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.