MENU

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chipipe Beach -- Another Glimpse of Salinas

Frank and I did a lot of walking around when we visited Salinas. Walking around and seeing things up close gives us a good idea of an area.  In this video we walked the back roads to another small area of Salinas called Chipipe. This small community has some homes, condos and apartments; the beach was big and wide and a lot less busy compared to the main beach of Salinas.

                  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cajas National Park - Cooking the Fish We Caught!

This is our last video of our day hike in the Cajas Mountains. Cajas National Park is not to be missed. There are lots of walking and hiking trails within the mountains for every level of hiking. The beauty is breath taking. Photos do not do it justice. Below the mountains there is a restaurant and several artisan vendors for the tourists enjoyment. We hope you enjoyed this five part series on the Cajas national Park.


                   

Sunday, July 29, 2012

In Ecuador You Can Ask For a Discount…


In Ecuador You Can Ask For a Discount…
…and nine times out of ten, receive it! Isn’t that cool? Ecuadorians like it when you bargain with them; not only will it show them that you are not a "rich gringo", or at least do not want to be labeled as such, but it lets them see you being humble about not wanting to be gringoed!  It really is “ok” to not accept gringo inflated prices, especially if you live here. 
Next time you go to that same vendor she or he will remember you and you’ll most likely not get the higher price quoted to you again. We’re writing a free negotiation ebook right now that we think our readers will find extremely helpful for when they arrive in Ecuador.
Whether you are on an extended visit or are moving here to Cuenca, don’t forget to negotiate the prices of food, rents, shopping, etc; it will save you mucho dollars in the long run. Stay tuned for more from the "In Ecuador You Can" Series.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Buying Real Estate in Cuenca Ecuador? Read This First


Ecuador has been referred to as one of the lower priced retirement havens on Earth.  So then, why does it appear that a lot of people that are moving here are overqualified?  Judging by what we’re seeing there’s a lot of people coming to Cuenca Ecuador that could easily be going to a lot of other places, why go to the least expensive retirement haven on the sales pitch of the retirement press?  Well duh, it’s cheaper, I hear you saying. Or is it?  Please follow me on this.

The very first real estate book I ever read (are we talking about real estate again?) was William Nickerson’s “How I turned $1000 into a million in three years” and if memory serves me right, it came out in the fifties.  That was a long time ago, so forgive me if I don’t remember correctly, but it seems that back then in the book he spoke of income to real estate ratios, and I think it was 25%.  That is, if someone was making $25,000 a year they could theoretically afford a $100,000 house.  Those figures changed through the decades and the amount of indebtedness that North American families took responsibility for.  

Eventually people took on more and more debt and the amount of house they could buy was only three times their incomes.  Research shows that the historical average median affordability number for the U.S. has been 2.7 times income as an average. i.e. multiply household yearly income by 2.7 and that’s the maximum affordability ratio under safe lending practices. This is just a median figure, so Donald Trump types don’t fit into this equation.  This was before all the recent banking scandals of course, where people that really couldn’t afford the housing were put into brand new super expensive housing with practically no money of their own.  The affordability ratios were quite skewed to the upside during that period.

Relating this information to Cuenca Ecuador, my son was on a Cuenca Ecuador newspaper yesterday, looking through the jobs section.  He tells me there are job offers for Ecuadorians with accounting degrees starting at $1000 a month.  Some of the higher paying jobs were for $1500 a month.  This is obviously the higher end of the pay scales for the well educated folks.

If you wanted to assume two higher income earners, let’s say $2500 a month family income, I don’t think you could call that “median income” here in Ecuador.  My guess is it would be the higher end of the earning population.  A local told us that a doctor’s salary here in Cuenca is $2000 a month. So let’s just play along with this for a moment:  $2500 a month is $30,000 a year multiplied by 2.7 = $81,000.

That’s the maximum that the higher earning families would be spending on housing according to this example.   Remember folks, that’s the maximum affordability for the higher income earning households here in Cuenca.  This article does not even begin to address the “median” income earning households, although we have written some such figures previously on this blog.  Too, professionals such as doctors and accountants aren’t going to live in mediocre housing, so I have to believe that you can get a pretty nice house for that.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from a reader asking for contacts to see houses up to $150,000.   He had never set foot in Cuenca Ecuador before.  I hope you’re starting to see a picture here.

Can anyone spell, BUBBLE?  It looks like this, G-R-I-N-G-O.  This article is in no way intended to offend or degrade.  It is meant to inform, and if just a few gringos avoid getting stuck into real estate they can’t later sell to a greater fool, then I’ve done my job.  Oh, I realize that some that get in early enough may make some money off their real estate when they sell.  But that’s speculation.  Are you a seasoned speculator?  Or are you just gambling?

Remember when we were in Salinas and we were asking the (gringo) real estate agent to show us the beachfront penthouse condo?  Well guess what, she was also touting (because we did not ask to see…) a few “other” used condos owned by gringos that needed to get out of their high priced real estate.  You gotta love these gringos.

On another note...
our latest updated version of our DIY Cuenca LandingGuide has just been published.  And we go into more detail about the Cuenca real estate market in the book! Previous buyers will get the separate updates sent to their email.  Avail yourself of the latest information on how to save money and go local in Cuenca Ecuador.  Hasta luego.





Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cajas National Park - Let's Go Fishing! (Part 4)

In this segment of our hike to Cajas National Park we went to a fish hatchery down the mountain a ways.  Everyone had their heart set on having grilled fish for dinner so about four people in our group went fishing and altogether they caught 14 trout.


              

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hiking Cajas Mountains (Part 3)

We made it to the Cajas Lake! It was an exhilarating hike and so very beautiful. I believe we were at an altitude of around 14,000 feet by the time we got to the lake. It was nice to make it to the lake and rest for a while and enjoy the fresh, crisp air with our friends and family before we trekked back down the mountain, which by the way only took like 30 minutes and was so much easier. We then had a picnic and our friends made a traditional Ecuadorian hot drink called morocho de leche (milk, tapioca and corn) and it was delicious and warmed us right up. It was chilly up there!

                           


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In Ecuador You Can Jay Walk…

In Ecuador you can jay walk...
…all you want and no one cares. It may not seem like a big deal if you don’t do a lot of walking, but if you walk a lot taking a quicker way by crossing the street where there is no crosswalk saves valuable time, especially if you’re in a hurry for something. Be careful though because in Ecuador pedestrians do not have the right of way. The traffic here in Cuenca is hurried, noisy, and busy.
It may seem odd that pedestrians do not have the right of way here but it is just the way this country is. You’ll just have to see this for yourself when you get here. The other day on our way to a meeting up with some expat Christian missionaries from Belgium the wife would keep walking right out in front of traffic downtown! At one point I had to grab her and pull her back from the traffic. She truly thought they were going to stop for her, even though she was crossing at a crosswalk. Apparently it is acceptable to walk out in traffic in Europe where there are white pedestrian stripes in the asphalt.
If the lights green at a crosswalk it would seem it would be ok to walk, right? Nope. Oncoming traffic that is turning will honk their horn to let you know, “don’t walk, I’m turning”. So when walking in Ecuador, be watchful and listen for those beeping horns.
Funny thing is though, we see less fender benders and car accidents in Ecuador than we did in North America. This could be because Ecuadorians must participate in a six week driving school before they can get their license, and most of the drivers, even though they speed at times, and seem in a big hurry, are actually good drivers. Ecuadorians have fast reflexes, which is needed here when everyone kind of drives all over the road.
And that’s another thing, people drive in both lanes at one time; yep, the traffic seems to be pretty chaotic here but it is actually organized, or should we say, organized in its own fashion. 
We’ll talk about this more in another “In Ecuador You Can…” series.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cajas National Park - Hiking to the Cajas Lake!


The hike to Cajas Lake in Cajas National Park was exhilarating! We had a great time encouraging one another to make it to the top. The views are stunning.In this video we did make it to the top where the Cajas lake is.
                          
                                    

Once at the lake it was even more stunning. Cajas Park and its many hiking / walking trails are a must see. we highly recommend. 


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cajas National Park - Hiking up the Mountain (Part 1)

What can we say, Cajas National Park is stunning. A few weeks ago we went with some of our friends and we had a blast! It's a pretty good climb to the top; it is not an easy hike but more of an intermediate hike even for the younger generation. In some areas you really need to be careful because there are a few drop offs. Once at the top you can take in the beauty of the Cajas lake and hike around some of the huge rock formations that line the mountain tops. Cajas has lots of natural springs, waterfalls, and even caverns. Cajas Park is about an hour out of Cuenca. This is part 1 of 4 of our trip to Cajas.


                     

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Salinas Ocean Front Rental for $1K

When we were in Salinas we checked out some ocean front condo rentals to see what there was to offer for the fugal-minded budget. Even during off season the rents seemed to be a bit on the high side.  Salinas, if you're on a budget, or if you want to live frugally is not a place you will want to live permanently. Salinas may be real nice on the Malecon but it is very touristy and the prices for rentals reflect that.  Salinas Malecon area (beach) is geared to the tourist who wants to spend $20 on a lobster tail or $12 on a pasta dish and $500 a week on a furnished condo..

Once you walk away from the Malecon and beach area, Salinas is nothing special...there are very few good restaurants, markets, grocery stores, etc...oh, there is one small grocery store in Salinas a street back from the Malecon but there's not much there. you have to take a bus or taxi to La Libertad for the Paseo shopping Mall. Cuenca has much more to offer as far as good rentals, restaurants, fresh fruits and veggies, and shopping! We'll be talking more about Salinas in an upcoming video.

              

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cuenca Expat Woman Stabbed by Three Men on Popular Walking Trail


Remember in past articles we talk about how women should not be walking around Cuenca alone? This is the second attack on a woman in Cuenca in the past two weeks, that we've heard of who happened to be walking alone. The first attack was an Ecuadorian woman who was assaulted by four men with a knife who cut up her face, badly marring her. 

This second attack happened just a few days ago, at 10am, on a popular walking / jogging trail that we frequently walk on as a family, near the Mall Del Rio. Here is one of our videos walking along this trail where the attack occurred.
It is in an area of nice homes, family restaurants and shops. When you look at your surroundings you think, “Oh, well this looks like a nice area for me to walk by myself”, nothing will happen to me”? But stuff happens here in Cuenca and women alone are frequently the targets of robbery and crime. We talk extensively about crime and how to protect yourself i.e. avoid trouble, in the DIYCuencaLandingGuide.
We know people that jog this trail along the Yanuncay River and know exactly where this spot is where the woman was attacked. They say that every day between 7am and 8am there are about 30 expats taking yoga classes in a grassy area by the river. We’re telling you this to let you know that, just because it looks like a nice area and there are people around, does not mean nothing is going to happen.

We have been told by locals on numerous occasions to watch ourselves along the river trails, especially at night, and here’s why. The article mentions the noise of the river, but not only that, but the river bank has hiding spots behind trees and big rocks, below the embankment and under the overpasses and bridges that line the trails. It is VERY easy for a bad guy to attack you from behind and rob you…and they usually have knives.

North Americans are culturally possessed to think of a river area as a desirable location, but here in Ecuador, it's where the crime statistics seem to emanate from.

Luckily the woman survived the attack. Here’s the post from Latin American News.
Cuenca Ecuador: U.S expatriate female attacked by three men, stabbed 
Posted on July 17, 2012 • Filed under: Crime, Ecuador, TRAVEL Source: Latin America News
On July 16th, 2012, a female U.S. expatriate living in Cuenca, Ecuador was attacked and stabbed by three men. According to the report taken from a social network the female was walking on the outer path of the Yanuncay River on Primero de Mayo in Cuenca when she was assaulted. She fought against the attackers when she was stabbed. The victim was treated and required more than ten stitches at the St. Inez medical facility.
The post indicated while this area is beautiful and inviting that the outer path which is along the river can attract criminals in part due to the noise of the river. The inner path closest to Primero de Mayo may be a better choice for a walk.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

ETAPA Internet Update 2 - We’re Back Online, For Now!

For those of you who are new to the blog and reading, here is a recap of what has been happening with our ETAPA Internet Service.
The Internet went out on us on Friday morning at around 11am. We decided to personally file the report at the ETAPA office, instead of calling, due to our prior experience of failure in using the phone with Etapa.
At our previous internet failures, it took two weeks to resove the problem. It appeared to be a failure to answer the phone on the part of the offices that we were calling. Any way, after showing up at their office a Technician came out the next day and thought he fixed it with a new line to the modem, but it was not fixed. Unfortunately, he left quickly and so we waited another day for ETAPA to come out.
We were without Internet service, with ETAPA, from Friday Morning on July 13, 2012 to the Wednesday on the 18th in evening at 5:30pm. We since have bought a Claro rechargeable stick, which charges by the MB’s and is quite expensive, but when you have a busy blog with many readers writing in it works for answering email questions, support, and posting.
Five Days without ETAPA Internet Service
Many of you probably want to know what the problem was that took five days to fix. The problem was found within an hour and fixed in 20 minutes. It took five days to have someone come out to the house to fix it. Unfortunately the Internet went down on a Friday and Etapa does not service over weekends. The first time they came out they didn’t fix anything…all this took five and a half days.
Main Cable to the House Faulty
After about an hour of making all their little tests and checks they do to isolate the problem, it ended up being the main line from the telephone pole outside our house that goes into our house, that is located behind the cement wall inside the house. Big job!  In fact, it was going to be such a big job for them they just jury rigged a line from the modem box to the outside pole, rather than breaking up the cement in our house wall. Here is some photos of what they did. 
They led the cable from the modem box along the side of the wall on top of the floor trim and out the living room window, then tied the cable around a re-bar on the roof and...

...from the roof to the pole outside our house. It took all of 20 minutes to complete. It looks a little funky but we have Internet now.
Internet Speed Really Bad for Awhile
We didn’t post about this but we had been having REALLY slow Internet for some time and now we know why; not only that, but in June for about two weeks the Internet would go out and stay out in the evenings for hours at a time. Now we know it was the main cable line that was just about ready to give out any day. We thought that perhaps ETAPA was just getting bogged down with too many customers to service…it still might be part of the problem too.
Anyway, over the course of several months our ETAPA Internet had been giving us serious problems. First it would go out in the evening and not come back on until the next day, so we installed a brand new modem, then it went out completely and we installed a brand new line to the modem and now we have a brand new main cable leading into the house from the telephone pole outside. We hope now with everything brand new we will not have any Internet issues, at least for awhile.
The Internet seems to be working fine now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In Ecuador You Can Go In Front of the Line at Banking...


In Ecuador you can go in front of the line at banking...

…establishments, and even at ETAPA Internet, if you are an older man over the age of 60, have a handicap, or if you are a woman with a small child. Now this may not mean much to you if you’ve never stood in an Ecuadorian bank or Internet line before. But waiting to make a bank deposit or waiting to pay an Internet bill in Ecuador can take 30 minutes or longer.  

Why the long wait? The crowds are huge here! It doesn’t matter what bank you go to, they are all busy all day. If you’re lucky there may be a lull between 1:30pm to 3pm, which is Ecuadorian dinner time. But then again that may backfire since there are less tellers at that time because their all out to lunch too.

If you happen to be on a schedule it is always a good idea to get to the bank or other government establishment early because, who knows, you may wait in line up to an hour, or longer!  Unless of course, you happen to be an older man over the age of 60, a woman with a small child, or have a handicap.   

Some establishments have a sign stating this policy, but many do not.  When we were new, and were waiting in large lines, we would notice people that appeared to be cutting in front of everyone.  We tried and successfully were able to profile them, apparently those who were cutting in line were pregnant women, or women holding small children, and older citizens.  However, it wasn’t easy as we weren’t completely sure.  Then we happened on an institution with an explanatory sign.

It is apparent to us that this policy is well established within the culture.  The respect of the elderly and pregnant women appears to be ingrained within the society.  And this is a good thing.  It would be the equivalent in North America to letting the handicapped park in front of the parking lot without there being any signs under penalty of law compelling anyone to do so.

Understand, we’re not saying there aren’t any similar law here.  We don’t know.  But if there are, the fact remains that there is not always a stick being waived for compliance.  And this is because people simply respect the respectable.  And that’s the kind of neighborhood we like to live in…

So does this apply to gringos too? Well, why not? 

Stay Tuned for more from “In Ecuador You Can” Series.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

ETAPA Internet Update July 2012


Remember yesterday we told you that the ETAPA service technician said he’d be out in the morning to let us know what is wrong with our connection? Ok, he did show up and the problem was with the phone line that connects to the modem box. The tech gave us a new line and he left, problem solved…so we thought. 

We thought, “Great, the Internet is back, now we can get back to work”. I began uploading a new video to You Tube when in the middle of the upload the Internet went back out again, so it is not the Internet line; it has to be something else. The problem was solved for about an hour.

We called ETAPA again and the lady on the phone said someone would be out Friday to see what the problem is. Friday! But this is only Tuesday; what are we supposed to do until then? After four days of not being able to get on the Internet it tends to get a little bit frustrating and patience runs a bit thin.

We are asked all the time “how is the Internet in Ecuador”, well, there are problems with it at certain times. If you make a living online, we suggest move somewhere else; Our experience dictates we are not able to recommend Ecuador; the Internet is not reliable enough for us to encourage such a move for anyone that has to have good internet all the time. 

Over the last thirteen months we have had major issues with the connection on four different occasions, where we don’t have Internet for days, sometimes weeks at a time. Today is the fourth day with no Internet for us. Sometimes, mostly in the mornings, we can stream videos, but by afternoon and evening, forget about it.  It isn’t going to happen with ETAPA. We have heard mixed reviews about CABLETV Internet of Ecuador. Some have said it is better than ETAPA, some have said it is terrible Internet.

At the moment we happen to be using a CLARO wireless rechargeable stick, which we use for emergencies such as this. Down time is not going to get us down. We’re back up on the Internet even though our primary Internet happens to be out of operation. A guy from ETAPA supposed to be coming out again tomorrow…we’ll see.

We’re not giving up hope.  After all this, our idea is to order a second internet company.  That is, have two internet companies providing service to our house.   First we’ll have to see if they will install a second internet in the same house.  We will keep you posted on how that turns out for us. 


Monday, July 16, 2012

Just the Usual Internet (ETAPA) in Cuenca Ecuador

Some of you may have noticed that we have not posted in three days! Well, wouldn't you know it, since Friday morning we have been having Internet issues again. We can't connect to the Internet! We we're able to get on a do a little work on Friday morning but the Internet has been out since that time.

We are in Mall Del Rio right now using the wifi at a restaurant. We went to ETAPA today (they do not answer the phone much) and the nice lady behind the desk said the technician would be out today. The technician called and said he won't be out until tomorrow to service our connection. I guess we'll just have to wait and see if he comes out on Tuesday like he said. We'll let you know.

Oops, Did We Speak Too Soon...

It was just a few weeks ago that Frank commented on this blog on our update about ETAPA about the Internet being improved. But we have not had Internet now going on four days! Did we speak too soon! Here is what he said about our Internet on July 4, 2012 just a few days after we didn't have Internet in the evenings AGAIN for a week!

The service is much improved over what it was. It still goes out a couple of times a day for a minute or two but we don't notice it as much. Over the last few months it seems to be working "better", however, for those that need streaming internet for business it still would be a disappointment because it does also have slow periods during peak times. (this affects streaming such as voip or video)We've only had one major problem since posting the original ones. The internet was again acting the same way as originally reported. We were calling ETAPA several times a day and they only answered the phone once out of say ten calls. How do you like that? A business that doesn't answer the phone. When they answered, they would put us off or disconnect us, huh? A guy came out after a few days, looked at it and didn't do anything. Well long story short we decided to personally show up at their offices and talk to the head engineer. The sent the guy out immediately and replaced the modem. All of this took two weeks to transpire, during which we had internet for only half a day out of each day. The service is back to "normal" now. 

Or, is it? 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tour of Anconcito with Jose Vargas

On the bus ride from Salinas to Anconcito we met with a young fellow who was very interested in telling us about his city. He let us know that he wants to have more tourism in Anconcito. He offered to give us a tour around Anconcito and we spent the whole day walking around to different areas of the beach. Afterwards, we were invited to eat lunch (Almuerzo) at Jose's home; this will be another video coming up!  Scroll down below the video to see more of Anconcito!

             

  Almuerzo Lunch with Jose Vargas of Anconcito Ecuador

Thursday, July 12, 2012

In Ecuador You Can Paint Your Home Pink



paint your home pink or purple if you want! No one cares, not even your Ecuadorian next door neighbor cares if you paint your house purple or pink. You know why? It’s not that important to complain about. And even if they did complain, Ecuadorian authorities would probably just smile at you for being so silly.
A pink house in your Cuenca neighborhood is not going to reduce the value of the casas next to it because, well, numerous homes in Ecuador are painted pink. There are bright pink homes, just pink, salmon pink, purple pink, and well…you’ll just have to see for yourself when you get here. However, I don’t believe there are as many pink homes in Latin America as there are in the Caribbean.
If you’re the type of person who likes to go to the county to complain about your neighbor’s house color and yard, you better think twice about moving here. It’s not that the grass isn’t green, if you’ve been reading this blog long enough you know there’s plenty of rain to keep it green year round, and it grows well too. It’s not that Ecuadorians don’t mow their lawn because they do; in many cases they just have their next door neighbor’s sheep or cows come over for the day and eat out of their yard until they feel the grass is short enough. The grass may not be even in all places, like you see in the U.S, but no one cares. “What’s the big deal”, they will say with a shoulder shrug if you told them their pink house is offensive.
In the land of the free and home of the brave if you paint your house a pink or purple color, or you have an old car up on blocks for days in your driveway, your next door neighbor will more than likely complain about it and then big brother building color codes and yard maintenance will come over to your house and tell you to repaint your house to a more comforting color or remove the car just for your neighbor. The more “efficient” counties will just send you a letter threatening to have it done for you and then attach you with the bill.  
It doesn’t matter that you think you own your own home and happen to like your house to be pink with purple shutters or that you don’t have the money for the new radiator this month.
Did I say, “Land of the free”?
In England a couple is ordered by authorities to repaint their pink house white and they are appealing.  The neighbors are calling their pink house tacky and offensive. The couple feels they should be allowed to choose the color of their home; after all, it’s their home. Or so they think. What do you think?
In the U.S there are numerous cases of neighbors squabbling with one another over house color. In many communities in North America there are house color codes that dictate what color you can paint your home, and I doubt pink is one of those colors. They even have color codes for inside paint jobs as well. So now, who owns your home?
Well, we thought we’d better let you know, if you plan on living in the city of Cuenca Ecuador don’t be surprised if your next door neighbor paints his home a pink shade  because this color is actually very popular here in Cuenca. The one in the photo above is just pink.  
There’s a bunch of other things you can do in Ecuador, but we better leave that until next time…

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Small Town Beaches in Ecuador

The smaller beach towns in Ecuador, what we have seen so far, have pretty beaches and some are pristine but they have very small sand areas at certain times of the day.  Even in Salinas when the tide comes in there is only about 10-feet of sand along the coast line. We also talk a little bit about beach cleanliness in these smaller beach towns. Ballenita by far was the cleanest beach we've seen so far on the Ecuador coast line, and for the very reason Frank describes in this video.


          

Monday, July 9, 2012

Ballenita Beach - Day 2

This was the second time we checked out the beach in Ballenita. We looked all over for a hostel and only found one. It didn't have an ocean view so we didn't stay there. Coming up next we talk about three of the small coastal beach villages in Ecuador; Ballenita, San Clemente, and Crucita.


               

Saturday, July 7, 2012

260K Penthouse Suite in Salinas: Would You Buy This Apartment?

Salinas, at least on the beach is VERY touristy. Prices have skyrocketed in the last two years. Restaurants along the Malecon are expensive! Condos are expensive! We'll be talking more about Salinas rentals and what you get for the money in an upcoming post and video. The problem we see with Salinas is once you walk one or two streets back from the Malecon it is quite shabby looking and lots of garbage and there's nothing there. However, in La Libertad there is a shopping mall.  
This video is of a 260K penthouse suite that we checked out for the fun of it, which Frank and I both thought was nothing special when considering the price tag. According to our rule of 3 and 4 this condo is waaaaay overpriced for Ecuador!


             

Friday, July 6, 2012

One Year in Cuenca, What Has Changed


One year ago we arrived in Cuenca. It is almost hard to believe that we have lived in Cuenca for a year now. It seems like we only arrived three months ago. It has been a great year working on the language and integrating ourselves into the Ecuadorian culture.  We have made some wonderful friendships within the community. And since living here we have noticed a few changes about Cuenca that we're going to talk about.
Higher Food Prices
Some food prices are higher! In just the one year we have lived here we have noticed higher prices on many food items. An example is: when we first got here you could buy a five pound bag of onions for $2, well, gone is the day for $2 bag of purple onions; try $4 a bag now! The price has doubled. So what has happened? More and more people are paying the “whatever price” they quote, that’s what happened. Do we pay that? No way…more on that in our up and coming bargaining ebook.
It’s not just North Americans raising the prices either. Wealthier Ecuadorians are coming home to Cuenca and after living in New York City for ten or twenty years, coming home to a five pound bag of purple onions for $4 is refreshing, indeed.
Two Rental Markets: Only One Keeps Going Up!
Rentals that are targeted to gringos have gone up and they continue to go up. Thank goodness we stay away from the over-priced gringo gouging rentals and real estate. The good news is rentals in Cuenca in the $200 to $300 price range, still come up all the time. We know because we see them listed in the resources we list in the DIY Cuenca Guide, and from people we know in the local Ecuadorian circles.
We’ll do a bit of footwork for you today…in just one of the resources we list in the Cuenca guide (I noticed it a few days ago) there is a big 4 bedroom 3 bath villa for rent for $300 in a good Ecuadorian neighborhood…was listed on July 2, 2012. Better hurry, it might be gone by now.
This is why it is important to continue checking out the resources in the DIY Cuenca Guide a couple of times a week. Today I saw in the Cuencanos.com classifieds online, a 3 bedroom apartment with hardwood floors for just $120 a month! The photo looks like the apartment is nice! That’s the unfurnished price, but it is worth a call or email for sure. Click here to see it.
Basically, you have to go to the resources we list in the guide a couple times a week, at least, and when you see a local-priced rental that you like, snap it up.
When good deals in the local rental price range come up they do not last long! It's important to know that in this price range you are competing with the locals—they too are seeking the local priced rentals and this is the price range the average Ecuadorian is willing to pay, or lower. This is bargain hunting territory.
The other way to find the local-priced rental is to make friends with the locals, of course, and tell them you’re looking for a house or apartment in the local rental price range. We found our friend Karina a 3 bedroom 2 baths, nice apartment for $200, so we know they are out there but it takes due diligence and the Do-it-yourself-mindset.
So what’s making the rental market go up for the gringo market? I think it is fair to say that it is not just gringos that are raising rental prices. As we mentioned earlier, Ecuadorians are coming here with their retirement savings from North America and are now ready to enjoy their country.  
But still we all must understand that if we come here and demand a river view, 24 hour security, and furnishings to boot, we’re going to be escorted to the higher priced rentals...that's the other rental market. But sometimes, in the case with Karina, she got the beautiful river and city view but still only pays the local-priced rental rate. So sometimes demanding may be a disadvantage.
Taxi Service
Taxi service for gringos has gone up. In just the one year we have lived here taxis have gone up $1 to $1.50. So if the fare was $2.50 to go downtown from Super maxi on Ave Las Americas, it now is $3.50 to $4. But the price gouging is mostly given to the gringos. Again, do we pay that? Sometimes we do, like if it's at night, but most of the time, no we don't. We have experienced this as a fact, and more than once. Our son goes with a local friend in a taxi downtown and only paid $2! Two dollars! We have never yet paid two dollars! The least we’ve ever paid for cab fare to go downtown was $2.50 and we thought that was good, and that was when we first got here in summer 2011.
We Love Cuenca Even More
Being more familiar with how everything works truly makes living here that much easier and convenient for us. I think you begin to value where you live a lot more when you are more familiar with the people, the language, and your surroundings. Living within the city of Cuenca, near shops, restaurants and malls, makes daily living quite expedient. When we need to go somewhere we know exactly what bus to take and exactly where to go. What has changed from when we first got here and now, one year later is the fact that we are much more comfortable with Cuenca and its friendly people and that makes Cuenca that much more livable and loveable!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sick Bird on Ballenita Beach Ecuador Can't Fly Away!

When Frank and I were walking along the Ballenita coastline we came upon this helpless bird that wouldn't budge an itch, literally, even if its life depended on it. We weren't sure what was wrong with the poor thing as we didn't really see any oil on its wings, so we're guessing that perhaps it was ill. 

                 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Cuenca Ecuador Weather Humidity and Mold Experiment: In Search of Mold in Cuenca! (8 of 8)

For those of you who have been following along with our Cuenca Weather Humidity/Mold experiment you should have a much better understanding of the climate conditions here in Cuenca.  

The Cuenca futbol stadium weather report online says that in the month of June and July Cuenca's average humidity is 73%.  We confirm this as we have been recording humidity readings inside and outside our home in our experiment in the first part of June. This last video is of moldy buildings in Cuenca Ecuador.

          


Most people do not realize that Cuenca has this high of humidity and that is because it is not hot here; therefore you do not sweat like you would if you lived in Florida or Texas with 73% humidity. But if you walk around in Cuenca, even with 70 degree weather you will sweat. 

Health Affects to Mold

We started experiencing mild cold like symptoms before we knew that our home had hidden mold.  Fortunately, we now have control of the mold growth through opening of the windows every day, even on chiller days. The mold still comes back but not as fast. Below we offer more solutions to the growth of mold in Cuenca.
 
Is there a health risk to moving to Cuenca?  Perhaps for those people who are sensitive to mold and have allergies or respiratory health issues. This assessment comes from not just our personal experience but also the experience of other expat friends and other information gathered from other sources.

It's not something that's talked about much, but after living here for a period of time it becomes evident. Well, one thing you notice is that the construction of the homes and apartments of friends, although, it is to a high standard in other respects, is faulty in one thing. The homes and building do not have proper ventilation. 

Mold Quickly Comes Back Without Proper Ventilation

You clean it, and you clean it, but it keeps coming back after a few weeks. Why is this happening? After several conversations with landlords, the solution that keeps cropping up is "open the windows". 

And that’s exactly what we do now! Even with the windows open the mold grows back, just not as fast, so having the windows open does help to keep the mold at bay a bit longer. In the winter our home is a constant 62 to maybe 64 degrees and we still open the windows.

Why is There Mold in Cuenca Ecuador?

Two major reasons for mold are:
1) moist / chilly conditions
2) no ventilation system built into the homes

After a bit of reflection it is apparent that the issue is in the construction plan.  And here is where it is faulty. There is no allowance for a natural ventilation of the homes.  If you don't open the windows, you're stuck in a vacuum.  No airflow, at least, not enough to curtail the spread of mold.  And this is the source, we believe, of the beginning of health issues.

Here in Cuenca, weather conditions being more rainy and over cast days than sunny and dry days is a perfect breeding ground for mold. Cuenca is moist and chilly inside the homes without a source of heat.

Again, if it was just us we wouldn't write about it.  But it's our friends too.  They also notice the constant nasal irritation, and the throaty irritation that just won't go away. None of this ever happened on a chronic basis before moving to Cuenca. Actually it didn't occur at all with us as we're very careful about our health.  It's a Cuenca thing at this point, since we've lived here. 

However, we have read that respiratory ailments are also an issue at some southern coastal points of Ecuador where apparently it rains all the time.

We're guessing that under very wet conditions and no proper ventilation, the  mold issue is too strong to conquer and that's how it causes chronic irritation. This is potentially a very big health risk, especially for older folks and very young children.  If you're healthy and strong it's just a chronic small "cold symptom" type of irritation.  But for the above mentioned groups it could spread to other parts of the body such as your lungs and become pneumonia. This can potentially become fatal.

It's an important issue that people need to be aware of when considering moving to Cuenca or other parts of Ecuador. See it for yourself, when you come even just to visit, take a look at the construction.  See any vents in the ceilings, or any attic areas with vents in the walls?  Nope and nope. 

We understand every one's situation is different, and we think that simple solutions would be very effective, such as:

1. having a wood stove
2. having a fireplace
3. having lots of gas heat
4. having an industrial sized de-humidifier
5. open the windows even though you're cold

This would have the effect of drying out conditions so as to prevent mold coming back again, so soon, it's our experience, not an opinion or a guess. Thank you for following along with us on our Cuenca Ecuador Weather Humidity and Mold Experiment. Feed back and questions are welcome.

We have had some very helpful feedback and comments from our readers since talking about the mold issue and weather in Cuenca; here's one of them. 

Hi Frank, Angie, and Sons,
 
Your post about mold caught my attention, as I had pondered this about a month ago (before your post) as I was reading your posts about the weather and the home being a tad chilly. I work in construction (27yrs), with an emphasis on water and moisture issues - run into it all the time, albeit in Canada.

One concern I have with EC (highlands) construction technology is the use of the concrete pad on ground. I don't know how they separate the concrete from the earth - do they use gravel? I have not seen any decent gravel aggregates in EC in all the reading I have done yet. Concrete is extremely porous, and will tend to wick up moisture from very wet ground very easily. 
During your rainy season it is quite cool also, and the concrete pads may be wicking up moisture and expelling some of that into living space above the pad. You won't be able to see it happening. Further I have noticed countless homes where the roof runoff splashes down on the ground at the base of the concrete pad and sometimes even splashes back at the base of the exterior wall soaking up to 24 inches of the wall (evident in countless home photos I have seen). Prolonged and/or frequent rain exposures will result in large amounts of moisture migrating thru the concrete wall and into the home.

The more likely source of moisture for you may be related to showers and cooking without proper ventilation to outside. On the coolest of mornings it is less likely that one would open the window for ventilation while showering, when it is most needed. (our note:We leave our bathroom windows open 24/7)  One may tend to open the door to the bathroom instead, resulting in the moisture entering living space and finding the coolest locations on which to congregate. It doesn't always have to condense there, though it may. This is the perfect environment for mold to grow.

The moisture in the home will tend to build up on the (relatively) cooler surfaces of the inside, especially inside cupboards or closets or in corners of walls to ceilings etc. (Our note: yep!)

The idea of a woodstove makes a lot of sense. Or some other source of heat, albeit at a cost. Air circulation may help some too; eg. keep cupboard doors open during lengthy rainy and cool times, run a fan once in a while. Best may be to see about getting a fan installed in the bathroom(s). 




Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Walking Around and Checking out the La Libertad Beach Areas


We took a bus from Salinas to La Libertad (15 minute bus ride) and then walked around for a couple of hours checking out the coastline of the city. Some spots were quite picturesque, while others were not. We spotted some small little inlet beaches and a Malecon in La Libertad. We found that when walking away from the touristy beach areas, however, in both La Libertad and Salinas it seemed rundown with accumulations of garbage on the streets, especially around the commercial districts.Coming from Cuenca, where the streets are always clean it certainly was an eye-sore.


                 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Frank Gets a Shoe Shine from a Very Talkative Fellow

You never know what to expect when going to Park Calderon in the historical center of Cuenca. Some days there are festivals and music, other days there are artisans selling their creative projects; today there was a fellow who shine shoes for a living and who likes to talk up a storm. He charges $0.50 for a really good shoe shine; Frank gave him a $1 because he let us take photos and video tape him. 

                 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

What You Get for 120K, Ocean View in La Libertad Ecuador

While walking around in La Libertad, an outlying area of Salinas we came upon a couple of ocean view lots for sale and we called one of them. Granted this lot is located in a commercial district, with ocean view, but for Ecuador we feel they are still asking too much according to the Rule of 3 and 4.  Watch the video and tell us what you think.