Saturday, May 31, 2014

Vacation ending ...

Well, two more days and we leave for home. These twenty-six days of vacation have been fun. However, I have missed Cuenca more than I can put into words. In Cuenca we do not have violent crime. Murders are unheard of. No drive-by shootings, no attacks on school campuses, no beatings on public transportation, and no terrorist attacks. Guns are not allowed in Ecuador. School children from elementary age and older can walk home from school, alone, without fear. Women and children can walk alone after dark without fear. Since we have been in the US we have been bombarded with bad news that includes mass murder, beatings, and hatred. How has this affected me?  I can't sleep at night due to constantly thinking about the horrible crimes that occur all over the country. I have crazy dreams, nightmares, and I worry constantly. I worry about the safety of my family and friends. I worry about my ten year old nephew and what he faces as he grows up in this violent society. Yesterday we went to SunTrust Bank to close all of our accounts. While there, our banker said there was a burglary attempt, at that location, earlier in the day and that they had been on lock-down. In Cuenca, I am completely stress free.  I sleep all night, have pleasant dreams, and wake up refreshed. 

Why is Ecuador is so special?

No guns. 

Religion. Religious holidays are just that. There is no Easter Bunny or Santa Clause. 

Money is not a priority. It is not a money hungry society. They could care less what kind of car you drive or how large your house is. People live within their means. 

What is a major priority?

FAMILY. Families actually enjoy spending time together. On weekends you see entire families hanging out in public places. Grandparents, parents, children ... all enjoying each other's company. They play together, laugh together, enjoy every minute together. They hug each other, kiss each other, walk arm-in-arm, hold hands. It is so sweet and so special that it nearly brings tears to my eyes. One day I asked my students if they often went to the movie theater. They all responded, yes!  I asked if they went with friends. All seven gave me a funny look, they looked at each other, and then said "No, we go to the movies with our family!"  If they knew the word I'm sure they all would have said "duh!"  

Mothers and fathers take an active interest in the lives of their children instead of texting and browsing the Internet on their cell phones all day. How refreshing, right?

There are many other reasons why Ecuador is special, but the main one is the people. They are a very gentle and caring people. They welcome strangers with open arms and immediately make you a part of their family. All we need to do is to attempt to speak Spanish, show that we respect them and their culture, and not try to change them. Just because they may do some things differently does not mean it's wrong. 

We have been in Ecuador for only four months and I am certain that we have made the right decision to retire there. Fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available, yes, all are organic! Meats are antibiotic free and raised on farms, not inside overcrowded buildings. Fish are fresh from local lakes, streams, and the ocean. And, in the short time we have been there we have made too many friends to count. 

Interested in seeing this great place?  We welcome and encourage you to visit. A third-world country is actually a much better place to live. 

I can't leave without posting some pics of Atlanta. 

The famous FOX. 

Atlanta's tallest building. The Bank of America Plaza. 

The Windsor condos. Mike and I used to live in this building on the 16th floor. It's across the street from the Bank of America Plaza and a block from The Fox. 

St. Mark United Methodist Church. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Atlanta, GA

We had a safe trip from St. Simons to Atlanta. We are now staying with our dear friends Ronnie Vaughn and Phil Crumbly. They were so gracious in allowing us to store the rest of our belongings in their storage area. Today, we started the process of unpacking, sorting, and repacking the things we want to take back to Cuenca. So far, we have five foot lockers and five suitcases. Will probably buy three more foot lockers tomorrow. Anything left over will be given away, taken to Goodwill, or trashed. It's a good feeling knowing that in four days we will have everything we own in one place. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

We have had so much fun on St. Simons Island. We were able to visit with friends and family, eat too much, and relax. Please enjoy the pictures below of our visit. 

Blue crabs and an angel fish caught by someone on the pier. 

Shrimp boat. 

Pilot boat. 

My dinner at The Crab Trap. Our island ritual. Grilled shrimp, battered fries, and hushpuppies. Mike and I have made a promise to each other that we will not eat any fried food for a month after we return home to Cuenca on June 3rd!

Sunset on the marsh. 

In the morning we drive back to Atlanta. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

St. Simon's Island

Met up with some of Mike's family yesterday for lunch at our usual hang-out, Pizza Inn! Two of his five sisters were able to meet us; Nancy and her daughter Jennifer, Debbie, her husband Zane, and their grandson Cody. We had a great time laughing and getting caught up on each other's lives. 

We saw a Volkswagon Thing parked at Winn-Dixie. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mt. Dora, FL

Thursday, we travelled to Mt. Dora, FL to visit with our friend Houston Vissage. We walked to Cody's on 4th for lunch. While dining, we met a family from Scotland and learned that you can repel mosquitoes by taking Vitamin B1 tablets. The family swears that it works. (Just thought you might find that as interesting as I did).

For dessert we stopped at a local shop that sells Kermit's Key Lime Pies, shipped direct from Key West, FL, and enjoyed a slice of Key Lime pie, dipped in chocolate, and served on a stick. It was heavenly!!  Afterwards, Houston took us for a ride, in his new Prius, around Mt. Dora and the beautiful lake.

For an afternoon refreshment we enjoyed a beverage by the lake in nearby Tavares, FL.

For dinner, we walked to Goblin Market. The food and service were equally fantastic. For dessert we headed upstairs to the bar and enjoyed chocolate martinis!

After a restful night of sleep we went to the Highland Street Cafe for breakfast. Then, we walked around the lake to enjoy a very nice breeze...and enjoyed seeing a gator!

A few other pics from Mt. Dora:

Shortly after Noon we loaded up the car and drove three and one-half hours to St. Simons Island, GA. The temperature soared to 100-degrees!  While here, we will visit with some of Mike's family, and will enjoy the beach during the Memorial Day weekend. Should be lots of fun!!  We are here for four days. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Leaving Daytona

Time to move on to the next part of our vacation. We are traveling to Mt. Dora, FL today to visit our friend Houston Vissage. I am looking forward to this visit. Houston is so interesting and he has the best sense of humor!  

Here are some pics of our visit to Daytona Beach:

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Daytona Beach

We arrived in Daytona Beach, FL today. Nothing but sunshine and ocean!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Block party, Dancing Goats, and a lost dog.

Today, Mike, Ron Hoffman, and I attended Delta's annual Block Party at their World Headquarters in Atlanta, GA. Thousands turned out to celebrate. It was good to see my friend of 40 years Nick Beatty in attendance!!  We enjoyed all the free food and beer that we could handle. 

Ron enjoyed a chair massage. 

Afterwards, we enjoyed a walk through Old Fourth Ward Park. It is a new park near the Ponce City Market. It is a live, work, play redevelopment of an old Sears & Roebuck retail store and warehouse. At the end of our walk we stopped to enjoy beverages at Dancing Goats Coffee. I enjoyed sitting in the warm sun and rocking in a chair on the outside patio. 

When we returned to Mark's to shower before dinner we were greeted by the welcoming committee. 

For dinner, we joined our friends Phil and Ronnie at Varuni Napoli, a new pizza joint that has opened on Monroe Drive, just down from the house where we lived before moving to Ecuador. I recommend that all of my Atlanta friends give it a try. We had delicious pizza and pasta!

Speaking of Phil ... he rescued a lost dog on Peachtree Street yesterday and called the number on the dog's tag. I am happy to report that EO has been reunited with her owners. 

Mike and I got to spend a little time with sweet EO too!!

Tomorrow morning we travel to Daytona Beach, FL. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Vacation 2014

We left my mom's Monday morning and drove up to Clayton, GA to take a look at our property. Mike wanted to make sure there were no squatters. Everything was so green. 

After eating lunch at the local cafe, and visiting with friends, we drove back to Atlanta. We went to our friend Ron Hoffman's condo for drinks and were pleasantly surprised when our friends Scott, Travis, and Mark came walking in the door. We had a few cocktails and then headed over to The Colonnade Restaurant for dinner. It was delicious!  Afterwards, we headed back to Mr. Etheredge's place and we were able to spend some time with a few friends that were over to watch "24."  

Yesterday, we spent the day shopping at our favorite stores. Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, AT&T, DSW shoe warehouse, and had lunch at Which Wich (Atlantic Station). We then went to Burkhart's, met Chris and Adam at Hob Nob for dinner, then met friends at Amsterdam. WOW! What a busy day that was. 

Today, we met our friend Greg Clough for lunch at Chili's (Toco Hills). This afternoon we are going to see Phil Crumbley before having dinner with several of our friends from Delta Air Lines. We are meeting them at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, La Fiesta! Afterwards, Mike, Mark, and I will meet Ron Henderson for some "fellowship."  

Right now I am doing what I enjoy the most ... relaxing!

Things do not slow down tomorrow. Lunch with two friends, and former co-workers at Longhorn Steakhouse. Then, coffee with my friend Yong. After that, we are meeting friends at MIXX. 

We go to Daytona Beach on Sunday!