10 Years of Blog Archive

Monday, November 30, 2015


Is it possible for a rich person to be unhappy?  Is it possible for a famous person to have problems or to be unhappy? 

There are plenty of public examples that tell us the answer to that.

Is it possible to retire in the best place in the world to retire on a budget and be unhappy?

And if that is so, then would chasing this dream possibly be an imprecise way to choose a way of living?

Should we be blindly “encouraging” people to move overseas?

And if that is so, then should we be more diligent about how we go about making the choice of retiring or moving abroad?

Should we work harder at understanding what this is all about?

In that pursuit of the truth, we work hard to get to the bottom of the truth of the matter!  And share our findings in everything we write on our websites and in our guides.

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” --
John 8:32

It seems we all have a responsibility to think well.
Our websites: www.discovercuencaecuador.com and www.gringogoodsamaritans.com are designed to educate you so you can make a better and more informed decision about moving overseas.

"It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled." –Mark Twain

All Viewpoints Are Not Created Equal

Just because something is published in print, online or aired in the broadcast media does not make it accurate.  In fact, more often than not the larger the audience, the more likely the content is either inaccurate or slanted. The next time you read something about living investing and retiring overseas, you should ask two main questions in order to assess the credibility of the source. 

1. Is the source biased in any way?

2. That is, do they have any agendas which would provide any type of benefit accounting for their views? Most individuals either sell expensive seminars,  slanted loss leader manuals, and/or are partnered or have an ownership interest in some kind of business that benefits which includes real estate. That means their views are biased and cannot be relied upon. 

Why do we follow sheepishly behind other people?  They must know what they’re talking about, and so we trot along behind them: Watch this documentary inspired and hosted by Alain de Botton, based on his book The Consolations of Philosophy

Frank and Angie were the first and only ones to warn people about the potential consequences of living larger than the locals in poor developing countries and it is on record in their 2012 edition and following years of the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide on their Discover Cuenca Ecuador and Panama website.

What is happening now in Panama re: the escalation of crime against foreigners is the direct consequence of doing the exact opposite of this advice and listening to retire abroad pumpers with vested interests.

Ask yourself:  why were we the only ones willing to put our warnings in writing every year since 2011 on our website and in early 2012 in our DIY Cuenca Landing Guide?

And now that the cat’s out of the bag with the intention of Ecuador to raise taxes on property changing hands at inheritance time, who’s been warning you all along about the pitfalls and scams about “investing” in real estate abroad all along?  You’re right, Frank and Angie again!

Some say there’s a recession in Ecuador.  Locals tell us that Ecuadorians living and working in the u.s. are no longer sending their money to Ecuador due to the above mentioned potential pitfall in the air. We personally know of Ecuadorian families in New York that had built real estate here in Cuenca, with the intention of bringing their families back, but then, they changed their minds and sold their real estate and have decided to stay in the u.s.

Here's a chart of 'remittances to Ecuador' which shows they are slowing: http://www.tradingeconomics.com/ecuador/remittances

Could that cause a slow down of a small economy such as Ecuador’s?

The fact is if you’ve been following our material you are not concerned.  Instead, all of those that have been following the pied pipers of the retire abroad pumping community have a lot to worry about.  Pumpers and their bull-wash about “the new America".

Come join our exclusive community for all the details about living, moving, retiring and investing abroad. Be the wiser and actually enjoy your retirement experience abroad, no matter where you decide to live. Click here for the details. 

We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

7 Benefits of Speaking Spanish When Moving to South/Central America

No matter where you decide to move to abroad we think it is best to know the language of the country you move to, even knowing the basics of the language is going to keep you from being taken advantage of in many situations.

1. Setting up house:  a lot is involved when it comes to setting up house. You may need to go furniture and appliance shopping; you’ll probably have to hire a moving truck; and you will have to have Internet service installed; we know that you will need to go grocery and household shopping, and these are just some of the main ones. You will be richly benefited and rewarded with better household prices if you speak the language.

Most folks in South and Central America only speak Spanish. Sure, some speak English but it is very few that do. Just the other day we had two Etapa guys out to check our Internet issue and neither one of them spoke a lick of English.

You’re coming to a Spanish speaking country.  Expecting that people will just speak English with you, could result in difficulty for you. Just know that you will be blessed when someone speaks some English. 

We have found that in Ecuador the ones who speak some English have lived in the U.S or work in the real estate business and tourist services. The ones who do not speak English will be the ones you will need to interact with on an everyday level such as when shopping, when hiring a taxi or moving truck.  Sure, you might be blessed and get one that speaks a few words in English, but don’t count on it.

If you do not speak Spanish now, a gadget you will want to bring with you for when you first get here is the English to Spanish electronic pocket translator. We had one and it was very useful and helpful for the first 6 months of living here. See the video below for more helpful ideas on what you might want to bring with you abroad. 
                 2. Interact with your next door neighbors: It is quite common to have landlords and their family living next door.  We have learned quite a bit about Ecuador just from our neighbors who have lived here all their life. It’s nice to be able to stop and chit-chat for a few minutes when you see them out and about in the neighborhood. Life is just better in Ecuador when you feel like you are a part of the community of folks that look out for each other’s back in your neighborhood. Did anyone say, ‘peace of mind’?

3. Buying from street vendors: If you already know all the store prices, not just the most expensive one, and understand that local street and Mercado vendor prices should be half of that, then try your Spanish on them.  If you don’t speak the language of the country you moved to, we recommend shopping in a variety of grocery stores where prices are already fixed but seasonal.  

4. You'll be able to converse with locals: once you live here as a resident you’re going to notice that at some point locals might just mistake you for an Ecuadorian, i.e. asking you for directions while walking down the street, etc.  At that point when you can answer in Spanish, it is a satisfying experience.

5. Get the nitty-gritty about an issue: without knowing the language it is really difficult to get the real skinny on a lot of important issues, like crime. Knowing the language has given us some of the best and most useful information because it comes directly from the locals who have lived here all their life.

BTW:  it is best to ask three or four different people the same concern or question and then look for consistency in the answers, and you will be fairly certain to get the real skinny.  No worries though, if you’re not there yet, we do that for you here... and in our DIY Cuenca Ecuador Landing Guide.

6. You will appear more traveled and aware: here again, when we speak the language we are much less likely to be taken advantage of in all scopes of being a foreigner in a foreign land.  When we speak the language, even with a gringo accent, it shows we know more about their culture than the gringo who can’t speak the language, and we are much more apt to be taken seriously when we speak. “Uh oh, this guy speaks Spanish, maybe I better quote him the real price”, is a body language you will run into.  And that’s satisfying.

7. Speaking the language shows respect: part of showing respect is learning the language; we should at least try to speak the language. It’s far better to TRY and speak the language than NOT at all. You will find that when the local inhabitants see you trying, they will find it endearing and come to your aid quicker and with a smile than if you simply spoke English to them; and that benefits good relations with the people in the new country you have embarked on to live permanently.  Bon Voyage!

Until we write again…

You might also like these articles.
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Miscellaneous Videos and Photo of Lovely Panama City, Panama 2015

There's a lot to like about Panama City. There's numerous restaurants, shopping malls, grocery stores and wonderful infrastructure. We experienced better Internet on the Panamanian coast than on the Ecuador coast. Roads are decent, transportation is excellent, health care is good according to expats that have used it, the country as a whole is diverse, and Panama City is a lovely city with pleasant people and wonderful bay views! And for a city with big, tall buildings and lots of cement, Panama city is loaded with greenery, which makes it even prettier. We'd definitely visit Panama again!  Discover more of Panama at this link.
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Where Can I Meet-Up with Other Expats in Cuenca Ecuador?

Ask Frank and Angie: We are visiting Cuenca soon and would like to meet other expats in some group settings. Know of any regular meetings or places that are frequented?
Nectar vegetarian restaurant
We did some research and found several places in Cuenca where you can meet with other expats. We had to do the online research because we rarely frequent the expat restaurants, although, there are a couple places we list that we have gone to because the food is good and prices are fair and we also list a few in our free restaurant Guide. 

We enjoy bringing business to the local community of restaurants as well, and so if you haven’t already seen it, we do list several tried and true Ecuadorian traditional almuerzos and a few not so traditional, in our FREE Cuenca Restaurant Guide 16 Good, Inexpensive Restaurants in Cuenca Ecuador! (Third Edition)

Two Expat Groups Meet Friday Evenings at 5PM
Zoe Address: Borrero 7-61 and Sucre
Café Eucalyptus Address: Gran Colombia 9-41 and Benigno Malo.
Café Eucalyptus also has expat meet-ups for Sunday morning brunch, starting after 11:00AM

Ecuador Expat Community on Facebook

Cuenca for Expats – Chamber of Commerce
This is more of a support and services network to help foreigners transition to their new life in Cuenca.

Common Grounds Café and Waffle House (Sports Bar)
Address: Eduardo Crespo Malo y Gran Colombia
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/commongroundscuenca/

Popular Expat Restaurants and Cafés 

You’re sure to find a lot of gringos eating in these restaurants and cafes in Cuenca. If they have a website we list it and if no website we list the address. 

Tutto Matto (New York Style) Pizza
Av Solano 8-51 y Av 10 de Agosto

Fabianos Pizza and Italian Fare 

Fabianos veggie pizza
San Sebas Café 

Don Colon 

Joes Secret Garden

Nectar Vegetarian Restaurant
Benigno Malo 10-42

If anyone would like to chime in with other places they know about for meeting with expats in Cuenca, please let us know in the comments below.

Until we write again.

We think you might like these articles too!
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

How to Live Like a Local in any Country Abroad

It was our intention to do so before we arrived, and we’ve been living like the locals ever since we began our Cuenca journey 4 plus years ago.  We know the basic behaviors you need to have to blend in with the local community and live a frugal and happy life in South/Central America. 
Going local is not the same as “integrating” oneself into a culture.  Integration is actually adopting the beliefs, traditions, values and customs of the new land into your own belief system and vice-versa, which is not easily done. To read more about what it really means to integrate into a culture, click here.

One of the first things we did when we first moved here was let all the local folks know we were not rich Americans.  Breaking the stereotype with the real estate/rental agents is a must; otherwise, somewhere down the line someone will take advantage of you. The reality is gringos are often financially taken advantage of in Latin America and most of the time they are oblivious to it.

I’m Not a Rich North American

Have you ever been sized up financially? When the local folks don’t know you they automatically think you’re looking to spend like a tourist would spend. That would be someone who doesn’t know what the local price for something is? We have had to tell many of the local people that “We are not tourists and we live here.”

When we rented the home we live in now we had to let them know “We were not rich gringos and if the price is right we’ll sign a one year lease and rent it on the spot—today!  The asking price was $350 but we rented it for $250 per month four years ago and we still rent today for $250.

We live in a nice home in a nice neighborhood that blends in with everyone else’s home.  Our rental house does not stand out in anyway, nor is it the nicest home in the Ecuadorian neighborhood that we live in. In other words, it is unobtrusive. We live like the locals live and that’s the way to live if you care about “peace of mind.  Locals also have prowler and thievery issues, and noticing how they handle it is a very good idea.   

Can I Please Get a Discount?

Department Stores: You wouldn’t believe some of the things we have gotten a discount on just because we asked for one. We’ve gotten discounts on appliances from department stores. Many people think the prices at department stores are fixed like in the U.S, but that isn’t necessarily so. Ask, and you shall receive.

Notary Office:  We asked for a “family discount” at the notary office because we’re five people and that’s a lot of paperwork getting notarized and the notary guys just chuckled and gave the discount to us.  I doubt they have ever been asked to give out a discount before, especially from a big group of gringos.

Most of the locals get a kick out of us gringos asking for discounts; it actually brings on friendly interactions with the locals because they respect us for being humble with them. It allows them to see that NOT all North Americans are rich like we have been labeled to be and that some of us can behave like ordinary folks…just like them.

Mercados: We all know that bargaining is expected in Mercados, but what many people may not have considered, is that if you don’t know what the seasonal prices are around town in the various grocery stores already, before you even start, then you will surely pay for it…prices in outdoor markets should be half of the best bargains around town already, and if you weren’t already a frugal and diligent shopper before moving to South America, going to an outdoor Mercado won’t necessarily turn you into one.  On the contrary, I’ve had vendors quote me triple and local bystanders snicker.  All because the color of my skin says: rich foreigner.  Ha.

Hiring Taxi: When we were in Panama the taxi drivers do not have meters and so we always had to ask first “how much” or tell them “what we want to pay”.  If you just jump in the taxi you’ll surely find that some taxi drivers are not exactly honest about a fare, especially if they think you do not know what a fare should be.

So, firstly what we had to do was ask a few taxi drivers what a fare should be and once we gathered that information we were able to take a taxi to and fro like a local.  Simply jumping into a taxi cab, without a care in the world will surely help prices go up for all the gringos just like they did in Cuenca BEFORE they got the meters in. 

In 2011 in Cuenca (before meters) we could easily go all the way downtown from Las America and Coral Centro for $2.50 by 2013 the price had risen to $4 and if it was raining out, or night time, make it $4.50. Then, magically Cuenca taxi drivers had to start having meters in their cabs because of all the locals complaining of the high fares. Today, with the meters that same route/fare is $2.50 to $3.00. 

Speak the Language

And last but not least, the best and easiest way to go local is to speak the language. It is not absolutely necessary to speak the language but if you do, it will become one of your biggest assets of your move abroad because you will be rewarded ten times over in almost every interaction with locals.

Until we write again.
You might also like these articles.
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Why Deprive Our Sweet Tooth? Health Benefits of Eating Natural Sweeteners!

What is a refined sugar? All sugar is refined (processed) unless it comes directly and left whole, from the sugar cane, as in the simple extraction to make cane juice, or unless you farm your own honeybees and harvest honey from the combs or eat natural sugars found in fruit, etc.   

Health Benefits of Raw Honey

Raw bees honey has vital nutrients that our body needs; real honey (not grocery store honey that says “pure honey” on the label) possesses a large amount of friendly bacteria (6 species of lactobacilli and 4 species of bifidobacteria), which may explain many of the "mysterious therapeutic properties of honey."  Amazingly, honey used topically, heals open sores and keeps them from getting infected.

Experimental evidence indicates that consumption of honey can actually improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity compared to other sweeteners. The body's tolerance to honey is significantly better than to sucrose and glucose. Individuals with greater glucose intolerance (those with mild diabetes and Type 1 diabetes) showed significantly better tolerance to honey than sucrose. But you still want to stay moderate in your consumption even with a whole natural sugar products such as bee's honey straight from the hive.  It is possible to overdo it even with natural whole sugars.  But isn't that true with just about anything? Learning to moderate ourselves is a very good habit.

In addition, the antioxidants in honey, which have been shown to reduce oxidative stress, may be beneficial for diabetics and even helps to improve blood vessel function and vascular health.

Source: Fessenden R. Report to the Committee for the Promotion of Honey and Health- Sacramento, CA, January 8, 2008.  

Health Benefits of Blackstrap Molasses

We use blackstrap molasses every day as a supplement. Blackstrap molasses is a healthful sweetener that contains significant amounts of minerals that promotes good health. It is a very good source of iron, particularly for menstruating women, who are more at risk for iron deficiency. Blackstrap is also a very good source of calcium, copper and manganese, potassium, and magnesium. Blackstrap is a healthy supplement to take during fasting or when recuperating from sickness; and as previously stated, is safe sweetener for diabetics in moderation. 

But we don't use it as a "sweetener". The taste is a bit stout for most people, but it does 'grow on you' once a commitment to better health is made. I was once standing on my porch drinking a large cup of very dark Blackstrap Molasses early in the morning, when a friend/neighbor came over and said: "look at you, drinking coffee"!

White Flour Products Convert to Sugar

Did you know that a slice of white wheat enriched bread is equivalent to one teaspoon of refined sugar?   So then just because you have eliminated refined sugar from your diet does not mean you aren’t replacing that sugar with other foods you are eating, such as refined wheat products, white rice, pasta, etc. I know, it’s hard to eliminate 100% of the sugar from our diets but those with diabetes, hypoglycemia and other blood sugar issues have to or they continue to get worse, especially as they get older.

Highly processed white flour, also known as enriched wheat flour is devoid of its nutritious and fiber-rich parts of the seed, which are the outside bran layer and the germ (embryo).  White flour actually promotes nutritional deficiencies and chronic disease in people. 

White flour has sometimes been called the other sugar.  We know that eating refined sugars can/does affect blood sugar, but just avoiding foods made with processed sugar won't solve the problem completely. Even though white flour doesn't taste sweet, it breaks down into sugar (glucose) and can lead to the very same problems caused by eating too much refined sugar; and unbeknownst to many, alcoholic drinks do the same thing.

I know that for us, we had to take the necessary steps to prevent health disorders and afflictions and that meant finding and using natural sweeteners in our diet. Being the do it yourself frugal folk that we are, we don't want to be dependent on a collective body (health care system). Our two cents is that anytime you 'revert' back away from processed foods, and move toward a natural lifestyle, your health will slowly improve, no surprise for us.

The good news is raw honey is widely available in most areas of the world from bee farmers and farmers markets, and you can buy and use unadulterated sugar cane juice and whole natural ground up cane, and blackstrap molasses from the health food store. 

The herb stevia is also a natural sweetener. Other good sugar substitutes are date, raisin and fig juice; dried fruits work very well as a sweetener for home baking purposes. Add 1/2 cup of dried fruit of your choice to blender, cover fruit with water and wait ten minutes then blend for 3 minutes and you have a natural, healthy sweetener for baking with or for using with no-bake treats.

So you see, we don’t have to deprive our sweet tooth, we just need to know more about using natural sweeteners verses refined sweeteners. And like we always say, even though it is a “natural” sweetener we believe that everything in moderation is the best and healthiest way to live our lives. Too much of anything is just too much.

Note: Real panela or rapsadura that you buy in South and Central American countries is juice extracted from the cane and then dried in the sun and packaged as block or round form. The real stuff will say “integral”.  Be careful because there are many fakes on the grocery store shelves. The real stuff will say “integral” meaning whole, and "natural", in its natural state. It also tastes like blackstrap molasses.
Integral Panela
Until we write again...

You might like these articles too!
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We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Crimes against Expats in Ecuador vs. Panama: Where is Most Crime and Is There a Difference?

Both coastal Ecuador and Panama have crimes against expats. However, we're hearing about waaay more crime against expats in Panama right now than in Ecuador and we believe it is because of the much larger expat populace within the segregated expat enclaves. Since we've started this blog we have always said to live like the locals in their neighborhoods. Segregating ourselves can seem disrespectful and brings on resentment. Two large expat communities in Panama have rising crime and we mention them in this video. Crime is getting so bad that expats that live in Panama are telling other expats to rethink moving to Panama! 
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Is It Possible to Retire on $1,500 to $2,000 on Coronado Beaches of Panama?

Is it possible to retire on the Panama beaches with a $1,500 to $2,000 pension? You may be giving up comfort and safety levels. Believe us when we say peace of mind is an important commodity when living abroad; if you can't have that then nothing else matters. There's a lot more to be said about expat safety in Panama in our next video.
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Few Unique Experiences and Memoirs of Expat Life

We’ve listened to a lot of narratives retold to us from expats living abroad and we have also recounted some of our own. In fact, every couple or individual that has moved abroad has their own story to tell, which keeps the traveling abroad bandwagon quite interesting. 

Some stories are sad, some funny, and some end with a twist of violence and crime, like the Colombian couple who told us of guerrilla shootings, kidnappings, and bombings near an airport in Colombia. That’s why they moved to Cuenca, Ecuador.
Yes, everyone’s story is unique; and they like to tell us what they love, what they hate, why they left and why they are staying

Why Expats Don’t Like Ecuador

We have been entertained with some pretty eccentric anecdotes from expats that moved from Cuenca because they couldn’t get their favorite brand of peanut butter, or apple pie filling, or salami. We can almost understand the peanut butter thing. When it comes from a health standpoint when all you can buy is peanut butter with added flour, sugar, salt, and other chemicals and preservatives in it, it can be a bit distressing. You either do without, or you learn to be self-sufficient in the things you need. We practice the latter if at all possible.

Some folks have told us the food, when eating out in Ecuador is bland. Yes, that’s right when you do not season your food it tends to be bland!  Ecuadorians are not much for the rich, saucy, spicy food and I can personally attest to that when having Ecuadorians over for dinner on several occasions. Any amount of sauce or seasonings, it’s MUY Rico for them and they will just stare at the food in their plate and giggle as to not offend the chef. So funny and so cute.

Aaah, the stories and expat experiences we have been amused with…one couple told us they still have not gotten used to the culture of Ecuador and they’ve lived here almost four years! There is a lot to get used to and we all know what some of those things are, so there is really no need rehashing anything that puts a damper on Ecuador.

Why Expats Stay in Ecuador

We have also been entertained on why people love it in Ecuador. We’ll go first. We love Ecuador because of the abundance of healthy foods at a decent price that are grown/produced/manufactured right here in Ecuador, and well, we have a 3 bedroom 3 bath house with yard for $250!


Expats love to tell us how cheap a doctor’s visit is, or how cheap their rent is, health care, food, utilities, etc, etc.  Expats sure do love the low cost of living that Cuenca affords, and when we compare to back home, yes, everything seems reasonable.  Most pensioners can get by quite comfortably in Cuenca Ecuador and that keeps their hat hanging on the coat rack, as you might say.  But for the Ecuadorians the cost of living is not low…it’s just normal or rising…just saying.

Sure, there’s a lot to like about Ecuador and everyone has their own experiences and stories to tell, like the couple who explained to us how they would never move back to the U.S!   Wow, they must really love it here. Another couple from Canada, where it snows and is freezing 8 months out of the year, told us how much they love the weather in Cuenca; they say, “It’s perfect for them!” Yes, it’s perfect for them as they slowly thaw out in Cuenca. (Yes, laughing out loud).

And here's a few more from us while were having so much fun! These were taken from an article we wrote called Reminiscing about Our Life in Cuenca Ecuador.

Doing Errands: When we go out for the day to take care of things that need done, we often kid with each other saying, “I wonder how many things on our “to do” list we’re going to get done today? A good day is getting a least one thing done, a REALLY good day is accomplishing two things on our list, and an amazing day is completing three errands. Why? Well mostly because of schedule differences with the local business community, or because of circumstances changing on that day, or people not showing up, or just because things are done VERY different here. You’ll see when you get here...lol...anyway, we do not have very many amazing days, usually really good days though.

For the first year or so, the newness of everything about living abroad kept us in a euphoric type existence. “What’s the hurry anyway”? And that’s the attitude you have to have if you move here. Everything gets done eventually anyway, just not USA PRONTO, PRONTO, as you'll see in our next story.
Processing Paperwork:
It’s funny how when it is all over you stand back and laugh about it, but when you are going through it, it somehow is not that funny.

Just to give you a hint of what processing paperwork is like here: how many times can you hand over the same paperwork for five people in a given month? How about four times, will that work for you?  Instead of telling you all on the same day that “This needs changed, we need this document for that person, and this sentence needs to read clearer and this needs translated…"; they will only tell you one thing your paperwork needs and then the next time you go in, they’ll let you know one more thing, and well, by this time days, weeks, even months have passed...and there is new immigration laws, and you need one more piece of paperwork from the states… In a hurry does not compute in Latin Land so, do not be in a hurry... I guess you'll see when you get here...

Until we write again...here's a few other articles you might like. 
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Should I Rent or Buy? Which Is Best When Living Abroad?

We all know that renting is usually the better option over buying, especially until we spend some time getting to really know an area we might be interested in for the long-term.  There are many variables that we must consider carefully before getting mixed up with owning property overseas.
Cuenca Ecuador City View from Turi
How long will you be staying? What if you don’t know how long you will be staying? Many people become so won over by the hyperbole that they buy property before they even know if they’ll like the area for permanent living. 

Ecuador chatter is constantly saying how there are more expats moving away from Ecuador than coming to live?  Is that true?  We do know there are a lot of over-priced properties for sale online, and in perfect English.  And that brings us to the next question.

Does the city you want to move to have overpriced real estate market? Cuenca Ecuador has always been overpriced, even before we got here in 2011. However, it is still possible to find and buy fixer-uppers or build your own home without it costing both arms and legs. But here again, before putting in all that time and effort, it’s still best to hang your hat for a few years before jumping in with both feet.

The Rule of 3 and 4 is a great way to find out if a city abroad is over-priced.  The rule has actually kept us out of trouble and out of the market. If real-estate market is already high for an area, then it doesn’t make sense from a financial standpoint to buy, especially if you don’t know if you’re going to stick around.

Forums chatter says that real estate in Cuenca is stabilizing and the same goes with rents. Well, we sure hope so since many of the rental listings of today have doubled in price in the last four years.

If your rent is below $400 to $500 a month, then it’s almost certainly best to continue renting rather than buying.  Once you have lived in the area for a year or two then you will surely know if you are ready to buy property.  If you decide the place isn’t what you expected and you move back to your homeland, you will have only spent for the entire year $6000 on rent.  Not too shabby when you read about all the folks who just couldn’t wait and bought an already over priced property and now can’t sell, without taking a loss for one reason or another.

Note: Although, in Latin American countries where salaries are not even $400 a month, we feel renting over that amount only feeds the greed that is so ever present in these overhyped cities, they call paradise.

Leaving your property unattended is a problem in Latin America. This is one of the headaches of home ownership abroad.  Many residents abroad travel more.  If you travel to visit family back in the states or simply just travel in the country you live in, it is very unwise to leave your home unoccupied, even for a day or two. This is the one and main reason we see for buying an apartment versus a house.

Does this mean you shouldn’t buy a detached house/property? Not exactly, there are several things you can do to ensure the safety of your home and belongings while you travel.  For one, you could rent it out for the time you are going to be away;  or two, you could hire a caretaker, both cases however will take careful due diligence to find the right person or couple that you can trust to house sit and take care of the home, plants, pets, etc while you are away.

Even renting a house abroad has its frustrations, since leaving a rental unattended while you travel, even for a weekend is not advisable in Latin American cultures. You might come back to a very empty house. Make sure you turn on the house alarm while away, just in case an intruder knows you’re gone and attempts to break-in; at least the alarm might scare the intruders away. 

FYI: We didn’t use to say this but after living here for four years you begin to observe a trend; we think it is best for the safety of foreigners that live in detached homes, to have electric fencing around the property if they live in Latin America.

Until we write again...

 You might like these articles too. 

We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

How We Get Around in the City of Cuenca without a Car: Ecuador Transportation Options

There are lots of great ways to get around in the city of Cuenca. We've been without a car for 4 plus years, traveling throughout the country of Ecuador and even visiting other countries and so far there has been no need for owning a car. That might change if and when we ever need to haul things, but for now we let the Ecuador transportation system haul us around! 
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Life Abroad Isn’t Perfect, Only What We Make It To Be

When we first learned about Cuenca Ecuador in 2010 we actually thought it was doable. We saw through all the “perfect paradise” hype, and wondered what we weren’t being told, and realized we would figure that out later. 

Well, when you don’t hear or see any negatives, everything is doable because your mind plays tricks on you.  I don’t think the travel abroad pumpers use the word “perfect” so much, or use as much hyperbole in their travel writings when they talk about new cities abroad now. Instead they just tell you all the wonderful things about the city and omit the not so wonderful things. But we know, nothing is perfect, right? 
Yanuncay River Walk
The problem is many of us are perfectionist and so we seek out that which is made to LOOK perfect. But as the saying goes, “looks can be deceiving”.  This is why when we move to another country we have to be the judge of what we think is wonderful.  One person’s wonderful might be another person’s just ok.  Also expectations can wreak havoc on us when something isn’t the way we hoped for. 

This is why we have always said in our writings that we have to make our own paradise, whether we live somewhere in Europe, North America, Ecuador or Panama. Some things we just can’t change one iota and to think we can change something, or to actually put in the time and effort to try and change something, is just not worth it, in our humble opinion. Lose the expectations and you’ll be fine. 

Live and Let Live 

Yes, there were some things that were downright annoying when we first arrived, but we’ve allowed ourselves to be tolerant and let it go, live and let live, as they say.  Life is not worth the frustrations and headaches we give ourselves to try and have everything just the way we think it should be. For many people living abroad the positives might out weight the negatives anyway, so that is about as perfect as it gets. We have to put down the expectations when moving abroad and go with the flow. 

Is Cuenca Ecuador Paradise? Ancient writings say that “paradise” is within you, therefore you take it with you wherever you go.  There have been many people misled throughout the ages because they believed a paradise to be outside of themselves, and a particular place and/or circumstance.  

Have you heard of the legend of the “pied piper”? He would ‘lure away the problems’ for the people with his flute and cheerful clothing. The real answer to the people’s problem was in an ancient book, say about where the book of Leviticus, sits.  Back then as now, there were those that had a monopoly on information and they withheld the above to the detriment of the people. Even though those days are long gone, there are still similar people today that attempt to withhold knowledge, and they’re telling people not to “troll the internet” for information on retiring abroad.  Maybe they don’t want you to see articles/websites like this one? 

The Plymouth Rock Pilgrims reasons for going to a new land were twofold:  1. to escape persecution; 2. to increase their God given Liberty. They were not going to a paradise that was being sold to them by people with vested interests. Instead, half of them died when they first arrived.  Later they made friends with the Indians who showed them how to plant corn and then they reaped the harvest, and gave thanks for their liberty with their new neighbors.

PROMISED LAND - Many are touting Ecuador as the “new America”.  But ask yourself some hard questions and do some real diligent research.  This blog and our books will help. Is Ecuador the “New America”?  There’s a lot to say about this, but surely: remember the Pied Piper.  And ask yourself, whom ever is doing this new kind of touting, what’s in it for them? What do they get out of it? Then you’ll know the color of their flute and clothing.  And remember that all that glitters is not gold.

WEATHER – Those in search of ‘perfect’ weather are sure to be disappointed.  Nature is always perfect in its own way, because it always has the last word.  Cuenca Ecuador’s weather is mild but what are the drawbacks?  Lack of rain but overly cloudy skies means not good for gardening, mostly cloudy most of the time means we might feel gloomy after a while waking up every day to cloudy skies.

We have to remember that the weather in many U.S states is not really that bad either. What happens is we become weary of the seasons, take it for granted, thinking anywhere else abroad is going to be better. Unfortunately many learn the hard way when they see many cloudy days in Cuenca. It may be cold in North Idaho but the sun shines more than not, just saying.

I actually miss the coziness of owning a woodstove, smelling the cedar wood burning, listening to the crackling fire, turning off the lights at night and looking through the glass and gazing at the fire. I miss that…funny thing is I would never know something so simple would be so missed, but woodstoves are lovely. 

COST OF LIVING – We just did some research on a new book we’re writing and found that in Coronado Beach, Panama they are charging $980 per week for a 2/2 furnished apartment, while you can get the same 2/2 furnished apartment in Coco Beach, Florida with just as nice or nicer beaches for $400 per week. And it’s still 84 degrees in November in Coco Beach Florida! 

A commenter on our YT said only North Americans go abroad to live for less and then pay more than in Europe or even their own country. Pied Piper? We’ve written so much about this subject. Your cost of living, no matter where you live, will be whatever you make it be. We shouldn’t come to a place and pay up for everything and then complain later about the high cost of living, instead we should be much more diligent with our research and get better at understanding what’s really going on.  

CRIME – Most of the crime that happens to foreigners is because they are behaving in ways they shouldn’t.  North American culture and South American culture are miles apart.  So they clash.  And one of the symptoms is crime against the foreigner.  Sweeping it under the rug by using words like “relatively similar to” (city in N. America), does nothing for the gringo when he’s the target.  It won’t happen to somebody else.  It happens to you.  

That’s what’s happening in the more mature stages of the colonization of Panama by gringos and other foreigners.  If you don’t know who the fish is, you’re it.  Remember? As you can see no place is paradise in and of itself, as beautiful as they are…creating a place to be a paradise depends on how we decide to live it. 

Stay tuned for our newest book coming soon for people considering moving anywhere abroad, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and much, much more! 

Until we write again...you might like these articles too! 

We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Do I Need to Know Spanish If I Move to Ecuador or Panama?

You don't necessarily need to know Spanish to move abroad, but speaking Spanish will be a big asset to you when you get here. It's best to know at least basic Spanish so we can carry on "somewhat" of a conversation with the local folks. It only benefits us and the community by knowing the language, and it's respectful.
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Is There Resentment of the Foreigner in Panama? Why the Increase of Crimes against Expats?

There are crime waves going on in expat communities in Panama. The crimes are becoming more and more violent. What's causing these crime sprees in expat towns and communities? Resentment of the foreigner is mounting up. The biggest complaint from expats living in these areas is the authorities aren't doing anything about it and sometimes they are part of the problem. Scary...


We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Expats May Never Completely Integrate but They Can Go Local

What does it mean “to integrate into a culture?”  How does someone who has been brought up in one culture, later, move to a totally different culture and integrate oneself into that culture? How does that work?

The word usage of “integrate” has been used mistakenly by many of us bloggers, journalists and writers when it comes to foreigners moving to and living in other countries abroad.  Foreigners do not actually integrate into the culture, it is more like -- respect the culture. There are many examples we could bring out into the open here, but we think you get the general idea.

We’ve used the term a few times ourselves but after thinking about it and realizing that true integration would be almost impossible for foreigners to other countries to do, we’ve decided on a more apt word usage for foreigners moving to and living in Ecuador, which would be simply to “go local”.

The term to “go local” does not imply that one must change their way of life, or for that matter, intermingle another’s cultural beliefs and customs into their own either, like the term "integrate" implies. 

To be clear: on the surface, we can say that we have integrated into another culture but most people cannot and will not undermine what’s in their heart, mind and soul, beliefs—convictions, to integrate themselves into another culture.

Note: Some customs and traditions are just not acceptable for some people, such as eating certain traditional foods, or celebrating “pagan holidays”, or believing in “false notions”, etc, etc…

It Takes Two to Tango

The definition of integrate means to “incorporate” or “combine together” and so knowing this, then it would seem that an expat can only integrate into a culture if the other side is willing to have them.  It would be impossible to combine, mix, or join together people who are indifferent to each other. Such as oil and water.

They can pretend to be integrated but that would be “for show”.   In other words, it would be almost impossible for a people from a totally different background to incorporate themselves completely into the other and the other into them without undermining one’s value system. See the dictionary definitions below.

Here’s an easier way to look at what complete integration means. When you mix two colors together like red and blue you get a totally new color of purple. It’s really easy to mix colors together because they are inanimate objects; inanimate objects don’t have beliefs, principles and ethics like immigrants to other countries do. They are not going to reject being mixed in with each other and made into a NEW Culture.  Reality has shown us that people will reject different cultures and some will leave the place they emigrated to because they are not even willing to tolerate differences, let alone “integrate” …just saying…some call it “culture shock”.

People can only become what they decide and choose for themselves to be, not what others tell them they have to be or should be.  -- Quote from Frank and Angie

Definition of Integrate from the Cambridge Dictionary
1. to ​mix with and ​join ​society or a ​group of ​people, often ​changing to ​suit ​their way of ​life, ​habits, and ​customs

2. To combine two or more things in order to become more effective

Definition of Integrate from Noah Webster Dictionary
1. I N'TEGRATE, verb transitive [Latin integro.] To renew; to restore; to perfect; to make a thing entire

Definition of Integrate from the Merriam Webster
1. To form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole :unite

Again, reality shows many foreigners that have moved abroad find it difficult to integrate into the culture, just like so many immigrants to North American have found it difficult to integrate into the culture there.

Why is that? Well, that brings us back to the beginning of this article.  It would be impossible to combine, mix, or join together people who are indifferent to each other.  North Americans have to do their part by accepting the immigrants in the first place.  One culture of people cannot completely integrate into the culture of another people unless they both WANT to be integrated with the other to make a new culture. 

We Should Always Be Respectful of Other Cultures

I think when we are the foreigner to another country, we should always be respectful and tolerant of the ways of any new culture we move to, but that certainly does not mean “to integrate” through acceptance and become part of something we do not believe in or is against our convictions.

When North Americans move abroad to South America the best way to be respectful is to go local as much as humanly possible. I don’t believe that going local changes our beliefs, principles and ethics, or changes their beliefs either, because if it did, THEN it would be trying to “integrate” two different types of “ways of living” into “one way of life” resulting in integration...usually the way it happens is that we only partially integrate, and that’s ok.

5 Ways Expats Can Go Local

1.  Learn the local language…at least try.

2. Be respectful of the new country and people. Don't try and change the culture or its people.

3. Live in the same neighborhoods and types of housing as the locals.

4. Pay the same rent prices as the locals pay, and say “No thank you” when prices are not the local normal rates.

Would we be trying to change a custom or tradition of South America by saying “NO” to being charged more than the locals? Absolutely NOT…it means we’re trying to stop a nasty habit that uses other races for profit!! It is a form of segregation which shows that true integration will not happen as long as the locals continue to segregate us from their price levels.

5. Blend in with their way of life as much as is comfortable for you to do so without undermining your own principles, beliefs, ethics and even your health. You’re blending in out of respect, not integrating and changing your value system and beliefs…that would be undesirable to do, as we have said.

Note: Some customs and traditions are just not acceptable for some people, such as eating certain traditional foods, or celebrating “pagan holidays”, or believing in “false notions”, etc, etc…although they need to be tolerated if you live in a country where these customs and traditions are practiced; we cannot and should not try and change a culture to be what we think it should be. This is why it is good to understand the difference between tolerance and acceptance.

If a person can just go and move abroad and become just like the culture in every way of life then perhaps they are able to integrate themselves, however, the other side must also allow your traditions and customs into their way of living as well for complete integration to take place. Which is not necessarily a good goal anyway.  Integration is NEVER one-sided; it takes two coming together to make a whole or a complete union. 

Until we write again…

You might like these articles to.
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!