Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reality Check
Myth Buster


No, of course not.

Before reading any further, know this:

I absolutely love my life here. I have found in Cuenca (almost) everything that I have ever wanted. For me, it is a dream come true. I have a saying that I use to describe my new life. “It is everything that I ever hoped for, and more than I ever expected”.


I got an email the other day with a link to a new blog. The sender was anonymous as was the blogger. I believe that the sender and the blogger are one in the same. I don't know if the blog author was a man or woman, so I will just refer to the writer at 'he'.

In the blog he was taking issue with many of the descriptions of Cuenca as found on the various blogs. He believed that they presented an unrealistic picture of life here. In reality, I think that he was on point with much of what he said. However he wrapped his message in a nasty vitriolic rant. It was really quite ugly. Too bad he chose to express himself this way as the truth of SOME of what he said was lost due to his poisonous presentation.

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A thing to remember about most of the blogs. Yes they do tend to present a rosy picture. Of course. Most of the people that blog about their life here, blog about what they like. And, there is a lot to like. However, nothing is ever perfect and the frustrations and/or down sides don’t seem to get much mention in the blogs.

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We have lived here slightly over a year. A couple years ago, we came down and lived in a rented apartment for 2 months. We thought that 2 months would give us an accurate taste of 'living' rather than vacationing. Well, yes and no.

A 2 week or 2 month visit will not really give an accurate picture. Because visiting IS different than settling in, setting up house and starting a new chapter in your life.


Cost of living: DO NOT believe everything you read or hear. Yes, many things are much cheaper here. These include most of the day to day living expenses. But there are also some things that are much more expensive. Specifically, quality imported goods are very expensive ........ cars, motorcycles, electronics and appliances. The cost of settling in can be horrendous. Those things you might sell at home at garage sale prices are often the types of things you will have to replace here at very high cost. There are many one-time purchases that can be through the roof. Housing (rentals) are much cheaper than in the US. I have heard some people say the prices are going up. I have seen a few ‘looking for’ ads that are simply delusional. Do not believe everything you read on the Internet.

Residency visas: For us, it went exactly as our lawyers explained. This is not true for some of our friends. Whether it goes smoothly or not, it is not cheap.

Children visits: It can get real spendy getting the kids here for visits.

This is a different culture with different social norms and customs. Some things here are simply not what North Americans are used to. Period. This is not a matter of good or bad. Just different. For instance:

- Public urination is common. The US is an automobile culture ..... people drive to any and all destinations ....... even a couple blocks. This is more of a walking culture with almost no public restrooms. I am a walker. I might go for a 1, 2 or 3 hour walk. Very few businesses will allow you to use their restroom. As a walker, I understand public urination and am now a (modest) participator.

- Being on time. It is no exaggeration to say that many service calls and deliveries are not only late or very late, but are simply no-shows.

- Deadlines. It seems that if you ask when something will be done, the polite thing to do is to tell you a deadline that you want to hear. That is the polite thing to do. However it is not impolite to not meet the deadline.

- Cutting in line. Driving, standing in line in the store, in line at a government office. Doesn't matter. It is cultural, not rude.

- Staring. Sometimes I feel like I must have 2 heads.

- Nose picking. Yep, lots of that. Get used to it.

Efficiency: If North American efficiency is important to you, you could get very frustrated here.

Noise: Plan to live in the city? Honking horns and car alarms are a way of life here.

Red tape: All official procedures here are knee deep in red tape. Sometimes it can take 20 minutes to pay for something as simple as a gas space heater ...... even a cash sale. You can either go with the flow or have a heart attack or stroke. Your choice.

Food: In my opinion, much healthier than in the US. But often the ‘comida tipica’ is not to American taste. My yardstick for health value of food ........ the worse it tastes, the healthier it probably is. The comida tipica is very healthy.

Control: Do you have a need to be in control? You may without even knowing it. If you are unsure if you possess this need, you will certainly find out here. It seems that so much is simply out of your control here. Once again .... go with the flow, heart attack or stroke.

Business practices: I have heard many gringos complain about shady or unethical business practices. This may or may not be true. The bottom line is that the only person truly looking out for my best interest is me. If you are impulsive, impatient or careless, things may not work out in your best interests. Due diligence is important in any foreign country.

Liability laws and personal responsibility: Quite frankly, I welcome the local attitude. A personal injury lawyer would starve to death here.

Availability and quality of consumer goods: Often not what you are used to. It seems to me that many of the consumer goods are inferior in quality. Return policies in stores are simple. No returns. Many gringos have items of preference regularly brought down to them. As I tell my son and daughter, “We pay for your ticket. You mule our stuff for us.”

Perfect weather?: There are many evenings, especially the last 2 months, that I would love to go to the wall and turn on the heat. What heat? So we have space heaters. We picked up an electric blanket on our trip to Kansas. Lots of rain the last couple months also. The good news is we don’t need air conditioning.

Diesel fumes from busses and delivery trucks: Ghastly.

High speed Internet: The definition of broadband is different here. You can get relatively good speeds coupled with reliability. But it can be spendy.

Petty crime: Pickpockets, muggings, etc. I personally feel safer here than in Kansas City or Portland. But this is a city. There is a major disparity between the rich and the poor. Gringos are perceived as rich. So, if you are naive, careless, stupid, or unlucky ....... you could be making a donation. Unlike in US cities, you will likely lose your wallet or cell phone rather than your life.

Life is sweet,


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Weird Bus Ride

Ok now .....

So as any Cuencano will tell you, red tape has been elevated to an art form here. It seems that anything official is (at the least) multi step. Most of these steps seem to be in different offices scattered around different edges of town. OK, we are used to this.

So now for the weird part:

I had to take care of some official business today. (Doesn't matter what.) One weird thing was that all four steps were in the SAME BUILDING! Weird. True, 4 different lines, but, all in the same building. But, not actually lines. You got to sit in seats and wait for your number to come up on the screen. (Repeat ..... sit in seats. Inside. No outside lines.) OK, that is kind of a lie. The first line was standing outside. But it wasn't raining and was in the shade, and was less than 15 minutes.

So , yeah, it is true that was almost 3 hours waiting for my number to come up those different times. But it was all in one building. Seated .... not standing. And it all worked out. Well, except for the part where I have to go back tomorrow. (Step 5)

NOW ..... for the weird bus ride:
Because it was all in one place, I only had to take one bus to this particular edge of nowhere. But the odd thing about the bus ride itself ...... actually odd things:
- the bus driver was not a race car driver at heart.
- the bus driver did not do jackrabbit starts with people still walking down the aisle
- the bus driver never slammed on his brakes
- the bus driver kept all 4 wheels (actually 6 wheels) on the ground in all the turns
- the bus driver smiled
- the bus driver made change
- the bus driver did not cut off any other drivers
- the bus driver drove safely
- the bus driver was probably medicated
- the bus driver will probably lose his job

The other day I was in a bus where the driver took a corner so fast that the tilt of the bus set off alarms. Nope, not making that up.

Life is sweet,