Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Look Here and You Won't Find Me


This was one side, but it is now closed. 

The 2nd and new side is here.

Find Budget Nomad now at
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Hoping to see you in the new digs!

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Budget Nomad Has Moved!


If you have enjoyed Budget Nomad and want to continue to do so, you will have to look in a new location. From now on, you will need to direct your browser to

Budget Nomad decided after 2,547 posts and 604,936 page views, I decided it was time to look more professional with a professional URL and site. 

Now before you get disappointed, I have to warn you...not all of the boxes are unpacked yet. There is still some decorating to get done to make it all pretty and really welcoming. However, I think you will find a warm welcome if you head over there now. You can watch it evolve.

Thank you for sticking with Budget Nomad. You are an important part of the process.  Don't forget to Like and Share pages. It keeps my spirits up.

See you over on the other side. 

Budget Nomad

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Budget Nomad is Moving


After we returned from Ecuador, there just was not enough time in the day to do everything that I wanted to do. What fell by the side of the road was this blog.

After Ecuador, we traveled to Serbia. I did not blog the trip. We were with Kat McFadden and Geoff Riddle. Much of our day was touring around, while the evenings were consumed by competitive rounds of Cribbage.

In July, Ron and I traveled to Northern Ireland, primarily in Belfast, but with side trips during our week stay. We immediately followed this with two weeks in Ireland, where we vacationed with Susan and Dick Leonard. 

Now that there has been a hiatus, I am feeling the loss from my lack of blogging. Yet, I still needed something to refresh the site and my attitude. Today, I have taken the first step in that direction.

Budget Nomad will be leaving here soon and migrating to a brand new dedicated site. It will no longer be a blogger creation, but a more professional one. 

Stay tuned!

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Reasons to Love Ecuador


The capital, officially named San Francisco de Quito, but often referred to as Quito was a component of the Inca Empire at one time; therefore, it has some of the best-preserved early colonial architecture in South America. UNESCO has determed that Quito has the largest, best-preserved, and least-altered historic center (320 hectares) in Latin America. It is the first of all World Cultural Heritage Sites, receiving the honor in 1978.

Ecuador is divided into four geographical regions: Pacific Coastal Area (Litoral), Andean Highlands (Sierra), Amazon Rain Forest (Oriente) and The Galapagos Islands.

There are 25 000 species of plants present in the country, which represents approximately 10% of all plants known in the world.

The world's smallest orchid (miniscule orchid measuring 2.1mm wide) was discovered in Ecuador.

The number of orchid species is calculated at 4,100.

Roses are quickly becoming one of Ecuador's major exports as well as other flowers such as orchids & bromeliads.

This is home to more than 1,600 species of birds, which is more than twice the number found on any one of any of the entire continents of North America, Europe or Australia.

There are 131 species of hummingbirds here, creating the world's highest diversity of hummingbird species.

Ecuador's insect species number more than a million, including 4,500 species of butterflies.
There are three species of vampire bats found in the world; all exist here.
The Humpback whales (megaptera novaeangliae) migrate from the Antarctic South Pole to tropical waters off the coast of Ecuador (June to September) to mate and give birth to their calves.

In Ecuador, there was a newly discovered species of gecko, small enough at its full-grown size to rest comfortably on the eraser of a pencil.

Farms surrounding the coastal city of Guayaquil have an output of 60 per cent of the world's high-grade fine cocoa making it the world's capital of the sweet delicacy.

Ecuador exports more bananas than any other country in the world.

Manta, Ecuador claims to be the Tuna Capital of the World.

Quinine, the first drug used to prevent and treat malaria, is obtained from the bark of the cinchona tree that grows in Ecuador.
Panama hats are of Ecuadorian origin - the world's finest Panama hats are handmade in Montecristi, Ecuador

Vilcabamba is called the Valley of Longevity - locals assert that it is not uncommon to see a person reach 100 years of age and it is claimed that many have gotten to 120, even up to 135, which would make it an area with the oldest inhabitants in the world.

Ecuador has many active volcanoes and also has one of the greatest densities of volcanoes in the world; Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in world.

It is also home to ten mountain peaks over 5000 meters (16,000 feet). Mount Chimborazo at 6,268 meters (20,565 feet)  is the highest mountain in Ecuador. Because the Earth is not a perfect sphere, but bulges at the Equator, the peak of Chimborazo is also the furthest point from the center of the Earth and the closest to the sun.

Pros and Cons of Ecuador Living  
Direct TV

Low utility bills - $30 mo gas, electric, water
Small living space
Rent $450 month including WiFi, phone
Difficult to ship things in
Fresh produce very inexpensive
Butter expensive and difficult to find

Longer distances to travel outside of S.A.
Cheap public transport 25¢ a ride
Apostilles needed for Visa
Buses are easy, Cuenca getting a tram
Cannot flush toilet paper
Free or very low cost museums
Hot water not always available in sinks
Free cultural events we understand

Lots of gay ex-pats our own ages

Numerous cultural events in English

Numerous volunteer opportunities in English

Locals are friendly

Installing fiber optics cable for WiFi

Can get Netflix here

Country is gorgeous

Cheap buses between cities

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Change of Plans - Captive in Lisbon


Somewhere along the way, our flights for our return to Budapest changed. We did not pay much attention since our flights going to Ecuador changed five times from the time the initial booking to the actual date.
The Quito Diner’s Club Lounge is quite lovely and was a wonderful stopping off point. The shuttle did come for us at 4am, not 3am after our host renegotiated the time on our behalf.

What we did not notice earlier were the annoying am and pm notations after the numbers. We did realize there was significant time in Miami for getting through Passport Control and Security again, giving us reason to believe we would have time in the Diner's Club Lounge. Our time in Miami between flights was 6 hours, 9 minutes, but we needed two hours of it for the regulators.

Then we stood at the luggage carousel for over 30 minutes waiting for our bags. We were told we needed to collect them and then recheck them since we entered the US. After struggling with the reality the bags were not going to appear, we went to lost luggage and dreams. Well, we were informed, the new regulation is that luggage coming from Ecuador is automatically transferred to the next carrier without having to be rechecked. We hoped this is true.

We did not have our boarding passes because we left Quito LAN Ecuador with service provided by American Airlines. However, our next two flights were and are on TAP Portugal, a partner with United Airlines. We waited in front of the TAP counter for two hours, thinking they were checking in people for an early flight. We did not realize they were checking people in for our flight. Finally, we joined the masses, received our boarding passes for the next two flights, and confirmed the luggage should follow in our wake. Interestingly, the agent in Miami wanted to see our Hungarian Residency Permits since our flight was not round-trip.

By the time, security processing was finished; we had two hours to enjoy the Miami Diner’s Club Lounge. What a disappointment.  Compared to many others we have enjoyed, this one was bare bones with no food and only booze.

We arrived in Lisbon at 7:35am, 1o minutes earlier than scheduled. We went through Passport Control, found the terminal we would need later, and worked our way through security once again. We headed directly to the Diner’s Club Lounge, where we will camp out for the day. Our layover in Lisbon is 15 hours, 40 minutes. We will not arrive in Budapest until 3:55 am on Saturday.

The Diner’s Club card has been worth its weight in gold; membership is only $95 a year. It works like a MasterCard, and provides us with airline miles.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Winding Down


It is difficult to conceive the fact that as of tomorrow, we will have been here 88 days. Things are winding down for us. We did manage to make it back to the National Museum, which has an incredible collection of archeological wonders from every region of Ecuador. The bane of the museum is that they changed policies and no longer allow pictures, even without a flash. This made the journey through the exhibits much faster, but I do have to admit the English descriptions have increased.

Today, we took our last trip to Old Town. Riding the crowded trolley bus that has caused us to be extra alert in the past has once again, caused some disruption. Both of us had our backs clutched tightly to our upper chest, yet when we reached our stop, Ron's Healthy Back bag was slit across the bottom. The good news is that they did not get a thing and the slit is perfectly parallel to the slit they incurred two years ago on a Quito trolley bus.

We went for our last almuerzo (lunch) for $2.50 each and
then noticed that the Centro Cultural Metropolitano has a new exhibit. It is Grandes Maestros del Arte Popular - Iberoamerica where artists from 22 Spanish speaking countries are exhibiting their work. It turned out to be about seven different rooms filled with glorious artwork. We were thrilled to finish off our
trip with this wonderful show.

The shuttle will come to pick us up at 3am, though our flight is not until 7:05am.
Thankfully, the Quito airport has a 24-hour Diner's Club lounge, so that is where we will be hanging out.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2015

No Escaping Hungarians


One of the walking tours I had found and brought along was a
shopping tour. Ron is not a shopper, but what did pique his
interest was a shop and museum owned by a Hungarian, Olga Fisch. Okay, it does not sound like a Hungarian name, but we did not name her so get over it. 

According to the walking
tour, her shop is heavy handed with the price tags. We had no intention of buying, but this was described as art as opposed to souvenirs. Being off of the beaten track, we climbed a hill to get to the front door.

The security guard needed to call the salesperson, who then admitted us. This really is an art gallery, the items were
lovely. That said, the only thing that really caught my eye was a set of salt and pepper shakers resembling an indigenous couple. At $47, I left them behind. 

There is a museum upstairs from the shop. We wanted to visit, but I was anticipating a hefty admission. Well, wrong! It was free. It is a small, but outstanding collection of antiquities and cultural items. 

Later, speaking with the salesperson, we found that Olga came to Ecuador in 1936 from Budapest, but she died 25 years ago. She was quite famous as an artist and as a collector who encouraged cultural art among the Ecuadorians.  

After a wonderful lunch for $3, we walked back to the bus stop to go home. We happened upon a lovely church, Iglesia de Santa Teresita. There were some gorgeous mosaics behind the altar.

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Monday, April 06, 2015

Taint No Bunny Around for Easter


Easter Sunday, compared to Good Friday was a real downer.
We went to Old Town so Ron could catch a mass. Not all of the churches were even open and those that were seemed to be in progress. By going to several churches, he seemed satisfied that he did his Easter duty.

It was shocking how few people were in churches as compared to Friday. You could have played soccer in the churches while barely coming near anyone.

The other bummer was the fact that just about everything was closed. We had planned on dinner out and not cooking at the apartment. The choices were really slim pickings and more expensive than we intended.

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Sunday, April 05, 2015

Volcanoes Train Tour


Why do a lot of typing when I can share the entire day's itinerary with one picture? We did the one train tour from Alausí and liked it so much, we tried to do the one from Otavalo. However, we were not there on one of the few days that trip runs. We were lucky to get tickets for the Quito to the Volcanoes trip on Holy Saturday. Here is our itinerary, but more follows.
Ron's discounted ticket was $25.50, but mine was $37.50. For a full day with lunch and entertainment, it was a bargain.
The cultural presentation included a lot of dancing with wonderfully colorful costumes.

The lunch provided was an incredibly delicious spread. After lunch those who wanted had time to ride a horse around the grounds, visit the petting zoo with a llama, alpaca and other animals. 

I found one alpaca baby playing hide and seek with its mother and the very rare two headed alpaca.
Later, when we returned to Quito, we checked out some churches to see what was in the works for Easter. One church has this female on a crucifix. We first encountered her in a church in Italy, but her name escapes me. There was nothing to identify her in the church.

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Friday, April 03, 2015

Holy, Holy, Holy


It is evident that Ecuador as well as most of South America remains tied to their Spanish heritage when religious events come into play. Most of their customs date back to Spanish colonialism. Spain still has a reputation to holding numerous events during Semana Santa or Holy Week. The week before Easter starting with Palm Sunday, and including Holy Thursday and Good Friday, are special religious days before Easter Sunday. Each of the designated days is a remembrance of an event at the end of Christ’s life.

From March 22 through April 2, Quito hosts Musica Sacra, an international event. Each performance is free of charge. Before leaving Quito the last time, we attended the Lipzodes at the Iglesia de El Carmen. This was an opportunity to listen to music rediscovered from the colonial period of Ecuador (1680-1730). 

We arrived back in Quito on Holy or Maundy Thursday, April
2nd. Stopping into the cathedral, we found them setting the table for a Last Supper. For tonight’s Musica Sacra performance at the Teatro Nacional Sucre, the treat we enjoyed was some US American music by the American Spiritual ensemble. We learned that of the thousands of professional member musicians and singers, only 12-15 are chosen to tour each year. For more information about the group, go here and scroll down on the press releases page. The group has collected over 3,000 Negro spirituals from the known 4,000 plus that once existed.

In one of the upscale gift shops, there was a print out on the meaning of the purple robes. Apparently, centuries ago in Spain, prisoners who were about to be executed wore the purple garments as a sign of humility. The men who wear
them in this parade are called Cucuruchos due to their pointed hats. Women, named Veronicas, represent the woman who used her veil to wipe Christ’s face. Purple is the color of penitence, but some wore black or brown for mourning or white for purity.

The robes called nazareno or the penitential robe include several parts. The tunic is the robe itself, the cone shaped
hood is the capriote and some don a robe that dates to medieval times. Often these cloaked men will carry candles, crosses, or some other significant religious item. We were surprised at how many were barefooted and a few had shackles on their ankles as a form of penance. 

What was especially freaky was to witness a couple of bare chested men who were self-flagellating with small whips. One man’s back was quite raw. Additionally, in the parade were a number of men who dressed like Christ and carried a cross
on their back. Considering this parade lasts for four hours, this is no mean feat. Ron questioned whether they lasted the entire time or if there were subs filling in. The parade route covers some major hills. Walking with these pseudo-Christ figures, there are other men dressed as Roman soldiers. Still others, as a sign of their penance, had hefty wooden crosspiece logs strapped to their back, forcing their heads
down into a bowing position. 

We lasted for about 1 ½ hours, before we decided to leave them to it. We did catch them again on the way back after two hours to see
the Veronicas. 

Afterward, we went to the Magic Bean, a restaurant we really like, but only had a coffee. Returning home, we walked through one of the lovely parks here in Quito, where Ron posed with famous Ecuadorians. There was an older woman sitting on a
bench nearby who was watching his antics. She started to laugh hysterically and then applauded. Just what he needs: encouragement. 

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Thursday, April 02, 2015

And Now the Last Musings on People in Otavalo


In addition to things that really impressed us, I have to speak to the people that inspired us. On our first evening, we went to see if the tourism office was open. Right outside the office was this young boy stacking things in a box. At first, I did not pay much attention, but when taking a second look, I realized he was packing away the unsold stock of the day. There were other boxes on the ground that he completed already. Shortly after, a car pulled up where the boxes were placed in the trunk. It made me aware once again how early the children here become working members of the family.

I had read an article in some US newspaper regarding Ecuadorian immigrants to the US. It mentioned there was a
large group in the Minneapolis – St. Paul area. What was interesting was the fact that the reporter claimed that it is well known Ecuadorians have excellent work ethics; they can find a job the day after they arrive. The article continued to mention that employers have come to know that they will get more than a day’s pay from a day’s work with an Ecuadorian employee, hence making them sought after. Here in Ecuador, it seems they will do anything possible to succeed, regardless of how menial the task. I cannot speak to their success or failure, but the point is they try.

People of all ages are continually carrying packages around.
In Otavalo in particular, the average person is short. They are to short that if they were to kiss me on the lips, I would have to get on my knees first, while they still reached up on their tippy toes. This makes me wonder how their backs survive the weight of carrying things all the time. I question whether being short has been an advantage for some reason. Some backpacks are larger than the height of the person carrying it. This is similar to the ratio with
an ant that is carting off food. It is also apparent that the women in particular carry their babies on their backs for a number of years. Is this back strength development?

Being a culture junkie, I am acutely aware of how the indigenous people maintain their culture in a fast changing world. What warmed my heart was to see small girls wearing the same traditional blouse and skirt as their female relatives. There is a concession though. 
 A number of young people have smartphones. This seemed incongruent with the customs, until I read this article based in the US. It could be similar circumstances in Otavalo and other parts of South America in general. 

Loja wants to claim the title of Music and Art Capital of Ecuador, but personally, I believe this is a marketing ploy. We have discovered more art galleries, artist venues, and musical events in other cities and towns then we did in Loja. Our first night, we went to the central square where there was a concert and dance entertaining the masses. A few days later, when I needed my
Daily Grind coffee fix, we discovered a band playing on the plaza of the central park. The man at the tourism office told us there was a daily music event in front of the cathedral, but the times varied. We were especially pleased to see the female members of the band; this was an equal opportunity career.

This brings me to an observation I have made, though I do not know if stats will support it. From my looking around, I would guess that the baby population is 7:1 girls to boys. 

Finally, the artistic talent is ubiquitous. Not only is it evident in the crafts, art galleries, museums, but more blatant is the street art. We have discovered some fabulous murals on walls that could qualify as a gallery if not museum piece, yet it is
covering a concrete wall. There are two ways to think about this. In one respect, being public art gives the mural a wider audience who can see and appreciate it. Alternatively, it is exposed to the elements, in some cases severely limiting its value as the paint becomes faded, chipped or the wall demolished all together. Overall, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to appreciate them at this time. 

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