After coming from the States and spending almost two years in Cuenca, we have found that many of our initial problems and confusion with how things work have dissipated considerably. When we first arrived, everything seemed difficult probably because many things were truly different. Or, maybe we just made it difficult because language, customs, and ways of doing things were not what we were used to. Nevertheless, we stumbled forward, learning as we went.
One early area of confusion was the lack of mail. There is almost no mail delivered to your home here. Utilities don’t send bills. Arrangements for connecting your electric, water, internet, home phone, cell phone, and TV are normally done at their respective business offices. Then, once you have paid an initial bill, you can take the receipt to your bank and arrange for an automatic monthly withdrawal from your bank account. It took a while but we finally figured it all out after our electric and our phone had been disconnected a couple of times for non-payment.
Getting our residency was not a big problem, it just took many steps and a lot of footwork. We got the needed information for documentation from our Cuenca lawyer before we left the States so we knew exactly what documents to bring. Some documents are only obtainable in the States. A few of our friends toughed it out and went through the Visa, Censo, and Cedula paces on their own. We chose to have our lawyer walk us through the process and still think it was money well spent as the Ecuadorian bureaucratic system can frustrate anyone especially newcomers. Though some others don’t agree, we think having a close relationship with an Ecuadorian lawyer helps immeasurably.
Buying a car is another hurdle to surmount. It is confusing but can be easily done by hiring for the day a good taxi driver who speaks English. He will take you to the many stops required to register your auto beginning with a car inspection, a trip to the bank, getting the required government insurance plan (SOAT), and the final visit to the registration compound which will remind you of the crowds at a rock concert. It helps to have an Ecuadorian taxi driver to help muscle your way through the crowds to the right wicket.
Finding the perfect place to buy the kind of food you like can only be done by trial and error but, in time, you will find your favorite produce market, meat purveyor, Supermaxi’s best alternative products to the ones you liked at home, and the always important, favorite restaurants. After almost two years of trying different brands, we have come up with all but a few products that are just as good and sometimes better than those we used to buy in the States.
On and on it goes. The point being that our lives are quite settled down now. We have learned where to go, how to accomplish difficult tasks, and what our favorites are. It was a long and often frustrating learning curve that was continually impeded by our lack of understanding as much of what we were told was in Spanish but even that is better now. Cuenca finally has begun to feel like home.