Thursday, August 27, 2015

A "Typical" Day

When Cynthia and I attend International Living conferences (we'll be at this year's Fast Track Your Retirement Overseas conference in Las Vegas from September 25-27, in fact) the most frequent question we're asked is, "What do you do all day?."

None of our days are "usual," meaning dull and repetitive, although they're not without a whisper of a structure. What routine we have is built around our morning fitness schedules. Cynthia attends yoga classes and I head to the gym three days a week. Everything else is pretty much freelanced.

But to give those interested a glimpse of what a "typical" day is like around here, let me quickly recount today so far. I got out of here around 9 this morning to, yes, go work out. After beating myself up for about an hour with the weights I walked across the river to the ATM to grab some cash. Then I remembered we've got company coming over this evening and nothing to serve except alcohol (which is certainly better than nothing, but-----) so I decided to stroll over to the nearby Supermaxi to pick up some provisions.

Cheese, fruit, and some extra wine (just in case) purchased, I spotted a "wheelbarrow lady" nearby with beautiful strawberries. Maybe you don't know what that means. Indigenous folks load wheelbarrows with fruit and sell their wares all over the city. The main mercado is on the other side of town so I don't even want to know how far these sweet folks push those heavy things, and I'm happy to buy from them whenever I can. I got $2 worth (it's customary to ask for "poquito mas"--a little more) and continued my walk home.

I stopped by to tell Betty, our local florist, how beautiful the roses are that I bought from her a couple of days ago. Two dozen just-off-the-truck-and-still-bundled-in-cardboard from nearby Paute had set me back a whopping four bucks and they are absolutely gorgeous. Betty knows zero English and I speak Tarzan Spanish but we work it out, and she seemed so pleased that I took the few minutes to pop in and thank her.

Not done yet. Next and final stop was the "sandwich guy" near our building to pick up lunch. Good thing too because the bags were getting heavy! Two big roast pork and two roast turkey sandwiches plus this yummy coconut juice drink that seems to always be sold as an accompaniment came to $9.50. And, man, they are good!

Hoofing it again to our building and up the four flights of steps I was back home by 11:30. And tired. After finishing this post it's siesta time, then perhaps I'll finish an article for IL magazine I'm working on later this afternoon before our company arrives for wine and Mexican food at a nearby restaurant.

Or not. There's always tomorrow---.

So there it is. Another day in paradise!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Say "Cheese"!!

I recently started to notice that my teeth were looking kind of tired after a lifetime of consuming grape popsicles, blueberries, red wine, coffee, and whatever else is a staining agent. In the past I've tried those whitening strips you can buy at Target but the results were always short-lived and less than impressive. So, vain guy that I am, I decided to go the professional route and put a sparkle back in my smile.

I'm fortunate to have a really great dentist right up the street from our residence. Dra. Daniela (Danny) Ordonez is thorough and gentle, and she speaks perfect English. She's also a perfectionist, a quality I'm always happy to find in a medical practitioner.

So into the chair I go, not knowing what to expect since I've never had this procedure performed on me. Basically I laid there for about an hour with a contraption in my mouth to keep it open properly while she painted a strong hydrogen peroxide solution on my teeth several times and held a special light over them. It wasn't the most pleasant experience but I figured, what the hell, if my teeth look great for years this is no biggie.

We weren't done. I had to come back the next day to be fitted with mouth guards into which I was to squirt syringes of more peroxide, then wear them for three hours over the course of four days. Cynthia was quite pleased with this development since she would get a short daily vacation from listening to my constant blabbing.

But that still wasn't all. Danny told me the longer I refrained from drinking red wine, coffee, and green or black tea during the next month, the longer the whitening procedure would last. No problem, I thought. After consuming copious amounts of excellent red wine in Chile, Argentina, and the States this year I've pretty much sworn off of the stuff we can afford to drink here anyway. Fortunately white wine and dark rum weren't on the forbidden list. Tea--I didn't really drink that anyway. And coffee? I drink 2-2 1/2 cups each morning so I figured I wouldn't even notice.

Uh, wrong.

God, my head hurt so damned bad the first day that no amount of ibuprofen could make it stop. Trust me, I know--I tested the dosage limits to no avail. My body literally felt like I had the flu. I couldn't believe that cutting off what I thought was moderate coffee intake could have such a devastating effect.

This caused me to reevaluate my whole relationship with this particular beverage. I've been putting something into my body in amounts I thought were benign, but the severe withdrawal symptoms emphatically demonstrated otherwise. I obviously should consume less coffee once I could drink it again, but that was so----later. In the meantime I didn't want to take a chance experiencing another miserable day and I needed a substitute source of caffeine now.

Off to the Supermaxi. Searching the shelves of tea I spotted a box called Runa with some herb from the Amazon that promised natural energy with antioxidants. I turned the box around and, YES!!, that energy came from caffeine, the same amount as a cup of coffee. Now we're talkin'!

I've been drinking a single cup a day since and you know what, I've discovered that's all the caffeine I really need to clear my head and get going in the morning. No, it doesn't have the wonderful aroma and flavor of fresh brewed coffee, but it tastes OK. And I've come to realize I was really too jacked up with the amount I was previously consuming, so I've learned a valuable lesson about myself in a very unexpected way.

And my teeth? I have to say they look terrific, and I'm very glad I decided to have them professionally whitened. If you're a reader in Cuenca, take a good look in the mirror and see if maybe your smile could use an upgrade too. The treatment is quite inexpensive and Danny is a fabulous dentist. Email her at