We've been in Cuenca for 3 weeks now, and this past week has been devoted to lots of settling in type projects.
School. Now that we have gotten the girls enrolled in Alborhada, we've had to focus on getting their school supplies and uniforms. They were very excited about the uniforms - having never needed one before. They have a formal day on Monday, when they wear a dress and a nice jacket, and on Tue - Fri they wear either a polo shirt and jeans, or a sweat suit. All of this we needed to buy, and of course, they also needed black leather shoes and white athletic shoes. After uniforms came supplies and textbooks. The texts were obtained from 3 different bookstores, scattered about the city, and the supplies were mainly at just one papeleria. Unfortunately, the supplies, 3 bags full, are all mixed up, and I'll be getting together with Soledad shortly to figure out who gets what, and then go to buy what is missing.
House. We moved into our apartment on Sep 1, and an unfurnished apartment in Ecuador is really unfurnished. So we had to find a refrigerator, stove, table, chairs, etc. Of course, we are only here for a year, and we didn't really want to get all this stuff new. Garage sales and Goodwill stores are not very common, however, there are some places where they fix stoves and refrigerators, and sometimes these places sell used and repaired appliances. So we got a fridge for $230, with a 2 year guarantee, a stove for $150 (1 year guarantee), a small, new wood table at the "Rotari" market for $20, and a matress for Nikki at Coral Centro (a sort of Cuencan Fred Meyers) for $34. Our landlady, Maria, did leave us 4 kitchen chairs (3 of which are functional) and two beds with nice matresses. We also just ordered a small sofa and easy chair from a furniture maker for $300 total, and we should have those by the end of the month.
The apartment wasn't exactly in order when we moved in, so we've been dealing with that too. The toilet, which she said would be working by the time we moved in, wasn't; and the plumber, who she said would come on Monday night at 8, didn't; and and the one who she said would come on Tuesday night at 8, did, but didn't have the parts to fix it; and after she bought the parts on Wed, she tried to get me to fix it instead. However, I assured her that I would only make it worse, and that she really needed to have it fixed for us, as she promised. By Thursday morning it was fixed, at least it flushed, and since she assured me that it wasn't leaking, and since she is paying for the water, I'm not going to bother to tell her that the water-saving toilet which was so hard to fix, actually runs all the time.
Jobs. Well, yes, it is a sabattical year for both of us, but we really want to work at something, paid or unpaid, in order to be able to be part of some community. Of course, Debby was going to work with "resistoleros" (glue sniffing street kids), but we haven't found any of those yet. (I always said that, when confronted with the question of what we were going to do in Ecuador, and she would confidently tell people her plan, and I would just sort hem and haw, that she had an answer, but her plans were actually about as loose as mine.) But being bilingual, an experienced teacher, and so very friendly, Debby has already had one serious job offer, and two other strong possibilities. The job offer was at a Catholic girls "colegio" (high school), but it involved 4 classes a day, and 40 students a class, and she really didn't want to work this much. The pay was $400/mo. (negotiated up from $350). But it all came too soon, and she really wants something that will allow us to do some traveling while we are here, and to spend time with the kids, both at their school, and while at home. We're still not sure how much additional assistance they'll need in order to assure that they keep up with their Seattle-based peers.
Me? I'm working on my CV. Traffic, especially in the historic center is horrendous - it's usually faster to walk then to drive. So I'm hoping I might be able to do some projects with the City and/or the bus company. The son-in-law of the family we lived with at the beginning of our stay here (Jaime and Rita) is pretty high up in the local government, so I'm hoping I can use his connections to meet some people who might be interested in having me do some work for them. One idea I have is to create a map of the bus system. The buses here are pretty good, they are very frequent, and I think the coverage is good, but the only way to know where they are going is by the 3 or 4 destinations listed on a sign on the front of the bus. They have an touch card payment system, or you can pay $0.25 per trip, (exact change, no transfers) They even have a scrollling LED display on the bus telling you the next stop. Anyway, I'm not too worried. I'm keeping busy with the home and school start-up stuff right now, and there is plenty of time.
We are here on student visas, but not a single person has suggested that there will be any trouble at all getting work.