Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cedula cards obtained. . . What We're Doing Now

Has it been that long since an update from us?  Looks like it has!  Oh, boy, where to begin. . . (smile)

As we have begun to reestablish contacts with our Cuencano/Cuencana friends, we have been blessed by the Lord in a number of ways.  For starters, now that we have our Resident Visas in hand, we were finally able to procure our Ecuadorian National Identification cards, our Cedula cards.  We emailed our Facilitator in Quito some pertinent information that is found on the cards, and sent him our US Passports again - for the fourth time in the entire process from start to finish - and received them back within a few days with a couple of official documents needed for processing the Cedula cards.  We also had to supply copies of our first page of our US Passports, as well as copies of our new Indefinido Visas just obtained that were recently processed by the Ministario de Relaciones Exteriores.  Oh, and pay $40 total for the two of us for processing the Cedula cards at Registro Civil, located on one of the streets, as it turned out, that we had stayed while tourists last year at a very nice vacation condo we enjoyed.

From start to finish, obtaining our Cedulas took a total of two calendar weeks. . . a far cry from all that we previously endured in getting our Visas!

Registro Civil is far better than visiting a DMV office in California.  There are similarities, to be sure, but there are helpful differences.  Registro Civil, by the way, is where you go to register birth, marriage, and death certificates besides obtaining ID cards which the Cedula card is, of course.  One of the good differences is that there's no waiting line there.  Our legal receptionist, Merci, let us know that up to a few years ago Registro Civil had no seats to sit on and also had waiting lines outside the front door that were long and not well managed.  We were glad to sit on the nicely contoured seats and not have to wait in much of any lines (two of 'em).  Pretty nice deal if you ask me.  Nice modern clean office, too. 

They're modern in technological ways, too.  You'd see if you were there the television screens saying in Spanish - of course - "Now serving S24" or words similar.  Just like the California DMV does with a queuing system just like we were already used to.  Same robotic female type voice, too.  The guards assist in shouting out the service update numbers so that the clients are properly informed. . . you won't be passed over for service if your hearing is intact. 

I went to my station with documents in hand and answered a few questions about where I lived and if everything on the application was correct.  I said we live in a different sector - neighborhood - than what they listed, and they changed it, no fuss.  I then got my photo taken (two attempts) - no criminal mug shot, this - but you have to close your mouth for the photo by the clerk's own direction.  That's Latin America for you.  Then back to my seat to wait to obtain my new Cedula card. 

Carolyn Anne went through the same process with a different clerk (can't wear glasses for the photo, by the way) but due to technological problems with the computer software she got delayed in getting her information entered.  This likely ended up in getting her card taking longer to process and make, as I got my card from the next station earlier than she did.  We had to patiently wait one more time once again for about 45 minutes due to the technological snafu, but she did get it.  You have to look over the card and make sure the information is all correct, then you hand the card back to the clerk, who activates the computer chip embedded in the Cedula card, and you're good to go!

The end result is a Cedula card that is in color, with fingerprint, thick and durable.  You *don't* want to lose this card, as it can be a hassle to replace it, from what I have been told by our legal receptionist and other fellow expats here.  We've made copies already, and will be using them instead, laminating them to look like the real thing and keeping the originals in our safekeeping.  You use the original Cedula cards for things like flying out of the country and so forth.  For every day activities, use the copies.  That's what the majority of Cedula card holders do, anyways. 

Process over!  !Gracias adios!  (and help from our abogados at Coloaustro and our Facilitator Joseph Guznay as well. . . we couldn't have navigated the whole process of getting our Visas and Cedulas without you.) 

           ***          ***          ***          ***

On the relational front, we have been occupied getting our volunteer/professional lives in some kind of direction and order.  Carolyn Anne has been volunteering at Clinica Hogar, a ministry through Fundacio'n Hogar of our church here in Cuenca, Iglesia Verbo Cristiana.  Her RN nursing skills have not necessarily been used at any kind of high level, but the mundane and tedious support activities she does do, such as organizing and readying medical supplies for later use is ultimately a blessing to those on the staff there.  She is happy to do the little things as well as the big things, and with that kind of flexible attitude, she may enjoy her time spent volunteering there. 

One important aspect of the volunteer work at Clinica Hogar is prayer.  Carolyn Anne engages in prayer with the patients with ease and in a way that assures God's love for them and their family members present.  In Spanish, too. . . or may I say in all likelihood, Spanglish.  She's improving her Spanish language skills day by day, as I am as well.  The improvement in her Spanish is noticeable by those we know, and is of course appreciated by the locals.

I meanwhile have ended up back at "Square One" in my endeavors to obtain a position as a profesor de Ingles at Arco Institute - likewise a ministry of Iglesia Verbo - but not due to anything about me personally.  As it turns out, the Directora of Arco quit her position last Friday.  Whatever agreement she and I had is now history regarding my future employment there in teaching English to students.  I am currently trying to establish contact with the leadership at Verbo to find out who I need to talk to in order to possibly obtain a teaching position there at Arco. 

Meanwhile, on another teaching front, I had made a private agreement to teach English to three girls from one family upon my return from the United States.  *That* effort turned out for naught as well, as the father decided to pursue Arco Institute as the provider for the girls' lessons.  That was, actually, my advice to him before I left for the USA.  So I don't feel particularly bad about the outcome, and the girls are getting quality instruction that includes Internet support during the week via a site online.  I am, however, in possession of a number of ESL/EFL books I purchased Stateside for these girls that are not going to any immediate use at the moment.  We'll have to see how God works that wrinkle out, eh?  $200 worth of books, which includes the cost - Stateside only - of shipping the books to me at a friend's California address.  They'll get used in due time, just don't know when. 

So many new folks - and familiar friends - to see of late, especially through our connections at Iglesia Verbo, and we can't see all of them at once!  We have been in regular communication with some new folks we haven't met previously (except via Gringo Post on the 'Net), Peter and Joan Vaughan, and we were able to host them here at the new Ecuador location of Pilgrim's Rest.  A delightful time of almuerzo - lunch - and conversation about what God is doing on an international scale.  We are blessed to have them here in Cuenca for this season of their lives. 

We have several friends from our Celebrando la Recuperacio'n - Celebrate Recovery - group that meets weekly at Iglesia Verbo as well, and we plan to meet with them on an ongoing basis at group.  They have missed us, and we them.  Due to Carolyn Anne's arthritis flaring up from time to time, we haven't made each meeting since our return to Cuenca, missing one.  As it turned out, the entire group sent us a bunch of flowers with a lovely card letting us know we were loved and missed.  Wow!  We of course didn't miss the next meeting. . . (smile).  Actually, I was told privately in group that I am an example for those in the group, considering my life and my age and health status.  I told them a little more about myself and my life challenges that night. . . so much I could say, but I kept it short, speaking in Spanish of course.  Wonderful folks that the Lord loves more than they may realize.  The honesty and humility shared are a marvel to behold.

We'd love to have almuerzo or cena (lunch or supper) with some of these folks in due time.  We'll see what develops and where the Lord leads in all of this. 

Carolyn Anne maintains connections and visits regularly with some Gringo friends of hers she meets in El Centro (Historic downtown center).  We will be attending a social dinner/dance with that circle of friends later in November.  Already purchased a pavo (turkey) at Coral for Thanksgiving.  Never prepared a turkey here in Ecuador before, and there's sure to be a wrinkle or two in the fixing of that bird.  Not too expensive if you buy it from the store frozen like we did.  I've seen via Gringo Post that some enterprising Gringos are going to have Thanksgiving Day spreads costing around $50 per person on up.  We don't want to blow that kinda money, soooo. . . We'll be here for the big non holiday here in Ecuador that is so well observed in the United States.  Who will we invite for the Thanksgiving Day feast?  We don't know yet!  Stay tuned for what happens next!  (smile)


As I was typing this post, it rained a bit this afternoon as it often does here in Cuenca.  This time, however, I saw a bright multicolored rainbow that soon became a *double* rainbow!  Where it touched land from our vantage point at our condo was in the vicinity of where we had spent so much of the last ten months in obtaining our Visas and Cedulas: the legal district along Calle Juan Peralta south of El Centro, which includes the Corte Judicial where court cases are tried.  The Industrial Office Center building, twenty stories high, modern and with windows gleaming, is in the foreground of that legal district.  The rainbow touched ground just outside that tall building.  Amazing sight to behold! 

You can be sure we took a photo of this scene before it changed on us.  We'll upload it and get it here for you as time and skill permits.  Selah. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Cute Sardines!

I'll explain the phase above in just a bit.  Got your attention, didn't it?  (smile)

We have returned to our Cuenca condo at long last!  All looks familiar. . . except a UPS package delivered here by mistake addressed to a Stephanie someone or other.  Our lovely landlady will return it to UPS "Return to Sender" as she doesn't know who that person is either.  She helped us get the gas water heater fired up correctly as well as our gas oven, too.  She ordered on our behalf for para llevar a good, proper, healthy and nutritious Ecuadorian meal of pork, rice, and soup with salad.  She knew we would need supper but would be too tired to cook!  God's Blessings on her for her unfailing kindness.

The flights on United were on time - a plus - and the LAX to IAH/Houston flight was jam packed with passengers and luggage.  Carolyn Anne wisely gave up her long carry on bag after the ticket agent on duty got on the PA imploring passengers to have them checked with the other checked luggage.  If she had brought it aboard the cabin, she wouldn't have stood a chance of getting it in the overhead bins - they were that jammed up.  We endured -especially me - the middle aisle seats rebooked on very short order.  Carolyn Anne's seat was right behind mine.  My two seatmates promptly went to sleep. . . good thing I didn't need to use the lavatory or anything!  United's seatbelts don't require me to use an extension, which tells me I have kept a good deal of any gained weight from happening. 

United is such a cheap airline anymore.  If you don't have a tablet or other small electronic device, you can't use their free Wifi.  No free food, even peanuts.  At least we got biscotti and peanuts from Delta on the way to LAX while flying them in August!  And no free airline flight tracker/screen like Delta offers.

At Houston, we had an uneventful layover of three hours.  I procured from Wendy's in Concourse E a cheeseburger for me, a small salad for Carolyn Anne, and chili for the both of us.  Last real American food for us for a while.  $18 and change for the tab, which is still more reasonable for food than anything LAX would ever offer food and drink wise.  At LAX two bottled waters cost $3 apiece.  Yikes!  ATL is even more reasonable on food in our recollection, where I got an Arby's Beef and Cheddar for $4, and Panda Express for Carolyn Anne for $8.

We boarded our IAH to UIO flight, which remarkably had half of its Economy Plus seats empty.  Our aisle and middle seat - together - seats were better than the lack of space we endured on the previous flight, which I remarked to our personable and perky flight attendant about as I made a polite request - considering all the monies we had already paid United for these flights.  I was hoping we could stretch out a bit in those vacant Economy Plus seats.

To her credit, upon learning of our original status as First Class passengers, she offered us complimentary alcoholic beverages of our choice.  Of course our answer was "no."  She then explained that due to the passenger manifest being closed, she couldn't allow us to change seats on the fly like that, even though entire rows were empty of passengers in that section.  (One such Economy Plus passenger stretched out and laid herself out to sleep since she was the only passenger for the entire row!)  In case of an accident, or psych case where they have to get the police to arrest the person, they need to know who is sitting where.  If I had made the request before boarding, the answer would likely have been "yes," by the way.  Understood.  She then commented, "But you're a cute sardine !" after I commented again about the lack of seat space in our Economy section.  The comment stuck with me, as I teased the flight attendants about the remark, said in a friendly way, of course.  These are after all still the Friendly Skies of United, even though they continue to offer less and less to the passengers.

Arriving at UIO, we noticed again we had deacclimated to the altitude.  Your heart works harder in an oxygen deprived environment like Quito, and the ramp to the terminal seemed longer than usual to Carolyn Anne.  We got to use our new Visas at Immigration for the first time, too!  So we got a "welcome back!" instead of the standard "!Bienvenidos!" that we always got before.  The Aduanas - Customs - folks were likewise accommodating, and they simply asked what were the contents of our luggage.  They waved us through.

A little slip up: no taxi sign with our name on it once we cleared Customs.  After telephoning our Hostel, Posada Tambuca, we came to understand they slipped up and didn't send anyone for us.  We ended up using the standard taxi service instead, managing to get all six large suitcases and our four carryons into a Nissan Sentra (Ecuador model).  Just enough room, too!  Ecuadorian can-do spirit at work.  Bedtime finally arrived at long last.

When you travel with a nonstandard amount of luggage in Ecuador, like we did with our six large suitcases, your suitcases dictate how you are handled at airports and other terminals, such as the well used and modern Terminal Terreste Quitumbe in the southern part of Quito - the southward destination passenger bus terminal.  We had to buy our tickets, then get our baggage carrier to come with us to the van driven by our Hostel's owner, and then proceed the back way to the terminal boarding area where the bus came to arrive for us as we unloaded the bags.  No time to do other things, even visit the restroom.  I had to stand a while and stop walking for a bit as all the walking was hard on my heart, and Carolyn Anne eventually realized that fact.  Then we continued to the boarding area. 

Due to us getting to the bus terminal earlier than our usual carrier of choice - Express Sucre - was open to sell tickets, we went with Super Taxis Cuenca, which has modern, spacious (for legs, especially) buses.  They didn't have windows that open, and the ventilation system wasn't turned on until four hours into the trip - we repeatedly asked for this to be done by notifying the asisente to the conductor in my perfectly good Spanish.  We didn't suffocate due to lack of oxygen, but it was on the stuffy side, and made me drowsy.  Not a good thing healthwise.

Our amount of luggage dictated what transport we had to take back to our condo upon our arrival at Cuenca's Terminal Terreste.  Space for a driver and two passengers, and the ten pieces of luggage - in total - meant that our luggage carrier had to go to the street curb and get us a large - for Ecuador - industrial looking truck.  $10 charge for its use to our location, which was not an unfair charge considering the size of the stakebed camioneta, and we were home at long last!

These "cute sardines" are snug in their own bed and just glad to be home again after almost two months of traveling and visiting.  Thank you one and all for your prayers for safe travels, and we'll unpack and restart life here again in short order.  Looking forward to meeting some new friends we have made on the 'Net lately, and inviting folks to supper in due time.  We'll keep you posted, as always, God willing of course.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Good News at long last: our permanent Ecuadorian Visas have been placed into our US Passports, and have been delivered to our law firm in Cuenca, where Merci faithfully expedited their delivery to us here in the USA via DHL Express Courier.  That was last afternoon, by the way.


At the moment, our Passports/Visas are processed at Panama City, Panama awaiting their next flight north to the USA according to the DHL tracking data.  Arrival to us here in Southern California is expected, according to DHL, to be end of the day this coming Tuesday, October 6th.  Our previous experience with DHL - sending these very same Passports *to* Ecuador from the United States was that delivery takes ~72 hours, excluding Saturdays and Sundays.  So it's quite possible to have received them by late afternoon Monday the 5th.  Either way, we're quite happy about it all!  You could say energized and jazzed, and you'd be right!

The temptation here is to call up United Airlines and make those flight reservations today.  Again, as we have so well learned from our previous experience written in previous posts here, it's best to have physical possession first of these critically important documents.  A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, indeed!  We'll wait, and be patient in it.  We've come this far, right?  What's a few days more, anyways? 

*THANK YOU* one and all, near and far, who have loved us and prayed for us in this long quest to obtain our permanent Residence Visas.  We appreciate you more than words can express. 

This is likely my last post Stateside until we arrive home to Cuenca and our home there in Ecuador.  FYI.  Once returned back to our usual residence there, we anticipate visiting Coloaustro, our law firm in Cuenca and working with Merci to obtain our Cedulas, or National Identification cards that the Ecuadorian Government issues to all permanent residents.  Those will - mercifully - take far less effort and time than the Visas did, and should take no more than two week's time from all accounts I'm aware of.

As I mentioned in a previous post, you cannot fly out of Ecuador without a Cedula card when you have in your Passport an Indefinite Residence Visa from Ecuador.  The official documents have to agree with one another.  That makes perfect sense when one reflects on the matter, of course.

We will, of course, commence with the work God has laid on our hearts to do with the Ecuadorian people.  Carolyn Anne will once again - in full health, btw - volunteer at Clinica Hogar in El Centro, the Historical Center of Cuenca in her capacity as a Registered Nurse, doing whatever needs doing at the moment, cheerfully and with a smile on her lips and a song in her heart. . . and a hug and a prayer to share. 

I, meanwhile, will start teaching three young female charges from our church there in Cuenca, Iglesia Verbo Cristiana, English as a Foreign Language.  New territory for me in a way, but not really, as I have been teaching Latino/a students in California for many years and will even be teaching from the same series of books I taught English for years in the Golden State.  So I will be teaching from very familiar material, instructional material called High Point.  The books cost me - shipping included while Stateside - around $200.  Still couldn't find one of the Teacher's Editions while here in California, but have all the rest of the materials save cassettes and CDs/DVDs and overhead transparencies.  I think I can make a go of it with the Lord's help, of course. 

Come January, 2016 I look to join the faculty as a profesor on staff of The Arco Language Institute, a ministry of Iglesia Verbo in Cuenca.  At that point I will be rather occupied teaching the three girls privately, as well as teaching adults for Arco.  But this is what we signed up for when we visited Cuenca last year, right?  Right!  (smile)

There's more besides these opportunities, of course.  God wants us to be yielded and pliable with soft hearts to do His important work as we seek to present Him well to the Cuencanos and Cuencanas amongst us. 

Please pray that we don't lose too much of our Spanish speaking abilities, too.  We have been practicing our Duolingo self paced instruction daily via the Internet, and I have been speaking Spanish wherever the opportunity lends itself, just to stay in practice.  Carolyn Anne also has been speaking the language as she has opportunity, which is even more helpful for her, being a newer learner of Spanish.  She is making definite headway, and needs the regular practice - while immersed in it in Cuenca.  Can't wait to go back for more!