Yep, I'm motivated. Topics are piling up.
Our Presidential Elections
Instead of being like Christmas where it has now invaded Thanksgiving...to Halloween...to Back to School, the campaigns here don't start a year+ before voting day! I mean....aren't they supposed to be DOING their job instead of spending a year CAMPAIGNING for their job? In Ecuador, election campaigns semi-launched about 2 months ago with announcements. Full-force see/touch/feel campaigns started maybe 30 days ago. Elections are next week!!! On a SUNDAY no less!!! How refreshing. Inhale....exxxxxhale.....sighhhhhhhh.
From a pedestrian standpoint, the visual campaigns are comprised of large 6-8 ft tall A-framed boards with the candidates photos, standing in every corner and greenspace around town, cars converted to moving promoters...no, not with bumper stickers...but full-scale screens engulfing the body of the car, and walls of barns, retaining walls, and out-buildings painted with images of the candidate and 'VOTE FOR _____!!'
I'm on the rolls to vote this year. We'll see how it goes.
President Correa is very popular. After a decade of upheavals and the public ousting a string of presidents, Correa came along and finished the 2 year term of the latest ousted guy, then was re-elected 4 more years, and is expected to easily win 60% or more next week. He is charismatic. He's 49. He has a Vice President who's a paraplegic in a wheelchair from a gunshot during a robbery. But, beyond personality, he took advantage of the money Ecuador's oil and mining (silver and gold) generates...to improve/build roads, schools, infrastructure, wind energy, hospitals, etc etc.
President Rafael Correa announced an 8.8 percent increase in the minimum national wage for 2013, a move he says will provide 96 percent of basic living necessities. The increase means the minimum monthly salary will rise from $292 to $318. The minimum wage was $200 when Correa took office in 2006.
Of course, there's always those elements people don't like about him, but it seems overall, he's been very good for EC.
|Most of these signs are taken down every night and put back up the next morning, presumably to avoid defacing.|
|Entire retaining wall painted in support of President Correa.|
Cuencas Civil Projects
Speaking of politics, the Mayor of Cuenca....a city of a half million population... Paul Granda, is a mere 40 years old.
Cuenca has assertively pursued a long list of improvements to better itself. Let's look at a slice of that list...shall we?
- All the street signal lights have been replaced with LED fixtures.
- Downtown sidewalks are being re-built.
- Park de la Madre is being completely rebuilt including an underground parking lot and a new planetarium theater.
- Plazas surrounding local churches have been renovated.
- Tres de Noviembre street was gutted and completely rebuilt with walking/biking paths and spaces for small businesses such as coffee shops and clubs to entice people to wander along the river and take a bit of the load off Calle Larga on the upper bank.
- A plank bridge with no railings used to access a growing neighborhood was replaced with a new arched concrete bridge.
- A major bottleneck in one of two of the main arterials around Cuenca was alleviated by building a tunnel under the roundabout. Cost....a bit over $4 million and completed in under a year.
- 21 kms of light rail has commenced construction along one of the busiest arterials and to the airport. Cost about $215 million and estimated to be completed by end of 2014.
- Many historical buildings are under restoration projects.
- University of Cuenca theater was restored.
- Higher education institutions are being constructed in Cuenca and neighboring Azogues.
- The soccer stadium is set for restoration and increased capacity.
- Likewise, the Jefferson Coliseum is scheduled for remodeling.
- Cell towers are popping up everywhere.
In my new rental house, I have 5 cool niches in the wall as I go up the stairway. Perfect for some new art. I have always loved artists who create creations out of pieces of thrown-away metal. Spark plugs. Bicycle sprockets and chains. Nails. Nuts-n-bolts. Wheel bearings.
I saw that CIDAP, one of many museums, was hosting the works of a local artist who uses these things. I decided to go in hopes of finding a piece perfect for one of my niches. I did.
Also, more photos of my coffee bean art.
|My iguana made of scrap metal. It's about 2 1/2 feet long by a foot wide.|
|Notice the sprockets and bicycle chain that makes up his/her back.|
|Coffee bean art. This pieces actually resembles my current house and the setting it's in.|
|Peas, unroasted coffee beans, black eyed peas, and pumpkin seeds.|
I've owned a lot of cars in my life. It's been a long time since I've owned a car with cloth seats. Hate it. Get in and your pants get stuck at the entrance to the door even though your butt is fully seated. I prefer leather. So, I thought someday, sometime, I would have my seats re-covered in leather. I've seen many shops who do that and I've rode in many taxis who've had their interior re-covered. I was prepared for maybe $500.
I had coffee with an expat friend who happens to own the same make/model car as mine..but a year older. He had his done in 'cuerito'. 'Cuero' means leather in Spanish. 'Cuerito' (or Cuerina) is, essentially, a leather-look-feel-alike product. He really liked the result and I was shocked at the price. I went to the same guy. I had the front seats, headrests, rear seats, headrests, all re-covered in 'cuerito'. Cost? $95.
GET OUTA HERE!!!!
|Before. Cloth seats easily stained, threads pulled, and/or cigarette burns.|
I went to the Ingapirca Ruins recently with a 'lovely couple' from Tennessee. As opposed to last time I was there, we were able to wander through the entire site with a tour guide. Now, you get to see more of it.
BTW....these 'shiny badges' as AirBnB calls 'em are my two short-term apartment rentals in Cuenca! So, if you're thinking of coming for a visit, or need a homey place to stay while looking for your more permanent digs, consider these two options! Better than just a room in a hotel, but costs the same or LESS...but you get MORE!!