Monday, November 8, 2010

Three Months in Cuenca

We have just past the three month mark of when we left the U.S. with five large suitcases and four carry-on bags headed for Cuenca and the unknown.

The unknown has become the known (except for Spanish, of course). We are in our second apartment and will move to our third apartment next month. This should be our final move. We're looking forward to getting settled and feeling more at home next month. It is a beautifully furnished three-bedroom apartment with views of trees all around and is in a nice part of town within walking distance of everything that we need.

I would like to reflect on my likes and dislikes. Some are a big deal and some are very trivial, but all count as one gets used to a new culture and lifestyle.


Parks. There are over twenty parks in Cuenca of which we've been only to a few. Walking around you're sure to find a park to visit.

Rivers. There are four rivers that run through Cuenca and the water is so fresh and clean, running down from the Andes.

Mountains. All around us. I love living in the mountains -- I didn't know that I would like it so much.

Trees. Everywhere there are trees. I love the eucalyptus trees on the river and the sound as the wind blows through them. There are also trees in bloom right now as we're in the springtime here.

Restaurants. We've been enjoying eating out (probably more than we should). But there are so many restaurants to explore -- all different cuisines.

Cost of Living. We pay for everything with cash and are able to save quite a bit compared to the prices in the States.

Health Care. The doctors are so caring. They take a personal interest in you. One doctor told Mike to be careful as he walks around town (because he's a gringo and an older one besides) and if he has any problems to call him directly. He gave us his home address, home phone number and cell phone number. The cost for an office visit is $25. My blood work today was $22. The medical records, test results, x-rays, etc., all belong to the patient. So I'll pick up my blood test results tomorrow and take them to my doctor for his review.

Families. It is a joy to see families being so close-knit. The babies and children are cared for and held closely. You'll see families playing together in the streets and just having fun walking around town. The indigenous mothers carry their babies and toddlers on their back wrapped up in a shawl. There are very few strollers as the little ones are held in their parent's arms.

School Children. All the school children wear uniforms -- and they are really nice looking. The girls wear plaid skirts with sweaters. The boys wear pants, shirts, and vests. Each school has a certain color. So you see uniforms in red or blue or green. They also wear the nicest looking gym clothes (warm up suits).

Away from Politics. I'm so glad that we don't get the U.S. political campaign commercials here. It's so nice to be away from the constant politics. We do get Fox News but we don't watch it as much as we did back in the States.

Not watching as much TV. We usually watch sports (watched the World Series!), movies, and news. We like listening to music.

Radio Station 97.3FM. I love this station. It is a Spanish station with a Spanish D.J., but they play a mixture of songs, both in Spanish and English. The Spanish songs are beautiful and very relaxing. The English songs are amazing -- country western, easy listening, rock and roll.

Fresh Produce. The produce in the markets are so fresh, they last twice as long in the refrigerator as in the States because they are so fresh to start with. I love always having ripe avocados whenever I want one.

Instant Hot Water. The hot water tank is the small instant variety. Hot water at a moment's notice.

Making New Friends. We've made friends at our church -- some speak only Spanish and some speak very good English. We can practice our Spanish with them and they can practice their English with us. We've also made friends with the gringos that we've met. We also have made friends with people we haven't met yet but who are interested in Cuenca and wanting to know more about it from us (through email).

Skype & Earth Class Mail. Communication has been great for us. The Internet and cell phone that we have through Porta works great. Skype is wonderful for making and receiving calls and Earth Class Mail has been working out great for our mail service. We have a P. O. Box in Cuenca and that is working out great too.

Peaceful Lifestyle. I truly feel retired here. We have no schedule and only do what we want, when we want. I know eventually I'll need to develop a routine but so far I've been enjoying learning Spanish at my own pace (self-study). We will eventually start Spanish school and probably get more involved in other activities (exercise, volunteer work, etc.)

Cover on the Stove. I know that sounds trivial but it is such a great idea. The stove has a dust cover on it that you lift up before you cook. Reminds me of the dust covers on the old phonographs.

Pouch for Condiments. I know another trivial item, but such a great idea. All the condiments (mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, etc.) come in pouches that have a spout. So neat and easy to use.

Now for the. . .


Spanish-speaking country. It would have been easier to move to an English-speaking country, but we didn't. So it's our responsibility to fit into the culture and to learn the language. It can be frustrating and very slow going, but it's good for the brain. Hopefully, I'm growing new pathways in my brain with all of the information I've been taking in.

Miss the U.S. I find that I miss what the U.S. used to be (in the 50's). I miss my mom and dad and how easy life was back then. Moms stayed home and took care of the home and the kids. Families ate together. Kids minded their parents and their teachers. Maybe because I see this all here in Cuenca it reminds me of how lucky we were back then and didn't even know it.

Sidewalks & Curbs. You MUST watch where you are walking here to avoid being a casualty. The cars have the right of way here and are not timid about reminding you about that. The sidewalks are uneven and the curbs are high, so you must watch every step.

Taxi Drivers. Riding in a taxi here is not for the timid. It's best to not look ahead but just hope you get to where you're going in one piece. I think the taxi drivers think they're driving a race car and the first one to their destination wins.

Traffic Circles. How there aren't any accidents in the traffic circles I'll never know. It's like a ballet with everyone twirling every which way but never bumping into each other. What's really scary is trying to cross the street in a traffic circle (which we do only when we have to). Sometimes you make it only halfway across the street and you're standing in the middle of the street waiting to cross to the other side!

Miss Family & Friends. This goes without saying -- but I'll say it anyway. There is no easy way to move to another country and not be sad about those you have moved away from. We're planning a trip back home next year but it's still hard to be away from our loved ones (especially the grandchildren).

Potatoes. I know, another trivial item. The potatoes here are small and have about three times as much starch and there aren't any sweet potatoes or yams here (at least not the kind we're used to).

The Altitude. I didn't think living up so high (8,000 feet) would bother me since I was in pretty good shape when we came here. But the breathing is difficult at times -- although I think I am improving. Mike says that he is fine now but he's been walking more than me. I guess I'll just have to start joining him on his daily hourly walk along the river -- just have to get up earlier!

Plumbing Issues. OK -- now for the gross part. You knew there had to be a gross part, right? Well, if you are living in a new building you don't have these issues. But if you're in an older building you can't flush your toilet paper. WHAT? Yep, that's right. They have these cute little covered waste baskets just for that purpose -- and the good part is that trash is picked up between two and three times a week.

Cuy. Now for the grossest part. The Ecuadorian delicacy is something I will never even try. I can't get past how cute these little guys are alive and what they look like before cooking. They are called cuy here but in the States we call them "guinea pigs". YUK. Some brave folks have tried them, but yours truly won't be eating one of them. I've eaten snakes, snails, rabbit and venison in the past, but won't be eating guinea pigs!

Petty Crime. There is crime here. You need to be careful walking around town because you don't want your purse or jewelry stolen. It doesn't happen often because there are armed police EVERYWHERE. But because we stand out, we're always careful. It takes awhile to get used to armed guards everywhere (at the bank, in the mall, in the grocery store, etc.), but it does make you feel safe.

Well,that's all I can think of for now. Will probably be able to add to these two lists as more time goes by.

Hasta Luego,


  1. Great Post answered a lot of my questions.
    Loved the negatives even more that the positives as thats what makes life difficult or interesting depending on how you choose to look at them.
    Tom G

  2. We are in North Carolina and planning a move there in the next 2 years or so. Finally someone posts some negatives. If you read International Living there is nothing but superlatives. It CAN'T be all good! Thank you for the obvious. Nothing is perfect. It still sounds pretty good though.
    Mo in NC

  3. Very nice artical. We are planing on making the move this coming April. Looking forward to the adventure. Would love more information from any one!

    Jim & Teresa

  4. Excellent post! It brought back so many memories! The taxi drivers, the traffic circles, the toilet paper...but so many good things we enjoyed on our trip to Cuenca. We loved it and hope to come back soon! Thank you Mike for your ideas and encouragement!

    Debra & Tony

    1. Hoping you and your family can come back soon. We're praying!