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, October 26, 2010

A Sunday at the park

The cell phone rang and our building maintenance woman, Nancy, was calling. Her husband, eight year old son, and she wondered if we might like to join them at the Parque Paradiso. Crowding all of us into our car, we drove to the park where we were to meet her sister who is our maid, husband and four children. The Parque Paradiso is the largest park in Cuenca, a city full of parks that are always filled with people.

Just a small section of this huge park

But, Sunday is a special day and Sunday afternoon is when Nancy has her half day off from work.  The park was crowded with thousands of people, families of every age but mostly Cuencanos with not another gringo in sight. We walked a good half mile into the park past picnicking families, past swings filled with laughing children, over creeks on swinging bridges, past tents where food was being cooked and sold, beyond a track for sporting events where a horse and buggy gave rides to children, to an area where there was a lake with an island in the center which was home to unusual varieties of ducks and geese and swans. At the side of the lake there was a free concession where a long line of people waited to board paddle boats. It seemed a scene out of a turn of the century photograph.   

Cuenca is filled with parks. The rivers that flow through the city are lined with parks with swings, slides, and exercise apparatus every quarter of a mile or so. There are little pocket parks every few blocks in the city with benches and an occasional small paved court for sports. The half dozen large parks compete for the population who arrive on foot or by bus by the hundreds. Spinning carrousels, long slides, jungle gyms, canopy like wire slides, horseback rides, swings, and the almost ever present festival of some sort or the other are the attractions but it is the wide open grassy spaces that seem to bring the families. They arrive in groups of five, ten, or even twenty carrying plastic bags of food and the ubiquitous white futbol. They pour into the parks, stake out a grassy area for games, and place the elderly and children in the shade of some trees.

This Sunday, we were with one of these groups.  We met our maid’s family and her cousin’s family and became a group of eight adults and eight children. The small children played around the trees while the older children and adults warmed up with a game of tossing the futbol around a circle.

Warming up by bouncing the ball round the circle

Then teams were created and a lively hour long game of futbol ensued. Goals were created by using a pair of bicycles as one goal and a couple of jackets at the other goal and were manned by a ten year old girl on one side and a mother on the other.

Jonny on the attack

Running, kicking at the ball, often falling but always with laughter and deference to the youngest who played their hearts out, they spent their one afternoon of non-work. 

a shot gone astray

The team waiting for the attack

Ishmael with his sights on the goal

After a break for a drink of soda 

Nothing like a cold drink on a hot day

and before we left to go home, a rope was hung between two trees for a game of volleyball that lasted until dark.

Once again, we have no message to offer from this delightful Sunday at the park, only the joy and fulfillment we find in our home away from home.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Facades, cornices, and balustrades

Old Colonial Cuenca is filled with homes and buildings dating back to colonial times. All it takes is a leisurely walk along the streets of old town to put yourself in front of a commercial building, a church, or an old home that exemplifies the long lost desire to have beauty for the sake of beauty alone.

Though life on the streets is fascinating, look up above the clutter of stores at street level.  It doesn’t take much of a stretch of your imagination to picture what Cuenca must have looked like a hundred or more years ago.

These photos show just a small percentage of the dozens and dozens of buildings that are today proudly kept in a grand style and are as beautiful as they were long ago. 

Someday, we'll do a posting on the old churches of Cuenca but as there are 53 of them it will be a big project. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Expats

One of the wonderful things about Cuenca is the size and vibrancy of the expat community. Approximatly four years ago, two of our most prominent expats thought it would be a good idea to have a weekly gathering of expats who live in or who are visiting Cuenca.  The concept was to share experiences and create a network of friends. They spread the word around and a few expats started meeting at a local restaurant on Friday evenings for a glass of wine and conversation.  Over the years, the venues changed frequently from the Eucalyptus CafĂ©, to La Parola, to the Eucalyptus again and currently, to Zoe’s Restaurant as different people came up with new places to meet. During the last year, some 30 to 40 people have gathered on Fridays at Zoe’s. There are even some efforts to broaden the gatherings further.  Some people are just visiting and have heard through the grapevine that it is a fun and informative evening. Some are renting here for a month or so while trying to decide whether to move to Cuenca or not. These people are usually thirsty for information. Others are expats who are long time residents who have put down roots and expect to stay for years to come and who attend to meet old and new friends.  But almost all find it an interesting evening where everyone is welcome and where many people are willing to share information and friendship.  If you are presently living in the US, Canada, or Europe and thinking of an international move, one of the things you are probably looking for is information, current information that is valid and has no hidden commercial theme. From our experience, there is no better place than the expat community in the city or region you are investigating.  We looked at Quito where there are many expats in the Tumbaco and Cumbaya areas but, from what we saw, there is no organized expat community.  There may be but we could not find one. We looked at southern Spain, which still interests us and where there are many expats from the UK who have summer homes along the coast. But there seems to be no functioning group of expats in the specific areas we researched. Everywhere you look, there are good blogs, good sources of information, but a real expat community is often lacking. There is an argument against attaching yourself to a vibrant expat community. It is that shopworn argument that “The last thing we want is to join a group with the same life style we are leaving.” We have not found that to be the case in Cuenca.  Our friends are from all over the world and have brought their interesting lives with them. This is not an enclave of Americans huddled behind closed gates who seldom go into the Spanish world around them. Our friends are scattered all over the city. They are involved in cultural and charitable events.  They lead exciting lives. Just read some of the blogs about Cuenca to see how “out and about” they are. What the expat gatherings have done is provide a venue where we have gotten to know each other and sorted out friendships which have become one of the strongest parts of our Cuenca experience.