Wednesday, March 3, 2010

365 Days! We did it!

Today our computer counter tells us that we've been in Ecuador now for 1 year!
That's 1 year in-country...we arrived in Quito for a couple days before coming on into Cuenca on Mar 5...

We're pretty proud of ourselves!  Some of you will remember we explored re-locating to Chile or Uruguay at first...but we're glad we decided on Ecuador.  We still want to visit the other countries, but Ecuador is 'home' now.  Ecuador is the size of Nevada, with much diversity packed into its small size.  Still lots to see and experience right here!

Sometimes it seems like we just got here......sometimes it seems like we've been here a life-time.

We thought we'd do a list of likes and dislikes of Ecuador, kind of like those we've seen on the Net.  But, the more we talked and discussed, the more we decided to not try to do 'the top 10', Letterman-style.  How would we prioritize the 'likes'?  Each topic and its importance depends on the happenings of the day...
And, for 'dislikes'...we decided that's too strong a word.  Yes, there are areas we are not too keen on, and that we're still getting used to, but we've managed to deal with most of them and adjust.  As time passes, those items we 'disliked'  in the beginning now have become just 'differences' and 'life'...  either we found the substitution, or adjusted our expectations. 

Not to say it's always been easy ...  we went from quiet/peaceful rural/country to busy/noisy city life..........and we do have our moments of missing the ranch, Mr Boots the kitty, friends and family in the US..........and English!  But, we're happy overall, despite the 'moments'. 

In no particular order, here are are the high points (what we like):

*Health care
Inexpensive and excellent.  We have heard of no one losing the family farm because they couldn't pay the hospital bill (like we heard in Oregon).  We're heard of no one who chose to 'just die' rather than incur doctor exenses for care (again, like we heard in Oregon).  Health reform debates/ politics just don't happen here, because there is no need.  Most medicines are available in the pharmacies, no perscription needed (except for narcotics).  You can order your own lab work and then pick up the results yourself.  No need to have a doctor in the middle.  You own your own medical records, no need to pay for copies (or arguing with a clerk).
Doctors will give you time to ask your questions.  We remember our doctor in Oregon was so busy, we'd have to decide on the 3 top questions to ask him, we only got maybe 10 minutes (after a long waiting time).
And, we weren't even sure he was listening, as he was glued to his computer the whole time.
And, then there was the time we couldn't even find a doctor who would take new medicare patients for Rich.
A couple of our friends here have been diagnosed with cancer...not only was the care fast (no waiting for months to see a specialist or get surgery and/or treatment), there was no outrageous bill!
We like the fact that the doctors will often suggest alternatives to drugs, like more exercise and better diet.  The doctors will also try to get you off a drug, instead of trying to keep you on them.  The doctors have also suggested 'tonics'...  like the special tea you can make from herbs and flowers, as well as suggesting vitamins, herbs and supplements.  Life here has been good...between the 2 of us, we've lost over 65 lbs! this past year.  We walk more, eat less but better food.  And, less stress in our lives.
We could on and on...  but that will give you an idea of how much we like the health system (and healthy life-style) here.  We've cancelled our expensive medical coverage in the States.  We're going to simply self-insure here.  The price of medical treatment is less than the deductible of the insurance in the US.  Doctors make house calls and their bedside manner is terrific!

* Kind, gentle and peaceful people
Overall, Ecuadorians are delightful and hardworking.  Family values are strong here.  Lots of happy children.
We haven't heard of any school shootings. Kids are nice to each other; you often see older kids taking care of younger siblings.  Someone said there is a certain 'sweetness' here among the people, and it's true.  Retirement homes don't seem to exist here.  Several generations live together and
they take care of each other.  For elders, it's the law that they can go to the front of the line (along with Mom's with children and the disabled. ) Guards will insist and will personally escort you!
Workers are loyal.  They may tell you what they think you want to hear (no bad news), but that's 'cultural', because no one wants to offend.  (Most will correct your Spanish though!).
Most folks we've met in the expat community have been friendly and kind, too.  We think it's because of the kindness already here!  It's contagious! 

* Respect for the environment
We especially like the new Constitution, which gives nature the same rights as the people.  Recycling is big (it's the law here in Cuenca now).   Politicians are listening to the people about the whole 'oil thing'. We think it will all sort out on the side of the people.

* Healthy Food
Lots of really cheap, good produce.  Less pesticides, less hormones/antibiotics (if any) in the meat.  Everything tastes better here, too.  Excellent restaurants, low prices.  You can get a set lunch for about $2 and eat like many Ecuadorians do....fresh fruit juice, soup, plate of rice and meat (and maybe a salad) and a dessert.  You can also pay more and get 'gourmet' in some places.
Good coffee, Peet's - style, is hard to find, not really available in Super Maxi (like Safeway).  The coffee there, not as good, is about $6/lb.  However, wonderful Loja coffee, grown at a lower altitude, can be found at the People's markets and at smaller shops near the main square for about $2.50/lb.  Sure beats prices at Peet's and Starbucks!
Fresh seafood is a plus!

* Good weather
Here in the Andes, we don't have the steamy hot temps of some areas on the coast and the jungle.  And, no snow!  We only have 2 seasons, wet and dry.  Even though we saw hail just recently here in Cuenca, that's not the norm.  Think "eternal Spring". 

Everywhere!  You can buy big fresh bouquets for practically a song.  Lots of trees and parks, too.  People use the parks!  We were distressed at the number of parks in the US that seemed under used and not safe.  The parks here are packed with children and adults of all ages.

Cuenca is a UNESCO City, which means the nice, old buildings are protected.  There can be some 'frustrations' with the historic commission for changes, but it's all work-able.  (That's their job.)  Sites and customs of older civilizations (Incan, Canari, etc) are respected and celebrated. 

The people love a parade!  There seems to be a parade each week.  Traffic can come to a standstill for the parade and no one seems to mind much.  Also, we like the free entertainment in the parks...everything from music, skits, dancing, juggling, etc., and the low (or free) costs of concerts and other entertainment.  We like the art shows in the parks and galleries, too.  We also love the firework displays! 

We're happy we went through all the hard work to get our residency.  This status gives us discounts, basically what the citizens get.  Discounts include travel, admittance charges, goods and services.
For example, Rich who is over 65, can get half-fare for flights originating in Ecuador to anywhere.

*Overall lower costs
We have bought property at a fraction of what it would cost in the US.  Taxes are low...  Rich paid the annual taxes on all 3 of our properties for a total of $310.  Our property taxes in the US were MUCH higher!  At least 10 times that for 1 property for a little 3 bedroom/2bath home in Oregon. 
Everything is cheaper here, except maybe exported items.  If you buy locally produced furniture, appliances, groceries, you'll save a bundle.
No need for air conditioning.  Water, gas, electicity are also low. 
Generally, most cooking and heating is done by propane.  The typical propane container holds approximately 15 gals, which can be filled for $1.60.  We don't have a car, but gas is stable at about $1.48/gal. The government keeps the energy costs low in order to promote the inexpensive distribution of goods and services. Free enterprise flourishes.  The first choice for any Ecuadorian is to start his own business. 

Taxis in town are about $2, bus is 25 cents (or half, if you're a senior).  Walking is free and good for us!
Clothes can cost more than the US or about the same.  No Walmart prices, that we could find.
Most everything can be found, or made to order, including furniture, clothes, shoes, you name it.  Labor and materials are inexpensive, so no problem.

OK.........  we could keep adding to this collection of 'likes'. (the beauty of the Andes Mountains, the ever-changing clouds, the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, etc etc)........

Now to the 'dislikes'...  we DO hate that word, so let's call it......."What we miss and can't find"............

*No coated aspirin
*certain vitimins are not available (at least we can't find them)  Diabetic vitamins, available at Walgreen's in the US, aren't available either.
(And, it's hard to find a good burger here, US style, unless you cook your own!)

That's about it!

There are some other things that we can't find, but we're finding either substitutes or we're adjusting our ways...We do live in Ecuador now, after all!  If we wanted all those US 'things', well, we could live in the US or visit, we suppose. But, we don't have those plans any time soon.
Happy to report, we're doing just fine.........

Happy 1 year Anniversary to us!


  1. Thank you, Nancy! I LOVE your list and you reported exactly what Mark has been telling me. Actually, it's much the same list that we had in Sicily. Except Europe is FAR more expensive to live in and the transportation is not CHEAP! We look forward to meeting you soon (in June!).


  2. Congratulations! Sounds like you both have adjusted just fine. We look forward to meeting you when we arrive in July!

  3. Lucky us!.....having you as our neighbors. Happy One Year Anniversary!!

  4. Wow, we're having coffee this morning on the porch (waiting for the sunrise, that's our morning 'ritual) and enjoying your comments.
    Can you believe...on our monumental day yesterday, I got sick! We're thinking it might have been the coffee/treat we had earlier...I guess the excitement of the day and the 'treat' didn't mix so well. Feeling better now.
    BUT, we plan to celebrate more soon...the week is still young.
    Karen and Connie, nice to 'meet' you! Keep packing and looking forward to meeting you soon, 'in person'!
    Nancy and Chuck -- WE are the lucky ones with you as neighbors! We count our blessings everyday.
    Love, N (and R)

  5. Hi, you're looking for good hamburger places?

    1. Bertuchis - The best hamburger I've found in the city. (Unidad Nacional)

    2. John's Burgers - Their burgers are beasts! I usually have to share mine with someone, lots of variety (Av Loja)

    3. Zorro's Burgers - Great hamburgers for the midnight crowd (Remigio Crespo & Loja)

  6. Horray Rich and Nancy! Has it only been a year? Look at what you have accomplished in that short year. Bought and renovated property, won friends, influenced people...I described you two the other day as "wonderful people with no other agenda than enjoying life and the people you meet along the way". We're looking forward to enjoying your company again soon.

    Happy Anniversary!
    Brenda and Clarke

  7. Hola Diego, thanks for the list of
    good burger places! You know we'll be checking those out soon.

    Brenda and Clarke,thanks for the nice words. Keep packing, you're almost here!

    ==N and R

  8. God Bless your happy attitude ! Looking forward to meeting you when I visit Cuenca this summer !

    Jo Ana

  9. Hola Jo Ana!
    We're looking forward to meeting you this summer, too!
    We found your blog:
    ..and we're so happy you're headed our way.
    Be sure to look us up when you arrive in Cuenca.
    Salud, N and R