Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things!

We've been in Cuenca for five months now and I have to say it seems like a lifetime (in a good sense). During that time we have learned a new language, experienced a new culture, got a puppy (Mocha!), moved twice, and have met some wonderful new friends. If I had to say what I love most – I can’t, but I can list a few of my favorite things:

Cost of Living: Nowhere in the world could we live off what we do here and enjoy the quality of life that we do in Cuenca. My husband’s pension isn’t great, but combined with my writing income it works. Sure, most of our friends live on five times what we make (or more), but we are happier now than we have ever been. No, we don’t have extravagant dinner parties, drive an SUV or go out to expensive restaurants, but we love our new life. We have no debt, we live simply but purposefully, and we have no stress! And for the first time in our lives, we are able to save hundreds of dollars each month and that’s living on $1,400 a month. Simply amazing!

Restaurants: There are a vast array of restaurants in Cuenca to fit any budget; our favorite is "Sucre y Sal" (owned by a French and Ecuadorian couple). We go there at least four times a month or more and enjoy wine, quiche, salad, and the best desserts in all of Cuenca! One of our new favorites is Hotel Santa Lucia (I call it the “Paris” of Cuenca). The service is excellent and the ambiance is spectacular. It’s dressed up for the holidays right now, so it’s a great place to enjoy an evening out.  A new favorite is “Vino y Olivo” at Esquina de Las Artes.

Flowers, Flowers, Flowers! Every week, I don’t go to the flower market at “al centro,” but head to Coral Centro to pick up my bouquets which are $1.05 and include sunflowers, roses, baby’s breath, carnations, lilies, and a whole lot of other flowers that I can’t even name. I put a baby aspirin in the water and they are still fresh as a daisy a week later. For $5.00 I can fill our home with colorful bouquets in every room!

Sunsets: This is a bit deceiving at first because we are high in the Andes Mountains. The sun sets over the mountains at approximately 5:45 PM every evening. That’s when you get to see a “glimmer” of a sunset before it disappears. You have to be quick because it’s over the southern sierras at 5:46 PM. The rest of the evening—until 6:30 PM— the sky puts on a color display which is breathtaking. This has taken a little getting used to, but I’m finally okay with just a beautifully painted sky.

The Rivers of Cuenca: There are four rivers that run through Cuenca and we live along the Tomebamba, probably the most popular. After a week of rain, it is back up to its normal level and the sound is amazing. We are fortunate to live 50 feet from its banks and it is truly the source of much joy in our lives. We open the windows at night to let the sound lull us to sleep. And, of course, Mocha loves his “backyard” with daily walks along the river trail. The eucalyptus trees make a whistling sound when the wind blows through and when it rains, the smell is like a balm to the soul. No wonder so many Ecuadorian poets and writers have found their source of inspiration from these waters.

Healthcare: Mark and I came to Cuenca as 55 year olds. Both of us have survived our share of life’s health crises, including cancer, heart-related conditions and accidents. As a cancer survivor times two, I count each day as a  blessing and a gift to be savored. Where in the world can you receive state-of-the-art healthcare, a doctor who makes house calls, gives you his personal cell phone number and spends 45 minutes with you at each visit? I think it’s called “paradise.” Our doctor, Dr. Pablo Parra, is a gifted physician with disciplines in internal medicine and pulmonology. In the States, a visit to such a specialist would be hundreds of dollars and yet we pay just $25 each visit.

A Writer’s Paradise: I came to Cuenca as a “retired” writer, but recently I’ve had several things published and a new book coming out (the one I was working on before we left for Ecuador). I just recently signed off on the proofs and it is available for pre-order. We will be going back to the States for Christmas and I’ll be doing some book signings, but I find that my writing has taken a different turn; I’m working on an e-book on “Living and Retiring in Ecuador” which will be available on Kindle. I hope it will be a blessing to newcomers. As a writer in the States, I was locked into deadlines, but now I write when I feel inspired—not because I have to. What a blessing!

This is not a lengthy list of my favorite things, but it all comes down to the fact that we made a decision—nine months ago— to retire in a foreign country. I have to tell you that was not met with a lot of “hoorahs,” but with a lot of speculation on the part of family and friends! Quite frankly, they thought we were crazy and that we would be back in the States soon after our arrival. Well, I have to say that’s not going to happen; we have made our home here. And our boys—now men—have accepted our decision. In fact, I don’t even think they miss us which is a sign we did our job well as parents. That’s doesn’t mean they don’t love us (they do!); it just means they have their own life to live, so that one day they can write a list of their own “favorite things”!

Until next time...hasta luego!

P.S. Next time, I'll give you a tour of my favorite places to drink coffee in Cuenca to celebrate "Coffee Lovers"!


Angela said...

Connie, I always enjoy your posts & hope to meet you while in Cuenca December 4-6 as my husband and I check out 3 areas of the country for "retirement" next year. What a wonderful list of pluses for Cuenca in helping with our decision!

Anonymous said...

What a great post to read (love the pics too!)while having another stressful day at work here in NC. It helps me to tough it out knowing that such a future awaits us in Ecuador (hopefully!). Amazing that so many kind, talented people are EC expats and are so willing to pave the way for those of us following in your footsteps.

Kim & Mo

Debbie said...

Hello from Bend, Oregon! I just found your blog, very helpful, keep it coming! Thank you so much. Deb

Connie Pombo said...

Angela: Thanks for your kind comments. Yes, we'll look forward to your visit; you can e-mail me at You're coming at a great time!

Kim & Mo: You won't find a better expat community than Cuenca. Everyone we have met is so helpful and kind! Hang in there; you're working for a goal -- PARADISE!

Debbie: Bienvenidos! We love Bend, Oregon (we both went to college at Whitworth in Spokane, WA), and that was our mid-way point on many drives home. We learned so much by reading blogs before we arrived; I took lots of notes! ;-)

Tom said...

Hi Connie! I stumbled upon your blog as I was searching for some retirement stories. I must say, your posts got me glued. I also retire from my career as an architect here in Charlotte. Senior living has been really good for me. My wife and I found one of the nicest retirement communities. Charlotte, North Carolina offers good homes for people like us in our 50s. Our daughter and her kids visit us every weekend for hanging out. Anyway, we're also looking forward to traveling to Europe sometime next year. I'll be coming back to your blog and hope to see more posts! Cheers!

Connie Pombo said...

Thanks, Tom for the comment. Yes, we love Charlotte as well (North Carolina is a little bit of heaven on earth). In my other life, I did a lot of traveling as a speaker and had a chance to see some beautiful places. That's so wonderful you're so close to your daughter and g/kids! You will absolutely adore Europe! Enjoy!

Tom said...

Oh, I hope we will. Thank you so much, Connie.

jkberman4 said...

Very nice website. Good information for both positive and negative information.

Dr. Pablo Parra is the best pulmonologist in all of Ecuador. You were fortunate to find him and have him for your doctor. I was also priviledged to have him for a doctor when I was there last year and am blessed to have him as a dear friend.

Might I ask if you knew Charlie "Tremendous" Jones from Mechanicsburg, PA? He, too, was a motivational speaker and a dear friend.

My husband and I can hardly wait to return to our beloved Cuenca. My heart is there, as are our dearest friends. J.B.

Connie Pombo said...

Hi JB,

Thank you for your comment. Yes, we too, feel blessed to know Dr. Pablo Parra as a physician and a friend. We're so spoiled by the medical care here we often wonder how we "survived" American medicine!

I'm not familiar with Charlie Jones -- was he with the National Speaker's Association? I loved my life as a speaker -- so many interesting places and people. But I adore my retired life!

We'll have to meet up when you return to Ecuador.

Un abrazo fuerte!


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