Monday, April 28, 2008

Travel time

I'm taking a shuttle from the hotel to the airport (LAX), where I'll try to figure out how to get an inter-airport connector shuttle to the Orange County airport, where I'll get a cab to the hotel.
Maybe I should be renting a car.
If you don't hear from me again, I'm probably lost somewhere in central LA. Come and find me.

More quick things

LA - sunny, warm (dare I say hot?), flat and dry. It's all these things. A walking city it is not. I muled some packages for some friends on the plane, so I spent the morning looking for a post office (not a drug thing, and expat thing. It's far easier to mail packages within the country than to ship from offshore). The post office was about a mile away and the walk was oh so much fun.
One upside of the walk was that I discovered a branch for my bank. Saved me the hassle of mailing in a deposit, and let me change my stack of Grants for a larger stack of Jeffersons (learned the hard way that you can't use "big" bills in Quito). I asked the teller to leave the bank ribbon on the stacks 'cause that's, well, kind of cool. Nothing like walking around the mean streets outside of LAX with an inch thick wad of bills hanging out of your pocket. This is one of those situations where a not particularly observant observer might jump to the wrong conclusions. Reminds me of the time back in the internet explosion when I bought a domain name off some guy in the Borders parking lot in Herndon, VA. Drive into busy parking lot, meet a total stranger, hand over a cashier's check for an ungodly sum, receive small envelope in return. Nothing untoward or morally dubious going on, but it still feels a little strange.
While I was walking around the deserted parking land that is both LA and the entire area around the airport, I couldn't help but compare A and my traveling styles. Here I am, taking the late night coach flights into godforsaken airports, shuttling around to low rent motels and walking everywhere to save a buck, while she jets off to Chicago for some hoity-toity food show and is spending the week driving from place to place in a fancy leather-upholstered, voice-activated, navigation-assisted monster SUV. What gives? Ah well, to each his own, I guess.
I'm missing my camera. I've come across some great images over the last couple of days, and I haven't been able to take any pictures of the construction efforts recently (Saturday's laundry day, by the way - all the workers string up their clothes across the construction site at the end of the day). It would be a lot simpler if I just splurged on a camera phone...hmmm, that's not a bad idea.
I also had a random product idea.

Quick List

The pilots of Copa airline haven't really figured out the whole landing thing yet. Maybe Copa is a pilot training facility or something. Both sets of pilots on both flights yesterday had the plan bouncing down the runway on landing. And then locking the brakes and coming to a screeching halt. Not fun, and one of the few times where I've thought the whole seatbelt on a plane idea had some merit.

I'm in LA this week, too.

I find it really difficult to answer the immigration questions when I'm leaving or coming. I don't really fit any of the very different buckets that are the tried and true answers to most questions. Business or Pleasure? Well, mostly business, but not business in the country. Business somewhere else that I do "virtually" here. I'm sure this is one of those head scratchers that IT folks have been dealing with for a while that hasn't made it down to the normal person level yet. If I'm working on a computer in Quito, but the data's in the US, then where am I working? Who do I pay my taxes to? If I'm logged into gmail, and the server's in California, then aren't I technically working there, or is where I'm sitting at any given moment matter?

Then there's the whole living or visiting? No, I'm not staying with anyone, I have my own apartment. But I'm not "living here" (that would require a resident's visa). I come and go on a fairly frequent basis. I only need a tourist visa. I am working, but I'm not working here. I mean, I do my work here, on a laptop, but I'm not working in the country...

So, that's fun. Another example of life being easier if you just lie. "I'm here for vacation. 2 weeks. No. I am not carrying any fruits or plants or derivatives thereof in my bags."

Speaking of plant life, I bought 2 bonsai trees while Amanda was away this weekend. I came across the bonsai street vendor and couldn't resist. We are now proud owners (for the meantime) of a fig tree and an acacia (I think) tree. A's going to be so surprised when she sees them in the house.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Travel tips

In light of the upcoming visit, I'm going to start posting travel tips for those who are coming. These will be labeled/categorized under travel tips.

Here's the first tip -- bring small bills. It seems that there's a dearth of change in this country. I don't know why and it doesn't really make much sense, but that's the way it is. People don't like breaking tens, and twenties can be a pain to use. Fifties are almost impossible to use, and hundreds might as well be toilet paper.

If you're planning on bringing cash, plan on bringing lots of tens. You can, of course, always use the ATMs here. I haven't done so yet, so I'm not sure what kind of bills they spit out, since I've spent my free time running around town, trying to chop up my fifties into smaller units.

First Visit

Nasser wins the prize as the first person to schedule, and actually buy a ticket, for a visit. Technically, A's parents and Ethan were the first one's to plan a trip, but I'm thinking that family doesn't count in this category. Besides, Nasser will be the first to arrive, coming down in early June for the birthday festivities. I think there's an afternoon of overlap when Ethan, in-laws and Nasser are all here.
Hopefully, we'll have a car by then.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

cool cars

Went to a mechanic today to have a potential car checked out. Saw these two beauties in the corner. How cool would it be to get one fixed up and drive it back to the US? I can't decide if I'd prefer an old cadillac or a chevy muscle car.
Yes, that's a lot of dust on those puppies. I don't think they've been anywhere in a while. Just to give you an idea of the rest of the garage - here's the upper deck. That's Jesus looking down from the wall. How can one not have faith in one's mechanic with the big man watching over their work?

construction update

putting the next floor down - they frame the floor with wood, and then fill in the concrete.
They're almost done with the floor now (this picture taken yesterday).

Pictures of the Apartment

Amanda's pictures are so much better than mine.

This is the slideshow version:

Here's the flickr photo set in normal mode.

It's clear from the picture of the "office" why I need a new desk and chair...

Monday, April 21, 2008

First Negative

I've discovered the first negative of living here -- no major US sports is broadcast anywhere. Scratch that, no major US sports besides baseball is broadcast here. I don't get it. Of all the major sports franchises, you would think that MLB would be the least interesting to anyone living outside of the US. Maybe that's just me.
TNT broadcasts a separate program than what is shown in the US (the bastards).
So, no game 2 of the Cav/wizards. And no game 6 of the Caps/Flyers.
I wasted at least 2 hours and a whopping 6 bucks (at least 4 whole dollars for the 6 cab rides, and a $2 beer) going from one "sports" bar to the next, trying to find a game.
Interesting enough, you can watch just about any of the million soccer games from the inexhaustible number of leagues around the world (who knew that there was a beach soccer league?), but no other sports.
Just remember, once you're outside of the the great wall of USA, sports = soccer. Bummer.

Hike Ilalo

We went for a hike on Sunday of nearby ilalo. Turns out that an "easy" four hour hike isn't that easy for a bunch of out of shape people used to sea level altitudes.
here's some pictures I posted on flickr of the walk.
The most important lesson of the day, more important than the need to stay hydrated, or the fact that coming down a hill can be just as challenging as going up, is that the sun around the equator is STRONG.

I put plenty of sunblock on at Ms. Demanda's urging, but I didn't get the sunblock quite far enough down my neck. I'm not a redneck, exactly, but I do have a nasty burning "ring around the collar" about an inch wide around the base of my neck.

Here's a link to google maps of the hill we hiked. We went from Tumbaco down to San Pedro de Tingo, where we had an awesome, and well earned, lunch before coming home.

House Location

Trying to paste in the location of our apartment in quito:
This is a google map of our neighborhood.
We're just up (south) of the circle, on Gonzalez Suarez, next door to the red roofed corner building (Banco De Pichincha).
I'm going to have to figure out how to add coordinate links to a blog.

First Virtual Walk through

Amanda and I (mostly Amanda) gave our first virtual walk through of the apartment last night to Frank and Lauren.
We used the web cam on my laptop to show the house via video feed on Skype. If you have Skype and are interested in calling, my contact name's just the same as my email address.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Views from the apartment

North toward the airport . Construction is just to the left of the pinkish building. Hard to believe we're on the third floor.

A rare picture of pichinca. Usually the peak's shrouded in clouds.

Fog in the morning - it'll roll through in the morning and at night. Kind of spooky - view from the front of the apartment.

Construction Outside the Bedroom Window

I'm going to make a photo blog of the building construction that's going on outside the bedroom window and down a block or two.
I find it amazing that the construction guys seem to be doing all the work without any power tools of any sort. So far, the most advanced equipment they've used is some sort of pump and hose to pour the cement.
I watched them put the floor in on Tuesday. They've spent the rest of the week adding to the steel skeleton that becomes the central pillars.
Kind of hard to tell in the next picture, but you can see some guys walking on blanks between two of the pillars. No cranes - they carry all of this stuff up from the ground.
(you can see a picture of what the building will/should look like at the bottom of the image.)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Daily Deliveries

Maybe it's the cheap labor, or maybe it's the nasty traffic in the city, but we've discovered that there's a special delivery day for all sorts of things.
Thursdays is the water bottle delivery guy (the large, 5 gallon "pure water"). Sometimes he comes on Tuesday (not sure if that's instead of or in addition to the Thursdays). Or, if you really need some water, he leaves his cell phone number, and you can call him direct.
Fridays a cardboard reclycling truck drives up and down the street in the morning. Not sure what that's all about.
Saturday seems to be the propane tank replacement day (propane is used for the stove and the water heater). There are scores of what I assume to be independent operators driving up and down the street.

Dan turned us on to his friend's coffee company - they deliver, by the pound, whenever you want.

Looking forward to learning what's on the menu for the rest of the week.

Playing with Templates

I haven't sent out a broadcast message advertising the blog yet, mostly because we haven't had much to say yet, but also because I've been playing around with the templates and trying to find one that works for us.
I think we'll keep the minima for a while - it's nice and easy

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Brother, can you spare a dime?

First observation -- this country has a European-esque love for coins. It seems like I'm carrying around three pounds of random change at the end of every day. Ecuador has started making their own "US Dollar" denominated coins, too, adding to the confusion.
If you ever wondered where all those liberty "sacagawea" dollar coins of ours ended up - they're all here.

Clear Morning

This is the first day that the weather's been what I remembered, and expected. Clear and cloudless morning, the sun slowly brightening and warming things up. The last two days, the fog's been so thick in the morning you couldn't see across the street.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We're Live

Getting settled into the apartment over the last day or two (arriving safe and sound on Monday night).
I'm sitting in the living room, staring out over the lights of Quito -- the view is only broken by a couple of close by buildings, marring what would otherwise be a spectacular view.
I think that the original intent was to get a view of the other valley, away from the city, but this works, too.

The upsides of the apartment:
-It's spacious (with 3 bedrooms and plenty of space for visitors)
-Good views
-Good to great location
-already furnished
-Good water pressure and lots of hot (scalding) water (only people who have lived without these things can truly appreciate how nice it is to have).

The downsides of the apartment:
-the place looks like it was decorated by your grandmother. Worse, it looks like it was decorated by someone else's grandmother whose faith in jesus was only outweighed by her lack of taste. A very good reason to go out and do some shopping.
-We're relatively close to the street (third floor) and the street's busy. And builders here don't believe in insulation, for weather or sound.

That's really it for the complaints - there's plenty of other things that could be complained about, but ultimately there's really no point. It's going to be a decent place for us while we're here.
Amanda's made it abundantly clear that I need to include a caveat that this place has the best furnishings and decorations of any of the many, many places she looked at. I would like to point out that I think she did an exemplary job of finding a place.

Hopefully, we'll get some pictures out relatively soon to show off some of the amazing decorations.
Plenty more to follow. The important thing is that the blog's set up and working.