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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Decanza en paz, Solitario Jorge!

Photo of Lonesome George is from the Ecuador & Galapagos Facebook page
The big news this week out of the land south of zero didn't have anything to do with visas, shipping containers, ex pats finding real estate or the changes in Ecuadorian bureaucracy.   It had to do with the passing of a presumed 100 year old giant turtle known as "Lonesome George".   George is one of about 20,000 giant tortoises that were current inhabitants of Ecuador's Galapagos islands, made famous through Charles Darwin's "Evolution of Species".

George was unique, however, among those 20,000 because he was the only one of his type....the sole survivor of a special subspecies of giant tortoise.  As such he became a symbol for conservation and biodiversity and of the Ecuadorian reverence for the abundant fauna and flora that exists here.

For those readers who aren't aware: Ecuador has more species of flora and fauna than any other single nation on earth.  It is also the only country on earth that has written special rights into its constitution for nature and the environment.  "Lonesome George" was more than just a tourist celebrity....he was a national symbol of the pride Ecuadorians feel about their country and the connection each Ecuadorian has to Nature.

"Lonesome George's name came about not only because he was the last of his kind but also because he was a bit of an individualist.  For many years , his keepers on the Galapagos had attempted pairing George with mates of of other subspecies of giant tortoise but he showed virtually no interest.  Only one mating was noted over years of effort but that, unfortunately, did not result in fertilized eggs.  George, unlike most of the wildlife on the Galapagos, also persistently avoided human contact when given the chance, with the sole exception of his keeper of nearly 4 decades.  He was, in fact, and in practice, a solitary individual.

George was found dead somewhat unexpectedly...giant tortoises, after all, are know to live up to 200 years.  However, given the fact that he is the only one of his subspecies that  modern zoologists have ever known, his estimated age and relation to lifespan may be speculative.

All we do know is that this treasured national symbol of the biodiversity is gone and will be sorely missed by all who treasure and cherish this land and what it has to offer.

So many people from all over the world have come to know the story of George that the national park officials have decided to create a special memorial album commemorating George's life.  If you were fortunate enough to visit the Galapagos and see and photograph George, you are encouraged to submit a remembrance email and your photograph for consideration as an addition to the memorial album.  Send your submission to  You can find more details and even read some of the submissions  on the Ecuador & Galapagos Facebook page.

Decanza en paz (rest in peace) Solitario will will be missed and you will be remembered so long as there is an Ecuador!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Squeezing out the best of life!

  We Yazells are just about unpacked.  It will soon be three weeks since our container arrived at Casa Yazell and the homefront is starting to take shape.

  As you might suspect, after unpacking a twenty foot container, we had a plethora of cardboard boxes.  Several of our neighbors dropped by for a box or two for their own use as we were unpacking.  However, the mound of cardboard continued to grow and pile up in our front courtyard.

  There is recycling here in Cuenca.  In fact, cardboard is at a premium and is the number one recycled material.  In fact, you can readily tell recycle day in any neighborhood by the people who push carts down the street scavanging the piles for cardboard that they can take to the recyle center and turn in for cash.  We had originally planned to have a local charity come and pick up our cardboard and use the proceeds for their cause.  However, after three days, they had failed to show and one of our neighbors, an indigenous lady by the name of Maria, had been promised she could have all the cardboard she could handle if the organization we had called didn't come.  It took Maria three trips but she hauled it all away, helped sort out the other material for our trash pickup and even swept our front courtyard!

   When ever you do something nice for a neighbor, it is customary in Ecuador to make an effort to say thank you in a special way .  It was barely a day later when Maria rang our front doorbell and graciously presented us with a bag of oranges and the bag she presented us was closer to 10 pounds than it was 5!

    We, of course, graciously accepted her generous thank you and went busily to work trying to figure out how the two of us could consume this quantity of fruit before it spoiled.  Any friend that came to visit over the next few days was assured of being offered some fresh fruit to take home.

   It was, however, during our next visit to the market that we hit upon the best solution to our challenge.  We searched for and discovered a hand juicer!  The next morning, I attached the stack of rapidly ripening citrus with gusto.   The results were nothing less than yummy!

   Because we gifted a neighbor with scrap cardboard, we will be enjoying the freshest of fresh juice each morning for the next week or two.  How wonderful it is to be settling in, here in the land south of zero.   We are truly enjoying our new country, new city and our new neighborhood and our new home.  Blessed and fortunate are we as we continue our journey: "juntos en el camino de la vida"!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

It's been like Christmas!

Suzanne and Roger  in their new casa, upstairs in the sala de familia.
    The trials and tribulations of getting our container to Ecuador are over  (thank you for that!)  We went 20% over budget and it took us six weeks instead of the expected two but those are stories for another day and future blogs.  The important thing is that our most prized personal possessions are here with us in our new home! We have spent the past week like giddy kids on Christmas morning unwrapping their presents.  Some of these treasures have been in storage since August of 2010 when we first listed our Arizona home for sale so each unwrapping was a special nostalgic moment.    

   Regular readers will note that this is the first photo we've posted in awhile.  We have been limited to a wireless Ipad and now that the big computer is out of the box, we can start being a little more thorough.  The photo above was actually taken from our computer's built in lens as it sat on the desk in our family living room upstairs.  The second floor of our house contains the bedrooms and has a generous sitting room at the top of our skylight lit stairwell.  The lady palm in the background was one of first purchases after moving into the new house as we camped out, awaiting the arrival of our container.  She likes it there and in addition to the desk, the sala contains a secretary bookcase and two rocking chairs. We've also included an old antique table and chairs so we can enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning and/or the occasional glass of wine.

  For our Ecuadorian friends (who will be soon reminding me I haven't reviewed an available Cuenca wine lately....give me a break...I've been unpacking!):  the wine in the photo comes from Conde de la Cruz, located here in Cuenca and owned by Riunite. It is their Vino Tinto Italia and while somewhat of a fruit bomb, it is reasonably priced at about a $5 retail.  Conde de la Cruz skirts the import duties on alcoholic beverages by importing raw juice from Riunite in Italy and then fermenting the juice here.

Anyway, the toast above was in celebration of the fact that we are almost settled in our new home...there is a table in the dining room and a full set of dishes.  We have a guest room with clean linens so stateside friends are welcome to come visit.  Expadorian and Ecuadorian on alert...after a few more chores and a little rest and recovery, we plan on sending invitations for some open houses to introduce you all to our new home.

  We feel blessed and fortunate in our our new home and to be continuing our journey "juntos en el camino de la vida"!