A former high school classmate and cherished old friend when reconnecting with Roger through Facebook quoted the old saying: "When God closes a door, he opens a window." The years have seen a number of life changes for us that make that adage ring true. After being blessed with good fortune, a wonderful son and great experiences, we decided to look out that window and prepare for more of what this wonderful life has to offer. We hope through our blog to share our journey from this point forward with family, with friends and with many others. Hopefully we'll make some new friends along the way. We hope you find our tales of some interest, even amusement and perhaps an inspiration for you to treat each and every day as an opportunity and an adventure to share with those who are an important part of your life.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Settling in at Home in Cuenca!

The past two evenings, the night view from our eighth floor rental apartment has included some spectacular fireworks. Not sure of the reason but they reflect more "pinch me, I'm not dreaming, I really am retired and living here in Ecuador" moments. Roger will be taking a cooking class tomorrow, there's a free Mozart concert on Wednesday and a bottle of wine is sure to figure in the week's itinerary somewhere. We are thankful and blessed to be fulfilling our dream!

We are also estatic that we were able to execute a sale agreement on a house. If everything falls into place as expected, we will be into our new home in Ecuador no later than mid March. In the midst of all this, our 12-IX visa was registered in Quito and our application for permanent residency has been accepted and assigned a case number.

The Yazells seem to have landed...maybe that's the reason for all the fireworks here! In any case, we are joyous that we will soon have a new home base to continue our adventures "juntos en el camino de la vida".

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fresh fruit and produce from the Coopera!

Pepino Dulce is a slightly less than grapefruit sized beige fruit with purple stripes on it. It's in the cucumber family but has a pear like pulp in a large apple shape. It was one of four fresh fruits in my breakfast fruit salad this morning (apple, pepino dulce, papaya and oritos). Orito is one of the many types of banana found here in Ecuador (this country is the world's largest exporter of bananas). It is about half the size of the banana commonly found in the U.S.A. It has a thinner akin but a richer, denser and creamier tasting fruit inside.

All of the items in my morning fruit salad were purchased at the coopera, our favorite place to shop for fresh fruit and vegetables. There may be some savings and even more variety found at the nearby Feria Libre, (Cuenca's largest mercado, but you often have to buy in larger bulk quantities. That isn't as easy for a two person household to consume especially when we typically eat out often. The almost as affordable coopera is a farmer's coop founded in nearby San Joaquin and all its offerings are otganically grown. The prices are extremely reasonble and will be even more so when we get our membership discount.

Here's a breakdown of our most recent shopping trip at the coopera:

2 large limes .13
1 pepino dulce .62
3 lg boneless, skinless chicken breasts 3.73
1 doz oritos .22
2 large avocadoes .77
1 head iceburg lettuce .46
3 large carrots .27
4 small white potatoes .23
1 large ginger root .35
1 large cucumber .37
1 large red onion .19
3 large red apples 1.02
4 large red tomatoes .72
1 jar fresh organic clover honey 3.01
1 large Hawaiian papaya 1.04

Total: 13.13

Note that the most expensive produce items (the Mac apples and the papaya) were imported. For those that are curious, the chicken breasts worked out to about $2.00 a pound.

Fresh fruit and veggies are a mainstay for us here in Ecuador and we love both the quality and the freshness we get shopping at the coopera. One of the first things we noticed when we were back in the states for a few months was a sharp drop in the quality and flavor of the fresh produce even when obtained it from what had been our favorite store for produce.

If you enjoy preparing your own meals, the opportunity to affordably enjoy the best in fresh produce will become one of your incentives for choosing Ecuador as a home. It has been for us and we look forward to many meals highlighting quality fruit and vegetables as we continue: "juntos en el camino de la vida".

Monday, January 16, 2012

We're Back !

We made it! There were times over the past seven-plus months when it looked like living out of suitcases and in other people's homes or rental rooms was going to go on forever. However the big day finally arrived...we hit the tarmack in Guayaquil at 5:25 am on Saturday. By 6:10, we were loaded up and on the road to Cuenca.

(note to self...remember to blog later about the drive over the Cajas)

By 10:00am, we were in our LaQuadra rental, our home while we house hunt. By Noon we were wiped out and settled in for a nap! Back up at four to shop (local friends had already tipped Suzanne to the one time only sale at Sukasa and we also needed some things from nearby Supermaxi). We ate out, shopped and returned to the apartment in time to watch a movie and crash at the late hour of 8:15pm.

We were tired but it was good to back home. Besides, we needed a good night's sleep. A walk to the parque and a trip to the flower market was on tap for our first full day home.

As friend Clarke Green oft reminds us: Life is sweet!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bye, Bye Chico's!

Back in the 90's when we lived in Pembroke Pines, Florida, I took Suzanne for a beach getaway to Sanibel/Captiva Islands on the gulf coast. It was there she discovered Chico's. Back then they didn't refer to it as "The Original Chico's", the way they do today. You see back then, it was still a small emerging retailer. In fact there were only two or three stores.
It was a love affair at first sight and as their relationship grew, oh my,oh my, how Chico's grew! I remember the opening of multiple stores in Arizona after we relocated there in 1999.
I remarked to co-workers when Chico's went public that I should buy some stock as a hedge against our purchases there. (I should have! The stock price soared to more than twice its initial cost in the first year!)

Suzanne wasn't just fond of a particular Chico's....she shopped them all and she could tell you all the subtle differences. She knew when and what type of new merchandise would arrive and when it was likely to go on sale at a particular store. She shopped frequently enough that at least two stores in the Phoenix market even knew ME on a first name basis and I was always offered water, tea or coffee when we came in together.

I don't know if Suzanne was the true customer inspiration for Chico's preferred customer "passport" program but she certainly was the poster child for its success. Hardly a half week went by without a special email from them. The general jist was " Suzanne, we love you and miss you, please come shop with us again." They were usually followed by a personal phone call from at least two different stores announcing a special discount or preferred customers hours. One store manager even promised cookies and refreshment for your husband. It all worked and Suzanne loved the style and quality of the items she bought. Suzanne's wardrobe is overwhelmingly dominated by items from Chico's.

When it came to our final holiday gathering, she received three Chico's gift cards. Hubby wasn't among those...I had already scored on a vested jacket that was 50% off plus I got an additional 15% special early passport shopper's discount by using her passport id number. The amount of that gift puchase also earned credits toward a discount on her next purchase. (Suzanne trained me well!)

With gift cards in hand and our anniversary coming just behind the holiday, it didn't take long to cash in those gift cards. Our anniversary getaway was a long weekend to Sanibel Island where we enjoyed the sun, the sand, shelling on the beach and, of course, shopping at Chico's. (Interesting how life can bring you full circle, isn't it?). This time, the sign did read "The Original Chico's".

Suzanne thoroughly enjoyed her shopping and used her gift certificates wisely. I scored super mega hubby brownie points for planning a great anniversary trip. And two old best friends got to say goodbye to each other before one headed off to Ecuador.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if someday down the road, our cell phone rings as we're sitting in Parque Calderon and a voice on the other end sweetly whispers: "Suzanne, we love you and miss you. Come shop with us again."

The Yazell's are moving to Ecuador. If you own Chico's stock, prepare for a drop in the share price. You have the option to sell or you may just want to hang on until they announce the company is expanding to South America. My bet is that their first Latin American store will be in Cuenca. I just hope they remember to bring my cookies!