Monday, November 14, 2011

Keeping Ahead Of The Pack

It is 7:00 am in the morning and I am sitting in the "Surgery Center" waiting on Rod to have cataract surgery on his right eye. Two weeks ago the cataracts were removed from his left eye and after years of impaired vision he is now seeing 20/20 out of that eye, amazing! As strange as it may seem that I am blogging while in the waiting room, I grab time wherever I can find it.  Finally I have some time to reflect on the past several weeks and hopefully pull my thoughts together.

Buster Offers His Sympathy As Rod Recuperates

Once again the Ecuador property is under the sole supervision of Estevan and Carlos. Sometime in the near future, Bob will be returning to oversee the project, but until then, we are running the project by the seat of our pants and of course from another country. Even though we have been doing it this way from the beginning, this time proves to be a little more unnerving then the previous months as we are now down to the finish work and every aspect of each project is so crucial.

 We Chose To Fill In The Lines Between The Bricks With 
Additional Mortar To Make The Walls Look Old As If They
Had Been There For Hundreds Of Years

Laying Down On The Job In This Case Is O.K.

Carlos and Estevan do a fabulous job, but none the less if we were tackling this project on our own turf, we would be there everyday, overseeing every detail of the project and making changes as needed. We do not have that luxury though and we often have to take big leaps of faith and hope that things will turn out as we envision. This project has proved to be an exercise in patience and grace. I think we have all learned along the way to breathe a little and not be so fixated on perfection. I have even learned to appreciate the difference in the workmanship and techniques from what we are used to in the States. Learning to go with the flow is a definite advantage in this situation.

Looking Down To The Back Courtyard From The Terrace

Our New Brick Floor Around The 2nd Floor That Overlooks The First Courtyard

The Brick Hallway Connecting The Two Balconies On The Second Floor

Here at home we are used to going to the nearest Home Depot or Lowes, picking out what we need for the project at hand, having it cut to size while we wait and walking out of the store with it. So many building materials in the States are prefabricated and a lot of the work has already been done before it even reaches the store. You can walk into any home improvement store and pretty much walk out with a complete door, window, cabinet, counter top, shelving, etc. This is not the case in Ecuador. All of the lumber has to be cut and planed by the workers. If the board they need isn't big enough, then they must glue two boards together. There is a very limited selection of prefab materials in Cuenca to speak of and there for the majority of most things are hand made.

Handmade Windows

Newly Stained Wainscotting

This way of doing things presents advantages as well as disadvantages. The advantage is that many of the building materials are of higher quality as they are solid wood versus particle board or other prefab materials. Another advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it is that the skilled workers spend a lot of time making sure everything is done to perfection as they are having to do everything by hand, no shortcuts allowed. The obvious disadvantage is the time factor, but that is compensated by  the lower pay rate.

Our Bathroom With Slate Walls And Floors

 A huge hurdle that we have had to overcome is trying to keep with the style of the house. We must build almost everything from scratch. Almost all of our cabinets, closet shelving systems, flooring, windows, ceilings, and counter tops will be hand made. There are some ready made fixtures in Cuenca, but for the most part the style is very modern and would not be in keeping with the house.

The Back Courtyard Floor

Another Angle Of The Back Courtyard Floor

This week Carlos emailed to let us know that the carpenters were getting ready to start building our kitchen cabinets. The mere thought of this sent me into a panic as I realized that there were no plans to work by, only verbal instructions, a rough sketch and one picture of the style we liked. This weekend I feverishly set out to measure the cabinets I have in my current kitchen, make notes of the dimensions I would like changed and quickly shot off an email to Carlos to convey my thoughts to the carpenters. After seeing how the carpenters dealt with the crooked wall when building my bookshelves, I now wonder if the kitchen wall is crooked (which we all know it is), will the carpenters compensate by making an angled cabinet? If this is the case, I will breathe deeply and once again chalk it up to character.

Rod's Very Large Stove Hood

In spite of all of the little glitches and the fact that not everything is as you had envisioned, you have to catch your breath and remember that the house has a myriad of individual interpretations built into the design and in the end that is what gives it its unique character. After all, even if they're physically on the job everyday, is anyone ever completely 100% satisfied with the outcome of their design choices when building their house? We've built and remodeled our fair share of houses in our time and there have always been things we wished we had done differently. Just think of all the stories we will have to tell once this is all complete.


  1. It's looking gorgeous. Are you near the stadium? I could see huge lights in the background. I appreciate your patience and attention to detail.

  2. what a glorious and fun post luv;) i adore the photo of you and hubs about to duke it out over the football game:) that is classic! i also want to comment on each picture-you are gorgeous, the wedding photos are magnificent, your year looks like lots of fun, and your bows are just well too cute!Alexandria apartments

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