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Monday, January 30, 2012

Travel by Bus from Guayaquil to Bahia ~ Day 1

It was a long day of travel in vans, buses, and taxi's but we arrived in Bahia pretty much without incident. The van ride from Cuenca to Guayaquil was not what we expected. When the boys and I traveled from Guayaquil to Cuenca we had the van all to ourselves, although it did cost a lot more. Going to Bahia, we shared the van with three young girls, which was fine, they slept most of the way, but the passenger that sat right next to Frank took up part of Frank's seat and he snored loudly the whole way to Guayaquil. When the girls did wake up even their giggling couldn't wake the snoring man up--they got a big kick out of the big snoring man sitting next to the gringo couple. LOL  The vans don't stop for bathroom breaks so it's advisable not to drink too many liquids before the trip.



The bus travel from Guayaquil to Bahia called Reina Del Camino (executive buses) had more comfortable seats than the van, plus it had a TV and bathroom, and, it was air conditioned so well in the bus I had to put my sweater on. The buses are clean and comfortable. For only $7 per person the bus travel is the way to go. Reina Del Camino are more secure than other buses. They lightly frisk you before getting on the bus. Baggage is stowed underneath. You can bring smaller carryons/backpacks with you on the bus but they might check them...This particular bus line is VERY safe! The buses run every day from Guayaquil bus station to Bahia at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm.The bus stopped twice for leg stretching and bathroom breaks. They only allow going number one in the bathrooms on the bus, plus some buses do not have bathrooms and if they do you have to ask for the key. 

Coming up in next post/video "day 2" in and around Bahia and San Vicente!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

We're Going to Bahia, Canoa and San Vicente!

Frank and I leave early tomorrow morning for the beach! From Cuenca it is going to be an all day travel on several different bus lines to get to Bahia. We'll try to post when we can while we're at the coast so check back often for all of our adventures.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fun and Creative Ways to Be Frugal: Making Homemade Wall Decor

Frugality is not only a way of life but it is something that can be enjoyable and creatively fun. Trying to find ways to be frugal has it rewards. Have you ever met someone, who created something special with their hands that did not enjoy making or building what they created? A homemade quilt for instance is so much more enjoyable to look at, warm up in, and talk about with others than a store bought blanket.  No one cares about the store bought blanket, but the homemade quilt…now that is something to cherish and tell others about.


                       This video is of Alex making the wall plaques for the kitchen

                    

When you want to keep your costs of living lower and still have cool stuff you have to be/get creative. Some people make homemade curtains for their whole house. Some people that are professionals at taking pictures make homemade photos for the walls. Every person reading this blog right now is creative in some way—some people just don’t know how creative and resourceful they can truly be until they put their mind to work on doing the things they love, or trying out that new hobby they have been thinking about.

Now remember, frugal is different than being cheap. Cheap is going without things simply because {they} are things you really don’t need, or cheap is having really cheap stuff that ends up breaking, or that simply looks cheap. Being frugal is having everything you need and want, and most of the time frugal things that you make/create yourself are better quality than if you were to buy a similar product at the store.

We have piles of scrap wood just lying around outside in our work shop (the patio  LOL) and we asked Alex if he would figure out some creative ways to make some wall décor for the house with this wood. For ideas we looked on google images and put in the search engine “wooden wall décor”, and from there we picked out several wooden wall projects.

The first picture below is the google image where I got the idea from and the second picture is how Alex made this particular wood project turn out. We all like the wall plaques they add a new rustic aspect to the kitchen and a feeling of warmth when you enter.



                   The stain (cherry) that we used on the plaques match our kitchen cabinets as well!

                             Stay tuned for more wall décor items built by Alex!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why We Didn’t Accept "House Hunters International" Feature Offer

Last week House Hunters International asked Frank and me if we would like to be featured on one of their shows doing an episode about house hunting for rentals here in Cuenca. This version of HHI is just another spinoff of the house hunter’s show. It was pretty exciting to be asked to do one of their shows and we gave it some careful thought. But we are not the type of people, well Frank isn’t anyway, (LOL) who just jumps into something without doing the due diligent research first. What would the consequences of such a move be?

We did our research and investigation about this show and it is a very contrived reality show. Viewers do not realize that when they watch this show the people in it our actually “acting”! But that is not the scary part, the scary part is how they can and will slant anything they want from the four day shoot into their favor and say and do whatever they want. It's pretty much like watching the news or reading the newspaper. Is that what you want? we don't think it is. As our readers already know, we have our own show already.
This is why we have decided not to do their show. We have a reputation to uphold for our readers and for ourselves and we feel it will do more harm than good. We have a pretty large readership now and our readers truly have an expectation from us, and we believe we owe our readers the low cost Cuenca, not the hyped up Cuenca with inflated rents. 

HHI is a very popular and well-known cable television show and for us to go on this show and pretend we like the hyped up rents and real-estate prices would be contradictory to what we teach people about on our Cuenca frugal blog.
We believe that if we were to go on this show it would inflate rental prices even more and that is something we are not willing to do. We cannot stop others from hyping up Cuenca with high priced rentals and real estate prices, but for us it is not an option. We love being the Frugal blog about Cuenca and we love being able to tell our readers about how not to be a gringo target and how to find good rental deals.
We live in a pretty nice rental now for only $250 a month and we know there are other rentals out there in the local rental market as well. If we were to go on the show we would be asked to look at high priced rentals that are actually out of our price range and that is not who we are.
This is how the show works and why we won’t do it: They open the show up with how we moved from South Carolina all the way to Cuenca to make a new life for ourselves. Then they show us three rentals in Cuenca, one being the home we are in now. They take everything out of our house and pretend like it is just one we are looking at to possibly rent. We would be expected to act the whole time.(If it were our show our slant would be how to find three nice but economical houses or apartments between the price ranges of $250 to $400. We would want to talk about the three factors to look for when searching for these rentals. And the three things not to look for when finding these rentals)
The shows slant would be to show us expensive, gringo inflated rentals that in reality we would never consider in a million years looking at or telling our readers about. They would get a very popular real-estate agency involved like Caldwell Banker or Remax, both of whom are actually here in Cuenca and they would show us $500 on up rentals. Frank and I would have to “act” like these overpriced gringo rentals are something we would consider renting. Of course, in the end we’d have to say they are not really in our budget and we choose the $250 rental, the home we’re really in.
The bottom line is the show is really contrived and artificial, which is nothing like our videos we already have on YouTube. The videos we make for our viewers are never rehearsed—what you see is what you get…To see us on television would be like watching two people you already know and have become accustomed to seeing on YouTube and then be expected to not really know them once you saw the show. We know that are readers would be disappointed and we’d probably lose much of our devoted fans if we did the show.
You see, we already know that if you do your due diligence you can find a decent rental at the local prices of between $300 and $400, unfurnished. At least at this time in Cuenca. Things are changing, however in that area but we do not want to have any part of that new change. Prices are going up, yet we still rent for $250 per month.
Anyway, in the end of the show we would obviously pick out the house we are in now as the one we choose. They pretend like its 3 months later and they put all the furniture back and they show how we have adjusted to our new home, ladda, ladda, ladda.
We want to know what you think. Are we making the right decision by forgoing doing House Hunters International, or do you think we should do the show? What you think means a lot to us—we wouldn’t have this blog if it wasn’t for our devoted readers. You can leave a comment at the end of this post, or email us directly and tell us your thoughts.
PS…sorry about the ebook (DIY Cuenca Guide Book) not on the blog yet, we’ve been truly busy lately with newcomers coming to Cuenca. Besides that, more and more people keep writing in to tell us what they want to see in the ebook, and some of that takes more research. Frank the editor takes his time when working on the contents of the book. We want to make sure it is going to have everything in it to make your stay or move to Cuenca the least stressful, least expensive, and the most fun!  

Here's the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide! 

We're proud to say the Landing Guide has been in the top ten most popular travel books on LULU.com since our first publishing in 2012. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stray Dog Problem in Cuenca

There are many stray dogs wondering around Cuenca. Most of these stray animals eat whatever garbage they can find on the streets. Many of them are sickly looking, malnourished, and diseased.  They do not have dog catchers here in Cuenca like they do in North America so the amount of stray dogs increases real fast.  There is never a day when you are out taking a walk that you don't see a stray dog every few blocks. Sometimes there are small packs of dogs wondering around the city of Cuenca. 



The good news is most of these homeless dogs are docile and weary of people, in fact they hardly ever come very close to people and they act like scared, mistreated animals. The bad news is there is a lot of dog poop on the sidewalks virtually everywhere in Cuenca. This can make Cuenca seem unclean and dirty. The problem is these dogs don’t belong to anyone so that means no one is going to clean up the dog poop either, so it piles up. 

Ecuadorians have pets here, mostly big guard dogs (German Sheppard’s) locked in their gated fenced yard and these dogs are all trained to attack. It would not be good if one of them ever got loose. When you’re walking on the sidewalk too close to the fence sometimes these big dogs will jump up to the fence and ferociously start barking at you and if you’re caught off guard it can be scary. 

They have a much different attitude about stray animals here than in North America.  Ecuadorians have pets mostly for guard dogs, not for companionship. So in that respect it is one of the reasons why you see so many stray dogs on the streets. Stray dogs do not get the attention from people here like they do in North America. Besides that, dog food, vaccinations, and vet services cost money—money that many Ecuadorians are not going to spend on a dog.

We have not seen any dog homes, animal shelters, kennels, or animal adoption agencies here like they have in North America. With the expat community increasing this should change and then some of these dogs can get off the street. If any Ecuadorians are reading this and there are such places in Cuenca please comment and let us know where they are located in Cuenca, and if there are animal shelters or dog catchers then why are there so many stray dogs on the streets? 

We have read stories on blogs written in 2009 where the city of Cuenca was going to start picking the stray dogs up off the streets and euthanizing  them, but since living here we have yet to see any animal catchers. The stray dog problem seems to have gotten worse just in the 7-months we have been living here. 

 UPDATE: November 2012.  We just learned there is a nice lady and her family from Portland, Oregon, along with several volunteers, rescuing stray dogs on the streets of Cuenca and hopefully giving them loving homes. We have noticed a big change in the amount of stray dogs in Cuenca and now we know why. Thank youfor your good work! The program is called ARCA dog rescue but I could not find a webpage for them.

Along with a lot of stray dogs comes incessant barking at all hours of the night or day. We haven’t yet met an expat that has moved here, no matter where they live, even in high rise condos, that hasn’t complained about the noise of barking dogs. When we first moved into our house the barking dogs were keeping us all up during the night and then waking us up in the middle of the night. Fortunately, we’re used to the barking now and sleep right through the barking dogs

Perhaps there is someone who is considering moving to Cuenca who may actually have the extra time, inclination and the love for animals, and the money to boot to want to help with this growing “stray dog” problem here in Cuenca. We think you’d be well received by the expat and Ecuadorian community for your efforts in finding homes for these stray animals or at the very least, putting these animals down. This may seem cruel, but putting the dogs to sleep would be far better for them than having them roaming around feeling sick, unloved, malnourished and a lot of times diseased. 

It will most-likely be an expat couple or a group of expats who initiate change in this area and who will eventually work towards finding a solution to this problem before anything actually begins to change for the better. Perhaps that person or couple is you.
  

UPDATE: November 2012.  We just learned there is a nice lady and her family from Portland, Oregon, along with several volunteers, rescuing stray dogs on the streets of Cuenca and hopefully giving them loving homes. We have noticed a big change in the amount of stray dogs in Cuenca and now we know why. Thank youfor your good work! The program is called ARCA dog rescue but I could not find a webpage for them.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Paying to Volunteer?

When we first moved to Cuenca we searched online and locally for an orphanage to volunteer at. It was really difficult to find an orphanage that did not ask for an enormous sum of money up front! Some volunteer programs that are physically situated here in Ecuador have administrations within the U.S and they are asking folks to pay thousands of dollars to volunteer their time? If you don't have the money, guess you can't volunteer. Uhhhhh? Are we missing something here?


Volunteering your time and giving money for a cause are two different things. Most people that volunteer do so because this is how they “give of themselves”.  TIME is MONEY!

We came to South America with the intention of volunteering our time and our love at an orphanage. Out of ten orphanages that are situated in and around Cuenca, surprisinly, there is only one that we have found so far that does not ask for a fee upfront.  



Some volunteers do not have the money to give to the workings of an organization but they do have time, love and labor to give to the actual children who are starving for attention.  But, if these organizations ask for money up front like so many of them now do then they are actually turning away a lot of helping hands and love simply because NOT everybody can pay $800 fee to volunteer, or perhaps they do not want to. 

Where does the money go? This does not help the needy and emotionally wounded children who just want to be loved. We can say a lot more about this but we will not lest we upset some folks who are behind the management of these organizations. Sure they need funding, but funding does not necessarily have to come from those who are already volunteering their time, love, and labor? People do what they can...

Sadly, it is the children who undergo deprivation when middlemen and women stand in the way of true hands on volunteers from those who actually have something to give and want to give to the children—hand’s on love! 


For instance, what If someone wants to give time and love to a needy child but does not have the money to volunteer? 

The way we see it is there are two sides to every coin. There are rich folks out there who never set foot in these organizations that help fund them. This is how they volunteer. And then there are people who live on a budget themselves who volunteer their time as hands on helpers instead of donating lots of money, such as an upfront fee.

We like to ask the administration what the orphanage needs, such as clothing, books, blankets, art supplies, repairs, painting, etc, and then go buy these things and or do these things.  Asking for an upfront fee is defeating the whole purpose of what volunteering means and is about!!

 
Does it not seem strange that before you can provide a hug or a play day to a homeless child, in most instances you first have to pay to do it? This seems backwards.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Maracuya Fruit (Passion Fruit) Native to South America

We’ve been living here going on 7-months now and there are still fruits and vegetables that we have no idea what they are and how they taste. Some of the local fruits and veggies look pretty funky. When Frank brought some Maracuya fruit home to try it out, no one else in the house would touch it, let alone taste it. It might be because the fruit pulp inside looks pretty strange and not appetizing at all.

 
For two weeks Frank raved about the flavor of the Maracuya and no one would try it, instead we opted for something more pleasing to the eye, like bananas or mangos. But one day we all decided to try one and to our surprise it was really good. And for this video we got Alex to taste test one, and he liked it and now we buy them on a regular basis. They are really good for you. You can buy about 8 to 10 for a dollar or so at Coral Centro.       

          

We’ll keep trying some of the tropical and exotic fruits that grow locally here because you never know what healthy goodness and wonderful flavors you’ll find in a new fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried before. You have to be willing.

They do sell Maracuya in North America. It is called Passion Fruit and it may have a purple or bright red outer skin. The more shriveled up the outer rind is, the sweeter the fruit pulp will be inside. Interestingly, you are supposed to eat the seeds along with the fruit pulp and they add a crunchy texture to each bite. We read that cake decorators use the seeds for decorating the tops of cakes with.

Friday, January 20, 2012

We Had to Say Goodbye to the Panderias (Bakeries) in Cuenca

Imagine walking down the street, and on about every corner there is a bakery or in the Spanish language, panaderia. Before you even come to this panaderia you can smell loaves of breads, rolls, donuts, pastries, cakes and cookies baking in the oven. When we first got here we indulged every time we were downtown Cuenca, which was about three times a week. 

After a couple of months of enjoying these refined flour treats we were suddenly reawakened to the fact of how unwholesome refined flour products are. We never forgot this fact, but we were just pretending like we forgot, after all the first couple of months that you are here it’s a vacation! LOL . And what really happened is we all started missing the flavor and whole goodness of what whole wheat bread tastes like! Imagine that!

Most bakeries here in Cuenca do not make whole wheat (integral) bread and rolls but those that do we do still buy the whole wheat French bread type loaves from them when we need bread on the spot. One of those places is Coral Centro, and they have the best whole wheat bread than anywhere else, in our opinion.  And the other place is SuperStock, but you need to call it in ahead of time and let them know you want whole wheat and they will make it for you. 

After awhile of eating something you’re not used to such as we were with refined flour, your body lets you know with warning signals. Our warning signals were not weight gain but feeling more tired than usual, and not having as much energy, and being constipated. This condition is NOT healthy—it  is what causes toxic build up and disease. 

Refined flour products have no fiber or vitamins and minerals left in them—all of the whole goodness is taken out of the wheat kernel at the factory to make white flour—it is just empty calories with no nutritional value whatsoever. 

This is why we make our own baked goods as much as possible. We make homemade pizza crust using the same recipe that is in this video for French bread. We’ll start adding some of our whole wheat baked good recipes on the blog once in awhile for those of you who would like to try whole wheat flour out in your baking. 
      


Saying goodbye to white flour AGAIN was not that difficult because we’re back on track with our energy and health once again and we feel great and that is important to us. 

Nutrition of one cup of whole wheat flour
 
Calories: 656
Protein: 21.7g
Carbohydrate: 145.7g
Total Fat: 3.3g
 *Excellent source of:
Iron (8.7mg)
Magnesium (178mg)
Zinc (6.4mg)
Niacin (8.4mg)
 
Easy Whole Wheat Bread

Ingredients for 2 loaves

1-tablespoon yeast
6-7  cups of whole-wheat flour
1 -2 cups white unbleached flour
3-tablespoons honey
1- teaspoon sea salt
2-cups warm water
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

For a harder loaf like French bread omit the oil and brush the top with egg white before baking.

Preparation
 
In a large bowl combine the yeast, honey, and warm water. When the yeast becomes bubbly, add your sea salt and oil, stir in half the flour, stirring well. Pour bread batter onto clean countertop and knead bread with your hands using the rest of the flour, adding a little at a time. Continue kneading for at least 5 minutes, adding more flour until bread is not sticky anymore. Put bread back into the bowl with a little oil and let rise for one hour. After the bread has risen, oil two bread pans thoroughly. Divide dough into two parts and work each part into a little loaf. Let bread rise again for one hour.  Bake in 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Oh, so delicious. Get out the butter (not margarine) and honey and enjoy!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

La Victoria of Cuenca: Electronic Store Similar to Best Buy?

Some have said that “La Victoria” is Like “Best Buy” of the U.S, but we have mixed feelings on that. There are no electronic stores that actually compare to Best Buy that we have found in Ecuador, yet. 

The two stores should not even be compared, not only because of the huge price differences but because of inventory difference. Best Buy has a lot more inventory on computers and cameras, with many different name brands to choose from, whereas La Victoria is a nice store and everything but not as much inventory there.

Computers at La Victoria cost about $250 to $350 more for the same exact computer at Best Buy. This is why it is a good idea to bring new laptops with you when you move here.

Huge Inventory of Musical Instruments

La Victoria does however have a much bigger inventory of musical instruments than Best Buy does. There are two stores in Cuenca that we know of. There is one in Mall Del Rio (much smaller store) and the bigger store is downtown on Gran Columbia. This store has two rooms full of musical instruments! 

We have had several people ask us about prices on musical instruments here. We took several pictures of the musical instruments and their prices.La Victoria may be a bit higher priced than some of the other music stores in Cuenca. Coral also has the same musical instruments we have listed here, but not as many different brands and sizes to choose from. We chose La Victoria because they have a pretty good selection.

Guitars

They carry a lot of different guitar types. We did take down some prices and the cheapest guitar was $65 and the average price was $150 to $250 for the guitars you see in the pictures below. click the photos to enlarge.









Drum Sets

They had several different drum sets. The one in this picture was priced at $350. They had a less extravagant looking drum set in the window behind the glass as you walk into the store, but we couldn’t tell what the price was, sorry…but it had to be less than $350 because was not as stylish as this one, although it was still nice!



Bongo Drums or Conga Set

For this big set of bongos they were asking $500 but they had about six different, smaller sizes in the window starting at $120 on up. This was a really neat set of bongos. Bongos are fun to play around with even if you're not musically inclined. We had two sets we had to give to Good Will before we left to come here. That was sad. Oh well, this is just a new chapter in our lives. 




Key Boards
 
They had about eight different sizes of keyboards. The ones you see in the pictures were priced at around $800 to $850 but they also had a few smaller sized key boards and still pretty nice for $250.



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Making Wooden Wall Décor and Utility Closet Using Scrap Wood

As most of you know we built all of our furniture, therefore we have a lot of scraps of wood lying around just waiting for that creative wooden project to get built. Both Angelo and Alex have made some pretty neat things using scrap wood. This video is of some of the things Alex has made. Enjoy the video!

      

These are the things Alex has built for himself to hang on his wall, but coming soon in another video, we can’t wait to show you what he has made for our kitchen and living room walls as décor items—all I can say is neat, neat, neat!  I picked out three wooden décor products that I wanted for the house in the google images and he then made a replica of each one. 

Angelo has also made some neat swords, but the project that I am most impressed with is much more practical and useful. It is a utility clothes closet he built for his room!  This house is only a 3 bedroom plus an office. Angelo ended up getting the office which did not have a closet so he built a nifty utility closet with shelving for his room.  Here are the pictures of this cool closet. 




Monday, January 16, 2012

We Made Our Own Light Covers and Saved Hundreds of Dollars!

We Saved Hundreds of Dollars Making our Own Light Covers!

Part of being frugal is trying to find ways to make do with something for a lot less. People often liken frugality to being cheap but they are two different things. Being frugal does not mean going without something or even having something inferior, it just means getting something you need or want for less through other means than spending a bunch of money. 

And this is where creativity comes in. And thankfully we have been blessed with sons that are creative and enjoy working with their hands. Here in Ecuador when you rent a house or apartment it usually will not come with light fixtures, and if it does have light fixtures than you’re paying for them in rent, just as furnished houses or apartments will cost a lot more than ones without furniture. 

We knew about there being no light fixtures in Ecuador before we came here and never gave it too much thought until we rented a house and didn’t like seeing the dangling wires and light bulbs hanging from all over the ceiling. Not to mention the incessant glare of the light bulbs not having a shade cover around them can be annoying. 

Alex, our youngest son suddenly got a surge of creativity within him and he made an Asian Style light cover with a couple of place mats and some other wooden implements we had lying around the house.  In this video, Alex shows you what the light covers look like.

                
We liked the way they looked so much that Alex and Brandon made light shades for the rest of the dangling light bulbs in the house. It looks so much better than a bunch of wires hanging out of the ceiling. 

When you are only renting, it doesn’t make much sense to spend hundreds of dollars on light fixtures. It is not something we are willing to do. But making them ourselves and saving lots of money is something we are willing to do. And that’s what we did. Now we do not have to look at dangling wires and the ugliness and glare of light bulbs in our face. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Health is Wealth: Juicing for Good Health

Before we moved to Ecuador we used to excitedly tell each other how we couldn’t wait to move to Cuenca for the availability of all the different fresh fruits and vegetables that we were going to juice!   

When we lived in South Carolina we’d juice some of the more reasonably priced vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes and apples, but in Ecuador the variety of fruits and veggies at a reasonable price is virtually everything! 

We juice about three times a week because juicing is a healthy way to get an abundance of nutrients into your body. The more colorful of a selection of fruits and veggies you juice, the better. Adding two or three cloves of garlic is a great way to keep sickness at bay too!

TIP: Always juice on an empty stomach to ensure total vitamin and mineral assimilation. Then do not eat any solid foods for at least 30 minutes after drinking your juice drink.

Juicing is simple and fun, especially when you have such a variety of fresh produce to choose from. We highly recommend every one of all ages take up juicing on a regular basis—you will feel better and have more energy as a result, even if you’re only juicing apples and carrots.

In this video, Alex is putting together an array of fruits and mostly vegetables to juice in the juicer.  ~ Here’s to your health!  ~


                        

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cocoa Named Best Tasting in Ecuador

Ecuador Cocoa Wins Award – El Universo Guayaquil, Ecuador

The Ecuadorian cacao was named best in the world, at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris, France, an event that was held from 19 to 21 October, 2011. in the third edition of the International Cocoa Awards.


Two samples of Ecuador, of the 50 pre-selected worldwide, were honored.

Cocoa Sulagro company, located in Balao, Guayas Province, owned by Vicente Norero, was rated the best for quality floral, and the Farmers Association Catarama, Los Rios, whose president is Hector Ocaña as the best cocoa beans by geographic region.


Also participated in the competition West and Central Africa (13 samples), South America (17 samples), Central America and the Caribbean (13 samples), Southeast Asia and Pacific (7 samples). In South America, Colombia and Brazil were awarded with one sample.

The National Association of Exporters of Cocoa (ANECACAO) was the institution responsible for the selection, preparation and shipment of samples to Paris for the contest.

************************
Cocoa and Your Health

For years we have known about the nutritional properties of cocoa.  Frank has been drinking cocoa with raw bee’s honey for 20-years. Just the other day, Frank was saying how rich tasting the cocoa was here in Ecuador--its really good!

We both agree the cocoa here is quite fresh and full-bodied. Both coffee beans and cocoa are grown in Ecuador. Funny though, both are more expensive to buy here than in North America.

We must have passed by two dozen cocoa farms on the way up from Guayaquil to Cuenca during our busetta (Van) drive. You can see the video here.

There is some cocoa in every chocolate candy bar. But chocolate is not really that good for you.  The scant amount of cocoa in a chocolate bar is so small that you’d have to eat a dozen candy bars to receive the antioxidant properties, and by then it would truly exceed being good for your health, considering all of what else is in a candy bar.

Dark chocolate that is about 75% cocoa does have nutritional properties, however. So for your health, go for the darkest chocolate you can find with no sugar added.

Cocoa Nutrition

Cocoa powder has no cholesterol and is very low sodium and no sugar. Interestingly enough, cocoa is very high in dietary fiber which is a good thing for overall health. Mineral content of cocoa is very high in iron, manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorous, potassium, riboflavin and zinc. 

Cocoa beans contain antioxdents called flavonoids . The antioxidant flavinoids are found in the nonfat portions of the cocoa bean. The flavinoids also reduce the blood's ability to clot, which  reduces the risk of stroke and heart attacks. A cup or two of hot cocoa every day is good for your health!

In the ORAC chart raw cocoa powder is at the top of the antioxidant list with almost four times the amount of antioxidants as Goji Berries.

ORAC scores for the Top 10 Antioxidants Foods (per 100 grams)

1) Raw cocoa powder* 95,500

2) Raw cacao nibs* 62,100

3) Roasted cocoa powder 26,000

4) Organic Goji Berries* 25,300

5) Acai Berries* 18,500

6) Dark Chocolate 13,120

7) Milk Chocolate 6,740

8) Prunes 5,770

9) Raisins 2,830

10) Blueberries 2,400

Source: US department of Agriculture/Journal of American Chemical Society

Where to Buy Cocoa Powder in Cuenca

Not all cocoa powder is the same, however. We have only found one brand here in Cuenca that is sugarless. All the rest have sugar added to the powder. The sugar mixed in with the powder makes the mineral content counterproductive to your health. Supermaxi sells the brand we use called ”Bios Cacao”  Ingredients: 100% Cacao. It costs $5.05 for 500 grams of cocoa powder. Raw Bee’s honey is also sold here in Cuenca at Feria Libre Mercado.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

19 Things Enquiring Minds May or May Not Want to Know about Cuenca

These things that we are reprinting are things that only someone who has lived in Cuenca for years would know, unless someone told you about them. Let us remind you, we are not saying these things—they come from a local Cuencano who emailed them to us. We did fix some misspellings but we left grammar as it was written. The reprint should not be taken as an endorsement of the beliefs or ideas espoused, which are only one person's opinion. 

Number 18 is very interesting and we may have to do a post about this soon. It is true, we have heard that Cuencanos, unless they have been to America, think that all Americans are rich, and then these supposedly rich Americans come to Cuenca and are thought of as dumb gringos for paying the enormous amounts that many target them on, like rents and real estate. 

Dear Angie and Frank:

I'm so glad I came across your blog and your videos about living in my city. I'm a native Cuencano, 39 y/o living in the USA since many years ago. I decided to email you to let you know my opinion and for giving you a few tips you can consider for a better living in Cuenca.

Your list of 43 things about Cuencanos are so good; (click here to see that post). A few of them made me laugh cause I wouldn't imagine a foreigner could see that far hehehe!! However, with the pass of the years Cuenca has not lose its culture even when my fa
mily told me that lately our city is not the peaceful place it used to be anymore.

New people from Colombia, Peru and most of all Guayaquil have arrived to Cuenca since 2005 and most of them are honest and working class people. Thieves from the coast and from our neighbor countries have targeted Cuenca as an easy land for their delinquent lives due to the peaceful atmosphere and the trustworthiness of its residents…

Police Department in Ecuador sucks and people have started to take the justice by their own hands. Several thieves have resulted killed and burned by local residents. Cuenca used to be a place where the biggest crime it could happen was a drunk guy who got robbed or the typical after-party fights among drunk young males. Now Cuenca is not the place it used to be years ago anymore. My sisters don't let their kids (10-13 yo) walk by themselves, not even to the closest grocery store.

1.    If you get robbed in Cuenca, most probability the thieves are not Cuencanos.
2.     For many kids making pee on the street is ok because that's what they saw on their older relatives.
3.    Drunken young people in Cuenca are aggressive no matter the educational level they come from. Usually rich kids are the worse.
4.    Society dislike gay people and that's why they have to flee and request Political Asylum based on sexual orientation in a northern country.
5.    Poor and indigence gay people are targeted in Cuenca by the homophobic system and they usually cannot afford a ticket to USA or Europe or what's worse... they were declined an American visa.
6.    Cuencanos usually don't like people who don't drink alcohol. When they invite a shot of the typical "canelazo" and they are rejected they usually get offended.
7.    A man who doesn’t accept to drink at least one shot is considered arrogant or a "fag".
8.    A man who doesn't like soccer is considered a fag.
9.    A single man who gets 30, if he's not studying college then he's a fag.
10. In Ecuador, Cuencanos are called by the rest of Ecuadorians: "Morlacos". The word “morlacos” refers to a laid back person, close minded, religious, judgmental, an individual who usually come from the countryside and speak with an accent different than the one of a person from a large city.
11. Coastal people dislike people of the Sierra (Andes), they consider we are "dirty Indians", odorous bodies, with an ugly accent and shame for the country.
12. Coastal people get offended when they are taken as "Quitenos" or "Cuencanos" by others.
13. Cuenca believes in a 100% about social class. Light skinned and educated people tend to discriminate to the darked skinned ones. These last ones are usually called "cholos".
14. Cuencanos like staring at other Cuencanos all the time. That's normal there, they love to check up people, the way they dress up, the money they have, the way they look, etc, they are very judgmental people and unfortunately that's what made me to leave my hometown and to come to USA.
15. A lot of Cuencano males are savage and untamed at the road, it seems to be they deliver personal frustrations when they are driving a car. I'm a peaceful person and when I have been driving I have been insulted many times by insignificant things.
16. Many Cuencano men think their brutality on the road proves their masculinity. They like to impress females and they would never let another turn him down.
17. Ecuadorians like cool North American people. Ecuadorians don't like picky and supremacist attitudes. North Americans are not our president's favorite people.
18. I consider Hollywood has also impacted a lot in my country through their movies giving North Americans the reputation of "arrogant and assholes". When I just came to America I got in shock learning that in this beautiful country not all the Americans are arrogant and most of all: not all of them are dumb, rich people as I thought before. USA is much different of what Hollywood movies say.
19. Over all, I can say that Cuenca is the city that most give the welcome to North Americans than any other city of Ecuador.

These are a few of my points of view that I wanted to share with you. I apology for my bad English. I'm glad you feel happy living in my city and my best wishes, blessings for you and your family.

Sincerely,
PPA