10. The Farmer’s Markets:
I have always wanted to live somewhere with a year-round fresh food market. The ease of purchasing delicious fresh fruits and vegetables has greatly improved our eating habits. I don’t know what I currently weigh but I know I’ve lost weight since arriving here and a good portion of that is because we are eating fresher, less-processed foods. The avocados, bananas, mangoes, strawberries, oranges, and many other fruits grow year-round and plentifully here and they taste amazing! We visit a market at least once a week to stock up. I have had some of the best fruit salads, smoothies and fresh fruit juices ever while living here.
9. The Perpetual Spring Climate
Cory may not agree with me on this one as he’d prefer to live somewhere with 4 seasons but I am not missing winter (and I hear this one has been brutal) and especially not summer! The only issue I have with it is that it’s hard to remember what month it is when the climate really doesn’t change throughout the year. The temperatures can vary from about 45-80F throughout the day and depending on the time of year there may be rain showers every afternoon that last for an hour or two.
Perpetual spring also means a perpetual growing season. That means we can enjoy the above mentioned fruits and veggies throughout the year and gardening is quite a pleasure. And a bonus is that the trees and flowers are in perpetual bloom.
8. The City Parks and Town Squares
Cuenca has a multitude of parks and plazas, providing many opportunities for families to enjoy the outdoors. Some of the equipment isn’t always in the best shape but many of them have updated exercise and play structures as well as plenty of green space to allow the children to run off their energy.
I also really love that each town has a square, usually immaculately kept with beautiful flowers, a statue, and possibly a fountain. And on weekends and special holidays they are crowded with families.
7. Walkability of the City
Growing up in the big city of Houston, I am impressed by cities that are easy to navigate via foot. Houston is so spread out and 99% of the year the weather is too unbearable to want to be outside the comfort of your air-conditioned SUV. I love exploring this town on foot, finding historic buildings, street vendors, and quaint shops along the way.
The only caveat to this is that the drivers are not entirely pedestrian friendly. The car definitely has the right-of-way in this town so you have to rush across crosswalks. Plus, drivers cannot be trusted to observe stop signs so you must always be vigilant of the cars here.
If someplace isn’t as close as you’d like, you can always take the buses for $0.25 per person (age 6 and under are free) or a taxi for about $2-3 a ride. And, coming in the next few years, there will be a light rail system in place. I just love places with great public transportation! Hopefully the light rail system will cut down on the diesel pollution from the buses.
6. The Low Cost of Living
This extended vacation would have never been possible without the fact that it costs very little to live here. That is why many North American retirees flock here every year, they can stretch their retirement dollars so much further. Typical rent for a furnished apartment runs between $400-$700 a month, usually including all utilities/cable/Internet. Gas tank refills for hot water, gas stoves, and gas dryers run $2.50 a tank! We can eat a delicious meal at a restaurant for somewhere between $10-30 for our family of 4, depending on the restaurant. Diesel fuel is $1/gallon and we only have to fill up once, maybe twice a month. A trip to the farmer’s market provides us with ample supplies of fruits and veggies for less than $10. Mangoes the size of a my baby’s head are 4-5/$1, strawberries $1/lb, 15-20 bananas/$1. I’m going to miss these great prices and the ability to barter for the best deal.
A trip to the pediatrician cost us $6 and $20 for 4 medications. The dentist charged us $30 to clean our teeth (and that was more than some cost but she spoke perfect English so she catered to the Gringos and therefore charged more). Unfortunately, the low cost of human healthcare means that as veterinarians I shudder to think of the measly income we would make working here. Many people ‘have’ animals but it is uncommon to see them neutered and many of them freely roam the streets, often with a limp most likely a result of being hit by a car and not receiving after care.
5. The Gorgeous Landscapes
From the beautiful Andes Mountains, to the azure Pacific Ocean, to the verdant Amazon Region, Ecuador is a country rich in natural beauty and, for the most part, the people here respect nature and take very good care to preserve it’s beauty.
4. Los Ecuatorianos
The people here are hard-working, kind, and laid back. Despite the crazy driving here, road rage does not appear to be an issue. I especially love the indigenous, Quechua people of the Andes. I truly will miss seeing them in their brightly colored skirts, carrying a baby or something even heavier on their backs.
We also love how this is a family-centered culture. You see many people working alongside each other, children, parents, grandparents. Women wear their children on their backs and breastfeed wherever and whenever their child gets hungry.
3. The Popularity of Our Daughters
Everywhere we go we hear, ‘que linda’, ‘que hermosa’, ‘que bella’, ‘ojos de los angelitos’, while people old and young stroke their hair and grab their hands or feet. The light hair and blue eyes are quite the hit here. I even forgive them for calling the Miss P a boy because she doesn’t have earrings. Apparently the Ecuadorean girls have their ears pierced when they are 3 days old. Miss E finds the attention a bit overwhelming sometimes but it’s been a great way to keep up with her Spanish greetings. But alas, we will head back to the States where they will blend in with all the other gringitos. But I guess I am glad they aren’t teenagers here as they would probably be rather popular with the Ecuadorian boys, and I’ve seen plenty of public displays of affection at the local parks to be a little concerned about that.
2. The Driving
This is all Cory. Other than the time I reluctantly drove to Loja, I have no desire to drive here. But, according to him, he enjoys the seemingly lack of road rules. Although, just before we moved here, there was a crackdown on speeding resulting in many people being jailed for infractions. So, I wouldn’t consider it a lack of laws, but they are not always enforced.
1. My City Home and Country Home, the Best of Both Worlds
We were so blessed to have an apartment in a great part of the city as well as full access to my dad’s farm. I’m not a city or country gal as I like both for different reasons so it was nice to have the option to stay at either location. The city offers many great options for entertaining us but the country is a great place to relax and recharge.
Honorable mentions include
Street Art: these elaborate murals are much more than just ‘I wuz here’ or ‘I heart insert name here’, they are true works of art.
Ice Cream: there are some good ice cream shops here and we tend to have the mentality that we should stop for some because we are on ‘vacation’. Thankfully we do a lot of walking so we can burn off the extra calories. My favorite has to be Mixx off of San Blas Square. They have delicious creations, including many adult varieties, like Zhumir (an Ecuadorian sweet liquor in a variety of flavors), Bailey’s Irish Cream, wine, and many other flavors. Don’t miss this gem. My only complaint was the spumoni ice cream had candied fruits, not cherries and pistachios like I am used to. It was definitely not my favorite flavor from there. The Almond Joy and Bailey’s were a hit with my taste buds and tummy though.
Cleanliness: while this is not always true (see my post from our visit to Puerto Cayo) many towns are kept extremely neat and people are constantly sweeping sidewalks and cleaning up stray litter.
Our new friends. We have met many wonderful people from all over that we will keep in touch with forever.