Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Paperwork Saga Continued

Yesterday I set out to find the office of SENESCYT (Secretaría de Educación Superior, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación) in Quito to register my diploma so that I will later be able to apply for my resident professional visa.  I had a map in my backpack and a phone with unlimited internet data.  I was all set!  Except, I was still able to get lost.  Let me explain, Mom.  I was not this kind of lost: "I am in a dark forest, and I have no idea which way is up.  I will probably never see another human being again."  I was this kind of lost: "I could get back home if I needed to.  I recognize the name of these streets.  I just don't know how to get from here to where I want to go."  That said, I decided to get out my handy dandy phone and use the handy dandy map app to aid me in my pedestrial travels.  (I love making up words!)  Said phone, with aforementioned unlimited internet data, would not connect to the internet.  So much for the handy dandy map app!  I was not in the most convenient spot to whip out a large map of Quito and begin searching for both my current location and desired destination (Not because I was in a dangerous area of town, Mom.  Just because.), so since I was not far from a McDonalds, I decided to enter the famed eating establishment and therein use my map.  Also eat.  As is turned out, I was not far at all from the road I wanted, so after I ate (read: scarfed down) my lunch, I made a made a mad dash to SENESCYT, lest they should close over the noon hour, and I would miss my chance to submit my paperwork.  After one more error (right street, wrong direction), I made it to the appropriate office.  Fortunately, they were not on lunch break, and after a few minutes of waiting, I was called back to Módulo #4 to be attended.  I explained to the nice lady behind the desk that this was my second attempt to register my diploma.

Brief aside:
Immediately after I arrived in Ecuador, back in January, I had made my first attempt to begin this registration process.  I submitted all my paperwork and was told that my diploma would be registered within 45 working days.  Great.  I headed to Manabí as planned.  A week or so later, I received an e-mail from SENESCYT.  "We are sorry, but the university from which you received your diploma is not on our recognized list of universities.  Therefore, we must ask you to submit a copy of your transcripts - both registered and apostilled - as soon as possible."  Perfect.  This was something I had not thought to bring with me to Ecuador.  I responded to Ms. Ordoñez that I would be delighted to present her office with such a document, but I would have to acquire said papers from the United States.  It would take a little time.  The next day, yes, the next day, Ms. O wrote me again.  "We are wondering if you have acquired your university transcripts yet because we really need them as soon as possible."  I'm not an expert on the postal system here, but even if the university people had read my mind about needing transcripts and had put them in the mail the moment I found out I needed them... Anyway...  When I next went to Quito, I visited SENESCYT, and after a brief period of confusion in which they didn't know where my papers (the ones I had already submitted) were, I was able to retrieve everything that I would need for a later re-submission of documents.

Return to original story:
"I was told that in addition to the paperwork I initially presented (hand nice lady said paperwork), I needed to also present a notarized and appostilled copy of my university transcripts (hand nice lady said transcripts)."  "What a relief to finally get this out of the way!" I was thinking to myself.  Ha!  Nice lady says, "This is the original transcript.  We need a copy that has been notarized here in Ecuador."  For real?!  "Fortunately, there is a notary public not very far from here.  Go down the street and turn left."  The line at the notary office was not a fast-moving one, so I waited.  And waited.  Finally, it was my turn.  "You'll please need to make copies of these documents so that we can notarize them."  (She was standing right next to a copy machine.)  Fortunately, there's a wonderful place to get copies downstairs.  Fortunately, I only had four pages to copy, so the dinosaur printer / copier only took 10 minutes to accomplish the job.  By the time I got back upstairs, the line had grown.  Finally, it was my turn.  "We can have these ready for you after 4:00 this afternoon."  (It was 12:30 or so.)  "No sooner?"  Nope.  After 4:00.  I trudged back home.  Straight back home.  Without making detours.  I knew where I was now.  At 4:00 it was raining cats and dogs.  Lightning was striking a little too close for comfort, and the vibrations from the thunder were setting off car alarms all over the place.  I decided paperwork could wait for tomorrow (today).  This morning I left the suite around 8:20 and walked straight to the notary public office.  I did not get lost.  There was NO line.  I got the notarized copy of my transcripts immediately.  This was too good to be true!  I headed around the corner to SENESCYT.  After a short wait, my number was called.  I presented my documents, all in order, to the nice gentleman behind the desk.  "You'll need to fill out a different request form," he told me nicely.  "You've filled out the request form #1.  Because your university is not on the recognized list of universities, you need to fill out the request form #3."  Seriously?!  "Is there any way you can print out that form, so I can fill it out here?"  "No, you have to fill it out on the computer, and print two copies to submit to our office."  Fortunately, there was an internet café just down the street.  I pulled up the required request form online and stared at it.  The only difference between the form that I needed to submit and the one I had tried to submit was that one had a #1 written on the top, and the other one had a #3 written on the top.  The information that I was required to fill out was EXACTLY the same.  There was not one difference.  As I stared at the document trying  to find one itty bitty line that required different information, I wondered, "Could they not cross out the #1 on the form that I have and write a #3?"  Ah well.  Fortunately, this makes my job very easy.  I don't have to come up with any new information.  I can just copy.  Fifteen minutes and 65 cents later, I was en route to SENESCYT again.  The security guard gave me a funny look when I entered the building.  "They keep telling me I need different stuff," I explained.  He smiled.  Perhaps I'm not the only person to go in and out of that edifice three times in two days.  Back at Módulo 4, I handed over all my papers without a word and held my breath.  Check.  Check.  Check.  "We'll have everything ready for you within 60 working days."  "How many days?"  "60 working days."  I did hear that correctly.  Good thing I have a little time to play with; my current visa has two years.  (This is only the beginning of the process.)  Anyway, I left rejoicing that at least the process has now been restarted.  And I'm not going to check my e-mail for a while!  

Monday, March 30, 2015

Tonight's supper

Have you ever eaten a quimbolito?

For this post, I got a little help from my friends on the internet.

Plus, this way if you have an extra seven hours some day, you can make these for yourself!
For the record, I did not make the one in the picture.  :-)


2 lbs Fine white corn flour or fine gold quinua flour
12 Eggs, separated
¾ lb Sweet butter, no other
¾ lb Lard, no other
1 lb White sugar
6 oz Wheat flour, white is best or golden pea flour (for the gluten intolerant)
1 TBSP Baking powder
1 oz Anise liqueur
¾ lb Fresh white cheese, shredded
Seedless raisins (optional)
Dessert bananas (optional)
50 Entire canna leaves, scrubbed.


Push the corn flour (if that's what you're using; with quinua this isn't necessary) through a canvas sieve, until what remains in the sieve is the grits. These can be discarded or reserved for other meals, but they should not be part of the Quimbolitos. Separate the eggs, reserving the yolks.  

Beat the butter and lard together, adding the sugar bit by bit. Once the mixture is homogenous, add the egg yolks, cheese, and the liqueur. Sift the wheat flour with the baking powder, then fold both flours into the wet mixture and stir until homogenous. Add raisins at this point if you wish. Beat the egg whites to the point of stiffness, and fold these in to the batter.

Scrub the canna leaves gently to remove any traces of dirt. Pat dry with paper towels, then crack the spines of the leaves with a rolling pin. Drop two tablespoons of batter onto the back of a leaf. If you are adding a slice of banana to the quimbolitos, now is the time.

Fold the edges of the leaf inwards. Finally, fold the top and bottom of the leaf backwards. This forms the package in which the quimbolito will be steamed. Repeat until you run out of batter.

Pack the quimbolitos into a large dumpling steamer (these are available in most Chinese markets) or tamale pot. Steam for about 30 minutes or until the packets on top are firm to the touch and the steam that comes off them does not feel sticky when grabbed. Peel back a wrapper to check the consistency of the bread inside - it should be firm and fluffy.

Quimbolitos are best when eaten hot; those that aren't consumed at the first sitting keep well in the refrigerator and are easy to reheat in either the steamer or the microwave. They make a great, fast breakfast.


Paute is usually about an hour away from Cuenca by bus.  Why usually?  Does the town periodically change locations?  No, silly.  Sometimes there are cycling events between Cuenca and Paute.  During these events, cyclists have complete control of the road.  The road is not closed exactly, but you may perhaps sit in the same spot for long periods of time in order to not disturb your cycling friends.  Such was the case this past Saturday when Karen and I made our first trip to Paute.  W & D were expecting us for a noon lunch.  We finally managed to make it to their house around 12:45 or so.  Sorry folks!  

On the way:
A restaurant

A souvenir shop

The river

Across the street from where we waited to catch the bus back to Cuenca after our study

Cuenca's River

Doesn't it make you want to grab a blanket, a book and a picnic lunch and head for a rock on the bank?

La pieza en Cuenca

The small bedroom

Looking out of the small bedroom into the main living area
The door to the "outside" is to the left.

Looking across the main living area to the outside patio (laundry area)
The bathroom is the door that you can see on the left.  The kitchen is directly across from it.

Since there aren't many places to stay in the Cuenca area, there are plenty of beds available in the bach for Special Meeting and Convention times.  The small bedroom is on the right.  There's a bed in the main living area.  The larger bedroom is in the back on the left.  There are a number of mattresses stored in that room for use when necessary.

The front door
The apartment is on the third floor.  The other two floors are business spaces, so outside of business hours, we have the "building" to ourselves.

The bathroom (obviously)
Note the electric shower.
Sink is to the left of the stool

A peek inside the kitchen
Sink is immediately to the left
Stovetop (two burners) is on the wall to the right of the sink and to the left of the mini-fridge
It's kind of a one-person kitchen but quite adequate for our needs.

Looking out over the balcony (laundry area) to the parking lot across the street.
This is how I identify our apartment!  
Sorry, no actual pictures of the laundry area.  I'll try to remember to take one or two when we get back later this week.

We've been told that this is the Cadillac of baches, and though I haven't seen all of them, I have a feeling they're quite right!  

Tripping to Cuenca

A change of plans brought us some extra traveling this past week.  Originally, we were to change to our "official" fields sometime at the end of the first week of April.  A week ago Friday, Karen and I found out that we would be changing fields sooner.  For me, this also meant getting acquainted with yet another field on a temporary basis.  On Thursday morning, Karen and I left Quito for an 8 1/2 hour bus ride to Cuenca, where we arrived in time for the midweek Bible study in the home of María Isabel.  We spent Friday cleaning the "pieza," doing some necessary shopping and trying to get somewhat organized.  On Saturday, we traveled to the little town of Paute for a study with a dear little family that is originally from Peru.  Sunday we had our fellowship meeting at 9:00 and Gospel Meeting at 10:00 before heading to the terminal to make the 9 hour bus ride back to Quito.  We arrived at the suite a little after 10:00 and were quite ready to crawl into bed!  We'll head back to Cuenca on Thursday if all goes as planned, and I should make it to my "official" field on April 9.  Plans change; be flexible!  
Bus rides are long; take pictures!  
I've gotten to be quite an expert at running the battery on my phone completely down by the time we reach our destination due to my constant picture taking.  I took over 300 on this trip, but I won't make you look at all of them.  Just a "few!"  :-)  

This one gives you a little idea of everything - the beautiful scenery, the blurriness due to a rapidly moving bus and the special effects that come from seeing everything through the window of a bus.

A soccer "field" seemingly out in the middle of nowhere


Vendors getting ready to jump on any bus that stops to sell their wares

Where did all these people come from?!  We're seemingly in no man's land, and all of a sudden there's a horde of people waiting to get on our bus.

We're nearing the end of the rainy season, so green is the color of choice.

Cows (and horses and donkeys and sheep and pigs and goats) are tied up any old where (usually by their head) and left to graze.

Picnicking in the pasture

Pork anyone?

One lady's luggage unloaded

Just a few of the many dogs hanging around this little berg