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.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cuenca, the clean city

One of the interesting things you will find as you wander around the streets of Cuenca, other than the fact that it is an absolutely beautiful city, is that the infrastructure is sometimes confusing and often exasperating.  One way streets, one way bridge crossings over the rivers, cobblestone streets, lack of street signs, and horrendous traffic are some of the emotional and actual obstacles that drivers and walkers must learn. On the up side, Cuenca is one of the cleanest cities you will ever encounter. Yes, there is a lot of pollution from the diesel engines of the busses and trucks. Fortunately, the wind blows the exhaust fumes away and the sky is usually crystal clear. Probably the most effective of the city wide systems to keep the city clean are the little green men and women who never seem to stop sweeping and cleaning the streets. In teams of three or four, they push their carts along the streets constantly sweeping up trash. Bagged garbage isn’t just put by the side of the road, it is placed in raised brackets high off the ground so roaming dogs don’t get to them.  Cuenca has just instituted a garbage recycling program with stiff fines for infractions. Recycled paper and plastic must be put in blue plastic bags. The only problem is that the Supermaxi markets can’t keep the blue bags in stock. But that will change once the pipe line is full.
Modern garbage trucks come on scheduled days but seem to never stop. They just keep rolling along while the workers hop on and off. Usually there will be four workers hanging onto the back. When they approach some bags of garbage, the one on the left jumps off the moving truck, grabs the bag, tosses it into the back and leaps back onto the truck on the far right side. The others move over one place so the next person is ready to jump off at the next location. Then there is the grass on the avenue’s center strips and in the parks that is kept trimmed and well manicured at all times. You will probably never see a lawnmower in Ecuador as the grass is cut by men wielding large, gasoline powered weed whackers that they swing back and forth cutting the grass to within an inch of the ground. The men work in teams and once the grass is cut they rake it up into piles and haul it away.  An interesting side light is that cattle often are put by their owners in the center strip or the sides of the road to eat the green grass.  Actually, this isn’t a bad idea as the cows keep the amazingly fast growing grass in check.

Although it really doesn’t help keeping the grass cut, you will often see people at the side of the road cutting what looks like grass or weeds but are actually edible herbs and grasses that they sell in the markets and on the street corners. We constantly hear the comment that Cuenca is one of the cleanest cities people have ever seen. The cars and busses are clean. The streets are clean. The people wear clean clothes. The city is manicured. It looks like hard work but the city government is committed to making it so and it rubs off onto the population. 

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