Saturday, March 26, 2011

Question 101: "What About the Kids?"

Question 101: "What about the kids?"

My Answer: “What about the kids?!?”

Yes, the book is done (finally!). I just need to iron out a few kinks in the Kindle upload. But I have saved the best for last and I’ll share question 101 with you in a moment.

The reason for the delay…we had a lot of bloggers in town and that means “party time”: out to dinner, ice cream at Tutto Freddo, pizza at Chicago’s Pizza, and cappuccino at—you guessed it—“Cappuccino”!

One question kept arising in all our discussions about moving to Cuenca and very simply put, it was: “What about the kids?” A couple in their 50’s shared how one of their daughters was having trouble with their move to Ecuador. I listened, nodded my head, and truly empathized.

The discussion is not a new one; in fact, it’s very relevant! My response is always this: If you absolutely cannot live without your kids by your side or the grandkids in your lap, then please do not move to Ecuador. You will be doing yourselves a huge favor and saving yourself a lot of grief down the road. We have seen couples split up over this one important “question” and it’s not a pretty sight.

For some reason, the problem is more difficult with daughters than sons.You know the old saying: “A son is a son until he takes a wife; a daughter is a daughter for the rest of her life.” We have two sons and I have to admit it was difficult the first three months when we arrived in Cuenca. I went through what I can only describe as a "grieving" phase. I even went so far as to hide their pictures because I broke into tears every time I passed them.

Our sons are going to be 25 and 30 years old this summer; one is married and the other is single. We arrived here just a few days after my youngest son’s wedding and I’m not going to hide the fact -- it was painfully difficult! So if you can avoid it, don’t plan your move to Ecuador with a wedding in the works because emotions are running high anyway.

We keep in touch through Skype (more now because we have high-speed internet) and through Facebook (although don’t ever write on their wall, only message them).

Here’s my point: They have their own lives and you have yours. They would much rather go on vacation with their friends than spend time in South America visiting Inca Ruins and the Cajas. Heck, they’re probably glad we moved away because the top three reasons for divorce are: money, sex, and in-laws. We eliminated the latter by moving to Cuenca. My oldest son even commented when we were home for Christmas, “I’m used to it now; I don’t want you to move back!”

Okay, there you have it; the answer you were looking for… right from the source. We will always be there for our children and if there is an emergency we can be on a plane and arrive on the East Coast in almost a day! But if there is any hesitation on your part (and we have seen it in the eyes of many), then don’t do it…don’t move to Cuenca!

In fact, I will go so far as to say that we will all be much happier. Remember: Your kids will always be your kids and they will be happier just knowing that you love your new life!

Until next time...hasta luego!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Location, Location, Location!

One of the questions we receive a lot is, "Where do we rent or buy?"

That's a difficult one to answer because some folks love to be in the center of town, others enjoy a view of the Cajas Mountains (El Cajas), and then there are those who love the sound of the river rippling outside their window. However, we've seen folks -- still in the honeymoon stage of their visit to Cuenca --buy up properties or rent places that may not be a dream come true, all because they didn't investigate the location!

This week Riverside Condos started their building process (14 stories) right next to the Palermo Edificio (18 stories). That means that the folks on the Palermo side with the stunning views of the Cajas will now be looking into their neighbor's bedroom windows (not to mention a loss of the gorgeous skyscape they once enjoyed).

We already know of folks trying to sell their condo or get out of their leases because for the next 2-3 years, they will have to listen to the sound of dump trucks, drilling and hammering.

So how did these folks know -- when they bought their condo -- that there would be another building just as large being built right next door?  The answer is simple: they didn't know! However, at the rate that Cuenca is growing and with all the Americans retiring here, it's a good bet if there is a large piece of land next to your current place, it just might be the next new high-rise.

It's a good idea to inquire -- if you're looking at a condo with a view -- what might be cropping up next door. If there is an empty piece of land, it's a great possibility that something might be obstructing your view in the near future. Also, visit the place during different hours of the day:  morning, afternoon, and evening to get a check on the noise level. We live 50 yards from the river which drowns out almost all the noise of traffic. We also knew that we wanted a balcony overlooking the river (it adds another dimension to your living). Our favorite part of the day is waking up and having our morning coffee out on the balcony.

And it could be that city living isn't right for you and you decide to live outside of Cuenca in one of the wonderful little towns nearby. During Carnaval we took a trip to SigSig, Gualaceo and Chordeleg with our good friends Miguel and Carmen. Along the way we saw some gorgeous properties and stunning views. Who knows, you just might decide on a little plot of land in the country!

Remember the old saying:  location, location, location!

Until next time,

P.S. Celebrating my 100th post!

Friday, March 11, 2011

What's Hot and What's Not!

You can get some really hot deals in Cuenca and you don’t have to look too far—like flowers (I never spend more than $1.05 for a bouquet that lasts more than a week (Coral Centro) and a “almuerzo” at a place I’m still not going to mention because it’s worthy of an entire blog. For $2.00 we can enjoy a beverage, appetizer, soup, main meal and dessert on a white starched tablecloth.

Simply amazing!

We realized we can eat out five days a week for $80 a month. Now that’s a hot deal and I couldn’t even begin to buy all the ingredients at SuperMaxi to make even one $2.00 meal at this place.

And then there’s the not so hot deals…you know…when you get the Gringo price for something you wouldn’t pay that much for in America. I have finally realized that I need to take matters into my own hands regarding my hair. Mark can’t relate to my dilemma because he’s “sin cabello.” Probably a good thing. In the States, I had no problem: shampoo, trim and highlights would set me back $30. I had been with the same person for nearly 20 years, so I guess I got the “faithful” client discount.

Not here. I can’t get out of “la pelaqueria” for less than $65. I’m sorry, but I can eat out for a month on that kind of money. I’m trying to get back to my natural color (whatever that is) and I just can’t seem to communicate in Spanish or English exactly what it is that I want. I’ve gone from blonde, to brunette to a redhead in a matter of hours. Yes, it was their “goof” and I still paid for it. Maybe I need a "varita de virtud" -- (Spanish word for the day!).

It seems that anything that has to do with beauty is going to cost you in Cuenca, except maybe a $5.00 manicure. The women here always look so put together and now I know their secret: They go to the stylist to have their hair done, their makeup put on and they’re not even going to meet the public! I brought a stash of mascara with me from the States because I heard it was expensive here (and they were right). Maybelline Big Lash may set you back $14.00 (anything imported carries the I.V.A. tax). So if you’re moving to Cuenca, be sure to stock up on your favorite makeup items. Yes, they do sell Avon here!

Another hot item for those traveling through Cuenca is the availability of prescription drugs that don’t need a prescription. I’m not sure if you can call Retin-A or Renova a prescription drug, but I know that my medical insurance in the States sure wouldn’t pay for it. Actually, it’s supposed to make the wrinkles disappear, but I think you have to start using it before you actually get them. The price for Retin-A is $11.00 and it’s sold over the counter at many of the pharmacies in Cuenca.

And then there’s something that happens to all of us in a foreign land where we live somewhere between guilt and thankfulness, especially when a craving for Mexican food takes over. We were going to have pizza with some friends at Chicago Pizza and right next door was “El Pedregal Azteca.” We found out that we weren’t the only Gringos on the block craving Mexican because within a matter of minutes, the entire place filled up. I watched as they made tortillas (hecho a mano). I give this place a 4-star rating.

Next time, reflections on Carnaval (a not so hot holiday for me!).

Until next time…hasta luego!

El Pedregal Azteca
Gran Colombia 10-29 y Padre Aguirre
Cuenca, Ecuador
(across from Santa Domingo Plaza)

Guacamole Dip

Hecho a mano -- tortillas!
The prices are decent.

One of the dining rooms -- love the blue!
Did someone say "tacos"?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Carnaval in Cuenca!

I know I promised to take a break and not blog while I'm finishing up the book: 101 Questions Answered, but it's Carnaval and it's party time! 

Actually, this blog is for you "Jackie" who asked about Carnaval and what happens in Cuenca. All, I know for sure is I've been hit by five water ballons this week and one was inside a bus, so I know it has something to do with water!

Since I've been flogged with ballons, I thought it was significant enough to add it to the 101 Questions, and I also did a little research on the subject.

Carnaval actually comes from the Italian word, "carn-aval" which means "absence of meat." It all started coming back to me...(our days in Italy): the period that precedes Lent (according to the Catholic calendar). In order to compensate for the following 40 days of "abstention and penitence," popular festivals were held throughout the country, including: masks, water, jokes, music and dancing. We experienced all of the above today!

We realized it was a big deal when we couldn't make reservations at Tiesto's Restaurant (one of the popular places in town). Mark's birthday falls on the beginning of Carnaval and when I called the restaurant yesterday, the woman who answered the phone said, "We're booked until next Wednesday, but we can accommodate you 'mediodia.'"

 In the middle of the day?

Birthday candles don't look the same at high noon and as our good friend "Chelsey" said, "It's not birthday-esque!" But we did find another wonderful place (pictures to follow) which is our second choice and is what we call "Little Tiesto's."
While we were roaming the streets today in search of the famous "See's Candies of Cuenca," we wandered right into a parade.

One minute it was calm and the next minute it was chaos. Instead of water balloons it was "silly string" that resembles large chunks of dandruff when it doesn't get combed out of your hair. Mine is pink, so it's all good and I sort of like the new look!

We stood on the corner of Santa Domingo Plaza and watched as the music played and the fesitvities of Carnaval began. What a great day of sunshine, friends, and silly string. I almost miss the water balloons!

Carnaval is happening all around the area: Cuenca, Paute, Sigsig, Sevilla de Oro, Chordeleg, El Pan, and Guachapala (say all of that in one breath!). We will be in Gualaceo with our friends, Miguel and Carmen, on Sunday to share in the festivities there (Artesan show, folklore music and food).

I'll have a full report when we return and a special thanks to all of you who e-mailed me with questions--the book is now being renamed:  192 Questions on Cuenca.

Until next time...hasta luego!

See's Candies of Cuenca:
Gran Colombia 12-22 y Tarqui
Cuenca, Ecuador
Note: Carnival is spelled "Carnaval" in espanol -- that's your Spanish lesson for the week!
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