March 31, 2012

Best Retirement City in the World: Cuenca Ecuador or...Hutchinson Kansas?? Part 2

Why would one choose Cuenca Ecuador over Hutchinson Kansas?

Here's why we chose Cuenca

Let’s talk about weather…Not only has Frank been a good provider by producing much of the food we eat back in the states, but he actually has a need to play in the dirt on a fairly regular basis.  It’s how he keeps his sanity i.e. balance and gives him a reason to get out of his computer chair. It’s a much needed hobby and a way to provide fresh wholesome food. 

 However, in Hutchinson, he’d be fighting the winter weather – actually more like sleeping through it as far as gardening is concerned—and the summer weather also.  All work and no play makes jack a dull boy, and that’s how he feels in winter and summer extremes.  The allure of being able to play in the dirt all year round is just too hard to resist.  In that sense, what some would consider sterile weather patterns is actually a boon.  That’s a very strong real pull, not some superfluous reason.  Ecuador wins.

And culture…We’ve written before about Ecuadorian family culture.  Family is the second priority in life for us, after God, and while we did have a couple of friends in Hutchinson that have the same values, the rest of the culture does not.  This is not being said to offend anyone, and we apologize if that is the case.  Long time readers know we have a reputation for telling it like it is, and that’s why they keep coming back to this blog.  We still cannot help but feel a feeling of amazement and contentment to be riding on a bus in Cuenca and be surrounded by children, brothers and sisters together with their parents right there on the bus and everywhere we go.  

Many Ecuadorian people on the street smile at us, and one day a family in their Toyota forerunner stopped on the street as we were walking just to shake our hands and welcome us.  In Hutchinson, we’d just be another person to ignore like everyone else.  That is also very real for us and not a superfluous reason.  Ecuador wins.

Cost of living…Cuenca and Hutchinson line up very well on the cost of living issue.  Some things are a bit higher in Hutchinson, but this would be mitigated by the much wider availability of used items at goodwill stores, swap meets, craigslist and online auctions which we used to actually enjoy participating in.  Another hobby that not only pays for itself but provides for abundance on a small budget.  

The allure of having a maid, cook and gardener in Ecuador is a strong pull for some, but we don’t really want or need people waiting on us hand and foot, creating a kind of idleness of spirit, it would take some of the enjoyment out of life. 

The ability to run a micro business in Hutchinson, such as home repair, painting, carpet cleaning, buying and selling used items, sewing, cleaning, etc. in order to supplement your income should not be overlooked.  These would be practically impossible in Ecuador.  This could make all the difference financially speaking for some.  And the lack of availability of large chain stores like Lowe’s, Home depot and Wal-Mart is a sore spot here in Cuenca.  So it looks like a wash on this one between Hutchinson and Ecuador.

Ambiance/environment…There’s no denying it.  Especially the historical district, Cuenca feels like you’re in Disneyland.  If one has an adventuresome spirit, the differences in ambiance can be a welcome change and a medicine for boredom.  If you can laugh at things and remain flexible in your attitude, you can enjoy all that the culture has to offer, something you can’t do looking out of a window of a condo building however.  

In that sense, Hutchinson can seem, well, a bit small and boring.  But again, not terribly so, especially if you enjoy everything else about it, and can keep yourself entertained, especially at the library.  For us, Cuenca wins on this one…

And last but not least...Politics... this is a hot button topic and it's important to say that our position is A-political.  Just like in biology class, we learned of beings that were A-sexual, i.e. reproduced without sex, we reproduce without politics. (joke) We don't care to discuss political parties and argue politics with people. We don't participate in politics.  

Having said that, politics stink to high heaven in the u.s. unless that is, you're within the class of politically correct, highly exalted groups that subsist on benefits from those politics. In that case, politics for you are sweet.   Translation:  politics exalts one group while vilifying another group.  It pits people against one another. 

Politics is what's happening when a seemingly nice person comes to your house and is nice to you, and then they make public statements that they don't agree with you.  You can always tell a political person, they are looking at you through their political spectacles.  Politics creates smoke screens, and smokescreens create confusion.  A confused person always says no--to the truth....that we should be spending our time loving one another. 

In that respect, it's nice to be in Ecuador and away from all the noise.  There has only been one case of attempted political dialog here in Ecuador by Ecuadorians.    It was when myself and another gringo got into a taxi.  The taxi driver asked us if gringos are a proud people and if we were pro current administration.  I proceeded to adamantly explain that we don't get involved in politics.  We say no to politics. 

Please, if you are trying to be our friend, leave your politics at home.  Just say no to politics.   Here  in Ecuador at least, we're not surrounded by all the noise, that is, as long as we don't turn on yahoo news.

Well, that sums up our main reasons we appreciate Cuenca Ecuador over Hutchinson Kansas.   We could say more but we’ve said enough about us…what about you?  What would make you choose one or the other?  Cuenca Ecuador or Hutchinson Kansas?  Would you give Hutchinson Kansas any serious thought?  Let us know what you think.  And thank you to all of you that have purchased the Do It Yourself (DIY) Cuenca Landing Guide.  Thank you for your support…

To see part 1 of this article click here

March 29, 2012

Best Retirement City in the World: Cuenca Ecuador or...Hutchinson Kansas??

Yes, Hutchinson Kansas.  Why?  Before you click away from this article consider that we know of retirees in their 70s that live well on less than $1000 a month in Hutchinson Kansas.  We know this because they are long time friends.  We have personally spent time in Hutchinson Kansas so we know the city personally.  And finally, we considered moving to Hutchinson Kansas before coming to Cuenca Ecuador, so we investigated a lot of the important things people want to know before moving to a new place.

There are many North American Cities that would make for great retirement. We are not singling out Hutchinson for any particular reason except for the fact we have personal knowledge of and believe it would make for a low cost, low stress, peaceful retirement.  It would be one of our cities of choice to retire in if we had stayed in North America.

22 reasons why we might have chosen Hutchinson over Cuenca:

1. Hutchinson is flat, so it’s easy to ride a bike.  Even a three wheeled one.  Traffic is manageable.
2. Our 70 year old friends ride a “recumbent” bike.  It’s easy on his back. No car expenses.
3. Downtown is easy, you can walk to:  American style coffee shops, (with good coffee, ahem) small stores, grocery stores, familiar franchise restaurants such as Taco Bell and also buffet restaurants, even Mexican restaurants.  And yes, even the goodwill stores are well stocked, for low cost living. Do I need to say it?  Don’t need to worry about gas prices.
4. Organic stores are common with E Z access to all our favorite natural foods.
5. If you don’t want to pay for internet, there’s a very large library, within walking distance, and the books are all in English.    
6. Utility costs are low compared to many areas, we know, we called them and asked their rates.  Free wood for your wood stove from branches falling off trees at each snowfall. 
7. The downtown actually has benches on the intersections and corners in case you get tired of walking and no drunks to bother you while sitting.
8. Everybody speaks English.  You can make jokes and people laugh.
9. Large chains like Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowe’s.  (Guys, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone-wink)
10. Extremely low crime rates.  Violent crimes very rare or unheard of most years.  Can walk alone on the streets without worry.  Safe even at night.
11. Family oriented, farming communities outside the main city center provide access to low cost farming staples, such as wheat, corn, gourmet goat cheese, raw honey, etc.
12. Low rents, average $400-$700 a month, and this is for large new or older houses, 3-4 bedrooms with yards etc.  Lower prices from $300-$500 for smaller houses.  Single apartments from $250, that’s not a typo.  You can spend more if you want to and get luxurious American standards.
13. Owning a home in the center is easy, usually under $50,000 for an older home with charm; some fixers for less than $30,000; median brand new homes at $85,000.  Lower prices means, aha, lower property taxes.
14. No smog. 
15. Four seasons.  Some people prefer seasons to bland and boring 365 days of the exact same weather day in and day out. Can grow different types of vegetables depending on season.
16. It’s easy to shop, because all the packages are in English!!! And if you need help, guess what, English is no problem.
17. Easy to blend in.  You will not be profiled, or assumed to be rich and therefore overcharged because you’re a North American.  No real estate bubble.
18. North American Disability access etc.
19. Peace and quiet.  No noise pollution like in Cuenca, even in the city center.
20. You can buy your favorite stuff off Ebay, craigslist or online auctions without worrying about excessive shipping costs, customs duties, etc.
21. Your family can visit you whenever they want, and even move there without concern over immigration requirements.
22. No dadgum almuerzo hour, you can still get stuff done between 1pm-3pm.

The city of downtown Hutchinson is pleasant and practical, trying to be artsy, in a small town way and is quaint and even charming.  It is clean and feels very safe.

Would you like to live there?

Things to Do 

Hutchinson boasts a nice mall, and movie theater.  There is also a Dillion Nature Center; and a very neat park called Carey Park and a pretty good-sized zoo. The downtown shopping district has a nice feel. Hutchinson has some nice parades and festivals and of course the state fair.

The city keeps the downtown area very clean and there are benches and tables all over the city center for sitting and enjoying the outdoors, weather permitting. Hutchinson is geared for retirees and walking around and enjoying a leisurely pace of life. For families with children, the city of Hutchinson has two community colleges and there are several more Universities within driving distance of Hutchinson in the cities of Wichita and Kansas State University.

Hutchinson has a 40,000 population but still boasts all of the above stores and franchises. It’s a clean city, with nice folks, organic food, low rents and real estate prices. 

It probably won’t ever make the retirement press but we think that’s actually a plus, so if you are thinking of an E Z retirement to a low cost, low stress peaceful lifestyle, why not consider North America.   We recommend you consider taking a look and do your own due diligent research about the practical and peaceful city of Hutchinson, Kansas.

So why didn’t we go there?  Read part 2 and find out!

March 27, 2012

Two Musical Guys in Pollo Restaurant in Cuenca Ecuador

When living in Ecuador you never know what to expect. On this day, while eating in a a pollo (chicken) restaurant, two guys with their musical instruments began playing a couple of traditional songs. It is customary to give them a little monetary donation for the entertainment.


March 26, 2012

San Vicente Ecuador -- Hotel Vacaciones

A short video on one of the hotels in San Vicente, Ecuador. This is one of the hotels we looked at which is across from the river estuary which separates Bahia de Caraquez and San Vicente.


March 25, 2012

Answering Readers Concerns, about Living 10 Minutes by Taxi, from Downtown Cuenca (Part 3)

Comment from a reader: Then there's the language issue. If one can't or won't learn to speak Spanish, perhaps finding the gringo-bubble area makes more sense from a safety and convenience standpoint.

Frank and Angie answer: That’s the whole point of what we talk about on the Discover Cuenca Blog. You call it the gringo–bubble area but the gringo-bubble thing is why there is gringo targeting; gringo inflation; and gringo resentment in Cuenca Ecuador.  

If you ask us, the gringo-bubble needs to get popped and the new set of gringos coming here if they will, should find a nice home or apartment to rent for $300 or less, if they will, they need to say no to being over-priced when they know what the actual price is, if they will, they should patronize the Ecuadorian run shops, stores and restaurants, and, if they will, they should learn the language and enjoy being a new part of the Ecuadorian culture, if they will…of course we can’t tell anyone how to live or what to do.

Now we hope that most of our readers are willing to do that; you just have to stick to your guns or else everywhere else in Cuenca will get expensive too. We are now seeing a lot of ads from locals needing a place to live for their family at the $180 to $250 Ecuadorian price, and sadly they can’t find any!!!! 

On another note, not knowing the language makes you more vulnerable to over-paying, to getting robbed, to not making any local friends, to gringo targeting and gringo isolation which leads to more gringo inflation. Now is that any way to live happy, frugal, healthy, and free?

That’s the whole niche of this blog isn’t it?  If gringos want to move to a foreign country, pay U.S. prices, not learn the language, trip over themselves and outbid each other on everything especially property, and be part of or the cause of a gringo bubble, well then, guess who’s going to get hurt when the bubble pops? 

There is a saying in the alcoholism community:  you can’t become an alcoholic if you don’t drink.  Likewise, we say:  you can’t get hurt in a gringo bubble if you don’t participate.  We’re here to be an example to those that decide not to participate.  After all, we’re certainly not asking those very same people to come out and engage in those very same behaviors in the rest of the city and simply expand that bubble, which by default creates the very dangerous and inconvenient for the rest of us, perception, that all gringos are rich and stupid.  By the way, we didn’t say rich and stupid first, the locals did.

March 24, 2012

Answering Readers Concerns, about Living 10 Minutes by Taxi, from Downtown Cuenca (Part 2)

This is part 2 of answering readers concerns...

Comment from a reader: Your family has the benefit of four men, all of whom are younger than most expat retirees, and all look to be in terrific shape. Your family wouldn't be a target for problems in most cities in the world. Many retirees do not have this advantage.

Discover Cuenca Blog Answer: You’re right; we are blessed to have our three sons with us right now. We do not recommend women to move to Ecuador alone, no matter what age. Frank and I are not young; we’re older than most people think; and we walk all over the place without our three sons, take the bus to other cities and we just traveled by buses to the central coast of Ecuador without our young men (sons) with us!

Expats get taken advantage of for six basic reasons.

*They are older and cannot run after a thief
*They have a disability or age related physical condition that prevents them from defending themselves
*They flash their valuables, whether it is money, jewelry, wallets, cell phones, etc;
*They’re intoxicated and can’t defend or run after thief
* They are walking alone
* Too trusting -- (Lots of times people are robbed by people they know and confided in)

Most of the time, Frank and I walk all over in Cuenca Ecuador without our sons. The reason why nothing terrible has happened to us is because we take all of the precautions that are necessary to protect ourselves, whatever those might be according to our circumstances at the time. Please see our blog posts on safety in Ecuador.  Also we do not go out at night, especially if it is just the two of us.

We’re getting older, and our sons, obviously are not going to be with us forever; eventually they will have their own families; even so, we would not move downtown Cuenca because there is nothing beneficial downtown that cannot be found 10 or 15 minutes from the downtown area. In fact, there is more petty crime to expats downtown then elsewhere in Cuenca, and that is a fact! Downtown is smoggy and loud too! It's fine to visit but not live.

Living downtown does not make you safer from crime; most of the crime in Cuenca is not when you are in your home, but when you leave it. The truth of the matter is because of the high presence of expats in the downtown area that is also where the thieves hang out because that is where the money and valuables are, right? An expat is less apt to get mugged or attacked by a thief if he or she is walking along Avenida de las Americas than Calle Larga!! 
Comment from a Reader: to live away from the city center would mean for them a certain amount of isolation as what is to you a 15 to 20-minute walk into town would be an hour for them, if they could make it. So, they would always have to take a taxi into and out of the center. The farther out one lives, the more expensive the taxi ride. And to stick to a budget, they might become more housebound than they would like.

Discover Cuenca Blog Answer: Not sure what you mean by isolation? Do you mean from other expats?  Once you get outside of the 2 by 2 mile colonial section of downtown, it is not countryside with only a few homes scattered here or there; there are mom and pop shops, hospitals, big grocery stores, hardware stores, grocery marts, malls, bakeries,  parks, clothing stores, huge Mercado, dental offices, doctors clinics, 24 hour emergency clinics, Italian, Mexican, Ecuadorian and Chinese restaurants, lots of pharmacies, health food stores, movie theatres, home remolding stores, furniture stores and more just about anywhere you are in Cuenca! 

There is no isolation from shopping, restaurants, malls, doctors and hospitals. On the contrary, if you live in the two mile by two mile downtown radius where most expats move to, you will have to take a taxi or a bus to go to the Supermaxi and Coral grocery stores, the major hospital, major hardware stores, biggest Mercado in Cuenca, Mall Del Rio, and some of the better furniture stores. 

The one and only thing you will not see as many of when you live outside the 2 by 2 mile colonial section is gringos, unless you live in condo alley in gringolandia, but now is that such a bad thing? 

Here is all three parts to this series where we answer readers questions:

Answering Readers Concerns about Living 10 Minutes by Taxi, from Downtown Cuenca--part 1 
Answering Readers Concerns about Living 10 Minutes by Taxi, from Downtown Cuenca--part 2

Answering Readers Concerns about Living 10 minutes by Taxi, from Downtown Cuenca--part 3

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