Monday, February 27, 2012

No Gory Details

We arrived in Cuenca on Friday and in spite of our questionable cargo, we made it through without incident. Quite the contrary of past trips, this one had barely a hick up. Assuming this time would be no different than the others we had anticipated long lines at the airports and then the dreaded customs checks. We were sure that we would be the ones to cause quite the commotion in Customs with our suitcases laden with rocks and plumbing supplies.

Much to our surprise we raised more eyebrows in our home town of Huntsville than in Quito. I was pulled aside for a check of my carry on luggage, it was the faucet that set off the red light, I suppose it looked like a pipe bomb as it was a long cylinder shaped faucet. Once security got into my bag they also discovered the rocks wrapped in plastic. The outside of the package was dusted with something and placed into a machine, once the machine beeped that everything was O.K. I was handed my bag and off we went.

When we arrived in Quito, we were pleasantly surprised by an extremely short line in customs. As we breezed through, we then held our breaths knowing the worst was yet to come. As we prepared to navigate the zig zag line through security a lady waived us through to the side of the line. What no bag checks? No 50 questions? No looks of disbelief when we explained that we were renovating a property in Cuenca? Be still my heart!

When we arrived at our hotel, I opened the suitcases to retrieve a few things for the night and found a pre printed card inside that explained that our suitcase had been opened and inspected prior to our arrival at Customs. No explanation necessary, now I just wish they could do that every time.

Friday afternoon we caught a taxi from our hotel to the airport and proceeded to check in for our flight to Cuenca. O.K. we knew something had to go wrong. As we were walking away from the ticket counter after having checked our bags, the agent called us back and pointed at one of our suitcases. It seems that the multiple trips we have made with our housewares has taken a toll on the luggage and I'm sure the rocks were the crowning glory. The zipper was broken and there was about a 3" gap that wouldn't close. So in order to get our bag on the plane, off we went, suitcase in tow to have it wrapped in plastic at the suitcase wrapping kiosk. Wow! $10.00 to get your suitcase wrapped in some plastic, we're in the wrong business.

Time For New Luggage

In spite of the little things this was by far the most uneventful trip we have ever had, what a relief. Carlos was there to pick us up in Cuenca. Of course the first order of business was to go to one of our favorite restaurants for lunch. Esteban was able to join us and as I was watching the pedestrian traffic through the window, I spied Mom, Bob and their friend Suzy walking down the street. I ran outside to flag them down and even though they had just finished lunch, they were able to join us for a bit and catch up.

After lunch we went to the house to see the progress. Carlos pulled up in front of the house and I didn't even recognize it. We have beautiful new wood doors now, the ugly metal rolling door is gone and the whole front of the house is primed in white. Even with nothing more than primer it looks a 100 times better.

Looking Good

The inside is coming along nicely and everything looks beautiful, but there is still a lot left to be done. Our mission this trip is to speed up the process and cut costs. Rod and I spent the better part of the day making a detailed punch list for our side and creating color coded spread sheets for the workers. Afterwards we met up with friends and had a lovely dinner at "The Secret Garden". Rod and I were discussing how amazed we were at how many Americans we are now seeing in Cuenca. There seems to be more every time we come. The plane from Houston to Quito was probably at least 3/4 Americans and there must have been 60 or more Americans at the dinner we attended.

I thought it would be fun to show some pictures of the place we are staying, so that you can see what you can get in Cuenca for the money. We are staying in the same apartment building that we have occupied several times in the past, only this time Rod and I are in one apartment and Mom and Bob are in another. Basically you pay $500.00 a month no matter if you stay two, three or four weeks it's the same price (still cheaper than a hotel). The apartments are very plain, but clean and each one is equipped with a basic kitchen. The location for us can't be beat as it is within walking distance of the house and centrally located to everything. The only drawback is that it can be quite noisy. There is no maid service and no front desk or concierge so you are pretty much on your own, but it is a nice alternative to a hotel and very convenient.

One Of The Bedrooms

Adequate Closet Space, But The T.V. Doesn't Have Any Cable Cords

Beautiful View From The Bedroom Window

One Of The Bathrooms

The Kitchen

The Dining Area

Our first night in the apartment was a Friday night, the busiest night in Cuenca. The bedrooms are right on the street, so we could hear every conversation, the traffic, the typical car alarms and even the crossing signal with its endless chirping all night long. The next day Rod came up with the genius idea to pull the two twin mattresses off of the bed frames and drag them into the living room where they are pushed together to make a king size mattress. We close the bedroom doors at night and slumber on our makeshift bed on the floor of the living room being lulled to sleep by the drone of the refrigerator compressor, much better than the street noise. Now if only the mattresses weren't like laying on bricks.

Our Makeshift Bed


  1. Are you from Huntsville, Alabama?

  2. Oops....I should have read more carefully. What business do you own in Huntsville? I live nearby (Decatur). I would love to talk to you sometime about Cuenca, if possible.

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