August 27, 2010

On the Street

I remembered to take my camera today on my way to lunch. Here are a few images that caught my eye. The one above is of road repair workers on their lunch break. There's been quite a bit of work done on the streets recently and I've noticed that the guys (no female construction workers ever) take a proper break. First they unpack the lunches they've brought from home. Then once they've finished eating, they either play cards (the two groups on the right and left of the picture), have amiable chats with lots of smiling and laughing (guys in the middle) or take a nap (on the far left).

I know the work is physically very hard as they do not use power tools, not even to break stones! And yet, it looks to me like there's a certain kind of everyday pride and civility in making a living. I have the impression, and I may be wrong, that people here tend to work to live, they do not live to work, as sometimes seems the case in the US. This is a topic which interests me tremendously.

Here is another example of the absolutely wacky mannequins one sees posing in front of stores. Where on earth do they find them?

And here are a couple of chicas taking a stroll through the park. The one on the left is actually a transvestite. I was curious about the reaction of passerby so I followed them for a bit. Once they passed them, people would glance back at them and a few men, including a policeman, appeared very amused and sort of snickered once they had walked by. However, it was more of a curious and/or amused reaction, not an aggressive one. No one stared or said anything to them--they waited until they had walked by to react. It's definitely not a common sight and I was a bit surprised but heartened that they were not harassed.

August 21, 2010

Ta Da!

I’ve finally come to the end of Phase One of the apartment renovation—yay for me. Some of it was fun, some not so much, but the main thing is that I now feel like I have a home and that I can start doing things other than shopping--like blogging!

Here are some pictures of the entrance and of the living and dining area. I’m also including a list at the bottom of the post of some of the vendors and/or stores where I purchased furnishings. This information might come in handy, at least as a starting point when putting new homes together. I’ll do another post in a few days about the rest of the apartment and a third one on the terrace once it’s completed.

The building where I live has three stories. The first two are commercial spaces and I rent the top floor, which has an internal staircase to the roof, which I’m converting to a garden terrace (that’s Phase Two!). It was built in the late 70s by its owner/architect and has not been well-maintained (the norm in Ecuador). When I first saw it I knew it had good bones and I saw great potential but it ended up needing even more work than I anticipated to get it to where it is now. But I think it's going to be well worth it.

Here’s the landing at the top of the staircase as you enter the apartment. The living and dining area is to the left of the entrance and the bedrooms and bathrooms are to the right, surrounding a small atrium with a skylight to the roof. The kitchen and the bathrooms have skylights as well and a large window spans the length of the living and dining area, so the entire space is filled with light and feels quite open.

I found the carved wooden Buddha at Radharant, a great place for Indian artifacts (including antiques) and rugs. He’s there to greet visitors as they climb up the stairs and to keep all unwanted energy from entering the space! Both the antique mirror and trunk were purchased at one of the antique stores around the perimeter of the Conceptas Museum, where you can find all kinds of odds and ends.

I only brought two large things from the States—a down comforter for practical reasons and an antique hand-embroidered Turkish suzani (bedspread) which I’ve been using as a wall hanging for many years and which helps me feel at home wherever I am. The furniture was made to order at Moblitec and the prices are reasonable (always ask for a discount). You can choose from their upholstery fabric or supply your own. The hanging light fixtures and the table lamp were found at Boyaca, which is a somewhat upscale (relative to Ecuadorian stores) home decor store.

I got the side table and the coffee table at Plaza Rotary where you can find extremely inexpensive wood furniture from several vendors. The quality is rustic so they make for practical secondary pieces. You can also paint them yourself to make them more attractive and to give them a custom made look which complements the color scheme of the room. The side table on the right is actually one of a set of nightstands I designed and had made and which I ended up using as a side table.

I’m having a large wool rug made for the living room but it won’t be ready for another two weeks. I found out quite by happy accident that you can have large custom sized rugs made for very little money from some of the vendors at the Rotary market (you also get to choose the colors!). I’ll post a picture and information once I have the rug and can vouch for its quality.

This is a view from the living room toward the atrium and the master bedroom.

This charcoal portrait, dated 1937, was found at the same antique store where I got the mirror and trunk and I had it framed at Galeria Latina.

A selection of terracotta pots (many different sizes and designs) can be found at several stands at Plaza Rotary. These were around $10 each, which is actually less expensive than plastic ones of similar size.

The stands are made form rebar and cost around $3.

I did also bring my preserved piranha, a memento from a trip to Brazil a while back. However, I miss my stuffed pheasant from Maine; maybe I’ll bring him on my next trip!

A friendly Ecuadorian pointed me to Solmueble, a furniture making enterprise which supplies large furniture stores like Colineal and I was able to purchase this dining set and a couple of beds wholesale, directly from them. It was a steal! The workshop is just outside of Cuenca proper and well worth the trip. However, they don't speak English so you'd need to take a Spanish-speaking person to help. The pieces are made to order and you can modify their designs or even have them fabricate your own design.

Remember this Vega vase that I bought a few months back? I finally have a home for it!

I found this great ceiling light fixture at Kywi (this store reminds me of Home Depot)—it was the only one left in the country and I convinced them to sell me the floor sample! I love it.

And just to give you a preview of the terrace, here's the interior staircase leading to it. A friend recommended her gardener and he and I will be taking a trip to Paute next week in search of plants and more planters to fill the roof. Apparently that’s the place to go for that sort of thing--I’ll keep you posted.
Radharant: lower level of El Vergel shopping center, Manuel Calle and Alfonso Cordero (near the stadium)

Ecuadorian antiques: There are several stores around the perimeter of the Museo del Monasterio de las Conceptas on Hermano Miguel 6-33

Moblitec: Sucre 4-80

Boyaca: Remigio Crespo Toral and Calle Esmeralda

Plaza Rotary: Vargas Machuca and Gaspar Sangurima

Solmueble: Cruce del Carmen Via Sinincay

Kywi: Avenida Turuhuaico and Gil Ramirez Davalos

Galeria Latina: Presidente Cordova 6-79 and Borrero