Our life in Ecuador is nothing like our life was in the United States. Here, we don’t own a car or the house we live in. Because we are retired, we don’t go to work everyday. We spend our days milling around our beautiful house or gardens, or visiting the downtown area. We still do some work, especially Bonnie, to bring in some extra income, but we work online now. I am building a website and doing some stock trading. We get around by walking, or taking a bus or taxi. Public transportation is excellent in the Cuenca, where we live. We spend a lot of our time socializing and shopping, mostly for fresh and fruits found at the many mercados in the city.
When we go out, our routine consists of walking downhill to the bus stop where we either take the bus or flag a taxi down to make the 2 to 3 mile trip into town. On the way down, we give snacks to the street dogs and family dogs along the way. We know them all by name….Lukas, Trapa, Oso, Osa, Coli, Col and Maya. Lukas is a street dog who fiercely defends his territory, and threatened us for the first few days we were here. Once he was sure we knew who the neighborhood boss was, we became friends and now, he looks forward to the treats we bring him and even defends us against other dogs. He and our dog Star have become best of buddies.
Trapa is a mopish looking dog who also threatened when we were new and who also loves our visits with treats. Trapa means mop.
Oso, is a cute little poodlish dog that lives behind a fence and leaps up to get his treat every time we pass by. Same with Osa, who lives behind another gate. Oso/a means bear.
Coli is an indigenous family’s dog that seems underfed, so he jumps for joy when he sees us coming with treats. He is a cheery pup. He shares his yard with a tiny cat who loves to purr and snuggle after eating his treats. The family tells us his name, but we can’t understand the pronunciation.
Maya is a beagle mix who is very timid around people but dances with happiness when we walk towards her.
Chocolate and Toby live in a big fenced yard. They have specific spots in the fence where we are supposed to go to feed them treats.
Our cat and dog, Maya and Star seem to enjoy their lives here.
We have also gotten to know our Ecuadorian neighbors and are greeted with a Buenas dias or buenas tardes and some conversation. Two young indigenous boys love to visit with Bonnie, to learn english words and teach us spanish or kichwa words. Ecuadorians are very warm and welcoming.
We have an Ecuadorian neighbor whose yard we have to walk through to get to our house. We have become friends and she has even invited us to use her second home in the stunning Yungilla Valley of Ecuador. It’s like a tropical Colorado! She is part of one of the oldest families in Cuenca, so her houses are impressive.
Our walk to the bus stop is about 10 minutes, maybe 15 if we encounter all our dog friends on the way. Buses run about every 10 minutes. If we are in a hurry, we can flag down one of the many taxis driving by. A taxi ride into town runs $2.50 to $3.00. The bus is $.15 for me, $.30 for my younger wife. Seniors over 65 get a 50% discount on buses, public events, and local airfares. Seniors also get to go to the front of every line. All ages of people here exhibit genuine respect for elders.
We spend a lot of time walking around town from place to place. We have our regular tiendas (stores) and cafes that we visit. Because we do this often, we have gotten to know most of the owners and workers. They’re great places to practice our Spanish.
There is a beautiful major river running through our part of town with nice walkways on both sides. When we can, we take this route instead of the street routes. Generally there are families picnicking, dogs romping, couples smooching and bike riders resting on the banks of the rivers.
Currently, as of this writing, we have a friend visiting from North Carolina for 6 months. We set him up with a local apartment (Apartmentos Otorongo) for $600 a month, with maid service and all utilities included.
We are taking Spanish classes here and improving daily with the language. Bonnie has gotten so good she can have full conversations with people. Gary can understand and communicate but still has a hard time understanding conversations. People here are very understanding and helpful.
The weather is amazing. Where we live in the Andes Mountains, it’s cool at night and comfortable during the day with cloud cover. When the sun comes out, it is intense because of being so close to the equator at such a high altitude. It rains regularly but not all day. We can literally have three seasons in one day.
The city of Cuenca is a mid size city designated as a World Heritage site. It has amazing architecture, parks everywhere, and two major rushing rivers running through it. There are few major franchises here and overall, it’s an entrepreneurial city. We have one McDonalds and one KFC downtown. Most of the businesses are small and locally owned.
Gary bought a hybrid bike to get around on. He gets out on it occasionally at this point, mostly because the uphill climb back home is tough. We live at 8700 feet altitude and the climb is steep in some areas. In February we will move to a house in town which will make biking much easier. We will be able to ride or walk everywhere we need to go. Our new house is in a neighborhood where we already know many people, both gringo and Ecuadorian. There is a park around the corner to hang out in and take the dog to, and the electric tram station is also just one block away. Our Spanish school is up the street, and the supermarket is nearby. Very convenient location. Right down the hill is a local sports bar and several gyms. (What more could Gary ask for!)
We are enjoying our life in Cuenca and it is truly the adventure we have been waiting for. New culture, new language, and beautiful new places to explore. Two months ago we visited a vast Permaculture farm about an hour away. It was in a gorgeous hilly area, with perfect soil and weather for growing. The animals were treated kindly by the vegan farmer, and the crops are abundant.
Last month we went to a town near the border of Peru called Vilcabamba, also known as the “valley of longevity”, because people are purported to live long lives there. Cool little town with a bunch of new and old hippies, and lots of Saraguro indians. It’s like a place Earnest Hemingway would hang out. The town is dwarfed by the mountains surrounding it. Birdsong fills the air all day, (the most we’ve ever heard at once) while frog songs fill the air all night. Bonnie loves to meditate amongst nearly untouched nature. We stayed at the beautiful and affordable Hosteria Izhcayluma (ish-ka-LOO-ma) with a couple friends. Gary spent half the day in the front porch hammock, gazing over the valley of flowers and birds. Bonnie spent half the night in the back porch hammock listening to the frog symphony. We now have several friends in that area and may consider living there for a period of time in the future. Life in Vilcabamba is laid back and simple.
Next, we hope to visit the coast and after that the Amazon.
Between work hours, Bonnie has been whittling walking sticks (very helpful for hiking in the Andes) and crocheting a new rug and blanket for the bedroom. She sits in a rocking chair by the giant living room windows, gazing at the mountains and cloudscapes while crocheting. On weekends we both watch the indigenous families walk with their laundry down to the nearby river to wash their clothes. It makes for an all-day family party atmosphere along the length of the river. Gary tends our large garden and takes pictures of the mountains and clouds at different times of day. He went for a great hike with a group of guys in the astonishingly wild landscape of Cajas National Park.
We have slightly less than a year and a half left on our temporary residency. We may apply for permanent residency visas when that time is up, which would allow us more months to travel outside ecuador. We may also come back to the States to live since we still own a house and have family and great friends there. Yes, we sure do miss family and friends! Right now, we enjoy living in Ecuador, soaking up all it has to offer. It’s a wonderful country.