A New Kind of Blog

There is a world of information about Ecuador. It is one of the most popular countries for people who want to retire to a place where the dollar goes much farther than in the US, a place for adventuresome families who want to experience a new language and exciting culture. However, much of what you read or hear does not touch on the practical, the problematic, or the local information necessary to make things work. There are many blogs which are basically daily diary’s from people who live here. But this blog will be different. We know how hard it is to get accurate and timely information. We have been through it. All of us who live here have learned step by step and we question whether it is necessary to have every newcomer reinvent the wheel. We hope this blog will help shorten the learning curve. There are many hurdles but all are surmountable. What is required is patience, an understanding of local ways, and a realization that you are going to live in a country which is not the same as the US, Canada, or Britain. Our choice was to live in the wonderful city of Cuenca in the Southern Sierra but this may not be your decision and you will therefore have to look further to find the answers you need for different areas like the coast or the Amazon. Please realize that all the suggestions and ideas are based on our experiences. Ecuadorian regulations change rapidly and must be checked before you make any investments or major decisions. Please email us at Sailorburr@gmail.com and let us know if you have any questions or comments.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Security is a something that few of us who lived in quiet suburban homes in the US had much concern about. We previously lived in a home in North Carolina where we left the doors unlocked when we went to sleep at night. Now we live in a new country where security can be an issue.  Personal safety is always a delicate subject as each of us has lived under different circumstances and there is no way of knowing what a reader’s experience might have been. What we say comes from our own personal experience and we cannot suppose the level of security other people require.  Because there is much poverty in Ecuador, petty crime is quite common. Stealing of pocketbooks, cell phones, and car radios has been little more than an annoyance in the past but recently there has been an upsurge of more serious issues.  Though major crime is still rare, it is felt by the police that external elements, such as gangs from Peru or Columbia have escalated robbery to an infrequent but more dangerous level. High profile crime here remains an odd occurrence but has happened.  When you contrast serious crime in Ecuador to that in the US there is absolutely no comparison. Homes in Cuenca have always had high stone walls with cut glass or metal spikes or electrical wires on top to prevent people from entering the property. When we first came here, we thought this was partially a social statement of privacy and not just for security. But, it is apparent that Ecuadorians are highly conscious of personal security especially in their homes. We brought our American sense of openness with us and made the mistake of being too casual. We left our gate open and our doors unlocked at our home in Challuabamba. Loretta wore expensive jewelry and our large, expensively furnished home stood out as a target. And as many of you know, we were robbed and lost most of our electronic and TV equipment plus jewelry and fur coats. We are now much more security conscious and have had no further trouble.  We currently follow a few pretty basic rules of behavior to be less conspicuous. Some of our gringo friends feel it is safer to carry very little of value when they walk the city streets. It is probably a good idea. We know a couple who have had inside pockets sewn into their pants where they carry their money and identity papers. It is also a wise idea to carry a copy, and never the original, of your passport and Cedula (identity card) as these are your most valuable papers. Loosing either is costly and they are difficult to replace.  Since this is a cash society, a person often needs to carry a significant amount of money. Only you can be the judge of how much cash to have on your person. Businesses and stores carry the security issue even further.

All businesses that handle cash have armed guards who carry shotguns and stand menacingly at the entrance to the building or store. It takes some getting used to but seems to prevent problems and you soon get used to their presence. As conspicuous as you are as a gringo, it is a mistake to make it worse by wearing expensive jewelry or carrying visible cameras or loosely hung purses that invite petty thievery. That said, Cuenca has the reputation of being a quiet, peaceful city, much more so than Quito or Guayaquil. But, as in any city, it is important to be street smart. When you are in the crowded, poorer parts of the city, it makes a good deal of sense to not wear exposed jewelry, not carry loose bags or visible cameras, and not carry more cash than you think you will need on your present excursion. We have learned our lesson the hard way and are now very careful how we present ourselves in public. Ninety-nine percent of Ecuadorians are kind, friendly and helpful. Like everywhere, it is that small percentage of disenfranchised people that cause the problems you must be aware of to prevent petty crime.

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