Friday, January 16, 2015

Settling Into Cuenca

Our lunch venue across the river
Yesterday, we met up with the two guys from downstairs to go for lunch. Decorated much differently than the one we are in, their apartment is just as perfect. Some pieces they had custom made, gorgeous work.

We walked down to the river, which was a sweet walk. The last time we were here, we were advised to avoid the river due to crime. This time, the information is 180 degrees different. A river walk is perfectly safe, in addition to being relaxing. 

Our lunch spot is right on the river called Inca Lounge & Bar. It was there that we met Rose, a friend of the guys. She is as delightful company as Howard and Mike are, so the lunch was a lively one and most enjoyable. It really struck both Ron and I how we have only been here two days and already are making social contacts. 

This really made me stop to think about the benefits of living here for that reason. As the vast majority of the ex-pats living here are retired, they have time on their hands to imbibe on the cocktails of socialization without the deterrence of work. Some are imbibing on the cocktails of cocktails too. This leads to the fact that they generally made a conscious decision to move here. Whereas in Budapest, many are transferred there for work, education, or scholarship, so their time is limited and it becomes a revolving door. You meet people, get to know them, and then they are leaving for home or other assignments. We suffer a regular empty nest syndrome of sorts. 

There is a significant gay (used inclusively) ex-pat community here; it is like a ready-made outlet. Those non-gays that fraternize with the gay crowd do so as they are older adults. This eliminates the need to have something in common with young families or even childcare issues for an adult’s night out. 

After lunch, Howard and Mike took us to their favorite coffee roasting place. We all had a coffee, but we also bought beans to grind back here. Afterward, we parted ways, Ron and I returning to old stomping grounds like Carolina’s Bookstore. From there we went to Tia’s Mercado to do some grocery shopping. 

In spite of our shopping adventure, we still only had mangos, local cheese, and avocados for dinner. It was more than sufficient and satisfying. 

Breakfast this morning was bacon, eggs scrambled with some of the local cheese. Ron has mastered the French press, so the coffee is some of the best I have had in ages. Not even Starbucks can compete. It may be grinding the beans as we need them that lends the difference.

The housekeeper was coming from 10am to noon, so we were asked to be out during this time. It was a perfect opportunity to shop at the larger supermarket Super Maxi. It is about a mile and a half walk, but we did it so efficiently, we had concerns about returning too soon. Along the way, we discovered an ex-pat American’s café and coffee roasting establishment. We had a coffee and chatted for about an hour. 

Super Maxi has about everything one could want with many US brands, but strangely enough, we found out that you cannot buy baking soda in stores. You must go to pharmacies for it and the quantity is severely limited for each purchase. We learned that it is used for cocaine production or added to it. It is illegal to bring it in the country too. That aside, we were taken aback to see cooked chickens sell for $10, which is much higher than Budapest. Most items we bought were inexpensive, but they added up quickly. We spent $45, but have two fresh chicken halves that will cover two dinners. Veggies and fruits we buy from the farmers at the other Mercado.

Having too many heavy things to cart home by walking, we took a taxi. It was worth the $2.79 for the ride. 

After dropping the things off, we went across the street for lunch. It was a restaurant suggested by our neighbors. It was 2:30pm, but it was mobbed with young people in school uniforms, business people in suits, and assorted others in everyday dress. Rumor had it that they had fantastic Cuban sandwiches. Neither of us had ever had one and even though I have not had any grains for over six weeks, I broke down to taste one. The bill for the two sandwiches, a huge beer, and a bottle of water came to $7.10. No wonder it is continually full. 

Malena had offered to take us for a SIM card for my phone. Though it is unlocked, it would not accept the card. To buy a cheap phone will run us $45 as opposed to the $5 for a card. We think we will pass on it. Malena also took us to three bio stores to try to find coconut oil. Not one had it for cooking, but only for hair conditioning. She with exceptional grace had us tagging along all around while she tried to help us satisfy our needs. She is truly outstanding as a proprietor.
We left her and we went walking home stopping at bio stores and pharmacies now looking for Coca tea, which is a remedy for altitude problems like headaches. So far, so good.

To satisfy my own curiosity I started making a pros and cons list of living here. I will share it in a couple of months.  

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