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Saturday, July 30, 2011

What We Appreciate Most about Cuenca Ecuador


There are many things that we appreciate about Cuenca such as the fresh wholesome food in the Mercado and in the many family run restaurants; we appreciate the patient and friendly Cuencano’s as we try and speak their language; we appreciate the splendor of the mountains that envelop Cuenca and keep her protected from the harshness of winter, and the beautiful flowing rivers that adorn all of Cuenca. Ah, wonderful Cuenca has so much that is loved by us but what we appreciate most is the closeness of families.

It is not unusual to see fathers holding hands with their daughters as they walk down the street, or whole families, dad, sons, daughters, and mother holding hands walking down the street going out to dinner. Mothers and daughters walk arm in arm and big brothers and sisters keep an eye on their little siblings. They work together, play together, pray together, and stay together. Latin America is a family oriented culture and to us this is a beautiful thing.


As we travel around through the city of Cuenca, we see family run Panaderia’s (bread shops), restaurants, hardware stores, cafĂ©’s and small grocery stores that line the cobblestone streets wherever you are in Cuenca, whether you are in colonial downtown or driving along the avenue of Las Americas. We knew that Ecuador was a family oriented culture before we moved here and it was one of our deciding factors for coming to Ecuador.

Although there are plenty of Universities here and many young people attend, there is not as much individualism in Ecuador as you see in North America. It’s all about family and relationships here. Families work together and help each other. It’s not uncommon for the young people to live at home until they are married. Businesses and schools in Ecuador shut down between 1:00 and 3:00 pm so families can dine out together or dine at home together for an extended lunch. Now if that is not family oriented, I don’t know what is.

Frank, being born and raised in Italy until the age of fifteen knows much about this culture because it resembles that of Italian culture in many ways. Italy is also a very family oriented culture; they shut down business and schools for two hours in the afternoon so family can enjoy time around the dinner table together. Young people do not move out until married in Italy, although this is changing. The divorce rate is also very low in Italy and both Italy and Ecuador share in a bit of machismo. The man is the head of the family, even if the wife works outside the home. He is usually the protector and main provider of the family. Ecuadorian men take their responsibilities as head of the household with great importance, as it should be. I think all of these things as a whole are what keeps divorce rates lower in Latin American countries.


There are very few nursing homes in Ecuador. Unlike in the U.S where most grown children put their elderly parents in a nursing home, here, they take care of their own. The ideals and values that are intertwined within the family unit here in Ecuador is much like America was back the 1950’s. The closeness of family here is greatly appreciated by us!

(Angelo, me, Frank, Alex)

(Frank with three sons--Angelo, Brandon, and Alex)



If you love seeing families love one another you'll love Cuenca Ecuador!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ecuadorian Taxi Driver Says Don’t Pay more than $250 to $300 For Rent

NOTE August 2013: This was said to us by a taxi driver over two years ago...more foreigners here now renting at unreasonable prices, causing the rental market to shoot up. You can still find $300 three and four bedroom home rentals but they are more rare, unfortunately. :-(
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As the taxi pulled up in front of the house we rent here in Cuenca Ecuador, the driver asked us, “How much do you pay for rent”? After we told him $250 a month he went on to tell us that paying anything over $300 month for a 3 bedroom house or apartment is paying too much. He then said, shaking his head and with a tone of disapproval that some Gringos are paying $500-$600, which hikes the prices up, making it hard for local families to find decent homes for themselves.

We do have to put things into perspective, however. Paying more than $300 for a 3 bedroom means that there might be a 24 hour security guard, or there may be a great view of the city, or that the home or condo is huge with many bedrooms, or perhaps the condo is furnished. Still, it is smart to do your research and not jump in with cold feet and overpay, because most gringos that come here and rent are paying too much! Don't be another gringo target and be taken advantage of. When in Ecuador live as the Ecuadorians.

The Cuencanos like us Gringos to come here and spend money in their markets, shops, restaurants, and hotels, BECAUSE WE'RE TOURISTS, but they don’t like us to come here and pay exorbitant (to them) prices on housing because it makes it harder for them to find decent housing for themselves....except for the landlords of course..... "sigh".... "sigh" again.

The average wage in Cuenca is about $350 month, give or take. With Minimum wage at $2.50 how can they rent a 3 or 4 bedroom for their family for $500 or $600 a month? They can’t!! If this isn’t reason enough to help keep rents stable, then I don’t know what would be reason enough.

The people of Ecuador do not have a $1,700 dollar retirement check coming in the mail or a $1,500 social security check each month. If you want to come here and live then live as they do and say no to being scammed for more rent than the local Cuencano’s would pay! In the end you will be doing the locals a big favor.

Cuenca Ecuador the best Retirement City

When we first started researching Ecuador two years ago, Internet real estate prices were about 20% lower than they are now. So what happened in the last two years? Well, Cuenca Ecuador has been named the best retirement city in 2009 and 2010 (still waiting to find out about the year 2011) and more and more Gringos are coming here renting at ridiculous prices and buying property at super ridiculous prices. International Living magazine loves to exploit new cities for people who want to have a better life with their resources than they have in the states and in Europe. It happened with Costa Rica and Panama. I believe Ecuador is the next boom country. Cuenca has the highest rents and property prices out of all the cities in Ecuador and the most Gringos’. Go figure.

Gringo’s come Here and Buy Property at Internet Prices

Gringos are selling their homes in California, Portland and North Carolina and then buying property here at Internet prices. Many of these house/condo seekers don’t speak very much Spanish so they get a Gringo real-estate company to help them find a property or rental. The Internet prices seems so good to them they just say, ok to the listed price. The problem is the prices are going up way too fast. Don’t misunderstand me, there are luxury furnished condos that perhaps should rent for the $600 to $700 price range, but we need to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. When I see the same amount of housing for two totally different price tags, it makes one wonder. Someone is not negotiating, or walking away.

My family and I live in a brand new, 2000’ sq ft home with 3 bedrooms, office and sunroom for $250 a month (see the pictures here). So, why are some people paying $500 to $600 a month for a 3 bedroom apartment or house when others are only paying $250? It’s called negotiation. If they won’t lower the price, go somewhere else. There are numerous houses and apartments for rent in Cuenca for less than $300 monthly.

The best way to get a good price on rent is to NOT go to realtors that obviously target the foreigners. Scan the local papers for deals (use google translate if you need to) and if the price seems out of line, walk away. Meet local Cuencano’s and make friends with them. They will gladly tell you where some houses or apartments are for rent.

Ecuadorians want you To Negotiate over Rent

The truth is Ecuadorians like for you to haggle with them over everything you buy, unless you are shopping at the grocery store (Supermaxi) where the prices are fixed. I’ve been told that haggling and bargaining is accepted practice in Ecuador and if you don’t try and haggle over the price they don’t respect you as much. They want you to bargain with them!! If you want to read more about bargaining and haggling in Ecuador, here is a great article I found. http://www.pro-ecuador.com/ecuador-markets.html

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cuenca Restaurants: Eating Out for $2.50 or Less!

It's amazing but you can eat out in an Ecuadorian Restaurant for $2.50 or less. The meal is cooked fresh from start to finish. The meal consists of three courses, and sometimes the dessert comes first, it all depends on which restaurant you are at. This restaurant in the video served us a delicious yogurt drink with pineapple juice. I don't think I ever tasted yogurt so good. Then came the soup which had delicious cauliflower and potatoes and soy based meat balls. And finally they served the main meal of rice, beans, deep fried zucchini, and two vegetable salads. The meal was very tasty and wholesome.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Expats Say They Miss the Most When Moving to Ecuador

We've done our share of research about Ecuador before we moved here, about two years to be exact. Frank talked (on Skype) with other expats who have already lived here for a couple years on just about everything we could think of. Our questions were never ending. We asked about cost of food, clothes, restaurants, furniture, housing costs, dental work, entertainment, weather, etc, etc. Before moving to Ecuador we also considered moving to the countries of either Panama or Chile. Well, we did our research and chose Ecuador and we are so glad we did. Why we chose Ecuador is a whole other blog post, which will be coming soon!

Our Family Does Not Miss Anything Back in the States

We (Frank, Angie, Brandon, Angelo, and Alex) do not miss anything back in the United States! These pictures were taken on the last day of living in the United States.




We love it here! It is everything we thought it would be and more. The people are friendly, the weather is great, the cost of living is amazing (if you know how to shop for food, housing, clothing, furniture, etc)and the scenery is amazing. From colonial downtown architecture to beautiful parks with a flowing river running through it, to every kind of family run shop, and store imaginable. There are beautiful malls and shopping centers here too, nicer than in the states! There are beautiful mountains and countryside, and everything is so green. The flowers and trees are amazing! And the food is incredibly fresh.

People like to call Ecuador third world, but it's amazing because we have everything we need. Ok, ok, so things are slower here (manana) and many things are done somewhat differently than what most people are used to, but that is the beauty of it. Live and let live. enjoy the simplicity and be happy!! We live in a beautiful home, we drink the tap water, we eat out in family run restaurants and eat wholesome home cooked meals, we buy extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese from a big, clean grocery store, we meet friendly people, we have all of the comforts of home but at a far better financial means and lifestyle. There is nothing that we miss in the States.

Expats Miss Their Family

Talking to other expats and reading several expats blogs the one thing they miss the most when they move to Ecuador is "family". Many expats have moved to Cuenca or Quito because of the better health care system and cost of living for their retirement, meaning their retirement money goes a lot further here than back in the states. But most expats have daughters, sons, and grandchildren back in the sates. This means they must travel back and forth if they want to visit their children or grandchildren.

It is difficult to leave family behind. Fortunately we have our three sons with us here in Ecuador, and it is a wonderful blessing to have all three of them here with us!! We do, of course have extended family members, such as brothers and sisters in the states, and Frank and I both have our mothers living in the states as well. I'm trying to talk my mother into coming here for a visit so she can see if she likes it here. But I lived 3,000 miles away from all of my family anyway, since they lived on the west coast and I on the east coast.

If you are a family oriented person, leaving children and grandchildren (missing their growing up years) and moving to a far away country may not be right for you. This is something you must truly think about and contemplate. Unless you have the financial resources, good health, and time to travel back and forth to visit with your family a couple times a year, you may want to advise against moving to a far away country, or bring them with you.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

We're Food Shopping in one of the biggest Outdoor Markets in Cuenca (Fiera Libre Mercado)

This is one of the biggest outdoor markets in Cuenca. This is where the farmers bring their crops to sell to the public. If you like fruits and vegetables it is a great place to shop. Every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable can be found here. On Wednesday they also sell clothes and other household items.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cuenca ~ Simply Beautiful!

Cuenca Ecuador with a population of about a half a million is a very clean city. I've been here for about 3 weeks now and I have noticed that most Ecuadorians take great pride in their beautiful Cuenca. There are sweepers and garbage picker uppers that police all of Cuenca throughout the day. Walking down the cobblestone streets you hardly ever see a piece of garbage on the ground, and if there is garbage it will soon be picked up by the groups of young people who keep the city clean. Here are some pictures of Cuenca around the river downtown. We think the old town Cuenca looks a lot like southern Italy towns.






Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Here is the House We Rent For $250 a Month in Cuenca!

The house we rent in Cuenca is a little over 2000 sq ft and was built in 2008. It is a cement home with 3 bedrooms, office, sun room, living room, dining room, kitchen, outdoor laundry patio area under roof, small green area, and 2-1/2 baths. There is tile throughout and the bedrooms and office have hardwood floors. The kitchen has granite counter tops. Living room has a sunken hardwood floor from the dining room, and both of these rooms have about 1/2 thick crown molding and lots of detail. we are enjoying our new rental home in Cuenca. 

UPDATE: You will obviously pay more for amenities such as 24 hour security, or a big yard, or many bedrooms, or furnishings, etc. But you still need to watch out for price gouging. We  live in a wonderful, safe, Ecuadorian neighborhood and we built all of our own furniture, plus we have a beautiful view of the Andes Mountains. This house was renting for $350 but because it had not been rented in awhile we negotiated the price down $100. We also had to sign a lease for one year. Update: we signed a second lease and still rent for $250.

Here are some pictures I took when we first moved in.

Living room looking towards the office and sunroom


Dining room and living room area


another view of dining and living area




kitchen

Another view of the kitchen



Bath 1



Bath 2


Half bath 3


Hall leading to 3 bedrooms


Outdoor laundry area and patio under roof but outside


Each of the 3 bedrooms has its own built in closets just like this one.

Last but not least, this is a propane hot water unit. I know, it looks small but it does heat the water just fine. It costs about $2 to fill the tank (its a big tank, oops forgot to take picture of the propane tank) and with five people taking showers every day, and three sons that take 15 to 20 minute showers, we have had to fill it once a week so far. So, it costs about $8 a month for all of us to take hot showers daily. We're quite happy with that. We've been told that electricity is about $20 a month. Our new stove and oven is propane too. When we get the bill in another few weeks, I'll let you know in a new post all about the utilities costs, including propane usage for a family of five living here in Cuenca.
UPDATE: June 2012 - it now cost $2.50 to fill the gas tank

Until then, have a wonderful week!
Ciao! Hasta Luego!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Food Shopping in Cuenca Ecuador

This video is about some of the fruit and vegetables prices in Cuenca. Now, mind you, this food is home grown right here in Cuenca! All the produce we show you in this video is organically grown. Now you can't beat that.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Here We Are Taking a Busetta (minivan) from Guayaquil to Cuenca Ecuador

This was a beautiful and scenic drive traveling from the coast of Guayaquil to the Andes of Cuenca. There were lots and lots of farms and beautiful countryside.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ecuador Food and Cooking


Most of the expats that come to Ecuador (North Americans and Europeans) describe the food here in Ecuador as bland and not that great. But my family and I tend to differ. We feel blessed to be eating freshly grown, organic foods. Besides that, our diet is already similar to the Ecuadorian staple diet of rice, vegetables, beans and chicken, with the exception that we eat brown rice rather than white.

Let me set the record straight. The food here in Cuenca is wholesome and simple. If you want cuisine food, Ecuador has it, but you will have to cook it yourself or eat in a fancy restaurant and pay $6 to $18 a plate, which is fine once in awhile, but why come to Ecuador to eat North American or European foods? Rather than complain about the food, learn to enjoy the wholesome flavor of what real food supposed to taste like, and get healthy in the process.

The standard Ecuadorian fare tastes as if you prepared it at home and it is made with all fresh ingredients. I have been eating the same way as I did in the states, but adding more fruits and vegetables to my diet and have lost over 5 pounds in two weeks!! This is because we are walking more and because the food has no chemicals, additives, or other bad stuff in it that causes weight gain.

The Ecuadorians do have some great snacking foods here. I think they love to eat! What's odd about that is no one here is fat even though everyone is walking around eating something, from ice cream on a cone, to a homemade pastry or a plantain with cheese on it. Why are most people here not fat even though they seem to always be eating? My guess is because the food is not laden with chemicals and most Ecuadorians walk a lot. Cuenca, the city we live in, is a wonderful cobblestone street, southern Italy kind of a town, which makes it ideal for walking to most everything. We are blessed to be a part of the Ecuadorian culture.

If you come here expecting spicy Mexican food or cuisine type food when eating Ecuadorian style fare than you will be disappointed. But if you come here wanting to get healthy and to taste the flavor of freshly prepared basic foods, such as chicken, beans, rice, fresh cheeses, variety of organic vegetables and fruits than I think you will be happy.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hotel Europa Review Guayaquil Ecuador

On our journey to Cuenca Ecuador we had an overnight layover in Guayaquil Ecuador. We stayed at Hotel Europa because of its convenience to the airport, but I would not recommend this hotel. First of all, the pictures you see on the Internet for this hotel must have been taken 20 or 30 years ago. Secondly, there is not a free shuttle to and from the airport like their website says, and thirdly, the price is too high considering what you get. Even so, the staff/owners were helpful and pleasant. Watch the video and decide for yourself.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Moving to Cuenca Ecuador

We have just moved to South America to Cuenca Ecuador. We will be posting articles and videos detailing our lives in S.A. This video is of our plane trip from Miami To Quito Ecuador on Lan Ecuador.



We hope you will join us in our travels to South America