Monday, November 29, 2010

Another Video for Nana and Grandpa

Now Showing: I can hold things, but am not sure why I'm holding them 
or how to get them out of my hand.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


It comes every 10 years, the Ecuadorian national census (censo).
It is much more involved than the US census, from the questions that are asked to the method of data collection.

Here's how it works here...
They send 700,000 high school students out to all of the neighborhoods in the country with pencils, erasers, and census booklets. If the students are sent to a "safe" neighborhood their only protection is the teacher who accompanies a group of 5 or so students. The teacher waits outside while the students enter the homes that they were assigned (Note: According to my in laws, the last time did a census here 3 students were murdered). If they are sent to the "dangerous" neighborhoods there is a police officer or military personnel stationed every block. The students are not provided food, beverages, or bathroom facilities by the government and it is obligatory that they do this (i.e. they are not paid). I think we, as residents of Ecuador, should speak out against this.

They enter the home and ask many questions of the head of the household, including conditions of the home, where we get the water from our home, to do we have a phone and internet.. Then they continue on to ask each individual family member a series of questions that ranged from "do you work, and if so how many hours?" to "where were you born?" to "do you have insurance?", etc. Being that we are a 6 person household this took our poor interviewer 45 minutes. They have to hand write all of the answers on a form that has to be manually reviewed and compiled.

We can leave the house at 5 if we'd like to, so until then we're relaxing and watching movies.

Cangrejo (Caan-grey-hoe)

Cangrejo. Pronounced caan-grey-hoe.
Also known as crab, or my husband's favorite food.
Cooked correctly, it is his Kryptonite.

No one makes your favorite food like mom, and today Chela was in full cangrejo cooking mode.
We headed out to the feria libre around 9 and bought 24 brightly colored, Ecuadorian blue crabs.
We went in search of the perfect platanos verdes (green plantains), albaca (basil), and limes to add to the dish. Then we were headed home to clean and prepare the creaturas for cooking.

Chela and Arturo scrubbed the live crabs with toothbrushes until all of the dirt was off (I think Arturo only got pinched twice. Chela didn't get pinched at all. She's a pro. But don't worry, Arturo got his revenge.), while Kesha and I watched intently discussing the colors found on the crabs' bodies (thrilling conversation topic, I know).

Once washed, the crabs were stashed in a laundry hamper until the chefess was ready for the next phase. I missed this phase due to a much needed diaper change for Kesh, but I returned to find the crabs in the sink. When I asked if they were dead Arturo said no. When I said, "oh, so they're alive", he also said no. So, I have no idea if the crabs in this photo are dead or alive...

Randy and Karen arrived to partake in the crab luncheon.

The caldo was prepared, crabs tossed in, salad distributed, table set, juice made...

Then the crabs were devoured...

Great lunch!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving, far away from home, yet full of friends and family

I loved this year's Thanksgiving experience!
I have been in many countries for Thanksgiving (England, Argentina, Australia, and Ecuador), however, my 2010 Ecuador experience takes the cake.

Normally, my mom cooks our TDay dinner, or we do it potluck style with the extended family. This year, we did potluck style, but I had to pull out my cooking magic, making "pumpkin" pie (really squash pie, but you could hardly tell the difference), sweet potato casserole, gravy, whipped cream, and biscuits from SCRATCH (plus I made coffee, cooked green bean, and helped clean and decorate... and with a three month old to take care of... go momma go!)

Karen and Rand made the turkey, which was AMAZING! They insist that there is no recipe, but we'll get it out of them! Tresa and Edd brought apple pie, pecan pie, and ice cream (the pecan pie was heavenly! I didn't try the apple pie, I was too full, but I'm assuming it was incredible as well! The rest of the guests brought whiskey and wine.

It was a very fun evening with a wonderful mix of extranjeros and Ecuadorians. I missed my family back home, but am thankful to have had such wonderful people by my side here in Cuenca.

Here are some photos from the evening's festivities (although most of them are blurry because I took tem with my phone's camera), and links to the recipes I used.

Hoping everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Making the "pumpkin" pie

Miss grumpy pants helping set up.

The dessert table set-up

The buffet table set-up

The turkey

Part of the Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, sweet potato casserole, and green beans)

Ricardo carving the turkey

Karen, Lorena, and Tresa

Johana, Cristobal, Arturo, Randy, and Ricardo chowing down

 Gladys and Karen

The boys... Arturo, Ricardo, Juanacho, and Cristobal

Graciela and Gladys

 People serving themselves (look at that great salad made by Alex and Johanna!)

Karen and Kesha

 Julie, Alex and Ricardo's daughter


 Edd and Jannie (Karen and Randy's friend who lives in Loja and came to celebrate with us!)

Cristobal, Kesha, and Johanna

 Graciela, Kesha, and Johanna

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Week of Firsts

Kesha has had a lot of firsts this week; first parasites, first fungi, first fever, first 3+ hour crying session...

She was due for her 2 month vaccinations which include 2 oral doses (rotavirus and polio), and 2 injections (DTaP and Pneumococcosomethingoranother, also known as Hib I think). She was smiley and really happy with the oral doses (I think they make them taste like candy). Then came the injections. She screamed and cried for both. However, Kesh is a trooper. She stopped crying the minute we left the clinic. However, according to my baby bible (What to Expect the First Year) a small number of children have swelling, redness, and cry for hours after the DTaP. Well, that was poor Kesha. She got her vaccinations around 3:00 in the afternoon and spent from 4:30 until around 8:00 really screaming her head off and kept crying from 8:00 until 10:30, when she finally fell asleep, crying. I have never felt so helpless in my life and felt so bad for someone. This little tiny baby, so helpless and not understanding what is going on with her, in pain, screaming because the pain wouldn't stop... ugh.

I would like to insert a big shout out here to Karen for sticking it out with us for several hours of the worst if it!

Thankfully she slept like a log last night, but woke up this morning with a fever. Back to the Tempra (like Children's Tylenol) and thank goodness her fever is gone now.

On top of having to have her vaccinations, the results of her fecal exam (nice, right) came back positive for fungus and some parasites. Back to the doctor this afternoon to figure out what they do to get rid of this stuff in babies...

Poor Kesha. It will all be over soon, I promise! (well, at least for 2 months, then you have to get the same shots again...)

At least she will have one first that isn't medically related this week, her first Thanksgiving! It should be fun!

My little trooper after being vaccinated.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A World Without Changing Tables

In the States we take many small amenities for granted. One such amenity being the public restroom changing table.

In Cuenca, there is ONE public restroom changing table that I know of, and it's in a baby store (they would be foolish not to cater to their own clientele). Everywhere else, you take what you get. I normally end up changing Kesha on a marble counter top, blocking her body with mine (as there are no security features on counter top), getting hit repeated by swinging bathroom doors as people enter and exit the restroom, and other fun tales of baby changing (you should see me clean up #1 and #2 that's been done once the diaper has been taken off and all her clothes... I'm turning in to a true pro!). I have even done a diaper change with someone holding Kesha! (THANK YOU LORENA!)

Sometimes, when we live outside of what we are accustomed to we are asked to stretch ourselves, think of things in new ways, and become resourceful. So, am I upset that there are no baby changing tables in public restrooms? If you ask me on my fourth diaper, two #1s and one #2 without a diaper, and a clothing change, I may tell you yes. But it has taught me to think outside of the box and made me a more resourceful mom. I am happy for the challenge and say that we will adjust to whatever life throws at us!

Being a new parent in Cuenca is an adventure and I love it!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas in the Tropics

Arturo and I spent a decent amount of time in malls when we went to Guayaquil this past weekend and people are definitely getting in to the Christmas spirit!

We hung out at San Marino Mall while putting together our paperwork and waiting for our appointment at the US Consulate.

They had a giant Christmas tree, Santa and a elf for kids to have their pictures taken with, wreathes, and all types of Christmas music (including favorites like Holly Jolly Christmas). It was fun to get in to the holiday spirit, but strange at the same time to see people in sorts and tank tops and short dresses, and sit amongst the palm trees in the food court and eat lunch.

Here are a few photos from the mall

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... (San Marino Shopping Center, Guayaquil)

 The food court felt less Christmas-like

Our mall meal. Real plates, real silverware... pretty classy for a mall food court. 
Oh, and the food was quite good as well!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Obtaining US Citizenship for a Baby Born Abroad

Kesha is now a US Citizen!

The whole applying for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad turned out easier than I thought it was going to be, and our experience with the US Consulate here was actually quite positive!

We followed the instructions online, and they were fairly accurate. Here are the items the consulate asks for:

Application for the Consular Report of Birth Abroad:  Please fill out this form completely, but do not sign it, prior to arriving for your appointment at the Consulate.  You will sign this form in front of the Consular Officer when you submit your application. 

Fee: The cost of the application for the Consular Report of Birth Abroad is USD $100.  This fee is non-refundable, and will not be returned if it is determined that citizenship was not transmitted to the child at birth.

Child's birth certificate:  You must submit a certified copy of the child's birth certificate issued by the Ecuadorian Civil Registry.  The Ecuadorian Civil Registry may provide different versions of this document.  Please make sure you request a direct copy from their Book of Records.  Other versions will not be accepted. (Note: this is the handwritten copy, not the printed copy. They will not accept the printed copy) 

Proof of parents' identity:  Each parent must submit an original or copy of a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license or Ecuadorian c├ędula, or the photo page of his/her passport.

Pregnancy Records: For example, echo sonograms, doctor's certificates, hospital bills, and photographs of mother during pregnancy.  (Kindly refrain from bringing used pregnancy tests, blood samples, umbilical cords, or other items that may be considered a biohazard.) (Note: I was asked to send additional ultrasound pictures, so bring a few with you when you go) 

Record of Physical Presence of U.S. Citizen Parent in the United States:  This supplemental form is to be filled out by the U.S. citizen parent, detailing all periods of physical presence in the United States.  This form must be signed and dated by the U.S. citizen parent. (We did not fill out this form and they did not ask for it. There is something similar on the actual application) 

Documentary Evidence of Physical Presence:  In cases in which only one parent is a U.S. citizen, that parent must submit evidence that s/he was present in the United States for the required amount of time prior to the birth of the child in order to transmit citizenship.  Such evidence frequently takes the form of school transcripts; tax records, including 1040 tax returns or W-2 forms; pay statements or other evidence of employment; annual Social Security statements; photos; apartment leases; or other evidence.  These are merely suggestions, and you are encouraged to submit all available documentary proof.  If no such evidence is available, the consular officer will advise you at the time of your application what alternatives you may have for proving your presence in the United States. (The first lady told us we needed proof of 5 years in the US, the second said we didn't, so we didn't have to send additional proof... I think it ended being that we didn't need proof because we are both citizens) 

For Parents Who Were Married at the Time of Birth of the Child:
Proof of parents' marriage and termination of previous marriages:  If the child's parents were married at the time of birth, the consular officer will need a certified copy of their marriage certificate.  If either parent has been married previously, the consular officer will request evidence that any previous marriages were terminated, such as a certified divorce decree or death certificate. While these documents are not always required, it is to your advantage to bring them in case the consular officer requests them. (If you were married in Ecuador, this is also the handwritten form, not the printed one) 

In addition to the documentation described above, the Consular Officer may request the following: 

Proof of Paternity/MaternityRegardless of the marital status of the parents, in cases in which paternity or maternity is in question, the consular officer may request additional evidence of the biological relationship between the parents and the child.  Sometimes this proof may take the form of family photographs, baptism records, or other documents. In other cases, DNA testing may be suggested.  If DNA testing is appropriate in your case, the consular officer will advise you about the process. Please note that DNA testing will not be accepted if it does not meet the guidelines explained by the consular officer. (Didn't apply to us)

Additional EvidenceThe consular officer, at his/her discretion, may request additional documents or other evidence as necessary. You will be advised at the time of application if such evidence is required in your case. (We were asked for a hospital bill from Kesha's birth, but that's it.)

The cost was $100 and we paid cash on site.

We also applied for Kesha's passport at the same time. You simply need the passport application and 2 2"x2" photos, plus $105, and you're set.

We were also able to pay cash on site for her passport.

When you are approved the give you instructions to go to the DHL office and prepay for your documents to be sent to you. This cost $9 and was extremely easy to take care of.

All in all a very easy process. Our missing documentation is being sent via email (much easier than driving it back to Guayaquil!), and her certificate of birth abroad and passport will be sent via DHL right to our house!

I'm glad that's over and done with! Now we're just waiting on my Ecuadorian citizenship to be approved.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

For Mom and Dad (Also known as Nana and Grandpa)

Since it is hard to have you both so far away (Mom, you having come to meet Kesha and then having to leave, and Dad, you not having had the opportunity to meet her yet), I thought these videos might help, even just a little bit. 

We love and miss you both!
xo Becca & Kesha ox

Now Showing: I like my hand more than I like my mommy...

Now Showing: I think my mommy is crazy, but I laugh to amuse her...


Friday, November 12, 2010

Frustrations With Paperwork

We are working on getting the paperwork together for Kesha's U.S. Citizenship. However, when you call the U.S. Consulate in Guayaquil (where we have to register her), you can't actually speak to someone to ask them questions unless you're having an emergency.

This consulate has haunted Arturo and me for years. They have horrible customer service, are very sneaky (they kept lying to us when we were originally trying to get Arturo in to the U.S. 6 and a half years ago and charged us $300 for nothing and we never got any of it back), and are very unhelpful.

I find it hard to believe that a citizen of any country can't receive help from their own country's consulate. Our U.S. tax payer dollars go to supporting these outposts, however, they aren't really there to help us. They are there to charge Ecuadorians money for visas and are more concerned with the people who are applying to go to the U.S. than the well being and providing information to their citizens abroad.

When I call the embassy in Quito they will only speak to U.S. citizens between 8am and 10am. If you call any other time they cannot help you.

What horrible service United States. I am appalled!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Couple of Days in Guayas

We took Kesha on her first big adventure this past weekend. Arturo needed to go to Guayaquil to check out UEES's Weekend College and to meet with a lawyer about legalizing our car, so we hopped in the car on Friday afternoon and headed down the mountains to the warmth of the coastal province of Guayas.

Now that the road from Cuenca to Guayaquil has been repaid, and is almost complete, the drive is quick, and in your own car you can make it in about 2 and a half hours. We drove slowly because of Kesha's ears (we were concerned that they might hurt her with the altitude changing from 2,500m to 4,500m, to sea level). We made it in about 3 hours to Saborondon and went straight to UEES. Although Kesha is too young to appreciate the experience, UEES is where Arturo and I met 6.5 years ago, and it was fun to go back and visit.

After Arturo's meeting we went to his cousin's house and crashed. Kesha had a rough night, I think it was due to the temperature change... Neither of us got much rest.

The next day we went and had a late lunch with my friend Daniela, who I also met at UEES almost 7 years ago. It is always nice to see her!

In the evening Arturo and I went to the mall with Kesha just to look around a bit. We ate dinner (I love the fact that the offer ceviches and sopa marinera as options in the food court!) and did some people watching.

We left Guayaquil around 11am and headed back to the mountains. We stopped on the way and bought a bag of mangoes, a watermelon, and two pineapples (I LOVE getting fresh fruit while on the coast), and stopped to have seco de chivo (a goat and rice dish) for lunch.

We got home in the early afternoon, tired, but happy from our time in the warm climate of Guayas! Plus, we get to go back soon to do Kesha's US Citizenship paperwork!

Kesh on her way to Guayaquil

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fiestas de Cuenca and the Holstein Fair

Fiestas de Cuenca are quite the to do. The city fills with 100,000 additional people from around the country, and the world, and no one works for an entire week. Artisan markets line the streets and fill the parks and there is no end to the number of festivals you can attend.

Partying is the thing to do, and everyone goes out for multiple nights during the holiday. However, for us, with a two month old little one, the festivities were limited. There were no wild party nights, but there were several dinners with friends.

We visited several of the markets, I think Kesha enjoyed her time in the sunshine!

We went with Ricardo, Alex, Julie, and Josue to the Holstein Fair. It was a lot like what we call a convention. There was a lot of traditional food like hornado, tamales, humitas, and ice cream. They also had lots of locally made honey products, jams, and other preserved goods.

In addition to the food there were fowl, cows, and horses. Kesha got to meet her first horse and I took pictures of some beautiful fowl.

Me and a peacock

Kesha and her first horse
One really cool chicken (the little one)

I think these are Guinea Fowl...

All in all it wasn't a typical Fiestas de Cuenca experience, but it was fun and relaxing! I can't wait until next year when Kesh is old enough to go to the different festivals so we can all enjoy the traditional dancing and music of Cuenca as well!