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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ecuador: Not Just a Cheap Place to Live (Tough Love Edition)

Cuenca, Ecuador has once again topped the list of best places to retire in the world. This is good news for those people with investments (particularly investment property) here in Ecuador. Many people can hear the cha-ching of yet another positive report.
It's not just about me on this.
The country is highly touted as a CHEAP PLACE TO LIVE, but under NO circumstances should anyone move here just for that reason. There is so much more to Ecuador, that it's a crime to use that as top billing. Many people come just for that and are disappointed.

Let's be serious - this is an emerging country, with strong arguments to classify it as part of the second world nations. This is NOT a little United States, Canada or any other first world country. Not only that, but it's had hundreds (thousands, really) of years to develop its own culture, processes and identity; which for us is what makes it amazing. What you might see as backwards and frustrating is actually a step forward here; something that Ecuadorians have worked very hard to achieve and are very proud of.
Brand new park facilities...with a view and not the type we're used to!

Crazily dangerous things for the kids to play on...but they live to tell the tale.
If you come here to save a few bucks, you'll likely be wasting your time and, in complete frankness, your hard earned money. It's an expensive thing to relocate to another country, let alone finding out, after several months (or quite frequently less) that you can't tolerate the culture. 
We already knew we loved it, before we shipped our stuff.
To me, its ridiculous for people to complain that Ecuadorians don't speak enough English, or do things the 'right' way. This is a Spanish speaking country with its own laws and traditions and for anyone to expect a people to change to make a foreigner more comfortable is laughable. Bless the Ecuadorians for being patient with my mangled Spanish, my occasional social blunders and strange ways. I came here to change myself, not to change things around me.
The sign reads "Motorcycle parking prohibited" - classic!
If you like bright, loud festivals with many fireworks (at all times of day even 6 in the morning), unexpected parades (that block traffic and result in much car honking) and the occasional dousing in water (or spray foam, flour and confetti), then by all means come. If tatty sidewalks don't throw you off, and you have the patience of Job to process paperwork, pay bills and order food; then come. If you can handle seemingly nice, understanding people turning into complete lunatics when behind the wheel of a car, then come. If you want to at least attempt to learn Spanish, then please, pack your bags and hop a plane.
Take on Amazonian traditional dress (a first for me in the small parades)


Even angels and Bible characters get thirsty

Egyptians...maybe the Exodus??

Bands, floats and traffic mayhem!
But if you're looking to save a buck and still have the life you have wherever you are now, don't bother. Unless you're willing to embrace the culture and the country, please don't come here. You aren't doing yourself any favours, let alone the Ecuadorians and, worse, you'll just make it harder for the expats who really want to be here. (That's the cold hard truth that many happy expats think, but will not say - that's why I call it tough love.) We have come across Ecuadorians who just don't want to do business with foreigners, even if you speak the language and I can only assume that someone, sometime must have really ticked them off.

If you do decide to come, plan to spend the first three months adapting - it won't seem so bad really, even though things will be strange and overwhelming. The next three months are kind of a honeymoon phase: you know where to get groceries, you've taken the bus and a few taxis and you've met some nice people and the weather, well it's pretty darned awesome. The next six months are the real trial...trying to find a more permanent place to live, dealing with obtaining residency, realizing that not having a solid grasp of basic Spanish is a hassle and it's usually when you lose some of those nice people you met...they've headed back to wherever they came from because it was all just too foreign/more expensive than they thought/or several other reasons.

Please, do your research, come for a multi-month visit before you buy a property, sell all your worldly possessions and make the leap. My husband and I, well, we're really used to change and we did several things that positioned us really well to adapt to this new experience. It's not for everybody. Being away from family and long time friends is challenging. If you're set in your ways and can only use one brand of this thing or only eat that brand of whatever the change here will come hard and could be a deal breaker.

This life is a choice and we choose to embrace it as best we can, with good humour, humbleness and joy. Please, please make sure you want to do the same.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2015 Baptism by Fire

One of our very favourite things in Ecuador (no, don't cue Julie Andrews...) is their New Years celebration. You probably saw the post from last year (A Flame-tastic New Year!), but we still can't resist posting photos for this year. The excitement starts by going to find your effigy...if you were too lazy to preplan and make your own...
Pick a body
Pick a face (see below for final product)
You might find this practice odd, since effigies have a different connotation in NA, but here it's a way of getting rid of the old bad stuff and sending out hopes and wishes for the upcoming year. Often the effigies are accompanied by placards with written out desires or dreams. We compiled our own effigy, named Rico Suave, due to his expression. As Ron says, he seemed quite pleased with himself, whether because of the 'stache or the threads, we'll never know.
Stylin', I know!
In to the fire, Rico!
He turned his face away...disappointed with us.
Because we were all caught up in burning Rico, we missed the start of the big fires for the community installations, but we do have before and after pictures. We'll let the pictures speak for themselves.  
After! (We were really late to the party!)
Fidel you feel the love?
I think what we like is that the whole family is involved and despite the appearance of a war torn city, everyone is fairly responsible (as responsible as one can be when lighting fires in intersections of the downtown core) and has a lot of fun. You can feel the excitement in the air, as the day winds down and night approachs. Everyone can't wait for the fireworks, bonfires and time with family.
Fires as far as the eye can see!
Fireworks, too!
Fires and fireworks
Of course, that doesn't mean that crazy things don't happen. One of the rituals is to jump over the effigy fire three times, no matter the size of the fire and despite the fact that the effigies are often sprinkled with firecrackers... 
Once in a lifetime picture...what a fluke!
But from us to you (okay...terrible English, I know), all the very best for 2015 and the years that follow.
Cutting a rug with a random Ecuadorian, since Ron doesn't dance!