How’s this for a great way to become a vegetarian? I took lots of full-body, and even half-eaten body-shots, which would convince anybody to forsake pork. Actually, I haven’t tried one of these yummy meals, served outdoors on picnic tables for just a few bucks but I will soon on another walk in the park. That day, I rambled all over Parque Paraiso along the riverfront, looking for the Latin American Festival. When I finally found it, there proved to be only a few white tents serving food from different South American countries and I was already full of a broasted chicken I ate before I met Mr. Piggy here. So, that’s how I spent Sunday, July 20th.
This past week, I travelled twice to a small farming town, Paute, about an hour bus ride out of Cuenca. On Thursday, I was part of a small group visiting lovely Hacienda San Juan Pamba, www.sanjuanpamba.com.ec , on a Heritage Tour sponsored by The Gringo Tree, our online, expat newsletter. This former sugarcane and flower plantation is over two-hundred years old and has now become a hotel and conference center, somewhat similar to Paz y Luz, where I stayed during June in Peru. See the porch up there beside me and the pig.
We were served appetizers of hot cheese empanadas after a cooking demonstration. And then, ate a huge typical farm meal, with hand-pulled taffy for desert. The Hacienda is a cozy, history-filled homestead, whose sugarcane barn has become the large meeting room. The conference room walls have cavities rubbed by the oxen as they turned the cane grinder over the centuries. These same depressions are also in the opposite wall. It sounds as if the barn was about four feet too narrow and the beasts of burden had to expand things for themselves. Ouch! But, what a great story.
It was a busy week, socially, here in Cuenca, Ecuador. Thursday, I met with Joyce Woods, whom I met a few days earlier in the drugstore within my new apartment building. We struck up a conversation while waiting for someone to return to the cashier’s post. During the course of lunch we discovered many things in common. This restaurant serves a daily 3-course lunch for $4.00!
of Santa Fe, New Mexico, (far right) who live in my apartment building, introduced me to the regular Friday night, expat get-together at Fabianos Pizza place, where my Eggplant Parmesan meal, plus wine and water, came to all of $6. To my left are Angelica and Carol from Arizona; in town to choose a university for Angelica.
I’m successfully turning my apartment into a working office space and am accomplishing many of my goals for writing and studying. The weather has been cloudy and sometimes, rainy; but that is helping me to stick to my serious schedule and not do too much running around town…..though I have done a fair share of exploring. Nobody needs a car here as it’s so easy to walk and taxis are very inexpensive. I’d say that Cuenca, Ecuador is living up to its reputation of being a great city to retire in.
Andean Street Performers and gorgeous mountain sunsets.
Three weeks ago, I promptly got seriously lost exploring the big, port city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, after nearly two months in the serene, Sacred Valley of Peru. The Police had to steer me back to the hotel just before dark. By Cuenca, I was really bushed, so my first week, spent in the cute and welcoming Hostel Malki, was a bit of a blur. I knew that Cuenca would make a good place to hunker down and work on publishing details for my fifth book, if I could acquire a nice, quiet apartment with good Wi-Fi. Luckily, I met an American expat, who arranged for me to see her old apartment, now vacant. I moved in on July 1st.
Just as I’d done earlier this year, in Montevideo, with my fourth book, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Millennium; I wanted to prepare the manuscript for Sleeping With Guys Half My Age: Hosteling Around The World On Social Security, which is, technically, to be a “Blook;” my coined name for an ebook made up of blog postings, sorted into categories. All I needed was to stop traveling for awhile and to hole up in a good workspace.
At last, the non-functioning Wi-Fi is working perfectly and I’ve devoted myself, full-time, to the technicalities of book production, taking time out only for brief meals and grocery shopping expeditions. It helped that the weather turned cloudy and cool and not quite as inviting for exploratory city rambles. I did leave the cloister for a meal at DiBacca’s Italian Restaurant on Tuesday night to meet the drop-in expats and it was a lovely chance to get acquainted with some delightful new friends. This plan was much more manageable than the fancy dance I’d gone to my first Saturday night here, where I felt lost in the crowd.
No sooner had I become reacquainted with my relentless work ethic in relation to writing; than a new project loomed tantalizingly before my eyes, which seems to tie many strings together. Much too involved to describe now, it’s a way to discipline myself to learn the ins and outs of Professional Copywriting and Photostock.com. In Colorado, last Fall, my son-in-law helped me to sort the pictures taken on this last around-the-world trek and to organize them in digital folders. Many are really excellent, if I do say so myself. I was immediately eager to learn how to photoshop corrections and to post them for sale on the various stock photography sites, online, to become a silent income stream, ever thereafter. Almost a year later, that’s still a frustrated wish, trumped by the desire to become an author of a growing number of published books. My new goal is to combine the various disciplines of fun, personal writing, photography and professional writing; as well as maximizing my travel and metaphysical websites. That’s a mouthful! At least, I can try my hand at excellence in those related fields, which have been waiting in the background for the past two years.
Now, I have some well-qualified mentors and reams of easily-accessible instruction, so I’ve gone into full-time-job mode in this quiet apartment to finish the ebook and to begin my studies. I’m even thinking of staying longer right here in affordable Cuenca, now, and cancelling my mid-August flight to Central America, which would throw me back into the constant travel and hostel scene. I can stay here six-weeks longer; and then, fly to Denver in the Fall to visit my dear family on my once-a-year drop-in.
“Don’t fix what ain’t broke!” I always say. No, that doesn’t exactly say it…… How about?: “If study hall is going well, don’t fly away from it!”
Maybe just: “Put The Pedal To The Metal and Do Whatcha’ Gotta’ Do!”
Update: I wrote the following post two days ago, in the midst of puzzling frustration ….. yesssssss……over the inability to get online and to stay online in my new apartment, here in Cuenca, Ecuador. It has finally taken three technicians repeated evening visits to get me up and running in a manner that hasn’t disappeared by the next morning. Last night, my new, dear friend, Emma, the apartment manager, stuck around while the new techie took the wiring apart for at least an hour.
We actually began to understand each other’s language attempts. She’s ten years younger than me, has six children and fourteen grandchildren!!! She lent me an extra cell phone when she discovered that I can’t keep buying them for every new country I enter and thus, depend upon my email connections for all my news, local or homebased. I showed her my three published books so she could know that I was actually an author, working on some legitimate ebooks and not simply overly-dependent upon an internet fix.
One humorous note was the fact that I could tell that the technician understood English perfectly well, as we had spoken before Emma arrived; but he wasn’t revealing that fact to her. Otherwise, she would have had him translating every time we hit a snag. He just kept his head down and worked away. With very satisfactory results….so far, anyway.
This morning, the weather reflected my change in fortune! It’s clear and sunny and I can finally see the surrounding mountains as more than just dark blobs behind the rain clouds. Analyzing these past two weeks and the grumpy post I turned out in frustration last Tuesday, I see things a little more clearly now, as well. My written reports are usually upbeat and optimistic but that’s not really good journalism. I ought to tell it like it is: settling in a new country is never smooth and frustration free. We are always warned that there will be surprises and obstacles.
Not that I’m settling. It’s more like I’ve spread out in some airport executive lounge (Cuenca) for a long layover before heading out again. But, I do have an agenda, which was getting delayed in my overall scheme of things and I suppose I’m a bookwriting curmudgeon. I can’t do this stuff on the road so I buy a space for awhile to get the work done. Isn’t that the only reason people stay home? Now, my new test will be to see how much I actually accomplish with the excuses out of the way.
Yesterday revealed another puzzling obstacle. My eyes have been complaining a lot lately; especially the left one. New prescriptions are in order, as it’s been over a year. So, I had an eye exam yesterday and the doctor said that my present glasses’ left lens is way too strong for that eye. No wonder it’s been so tired! No wonder I’ve sometimes squinted and used only one eye to read! The Optician in Cape Town, South Africa, had made a huge mistake and I’ve been compensating ever since. But, Ecuador can’t produce the transitional lenses I require, so this doctor recommended waiting until I get to the States in the Fall for new ones. Today, I’m going to ask him if he can, at least, give me a left lens of the proper strength to help me through the next few months.
So, sometimes, these new countries we settle down in lead to the correction of old botherations!!! Got to remember that! Okay, here’s the fusty, grumble I wrote the other day:
Cuenca, Ecuador is the darling of International Living Magazine, prime adviser to senior-citizen Americans seeking to move overseas. I’ve been here twelve days now and am hitting a wall of lowered expectations. To be fair, it’s much warmer than I gave it credit for, being still a little high in the foothills of the Andes. And, it has a very pleasant Historic section,in which I am now living. I quickly found a large apartment, half a block from the main square, and rented it for $600 a month, with no lease required….other than a $600 damage deposit….figuring that I’d spend that on a month’s-worth of $20 a night private hostel beds.
With two double beds and a whole lot of space, this place is really too big for me and most apartments here rent for less. But, I was in a hurry to get started doing some serious writing because I’m turning my three-years’ worth of blog posts into another four ebooks. Every now and then, I decide to put down roots for a month or two and live like a regular person. This fifth floor spot has great views and is sleek and modern.
I’m trying to load pictures here…. BUT, the wi-fi is horrendous! I didn’t listen to the “Try Before You Buy!” advice and I got stuck, though I don’t believe the landlady knew there was no signal….except a bleedthrough from the next-door apartment. Finally, a technician has been called and I’ve dutifully stayed at home waiting for him. But, so far. Nada! Even checking my email in the local internets has been a chore, though I’m not sure why.
Next, I’m getting a truthful look at my fellow Expats! To my shock and horror, they are more like the ordinary senior citizens I’ve met at the stateside International Living Conferences; than the internationally-minded expats I knew in Montevideo, Uruguay. I just attended a big and fancy evening in honor of Fourth of July, that was billed as a BBQ and Square Dance, but was actually a Country Club-type dinner with ballroom dancing only. People just stuck to their well-formed groups of friends and there was none of the “Dosey-Doe/Change Your Partners” rotation that this single-gal was counting on.
When there are 3000 American Expats living in the same city, and ten-percent of them have shown up at a big social event, there is absolutely no incentive to make a newcomer feel at home. So, tuck that factoid away in your memorybanks if you are thinking of becoming an expat here. Nobody much cares!
However, Jeffry and Ramona, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, are redeeming exceptions. Right after I moved in, I ran into Jeffry on the elevator and he took me in to meet his wife. We had a great visit and agreed to do it again. They are on the 6th floor and I’m on the fifth. We can’t knock on each other’s doors, as we’re locked into our own private hallways. This security makes me feel like I did in South Africa! I don’t carry a cell phone, as they become obsolete with every border crossed, so my only connection is through my email account. It was two days later that I even got online again and learned that I’d missed their invitation to go out the night before. Shoot! It’s not only my writerly life that this outage is messing with….it’s my social life, too!
Maybe I’m getting cynical? Look how dependent we’ve become in this modern era of gadgets. And if your apartment’s wi-fi doesn’t work, the technician might not show up until you’re ready to move out. They do warn us that in South America, things move slowly. Actually, the internet was very unreliable in the Montevideo apartment I rented six months ago. I think I’d better start pricing long-term hotel rooms in future destinations.
Now that I’m in the empty next-door apartment using that signal, I shall again try to load a few pictures of this swanky, imperfect place.
After ten days of travel….which included two nights in hostels in Lima and Guayaquil, and many high, twisting, Andean miles on a double-decker bus, plus, two flights and an all-night airport sit-in, I arrived in Cuenca, Ecuador. Distances don’t look far on a map but because of the topography, are not at all rapid or easily-accomplished. But the buses and planes are modern and very comfortable…..except for a bus-propensity for loud sound on the movie entertainment system.
By now, I’ve spent four days in a new hostel just a short uphill walk from Cuenca’s historic Old Town Center, and I’m beginning to get my bearings…. mostly by getting lost. The streets are clearly named, but the tourist maps are truly squint-worthy and printed way too small for even younger eyes to read. Luckily, the river is a main feature and when turned around, I simply ask where the river is and figure things out pretty quickly.
The weather is very pleasant here and it truly feels like summer, even at our rather modest altitude of 2200 feet. So, I must take back all of my comments about Cuenca being way too chilly for my blood. It is a very welcoming city and I’m slowly discovering what the large numbers of American expats, living here, see in it. So far, I’ve only met two, just in passing on the street, but Pat, who has lived here for six years, showed me her beautiful, furnished, one-bedroom apartment right in the main part of the historic section, which she rents for $400 per month.
To qualify for such a find, one must be in a position to sign a six-month to a year lease; but she told me of an available nearby, furnished apartment that I could rent for $600 per month, without a lease. I have an appointment to examine it tomorrow because I could easily spend that much, or more, on private rooms ($20-$30 per night) in a hostel or hotel.
There is a very active expat community, which meets for various reasons throughout the week, most often right in this central, historic district, within walking distance of this apartment. Tuesdays, from 5 – 8 p.m., anybody who wants to attend meets at Di Bacco’s Restaurant for a meal, just like we did every Sunday noon in Montevideo, Uruguay. Then, there’s the Thursday luncheon meeting of Writers In Transition at the Carolina Book Store, where each writer reads ten-minute’s worth of their latest work and receives comments from the group. Friday is another drop-in, evening meal at a different restaurant. And who knows what else? Oh, a jazz spot, on another evening….and a 4th of July BBQ & Square Dance on July 5th, for which I already have my tickets….and my cowboy boots!
So far, I haven’t taken pictures but will have by the next blog. But, I expect to fit right into expat life in this lovely city and I plan to learn and report much more about the expat movement in general in all of these recommended countries. I’ve already seen that it is, indeed, much more economical here. Most dinners out are priced well under $10 per person. Cab fares are $1-2. A dorm bunk bed in a mixed-dorm is $9. A medical checkup is $15 by a U.S.-trained, English-speaking doctor. Ditto for a dental appointment.
The fact that retirees can live well here on a social security income is what brings us flocking to the handful of countries recommended by International Living Magazine for offshore retirement. Consider me your Roving Reporter.