Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Tale of Two Worlds

It's been a while since I posted, so I feel the need to say something as you might think we have slipped off the face of the earth. Several of you have e-mailed me and sent such lovely comments which I can't thank you enough for. I'm so very grateful to have you in our lives.

However, I read a comment this morning that was so extremely hurtful, which I won't respond to now as I don't believe that ever does anyone any good.

Suffice to say we are in the States (temporarily) until we can get some personal matters in order. My sister has been ill, I have elderly parents, and a son who needs our help at this time. To go into all of it, would be heartbreaking so I'm going to spare you the details. Sometimes what we want to do and what we have to do are two different things. Many of the expats we know have parents or children who have passed on and, therefore, don't have any ties to the States which is an ideal situation. But for many of us, staying connected is important and we can't always do that from a distance.

I love Cuenca and everything that it has to offer and although not "perfect," it comes pretty close. As far as being an authority on the subject; I don't think anyone is an authority on anything -- really. The e-book I wrote -- intended to be a guide to newcomers -- is exactly why I wrote it. The income I receive on the book is so trivial it would make you laugh! Those of you who give Spanish or English lessons would be much better off.  Or if you want to optimize your websites and make a living off of blogging -- you would do well -- if money is what you're looking for. The book was not intended to make "millions," but to offer help to newcomers as I received so many questions when we arrived in Cuenca, I simply couldn't keep up with it all. Many wrote and told me that they had written several of the prominent bloggers in Cuenca with not even a reply or an acknowledgement. However, Gringos Abroad is an exception. Brian always comes through with helpful advice and great blogging (kudos to you Brian!), so I often refer folks to him.

We "slipped" out of town after our vacation to the coast, which allowed us time to regroup before our trip to the States, which was supposed to be for a few months. We left our beloved Mocha in the hands of a wonderful expat couple who gives us updates and videos weekly and we send care packages on a regular basis. We like to think of them as surrogate parents who provide a loving home filled with joy. We made the transition over a month's time with regular visits until we knew that Mocha felt completely at home.

Rumors seem to swirl in Cuenca which happens anywhere you live, but don't listen to everything you hear. The truth seems to get distorted somewhere along the way which is never positive or helpful.

As a writer, I always share both sides of the story and thankfully I can do that wherever I live. Many travel writers have never been to the places that they write about and yet it is useful and helpful information. I feel fortunate in that I have actually lived in Cuenca for more than two years and continue to keep in contact with friends who update me on the happenings there.

Interestingly enough, we have used our Spanish more in California than we did in Cuenca and I'm continuing my studies at Cuesta College and hope to master it. We even go to a Latino Church, so we feel more involved in the Hispanic community.

At present, I'm on a speaking/book signing tour with Chicken Soup for the Soul (four books have recently come out) and I'm using my expertise in that area to help raise funds for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. All proceeds of the book go to the American Cancer Society (100 percent of the profits). I write for a variety of publications and journals (even Italy), where we lived for six years. Although we don't live there now (maybe in the future), it means that I can still write about a place even though I don't physically live there.

We are enjoying the Central Coast of California where we honeymooned 37 years ago and San Luis Obispo is called the "happiest place on earth." The past two months we haven't seen a drop of rain with sun and blue skies every day. We take long walks along the beach and enjoy spectacular sunsets. We found an apartment on an estate with a sprawling 5 bedroom 5 bath house -- totally private and secluded. Our rent is $895 per month with all utilities paid and fully furnished. That is about what we paid for our first condo in the Palermo Building in Cuenca over two years ago. We still have our medical insurance in Cuenca and also took out a policy in the States with Anthem B/Cross ($500) for both of us which covers everything. Although it's not $98 like it was in Cuenca, our policy there was only for $10,000. Our policy here covers up to one million, so we're doubly covered.

As far as groceries, we find it's cheaper to eat in the States. We shop Fresh and Easy ($25 a week) and the good old Dollar Tree is amazing; I forgot how wonderful it was to pick up everything for a $1.00 (literally). The best part is we can enjoy Avila Beach, Pismo Beach, Shell Beach and Morro Bay -- all within 15 minutes from our house. Eating out is more affordable as well, which totally shocked us. Last night we dined at the Cliff's Resort (coconut shrimp and build a spud) and our total bill came to $18.00. Because portion sizes are so huge in the States, we often just split an appetizer and sometimes walk out the door for less than $12.00 at 5-star resorts!

We were fortunate in that we found a perfect rental, an economical car, and enjoy walking on the beach every day. I think I turned my mountain man into a beach guy -- at last!

There are many affordable ways to live all around the world. We just happen to live in a secluded estate area with 30 homes -- all on 6-acre lots with "granny" units or apartments attached. We already decided we never want to buy again. Mark works part-time, which he did in Cuenca (as we both did, actually), and so that part isn't new.

If you ever find yourself in the position where you have to come back to the States to take care of business, there are extremely affordable options even in the most expensive areas. We found our deal on Craigslist.

I plan on return visits to Cuenca to keep the book updated and to visit friends. However, this will be my last post on this blog -- all other updates can be found at www.thebestoflivingandretiringinecuador.com. I will also be doing a blog on Central Coast Living as well which will highlight some of the affordable ways you can enjoy five-star living on a one-star budget.

Hasta luego...back to the beach!

Connie and Mark

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