Tuesday, 31 December 2013

CINDERELLA


                                                  CINDERELLA   by the Fundacion Gabriel Group

       Saturday, December 14th, 2013, there was a wonderful  presentation of the play, “Cinderella” with some added creative touches.  This delightful play was put on by the same group that did “Man of La Mancha” last year, which was outstanding.  Well, this year’s performance  may have outdone the last one.  It was put on at the Salinas Yacht Club, the same venue as in 2012.
       From the opening, you could tell that these young people really enjoyed being on stage.  They had really worked very hard to learn all their lines, which was evident in their delivery.   The costumes were absolutely stunning- so colorful and bright.
       The audience in attendance was made up of many expats as well as many Ecuadoreans, some of which were relatives of the stars of the show.   Countless cameras were used to take memorable photos of the performance, but did not detract from the enjoyment of the show.  It was definitely a family affair, as many children were also in the audience, and they seemed to like the show very much because they were so attentive.
        The temperature of the auditorium was cooler and more comfortable than last year, and so I enjoyed this performance more, and the stars of the show were also available after the show to meet their fans and have their pictures taken with them.   Having these performances a few weeks prior to Christmas helps everyone get into the joyful spirit of the holiday season.




This year leading up to Christmas has been a hard one, because Evelyn has been in New York for a month, November to the first week of December.
So Evelyn spent Thanksgiving in New York. Cleo became very sick and I had to take her to the vet, Dr. Pizmino. We went to him first, was not impressed with the treatment Cleo received there, so we then went to see Maria Paz. Her treatment and care for Cleo was on the nose (get it?).  Evelyn got back on Dec. 4th, so both of us went to see Maria Paz with Cleo.
What she told us was that Cleo had probably been poisoned.
The treatments are not for sure; this information makes sense because our guardian found sausages and chicken legs on the driveway, and we did not leave them there.
Our neighbour and guardian both told us that it could have been robbers; it could also be someone that has a grudge against us and is taking it out on our dog.
Well, we have not been robbed. The good news is that Cleo has responded to treatment, and just a week before Christmas, Cleo was about 90% back to normal.
One of the reasons that this Christmas has been more of a task for us is that we made the decision to buy a vehicle.
After living here for the last two years, we have exhausted the travel by bus and taxi, and since our other dog passed away in February, we can travel with one dog much more easily.
Due to what happened to Cleo, this also factored into our decision to buy a vehicle. We can take her with us, and not have to worry about her at home.
The challenge of buying a vehicle here is an onerous one. The used car market is a very dodgy one (there is no Kelly Blue Book here) so to find out how vehicles are priced is a maze.
We have a friend who did help, and for this he took us to Guayaquil where he knows of car sales’ outlets that he trusted.  We traveled all around, unable to find a vehicle .
So we thought of a new vehicle.  Prices are much higher, but you are dealing with a recognized market.
We were shocked at the lack of knowledge and customer service displayed by the salespeople; at this point, we were beginning to lose the need to have a vehicle.
As fate would have it, a friend of ours had a family disaster, where he needed money quickly. This friend owned a vehicle, and this vehicle we have come to know. He has it serviced when it needs it, and I thought that if he were in a mind set to sell it, we could service both our needs.
After some teeth grinding and muttering to himself, he agreed to sell the vehicle. A price was agreed on, and because he needed the cash, we made our way to the bank.
Now this is the week before Christmas, and the lines to the teller were very long.  By the time I got there, I was told that they could not let me have that much money.  I beckoned to my  friend  ( who is Ecuadorian) to come over because I wanted  him to hear this. After some very fast talking in Spanish, he turned to me and said that they would have the money in about half an hour.
So, on Christmas Eve, we were on our way to drop off some gifts (our intended destination was an open house) we got waylaid, ended  up stopping with a couple of friends for a few drinks and a good chunk of conversation .
By the time we got around to leaving, the crash of the waves, a nice breeze, good conversation and a few drinks, we both looked at each other and said that it could not get any better, so let us just go home.

Christmas Day, what a fantastic day- clear blue sky, nice breeze, again we met up with friends, enjoyed good conversation and drinks. As the day melted away, we had to say goodbye and off we went to a party for a short time and met other people.  We did not stay too long, but can say that we had a very nice Christmas this year.  



Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Monday, 23 December 2013

PAPA NOEL AND ELVES

        PAPA NOEL AND ELVES MAKE A VISIT TO PUENTE VERDE SCHOOL                

                                


       Thursday, December 12th,2013, will remain in my memory for a very long time. This is because a group of wonderful expats and the Ecuadorean Coast Guard got together to make this Christmas unforgettable for not only themselves, but also for the children in Puente Verde. 
        Captain Bocheli, the commander of the Coast Guard, chose this school this year because of the desperate needs of the children in this local community. 
        So, at about 8:30am, expats started gathering at the Coast Guard headquarters building in Salinas,
 excitedly talking about the day ahead! One bus had the gifts, the stuffed stockings, the food and drinks for the children, expats, some Coast Guard members, and Papa Noel.  The other bus had the rest of the expats and other Coast Guard members. The bus ride took about 40 minutes, and when we arrived at the school, we came upon many Christmas decorations, a Christmas tree, and 89 children and their teachers all waving at us enthusiastically!  Yes, these people were ready for a fiesta!
          When we got off the bus, the children and teachers ran up to greet and hug us- this was so neat! Terry looked so happy having the children on her knee.  The children and their teachers were so open and friendly-wow, what a greeting! 
           After the initial getting to know one another, it was time to get ready to serve lunch to the children.  Anna, Romy, Joanne, and Randy prepared the food and set the table and served the food and drinks with the help of Denise and Evelyn.  The food looked delicious-turkey, mac and cheese, fruit salad, brownies, cookies and a choice of Coke, Sprite, or Orange drink. As we were serving the food, we also sang Christmas carols.  The children were enjoying themselves!
           The children had eaten their fill, and were now ready for the highlight of their day- the entrance of Papa Noel- their voices rose in unison- Papa Noel!  Papa Noel!  The excitement was palpable! You could see the joy on their faces when their name was called, and they each went to Papa Noel to receive their gift, then returned to their seats to open it,and their happiness in discovering a wonderful gift that they could play with. They were then sharing their gifts with their friends-this was fantastic to see!   Some of the children even came up to us to say, “muchas gracias”.   
           This turned out to be a perfect day- and we have a group of people to thank for it- Captain Bocheli and his Coast Guard crew for all the help in getting the buses and carrying all the gifts and stockings from Babs’ condo and loading them onto and off the buses, and a huge “thank you” to Babs for obtaining the stockings and with her helpers wrapping all these presents and filling these stockings and the expat who did the lovely calligraphy of each child’s name on their gifts, another huge “thank you” to Anna, Romy, Joanne, and Randy for preparing and serving the food, along with Denise and Evelyn, and a big “thank you” to John Schmidt for being Papa Noel and wearing the hot outfit for hours in the hot sun!  And thanks to all the expats who bought gifts for the children and to those who joined us to visit these children in Puente Verde on this day. I know these children will have a most memorable Christmas because of the time and donations of all these generous people! 
 Feliz Navidad, everyone!







Traditional English Roast Pork Dinner


Main Course: Roast Pork, Garlic Herb Mash Potatoes, Mixed Vegetables, & Pumpkin Puree. Dessert: Peach & Almond Tart with Custard

$25 per person (taxes included)

Tue, 31 December, 2013 3pm – 5pm

Please note:
* Bookings only
* Limit of 30 people
* We take reservations till Dec 27
* 50% deposit required

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Living the life Ecuador Coast






Big Ralph´s Restaurant
9.30 - 12.00
Sunday 15th December 2013
BRUNCH MENU

HUEVOS ESCALFADOS BENEDICTO

CLASSIC EGGS BENEDICT WITH HOLLANDAISE SAUCE  

$ 5.25

SALMON AHUMADO & HUEVOS REVUELTOS CON PAN DE SALVADO

SMOKED SALMON & SCRAMBLED EGGS ON TOASTED WHEAT B. BREAD

$ 6.75

SANDUCHE DE CLUB STEAK CON AROS DE CEBOLLA & PAPAS FRITAS

CLUB STEAK SANDWICH WITH ONION RINGS & CHIPS

$ 9.90

# QUICHE DE TOCINO, QUESO & HONGOS CON ADEREZO DE VAINITA

BACON, CHEESE & MUSHROOMS QUICHE WITH GREEN BEAN DRESSING

$ 5.80

ENSALADA CESAR CON POLLO A LA GRILLA

GRILLED CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD

$ 7.70

HUEVOS REVUELTOS, TOCINO, PAPAS, TOMATES CHERRY Y HONGOS

SCRAMBLED EGGS, BACON, NEW POTATOES WITH THYME,

CHERRY TOMATOS & MUSHROOMS

$ 5.95

OMELET DE HUEVO CON HONGOS, QUESO & JAMON

EGG OMELETTE WITH MUSHROOMS, CHEESE & HAM

$ 4.75

CHOCOLATE BROWNIE
$ 4.75

NOTE:  PLEASE MAKE YOUR RESERVATION AT LEAST 24H IN ADVANCE.
TO INSURE AVAILABILITY R.S.V.P. FOR ITEMS WITH #

POR FAVOR RESERVAR AL MENOS 24 DE HORAS DE ANTICIPACION
PARA ASEGURAR DISPONIBILIDAD FAVOR RESERVAR LOS ITEMS MARCADOS CON #








Well it is getting to the end of the year and I thought that this is of interest to ex-pats from the US who will be filing  their tax returns in the new year.




10 Things to Know About Capital Gains


Did you know that almost everything you own and use for personal or investment purposes is a capital asset? Capital assets include a home, household furnishings and stocks and bonds held in a personal account.
When you sell a capital asset, the difference between the amount you paid for the asset and its sales price is a capital gain or capital loss. Here are 10 facts you should know about how gains and losses can affect your federal income tax return.
1. Almost everything you own and use for personal purposes, pleasure or investment is a capital asset.
2. When you sell a capital asset, the difference between the amount you sell it for and your basis -- which is usually what you paid for it -- is a capital gain or a capital loss.
3. You must report all capital gains.
4. You may only deduct capital losses on investment property, not on personal-use property.
5. Capital gains and losses are classified as long-term or short-term. If you hold the property more than one year, your capital gain or loss is long-term. If you hold it one year or less, the gain or loss is short-term.
6. If you have long-term gains in excess of your long-term losses, the difference is normally a net capital gain. Subtract any short-term losses from the net capital gain to calculate the net capital gain you must report.
7. The tax rates that apply to net capital gain are generally lower than the tax rates that apply to other income. For 2013, the maximum capital gains rate is 20 percent; however that rate only applies to taxpayers in the highest tax bracket (39.6%) whose income exceeds $400,000 (single filers) or $450,000 (joint filers). Taxpayers in the middle tax brackets pay a maximum of 15 percent. For taxpayers in the lowest tax brackets (under 15%) the rate may be 0 percent on some or all of the net capital gain. Rates of 25 or 28 percent may apply to special types of net capital gain.
8. If your capital losses exceed your capital gains, you can deduct the excess on your tax return to reduce other income, such as wages, up to an annual limit of $3,000, or $1,500 if you are married filing separately.
9. If your total net capital loss is more than the yearly limit on capital loss deductions, you can carry over the unused part to the next year and treat it as if you incurred it in that next year.
10. A new form (Form 8949, Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets) was introduced in 2011 to calculate capital gains and losses and list all capital gain and loss transactions. Subtotals are then carried over to Schedule D (Form 1040), where gain or loss is calculated.





Saturday, 7 December 2013

Nelson Mandela

Born: July 18, 1918



The last great leader of the 20th century -- and an inspiration for this new millennium -- died in his country South Africa December 5th 2013.
Nelson Mandela touched all of us with his courage, his unyielding resistance, and his grace. He knew how to fight, and he knew when to make peace.





"It always seems impossible, until it is done." 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Cautionary true story

Cautionary true story
common surge protector
Used for refrigerators, etc


Just this last week, a friend of mine lost not only all of his belongings, but the house that he lived in as well.
There is a back story to this. When we moved into our house, we basically tore it down and rebuilt it.
The issue of electricity came up by accident. I have an IMAC which is covered in metal and glass. For whatever reason, I touched the casing and felt a strange sensation.
So I went and shut it down and disconnected it from the outlet. I got my test meter and found that the ground that we have taken for granted in Europe, USA, and Canada was not present.
That same day, we had a spike in the electrical supply and lost our little TV (we had been using until our container arrived); it went up in smoke.
So I went on the search for surge protectors and copper rod to ground off the neutral side on the breaker panel( this is not advised if you do not know what you are doing); with this in place it was a bit safer.
With the new construction, the whole electrical system was installed to IEE standards for single family homes, completely grounded; no more suicide showers.
This is where my friend comes in, not having this information and thinking that it would not happen to him.
He has his mother living with him. She is 85 and not in the best of health. The night before his loss, his mother took ill and was admitted to the hospital; otherwise, she would have been in the house.
The night that the fire destroyed his home, was caused by a dramatic drop in voltage being supplied by the local power company followed by a massive spike in line voltage. That caused not only his home to catch fire, but others on the same grid.
 The difference is that in my friend's home, he did not have  surge protectors, which would have saved his equipment and appliances from bursting into flames and consuming 100% of his property and all of its contents.
Other homes on the same block were limited in their loss to replacing their surge protection systems. 
This is a common cause of spikes 

So what I am saying is that for the small amount that a surge protector costs, it is quite possible that they are the cheapest insurance that you will ever buy. 

Even the best surge suppressor can't do its job if the house wiring isn't properly grounded; there has to be a single way for the diverted electricity to go. "Without a good ground, the current may follow another wire and end up inside your modem or fax machine," says Tom Plesich, director of business development at Innovative Technology, a maker of surge-suppression equipment. Also, avoid plugging surge-sensitive electronic devices into the same power strip with laser printers, air conditioners, or other appliances with large motor loads. These produce their own low-level power surges that will affect all the devices sharing the strip.
Before buying a plug-in unit, check that it does the following:

•Meets UL Standard 1449 (second edition)
•Has a clamping voltage — the amount that triggers the diversion of electricity to the ground — of 400 volts or less. The lower the number, the better the protection
•Absorbs at least 600 joules of energy
•Protects all three incoming lines: hot, neutral, and ground. Look for "L-N, L-G, N-G" (line to neutral, line to ground, neutral to ground) on the product's spec sheet
•Stops functioning when its circuits are damaged by a surge

Both whole-house and plug-in types can get zapped without your knowing it; look for indicator lights that signal when a unit no longer works. 



Traditional English Roast Turkey Lunch

Main Course: Roast Turkey, Baby New Potatoes, Mixed Vegetables, Pork & Onion Stuffing, Thyme Sauce. Dessert: Chocolate Torte with Ice Cream & Bailey´s Sauce $25 per person (taxes included)
WhenWed, 25 December, 12:30 – 14:30 
WhereBig Ralph´s Restaurant
Please note:
* Bookings only
* Limit of 30 people
* We take reservations 'til Dec 20
* 50% deposit required

Cinderella on at the Yacht Club

If you were here last year, the play "The Man of La Mancha" was on at the same venue, and the turnout by the number of expats living here was amazing. I wrote a blog on it then and made a video of the highlights.
That same group will be here again with yet another classic, "Cinderella".
One showing only, December 14th, @ 11am; ticket price $5.00.
Get there early, as the seating last year got a bit thin.
Tickets, Edith is not selling the tickets any more.  You can get them from Mary Freeman Cell # 0983364633.  She is in town for a couple of weeks.



This month 

December 1, 1640 - A nationalist revolution in Portugal led to independence from Spain as the Spanish garrisons were driven out of Portugal.
December 1, 1822 - Dom Pedro, founder of the Brazilian Empire, was crowned as the first emperor of Brazil.
December 1, 1918 - Iceland was granted independence by the Danish parliament.
December 1, 1919 - Lady Nancy Astor became the first woman in the British House of Commons.
December 1, 1925 - The Locarno Treaties were signed by France, Belgium and Germany, as a preventitive measure to avoid another war, in the aftermath of World War I. Terms of the Locarno Pact were guaranteed by Britain and Italy.
December 1, 1941 - The American Civil Air Patrol (CAP), a U.S. Air Force auxiliary, was founded as Director of Civilian Defense, former New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, signed the formal order. The CAP currently provides aerospace education, a CAP cadet program, and emergency services such as locating missing aircraft.
December 1, 1942 - The Beveridge Report was published in Britain envisioning the welfare state including insurance for the entire population.
December 1, 1955 - The birth of the modern American civil rights movement occurred as Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back section of a municipal bus. Her arrest resulted in a year-long boycott of the city bus system by African Americans and led to legal actions ending racial segregation on municipal buses throughout the South.
December 1, 1988 - Benazir Bhutto was nominated to become prime minister of Pakistan, the first woman to govern a Muslim nation.
December 1, 1989 - Mikhail Gorbachev became the first Soviet Russian leader to visit the Vatican and meet the Pope, thus ending 72 years of strict atheist policy in Communist Russia.
December 1, 1990 - England was connected to mainland Europe for the first time since the Ice Age as engineers digging a railway tunnel under the English Channel broke through the last rock layer.
December 1, 1994 - The head of the U.N. Commission on Rwanda estimated 500,000 deaths had resulted from genocide.