Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Battle Ecuador

This past weekend Rod, Lindsay and I went to see an action packed movie called “Battle Los Angeles” It was basically a story of a Marine platoon that faces off against an alien invasion in Los Angeles. The platoon runs into what seems like insurmountable obstacles at every turn, losing good men along the way. I can’t say I cared much for the movie, but it did give me the idea for this weeks post title.

Ever since we returned home after our last trip to Ecuador it has been an uphill battle with the property project. One of the first things we did when we got to Cuenca was shop around for another architect in order to get competing bids and to make sure that we were absolutely getting the best deal we could without compromising the work. Ultimately at the end of the day we decided that for several reasons, the architects we were currently working with were the best choice for us.

A Rendering Of What The Back Of The House
Will Look Like From The Garden Area

Much of our stay in Cuenca was devoted to fact finding and negotiations. We spent countless hours going over the plans and discussing with the architects how we wanted things designed. We spent a couple of days just looking at tile, flooring, fixtures and lighting. We talked about bringing our things over in a container versus downsizing considerably and only bringing what we can fit into suitcases. In the end we agreed it was best for us to ship a container, especially since we have such a huge space to fill.

Many Of The Building Materials Are Cheaper In The States.
We Will Be Loading Up Our Suitcases With Electrical Items
And Carrying Them To Ecuador.

There was a lot of discussion about costs of materials, labor and fees. It was  a battle to get any of the architects to give us a bid on the project so we would at least be able to put together a budget. No one seemed to want to commit to a bid, but we refused to move forward until we had one. Just days before we were to return to the States we were finally given bids and we were able to make our choices.

What Was Under The Ceilings In The Butler’s Pantry Yuk!
See The New Ceilings Further Down The Page

We met our architects at the San Juan Hotel one evening so that we could show them the overall look that we were going for.We had a very long meeting going over the bid line by line and detail by detail, making sure we fully understood what we would be charged for. A word of warning...budgets and bids in Ecuador do not work the same as they do in the U.S. and contracts are a rarity. Even though we thought we had everything worked out and agreed upon, when we returned home once again things started to change.

Rod Couldn’t Stand The Suspense And Had to See What Was Under
The Column Facade. We Were Excited To Discover An Old Round Column Underneath With The Original Green Paint.

One thing we did decide upon while we were in Ecuador was that we needed someone at the house constantly overseeing the project, taking inventory of materials orders and making sure everything goes as it is supposed to...well at least close to what it is supposed to. Carlos had expressed an interest in this position, so we were happy to take him up on it. Carlos knows our expectations, he is bilingual, lives in Cuenca and has many connections and after everything we have been through together we now consider him family.

Mom Trying To Clean Up After Rod

Now that we have been home awhile we have already had numerous battles with the architect via Skype. Have you ever conferenced called on Skype with seven different people at once? It can get pretty hairy, especially when everyone is trying to talk at once and two different languages are being spoken. A conversation that would have normally taken an hour in person takes at least two if not more via Skype. Several nights a week we would hold our pow wows over the internet and end the night mentally drained and exhausted. If anyone has ever built or remodeled a house they know what I’m talking about. It’s hard enough in person much less in another country over the internet.

The Workers That Made Our Canales Did A Great Job.
Downspouts Will be Added.

The first phase of our project (the rooftop terrace and a portion of the ceilings) are nearing an end. Mom, Rod and I will be returning at the first part of May to prepare for the second phase, which will be plumbing and electrical. This will be when the house looks its worst as channels will be cut into the adobe walls to run the conduit and our floors will be pulled up in order to run the plumbing. Needless to say despite the daily barrage of photos that we receive from Carlos documenting the daily progress, it will still be tense the first time we walk back into the house and get to actually see the progression first hand.

We Had Already Decided To Replace The Wood Flooring Throughout The House And The Carpenter Wasn’t To Pleased That We Insisted On Using The Wood Floors To Make The New Ceilings Instead Of Buying Him New Wood. The Crew Was Pulling Up Flooring From Everywhere And Almost Ran Out At The End.

In Order To Keep As Many of The Original Elements As Possible, We Came Up With The Idea Of Re-Purposing The Wood Flooring And Using It On The Ceilings. After It Is Stained It Is Absolutely Beautiful And A Big Money Saver.

It looks like after the terrace is finished and our plans are approved, we will
become our own contractors and hire workers and carpenters on an individual as needed basis. Our luck with architects thus far has not been to fruitful and the stress level may end up putting us in the hospital where we will never get to enjoy our Ecuador house.

This Is Hard Manual Labor, Hoisting A Few Bricks Up At A Time To Build The Walls On The Terrace.

Hoisting The Cement A Bucket At A Time To The Terrace

Pouring The Cement On The Terrace A Bucket At A Time

Laying The Foundation For The Terrace

For those of you hanging on the edge of your seat. It is now official. Our house is not the Arch Bishops house. The Arch Bishop lived next door and his brother who was a priest lived in our house. Still makes a good story. Unfortunately we still do not know the whereabouts of our alter piece. It went missing sometime after our September trip and has not been seen since. Mom and I are just sick over losing our alter as it was such an important part of the house and we had to fight to have it sold with the house in the first place. Sigh...another battle another day.

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