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, September 20, 2010

Some odd things – Some not so odd

Direct TV presently has seven high definition channels which make all the difference in our TV resolution. They advised that there will hopefully be an additional six channels by Christmas, 2010.

Lava solid dish soap is the best silver polish we have ever used though it is not meant to be used as such. Does a good job on the dishes too. 

Almost all DVD’s sold in Ecuador are pirated versions of legal discs. Most have the language option for changing the spoken language between Spanish and English. DVD’s cost $1.50 each. Blu Ray discs are just getting a foothold and pirated copies cost between $6 and $8 which is still far less than the $20 - $30 original versions in the US.

Buying English books in Cuenca is a problem. Even Spanish books are not sold as prolifically as they are in the US at large stores like Border’s or Barnes and Noble. There are no mega-book stores. There are a few good international bookstores and one we like is called the Libre Mundi International Book Store. There are a limited number of used English books sold at a small establishment in town called the Carolina Bookstore.

Inch long plastic matches come in tiny boxes. Tough on the fingers if you hold it too long.

Cuenca’s 8500 foot altitude makes cooking somewhat problematic. Boiling and baking food is almost always a crapshoot. But, gel shaving cream, again because of the altitude, explodes like whip cream when you spread it on.

Demand hot water heaters are often inconsistent in delivering constant hot water. It can be cold then hot then cold again all within minutes. In our apartment building a trick is to turn the bathroom sink hot water faucet on full blast at the same time you are running the shower hot water. Apparently, the combination lowers the water pressure enough to get the demand heater to kick on and stay on. Sounds crazy but it works for us and we can get a half hour or more of hot water with no problem.

We were out for dinner in town with visiting friends last Saturday evening and the pyrotechnics exploding on the street outside the restaurant was deafening. They were noticeably nervous at hearing gunshot like fireworks just outside the door. Exploding fireworks are a way of life in Cuenca. No need for an alarm clock. We are awakened every morning between 5:30 to 6:30 by a half dozen aerial salutes every five minutes signaling some call to worship that still makes no sense to us. Weddings announce their happiness by both aerial salutes and Fourth of July type explosions in the sky.  As the holiday season progresses so do the number of explosions all culminating in World War II on New Year’s Eve. And, we have yet to see where you can buy fireworks.

Packaging is challenging in Ecuador. Fruit juice, wine and milk come in boxes. Fresh milk comes in plastic bags that must be cut open and poured into a container then put in the refrigerator.

We won’t even touch on internet providers as everyone we know has a different story. When you get a provider who gives good service, hold on to them and we would suggest getting the best program they offer.

The government of Ecuador has decreed that incandescent light bulbs are a waste of energy and, once current supplies run out, can no longer be sold. Replacing them are the newer and more efficient twist bulbs.

Cell phones seem permanently attached to almost every ear in the city. There are two big companies offering plans and phones, Porta and Movistar. Probably the best way to have a cell phone is to buy one from either company and then purchase minutes each month rather than contract with one of their plans. It costs more to call someone who has Porta if you have Movistar but is free if you call someone Porta to Porta or Movistar to Movistar.  We constantly run out of minutes before the month is up and have a dead phone until we purchase more minutes. It is possible to have a specialized electronic store “unlock” your US phone for about $10 so it can be used here.

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