Saturday, December 28, 2013

Another first time at something

video
Sound quality is terrible but that's actually a good thing - you can't hear all the mistakes I made. Mind you I suppose you wouldn't know I had made them anyway unless you spoke chinese - hehe!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

This little piggy should have stayed home!

All work and no play makes makes for a boring life so happily here we can have lots of fun too. The congregation "Paseo" that we went to on Sunday was an excellent example. Lots of delicious food (mostly in the form of whole roasted pig), music, dancing, mixed in with everyone happily  making fools of themselves. It has taken me a day to get over it but a nice time was had by all.



You may wonder what these guys are making funny faces for - its a game called rubber band racing - hilarious!

One thing about having visitors - it makes us do the touristy things we have never done. We went on the tour bus ride of the city with Westley the other day - learned quite a few new things about Cuenca. 
Love this view

Westley takes in the view of Cuenca


Our remodeled KH

 We also had the privilege of going to the Kingdom Hall dedication. It was such a nice day, with a Bethel speaker giving the dedication talk. I can't remember the last time I went to a dedication so it was a nice reminder.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Any New Yorkers out there?

So the latest is - WE ARE BOTH GOING TO HOUSTON - Yay!!! The convention date is 20th to the 23rd June 2014

As I mentioned in the last post - we are planning on getting up to New York after the convention to check out Bethel. So my question is - where is the best place to stay so that we are quite central??? Need some help folks, so would appreciate any comments or you can  send me an email via the email contact form.

Thank you in advance!

Oh oh and something else exciting - we got cheap tickets the other day to go to the Galapagos Islands in February. We are going with the lovely Lopez family, Alison (our adopted daughter), Westley (our adopted son) and Aaron (our ... oh you know who he is). Such fun to look forward to and I can't wait to see all the wildlife there. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Houston - we have a problem!

 Well I wanted something exciting to tell you this week and I sure got it. We have been accepted to be delegates at the Houston, Texas International Convention next year. Well when I say "we" - at this stage I mean "I". With all our too-ing and fro-ing, Mark doesn't seem to belong to the correct congregation so we need to find out where his letter of acceptance went to. Otherwise I might just be going on my own (yeah, right). OK so latest news is - yes Mark is accepted, but to Atlanta!!!
It will be really cool to go and hopefully we will also be able to fulfill my dream of going to New York, of course to see Wallkill and Patterson. I have always wanted to go and being quite close (well alot closer than if we were in NZ), you would have thought we would have achieved it by now. Money of course has always been the biggest issue - but this time all those trips back to New Zealand are finally paying off - we have air points!!! So USA here we come!

A nice thing about writing this blog is that we get lots of contacts from people wanting to visit Ecuador either for a quick visit or fact finding trips with the purpose of serving here eventually.Today we spent a lovely day with these two couples, from Illinois, Kevin and Dawn and Jules and Gloria. We were able to spend the morning out in service with them and then show them a little bit of our beloved Cuenca, including the $2 lunch. Actually as a side point - these guys had been to New Zealand in January for the special convention. Kevin and Dawn came to our congregation there and ended up going out in service with Mark. In their conversation, Kevin said they were thinking about serving somewhere where the need was great. Mark asked him if he had ever thought of Ecuador. He had and had been reading our blog so he was excited to meet the crazy New Zealander he had read about.

The preaching had to have impressed them - Mark called on one place and over the intercom a little voice asked what he was talking about. He said "happy families" and the little girl said "ok I will get my Mum". The Mum came on and asked what religion he was and when he said Jehovah's Witnesses she asked them to come in. About an hour later they came away with a really strong feeling she and her daughter will come to meeting on Sunday - we will see if that happens, but for sure Mark and I will go back on Monday. My experience was while I was talking at a door to a gentleman, explaining why there is so many problems in the world, another man walking by, stopped to listen. The two brothers working with us, pulled him aside and started talking with him and they were able to give him a good witness. One other experience that those brothers had was in their first door - a young man said he knew he had to change his life and he had just been waiting for God's messengers (his words, not mine)  to help him, so a study was arranged for tomorrow. So 3 potential studies in that one block, not counting all the literature we placed.  Awesome awesomeness!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sadly not to much to report this week - been a bit slow on interesting tidbits to share but we are still here doing our thing. Mark, Amanda and Aaron have all been manning the stand down at the Bus Station this time and report exceptional success with people sometimes taking two or three books for themselves and for family members. It's exciting work!
I had an experience I am not keen to repeat but will have to - visiting an acupuncturist - scary stuff but hopefully it will help with my health issues. What I can't understand is how the other patients didn't look like me after the treatment - while I was a mess, they all seemed content and happy. Then again I am a big scaredy-cat when it comes to needles. 

So that's from me - hopefully I will have something exciting to tell you next time.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Metropolitan Preaching


Metropolitan witnessing has just hit Cuenca and Amanda and Mark were privileged to be part of the team on the first day! They were stationed at one of the parks in Cuenca, which was extraordinarily busy because this weekend was Fiestas de Cuenca - a big festival they have here each year celebrating the city's independence from Spain. They had an awesome time in their 3 hours on duty - placing 5 Bibles, 10 BT books and 4 magazines. They also were able to fill out 3 please follow up slips which was success in itself! There was another stand at the park too and we have been told, although not been able to confirm as yet, that 50 books were placed in total!  Remember that the instructions are not to approach people - they are to come up to the stand if they are interested, so what an awesome outcome and a shout of praise to Jehovah!



In other news - we have Westley Bennett here from New Zealand, visiting for 6 months - he's been suitably impressed by the food prices and all else that Cuenca has to offer. It's very cool seeing the place again through a visitors eyes - sometimes after being in a place for awhile, you tend to accept things as normal. Believe me - this place is not normal\- but it is very cool!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

OFFICIALLY ECUADORIAN RESIDENTS AS OF TODAY


After a very long day of waiting, walking and celebrating, we have got our residency finally. This means that we can stay here indefinitely (as long as our investment stays in the bank, that is). It has been a long process but only one thing more to do, which is to obtain our cedula (official identity card) and we are set. Something also that was a VERY nice surprise - we were told to have $320 each to pay for the visa but it turned out that it was only Aaron needing to pay that (as the primary visa applicant) and only $50 for us as dependants - WAHOO - lets go shopping! Anyway it is a big relief to have this finally under our belt - now we can concentrate of the more important things in life.

it was a long wait at the visa office but about half way through the morning - a heap of chinese people walked in - Amanda being very prepared straight away was up and at em, with invitations to the Chinese meeting and magazines for them. It was awesome to see the look of surprise on their faces as this little white girl busted out the chinese. So jealous that I could really only say "ni hau" but I guess 5 years ago I could really only say hello in spanish too so...one day. 

In other news, I had my first study with the lady with the broken Jesus the other day. It was a text book study and the best thing about it is, she is at her place of business so will always be there - what a blessing.

We are eagerly waiting for our first visitor from New Zealand (this time around) to arrive this weekend. Westley is coming for about 6 months so we will have plenty of time to show him around Cuenca and why we love it so much. Let the good times begin!    

Friday, October 11, 2013

LAS CHICAS DE DIOS

Gotta love being called a "Girl" of God - helps that I was with Amanda of course!



So we walked a long way this morning and just when I thought I could walk no more, Amanda took me into her call with an awesome little family and we got invited in to sit down. The story behind the theme of this post is that is what the Mum kept calling us. I got the low down from Amanda and thought I would share it cause it is a cute story. Amanda and another sister where preaching in the cul-de-sac and the Mum called out "we're Catholics" - in other words go away! So they carried on with the other houses. Not too long after though, the lady comes out of her house and calls them back.as her daughter,Stephanie, had said to her - "that is not right Mama - they have the bible with them and you shouldn't be rude to them". Well as you can see in my sneakily taken pic, Stephanie is not very old, probably about 12 or so, but she has got a real desire to know what the bible says and comes out with some great questions. The first question she had this morning was something Amanda had talked about with her Mum and so Amanda was super surprised that the Mum gave Stephanie the correct answer. Shows she has been listening intently and learning a lot!


WE KNOW THAT JESUS DIDN'T GET TORTURED BY A CROSS BUT I DID!

Interesting title and it is a bit of a funny story: On the way home from Amanda's lovely call, we stopped in at one of my RV's - I had placed the October mags with the lady in a Funeraria (a place where they sell grave headstones, objects of worship etc) and I didn't see the cross, complete with a prone "Jesus" hanging from the ceiling. Of course I knocked it off it's perch and it came crashing down on to my shoulder and shattered into a million pieces, along with a glass table underneath it. It hurt a lot but I wiped away my tears and carried on (after Amanda cleaned up the mess that is) and offered a study to the lady. What else could she say except "yes". How embarrassing though - breaking all the idols before we even study that part in the BT book!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Just to say Hola

So after hitting the ground running in the middle of August with the remodel of the the Salon del Reino, I think life will start to get into some kind of routine. There are still a few little things for Mark to do, to finish off but nothing like it has been for the past 6 weeks. 6 weeks - have we been here 6 weeks???? Can't believe it!

inside of the new KH
While Mark has been busy - I have been out  in field a lot but also enjoying playing house - it is nice to be  making this our home especially as we have been living in a farm shed for most of this last year. I have also had more time to practice Chinese and so hopefully I can get better at that. I find it quite fascinating that at the meetings on Thursday night, I can answer in two different (we have the bible study in Chinese and the rest of the meeting in Spanish  foreign languages (of course, I am still struggling in both but it's still pretty cool).



Having the market so close is becoming a bit of an obsession - Amanda thinks I am crazy to like it so much, but honestly just whipping down the road to pick up fresh bananas or tomatoes etc is pretty great. I have also brought a few plants and am pretty chuffed to have produced a few strawberries - silly really when I can just buy a kilo for a buck and a half - but it is neat to say I grew them!

Jury is still out on our visa application - apparently we had to supply a letter from the organization that we volunteer for - thankfully there was a contingent of brothers from the Bethel here the other day looking at the new KH and when Aaron explained what we needed, they said "no problem, we'll get that sorted for you" so hopefully we can take that to the visa office soon.

Nothing else to report so hasta la vista! Don't forget to leave a comment - it gives me such a buzz when you do :)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bus Stop, Bus Goes...

This morning I went with Amanda on her early morning preaching exercise, and we started off at a bus stop near our house. It is a rich field, obviously people are waiting for their buses so they are happy to talk - if you are quick enough you can at least read one scripture to them before their ride comes. Gotta be careful though approaching some of the men - they think they can take the opportunity to hit on you - not just a problem for the young and beautiful among us!

Then we headed down town as on Tuesdays our congo helps out the central cong with their business territory. I am so out of my comfort zone when we are  going into lawyers offices etc and sometimes Amanda has to tell me to breathe - but we hardly ever get a negative response. In fact we had two lawyers invite us to sit down for a discussion so hopefully I will get more comfortable with the Tuesday groups.
Yeah - the big gun kind of put us off
going into this store!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

1st week in the hood

Thinks he's numero uno
Well we have been back in Cuenca a whole week now and as per my last post it has been a busy week. Especially so as our congo is in the middle of remodeling the Salon del Reino so of course Mark has been down there everyday doing really long days so I don't see him all that much at the moment. Not so bad really cause I had a relapse of the cold I had in NZ before we left and have taken to my bed - hopefully I am on the mend now.


Aaron gives the orders


Before I got sick though - we did a kiwi meal for the brothers on the construction team (if you remember from a post way back - they have a team that goes to each build or remodel - I think there is 12 in this team) - bacon and egg pie was on the menu, mashed potatoes and salad - of course we had to provide rice as well or they would have thought their throats were cut - so strange seeing that on the plate with mashed potatoes.
Enjoying his first taste of bacon and egg pie

I am loving this new area we are living in - the kids made a good choice - it is so close to everything - even the fresh food market which is 5 minutes walk away, perfect when you look in the fridge and don't see any vegetables for dinner. I forgot how cheap things are as well (having gotten used to the exorbitant prices in NZ) - bananas 50cents a big bunch, rockmelon 80 cents, watermelon $1.50, brocolli 3 for $1 - love it!! 



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A few photos of our trip

video
Well we have settled down a bit - it has been a crazy few days here, buying furniture and other stuff needed for the house but the biggest thing we did is front up to the visa office on Monday morning (we got in line at 7am). Its a funny system here - not sure how they work it out - we finally got inside the building after they had taken our passports and then after some time they announced that we could come back at 10am. This was good cause we needed to get passport photos taken and breakfast. When we got back the guy at the counter checked every paper and probably every word on our application and eventually we were called back up and he pointed out a few errors. One big error was that Aaron had a mistake on his official document saying he had left the country twice and the bloke thought that he would have to go to Quito to get that fixed up - what a pain that would have been - but after Aaron getting a little cross with the guy, he went and asked someone else who said no it was alright. Anyway, we still had to go and get the translation of Amandas birth certificate done again, get it noterized and come back to the office but shock horror -everything was right and our application has been accepted. In about a months time we will have a verdict. Exciting stuff especially for Aaron and Amanda because they have been to that office so many times over the last months sorting stuff out.
We also helped on Monday night in the construction kitchen (our congo has a remodellation of their KH going on) and on the menu was classic kiwi food - bacon and egg pie and custard squares - I think it went down ok but one funny thing is - along with the pie, mashed potatoes and salad - we had to serve up rice. If Ecuadorians don't get rice at every meal they think their world has ended.
The best part of the last view days (apart from the relief of getting our papers in) was that we caught up with our other kids, Chad and Michele. It was awesome to see them but seemed strange when it was time for them to leave and go to their own home - they should be with us still :(

Friday, August 16, 2013

Hi there - just letting you know that we have finally arrived in Cuenca and will be back up an running with the blog soon. We are both fairly exhausted from 3 weeks of travelling (over 13000km), by bus and by air so will need a few days to settle down and get sorted - especially the laundry!
Hasta Pronto!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Farewell NZ - hello South America

video
Well the day has arrived - well it will tomorrow - and we will be on that big jet airliner once again. It's been an extremely stressful few days - I've had a flu on top of it all so when we finally do get on that plane I will be breathing a BIG sigh of relief.

Hopefully I will be able to post some pictures along the way of our trip through Argentina - Bolivia - Peru before finally reaching Cuenca on the 15th August.

Hasta luego!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Ok you got it!

Thank you for your comments folks - happy to carry on  - it will probably be only a monthly report of our doings so I should be able to come up with something interesting to read (there's never really a dull moment in Ecuador).

We leave NZ on the 26th of July - scarily close now - and are off on a little tour of South America for 3 weeks before we settle down again in Cuenca. I am so looking forward to being in a house again and being settled, this last year has been quite topsy turvy for us so bring on the Ecuadorian tranquility!

Hopefully I will have some interesting photos of our trip to post but until then - hasta pronto mis amigos!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ecuador here we come -again!

I have been asked a number of times over the last few weeks about whether or not I will be continuing with this blog now that we are going back to Ecuador....if you hadn't heard that then yes it is true - in exactly one months time we will be on a plane bound for South America again - it will take us about 3 weeks to get back to Cuenca as we are taking a little tour through a few countries on the way. I had decided that, no I wouldn't be blogging again as nothing will be new and exciting this time - so my feeble brain might not be able to come up with anything interesting however some have told me it is the only way they ever get to hear about whatever happened to the James so maybe?
Hence the poll question...what do you reckon?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Copied this from GringoTree Cuenca - thought some of you may appreciate it


GringoTree Survey: Cost of Living

January 18, 2013

We received 282 responses and hundreds of specific and general comments. Thanks, as always, to everyone who took the time.

Not all respondents answered all questions, which skews the percentages a little.

Of the 282, 240 respondents are from Cuenca. Vilcabamba and the coast logged 6 each, Quito 5, Salinas 4, Loja 3, Cotacachi 2, and the rest miscellaneous.

279 people answered the rent/own question, with 203 renters (73%) and 76 (27%) owners.

Exactly 100 (just under 50%) renters pay $300-$499 per month. Another 32 (15%) pay $500-$599, while 16 (8%) pay $600-$699, 13 (6%) pay $700-$799, 12 (7%) pay $800-$999; and 6 (3%) pay $1,000 and up. At the other extreme, 27 renters (12%) pay $100-$299.

Of properties owners, 29 (35%) pay no building or neighborhood fees, while another 20 (24%) pay up to $75 per month. Ten (12%) pay $76-$99, 15 (the largest percentage at 18%) pay $100-$149, and 9 (10%) pay $150 or more.

For utilities (electricity, gas, water, and landline) the vast majority, 173 (76%) pay $50-$74. Another 45 (20%) pay $75-$149. And the rest pay $150 and up.

For Internet, 14 respondents (6%) get away for less than $20, while 137 (60%) pay between $20 and $49, and 57 (25%) pay $50-$74. The rest pay $75 and up.

Not quite half of the respondents (61/41%) pay more than $50 per month for cable/satellite TV. The rest are as follows: 29 (19%) pay $40-$49; 21 (14%) pay $30-$39; 17 (12%) pay $20-$29; and 20 (14%) pay $10-$19.

For cell phones, fully 67% of respondents, 174 people, pay between $10 and $29 per month. Another 38 (15%) pay $30-$49 and 16 (6%) pay $50-$74. 7 people, just under 3%, pay $75 or more per month. 24 people (9%) don’t own cell phones.

As for food and groceries, not surprisingly, 103 shoppers always shop at SuperMaxi, with another 136 shopping there sometimes and 17 rarely. Only 34 people always shop at Coral, though 111 shop there sometimes and 36 rarely. 3 people always shop at GranAki, 23 sometimes, and 62 rarely. 50 shop at mercados always, while 134, the largest block of responders to this question, shop at them sometimes, and 27 rarely. Finally, it’s 23 people always, 86 sometimes, and 50 rarely at the tiendas.

The shopping question had an “Other” box, which received 59 responses. Also not surprisingly, 34 people (58%) cited the Coopera. Other “Others” included: Comisariato (3), SuperStock (2), and Tia, Feria Libre, MegaTienda, and street vendors. One goes all the way to shop at the “local stores in Lansing, Michigan.”

For food and groceries, 134 respondents (just under 50%) spend between $50 and $99 per week. 78 shoppers (just under 25%) spend more, while 37 (not quite 14%) shell out $20-$39 and 8 (3%) pay $10-$19.

The following question, on dining out, also surveyed expenses per week: 76 people (28%) spend $19 or less; 120 (45%) spend $20-$49; and 71 (almost 27%) spend more than $50 per week at restaurants and bars.

Transportation expenses are generally low. Per month, 187 people (nearly 72%) spend less than $50; 43 people spend $50-$99; and the other 31 pay $100 and up.

57 people (roughly 20% of total respondents) own their own cars. 27 of them, just under 50%, pay between $50 and $99 per month on gas, repairs, insurance. 12 (21%) pay less than $50, while 13 pay $100-$199, and 5 pay more than $200.

For helpers (housekeepers, gardeners, and cooks), just under half of respondents (117) pay nothing. The other half are pretty equally divided between $1-$49 and $50-plus.

The question, “What else do you spend money on and how much per month?” received 156 comments, which included, but weren’t limited to (in a rough expense order):

• high school and college students close to $4,000 per semester
• mortgages $1,500
• visa application $750
• school 2 children $600
• travel $100/$5,000
• medication $75-$100/$120/$300-$400/$160/$60
• health insurance $100/$71/$58/$330/$210/$110
• medical $100/$75/$40/$200/$110/$80
• farm caretaker $450; worker Social Security $59
• acupuncture $300
• alcohol $200/$150/$75/$60/$250
• church $150
• homeowners insurance $120
• salon $120
• clothing, shoes $100
• entertaining $100
• music classes $90
• Spanish lessons $75/$32/$28/$85
• elementary school $70
• sponsor school children $70/$45/$25
• e-books and New York Times (Internet) $80
• veterinarian/grooming $60/$20/$50
• pet food $20/$30/$100/$40
• art lessons $75
• horseback riding $60
• entertainment $50/$25
• gym $50/$20
• dance lessons $45
• art $25/$50/$75
• Club Correos $40
• cooking classes $40
• yoga $30
• movies $20
• laundry/dry cleaning $15/$20/$10/$30
• DVDs $10/$20
• alarm system $15
• cigarettes $3.20 per pack
• flowers $4/$18/$50-$60

Finally, one wag wrote: “acholic” $30.

To summarize:

• almost 90% of renters pay between $100 and $699 per month.
• 72% of property owners who shell out fees pay no up to $99 a month.
• 76% of respondents pay $50-$74 per month for utilities.
• 91% pay no more than $74 for Internet, with most paying between $20 and $49.
• 59% pay $49 or less for cable/satellite TV, though fully 41% pay more.
• Of 235 cell-phone owners, exactly 3 out of 4 pay $10-$29 per month.
• 67% pay up to $99 a week in groceries, while 73% spend up to $49 per week dining out.
• 72% spend less than $50 per month on transportation.
• Of car owners, 70% pay less than $100 a month.

Taking a rough pass over all the numbers, it looks to us like an average couple that rents ($500 + $60 utilities), has fast Internet ($50), cable ($50), and cell phones ($30), shops at SuperMaxi and the mercados including the Coopera ($350), and doesn’t own a car, spends in the neighborhood of $1,100 per month for these basics.

Which brings us to the question, “How much do you spend every month?” which received 208 responses.

Some people provided a range ($1,200-$1,500, for example), which we averaged. There were also a few extreme highs ($7,000 including tuition for several high school and college attendees; two $5,000, one $4,500) and lows ($200, $300, $350), but we figure they washed.

Sixteen didn’t provide a number, writing things like, “I try not to look,” “I never add it up,” and “Still too much.” So that lowered the total to 192. 

Adding it all up and dividing by 192 (with a slight margin for cross-eyed errors), the average -- drum roll, please -- comes to $1,198. Pretty close to our $1,100, plus $100 in miscellaneous expenses as cited above.

The last general-comments question attracted 74 responses.

A number of you took us to task for fatal flaws in the survey methodology (no accommodation for size of household; week-month differentials; some people own and don’t include rent in the calculations, etc.). We plead guilty as charged. We don’t pretend our surveys are scientific, though they’re certainly instructive (and amusing, at least to us).

A couple people copped to spending way too much on alcohol.

A few planned to move from the (expensive) city to the cheaper (campo).

More than a few railed against the consistently low cost of living promoted by the Internet hypesters.

Here are just a few representative responses.

“Don’t move here to save money. Move to Mexico if money is your concern.”

“Cuenca is beautiful. But it’s not so cheap.”

“Our costs for obtaining visa and cédula are much higher than we expected. To date, we have spent $4,500 and we don't have the cédula yet.”

“All the reports of Cuenca's costs are consistently too low, resulting in many expats coming here briefly, then leaving after a few months. Thanks for trying to stop this heart-breaking misinformation!

You’re welcome. We hope these numbers, from more than 250 local households, infuse some measure of reality into outside perceptions of the cost of living in Cuenca.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NZ District Convention 2013

Hi folks, me again - just thought I would share this beautiful ending to the Special District Convention we have just had. Thankfully someone else videoed as I had forgotton my camera - imagine that, how could I do such a thing. Anyway I am sure the brother or sister that posted this to Youtube won't mind me sharing it with you. The convention was just awesome, very faith strenghtening, and this was the perfect finish to it.

BTW there were 4 convention sites with a total of 20,000 attendance and 138 baptised

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4haOMgTZnjo -if you want to watch it again - video from the actual venue)