beautiful, they weren’t really in keeping with our house and what it was originally meant to look like. We agreed that our house was simpler in design and deserved to be restored true to its nature with some improvements of course.

And Yet Another Mural, Mom and I Were In Heaven

It was important to remember that one of the main reasons we have chosen to move to Ecuador in the first place was to afford us the luxury of living on less, while maintaining the lifestyle we desire in our later years. This can not be achieved if we are not careful and end up spending all of our hard earned money on renovations.

What A fun Idea, A Collection Of Wooden Birdhouses

We Have This Same Room In Our House
Hopefully One Day It Will Look This Nice

It took us all day, lunch at Rod’s favorite restaurant and a banana split to get him out of his funk and convince him that we were serious about making the necessary adjustments to the budget. By that evening all was right with the world again and we were able to enjoy our dinner and the good company of friends. I do have a feeling Rod will have his hands full knocking the stardust out of our eyes from time to time though.

Shortly after we returned home to Alabama I received an email from Mom and in it was a paragraph in regards to the Police strike that happened while we were in Ecuador. I thought it made a very valid and important point and I have included it below...

A rancher friend of Bob's came over to see how I weathered
the revolution. How irresponsible of the news media to spread a story that was unsubstantiated and, as a result may hurt tourism. From my new prospective, it seems that if you are Central, or South America it is immediately assumed that it is a revolution.  I am now realizing how other
countries feel about our arrogant attitudes.

Now that we are back home it is all becoming a blur as we prepare to open our second location and Mom and Bob are madly working to prepare the ranch for sale. My first day back at work proved to be very stressful as I walked into an office full of the boxes of china that we had carried back from Houston for my online business. There was a basket full of unopened mail on my desk and I just had to breathe deep and go slow. For now it is our number one priority to grow our business, which will eventually provide us the means to shed this insane lifestyle and slow down enough to smell the Ecuadorian coffee.

Boxes Of China Piled High

Just A Small Portion Of The Mail That Was Waiting On Me

Friday, October 8, 2010

Our Last Days In Cuenca

We have been back in the States since Monday and have been recovering from jet lag, fatigue, over eating and the non stop pace that we maintained while in Ecuador. It seems instead of feeling more rested each day we are feeling more and more tired, maybe it’s the anticipation of what lies ahead of us these next few months.  Once we return home our days will be consumed with getting ready to open our second Business location. Of course right behind that are the holidays and that will include more traveling.

The other night Sebastian (one of our architects) sent us pictures of the beginning of the roof repair on the Ecuador property. It’s exciting to finally see some progress and it is good to know that we have accomplished what we set out to do on this trip.


Working On The Roof Of The Chapel

The Roof Repairs Will Take Approx. 2 Months

Our last couple of days in Ecuador were spent trying to tie up all the loose ends on the house. We were able to get the first set of floor plans, a contract and the specifications of the house before we left. I have since emailed the contract to our lawyer for translation and her input. Mom and I made copies of the plans so we could each have a set to pencil our ideas on.

On the Friday before we left Cuenca, Mom and I got brave and decided to get our hair cut. We had passed by this particular salon on several of our walks and it always seemed busy. It was run by the owner and his partner and neither one of them spoke a word of English. It took us a day to get our courage up, but in the end we decided we had to learn how to do these things on our own. We couldn’t have Carlos glued to our side all the time to translate. We told ourselves the worst that could happen would be that we didn’t like the cuts, but we convinced ourselves it would grow back.

Mom was really brave and decided to get a pedicure as well, so in we went with our spanish pocket book in hand and told the owner we needed a trim, shampoo and blow dry. I have no idea if we rolled our “R”s and silenced our “J”s correctly, but the stylists seemed to get the idea of it. I wasn’t taking any chances though and I spied a styling magazine across the room. I quickly snatched it up and thumbed through it until I found a style very close to my own.

Mom was having her pedicure first, so I was the first victim. I sat in the chair and pulled out the picture in the magazine. The stylist threw his hands to his face and feigned a look of surprise as if to say “I am so shocked you chose this style” when all along it’s as if he knew this is exactly the style I would choose.” He started snipping away, and on several occasions was talking to the other clients and stylists without even looking at what he was doing. I swallowed hard wondering if I would be bald in spots, but when I got out of the chair, much to my surprise I had a haircut just like the one I get in the States.

Mom was next and when her stylist saw her pedicure (which by the way was very nice), he commented on her toes and how nice they looked. As he was speaking we were frantically looking up words in our pocket spanish book hoping to carry on at least a semblance of a conversation with him. When I looked up one of the words that he had spoken, it translated to Tuna. Mom and I started cracking up having no idea what tuna had to do with her toes. We were laughing so hard the stylist started to laugh with us. We gave up on the book and just decided to wing it.

The stylist asked Mom what she wanted done with he hair and of course she reverted back to the good old sign language. She wasn’t getting to far with that, so finally the stylist just said “chop chop” and Mom nodded yes, Yikes! At the end her hair turned out fine and we were so proud of ourselves that we had survived with our hair intact. We both decided we will be using this salon again, it was actually a lot of fun and he best part is our haircuts only cost $8.00 ea. and Mom’s pedicure was $6.00.

Later that afternoon we decided to open our bank accounts. We wanted to take Carlos with us since there were legalities involved and the bank officer did not speak the best English. Unfortunately we didn’t realize that it was going to be such an involved process and we didn’t allow ourselves enough time. We did end up getting our accounts open, but only in our own names. Our officer explained that he would need more time to add additional signers and he could not get our debit cards to us in time. Apparently you must have a debit card to use on line banking and the bank will not mail your bank statements to you in the States.

Mom and I decided that to be on the safe side we would only start the account with the required $250.00 and finish opening it the next time we returned. We did find out that Ecuador only insures your money up to $25,000.00 which is quite a bit lower than the States. At this time we are only setting up accounts for convenience when we travel, so the $25,000.00 is really not an issue.

When we left the bank we crossed the street only to find that Carlos’ car had been towed for being parked over the limit of time allowed for the location. Mom immediately dubbed him Carless Carlos. Leave it to Mom to find humor in any situation.

While Carlos was getting his car out of hock Mom and I made a mad dash for the house where we were supposed to meet with the architects and Rod. We ran across the street and then the steep embankment of stairs that lead to the river. By the time we reached the top of the stairs we were huffing and puffing and it felt like my lungs were on fire. We made it to the house with minutes to spare. No doubt we will all be in shape living in Cuenca.

Friday night Mick and Kathy treated us to dinner at the Mansion De Alcazar. Henry, Carlos and another couple in the process of moving to Cuenca were there also. Bob and Elaine, the couple that we met, are moving from Asheville, North Carolina. They were set to fly home earlier in the week, but were bumped from their flight because of the strike. The evening was a blast and of course never a dull moment with Mick. We really enjoyed meeting Bob and Elaine and hope to see them again soon.

Our Beautiful Table At The Alcazar

Saturday morning we woke up at 5:00 a.m. in order to meet Carlos at 6:00 and head to the coast where he wanted to show us a business deal he was working on.

It was a very long drive to the coast and surprisingly not anything like what we expected. We drove through many very poor villages along the way and a lot of dry barren landscape that had very little vegetation. When we finally arrived at the place Carlos wanted to show us, we drove up a small dirt road to the top of a hill. The scenery from the hill was breathtaking, you could see the ocean and acres of farmland all around. It was so peaceful you could just imagine sitting on the deck enjoying the cool breeze and the sound of the ocean.

Ocean View From Montañita

We stopped for lunch at a small town called Montañita, which turned out to be quite an interesting little town. It was mostly populated by young people selling their hand made wares on the streets which are lined with seafood carts, hotels, restaurants, bars and shops. The town is very popular with the surfers and looked to be quite the party place.

A Street In Montañita

After lunch we headed back to Guayaquil where Carlos dropped us off at our hotel. It had been a long day and we all turned in at the very embarrassing hour of 8:30 p.m. We had to be at the airport at 4:20 in the morning in order to catch our early morning flight back to the States.