April 11, 2013

Moving to Cuenca Ecuador? Staying Healthy and Happy (2 of 2)

In part one of this article we talked about adjusting to the altitude and culture. Click here to read part one.

Adjusting to the Weather/Climate

This is Cuenca weather. One minute you will be in a t-shirt and the next you are wearing a hooded parka and holding an umbrella. If you happen to be out and about for the day, you might take off and put back on your jacket three or four times in one day. It's just the weather here.

No worries, you will get used to the weather. Many people who live here enjoy the “spring-like” weather all year-long but we still reminisce about our wood stove after Cuenca’s chilly nights. It really depends on where you are from. If you are from Miami, Florida you will be cold here. If you are from Seattle, Washington you will think it is great weather in the Andes Mountains.

The best weather for two years in a row, that we have experienced, is in the middle of winter, which is June, July, August and September. These four months have been the sunniest and warmest days in Cuenca. During this time of year, you will wake up to a chilly home or apartment because the nights do get a bit colder, but by early afternoon it is mostly sunny and 70ish outside. Winter is simply beautiful here!

Last year in April, it poured 27 days out of 30.  This year in April the weather has been semi-rainy but we're also having some beautiful Cuenca days!! March and April are probably the rainiest months in Cuenca. The best advice we can give you is always bring your umbrella and hooded parka with you when you leave the house and enjoy yourself, rain or shine!

Healthy Food Choices

Adjusting to your new life in Cuenca is all about feeling good physically and making healthy food choices. It is easy to overindulge when you first get here with the deep-fried foods and the many bakeries that abound in Cuenca. However, if you are still not quite acclimated to the change in altitude you may want to hold off on eating anything that could make your body’s resistance low and make you sick.

You do not want to come down with a bronchial cough or other illness. We have witnesses that some people when they first arrive become ill with upper respiratory ailments and that coupled with altitude change makes for lung/breathing issues.

The best way to make sure you adjust to the new environment quickly is to eat healthy, which is not hard to do in Cuenca! Fresh fruits, vegetables, chicken and fish are abundant in the grocery stores and Mercados in Cuenca. The fresh chicken, eggs, and dairy are absolutely splendid here.

When we first arrived we ate too much white rice and refined flour baked goods from the bakeries and we could tell it was slowing us down. This is not how we ate before we moved here and our bodies could tell the difference. After about two or three months we decided the vacation was over and it was time to settle back into our healthy eating habits.

Unhealthy eating overtime makes one moody and overly sensitive to change and to their new surroundings. Moving abroad can be a stressful time in a person’s life so why push your body to the limit? Being away from familiar people, places and things can make one view their new lifestyle abroad in an nonconstructive light and subsequently they will experience depression and homesickness for the familiarity they left behind.

Your chances of escaping this emotional roller coaster are much better when you eat right. Try to not eat too many foods that mess with your emotional wellbeing, namely sugary treats, refined foods, soda and alcoholic beverages. Treat your body well and you will enjoy your new life with much more vigor and pep. Cuenca is a walking city.

Tourist or Resident?

If you are moving to Cuenca as a resident it is best to get it in your mind that you are not just a vacationer but a resident, even if your paperwork is still going through the process. Don’t fall for the tourist traps that are so ever present in Cuenca. Case in point, when searching for a rental, think about your situation? Will you be living in your new abode full-time, a year or longer, or a month or two. The difference in price will be astounding!

As friendly and helpful as Ecuadorians are, they will target tourists as being rich and therefore can afford whatever price they feel like throwing out to you. It still happens to us ALL THE TIME. But then Frank starts speaking in Spanish and tells them we have lived here for two years and they are like, “Really”? Frank replies, “Si, somos Gringcano’s”. (Yes, we are Gringcano’s). And they laugh up a storm and we get a normal local market price, most of the time. If no reduced price, we smile and walk away.

Don’t pay tourist prices when you live here.

(BTW, even if you are rich, do you want to be taken advantage of because of that?) Frank let's them know right away. "We aren't rich and we aren't tourists, we live here"!

Learning Spanish

It is more difficult to integrate within the culture when you cannot speak the language or understand what the locals are saying. It will make you feel like an outsider, and it will lessen the chances for you to make Ecuadorian friendships. Having friendships within the community is an important part of integration into your new life here.

It is very important to meet local people, learn Spanish, and realize you are not an outsider anymore… then you can slowly mesh your life into the Ecuadorian way of life with fortitude and patience. The Ecuadorians will be more than happy to put out more effort to speak a little English, if they know some, if they know you are working hard to try and speak Spanish.

Wellbeing in Cuenca

Happiness is not a place; happiness is not a person; happiness is not stuff and materialism. Happiness is a state of mind; happiness comes from the spiritual and fundamental nature of a person. We make our own happiness through having a balanced lifestyle, which involves the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspect (health) of our lives.

No matter where we live, most people would agree, we should strive to maintain balance in our lifestyle, and we do that by eating a healthy diet, exercising on a regular basis, being outdoors, walking, meeting new local people within our community, and enjoying our time in this new place we are calling “home”.

Your new life here in Cuenca will be whatever you choose it to be. Most expats to Cuenca that we have talked with tell us they have lost weight, they feel and look better, and are really enjoying their new life in Cuenca. Isn’t that what you are expecting out of your new life abroad?

Tell us what you are expecting/wanting out of your new life in Cuenca in the comments. Our readers would love to hear from other expats that are making the big move to South America. And, if you are already living here we'd love for you to share your new experiences with us!  

5 comments:

  1. We are looking forward to better health and losing weight. While there for a visit last June, we lost 5 lbs. in 2 weeks. We had more energy and my husbands allergies got better. We are making the move to Cuenca in July 2013 and your DIY landing guide has helped us so much! Thanks Frank and Angie.

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    1. You're welcome and thank you for sharing. Yes, Frank and I both lost between 12 and 15 pounds and we feel great. So glad the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide has come in handy for your visit and move.

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  2. I just wanted to drop a line to congratulate you on an insightful and honest blog about what life is like in Cuenca. I myself am sort of a "hybrid" citizen - born and raised in Canada to Ecuadorean parents, moved to Ecuador as a pre-teen to complete highschool and university, then moved back to Canada as an adult to work for 10 years and then recently came back to Cuenca a year and half ago (whew!). As both an expat and a local, I can relate on so many levels to your blog posts and would even say that your family probably knows more about Cuenca than some locals do! Keep up the good work!

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    1. Hello PRGal, Thank you for your kind comments. Yep, we strive to give our readers the real Cuenca...no sugar coating on this blog. So...are you enjoying your time back in Cuenca?

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    2. After nearly 18 months back, I think the culture shock is just starting to wear off! It's definitely been a tricky adjustment for my family (particularly my teenage son who has to get up at 6:30 a.m. to get to school), from the short banking hours, to the way people drive, and the insane prices on imported goods. On the flip side, it's been lovely to see just how the city has evolved in the years we've been away; 10 years ago it was nowhere near as beautiful as it is today. I'm finding I don't miss the concrete jungle of Toronto as much as I used to and I appreciate the many opportunities to get closer to nature. Everyday I discover new things about the city, which is why I find your blog so insightful!

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