Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Corpus Christi week in Cuenca, Ecuador and new City Tour bus

The first day I was in Cuenca we went on the Double Decker City tour bus and I was cold and tired from the long flight, so when I saw a new city tour bus I took the tour again. This time it was warmer and much more enjoyable and it got us away from all the candy in El Centro!

This is the first city tour bus

This is the new bus we took this time on the City tour

                                        I sat on the top deck in the fresh air and sunshine

The first floor on this new bus has tables with comfortable swivel chairs and a bar, and along with the narration of the history of Cuenca  you will see a video of Cuenca with recommendations for Hotels and Restaurants.

The City Tour is two hours and is just $5!

              Park Calderon in El Centro - this is where the buses depart everyday starting at 11 am.

                             Cuenca is always clean - I never see dirt or trash on any the the streets

Catedral El Sagrario, also known as Catedral Antiguo, on the east side of Parque Calderón, was the first church in Cuenca; as such, it’s the place to start your first church tour of El Centro. The cornerstone of the original mud-and-straw chapel built on this site in 1557, shortly after Cuenca was founded, was taken from the Inca palace at Pumapungo (next to the Museo del Banco Central). The church was in continuous use till the early 20th century, when the Catedral Nuevo opened across the square; it was completely restored between 1999 and 2005.

We drove through old historic neighborhoods that have been restored along with electrical wiring placed underground.

Iglesia San Sebastian marks the western edge of colonial El Centro in the middle of a plaza on Talbot between Mariscal Sucre and Simon Bolivar. With the bright white walls of the old church and the tall trees and well-tended horticulture, this plaza is almost as inviting as Calderón. At the other end of Sucre and Bolivar on Ordoñez is Iglesia San Blas. Dating back to 1575 and built with stone from Pumpaungo, the church and its square mark the eastern edge of El Centro.

The old Inca city ruins

And up the hill to Turri:

And up four flights of stairs to a Restaurant in Turri with great views of the City - when ever Bryan has time to go somewhere with me he is usually a few stairs or blocks ahead of me waiting!

Great views of the city from up here

See the three steeples of the Main Cathedral in El Centro

                               Back to El Centro through another restored Historic neighborhood

Displays of candy for sale surround Park Calderon for seven days, this is a traditional Catholic Celebration of the Body of Christ!

I am sure the local Dentists love this time of year!

Anyone for a horse and buggy ride?

And on to the new Catheral of Cuenca:

The construction of the new cathedral took quite a few years to complete. Construction had started in 1885, but building was staggered over the years so the cathedral was only completed in 1967. But the wait was worth-while and today people can enjoy looking at the magnificent blue and white domes that decorate the skies, the pink marbled floors, gold applications by the altar, stained glass windows and marble and alabaster facades. Both the New and Old Cathedrals of Cuenca are worthy attractions in Ecuador and even the most novice architectural enthusiast will be able to appreciate the beauty and splendor of these buildings.

Entrance to the new Catheral

My first time inside the Cathedral, I understand they are giving tours of the tombs of Priests and Church officials below the Church. The entrance is to the left of the Altar.

There are 53 Catherals in Cuenca surrounding the old city.

And the end of another relaxing beautiful  day in Cuenca, Ecuador - until next time be happy!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cuenca, Ecuador medical - My first visit to the Coopera Doctors in Cuenca, Ecuador and another trip to the Artesa Ceramic Factory!

When I first arrived in Cuenca December of 2012 I opened a savings account with Coopera which by the way pays 3%! I also purchased a CD with them which pays 10.5% annually. You can withdraw the interest monthly or leave it for a year.

When you open a savings account with Coopera you are illegable for their Health Insurance. So I took advantage of this offer which is $2.64 a month! What! Has anyone ever heard of health insurance this cheap?

Coopera has its on Medical Clinic at their main office in San Joaquin, just a few miles north of Cuenca.

Coopera's main office in San Joaquin

Coopera Medical Clinic behind the main office.

This is Dr. Aracely Pena and Dr. Paola Sivalina

It was May of 2012 and I figured it was time for a check-up it had been a couple of years so I called
for an appointment directly to Dr. Pena who does speak English, she lived in California for a few years. Both Dr. Pena and Dr. Sivalina are very friendly and seemed sincerely concerned with my health. The co-pay to see the Coopera Doctors is $2!

Because of my history of asthma the Doctors wanted me to get a lung ex-ray and a blood work-up, so she sent me to a lab for these procedures.

She also informed me that if my blood work was normal and the chest ex-ray did not show any abnormalities that my insurance would not pay for the lab work.

So I jumped in a taxi and headed to the lab for the tests. I was second in line for the blood work and after they drew my blood I paid them $36. Can you believe this $36! Last time I had blood work done in the US I paid $189 with my insurance. Then  I walked directly into another office for my chest ex-ray and paid $20. Within 15 minutes I was done and it was 10 am,  I was told to return after 1:30 pm for my test results and ex-ray.

Two days later I returned to my Coopera Doctors paid the $2 co-pay and presented my test results. To my surprise all the tests were normal except my cholesterol was a bit high but nothing a change in diet would not fix. I have lost 30 pounds since I arrive here in December of 2012 mostly due to the organic fruits and vegetables we get here as well as the natural grassed livestock and corn fed chickens. There just is not a lot of processed foods available in Ecuador and fresh fruits and vegetables grow all year long here.

I also had a high red blood cell count which is typical for living at 8300 feet, although my blood pressure was normal. There is 21% less oxygen up here but the air is fresh and clean. Because of the altitude my lungs are working at their full capacity which causes the production of more red blood cells and this is a good thing because red blood cells feed the entire body oxygen.

My lung ex-ray did show some abnormalities so the Doctor referred me to a specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Monte Sinai Hospital is the newest Hospital in Cuenca complete with modern equipment and many Doctors who were Educated in the United States.

We called to the office of Doctor Pablo Parra Cironel - Medicina Interna - Neumologia FCCP and we were told to just arrive between 10 am to 12 pm to see the Doctor. So we went to his office on the 5th floor of Monte Sinai Hospital and paid his Receptionist $30 and waited for his arrival.

Dr. Coronel speaks English and attend Medical School in Arizona. He asked me a few questions, looked over my blood work test results and checked out my chest ex-ray. He showed me on the ex-ray a abundant of tissue around my bronchial tubes, which is typical in asthmatics. He prescribed Ventolin inhalers and an alternative drug for Advair.. He instructed me to continue using my inhalers and to continue walking and dieting. Losing another 25 pounds is important and a struggle for me at this point. But what else do I have to do but take long daily walks by the Rio along with attending FOX gym a couple of days a week.

 I spoke to a couple of Expats living here in Cuenca who stopped using medications for asthma after losing over 40 pounds. Which does not seem to be the case for me, but guess it will still make me feel better. And I am fortunate at 63 not to have other medical problems as so many Americans I know my age do. But I am not totally convinced that Doctors in the US do not tend to prescribe  medications to their patents that are not really necessary, especially when they have Health Insurance.

With all my facturas (receipts) in hand I went back to see my Coopera Doctors and they filled out the paper work to present to the Coopera Pharmacy for my prescriptions. Another great advantage is the 80% off prescriptions! Prescription medication is already much less here then the US. One inhaler in the US is $56 or $10 with insurance, in Ecuador the regular price is $8.50 but with my insurance it is $2! One Advair in the US is $160 or $30 with insurance, here it is $35! With my insurance it is $7. And if the Coopera Pharmacy does not have the necessary drugs I can get 70% off at any other pharmacy. So I got around a $100 worth of prescription medication for $20.
The total cost of tests and seeing Dr. CoronelCoopera insurance. So my out of pocket cost for 4 Doctor visits and a two month supple of asthma medications: $28!

The Coopera Health Insurance is limited to $400 a year not including prescription medications, looks like I used up $86 of it and I probably won't use up anymore this year.

 Last time I saw a Doctor in the US it cost me $160 for the office visit and she was just a Nurse Practitioner.

Also located across the hall from my Doctors office is the Coopera Dental Clinic, also covered by my $2.60 a month insurance is 2 free cleanings per year and $5 fillings!

This is Dr. Veronica Carmona D, Dentist and Dr. Mona Crishna Sarango S.

Well it is good to know that I am in fairly good health and getting out of breath during my walks is not likely to give me a heart attack! I don't stop to caught my breath as much as I did when I arrived in Cuenca, which was every block! Ha! But it seems I will still be stopping to caught my breath anyway.

Coopera's new Restaurant in San Joanquin serves great food and the cost is very moderate.

Well Coopera was a fantastic deal while it lasted! Due to a couple of their managers washing 31 million dollars through 16 accounts the government has closed Coopera and is in the process of returning money to the account holders.
The 11 grocery stores remain open for now but the Doctor offices are closed.
There are other credit unions here that will pay 9.25% and Banks pay 6-8% on CD's.

I am in the process of looking at health insurance programs and I have found policies anywhere from $48 to $110 a month.

I made another trip to the Artesa's Friday morning back room to add to my 70% off ceramic collection.

These great ceramic plates  by Vega were $15 each! The top left one is Quito and the other two are scenes of Cuenca. A great bargain over the regular cost of $65 each.

I also added to my plate and bowl collection, who knows someday I my even serve dinner with them.

My carpenter Juan delivered a weaving he frames for me, He makes some great furniture.

Juan Carlos Vidal can be reached at: 094914832
Juan has many great pieces of furniture at great prices already made or he will make for you what ever you want.

And here is another plug for a friend of mine Orlando Siguenza.
Orlando lived in the United States for 16 years and recently moved back to Cuenca with his wife and daughter.
Orlando offers his driving and translating services for $10 an hour. His four door Toyota is very comfortable and Orlando already has many Expat clients here in Cuenca.
If anyone is interested in his services even if you are just coming here on vacation you can reach Orlando at: or his cell phone number is: 085854587.

Well guess that's it for this blog, its time to do my walk around the Rio!

Life is good in Cuenca - hope all of you have a good day as well!