Monday, November 28, 2011

Catching Up

I have been ignoring this Blog for many months now and have had people contact me to ask what is up.  Mostly I just got busy with daily exercise, gardening and other pastimes.  Having said that, I do want to keep in touch with friends.  I have been sending lots of e-mails to family and doing the facebook thing but I have neglected the blog.

The photo above is taken on our terrace that overlooks El Centro on Nov 28th.

In our 5 months in Cuenca we have loved almost everything about the city and its surrounding pueblos.  There are a couple of things that we had some trepidation about when we were doing our research in the year before our move and both of those have come to fruition.  The most significant is the air quality in Cuenca.  We do about two hours a day of walking and Cuenca does not have great air quality.  This is borne out by the data provided in the recent WHO Report on air quality in cities around the world.  That is not to say that it is in the category of Mexico City, Lima or New Delhi but neither is it as good as almost any city in Canada or the US.  The principle problem is the diesel-using heavy vehicles such as buses and trucks.  They have not put the necessary controls on these vehicles or the fuel to limit the pollution.  El Centro is worse than most other areas of the city because of the diesel buses.  I am not reporting anything new here.  Expats have been observing on this for several years - some have decided to live with it and others have decided to move to cleaner air.  We have made the latter decision in favour of our respiratory systems.

The photo above is of the town square in Vilcabamba.

Pending finding appropriate rental accommodation we have decided to move to Vilcabamba.  This would not be a move for people who need the amenities of a city to energize their lives.  Vilcabamba is a pueblo - small town of about 5000 people.  It has a significant foreign population - mostly english speaking.  The air quality is perfect.  The climate is warmer.  The setting is more natural and we have decided, at least for now, that it is a fit.  More to follow on that issue in the future.

We returned to Canada for a fantastic visit with our families last month.  It was a beautiful time of year, Thanksgiving, fall colours etc.  We are thankful for our families and friends - we are working hard to stay close despite the physical distance.  We will have several visits from family in the next 4 months and we feel very blessed that they are wanting to stay connected.

St. Georges Cathedral, Kingston, Ontario in October 2011.

I want to report that after almost a year it looks as if we are going to get our residency visas.  This has been quite an adventure in bureaucracy.  I don't think this is any different in Canada or the US.  Lots of hoops to jump through.  We are happy for the support of our new attorney in Quito, Sofia Altamirano Barriga - highly recommended.  I took a photo last week in Southern Ecuador that speaks to the nature of bureaucratic processes wherever they are.

I made some excuses earlier in this post about why I have not been blogging regularly.  On reflection, I think it is about freedom.  Having been retired for only a year, I am resistant to doing things that I feel obliged to do.  I don't like schedules - for the first time in my life I am trying to live in the moment.  It feels very good!  Best regards, David.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Travelling In and Around Cuenca

As readers know, Cuenca is a beautiful city with a colonial centre, four fast flowing rivers and surrounded by mountains. It is truly a special place. Often overlooked are the surrounding areas with so much natural beauty and charming villages. Many of the villages have accomplished artesans: weavers, ceramicists, potters, guitar makers and the list goes on. Attached are a few photos that we have collected in our four excursions in the villages surrounding Cuenca.

LJ negotiating a price with the Canari manager of the Sigsig Panama Hat factory.

Bet you haven't seen the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus in panama hats before!

Eduardo Vega is an internationally known ceramicist.  We visited his gallery / workshop and bought a couple of beautiful pieces.

It is very common to see families doing their wash in one of the Cuenca rivers.

Java and his friend Star came with us to visit the Incan ruins in Cojitambo.

A view of the Incan site of Cojitambo.

This is one of my favourites.  The church in San Bartolome with the Andes in the background.

Until next time, hasta luego.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Learning and Adapting

For Linda and I, one of our many motivations for moving abroad was to experience and learn about new cultures and to learn a new language.  We believe that to move into a completely new language and culture successfully requires of us a "spirit of adaptation" and an openess and eagerness to learn.  I wanted to reflect here on some of our early "learning and adaptation opportunities" and how we have dealt with them. 

It is far easier to play the observer that sits back and passes judgements from the bounds of his/her current frames of reference rather than to adapt to another person or culture's frame.   We all have developed and own "personal frames of reference" for what we believe is acceptable or "proper" in a given circumstance.  We use these "frames" everyday to manage our own behaviour and sometimes (unfortunately) to attempt to manage the attitudes and behaviours of others.  In moving into a new culture and language there are many circumstances where our current "frames" simply don't fit.

I will offer a few simple examples of our need to re-adjust in our first few weeks:
  • When asking directions my frame of reference is that if the person you ask does not know the answer they will say so.  In Cuenca, a person that does not know how to direct you is just as likely to guess and give you a vague idea of where to go.  There is no point in our passing judgement, about whether that is good or bad, rather, we have to adapt by asking multiple individuals as we go along our way in order to be sure we are headed in the right direction.  We have now learned this cultural difference and have made the necessary adjustments to our frames of reference.
  • When Linda asked to buy wine in the supermaret last week we were told there was a three day embargo on liquor sales.   As it turns out several Ecuadorians had been poisioned by bad liquor.  As a matter of public safety, President Correa, banned all liquor sales in the country for three days to ensure the supply could be verified for safe consumption.  On refelction I thought how sensible that response had been.  In Canada, this may have led me, and many others, to respond with considerable indignation (huffing and puffing).  I can't imagine the hue and cry if PM Harper had done this.  My reframe is that we charge our governments with the role of protecting public safety - we may just have to put up without wine for a few days to allow that to happen.
These two simple examples are typical of the everyday adjustments and learning that we need to do in coming to a new country with a different language and culture.  We strongly believe it is our duty as guests in our new country to make our best efforts to learn and to adapt.

On a different note we are loving the architecture of our new city.  I have included a few photos below.

The food and the flowers are great too!

Lot's of love, Linda and David.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Early Impressions of Life in Cuenca

When we fly off to a new country and a new life, we are filled with the anticipation and anxiety that goes with that.  I am pleased to say that the dust has started to settle after our first couple of weeks.  We are beginning to enjoy exploring our new city and beginning to appreciate some of the cultural differences.

In our first couple of weeks, I have to say that there were moments that provoked some anxiety.  For example, we were buying some needed supplies at a local hardware store and the clerk at checkout asked me a question.  I had no idea what she was trying to communicate and neither she nor anyone else in the vicinity could reframe it to help my understanding.  Finally, a manager in the store was able to reframe it in Spanish so I understood that she was asking whether I wanted to buy the item on credit for one or for three months.  I was able to respond that I wanted to buy it right now.

We studied Spanish both in a class and on our own with an excellent software program, off and on over the last six months.  We are committed to learning the language as quickly as possible.  Nonetheless, there are challenging moments when we are unable to make ourselves understood or we are unable to understand someone elses communication.  So far, we have found the Cuencanos to be patient and helpful.  It is hard for them to slow their speech down to the pace of our understanding.

We stopped to have my shoes shined about a week ago at one of the many spots around Parque Calderon - the beautiful central square of the city.  The shoe shine and newspaper operation were operated by an elderly Canari couple.  The Canari are the aboriginal people from this area of Ecuador having lived here long before the Incan empire.  They looked like they were in their 80s but it is difficult to tell.  When I asked he said it was $1 to shine my shoes.  We helped him up from the sidewalk and he sat me in his chair and indicated for me to put my feet up.  When he saw my size 13 feet he started to laugh and said in Spanish that he should have charged $4 or $5.  We all laughed out loud.

This morning they were cutting the grass in the lovely Parque Las Americas beside our building.  Instead of one man on a large tractor they had about a dozen men with gas powered trimmers cutting the park.  At first I thought this was quite a curious practice.  On reflection, it was employing many people in a rewarding activity instead of employing one and having the rest on social assitance.  Perhaps we could learn from the Ecuadorians.  The building in the foreground of the photo is a community police station that is staffed 24/7.  The road to the right of the park is being newly constructed.  Almost all of the work is being done by hand and "wow" do they ever work hard.  I think about the number of times in Canada where we see 4 men watching one do the work.  It simply is not that way here. 

The park is used every day and night - they play soccer and volleyball with people of all ages involved.  The play equipment is used continuously.  In Kingston, our parks seemed to get little use and I often speculated that kids were inside playing computer games.  These Ecuadorian children and their families are very active and engaged in community life.

Thank you for following our blog and for writing notes to give us feedback. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Our First Two Weeks in Ecuador

Again I feel I must apologize to family and friends for tardiness in communication.  Our first two weeks have been very busy, - mostly occupied with the activities of setting ourselves up in our new apartment in Cuenca.  I now step back to provide a bit of a chronology.

We lived in a hotel from June 14 -20 after the closing date of our house in Kingston.  We used this time to make sure we had all the things we wanted and to make final visits with family.  On June 18th I decided to confirm with our travel agent about baggage and other issues.  We had been told that we would be allowed up to 4 bags each with the appropriate fees etc.  Much to our dismay the travel agent checked again with Continental Airlines only to discover that they would only allow two suitcases each during the summer period from June 1 to August 31.  One can imagine our utter despair at the idea of cutting our belongings that we planned to take in half.  Linda put on a braver face than I and began to jettison things she felt she could do without.  It took me a while longer to overcome my frustration and anger at our travel agent for failing to advise us of this issue.  In retrospect, we feel blessed that for some reason I decided to check this on the 18th rather than arrive in Toronto and be told of this restriction.  That would have been devastating.  So that was our first wrinkle.

After a wonderful June 19th Father's Day breakfast and a walk along the beautiful Kingston waterfronton with my Mom, Dad and Jacob - early on the morning of June 20th we set out for Toronto.  We had arranged to meet the "Pet Shipper" at 8:30 am at the rental car check-in.  Unfortunately, he was held up by an accident on the 401 and by confusion in our meeting location.  We had Java all set to go but for about an hour we were in a bit of a panic because we could not connect.  Thank God for Sean and Joyti, our son and his fiancee.  They rescued us.  They took Java over to the shipping location and met with the Pet Shipper there.  Had it not been for them meeting us that morning to say goodbye and a final hug we would have been up the proverbial creek.    That was our second wrinkle.  Linda and I were so thankful for the support of our family that morning.

We flew to Houston that day and Java overnighted in the Continental Airlines kennel.  We flew on to Quito the next afternoon / evening.  We were met by a lovely lady by the name of Sandra Baquero.  She is an international shipping agent that has a special affinity for pets.  Sandra had arranged for a van to pick us up at the airport and take us to our hotel.  It was so good to see her face in the crowd when we got off the plane.

On the morning of June 22nd we were geared up to get Java out of "lock-up" (customs) as early as possible.  Those that think that they can do this on their own should reconsider.  Sandra knows the system and the people that she needs to talk to.  It seemed like an eternity to us but we sprung Java by about noon that day.  He was a bit dehydrated but otherwise came through quite well.  We had been been told stories by fellow Canadian's in Cuenca, the Pangborns, that it had taken them three days to get their pets out.  We feel very fortunate to have found Sandra and thank her for her excellent service.  It was a very emotionally exhausting morning for us until Jav was released from custody.

We spent the day on June 23rd in Quito, unfortunately Linda experienced a bit of altitude sickness that day and needed to lay low for a while.  We were staying at the Hotel Cuba Vieja.  They suggested that LJ drink som Manzanilla Tea, later we found out that this is camomille to us.  It settled LJ's stomach distress and headache quite quickly and we were able to go out walking for awhile.  The hotel staff were very kind to us and Java and we were thankful for their hospitality.  The photo above is Java with two of the wait staff in the hotel.

On June 24th we were picked up by a gentleman by the name of Efrain.  He is the brother-in-law of our friend Alberto Ordonez.  He runs a tour company from Cuenca called Mio Tours but was available that day to come to Quito to pick us up.  Efrain spent 20 years in New York and is very capable in English and Spanish.  It was a long day of driving through the beautiful Andes and we we waited with great anticipation to see if the apartment Alberto had identified would meet our needs.  It was already quite dark by the time we arrived in Cuenca.  At the apartment was our friend Alberto and the landlord and our friend Guy from Oklahoma and his wife's Dad, Tom.  We met Guy and Shelley at Christmas and had the opportunity to develop a friendship.

The apartment was not particularly well lit, but the space seemed to meet our needs very well.  It has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and an incredible terrace overlooking El Centro.  We spoke to the landlord and asked to stay there overnight and make a decision in the morning.  In the morning we realized that there would be quite a bit of cleaning and a number of repairs to do before we would be prepared to sign a lease.  We liked the space of the apartment very well so we decided we would move forward.  Over the last 10 days we have had a lot of cleaning done and the landlord with some prompting from Alberto has made most of the repairs.  We are very thankful for the support of our friend Alberto as we have gone through this process.  The first photo below is of our living and dining area as you get off our elevator.

This photo is of our kitchen.  You can see we have purchased a number of appliances.

This view of El Centro is from our terrace.  The terrace is huge and will give me lots of opportunity for growing flowers.  You can see the signature, blue domes of the "new cathedral"  in the heart of the downtown area.

Love to all of you and our sincere thanks for helping us prepare for this challenging and adventuresome part of our lives.  God bless, Linda and David.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Getting Close

Since we last posted we seem to have sorted through the various issues with getting our Labrador Retriever "Java" to Cuenca.  Sandra Baquero, an Ecuadorian Customs Broker with lots of experience with pets, has been a godsend.  Not only has she made all the requirements clear she has worked hard to reduce my anxiety about the various steps.  We have completed all the necessary documentation including the Ecuadorian Consulate legalization of our documents.

We are about three weeks from flight time and very excited about starting our new lives in Cuenca.  At the same time we are making every effort to visit with our family and friends and to assure them that this does not mean that we will be disconnected.  We have been travelling across Canada to visit various family members and in particular our children and parents.  It has been a very special time to for us as it is rare that we get to so many members of our families in such a short period of time.

We visited our oldest son Sean and his fiancée Joyti in Toronto.

Our second oldest son Christopher and his girlfriend Shayna in Edmonton.

Had an 80th Birthday Celebration with my Mom and many family members in Kingston.

The next three weeks will be very busy with the move of our daughter Susannah into her first apartment and finishing off all the last minute details before travel to Cuenca.

We now have a temporary apartment arranged in Cuenca thanks to our friend Alberto Ordonez and we have a postal address.  We have prepared a card with all of our new coordinates effective June 21st.

We will try to keep our family and friends in Canada and our new friends in Cuenca posted as things progress.  All the best, Linda and David.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bringing A Pet to Ecuador

Hello folks, the purpose of this post is to provide those who might be interested with an update to the saga of arranging the import of our dog Java into Ecuador.

I continue to learn a great deal but the lack of policy and procedural clarity continues to be a major frustration.

Here is a synopsis of where we are now ( less than two months from flight time):

·    We have booked our flights to Ecuador and our International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) consultant - Frank Wright has booked Java to travel on the same aircraft as us.  Java must travel as cargo because his weight with the crate included is greater than 45kg or 100lbs.  Most airlines have made their restrictions clear in this regard but some of the Latin American airlines leave it somewhat vague.  When we called various Latin American airlines we were told alternatively that the 45kg limit was the dog alone or the dog with crate.  We got different answers depending what time of day you called the airlines in question.  Java is 41kg on his own and the crate weighs at least 10kg.  We could not take the chance and so we have booked him as cargo on our flights. 
·    We are using Continental because of their Petsafe program.  They have worked out some of the details for keeping pets safe and comfortable.  This includes the availability of kenneling in Houston overnight to allow for a single flight booking.  Houston is Continental’s big hub and so they use this as a key point in this program.  There are many direct flights to Houston and there is a direct flight to Quito from Houston.  This is not to say that other airlines may not be able to serve your needs, but I hear from multiple sources about Continental and have therefore taken that route.  Both our IPATA consultant and our Ecuadorian broker have recommended Continental.  From Toronto the cost is almost $800 Cdn.  That would be about $840 US.
·    We have now made contact with an experienced Broker in Quito / Guayaquil who handles the importation of pets amongst other things.  Her name is SANDRA BAQUERO, her e-mail address is  I got her name from Gary Scott’s Ecuador Living website from the report he did on importing dogs.  We have received some initial information from Sandy and she seems very familiar with the process.  She has quoted four separate costs:
  •  Tax  in Ecuadorian Ministry for pets                     USD        24.00
  •  Fee for getting Ecuadorian import permit           USD      150.00
  •  Approx payment of duties for dog and cats        USD      400.00
  •  Fee for clearanceing pets                                     USD      350.00 
  • TOTAL APPROX PAYMENTS                            USD      924.00
·     My understanding from Sandy is that her fee for brokering is $350 while the others are all related to Ecuadorian permits and fees.
·    Now, I will try and articulate the documentation issue.  This has been the most frustrating and least clear.  I have been in touch with Ecuadorian consulates in Ottawa and Toronto.  The story about what is required is mostly the same:
o   An International Certificate of Health for Dogs and Cats must be completed by your veterinarian. This form must be legalized by the national authority for animal health.  In Canada, that authority is the Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).  The vaccination requirements for importation are on the Ecuadorian consulate web site and must be completed within 60 days of travel.  The pet must be free of parasites, externally and internally.  This must be verified within 30 days of travel.  Please note:  these timelines may differ within the US but they are consistent with what Sandra has identified. 
o   In Canada, the form must go to CFIA for certification, must then be apostollized by the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.  Finally, it must be legalized by an Ecuadorian consulate.  The broker in Quito needs this form in order to apply for the import permit and she advises to scan and send this to her so that she can move it forward ASAP.
o   Here is the rub.  There is an additional requirement for a final inspection of the dogs health at the time of shipping.  I asked the Ecuadorian consulate in Ottawa how we are to do this and still get all the stamps on it.  He replied that we cannot, we need to move the other parts forward and then do this bit at the last minute.  To the best of my knowledge there is no form for this piece and so my intention with our veterinarian is to have this done the day before travel in a letter that I will have translated into Spanish.  My intent is to have both of these documents available at the time of export.
o   The veterinary fees are significant because the vaccinations, de-worming, stool samples, blood samples etc definitely add up.  My best guess is that they will cost me $600 in total.
·    In all I am assuming a total cost of over $2500 all in by the time we get Java to Ecuador and out of the warehouse.  This is certainly more than I had counted on and is why I put some emphasis on it here.
o   Transportation via Continental - $840
o   Brokerage and fees in Ecuador - $924
o   Veterinary and documentation costs - $600
o   Pet Shipping Support - Unknown to date
·    My hope is that this information is helpful to you.  If I find out anything else as we go through the process I will let you know. 

All the best everyone, Linda and Dave

P.S.  Connie Pombo has committed to having their dog Mocha play with Java when he arrives.  If anyone is up for a little Mocha Java we are definitely buying.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Making Progress

Hello to all.  I have not posted for a few months as we had little to say but we do have an update now.  We have sold our property in Kingston and the deal will close on June 15th.  Our current plan is to fly to Cuenca sometime between June 20th and the end of the month.  We are getting pretty excited about establishing our home in Cuenca.

In my last post, I shared the early part of our Visa application process.  You may be interested to know that because of some rule changes within the Ecuadorian Ministry of Migration we were required to return to the Ecuadorian embassy in Ottawa.  This time instead of a stamp to "legalize" our documents, the new policy required that the embassy prepare a letter on Consular office letterhead indicating that they had "legalized" our documents.  The gentleman at the consular office was very friendly and helpful in doing what was need to allow our applications to proceed.  In addition, our lawyer (Dr. Galo Cardenas Rodas) and his staff in Cuenca have been terrific.

Linda and I are eagerly following the many expat blogs for advice.  A special thanks goes to Mary at South of Zero.  Although we haven't had the pleasure of meeting Mary yet, her daily posts summarizing the expat activity in Ecuador have been invaluable.  We are looking forward to the e-release of Connie's 101 Questions and Answers.

We have been trying to spend time with the many members of our spread out families and will be doing more of that in the next two months before we leave Canada.  We already have many commitments from family and friends to visit Cuenca within our first year and we are thrilled by the prospect of sharing our adopted home.  We have also made the commitment to return to Canada 2-3 times per year and to remain connected.

We have decided to make the move without furnishings and with only the minimum of personal belongings.  Linda has been amazing in her new found marketing skills and has been very successful in selling many of our belongings on Kijiji.  I am not sure whether Kijiji (an on-line personal sales site), is available in the US but it is a great way of selling all sorts of things within a community.  Most of our things have now been sold or are spoken for by our four adult children. 

Several people have asked us whether we will be bringing our six year old black labrador retriever "Java".  The answer is an unequivocal yes.  Java is a very important part of our lives and we think he will enjoy being able to be out for walks all year round.  Today, April 3rd, was the first day since late October that we have been able to take a long walk outside without freezing.

I just found out on Friday that the International Health Certificate for Dogs that is required for entry into Ecuador must also be "legalized" by the Ecuadorian consulate.  We have the veterinary appointment this week and will be on the road to Ottawa again to visit our new friend in the consular office for the official "Okey-Dokey".

We follow the many posts on "Gringo Tree" and look forward to sharing our lives with the many enthusiastic expatriates living in Cuenca.  See you in Cuenca in about 2.5 months.

Best regards, Linda and David.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Counting Down

This morning is minus 26 degrees celsius.  For our American friends that is just plain #@$%^&*!@# cold!  Do we need another reason?

The past week of preparation has been a busy one.  

  • We sold a house;
  • We began to sell some of my larger woodworking tools;  
  • We got the pension documentation prepared for our visa application; and
  • We continued to take Spanish language classes.
I wanted to share the process we have been through so far in the visa application process because it has been quite an interesting adventure.  We engaged a lawyer in Cuenca while we were there at Christmas.  He instructed us on the many steps that were required and set the wheels in motion which included signing several documents and taking copies of our passports.  

When we returned to Canada, we requested our pension providers to send us a signed "Confirmation of Pension Letter".  This took about a week and they were just what we needed.  A young friend of ours is a Spanish speaker and a student of languages at Queen's University.  She translated the documents and then we went together to our lawyer's office.  The lawyer prepared an affadavit to authenticate the original letter and the translation.  He then put an official looking embossed stamp on all the documents.  I think it is the official looking stamp that carried the day later on.

We then contacted the Ecuadorian consulate in Ottawa and he told us about an additional step that our Cuencan lawyer did not know about.  Before we could get the documents legalized by the consulate, we had to have them legalized by the Canadian government's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.  Interestingly, there was an office set up in Ottawa specifically for legalizing these documents for other countries that require this step.  (I am biting my tongue about the proliferation of bureaucracies!!)  They put another official looking stamp on the documents and we were on our way to the Ecuadorian consulate.

The Ecuadorian consulate was very welcoming and helpful.  We had to pay a fee of $50 US each for the consular officer to apply yet another official stamp identifying that the documents were "legalized".  We chatted with him for a few minutes about his life in Ottawa and how cold it was compared to Ecuador.  Officially legalized documents in hand (three very official looking stamps), we headed back to Kingston.

Our Cuencan lawyer had asked us to courier them to him so the next day we went to FedEx and asked that they be sent to Cuenca.  I figured maybe $20 - $30.  The total cost for the envelope with six pages in it was $100.  Wow!  In any case they should arrive in Cuenca this week and with them our lawyer tells us that he will be able to proceed with our pensioner's visa application.  Many steps yet to go.  I should mention that we could have chosen to wait until we arrived in Cuenca to begin this process but we felt that it would put us more at ease if these details were tied up before leaving.

Hoping this was illuminating for those that are making plans.  The journey of several thousand miles begins with the first steps.  Regards, Linda and David.

Monday, January 10, 2011

How and why did we choose Cuenca?

Sometime last spring Linda and I sat down to discuss what we wanted our retirement to be like.  We were inspired by a book by Ernie Zelinski – “How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free”.  We both worked through a visioning exercise about what our ideal retirement would be like and then compared notes.  We were profoundly aligned on a number of issues.  We both wanted a retirement that met most if not all the following criteria:

  •    It is adventuresome and challenges us to live life fully;
  •    It enables and encourages continuous learning;
  •    It enables us to be physically active daily and enables healthy living;
  •    It allows us to travel, to explore and to discover different cultures;
  •  It creates an environment where we can pursue other passions such as music and wildlife photography; and
  •     It gives us plenty of time and resources to connect with members of our family.

From this analysis, we think that a location that encourages us to get outside walking daily is a good start (we are no longer wild about Canadian winters).  The idea of living in a country with a different language appeals to our need to learn and a location with a fundamentally different culture satisfies our passion for discovery.  We calculate that it will help us travel to other parts of the world and to come home to visit our families if our cost of living at our base location is less than what it would be in Canada.

As I indicated in our first post, we began researching various places for our base location early last year.  A healthy environment with a temperate climate and a reasonable cost of living seemed like a good baseline.  We considered many locations in North, Central and South America and finally settled on Cuenca, Ecuador.  Cuenca’s characteristics are a good fit with our desired retirement lifestyle.  That is not to say the Cuenca is right for everyone.  There are pros and cons to every location.
Cuenca offers us a year round temperate climate and a decreased cost of living.  In addition, it met our criteria related to language and new cultures.  The biodiversity of Ecuador gives me opportunities to pursue a passion for photographing new birds and wildlife.  The quality of the infrastructure in Cuenca: water, health care, transportation, security services, universities and cultural opportunities is also a good fit for us from an environmental perspective.  We chose a large city for some of this infrastructure despite the appeal of more rural settings.  One down side is that travel to and from Cuenca is not as easy as it could be if Cuenca had a true international airport.  One big upside in Cuenca is the size and connectedness of the expatriate community.  There is clearly a supportive community of likeminded people in Cuenca in addition to the native Cuencanos.

Suffice to say, we see Cuenca as a good fit for what we hope our retirement is like.  Others may seek locations with different or similar characteristics to fit their lifestyle choices.

The journey of several thousand miles begins with the first steps.  Best regards, Linda and David.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Inaugural Post

In this my inaugural post I want to express my gratitude for all those that have taken the time to provide a rich base of knowledge for those would-be expatriates to Cuenca, Ecuador.  I have learned so much and will continue to do so.  Your knowledge sharing has without doubt informed our decision to move to Cuenca and is making the early steps in our adventure much easier.  Thank you.

My wife Linda and I plan to move to Cuenca around June 2011.  We have eagerly followed the informative blog posts since last February when we first started to inform ourselves about living abroad.  We both took the bold step into early retirement in October and are enjoying every minute.

We travelled to Cuenca over Christmas this year with our two youngest children and had a very positive experience.  Alberto and his family at Casa Ordonez could not have been more welcoming and helpful.  I would recommend his inn to anyone going to Cuenca for a short stay.  We were assisted in our first visit to Cuenca by cuencanos and expatriates alike.  Special thanks go to Doug Willis whose orientation to Cuenca was first class.

We met a number of very pleasant and helpful people at the usual establishments:  Kookaburra, Eucalyptus, California Kitchen and Carolina Bookstore etc....  We made two great new friends in Shelley and Guy (see HurstTraverse).  

Linda and I walked all over Cuenca - a very positive experience. We loved the walking paths along the rivers and the lovely parkland.  Our concerns about the air pollution in El Centro were confirmed and we will certainly look for accommodation outside of the downtown core.

I was struck by the "family oriented" nature of the local culture.  Children are central to the life of the Ecuadorian people.

We made contacts with an immigration lawyer and with people that were prepared to help us with organizing accommodation etc.  A very productive trip.  Like many of the expatriates our greatest challenge now is helping our families understand why our planned move is a good one for us.  My hope is that this blog may help others that are considering this decision or who are in the throes of earnest preparations.

The journey of several thousand miles begins with the first step.  
Regards, Dave.