Friday, May 30, 2014

He's leaving me! Just kidding...somewhat

Stu leaves tomorrow to head back to Maryland for the birth of his youngest's baby girl. She is due June 4th, hoping she can wait for him to arrive LATE Sunday night. I can't wait to see little Waverly, so glad we have both Facetime and Skype working.

He plans to stay about three weeks but that is open ended until the baby is born and both mother and daughter are okay. He'll see the rest of his family and friends while there.

He's already "muling" back a lot of items that we have ordered, including my laser printer. Lots of long sleeved shirts, a few fleece vests, some food items we can't get here, etc.

Last night I read about a $200 off special on the 13" MacBook Pro and we pulled the trigger on TWO of them. Not sure he'll be able to bring both back but we hope so since we have read we can bring one new and one used computer back into Ecuador. The nice thing is for $300 more, each, than the base model I was going to buy, we get twice the memory and quadruple the disk space.

Happy campers...well, for now. The learning curve may be interesting. I've already started a list of comparable software for the programs I use, have to get back to that now so I'm prepared.

Most of the time he is gone I will be working on book three of my Klondike Mystery Novels. If you haven't read them yet, might want to grab the first one, Not a Whisper, and see how you like it. You'll also want to download the FREE Klondike Kompanion, interviews with some of the characters.

I'll leave with a shot of two adorable little girls who posed for us at Mall del Rio a while ago. The kids here are so gorgeous, dark eyes and wide smiles!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Perfect day for a walk....

Yesterday was a perfect day for a walk and now that the construction on the new bridge is done, we can walk all the way to Solano, about a mile. We are about in the middle between Solano and Las Americas Avenidas, approximately a mile in either direction from our house.

Stu has been walking this the last couple of days and today I was ready to join him, my "frozen" spots no longer bothering me much. The sun was out, there was a little breeze and we headed off. Stu kept a good pace while I stopped for flower sniffing and photos.

The river was running rapidly but that didn't stop a lady from doing her laundry. There were families in spots here and there, relaxing, fishing, cooking and "spooning". Lots of bicycles enjoying the trail as well as dog walkers.

About 2/3 of the way to Solano there is a park with exercise equipment for all ages. Stu made the rounds while he waited for me to catch up to finish trekking to Solano. On the way back I took even more photos and he continued walking past the house till he saw me coming and turned around. NICE 45 minute walk on a beautiful day...only downside is when we got home we really thought about how nice it would be to have an outside terrace or balcony. Hmmmm.....

Here are some of the photos - click to enlarge and see all 90+ in our SmugMug album.

Till next time...Ciao!

May 25 2014: Sunday Sundry Photo

Ecuador's Version of the Fuller Brush Man

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

First Cuenca doctor visit....Dermatologist

Our health has been good so we haven't taken time to make any doctor appointments although we have chosen a primary care physician for when that day comes. His name is Dr. Anthony Guillen and he speaks excellent English, with a New York accent (according to the expats that have used him).

But due to 30 years spent living in Florida with over 20 of those in pre-sunscreen years, I have a few spots that needed looking at. I've had several excisions, biopsies and freezings done in the past few years so was pleased to find a dermatologist here in Cuenca who came recommended AND speaks English.

Today was my appointment and I arrived about 10 minutes early. His office is at the Hospital Santa Inés, a quick $2 taxi ride from our house. A beautiful facility, I walked to up to the reception and asked directions. I even understood them - well, except for the part about going up the stairs so when I got to the end of the hallway, I had to ask again. There is a nice waiting area, a huge pharmacy as you enter, a small cafeteria and everything is clean and neat.

I quickly found Dr. Abrosi's office and sat in the chairs outside with the others already waiting. He arrived promptly at ten, unlocked and called in the first patient.

Shortly after he called in the second patient, a young lady came and collected me to register. I had missed that step...LOL! She asked for my cedula and contact information (I have that pre-printed on a card). I registered and pre-paid, $30 for the consult.

Back to the chairs to wait, I was the next called in. Dr. Ambrosi remembered I spoke English and had emailed him. We sat down and he asked several medical history questions before proceeding with the exam which was extremely thorough, he didn't miss a spot - even checking between my toes!

End result, I go back on Thursday to get my spots frozen. All are benign but this insures they won't turn cancerous. They do this on Thursdays and Saturdays in the building across the street. That visit should run about $20.

I definitely recommend Dr. Ambrosi for anyone needed attention from a dermatologist. He is cautious, caring and will answer your questions clearly.

Dr. Juan Ambrosi, Dermatologist
Clínica - Hospital Santa Inés
Consultorio: 106
Horario de atención: Previa cita
Dirección: Av. Daniel Córdova y Agustín Cueva
Teléfono del consultorio: (593 7) 2827888 ext. 2106
Teléfono celular: 099 925 2657
email: jjambrosi @
UPDATE: Today I went to get the spots frozen. At this clinic you sign in and get a number. If you are way down on the list, like I was (#25), you can leave and come back. Or you can stay and wait, which is what I did. I brought my Kindle reader to keep me busy for the 90 minute wait. The doctor sprayed all the spots while the three attendents listened to him talking about my Route 66 motorcycle trip. What a hoot! Done in ten minutes and the charge? Nothing, zero, zilch....

A new bus experience...

Every bus trip is an adventure but some are more so than others. We had heard about the phenomenon of young folks getting on the bus to entertain, asking for tips, but we hadn't seen it.

We had seen the street jugglers, dancers (Argentine Tango in the middle of an intersection at a red light), unicycle riders and more, all wrangling for tips.. But last week we got serenaded...very nicely, too!

A 20-something man accompanied by the same age woman who was carrying a small dog got on board and said something loudly in Spanish. He then proceeded to play his well worn guitar with her occasional accompaniment. We enjoyed it and did give them a small tip before they got off a few stops down the road.

Always something interesting here....

Monday, May 19, 2014

Keeping You and Yours Safe From Fire, Smoke, Carbon Monoxide and Flammable Gas

Keeping You and Yours Safe From Fire, Smoke, Carbon Monoxide and Flammable Gas while living Cuenca, Ecuador
(or anywhere on the planet)

I'm talking about some of the things you can do to protect your family in case of fire, gas leaks and carbon monoxide exposure (CO). I will discuss these items from my perspective as a US Fire fighter. I spent 31 years working for the Anne Arundel County(MD) Fire Department, retiring as a Division Chief. Two of those were spent overseeing the The Office of Fire Safety and Injury Prevention Education. While much of this information will come from that perspective and lacking any readily available Ecuadorian resource, all this information is highly applicable to our living situation here in Cuenca or anywhere else for that matter.

There are 3 things you can do to reduce your exposure to a hazardous condition:

  1. Isolate the hazard - If it is far away the chance of injury and death is reduced. How far will depend on the hazard.
  2. Protect or shield the hazard - The protection will depend on the nature of the hazard and it's container. Often this can be done via "brute force" ie. building an enclosure, storage away from potential impact etc.
  3. Detect and alarm - This is the case with Smoke Alarms. In our homes it would be difficult if not impossible to prevent every potential fire hazard, gas leak and or CO condition. So the prudent thing to do would be to install appropriate alarms to warn of the hazard before it becomes deadly.

Protecting you and yours from Fire and Smoke

Did you Know? …
Every day in the United States 1,500 homes catch on fire. Each year 4,500 people die and 280,000 are injured in residential fires. The majority of fire deaths occur at night, while everyone is asleep. Adequate smoke alarms along with an escape plan, are a necessity to provide sufficient early warning in case of a fire.

The rate of death in Ecuador is slightly higher then the US.
US - 0.9 per 10,000
Ecuador - 1.1 per 10,000

How do alarms operate?
There are two types of alarms:
  • Ionization - A radioactive material is used to ionize the air in the sensing chamber. Smoke entering the chamber activates the alarm.
  • Photo Electric - Works much like an electric eye on an automatic door. When smoke enters the chamber, the electric eye sees it, which activates the alarm.
How are they powered?
  • Battery – The easiest to install because they do not require any connection to the home’s electrical system. The challenge with these alarms is they require the battery to be replaced periodically for the unit to work.
  • A/C Hard Wired without battery – These alarms are wired directly to the homes electrical system. These alarms do not operate if there is a power outage.
  • AC hard Wired with battery backup – this is the best way an alarm can be powered. If the battery dies, it will still be powered by the home’s electrical system. And if there is a power failure, the battery will continue to operate the alarm.

How should they be installed?
Follow the manufacturers recommendations on proper placement. Avoid areas within 6 inches of where the ceiling meets the wall. The smoke will rise along the wall and curve to the ceiling delaying or never activating the alarm.

Proper Maintenance:
  1. Check the power supply once a month by pressing the test button
  2. Change the battery at least once a year
  3. Remove cobwebs, insect, or dust by vacuuming at least every six months

What is the life span of a smoke alarm?
Smoke alarms should be replaced every ten years. Smoke alarms should also be replaced when they beep periodically and cannot be corrected by replacing the battery or vacuuming to remove the dust and cobwebs. (Source: the Anne Arundel County(MD) Fire Department Web Site)

Additional information on this and other fire-safety topics can be found at:
  • USFA (U.S. Fire Administration)
  • NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)
  • CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission)
  • Wikipedia

Getting out and Staying out

When the alarm sounds it's vital to react, get out and stay out until the area is safe to return. Sounds simple, right? But let's add some real life here! We often put off things we should do until we feel an imminent pressure of some kind, particularly when we do not perceive a real threat. This seems to be the all too often case with preparing for a fire in our home. We'll just address the issue should the fire occur and figure it out then. This can be greatly exacerbated when levels of CO are present and affect our normal cognition to the point of no longer perceiving any danger. Basically - YOU DIE!

Every living space should have at least 2 means of escape. For most situations, one of those would be the normal way you enter and leave your home. But what if the fire is between you and that exit? What then? Are you going to "figure it out then"? or use your other means of escape. I can't tell you what that other means might be, you have figure that out yourself. But I can give you some ideas and let you apply as appropriate to your situation.
  1. Windows, can they be opened, big enough or breaking them (tell kids it's OK in an emergency)
  2. Escape ladder for use on floors above ground level
  3. Other doors/paths to the outside
  4. Fire escapes
  5. Protect in place maybe a possibility, keep the door closed, stay low and signal the outside, (sheet or towel out the window.)
  6. Elevators are NOT an option, many will take you directly to the fire floor (DEADLY)

If you get caught in a fire situation, survival is your top priority. You should:

  • If the door handle is hot, don’t open it
  • Go to a window and call for help
  • If the handle is not hot, open cautiously
  • Check for smoke or fire before going out
  • Don’t take time to phone before leaving
  • Get out and find a phone

  • Knock on doors as you leave
  • Yell “FIRE!” as you leave
  • Don’t hesitate or stray from your path as you leave
  • Thick smoke can make it impossible to see
  • Toxic chemicals from smoke can be deadly in minutes
  • You may help keep the fire from spreading
  • You may protect your possessions from fire and smoke damage

Plan your escape and practice it with the entire family.
Source: USFA

Some Smoke Alarms available at KIWI and other Cuenca stores

Propane Safety
Propane or LP gas is colorless and odorless. For safety reasons propane is required to be odorized as to indicate positively, by distinct odor, the presence of gas in air down to a concentration of not over 1/5th the lower level of flammability 0.4% in air. It is heavier than air and, without winds, will seek low areas and accumulate. Propane tanks should always be stored in a well ventilated area away from sources of ignition. (open flames, pilot light, sparks etc)

Propane tanks

In the US, OPDs(Overfill Prevention Devices) are required on all propane cylinders between 4 and 40 pounds propane capacity. These device prevent overfilling of containers and thus reduce the possibility of gas escaping should the pressure exceed normal limits. Pressure within the tank will increase when the tank is heated as when exposed to increases in ambient temperature (sunlight). THIS IS NOT the case in EC. It's up to the person doing the filling to avoid the overfilling Therefore steps should be taken to assure LP tanks are not exposed to excess ambient temperatures. Here in Cuenca the biggest issue would be storage in direct sun and should be avoided as much as possible.

All LP devices in the US are regulated and if properly installed and maintained are very reliable. Here in EC it has been my observation that the regulations and enforcement of such range from little to non-existent. So much is left up to one to be vigilant about the condition of your system.

Leaks, even small ones can cause fires and explosions. Most common leaks are found at the connection of the regulator to the tank. You can smell the odorant of most leaks but may not be able to locate it precisely enough to know what to fix or replace. You can use a soapy water mixture to apply to the suspected area and look for bubbles. I mix a 25/75 dish detergent/water solution and load it in a spray bottle and spray the area while looking for bubbles. Check all connections and areas where the hose passes through anything, abrasion can cause leaks as well. If I can't fix the leak, I shut down the system and call for a professional. 


Under some circumstances, you may not smell a propane leak. Propane gas detectors are designed to sound an alarm if they sense the presence of propane. Their operation does not depend on the concentration of odorant in the air, just the propane concentration at the detector.

We recommend that you consider installing one or more propane gas detectors. This is important if you or others in your home have difficulty smelling propane, or if appliances are in little-used areas in your home where the smell of propane might not be detected. Detectors can provide an additional measure of security.

DETECTOR QUALITY IS IMPORTANT. Be sure the units you buy are listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). To be sure propane gas detectors operate properly, install and maintain them as the manufacturer recommends.

TRUST YOUR NOSE. Never ignore the smell of propane, even if no detector is sounding an alarm to signal the presence of propane. However, if a detector is sounding an alarm, treat it as an emergency and act immediately, even if you do not smell the propane.

CHECK YOUR PROPANE SYSTEM. Even if you install gas detectors, have a qualified service technician inspect your propane system and propane appliances periodically.

Gas detectors are available at many stores in Cuenca

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
I'll discuss Carbon Monoxide(CO) here as well in that when using LP appliances CO will be produced. CO is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that is produce whenever a material burns without an adequate supply of oxygen. While many LP appliances burn relatively clean it is virtually impossible to prevent CO formation outside of a Lab. Therefore, all LP appliance should be considered to have a potential for creating conditions the can produce a deadly amount of CO.

CO will replace the oxygen carrying ability of your blood. This condition can and does cause death.

Because "Stuff Happens", it is wise to purchase and install appropriate detector/alarms for LP gas leaks as well as CO conditions.

The biggest culprit in Ecuador seems to be the calphones. Our "energy" saving water heaters. many are installed inside building to prevent theft. If not properly vented, CO will be released in the building and potentially reaching levels that can make you very ill or kill you. This appears to be what happen to a family in Quito recently and is the reason I am writing this blog.

What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. High levels of CO inhalation can cause loss of consciousness and death. Unless suspected, CO poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other illnesses. People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from CO poisoning before ever experiencing symptoms.

How does CO poisoning work?
Red blood cells pick up CO quicker than they pick up oxygen. If there is a lot of CO in the air, the body may replace oxygen in blood with CO. This blocks oxygen from getting into the body, which can damage tissues and result in death. CO can also combine with proteins in tissues, destroying the tissues and causing injury and death.

Who is at risk from CO poisoning?All people and animals are at risk for CO poisoning. Certain groups — unborn babies, infants, and people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or respiratory problems — are more susceptible to its effects. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized due to CO poisoning. Fatality is highest among Americans 65 and older.

How can I prevent CO poisoning from my home appliances?

  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters (catalytic) indoors. Although these heaters don't have a flame, they burn gas and can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper.
  • If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator's cooling unit have an expert service it. An odor from the cooling unit of your gas refrigerator can mean you have a defect in the cooling unit. It could also be giving off CO.
  • When purchasing gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as the CSA GroupExternal Web Site Icon.
  • Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.

How do I vent my gas appliances properly?

  • All gas appliances must be vented so that CO will not build up in your home, cabin, or camper.
  • Never burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn't vented.
  • Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris. This can cause CO to build up inside your home or cabin.
  • Never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or something else. This kind of patch can make CO build up in your home, cabin, or camper.
  • Horizontal vent pipes to fuel appliances should not be perfectly level. Indoor vent pipes should go up slightly as they go toward outdoors. This helps prevent CO or other gases from leaking if the joints or pipes aren't fitted tightly.

Safe Way to Connect Heating Equipment to the Chimney

How can I heat my house safely or cook if the power is out?

  • Never use a gas range or oven for heating. Using a gas range or oven for heating can cause a build up of CO inside your home, cabin, or camper.
  • Never use a charcoal grill or a barbecue grill indoors. Using a grill indoors will cause a build up of CO inside your home, cabin, or camper unless you use it inside a vented fireplace.
  • Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal — red, gray, black, or white — gives off CO.
  • Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors. Using a gas camp stove indoors can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper.
  • Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window, door, or vent.

How can I avoid CO poisoning from my vehicle?

  • Have a mechanic check the exhaust system of my car every year. A small leak in your car's exhaust system can lead to a build up of CO inside the car.
  • Never run a car or truck in the garage with the garage door shut. CO can build up quickly while your car or truck is running in a closed garage. Never run your car or truck inside a garage that is attached to a house and always open the door to any garage to let in fresh air when running a car or truck inside the garage.
  • If you drive a vehicle with a tailgate, when you open the tailgate, you also need to open vents or windows to make sure air is moving through your car. If only the tailgate is open CO from the exhaust will be pulled into the car.

CO detectors are available at KIWI and other store in Cuenca. This one happens to do both CO and Gas detection.

That my story, hope this will assist you in making your Ecuador Home safer. I will gladly answer any questions you may have as best I can. I think you can find most answers in links I provided above.

Stay safe my friends!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Saturday, May 17, 2014

More MUNDANE things and more FRIENDS!

As we headed to the bus stop yesterday, we saw the local dog walker. He does an amazing job with his variety of pups. We've seen him with a wide variety of dogs, the first time he had four Siberian Husky pups!

On our way to meet folks for lunch we had time to spare so stopped in a little artisan shop, one we had been in before. The wife runs it and her husband is the artist. There is something for everyone there...we bought this gorgeous plate, all set for hanging. The name of the shop is Cerámica Galaxcy and it's on Calle Large 5-42 y 5-44. She is delightful, speaks very slowly to help us understand, told us that touristas were her main business. We were still early for lunch so I waited for our friends to arrive and Stu walked down to Nucallata for more dark coffee beans.

Lunch was where we met two more folks, Tom and Mark, on their second exploratory visit to Cuenca. I think they are pretty close to making the leap into early retirement! We met at a little spot we hadn't tried before, Elias Restaurante and Bar. They serve a mix of Latin, Cuban and Carribean food. Everything was delicious!!! Tom brought his MacBook Pro for me to take a look at. Can't wait to finally get mine.... This is just some of the food, I forgot to take photos of the soups. We will go back, delicious!

We also had another wonderful encounter while in El Centro, think this was on Wednesday. On our last trip here, I bought a little copper hummingbird as a souvenir. The artisan was a true craftsman but it took him calling on a friend who then went a got a local high school boy to translator before we could conclude the sale. This time the friend came by just as we were leaving, we had managed just fine. He was so proud, and rightly so, of his work and now he is working in silver as well as copper.

I bought another little humming bird to sit by my desk...he carefully wrapped it, put it in a little box and then ran to the back to get me a little gift bag for it! The final straw was when he ran across the street to tell us that we needed to go to the corner for the bus, after he watched it pass us by. True gentleman...we will revisit often. Now I know where it is! The artisan is Marco Machado and his shop is AHUACUNA Tejieno en el Camino, Juan Montalvo 7-86 y Sucre

This was the hummingbird we bought a year ago...hard to see the colors though.

These are from this visit...

It's been a great week...and the week isn't over yet! We are meeting Tom & Mark again tomorrow at Popacuchu, our favorite spot to introduce to new folks.
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