August 31, 2011

Healthy Eating and Losing Weight in Cuenca

Living in the Andes mountains and eating fresh farm raised food has its advantages.We eat pretty healthy and so because of that we can eat at our favorite dessert cafe (Tutto Freddo's) once or twice a month.

I've lost weight in the 8-weeks that we have lived here in Cuenca. I can only attribute it to two things that I am doing differently and here they are:

Cuenca and Organic Foods

We're eating a lot more organic food, even when we go out to eat the food is simple, tasty and wholesome, as you can see in our videos. 

We ate fairly well when we lived in the U.S too but we could not afford to buy organic food, as it is very expensive, especially when you're feeding five people. An organic chicken is $30?! That's crazy.

What saved us from getting sick and gaining weight in the states was that Frank had a garden, and we ate organic kale, tomatoes, green beans, squash, peppers, and a few other heat loving veggies as much as possible with our meals. We had about 8 productive fig trees that produced an overload of figs and I would dry them in the summer. 

We feel very grateful and blessed that we are living here in Cuenca, where you can buy a hormone free chicken for $8.00 and ten organic apples for $1, and 30 farm fresh eggs for $2.80. This is the biggest factor to weight loss, eating wholesome, clean food. I've written about this for years but was never truly able to live it. This was one of the main reasons we moved to Ecuador.

Update Apples: Apples prices have gone up. Expect to pay $1.80 to $2.20 a kilo for out of season apples and $1.40 when they are in season, which is still a pretty good price. We're very picky about our apples and like the ones from Chile (Gala) that are crisp and juicy. (2014 prices). 

UPDATE EGGS: Prices have gone up in the 3-years we've lived here. We have noticed some fluctuation in the egg prices. When they are in season you can get 30 eggs for $3.30 as of 2014 prices. Out of season price for 30 eggs, after negotiation is $3.70. Right now, September 2014, eggs are not in season; hens do not lay as much this time of year so prices go up. 

Eating fresh, clean food is especially important to us, and here's why. What they don't want you to know is the hormones they feed the animals cause weight gain in people. Not only that but hormones in the meat is especially awful for women going through peri-menoupause or even younger women and their ovulation time. 
The hormones in the meat wreck havoc on a woman's hormones! Men are not immune to having emotional issues from the meat either. I can't speak for other countries, but I know the cost of organic food in the U.S is out of reach for many people, while here it is available to everyone!

Walking Every Day!

We're walking every day! We walk about 2 to 5 miles every time we go out.  We love walking, seeing the sights and smelling the fresh air, except for the exhaust from the buses.

Cuenca is a walking city!

We walk all over Cuenca, even if were not downtown on the cobblestone streets. Even so, there are no shortages of buses or taxis in Cuenca. The buses only charge $0.25 where ever you need to go, and taxis charge only around $1.50 to $3.00 anywhere in Cuenca.

August 30, 2011

Video Tour of a 190-year old Ecuadorian Colonial Casa with European Influences

This restored colonial casa in Cuenca has lovely detail from different parts of Europe. For instance the ceiling in one of the rooms in German and the tile is Spanish and a lot of the furnishings are French and Italian. The sweet lady who lives in this beautiful home gave us a wonderful tour. As you watch this video notice all the very old antiques and furnishings, simply amazing! Enjoy the video!

August 29, 2011

Pensioner 10-I (Residency) Visa in Ecuador: Official Guidelines

The information in this post about the residency visa is from the Ecuadorian Embassy. 
Click on "Consular Services".  The link above only works if you copy and paste the link into your browser.

The Pensioner, 10-I Visa, can be granted to persons who receive a fixed monthly income, or have a fixed monthly income from retirement pensions or social security benefits for an amount that would permit them to live adequately together with their family. Consult with your nearest Consulate about this subject.
The requirements to obtain this visa are:

1.-Retirement Pension
Documents to be presented:
a. Certificate of income issued by the US Social Security and other private institution, notarized and legalized at the Consulate. (Cost US$ 40.00)
b. Certification extended by the corresponding Consul of Ecuador, which determines the permanent income of pensions by the applicant.

2.-Constitution of a Trust Document
Documents to be presented:
a. If the applicant has a determined amount of funds, must present a certificate of constitution of a trust, duly approved by the Consulting Council for Migratory Policy of Ecuador (Consejo Consultivo de Politica Migratoria del Ecuador).

3.-Cash Deposits Funds
Documents to be presented:
a. If the applicant has a determined amount of funds, he can make a deposit of those funds at the Central -Bank of Ecuador or at an accredited institution determined by the Consulting Council for Migratory Policy of Ecuador.
b. Receipt of the funds deposit from the institution determined by the Consulting Council for Migratory Policy of Ecuador.
In the three categories, the applicant will present the following additional documents:
a. Visa application form
b. Passport valid for at least 6 months;
c. A Police Criminal Record Check document, from the State Police;
d. A notarized medical certificate, stating that the applicant is free of contagious diseases including HIV;
e. 2 Current passport size photos, in color with white backdrop;
f. Visa fee of $200 US dollars;
g. Certificate for amount of rent possessed;

If the applicant has additional family members who will be traveling along, an Economical Dependence Visa will be granted to them.
In the case of additional family members moving to Ecuador with you then you will then need these additional documents.
Economical Dependence Visa: The requirements are the following:
a. Visa application form
b. Passport valid for at least 6 months
c. Ecuadorian identification of the person requesting the visa
d. Marriage license, if the marriage took place abroad the license must be translated into Spanish, notarized and legalized at the Consulate. (Costs US $10.00 for each document)
e. If the visa is requested for children, birth certificate translated into Spanish, notarized and legalized at the consulate. (Costs US $10.00 for each document)
f. A document that accredits the Ecuadorian nationality of the spouse, father or mother. It is not needed for those who are aided by another type of Immigrant visa
g. Economical Guaranty made before a Notary Public indicating that the foreigner will have sufficient funds for him or herself and their families for the permanence in Ecuador.
h. A Police Criminal Record Check document, from the State Police Department. The applicant who is under the age of 18 must present a Certificate of Good Conduct issued by an educational institution.
i. A notarized medical certificate, stating that the applicant is free of contagious diseases including HIV.
j. A copy of the petitioners and beneficiary's passports if they are foreigners
k. 2 current passport size photos, in color with white backdrop.
l. A fee of $200 dollars.

This information is from the Ecuadorian Embassy official website.

Click the embassy link above to find out about visa types for Ecuador. Click on "Consular Services" on their webpage. The link only works if you copy and paste it into your browser.

August 28, 2011

How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Condo or House in Cuenca? And How to Get the Best Price!

How much is a condo in Cuenca? Well, it depends on many variables such as what your needs are and where you want to live. How we obtained the house we rent now is I scouted online for them before we came to Cuenca.  I jotted down the agencies number and I found a few houses that I saw for rent in our budget. So ladies, I was able to see this house with many photos before we rented it.  Frank came first and leased this house we now rent and then 10-days later the boys and I arrived.

If you know someone here that can help you get a good deal on a rental you will pay less for rent. But understand, just because it’s cheaper than what you are used to paying in the states doesn’t mean it is a good price! You can always try to bargain down the price. The house we rent was actually $350 a month, but because it hadn’t been rented for several months and because Frank is a good negotiator we got it for $250 a month. You will pay more for furnished houses, apartments and condos, however. And bear in mind that furnishings are expensive here.

UPDATE*** We have witnessed that home rental prices are going up. The upsurge of foreigners is causing Ecuadorians to higher the price on their rental homes because they are not just renting to the locals anymore. Really, really sad!! You can still find the diamond in the rough but there is a lot of pavement pounding involved...and many times they are not listed anywhere online, such as the older, but very well-kept 3-bedroom, plus study, 2 bath home in Rio Amarillo for just $220. We just rented this home to a family who is very appreciative to rent this nice home with a yard for their pets.  Value is certainly here on this one.

If you are renting in the short term, it’s better to come here and rent something that is already furnished for a little bit more money than to have to buy furniture and appliances for an empty apartment or house. Appliances aren’t cheap here and there are no thrift stores in Cuenca like there is in North America. There are a few used appliance stores here, but they ask an arm, a leg, and a nose for a 70’s style refrigerator, try $275! When you rent with any real estate agency they are going to want a lease of at least three to six months, and many times a one year lease. The longer you lease the rental for the better price you can bargain for.

But to get the best rental prices is to scan the local classifieds and rent from a local Cuencano. I found a 5 bedroom 2 bath colonial house for as low as $180 a month. Now, it’s a big old house, mind you, but if you have a big family it might be just what you need. You’ll want to go drive around the area, get out and walk around and see if it is a neighborhood you would like to live in. There are really no bad areas in Cuenca, and the crime rates are quite low here compared to Guayaquil and Quito. As with any major city in the US, you need to be alert to your surroundings. Don’t act rich, don’t dress rich, and don’t flaunt what you have.

You will also get a better price on rentals if you don’t mind living in an Ecuadorian neighborhood versus, say, a gated community or a high-rise condo. There is a lot of competition here and many rentals are ridiculously overpriced. The better deals will always be by the locals who have houses or apartments for rent.

Just yesterday someone who wants to move here asked on a gringo forum how much rents are, and the reply by a gringo living here was that for $250 a month you’ll be living in squalor. Then I clicked on their link to their condo they have for rent and they are asking $350 a week or $850 a month for a 3/2!! Need I say more? Please, please, please, do not believe anything you read over the

Do your research. Always get a second and third opinion or, better yet, come visit Cuenca and see for yourself. The home we rent  is in a nice quiet neighborhood off the main road of Avenue Las Americas for $250 a month and it is not squalor, believe me. Some of the gringos have agendas here in Cuenca and if they can get you hooked up in their agenda all the better for them.

The bottom line is in the states you have to be careful from getting ripped off, and the same policy holds true for here in Cuenca, you have to be careful here too. So far, we haven’t allowed ourselves to get ripped off and we don’t intend on it either. Be savvy, prudent and diligent! Always keep your head on your shoulders by not becoming the next gringo target.

In our new DIY Cuenca Landing Guide (published in January 2012), which has recently been updated to reflect August 2013, you will find numerous resources for helping you find the perfect rental according to your tastes and budget. Make friends with the locals and everything will be cheaper here for you. If you have any questions ask us and we will provide you with a straight forward and honest answer, if we can.

Oh yeah, don't forget to check out $300 Dollar Cuenca Rentals for the very best prices in rentals in Cuenca Ecuador!

August 27, 2011

$3 Lunch at Govinda's in Cuenca

This is one of my favorite restaurants in Cuenca, so far. It is called Govinda's and they are located downtown Cuenca.  If you like lentils you've got to try the lentil burgers. When we lived in South Carolina I used to make lentils a couple times a month and even made homemade lentil burgers a few times, but these are better than mine.

August 25, 2011

Can you tell the difference between Italian and Ecuadorian Architecture?

Can you tell the difference between Italian and Ecuadorian Architecture? Which buildings belong to which country? I've made two columns one column is of Italy and another column is of Ecuador. Guess which column belongs to which country! Have fun. Click pictures to enlarge.


The architecture is similar, no doubt about it.  Both countries have their own detail that distinguish them from each other, or do they? Can you tell which column belongs to Ecuador and which to Italy?

August 23, 2011

Look at all the Food we Bought for $15 Bucks Bargain Shopping at the Mercado in Cuenca

Want to know some more food prices here in Cuenca? Here we are on a typical shopping day buying a few things at the Mercado, Fiera Libre. At the end of this video you will see a bunch of things we bought for just $15.50!

August 22, 2011

Shops, Restaurants, and Theatres in Mall Del Rio

Are there malls and department stores in Cuenca?

Believe it or not, Cuenca has everything that any other city with a population of half a million would have in the U.S. There are two huge malls, each on different ends of town. We took a short video of one of the malls called “Mall Del Rio”. We were pretty impressed with Mall Del Rio. It has nice restaurants, major retail clothing stores, department stores, several electronic stores, movie theater, café’s, bakeries, candy shops, KFC and Burger King, pizza shops, children’s clothing shops, you name it, it’s here. Who would’ve thought you are in a third world country?

There are three huge Mercado’s scattered throughout Cuenca that sell every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable, cheap! And there are smaller produce stands everywhere. Cuenca boasts two movie theaters; the movie house in Mall Del Rio has five different movies showing at different times throughout the day. Some have English subtitles. We’ve been told there is another movie theatre somewhere in Cuenca, just not sure where it is at this time.

Cuenca has many restaurants, from traditional Ecuadorian fare to Mexican, Columbian, Indian, and Italian. Whatever you are in the mood for, Cuenca has it; although, you will pay more for Italian and Mexican food than for Ecuadorian. The two major grocery stores are Corel and Supermaxi, both have three locations throughout Cuenca. Corel is more of a Wal-Mart type store because they have hardware, electronics, appliances, tools, clothing, linens, house-wares, and groceries. Coral is where we do most of our shopping, except for our produce, which we mostly buy from the farmers at the Mercado.

We have heard that dental and medical care is wonderful here with sparkling clean facilities but at a fraction of the cost you’ll get in the states. In fact, the news headlines are saying that Cuenca Ecuador has the some of the lowest cost medical care in the world. This is one reason so many older expats are moving here to retire. The full story is found here: Medical Tourism Hot Market in Cuenca.

Cuenca has numerous outdoor markets with handmade goods that the local artisans create. You can find beautiful wool blankets and clothing, custom furniture, wooden handicrafts, leather goods, and paintings by the local talent from Cuenca. There are plays a couple a times a month as well as symphony’s and orchestra’s playing at different locations throughout Cuenca. The play Romeo and Julietta is showing in September. I’d like to go to that play.

Yes, there is lots of shopping here in Cuenca, no matter what is on your list; there are about seven museums and other historical places to visit to learn about the history and culture of the Ecuadorian people. Cuenca has four different rivers that run through the city from the Andes Mountains.

And there are beautiful parks and cobblestone streets for leisurely walking. I can pretty much bet that you won’t get bored because there is so much to do and see here.

August 21, 2011

Why Most Ecuadorian’s are Content and Happy with Life

A wonderful attribute we have noticed about most Ecuadorians here in Cuenca, which probably holds true in other Latin America countries as well, is the easy-going, worry-free kind of position they hold about getting things done. After all, it’s not the end of the world if the grass doesn’t get cut today, and it’s ok if the paperwork won’t get signed until tomorrow, what’s one more day, right? It’s pretty cool to see so many people happy and content with this laid back lifestyle. Ecuadorians are the most worry-free and content people I’ve ever met.

We attribute the Ecuadorians satisfaction of life to several factors that are readily apparent within the Latin American culture. These factors are not to be found in many other parts of the world, namely North America and some parts of Europe. The striving to make more money and have more stuff just to keep up with the Joneses puts a lot of stress on people. This kind of rush-rush mentality is not apparent here in Ecuador. We have put together several factors for the satisfaction of life for most people here in Ecuador, even for those who are barely making it on their small income.

Ecuadorian Families Work Together

As we walk around the beautiful city of Cuenca, no matter where at in Cuenca, we see families working together. Young married families work right out of their home. Their business is usually on the first floor, whether it is a small restaurant, bakery, grocery store, produce Mercado, clothing store, or whatever they do, they all share in the responsibilities of the business. The living quarters are on the second and third floors, which makes it nice because they don’t have to get in a car and drive anywhere to go to work and they don't have to take their children to an expensive day care. They teach the children when they are really young how to count money and give back change and how to deal with customers. Ten-year olds are working behind the cash registers and selling things on the streets.

FACT: Families that work together are much more content and happy because they don’t have a boss breathing down their neck; the women here have their small children (babies and toddlers) right there with them while they work rather than have a stranger take care of them; they are content with their business and live a balanced, peaceful life budgeting around the financial means of their family business. I’ve noticed the wives are the ones who usually manage the customer aspect of the business while the husband most-likely attends to other pending issues associated with the business.

Many of the indigenous Indian wives are the ones dealing with the customers at the produce Mercado’s here in Cuenca and this leads us to believe that the husband does a lot of the laborious farm work. Just the other day, down the road from where we live, we saw a local indigenous family tilling their garden beds the old fashioned way; a cow was pulling the old plow. It seemed to work quite well. I wanted to take a picture but I stopped myself from doing so; I do not want to disrespect or goggle at their way of doing things. Back home in the states we too have a old fashioned way of digging up garden beds for planting; it’s called get your three sons and three shovels and have them start digging!

Ecuadorian Families Eat Together

Lunch here, which is the Ecuadorians main meal of the day, is three hours long. Most of the family run shops and all of the government institutions close up shop between the hours of 12pm and 3pm. Do not come here and expect to get anything important done between those hours. We have learned in the seven weeks that we have been here to enjoy this way of life by doing what they do and take a long lunch. It is actually quite enjoyable to know that for three hours life pretty much slows down to a snail’s pace and you don’t have to worry about nothing but eating good food and conversation with loved ones. If we have important business to attend to, we get up early and get it done, if it doesn’t get accomplished in the morning hours, we simply go back after 3pm.

FACT: Families that eat and converse together every day, during three hours of conversation and interaction are going to be much closer as a family and therefore more content with their life than those people who rush from work to grab a fast food sandwich only to gulp it down real fast so they can make it back to work on time. How many husbands and wives do you know that have lunch together every day for three hours in the states? Here, it is a way of life.

Ecuadorians Are Not In Debt

Many Ecuadorians are not in debt to institutions. They buy everything they need with cash. If they don’t have the money for something they make do without it, until they have the money, or family helps them with what they need temporarily until they can afford what they need. This is where the manana attitude comes in as a positive attribute. Instead of having the attitude, “I’ve got to have this washer today so I’m going to put it on my charge card”, they simply don’t buy it. Even property is bought with cash a lot of the time. This way of life is nothing new to our family. To us not being in debt is also our way of life and we lived this way in the U.S!

Ecuadorians are not in a hurry to keep up with the Pablo’s like North American’s are with the Joneses, it just isn’t in their character to be in a hurry to have stuff, or to work more just to have more stuff, and this is because they are content and happy with what they have, whether how little or how much it might be.

Some Ecuadorians wash their laundry in the river and we’ve seen whole families, moms, dads, and little children in tow, bring a picnic lunch to the river and spend the day doing laundry and drying it on the rocks it in the sun. What’s so incredibly neat about this whole picture is, instead of being unhappy that she doesn’t have a washer or dryer to do all the washing for her, she makes do with what she has; not that she wouldn’t love to have a washer to do all the work for her, but then how could the whole family get together for wash day and have a picnic by the river if she wasn’t doing it by hand? Amazing!

FACT: Being in debt harms our health physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Not having to worry about comparing our lives to our next door neighbor, or not feeling like we are laboring and working all day just to pay off debt is what gives us contentment and peace of mind. It’s good to work and stay busy, but it’s not healthy for us to work just to pay off loans and other debts.

Happiness is not about what we have but what we do with what we do have and our relationships we have with our family and friends. How do I know this to be true? I see it every day in Cuenca, through the eyes; through the smiles; and through the daily lifestyles of the content Cuencano’s who live here.

August 19, 2011

Another Great Restaurant with $2.75 lunch in Cuenca

We found another good restaurant in Cuenca for only $2.75. For the whole family to eat out for lunch it costs around $15 with tip! The food at Don Vitto's is really fresh and tasty. Here is our family review of this restaurant.

August 18, 2011

Cost of Living for our Family of Five in Cuenca Ecuador - UPDATED 2016

Monthly Cost of Living for our family of five in Cuenca Ecuador!

UPDATE January 2016: We thought that after living here for 4.5 years we'd bring you an update on our cost of living for our family of five. Is it still the same? Go ahead and take a look at our monthly expenses and at the bottom of the article we'll have another update.

Rent: $250
Water and Electric: was $30 then $70 and now it's $100
Propane (gas): $10
Food: $400
Internet and landline: $55
Cell phone: $10
Vonage: $39
Transportation (bus/taxi) $50
ATM fees: $15 to $20
Entertainment: $100
Misc: $30
Total $1,154

Now, I’ve seen this figure on other blogs for two people at $1,500 so keep in mind it all depends on your needs and wants and how you desire to live. Most of the expenses on our list are fixed costs, such as the rent, utilities, Internet, and phone. These items will stay the same; the only things that could change for us, but probably will not, are food, entertainment and transportation.

Bear in mind, we do not go out to night clubs and spend money on alcohol or tobacco, and rarely eat out in the International style restaurants, because we cook international style at home!

We brought our own clothes and electronics and have no need to buy these things at this time. The bus here only cost $0.25 one way, and the taxi costs between $2.50 and $3.00. We mostly take bus or walk everywhere. Only time we take taxi is occasionally when we are out after dark.

We pay local rent. We did not allow ourselves to be targeted at gringo/expat prices. We live in a nice quiet area with friendly neighbors. Our house is only three years old and is a 3 bed 2-1/2 bath with office and sunroom. Our savings just for rent per month: $300 to $600

Most people buy bottled water which is about $50 a month for two or three people. The tap water is perfectly fresh and clean to drink; comes out of the mountains of the Andes that surround Cuenca. If you would rather not drink the water it would be much more cost effective to buy a filter for your faucet. We’ve not had any issues with drinking the tap water here, and it tastes great!  Our savings: about $50

Update: In 2014 we started using a Berkey filter to filter out chlorine, heavy metals, and fluoride in the drinking water.

As far as food shopping goes, there's three things we do all of the time,which keeps our grocery bill lower.

1. We try to stay away from imported foods which are waaay more expensive.

2. We always buy the produce that is in season.

3. We do not buy frozen, prepared, packaged foods. Other ways we save on groceries is we do not buy alcohol, pet food or cigarettes, all of which are very expensive here.

UPDATE December 2015: Our food costs have gone up just a bit (maybe $40 to $50 more per month) and that's because we only go to the Mercado about once a month instead of once a week. But here is where it evens out. We stopped eating out as much and that was logged in with entertainment and so our entertainment expense is about $50 less now.

So, all in all when you put everything together we're still only spending around $1,000 to $1,100 per month for living expenses in Cuenca Ecuador, for five people, almost five years later. Watch the video below to see how we go local and live well on less in Cuenca Ecuador.

To read more about the nitty-gritty of Cuenca life according to our family experiences, we think you might like these articles too.  

August 17, 2011

Slideshow of Cuenca Ecuador Architecture and Scenery

We think you will agree, Colonial Cuenca is pretty neat. We would love to hear your comments, feedback, or questions. Do you have a question about Cuenca? Ask below in the comments or email us from the Heaven Ministries website and if we can answer it we'll post it on this blog.

August 15, 2011

A Popular Expat and Cuencano Hangout in Cuenca is Tutto Freddo Dessert Cafe!

One of the most popular expat hangouts in Cuenca is Tutto Freddo Dessert Cafe right in the heart of downtown Cuenca. It is located right across the street from the square in Cuenca on Benigno Malo & Bolívar in the City Centre.

See what delicious desserts we ordered in the video. Watch out, it might make you hungry for some chocolate crepes!

August 14, 2011

Expat Family Builds Own Rustic Furniture in Cuenca

Why are we building our own furniture? Well, we might be doing some traveling in Ecuador, such as checking out Salinas and Manta. We may decide to move there. We believe in packing light and until we know for sure which city we may want to live in, we are being more frugal than ever, if that’s possible? Well, for us it is possible because we know how to be quite resourceful. We bought some tools and have made our own bed frames, outside patio table, indoor dining room table with benches, and a kitchen work station or island. This video is about making the dining room table with using just a skil saw and electric drill. After we made the dining room table we also bought a jig saw, cordless drill and a sander to make more furniture.

There are no Goodwill’s or thrift stores in Cuenca. There is seldom furniture for sale in the classifieds, and when there is the price is ridiculous. So, instead of spending thousands of dollars on new furniture, here we are making our own furniture. We looked at kitchen tables to buy and for $150 you can buy a cheap looking dinette set with four chairs, and for about $750 you can buy a dining room table with six chairs. As you know, we have three big sons and a dinette set is just not suited for our family, and we weren’t about to spend that much money on a dining room table until we checked out the coastal areas of Ecuador. Frugality does not mean lack; it means "more for less”, and in this case a quality, sturdy table at 8-1/2 feet in length, which seats 6 to 8 people comfortably.

August 12, 2011

Cuenca Ecuador Kywi Hardware Store Tool Prices

Once we got here and noticed the prices on some of the tools we really wished that we would have at least packed a few of our smaller tools, such as our Dewalt cordless drill, which goes for $400 here. When coming into Ecuador they allow you to bring tools, electronics, and household items. They have several huge hardware stores here with most of the major brands they sell in the U.S.

August 11, 2011

How Do the Locals Feel about the Gringos Moving to Cuenca?

How do the locals feel about the gringos moving to Cuenca?

We have lived here going on seven weeks and everyone that we have met is very kind and helpful in our quest to live here. Ecuadorians are obliging people and will go out of their way to help you, if they can.

Fortunately Frank speaks enough Spanish to get by and also understands it, and we have not had any problems with meshing into the culture. We do not live gringo style, we live Ecuadorian style. We do not live in a gringo gated community we live in a nice and quiet neighborhood where only Ecuadorians live and we feel comfortable living where we do.

What we’ve noticed since being here is that most gringos keep to their local hangouts while enjoying much more for the dollar (Ecuador uses the dollar here). But we are told that many of the gringos don’t speak Spanish yet and don’t care to learn it. This is one reason why gringos get an English speaking real estate agency to help them find a rental or condo to buy and they pay other gringos to help them go grocery shopping, open a mailing box, get their internet connected, and to open a bank account, and so on and so forth. And because they live in condos with other English speaking people, it makes it much more difficult to learn the local language.
So how do the locals feel about this? To answer this question you have to put yourself in their shoes. Perhaps they feel that the gringos don’t respect them or their country because they simply do not care to learn the language. Perhaps they feel that the gringos think they are too good to live in a house in an Ecuadorian neighborhood? This is all stipulation, mind you.

UPDATE: 2014-Gringos now live everywhere in Cuenca and even houses with no problems or fear. 

We have only been treated with kindness from the locals since living here. The only negative thing I have heard from the locals about the gringos moving here is some of them aren’t willing to learn Spanish. The fact is if someone is not willing to learn Spanish they aren’t willing to become a part of the Ecuadorian culture either, which keeps them separate from the locals and causes a kind of coldness between the gringos and the Cuencanos.

We’ve noticed the younger gringo generation is more apt to mesh in with the local culture than the older folks. This is just a perception that anyone will notice if they are aware of their surroundings. And this is probably because the younger generation is on a tighter budget than the ones who receive some kind of monthly pension. The younger people stay in the hostels managed and owned by Ecuadorians or they live in the downtown apartments owned by Ecuadorians, and they eat in the traditional Ecuadorian restaurants because they are much cheaper than the gringo restaurants. What this does is it allows for them to have to hear Spanish from the locals and have to learn Spanish to take care of their daily living needs, which makes them have to learn Spanish.

So basically, if you come here and live in the gringo condos, only eat in the gringo restaurants, and have an English speaking gringo help you get settled, you won’t have to know or learn Spanish, but this will keep you disconnected from the locals and the culture. So you see, learning the language is a win-win solution for everyone involved. They do have Spanish classes here at a reasonable price.

The bottom line is what might frustrate the local Cuencano’s the most about all the gringos moving here is some of the gringos just aren’t willing to learn the language. The Cuencanos, for the most part, enjoy having peoples from other countries move here, but what they don’t want is people coming here to live and then complaining about it and not even try and learn basics of the language.

Learn Spanish and blend in with the locals! Be a part of Ecuador rather than just an “outsider gringo” looking for a cheap place to live. In other words, don’t come here to live and then complain about the slow pace of life and the methods and ways the Ecuadorians do things, and only hang out with your gringo friends. Meet local people and enjoy the laid back lifestyle.

And by all means, do not pay more just because you're a gringo. If you are hear to live, figure out the local price structure for things, negotiate for everything, blend in and be like the locals and enjoy your new Cuenca experience! 

After all, this is their country, they were born here, they have their family here, they were educated here, they have their business here, this is where they live, work, and play and they love it. It is rude to come to this predominately Spanish speaking country and complain about it, or to remain uninterested to its culture and people by not even being willing to learn the language. As for us, we came here to live frugal, healthy, and happy and to do that you have to become a part of the culture and do things the way the locals do...any other way makes you stand out and then you'll become a target for price gouging!

UPDATE: June 2014 --- almost 3 years later and many, many more gringos moving to Cuenca, there is some local resentment towards the expats about the higher prices on rentals and goods and services going up.  Some of them come here with an attitude and don't want to learn the language. We have witnessed this first hand on several occasions and through other expats that have told us about witnessing it themselves.

August 09, 2011

There Are Two Different Kinds of Gringos in Cuenca

There are two different kinds of gringos that move to Cuenca Ecuador. 

There are the ones that "mesh in" with the culture and don’t allow the slower pace to bother them; they become a part of Cuenca Ecuador and enjoy the family oriented culture and way of life. 

Then there are the ones who come here and remain indifferent to the way things are done and always complain and really aren’t happy people. If they can’t find their Skippy peanut butter or brand of bologna on the store shelf they become frustrated. Why am I telling you this? Well, many people have this mistaken belief that life here is going to be like it is in North America. 

 (By the way, peanut butter is made here naturally and put in clear Tupperware, and it does not have a label on it. If you want the sugary peanut butter you can buy it at Supermaxi).

But it is different here; not in a bad way, at least not for us, but some people have moved from Ecuador because they don’t like the Ecuadorian fare of rice, chicken, beans, and corn. Some folks, who live here, complain about the food being bland. 

Folks want Mexican food in Ecuador. But this is NOT Mexico. They do have international restaurants here but you will pay international prices. You can buy everything you need here in the Supermaxi store to make your own favorite meals at home.

Some people move away because they are afraid to walk outside of their gated community, which after awhile they end up feeling restricted by that. The problem is they are restricting themselves by living in fear. 

We do not live in a gated community and we've never had any crime issues with us or in our neighborhood we live in.  We love to walk and we walk all over the place in Cuenca. We live on the west side and walk to Supermaxi, Coral, and have even walk several miles downtown a couple of times a week, to the historic district and we feel safe. But keep in mind: We never walk alone; we never walk at night; we never walk with purses and fat wallets; we don’t wear expensive jewelry or dress like tourists, we dress like everyone else.

Some gringos never find that comfort level while living here because they came to Cuenca with rose-colored glasses on and have high standards about living here. For instance, they don’t buy produce from the local farmers in the outdoor markets, such as Fiera Libre because they don’t like walking on dirt floors, or they don’t like the fishy smells from the fish vendors, or they don’t understand basic Spanish and therefore, can’t interact and bargain with the farmers.

Some gringos spend just about as much as they do in North America for their cost of living because they don’t really know any other way to live. They live in the luxury high rise condos at $700 to $1,200 a month, they eat out in the International Restaurants, they buy their produce at the grocery store Supermaxi, and fill up their apartment with expensive furniture before ever seeing if they are going to want to live here! I’ve read some forums where the gringo’s living here were complaining that the cost of living was expensive here just as if they were living in North America.

Now, not all gringos that move here have such high standards. We moved to Cuenca with the intention of going local as much as gringos can and we love life that way.  We live in a nice home and pay much less for rent than what some gringos are paying for rent. 

UPDATE October 2014 - We still pay $250 monthly for our rent.

The only items we buy at the Supermaxi grocery store is Parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil, nothing else. We buy the rest of our cheeses, meats, beans, rice, pasta, and household goods at Coral. Coral is a a big department store just about like Walmart in the U.S. And we buy some produce at the Mercado fresh from the farmers for a fraction of what it costs in the grocery stores. We lack nothing; and we have everything to live frugal, happy and free. We really like Cuenca, the positives of living here definitely outweigh any negatives there may be.

Some of the fruits and vegetables in the Mercado are organically grown and freshly picked from the garden. Why on earth would it be dirtier than the produce you buy at Supermaxi? It isn’t, and this is my point! The produce at Supermaxi is the same produce at the Mercado. But the difference is it has probably been sitting in wooden crates for several days before it even hits the store shelves. And here is the clincher: When you buy the produce at the big, beautiful, tiled floored super market called Supermaxi , not only are you are paying retail prices, but the food is not as fresh. When you buy the produce from Fiera Libre it is freshly picked and you pay wholesale. 

Yes, there are two different kinds of gringos living here in Cuenca. The ones that come here with rose colored glasses and just aren’t ready for the change of pace and the different ways that things are done here. They complain a lot on the blogs and forums. Then there are those that did their research, and can see passed the different ways of doing things, which is actually pretty cool, and they just live and let live. You know, be happy and be blessed!

Cuenca has great people, a great culture, and is a beautiful city with gorgeous mountains and countryside. You can live here for far less if you take your time doing things, meet local Cuencanos and make friends, learn Spanish, enjoy family time at the dinner table for three hours, and live the manana (tomorrow) way of life. 

If you're coming here to scope Cuenca out, or to live, you best get the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide so you can SAVE money, ENJOY your time here, and RELAX. The Guide will take you where you need to go! 

August 08, 2011

Is Cuenca Ecuador the Best City in the World to Live?

In 2009 Cuenca Ecuador was named the best retirement haven in the world and in 2010 it was named the best city to live in the world, according to International Living. So how does International Living come up with their consensus on the best places to retire and live? Well, they send their own people into the cities that have not yet been discovered and they research the area based on the cost of living, weather, culture, crime, healthcare system, etc.

We think it's true what they say about Cuenca. It is a beautiful city full of history, wonderful people, good food, and the cost for rentals and real estate is great if you don't allow yourself to be targeted as a Gringo with lots of money to spend. You can buy so much more with your dollar here in Ecuador. But understand too, some things are just as expensive or more expensive than in North America. Autos for instance are very expensive here, as are electronics, and anything that is imported.

The truth is a lot of people come here and visit for a month and leave never to return because they can't find Skippy peanut butter or their brand of beef hotdogs on the store shelves, or because they don't like living in a home that is behind security bars, or because it just isn't up to their standards. It is best to come here and live for at least a year or two and then decide if it is a place you would like to live and retire.

Is Cuenca Really the Best Place to Retire?

No one, including a big name travel magazine such as International Living can make such a bold statement as to decide for someone else the best place to live and retire. It depends on you and what you feel you need to be happy and free. We concur that Cuenca is a great place to bring your family and live, but you may not agree.

We chose Cuenca for our purpose and motivation. Your motivation may not be the same as ours. The people that come to Cuenca to live and stay are people who become a part of this country rather than remain indifferent to it. If you allow the laid back lifestyle or the different ways that people do things here to discourage you then you will remain indifferent to living here and never truly feel comfortable being here.

Lots of North Americans and Europeans are thinking about moving here, or are already in Cuenca and becoming acquainted with living here. Some gringos will fall in love with the beauty of Cuenca and others will leave and never return, it all depends on what your motivation is and what you feel your needs are to be happy and free. The ones that stay will most likely agree with International Living Magazine, Cuenca is the best city to live in the world. By the way, International Living is now touting Nicaragua as a bargain place to live.

August 07, 2011

Traditional Ecuadorian Food: We're Eating a Humita in a Panaderia (bakery)

Some of the Ecuadorian food is interesting. A Humita is something that one must acquire a taste for. We believe it is made with corn or hominy. I have never been a fan of hominy. We think it has some white melting cheese, such as queso fresco in it and slight bit of sugar. And finally it is wrapped in a corn husk.

According to Wikeapedia here is the ingredients in an Ecuadorian humita.
in Ecuador humitas are prepared with fresh ground corn with onions, eggs and spices that vary on the region, and on each family's tradition. The dough is wrapped in a corn husk, but are steamed rather than baked or boiled. Ecuadorian humitas may also contain cheese. This dish is so traditional in Ecuador that they have developed special pots just for cooking humitas. Ecuadorian humitas can be salty or sweet.

August 06, 2011

Ecuadorian Pizza?

Ecuadorian pizza is different than pizza most of us are used to. Why? Well, for one thing they do not put tomato sauce on their pizza. Since we live in Ecuador now, I had to try it out. So here are the pizzas. I did make a white sauce with a little garlic, flour, milk, herbs, and Parmesan cheese. Here's what I put on these three pizzas: White sauce, diced green bell pepper, diced red chili peppers, diced red onion, olives, fresh tomato and Ecuadorian cheese called Queso fresco, which is literally translated "fresh cheese". Queso fresco is much like mozzarella cheese with its milky flavor and soft texture. It's pretty good on pizza.

Here's the pizza right out of the oven.

We love pizza around here and I usually make it from scratch at least once or twice a month. In this video I am making pizza from scratch. Frank is really picky about eating Italian food in restaurants. There are a couple of Italian restaurants here in Cuenca, but we have not eaten at them yet. We did try the pizza though and that was when we found out they didn't use tomato sauce. So, was my pizza good? Yes, it was absolutely fantastic! Would I do anything different next time? Yes, I will make at least one of the pizzas with tomato sauce. Feeding three big sons is a challenge sometimes, but it can be rewarding. tomorrow we're going to have lentil burgers, which is another Ecuadorian fare. Well, at least the lentils are. Ciao!

August 05, 2011

Warming Up In Cuenca! Yahoooooooooooooo

My oldest son Brandon

reminded me today that it is warmed up nicely here in Cuenca. I guess that the Argentina cold front I had previously posted about has passed. In a previous blog post I had said that I was cold and that the spring-like temperatures felt more like winter to me. The last four or five days have been absolutely perfect. The overnight lows have been in the mid 40's and highs in the low to mid 70's. For it being winter here, that is pretty nice weather. I still need a sweater in the mornings, but by afternoon, the sun is usually out which warms things up nicely.

August 04, 2011

What’s it Like to Live in Cuenca Ecuador?

When we first moved here, about six weeks ago, family and friends were asking us what is it like to live in Cuenca Ecuador? Some of them asked us if there were sheep in the roads. They wanted to know if the roads were gravel roads or paved and they wanted to know if you can drink the water out of the tap.

My very first impression of downtown colonial Cuenca was a feeling of being taken back in time or of being in a southern Italian town. The narrow cobblestone streets line a four-mile by six-mile area which is known as the historic district. There are a lot of very old colonial buildings and museums of Ecuadorian history in this part of town. Huge Cathedrals of vast proportion adorn the city of Cuenca, even if one is not Catholic, it is awe inspiring to see these cathedrals, built of marble, with their tall arched ceilings, and painted murals; it is a sight to see.

Want a Glass of Fresh Goats Milk?

Now had there been sheep in the road, but there weren’t, it would not have surprised me in the least. One day when we were at the Mercado of Feira Libre right off of the road of Las Americas there was a indigenous woman standing on the side of the road to the entrance to the Mercado, offering us fresh goats milk. This goats milk is non pasteurized and non FDA approved coming right out of the goat right there and now! It was so cool! The neat thing is you get to see the goat you are drinking from. Is she healthy looking? Is she clean where cleanliness matter most? Yes on both accounts. This milk is cleaner and healthier than the pasteurized garbage they call milk in the grocery stores.

No Sheep, Only Bulls in the Roads

Now we have seen plenty of cows in the roads and many farmers just tie up their cows and bulls wherever the grass looks green, it may be your own back yard. It’s kind of scary walking right past a bull on the side of the road, but they are quite docile and usually don’t pose too much of a threat. But no, there are not sheep all over the roadways, at least not in the cities; there are only cows and bulls that we have seen so far.

Yes, the Roads Are All Paved

The roads are all paved and very nice and well taken care of. Here in Cuenca there are always road workers improving on parts of the roadways that have gotten worn. The roads are wide and two or three lanes almost everywhere in Cuenca, except for downtown where it is narrow, cobblestone streets. The sidewalks could use some work as many of them are not level and have big gaps and holes in the cement and weird protruding things sticking up from them. If you plan on walking a lot, like we do, wear a pair of comfortable shoes, and do keep an eye on where you are walking, lest you stumble and fall.

The Water Tastes Great!

We’ve lived here going on 6-weeks now and have never bought bottled water. We’ve been drinking the tap water and none of us our sick or dead yet. You really cannot believe everything you read. Some blogs say you can’t drink the water and some say you can. We took our chances and just drink it and we're still drinking it with no problems. The first time I tried the tap water I noticed fresh, almost spring water like taste, unlike in the U.S in the south the water tastes very chemically and metallic. The drinking water in Cuenca comes from the many glacial lakes that are made from the mountains of the Cajas National Park. Yes, you can drink the water in Cuenca but not in the coastal cities.

Cuenca is an emerging, developing city that has good clean water, and better plumbing than elsewhere in Ecuador. It has all of the conveniences you will find in the States or in Europe. Some of the people may still do things in the traditional way or old fashioned way but this is what makes it so incredibly neat to live here. Where else can you drink a glass of fresh milk right from the goat?

August 01, 2011

Free Cuenca Entertainment in the Downtown Square

Last Monday night Frank, Brandon and I happened to be downtown Cuenca eating dessert at a great restaurant called Tutto Freddo's when all of a sudden they started playing Latin music in the square. People were dancing, watching the fireworks, and enjoying the music with family and friends. I still don't know what the celebration was, but from what I hear, they have these kinds of fireworks and music festivals all the time here in Cuenca. Enjoy the video.

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