Our oldest son Jeremy came for a visit last week for Thanksgiving and I think he had some interesting observations, “Cuenca is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there!” Of course, you have to consider that he’s a single 30-something with an active lifestyle and close to the metro-Philly area in Pennsylvania. And then again, he saw what Jiffy Peanut Butter sells for at SuperMaxi ($7.95). He was blown away at the food prices!
However, he was impressed with the Cajas Mountains and lunch at Dos Chorreras and, of course, La Mitad del Mundo in Quito. But after about the fourth day, he thought that everything started to taste the same—like butter. Yikes!
Personally, I think he was on sensory overload with all the graffiti on the walls, blue buses, yellow taxis, and a few stray llamas crossing the street. It made me realize that living overseas isn’t for everyone and maybe I should have made it mandatory that both our boys spend a year in a foreign exchange program during their senior year of high school. But the farewell dinner at Tiesto's Restaurant made him recant his statement about all the food tasting the same. So who knows, maybe he’ll be back!
Yesterday I spent a delightful afternoon with the hospitality and tourism students at the University of Cuenca. They asked me to speak about the “gringo” phenomenon in Cuenca and why I wrote the book Living and Retiring in Cuenca. The students were delightful and asked some thought-provoking questions. I also donated a copy of the book to the library and hopefully I’ll be able to assist in other areas as well as Cuenca adjusts to the gringo invasion. I told the students that I’m thankful that Cuenca hasn't changed the “heart” of the city and I doubt that there will ever be a McDonald’s on Calle Larga, but definitely gringos are making their mark!
In a recent article, US Money reports that Cuenca is still listed as one of the best places in the world to retire on a pensioner’s budget. Gone are the days when you can live in Cuenca on $600 a month; they raised the bar to $1,300 a month as a minimum and $500 for rent. However, there are still excellent places to rent for $250 (two-bedrooms and two baths). In fact, we looked at a brand new five bedroom, 4-1/2 bath home with granite tile throughout overlooking the Tomebamba that rented for $250 a month. We felt it was simply too much space for us and we didn’t feel like climbing stairs, but it was definitely a bargain! You just need to know the right people and have connections. And that only comes with knowing the language and integrating into the culture.
We look forward to more visits in the future, including my best friend who is planning to visit in April 2012 (the month of “mil aguas”—a thousand waters), so we’ll have to find a lot of indoor activities like mall shopping! I’m sure that we won’t lack for things to do and, of course, it’s always a great time to visit the thermal baths in Baños or the Olympic-sized pool right down the street!
Until next time…hasta luego!