Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reflecting On 2011

2011wins hands down as the biggest change in my life.  Last year at this time Sharon and I returned from our visit to Ecuador and we started making plans to retire in Cuenca. So many decisions to make.

  • Quitting our jobs
  • Selling or renting our house
  • Selling or storing our furniture
  • Bringing our dog?
  • Starting the residency process
  • Booking airline tickets
  • Saying goodbye to friends and relatives
  • Bringing our cat
Thank goodness I listened to Sharon . I thought the process would take 4-6 weeks but it took every day of 5 months to get everything ready.

In the end we decided not to bring our beloved 11 year old Samoyed.  A wonderful family who just lost their Sammy adopted Cassie and we receive timely reports on how well she is doing.  Feisty, our 16 year old cat is thriving in Cuenca.

Almost all of our friends and most of our family were supportive concerning our move to Cuenca.  I still giggle at the lack of knowledge that some of our family displayed about Ecuador. The best tech advice I can give someone contemplating the move is to bring down the best computer/tablet/cell phone/Kindle that you can afford to Ecuador. The electronics will cost you 30- 40% more in EC and some of the products are just not available.  Make sure you bring Magic Jack for phone calls.

Both Sharon and I had preconceived thoughts about our transition to our new life in Ecuador. In 7 months we have rented a beautiful apartment overlooking the Yanuncay River. We have met wonderful new Expat and Cuencano friends.  The Cuencanos we have met have all been friendly and welcoming and both of us have made a good start in transitioning to Español by taking Spanish lessons. We both love the climate, the people, the slower paced and affordable life style of our new home in Cuenca.

Have there been speed bumps along the way?  Of course.  Our expected 3 month residency process took 7 months and we had to postpone a trip back to the States.  Internet connectivity remains a daily challenge. We still need a translator for most detailed transactions.  There are days I long for a decent Thai or Chinese meal, Although, Skype brings our friends and family to the computer screen Sharon and I both miss our friends, kids and granndkids.

The Animoto video below is a compendium of shots from Oregon and Cuenca.

Feliz Año Nuevo

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Caminando y hablando Español

This morning I had a delightful walk with Santi, the brother of Rebe, my Spanish teacher.  Rebe and her family plus Maria Elena and her family have become good friends since our move to Ecuador.

I was apprehensive about our walk since Santi knows just a handful of English words and I have been the world's worst Spanish student.  The walk was great and we managed to communicate just fine. I don't know if my Spanish is improving or I'm a great Charades player but we rarely found ourselves without something to say.

I am publicly recommitting myself to doing my homework and practicing an hour a day. Taxicab and restaurant Spanish will get you by but if you really want to flourish in Cuenca you have to be conversational.

We started at Tres Puentes (Three Bridges) and walked to Parque de Paridisio.  Coming back we stopped at a local tienda and had 2 coffees and 2 pan for a total of $1.50. Coming back Santi showed me different neighborhoods. I liked the grafitti on one house. The neighbors probably did not.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tenemos nuestra residencia en Ecuador

Sharon and I are officially Ecuadorian residents.  After 7 months we finally received our Cedula in Quito yesterday. A Cedula is a national identity card and every Ecuadorian has to have one (even babies).  You have to apply in person with all your paperwork.  Every "i " dotted and every "t" crossed.  Plus everything has to match your birth certifiicate, Passport and Censo card. Plus your signature has to be the same on everyone of those documents.

For a moment imagine your worst DMV experience and then think of standing in line at 7:30 am with 800 other applicants trying to see 15 examiners without networked computers to answer questions (all in Spanish), fingerprinted, photographed and one mens room and one ladies room for all those people.

How's the DMV looking now?

Actually the day turned out to be two since our flight from Cuenca was late and we arrived in Quito at 10:30 am and could not get a number for our finger printing.  It was the best people watching day of my life. All social and ethnic groups were represented and the costumes and babies were mesmorizing.

I think the reason Sharon and I are flourishing in Ecuador is because we realize that we are living in a 3rd world country but experiencing 1st world life experiences.
Here is an example. During the Cedula process our Ecuadorian examiner could not understand why Sharon did not have my last name. Even though our marriage license was in the pack of papers. I could not explain in my very rudimentary Spanish that it was "esta bien" (OK) for women in the U.S. to keep their maiden name. It looked for a moment that our application was going to be held up.  Up stepped a complete stranger in the waiting room to volunteer to translate and in 2 minutes the problem was solved. Bernice was from Cuenca and she is also a hairdresser.  She gave Sharon her card and now we have a potential new hairdresser.

Almost without exception the Ecuadorians we have met are friendly, and eager to help us in every aspect of adjusting to life in South America.

We didn't see a lot of Quito. The population is 4 times the size of Cuenca with all the traffic problems that a city with 2 million people would experience.  It was refreshing to go into the mall and experience all the stores that an American city would take for granted.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Vacas Y El Rio

Walking is one of my favorite activities in Cuenca. A bonus to walking is taking pictures and anticipating finding my favorite herd of Cows. The herd consists of 7 cows and I've named one Violetta.
She has a half moon on the top of her back so she is easy to identify.

Yesterday, I walked to ETAPA, the city owned utility company to change my Internet service. The Internet Service that we use in the building is like the "Little Girl With The Curl". We shared 1 meg with 10 people. When one or two were on the service was passable. When 3 or more were on Skype was unusable. So it was off to ETAPA to change service providers. I did the whole transaction in Spanish. I was a little nervous signing the contract but I'm pretty sure I signed up for 2mg for $51.00 a month.