Seven Years In Ecuador

Seven Years In Ecuador

It was 7 years ago that a Boeing 767 touched down smoothly in Guayaquil, Ecuador at 5:30 am. My BIG South American adventure had begun. My wife Sharon and I were moving to Cuenca, Ecuador with our 16-year-old cat.  We were supposed to be greeted by a prearranged driver who never showed up. I was left to negotiate a taxi to drive us the roughly 4 hours through the Cajas, part of the Andes Mountains, to the historic city and world heritage site of Cuenca. My beginning Spanish was quite inadequate.  This was our first time riding through the mountains to Cuenca. As I found out during the ride it was the drivers’s first time too.  He took outrageous risks on blind corners, balanced on the edge of a cliff with big trucks rushing toward us through rain and fog. Both Sharon and I kissed the sidewalk when we broke all speed records to arrive in Cuenca with all our worldly possessions in 4 big suitcases and an exhausted kitty.

First, I want to thank the people of Ecuador for making these past 7 years a wonderful life experience.  Specifically, the folks of Cuenca are welcoming to foreigners and have aided us as we obtained legal residency and adapted to their country. For example, we moved into a lovely rental house on a rainy July night that first year. There is neither built-in heat nor air-conditioning in homes here where it is rumored to be “eternal Spring”. The night we moved into the our new home, the temperature was 44 degrees F. Our new landlords observed that we were shivering, wrapped tight against the chill and not used to the weather high in the Andes. They rushed home and brought back a gas heater to loan us while we shopped for our own.

Although I lived in Oregon for 21 years prior to moving to Ecuador, I’m, a native  New Yorker with a Type A mindset.  I learned to slow down. Today, I would describe Cuenca in one word: the Spanish term “tranquilo” or “calm”.  In Ecuador as elsewhere in the Latin world “mañana” could be “tomorrow” but often means “some undesignated time soon”.

The population of metropolitan Cuenca is 600,000. I have seen geometric changes in 7 years. To my reckoning Cuenca was a culinary wasteland according to most US tastes. Now you can find cuisines from all over the world.  The Internet used to be very expensive, unreliable and painfully slow. Now, one can have 50 meg fiber optic right to your home. The aging bus system is super cheap to ride and you rarely wait more than 10 minutes for a bus.  If you are over 65 you qualify as a “tecera edad” “a senior citizen” to ride for half fare. You also may be given preference if there is a long line at the bank.

The other day a taxi driver was asking me if I ever eat cuy – guinea pig which is a delicacy in Ecuador. I told him that cuy was a “mascota” or “pet” to every school child in the US. However,  “mi encanta” “I love” the wonderful organic fruits and vegetables you can buy all year long in Cuenca. My favorites are pitahaya, cherimoya, and papayas. In peak season you can buy 4 papayas for a dollar if you can communicate in Spanish at the local “ferias” or “markets”.

My Spanish has grown from “Caveman” status to “functional conversationalist”  I do best if I speak mostly in the present tense and limit the interaction to my approved list of 300 verbs. Then I am “todo bien” or “completely fine”.

The expat community has grown from 800 in 2011 to well over 5000 now. This community of foreign-born citizens of the world is one of the reasons Sharon and I thrive in Cuenca. Before we retired, we rarely entertained.  Weekdays were comprised of work while week ends were filled with care of home and pets. Now, we each have hobbies and know people who share similar tastes. Cuenca ex-pats offer events every day of the week, from ancient Andean cooking to playing mahjong. Young foreign couples with children are moving to Cuenca in greater numbers. I meet newcomers who are working online while taking advantage of the lower cost of living in Cuenca. Still, the bulk of the expat community is made up mostly of people aged 55-85. These folks have time to explore interests as never before.

One should never get bored in Cuenca. New hiking trails parallel the major rivers winding through the city,  free Zumba classes are offered in local parks 6 days a week, and there is fast, reliable Internet. A strong community of writers of all genres thrives here. In fact, Cuenca hosts the Third International Writer’s Conference May 28 – June 1.

In addition to finding a poker game every day of the week, there is duplicate bridge club as well as an active thespian group. If you are a hiker, you will be in Nirvana. with shivering ghost forests populated by unusual birds.

Three years ago, I wrote my monthly living costs on my blog. It developed into a polemic on the local Facebook groups.  There were individuals who said, “ I can live $500 a month less”. They are probably right. The cost of living has everything to do with your lifestyle.  Still, no one can argue that rent, utilities and organic fruits and vegetables are cheaper than the U.S.

Why have Sharon and I remained in Cuenca for 7 years while some expats have left? First of all, I don’t think of leaving Cuenca to return to your country of origin as a failure. It may require a mindset of not letting the difficulty of Spanish or the government bureaucracy bog you down.  Sharon and I call these moments T.I.E – This Is Ecuador.  Spanish is the official language. It is our responsibility as newcomers to learn enough of the language to interact with the local community. One T.I.E moment that at times tries my patience is that banks often ask you to sign documents in a way that perfectly matches the penmanship on your ID card. You know, like a forger would need to do?  But now, when I am asked, as often happens, to rewrite my signature my blood pressure remains almost normal.

We will shortly be retuning to the U.S. for our annual family reunion. I will enjoy Peet’s Coffee, purchasing cheaper high tech devices, great Thai and hugging each grandchild .  I will especially enjoy communicating without translating in my head. But at the end of 3 weeks I will be very content to return to the tranquility and pace of life that is retirement in Cuenca, Ecuador.

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A Life In Six Words

In 2010 NPR’s “Talk Of The Nation” had a program called –

A Life… In Six Words

The next day I wrote the following:  “Brooklyn, Oswego, Brentwood, Oregon, married Sharon”.

Here is my new one for 2018

Brooklyn, Oregon, Sharon, Ecuadorian Resident, Salmon.

Here are ones from the broadcast that I found particularly interesting.

  • Found on Craigslist: table, apartment, fiance.
  • Hotel sex still rocks over fifty.
  • Normal person becomes psychotic on Twitter.
  • Full circle: morgue tech becomes obstetrician.
  • So would you believe me anyway?
  • Overworked and underpaid,
    Oversexed and underlaid.

What is your six word story?

 

Beloit College Mindset List – Class of 2020

For the past 18 years Beloit College publishes 60 mindset examples of the entering freshmen. I found this year’s examples particularly interesting as I age and my grandchildren get closer to college age.

Here are seven unique examples:

  • The United States has always been at war
  • Each year they’ve been alive the U.S. population has grown by more than one million Latinos.
  • If you want to reach them, you’d better send a text—emails are oft ignored.
  • Bada Bing – Tony and Carmela Soprano and the gang have always been part of American culture.
  • A Bush and a Clinton have always been campaigning for something big.
  • Airline tickets have always been purchased online.
  • Newt who?

You can see the complete list here

 

 

What Would Life Be Like Without The Internet (Part 1)

The initial sobering thought is that you would not be reading this post if there were no internet. The thought of  LWTI (Life Without The Internet) came to me in sort of a wave of experiences. The front edge of the wave led me to admit sometimes I use my smartphone and its connection to the Internet to avoid human contact. Yes, if I am restless at dinner or a Poker game, I take out my phone and check email or scan world headlines. Every time my phone vibrates I take it out, often interrupting an ongoing conversation. In short, I am addicted to the stimulation of the Internet.

What was life like before the Internet?

  1. Communication – There were F2F meetings, often requiring time- consuming travel to meetings. There were long distance phone calls. There was snail mail. In the 1960’s, I can remember patiently waiting in my college dormitory post office to find out if my family’s care package shipped 10 days ago had arrived today.
  2. Banking -Ah, the days of standing in line to make a deposit or to pay a vendor. It was licking a stamp on an envelope and mailing the bill to the provider of your services.
  3. Libraries – Walking to the library and hoping that the reference book you needed for your report was available and paying the library fines often.
  4. Movies – As a child, Saturday afternoons were special for my bother and me. I fondly remember going to a matinee where admission and popcorn for the both of us cost less than a dollar.
  5. Employment. There was no such thing as working online. You dressed for work. You commuted to work. More often than not you worked from 8-5 and commuted home.
  6. Television. For the first 18 years of my life there was one T.V. in the house. We watched together as a family and of course there was no streaming, Youtube or viewing on a tablet or smartphone.

Was life slower, better, more enjoyable before the Internet? For my grandchildren there are no comparisons. All of their lives they have experienced Email, Google, Facebook, iPhones and ordering from Amazon and receiving their products in the same day.  They don’t know the meaning of film and typewriters.

Could we exist today without the Internet? Does the child growing up in the Internet age lack personal communication skills? Do we as adults keep our personal communication skills sharp?

In Part 2, I will discuss a need to return to some of the skills we had before the Internet.

 

The Cost Of Hard Disk Storage – Less Than 2 cents a Gigabyte

I purchased my first computer 37 years ago. I sold my Honda Motorcycle and used the profit to buy an Apple II Computer with an RF modulator to connect to my TV and the computer had two floppy disk drives with a grand total of storage of 1/4 of a megabyte or 1/4000th of a gigabyte. My first hard drive was a 10 mb hard disk purchased for what seemed like a King’s Ransom.

Today I saw a 2 Terabyte hard disk selling on Amazon for $70.  My guess is that we will see hard disk storage below one cent in less than 2 years. For me it’s not an issue. My Macbook Pro has 256 gb solid state drive. After 5 years I still have half the drive free because all my photos and videos are stored in the cloud.

What is your prediction of disk storage?

5 Year Anniversary

Thank you Cuenca Tech Life subscribers for challenging me to keep this blog an interesting time in my life and perhaps providing you with some interesting tech observations and predictions.

So what has changed since last year:

  • Only an educated guess but I think Cuenca now has about 7K expats
  • Smartphones continues to be the number one subject followed by photos
  • Fiber Optic is now cheaper than ever 50 mps for $60
  • The Tranvia is now 85% complete only a 23% increase since last year and predicted to open in Oct 2017 almost 2 years behind schedule
  • Ecuador will elect a new president today
  • I now am officially  a Fish Monger and you can see more of my product offering at this link
  • Google and Amazon introduced their new smart speakers (Google Home and Echo) and I predict they will be the next paradigm shift in technology. There are more than 13 million of these products in homes as of this writing.

The three most viewed posts are as follows:

Thank you again for viewing Cuenca Tech Life.

 

todos santos prisma