Looking for a pleasant diversion; perhaps, something you could do with your spouse, or alone?
“ Why don’t we take a cooking class? “, she said.
“We?” I thought.
Neither of us like to cook. Both of us had been single parents, having to provide healthy basic nourishment for our children; but, to choose to do it, voluntarily ?
As it turned out, I was in the local plaza, and I saw a sign in the window of a shop selling Royal Prestige kitchenware. It announced a series of cooking classes, focusing on different ethnic cuisines.
Jumping on the bandwagon, I took a brochure with me to score points with my lady. Of course, on seeing what was offered, she headed, with me in tow, to sign up for the next class – Comida (Food) Peruana (Peruvian).
The Wednesday, 11 Am – 2 PM, class was held around a stove and counter at the back of the store. With copious light shining on all the new pots and pans, and the sparkling new white and black décor, the setting was inviting. Keeping with what may seem a tradition, we arrived late. Eight fellow students we sitting around a bar, overlooking the work area. Each had on a black chef’s hat, looks like a stove pipe on one’s head, and black apron.
I sat at one end, directly beside the chopping block where I could see, very closely, what ingredients were being used. As everything was in Spanish, I was afraid that I would not understand new Spanish cooking vocabulary. This was not a problem. Everything was clearly evident, and the two, male, chefs, from the store were fabulous hosts and teachers. They each had assigned portions of the meal to prepare and moved about, taking turns presenting as if choreographed. More smoothly, it could not have been. Students watched enthusiastically, asking questions, writing notes and smiling through every moment.
As each dish was prepared, it was decoratively presented for enthusiastic consumption.
Without writing recipes, Let me just tell you that there
- To start, a Pisco Sour (alcoholic beverage) to stimulate the palate. Then for the main items.
- Cebiche, Peruana, Tradicional, using Pescado Blanco (White Fish)
- Lomo (Beef) Salteado, made in a wok, with Roti de Papa a la Huancairia
(shredded boiled potato, made into patties and fried
- For dessert, Suspiro a la Limena. I liken it to a compote (cream pudding) served in a fruit bowel. This one was unique in that it included a liquor for flavour and aroma. Choose your preference.
I noted that the fish and lomo saltado appeared more Asian than what I thought was South American. The reason, I was told, was that Peru has a very large Asian, particularly Japanese, population that has had a strong influence on the country’s culture and cuisine.
As the group wrapped up, there was a remarkably short presentation to state that customers could depend on ongoing support, including one meal cooked in their homes by a store chef each year.
Everything from our initial enquiry through to our parting was incredibly hospitable and professional.
I was first in line to sign up for the next class, - Chilean cuisine. And, I am looking forward to it with enthusiasm !
For those in the Quito area, the Clases de Cocina, by Royal Prestige, take place in the Centro Comercial Plaza del Rancho, near the urbanizacion San Francisco in Tanda / Merivalle.
Telephone 095419585 or 1 800 894 1012
The website is www.royalprestige.com.ec
I had a fantastic time; learned a few intriguing things about cooking, ate some delicious new foods and was left looking forward to another cooking experience.
I recommend that you consider a cooking class as a fun way to spice up your life.
"I could write a book !"
How often have you said, or heard that statement "I could write a book." ?
Why don't you ? Only you know the adventure, trials and tribulations in your life. You may have wisdom that you want to impart to your children or grand-children.
I believe that someone, someday, will ask " Who was Andre Hugo, my grand-father?" What did he do?. I know that in researching the family genealogy I was frequently asking that question and discovering interesting things such as my great grandfather, a carpenter cabinet maker, working with family specialists putting domes on cathedrals. He did some of the fancy work in Westminster Cathedral. An uncle then moved to the USA where he put the dome on the Chapel at the US Naval Academy Annapolis. Another, was the top amateur golfer in Scotland and later moved to the USA where he helped design and build some of that countries great golf courses.
In this and subsequent posts, over time, Andre tells his story. Where is yours ?
Pine Lawn Avenue
"Watch out ! "
About as new is new could be; I was lying on the table while my mother changed my diaper. Curious, my three-year-old sister couldn't get her eyes close enough to see what was happening.
Squirt ! She got it right in the face.
Mum was an English war bride who discovered that life was impossible living with mother-in-law. My first home, therefore, was with my aunt Daisy where my parents had fled. Grandma lived just down the street on Pine Lawn Ave, in London, Ontario, Canada. We were there for only a short time before moving to another temporary local address on East Street.
It wasn’t long before mum decided that I was to be bottle fed. This decision was provoked by two main factors. The first – In England there had been food rationing during the war. As a result, she did not have sugar to eat for several years. Once in Canada, she loaded up on it and her milk became too sweet. All my Iife, I blamed her for my own craving sweet things. The second was that I frequently exercised cannibal tendencies, champing hard (biting) her nipples. “Ouch!”
Grandma was a tiny woman, Four feet, nine inches tall. Mum never said much good about her and dad rarely spoke about his parents at all. As we have researched our family history, my brother, Rick, learned nothing but good about her caring nature, helping others in need.
Grandma’s house was near the quarry where my father used to swim. A Boulevard
ran down the center of the street. Her house was an old one-story, three-bedroom wood and stucco one with an enclosed veranda, an attic and basement. To go down the steep stairs to
the dark, damp, basement could be a fearful event. The basement walls were made of large rocks and cement, typical of the era and locale. A large tree shaded the front yard and the grassy backyard contained an apple and a pear tree. It was in that yard where my father gave me my first haircut, cutting the top of my ear and getting blood all over his Sunday best white shirt.
The tree in the front yard served me well as a young man. I had been in northern Ontario camping with my uncles Walt and Hugh. About 11 years old, I had entered the bush to do what came naturally and bees flew up into my shirt and stung me. It was against that tree that I leaned on as a friend that night, and vomited my guts out.
The kitchen was small, and I recall grandma making toast. There was no toaster; just grandma standing at the stove, a slice of bread lanced by a long, wire fork in her hand, held over an
It was also in that house that my father, as a young boy, described a room to his mother. Startled, she declared that he could not possibly have remembered that place because they had moved from there before he was a year old. My father remembered. As a relatively newborn lying in his
crib, he could not breathe; and, opening his eyes, saw a large rat sitting on his chest. The imprint of that event and space in the background stayed forever in his mind.
I did not know my grandfather, a retired military guy who married late after retiring from the British Army. He worked at the electric power plant by the quarry. He was tough and demanding. Dad was tough too; though family life revealed a heart of gold. He fought with his father; and, after completing public school, grade 8, he ran away and joined the circus as a laborer. When World War II came, he enlisted in the military, served in Western Europe and Italy. It was, eventually, to be his long-term career and I was to be raised as " an army brat."
On the bookshelf of that old house, I found a wonderful book titled "Boys Book of Indian Warriors". It was captivating and represented a view of Canada's indigenous peoples that is quite different from that of our American neighbours. For the most part the relationship was harmonious. However, there were conflicts and the book, to my recollection, provided insight into the Indian side of the history. Real photos of some of the famous Indian warrior chiefs and tribal members captivated me. I kept that book well into adult life and passed it to my son, Sean. Interest tweaked, I also read and reread a book called "Brothers of the Seneca’s ". I dreamed of living in roaming the forests with them, bow and arrows in hand.
“Junk Man!” “Junk Man”.
I heard a man shouting in the street. From the window, I saw an old, raggedly dressed man driving a horse drawn, flat wagon past the front yard. The Junk Man was collecting junk that people wanted to get rid of. Junk, not garbage. Things that he could fix or sell for parts. Recycling may be a current topic in today’s societies; but, the poor have always led the way.
It is hard to recognize grandma's house today. There have been renovations to the façade. Like for many older homes, the current residents have no idea of the love, life and history that has gone before. If only old houses could tell their stories…
A jewel to be polished – That is Ecuador. For the last several years, International Living Magazine has determined that Ecuador is the best retirement location in the world, rated on various factors including climate and cost of living. Having moved from Canada to Quito four years ago, I, for one, sing its praise.
When making such sweeping statements, however, one must always look for the qualifications that go with them. Much of what has been written refers to the coast of Manabi Province and Cotacachi, Otavalo, Quito, Cuenca and Loja in the sierra. These are the primary targets for gringos looking to settle in Ecuador. Each of these is a place where I could be happy. There are many other small towns that could equally be lauded; but, for the most part, Expats tend to settle in clusters. Not usually mentioned as a place to live is the Orient, the East side of the Andes at the edge of the Amazon Jungle. This area is typically viewed as a place for stimulating tourist experience, rather than Expat settlement. The Galapagos Islands below to Ecuador; but, residency there is tightly controlled as part of the protection of the environment program.
I am not a beach person, and I do not like extreme heat and humidity. My preferences, therefore, are for all the sierra locations. For whatever reason, resort and condominium complex has boomed along the Manabi coast. People fleeing Mexico? Development money available? For those looking for ocean front, or near, property with substantial positive up-site to their investment, this is the place to go. Recognizing the positive side, the government has poured money into new roads, a bridge across the Chone river and the promotion of tourism.
Much further behind in progress is the Northern Province of Esmeraldas. Coastal, with lush greenery, the emerald connotation of the name is well deserved. It is agricultural with beautiful African Palm, banana and other plantations. It is, however, a particularly poor area with little to attract tourists. With high crime in the main towns, it currently suffers the presence of criminals involved in the drug trade with bordering Colombia.
I had occasion to visit a doctor in the town of Esmeraldas. To obtain a laboratory examination, I had to walk three blocks through the centre of the town. Very worried for my safety, the doctor recommended that I lock my valuables in his safe till I returned. I did that, and, despite a visible police presence, felt uncomfortable.
San Lorenzo, further North in Esmeraldas, can also be characterised by acute poverty and risk for unwary travellers. It has a bustling street market selling cheap, articles of little tourist action. Parts of the town consist of flimsy shacks on stilts built over the water of the Nadadero Chico river. The wharf becomes a hub of activity on weekends. Residents flock there to enjoy the river breeze, fish or just hang out with friends. Small boats ply the waters, taking tourists to the local interior to look
at the flora and fauna. Despite a police presence, smugglers of parrots comfortably debarked from their motorized canoe with grocery bags stuffed with captured parrots. Here, one tried to make its escape.
South of the town of Esmeraldas the lack of development continues to show. The next large (sic) town of Atacames has a beach and a strip of bamboo constructed shops selling trinkets. The main street along the beach seems to be continually backed up, apparently mostly with locals.
There are two brighter specks on the provincial mosaic that I wish to mention, the resort condominium project of Casablanca and Playa Escondida (Hidden Beach)
Casablanca is an island onto itself. It is an attractive coastal condominium development with row housing, apartments, a social club, a small grocery and incidental stores to provide for the basic needs of residents. The beach area is for as far as the eye can see. Adjacent is the ruins of an uncompleted hotel building that just never made it to success. It is an escape from the city, though seven hours from Quito. Our friends bought a house there, on the high ground a couple hundred meters inland, with a great view of the ocean. They loved it at first; but, going to the same isolated place eventually became somewhat tiresome, and the condominium fees for the mostly uninhabited property an inconvenience. There gorgeous view of the ocean is no more. The developer is building high rise apartments between their house and the water, blocking the
Playa Escondida is a little known, almost hidden ecologically conscious development by a Canadian woman, located just South and along the ocean from Casablanca and Atacames.
It consists of 100 acres of pristine land and vegetation, only about less than 10 of which have been developed for a few private homes, hotel accommodation and a restaurant. All development is as environmentally friendly as can be. Construction is mostly wood. Toilet and kitchen waste are all recycled to the land and the woodland kept groomed for health. The beach is limited,
especially when the tide is out and the flat rock and solid mud bottom dominate. For those wishing a quiet escape to nature, it is a good option. Oh ! In a concession to modern life,
WIFI is available.
Ecuador is a jewel and much is being done to make it shine. It will take time. For retirees and property investors, the time is now. I predict that in 10 to 15 years, assuming good government, Ecuador will be recognized as being well on the way to first world status and environmentally
( See also blog The Noise of Change is Keeping Me Awake )
Some day, I’ll write a book - my story. How often have you felt or heard this sentiment ? How often have you seen the written word ?
Andre’s story begins in London, Ontario Canada in 1946. His mother was an English war bride and his father a Canadian soldier. Raised as an “army brat”, he never intended to join the military. That he did, rising to the rank of Major, following which he worked in the Federal Government, having national and international responsibilities. Ever wanting, though admittedly internally afraid, the challenge of the private sector, he went on to turn around the fortunes of two high tech companies doing leading edge research, development and manufacturing. Each sold into markets in about 70 countries. He was also one of the founders of a computer software company that did not fair well. Along with this professional journey, he had failed marriages and raised two children as a single parent. Each success or failure seemed to open doors to new experiences, sometimes pleasant and sometimes painful. At age 63, he gave away most of his belongings and sought adventure in South America. His current life is revealed through his writing and photography on this website, www.andrehugosplace.com/
Watch for Andre’s story as it unfolds from time to time in his blog. Many baby boomers will, no doubt, reflect on their own lives and see similarities characteristic of their generation.
Begin by reading “Meet Andre” in the introduction to his website:
I confess that I have missed a few days of posting my “Photo of the Day” and have been slow at times in writing my blog.
Having just gotten over a couple health challenges, I have been on a driving course. Imagine; after two formal courses in driving in Canada, plus three courses on driving a motorcycle and fifty years
driving without an accident. I am on a driving course because one is needed in order to get a driver’s license here.
To be entirely accurate, a person from another country can escape the course if they get their Embassy in Ecuador to confirm that their license is, indeed, a valid license from their country. Unfortunately, if driver’s licenses in that country are issued by a province or state, the embassy is unlikely to have anything to do with it. That is the case for Canadians. The Canadian Embassy declines to involve itself.
I calculated the cost of going to Canada, getting the Province to certify a copy of my license; then taking it to the Capital, Department of Foreign Affairs, to validate the Provincial document; getting the document translated; and then, Certified as being true by the Ecuadorian Embassy or consulate. Frankly, it was easier for me to cough up the $ 919 USD and attend the course.
The hiccup for many “gringos” is that such courses and tests are all in Spanish. Fortunately for me, I have become reasonably fluent in Spanish over the past four years. Understanding
the teacher and encountering new vocabulary in the books provided were not problems. Keep this challenge in mind when you consider moving to this wonderful country. – I must add that bus and taxi services available are incredibly cheap, and they can provide for a large part of one’s transportation needs.
From one of the course instructors:
“ Deaths on roads in developed countries range from 1 in 3000 to 1 in 6,000. Deaths in developing countries range from 1 in 50 to one in 600.”
Doesn’t that knock your socks off ?
I looked up the statistics on the World Health Rankings website to get numbers more meaningful and got this: Road Traffic Death rates per 100,000. Ecuador 20.4. Canada 7.8. USA 13.9
Anyone who has driven in Ecuador will not be surprised. Fortunately, the law requiring people to take a course should help reduce the death toll over the next couple of decades.
If you are coming for a visit and plan to drive, be aware that for less than $ 20 USD you can get an
International Driver’s License, good for one year, from the Canadian (CAA) or American (AAA)
Automobile clubs. (There are European club equivalents) You have to get these in your home country.
High rates of street crime, brought about by poverty and drugs, has led to significant increases in police recruiting and deployment throughout Ecuador. I must add that this policing initiative is balanced, in part, by programs to reduce poverty.
What does increased police presence mean for travellers?
Most noticeable are Transit police, seemingly on every main street in cities and on the major highways. Almost all wear bright yellow florescent vests, whether they are from the National Police, wearing Khaki uniforms or city police, in Quito, wearing blue uniforms.
Recognizing the importance of tourism and national image, officers from both forces saturate main tourist areas.
What should you expect from them?
I confess at the outset to thinking of police as my friends; there to help me unless there is strong reason to believe otherwise. Are they corrupt?
I witnessed an expat offer a police officer a monetary bribe in an attempt to avoid having his car seized for driving during restricted peak hours. The officer was polite, smiling and, in every way, professional as he proceeded to perform his duty.
I have also approached about a dozen officers from both the national and municipal police to make inquiries or complaints. In every instance, they were friendly and smiling, offering whatever information they could. To say, however, that I have not heard first hand reports of bad behaviour would not be honest.
The problem comes when they are asked or expected to do something besides promenading along sidewalks or, routinely, drive around with their lights flashing. Patrolling appears to be just one giant social event in which they pass the time with their friends.
It should be known that, in this public forum, the national and city police do not associate with each other. Both can be seen at the same intersections directing traffic or walking along streets. They do not speak to each other or walk together. Each sticks with his/ her own kind. It is not uncommon to see police officers of these forces waving at traffic on opposite sides of the same intersection. While this behaviour does not directly impact on travellers, it is something to note. I have tried to get various police officers to explain their apparent overlap of responsibilities; but, without success. The average officer just does not know.
Within the past year, the national police have become highly visible on Saturday nights in La Ronda, a must visit colonial street in the historic centre of Quito. Dressed in their formal uniform, high, polished black boots, ceremonial swords and capes, they stroll along chatting to each other and posing for photos. I am sure that the possibility of being skewared by a police sword gives thieves second thought. Their presence also led to a coincidental augmentation of city police in their daily blue work uniforms. Still, they do not associate with each other.
I once joked that I was always careful crossing streets and would be on the lookout for red light runners, proceeding after the first five or six. Drivers know that, even when there is a police officer in the intersection, he and his friends near-by will only wave them through. There will be no enforcement action. I have spoken to several police officers after witnessing this lack of response and received only smiles and “Thanks for reporting this to us” comments.
Having two or three cars abreast, turning/ passing on your right as you make a left hand turn onto a narrow street is equally common and unsanctioned.
Why isn’t there more law enforcement? Perhaps this is a cultural norm; or, because the worst offenders of traffic laws are the police.
What should visitors expect from police in Quito? Apart from friendliness,- “Nothing !” Consider them as congenial information providers. Without great expectations, you will not be disappointed.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the last vestiges of winter are quickly disappearing. There was, of course, mother nature’s recent blast of snow and freezing rain to show that she is still in charge. One watches for the buds on the trees and Washington looks for apple blossoms. Warmer weather, as opposed to warm weather, is sufficient to induce adventurous youth to don shorts and open their winter jackets. Is that Robin Redbreast in your garden?
Here on the equator, at 3000 m. (Almost 10,000 ft) altitude, change is more subtle. Trees remained green throughout the winter months; although some thinned out their leaves.
Daily temperatures remained comfortably around 20 C (68 F). The most notable sign of winter was the almost constantly overcast sky and daily rainfall. Today, sitting in the early morning sun, I notice that the sky is blue again and that trees have, overnight, sprouted new branches.
Snow-capped Cotopaxi Volcano, 90 km (56 mi) away, has returned to my terrace view. A little bird momentarily joins a colourful butterfly nearby and then zooms from sight. Soon, the guava tree will flower and tiny, blue hummingbirds will visit. Captivated by their beauty and light dancing, flower to flower, I will be waiting, camera in hand, as every year.
It was an adventure in which I was determined not
to perform less than the youngsters. I was 63, and they were in their early twenties. Every one of us was new to Ecuador and the respiratory challenges of exercise at over 4,000 metres altitude.
Cotopaxi is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, reaching a height of 5,897 meters (19,347 ft). Our objective was to climb to the snow line at 4,500 meters (14,764 ft) altitude.
It was about an hour by car to the base of the volcano where we stopped at the park entrance to buy souvenirs and bags of coca-leaf, a traditional aid to surviving the lack of oxygen high in the Andes Mountains. – Coca leaf is NOT cocaine, which is what it may become if mixed and cooked in a bath of toxic chemicals.- We then drove part way up the volcano to a large, almost vacant, dirt parking lot.
Opening the car door was difficult in the strong wind which is often present on the volcano. Our driver decided to stay in the car and wait for the climbing adventure to be over. Even weighing over 200 lbs at the time, I had to lean into the steady, gale force wind to stay on my feet.
One thinks of mountain trails as being narrow paths. Cotopaxi is enormous, and the way up was wide enough for a two lane highway, if such a thing could even be contemplated.
Footing was extremely difficult as most of the climb was steep and on what could best be depicted as a deep layer of beach sand. Each step sunk in and slid down, so that you sometimes made no progress at all. Clearly, there was no beach; but, many of you know that hiking any distance, on the flat, in deep sand can be hard. Now, imagine climbing on it, on a 45 degree, or more, angle.
Clouds gathered, and heavy rain lashed horizontally in the wind. We were wet and cold, often huddling in any ground shelter we could find. My eye-glasses became pitted by the sand-blasting
by wind and volcanic dust.
Unused to the rigorous exercise and suffering a shortage of oxygen, we chewed the coca leaf. I didn’t think that it helped much, though I was able to continue to climb; and, I did notice a light headedness of too much oxygen when I returned to the bottom.
I confess that my 40 year younger friends seemed to have more energy than I did; though one quit the climb early. And, they did encourage me along the way.
There was relief and utter joy that comes with accomplishing an arduous task together when; finally, we reached the snow line and shelter of the refuge at 4,500 metres altitude. It was hot chocolate and empanadas for everyone.
The climb down was not to be easy, though it was buoyed by the feelings of accomplishment within each of us.
Being a Canadian, I could not resist the temptation to roll in the snow, - just to remind myself what it is like, and
then quickly leave it behind.
Today, I am sitting on the terrace in the Equatorial sun, refreshment in hand, and see the snow of the Cotopaxi Volcano about 90 km away. It is a beautiful, rugged, spectacular creation of nature.
I can see the snow line and often see snow blowing into the air as it is struck by sunlight.
I was there
You are in public. There is great movement in the bowels. Like a balloon, you believe that you will burst. If it sneaks out, you cringe and put on your most innocent face – “Not Me." If, there is no doubt, you die of embarrassment and try to escape as fast as possible. It may happen again.
Retired and at home with your spouse, there is no denying. He/ She knows. Condemnation will be quick. How could you? You pig. Where are your manners? What has become of you? Etc. If there is a young child present, perhaps a grand-son, you may be sure that he will roll over, laughing at what you have done – a fart.
As you get older you may be enjoying more travel and experiencing changes in diet. Stomach / Abdominal problems abound in many of the winter get-away places, the Caribbean, Latin America or any other area of the developing world. Sanitation and health standards are not what we are used to and our bodies protest.
Needless to say, one does not wish for or plan such events; but, life is not
always as we want it to be.
Quoting from Livestrong.com/ , (Refers to Americans; but Canadians and Europeans cannot hide),
“The average American passes gas 10 times a day, and even 20 daily
What can you do to reduce frequency and such delicate moments? The Harvard Medical School offers this advice in an October 2007 Health Publication:
“Slow down your eating:
Are we more likely to have gas as we age?
“As we age gas tends to build up in the lower colon before making a
Does this clear the air on this highly sensitive topic ?
Stay away from sex, politics and religion; I was
told. However, there are times when I cannot resist. There are issues important to many of my readers that must be acknowledged.
The Roman Catholic Church is in crises and needs strong leadership that will take it from a path of increasing irrelevance to one that more fully responds to the needs of its followers. Will the selection of a new pope lead to this?
In Canadian law, and I suspect the laws of other modern countries, an organization that harbours criminals (sex offenders), deliberately and methodically covers up crimes, and protects the offenders, is a criminal organization. No-one wants to apply that label, though grass roots pressure has forced individual criminal investigations and civil claims for damages.
In April, 2011, an investigative report identified serious problems in the Vatican Bank.
Italian and other police were investigating allegations and evidence of fraud, theft and money laundering on behalf of individuals and the Italian mafia. The church acknowledged that there were issues and that a substantial clean-up was needed. Watch the news reporting on You Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G77_rIbRWec
Women in the Catholic Church, nuns and parishioners, increasingly call for greater roles and opportunity. To date, movement to equality for women has largely been denied. At the top, it is an old boy’s club, and the incumbents want to keep it that way. While the United Nations and the developed world decry discrimination against women and, most often, make it a crime, freedom of religion customs and laws, block forced changes.
What will likely happen? I believe that there will be little significant change in direction or
practice. Even if, a new pope wills it, the bureaucracy is too immense and sluggish to respond quickly, in our lifetime. In the meantime, many who want formal structure, hope and community will continue to leave and simply refer to themselves as spiritual. Efforts by the church to thwart this decline will be through increased focus on the developing world, where belief that things will be better in an afterlife may be all that one has.
This is a time of immense importance for those who care for the Roman Catholic Church.
If ever there was a timely need for a miracle, it is now.