Archive for March, 2013

Meeting Cesar, a 102 Year Old Ecuadorian in Perfect Health

I enjoyed a very Good Friday.

I worked on projects in the a.m. and at 12:15 walked in the rain from the Zona Roja to Cuenca’s El Centro. Since I’m from Los Angeles where it rarely rains, I was reminded of the times I’ve walked in the rain in Paris.

At 1:00 pm I met up with a British teacher of English at a French café on Parque Calderon. The teacher is always fun to talk to; he’s been in Ecuador 17 years and provides me with remarkable insights about what I seem to be experiencing.

When it was time for my British friend to leave and meet up with other friends, an elderly man walked in, accompanied by his family. The family seated him on a bench about 2’ from me. Oh my. I had the biggest smile on my face watching him and listening – his conversation was sharp and clear, his appetite impressive, his cheerful demeanor inviting.  It was meant to be, we met up.

Cesar and his niece

Cesar and his niece

The man’s name is Cesar and he is 102 years old. According to his niece, he does not suffer from any ailments, he is in excellent health. You could tell by his remarkable energy.

Cesar was driven to Cuenca from Guayaquil earlier in the day by his grand-nephew – a 3 hour trip on winding roads – to visit family!!!

I asked how Cesar spent his years, he said he had studied English, was an English teacher but did not work often as there was not a lot of interest in learning English when he was a young man. I asked his niece how he managed to pay for his life if work was sporadic, she said he inherited money to last a life time so he never has felt much stress.  I was wondering, is this one of the secrets to longevity?

Cesar wanted to practice his English with me: Are you married? How much money do you have?

Guendalina con Cesar

Guendalina con Cesar

Cesar is cute……very cute… and was a wonderful gift on this day (as was the chance to see my British friend again).

Happy Easter Cesar!! And thank you; you and your generation are an inspiration!

March 30, 2013 at 2:20 am Leave a comment

My Hair Color Quest in Cuenca, Ecuador

Yep, I admit it, vanity. I’ve carried white and grey in my hair since age 19. If my hair were pure white, I might wear it that way. For the moment I feel best as a strawberry blond, a color that picks up the gold and auburn in my hazel eyes, and, complements my skin tone.

For more than a dozen years I have been content using NaturColor, a product made in Italy with no ammonia, no resorcinol, and no parabens.  See I’ve been buying it in Los Angeles at Erewhon Market or at Whole Foods Market, and at Clark’s Nutrition in Palm Desert, CA.  No stinging, no reaction on my scalp. The color I use gives a flat, natural result; my hair comes out smooth, silky, healthy. My hair does not need a conditioner or conditioning because of aloe vera and other herbal ingredients. I’ve always felt good using this product.

But in Ecuador, it’s been hard to find a mostly organic hair color product. And as in North America, natural written on the box does not mean organic, nor does it mean without chemicals.

Team Lucy

Team Lucy

Lucy's sweet assistants

Lucy’s sweet assistants

Owner Lucy

Owner Lucy

I’ve found three salons in Cuenca that use Redken Chromatics with no ammonia. At one salon my scalp turned bright red, followed by a wild headache. I called NY to talk to a veteran Redken colorist to get a take on what could have happened. The 8NW color result was beautiful, yes, but I learned it is possible I am highly allergic to this product. I did try.  Next, I experimented with a L’Oreal product without ammonia. Ouch. Same story, toxic for me.

After these experiences I headed to central Cuenca, where I found two beauty supply stores with choices for products without ammonia, but each of the products, I discovered after reading the boxes, have components of resorcinol and parabens. Visit at Gran Colombia 12-01 if you are scouting on your own or Distribudora Pedro Santos at Tarqui 10-77 where they sell no ammonia Revlon Color Silk products.

Next I tried a semi-permanent Italian product made in Mexico, Designer Color by Tec Italy. No stinging, no discoloration of scalp, no ammonia, but it does contain resorcinol and parabens. So far it is the mildest but I am concerned about resorcinol and parabens entering my body through my scalp.

Salon in El Vergel area, Cuenca, Ecuador

Salon in El Vergel area, Cuenca, Ecuador

At Burbujas, a high-end beauty product store that can be found in all major Ecuadorian cities, I discovered NaturVital. NaturVital is based in the UK but has a Latin American office with headquarters in Spain. I was very excited to read on the box no ammonia, no resorcinol, and no parabens. But alas, sorry to say, the hydrogen peroxide in the formula is really strong.  It stung, and I developed a very strong headache during the wait period that got worse as the day progressed.

mural at Lucia Palacios salon

mural at Lucia Palacios salon

I realize I am more sensitive than most people. But who will take care of my health if I do not?  Maybe the universe is sending a message, no more hair color.  Umm….. what shall I do?

While I’m deciding, I’m still on the quest…

Here are some of the salons that apply hair color that I’ve discovered in Cuenca, there are many others:

  1. Lucy’s   Edificio Los Pinos (a classy new building), Calle Los Pinos, just off Ordonez Lasso in San Sebastian, the west part of town. Lucy is young, charming, and gifted with color. She’s also a great cutter. This is the high society Cuencana hang-out and the place I tried both the Redken Chromatics and the L’Oreal products without ammonia.  Tel. (7)410-2725   No English spoken.
  2. Peluqueria Lucia Palacios  Roberto Crespo 5-34 in the attractive El Vergel neighborhood on the southeast part of town in a non-descript older building. Lucia has been a stylist for 30 years; she is attentive and loving, and understands differences between products. She reads, carefully studies, and is knowledgeable about effects.  Prices less than at Lucy’s. No English spoken. Tel. (7)288-1473
  3. Renova  Also in the upscale El Vergel neighborhood at Los Fresnos 1-100 and Paucarbamba, tel. (7)2885802. Redken Chromatics products. Ask for Adriana Bazallo. Priced a little under Lucy’s.  Some English spoken.
  4. Roxanne Lord at Sojo Spa. American stylist in Edificio La Cuadra #2 on Jose Astudillo at Eduardo Crespo Malo She has a lovely personality, a number of Americans go to her, American prices. She does not use color products without ammonia.
  5. has received several recommendations for a lady I have yet to meet, Berenice Lopez of Berenice Spa, who worked as a cosmetologist in New Jersey and New York for 17 years and has returned to her hometown of Cuenca.  She speaks English. Calle del Arupo 1-08 at Calle de Los Alisos.  Tel. (099)273-5378 cell

If you are interested in toxic effects of hair color tints, permanent or semi-permanent, there are several resources on the Internet which put forth their ideas.  Here below is an article by a British gal, published at

Suffering From Hair Coloring – A Chemical Overdose

by Lynn Berry

(NaturalNews) Recently a young woman in the U.K. suffered a severe reaction to a hair dye with chemical burns to her skin around her face, neck and scalp and a rash over her body (1). This is in line with reports of an increase in hair dye allergies. A survey in London found that contact dermatitis due to a hair dye allergy rose by 7.1 percent over a six-year period after a patch test (2).

According a story on a Current Affairs program, the number of reactions to hair dye is soaring (3).

Hair dye, particularly permanent hair dye, contains harsher chemicals than other dye types. Permanent hair dye consists of color and developer. Contained in the color mixture are a range of synthetic dyes and intermediates such as ammonia, diamino-benzenes, phenylenediamines, resorcinol and phenols. The color,  mixed with a developer such as hydrogen peroxide, produces a color.

A team in the U.K. tested permanent hair dyes due to concerns that many products contain highly allergenic and potentially carcinogenic chemicals. They found 6 of the main sensitizers, each with different degrees of strength, in a number of the 15 products tested and without mention on product labels.

“Those ingredients included P-Phenylenediamine, an extreme sensitiser found in all but three of the products tested; Phenlymethylpyrazolene, a strong sensitizer found in three of the dyes; m-Aminophenol, found in six of the dyes; N,N-bis, a strong sensitizer found in four dyes; 4-Aimon-2-hydroxytoluene, a strong sensitizer found in six dyes and Toluene-2.5-diamine, a sensitizer of unclassifiable strength found in two dyes.” ((…)

These chemicals cause sensitization which means that after initial exposure to them, or other products containing them, a more severe reaction may occur.

Reactions to the hair dye products include severe swelling and rashes. In addition, there are links to a range of cancers, including breast, bladder and leukemias which have as yet to be definitely proven.

Note that p-phenylenediamine (PPD) is derived from coal-tar which is a potentially carcinogenic ingredient. Du Pont does not recommend prolonged skin contact with this chemical.


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About the author

Lynn Berry loves good food and cooking and is passionate about nutrition and natural health care. She has a website promoting healthy eating at

March 18, 2013 at 7:35 pm 2 comments

Eating Salads in Cuenca, Ecuador

I have to admit, I miss the take-out salads of North America and Europe, and the reliable salad bars at Whole Foods Markets where I would spend $3 for breakfast and $4 for lunch with the added bonus of great variety (ready-made organic quinoa, etc.), WiFi (an instant office), and a blissful array of natural products to return home with – organic shampoos, other organic products – body creams, vitamins, household cleansers. No such all-in-one place in Cuenca.

The key here is to be adaptable, to ask everyone you meet up with what they have found, and, to continue the search.  Here, one of my searches has been for salad…

I grew up eating fresh salads. I realize I am not standard issue and am more particular than most. But if you are at all like me, you’ll survive… here is what I have found….

Oro Verde Gourmet Deli Take-Out

Oro Verde Gourmet Deli Take-Out

The closest approximation of take-out salads, as North Americans and Europeans know them, is at the upscale Gourmet Deli at the Hotel Oro Verde on Ordonez Lasso. Plan on spending $5-$6, not including something to drink; it’s a quiet place to be if you plan to eat your salad there. Another place I find to be reliable is the Spanish deli chain La Espanola at Mall del Rio (also in Guayaquil and Quito). The servers behind the counter will create the salad to your specifications, i.e. without meat (all their meat is processed), without cheese, etc., and serve you Spanish olive oil and lemon on the side. See photo below; the white items on the left are mushrooms which they substituted for meat or poultry.

If you are planning to eat out as opposed to take-out, you can find salads that have a familiar look to them at California Kitchen on Luis Cordero near Calle Larga, where you will feel like you are in the U.S. (a favorite ex-pat restaurant, well-managed by a delightful American family from San Diego), and at the intimate Windhorse Café on Calle Larga (run by precious Americans, former Peace Corps volunteers) where the salad(s) of the day will contain organic ingredients from their own garden or ingredients they’ve selected at markets. Other salads catering to “Western” palates can be found at Coffee Tree, Hotel Victoria, Mansion Alcazar.

El Espanol, Mall del Rio

El Espanol, Mall del Rio

El Espanol salad

El Espanol salad

Another option is to find the ingredients and make your own salad.

I am fortunate to have a French friend in Cuenca with refined food tastes; she makes it a point to be at an organic market at 6 am to find the freshest produce possible. She washes all she returns with in vinegar and water and puts a lot of love energy into her creations. Here below is her 100% organic salad made from Cuenca area produce, need I say that it was delicious?!

organic masterpiece with Cuenca produce

organic masterpiece with Cuenca produce

Here below is a photo of a salad I prepared with local produce.  Mine was less labor intensive than that of my talented French friend, and not 100% organic:

Green Lab hydroponic lettuce from Supermaxi

Ecuadorian hydroponic lettuce

Ecuadorian hydroponic lettuce

Ecua Organic albahaca (basil) from Supermaxi, better than any organic basil I have tasted in California

Shredded carrots from Supermaxi, I usually buy the organic but not available daily

Avocado from Supermaxi

Green Garden cherry tomatoes from Supermaxi, “natural” but not organic

Potato salad with peas and hard-boiled eggs, no sugar added, from Bocatti

Anise seeds, more flavorful than any I’ve purchased in the U.S., found at Coral

Dried oregano, from Supermaxi, more flavorful than any I’ve purchased in the U.S.

Ecuadorian sea salt from the Feria Libre market, gift from European friends

Lemon from the organic farm of the owner of the condo where I am staying

Spanish olive oil from Supermaxi, not the quality of what you find at Trader Joe’s

but I’ve heard there is a private Ecuadorian source for top quality

olive oil that a number of ex-pats have found, hope to meet that source

Cuenca produce, salad at homeCuenca produce, salad at home

Please click on photos to enlarge.

Here’s to your discovery of healthful salads and salad ingredients in Cuenca!  Buen provecho!!

Addendum:  My French friend read the blog and somehow felt it was implied that hydroponically grown lettuce is organic.  So for clarification, here’s a link to an article on the subject:

March 3, 2013 at 1:44 am 1 comment

"If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." - Lewis Carroll