This is Ecuador

Our friends Jill and Sy asked if we would like to go to the Botanical Gardens, get some Chinese food and do a bit of shopping on Friday (day after Thanksgiving).  With a slight twist of my arm, I readily agreed.  After all, our internet was still down from Thanksgiving and the power was out now.  With the power out, showers are not possible due to the water pump operating on electric.  So a sponge bath it was!  It wasn’t the first time nor will it be the last I am sure.  And in a pinch when my hair isn’t at it’s best, I just put on a hat and some cute earrings and pretend like I planned it that way.  Such is life in Ecuador!  There’s a word we use here (usually along with a smile) when things are a bit off.  That word is TIE meaning “This is Ecuador”.  Once you’ve experienced life in any 3rd world country, you understand completely. 

They picked us up at 10 and we headed into Porto Viejo to begin the day’s adventures. 

Since traveling to Porto Viejo is not a daily occurence, we try to do as many errands as possible as well.  So the first stop was to buy Dave a bus ticket to Guayaquil for Monday to continue the Visa process.  As soon as  Dave got out of the vehicle, we saw immediately that there was a problem with the right front brake because it was smoking.  As Dave went into the bus terminal to purchase his ticket, Jill motioned for some help from across the street.  We just happened to be parked across from a Yamaha store.  A little old man came and tried to help us release the brake since it had seized up, it seemed to loosen up a bit but not totally. For his efforts he was paid “enough for a coke” per his request. img_5698 Sy decided to get it to a mechanic as soon as possible through a recommendation of a taxi driver they know from the area.  The mechanic took a look and since it wasn’t seized at the moment determined it was fine but “just don’t put aqua on it to cool it down”.    Good to know, I guess.  Bound and determined to carry on with our day as planned we were on our way to the Botanical Gardens.  After going through the front gate of the gardens, we again smelled and saw the smoke coming from the right front of the car.  Sy decided that we will go ahead and enjoy our walk through the gardens but after lunch he would need to have a different mechanic take a serious look to avoid other potential serious issues. 

The gardens, which are part of the technical university located next to the gardens, were beautiful.  We saw many interesting and colorful plants, flowers and even some animals.  Our private tour guide showed us a large termite nest, a boa constrictor (free to roam throughout the gardens), several smiling turtles, as well as a variety of birds. 

Jill was not a fan of the snake being allowed to roam free, but she as well as the rest of us managed to make it out all in one piece.  Overall the gardens are a beautiful, tranquil place to visit and there was no admission charge.  I would love to go back during the summer season which is coming up here in the next few months and see what changes occur. 

On to the next part of our day which was lunch at the Chinese restaurant called Ming Yuan.  The food was delicious, the portions were large and the atmosphere was nice.  The bathrooms were some of the cleanest I’ve seen since moving here which is always appealing to me especially in a restaurant.  Weather true or not, my theory is if the bathrooms are clean perhaps they keep the kitchen equally as clean as they prepare my food.  The atmosphere was similar to back in the states with real furniture (not the plastic chairs which are typically seen in restaurants), air conditioning and the usual Chinese decorations like a fish aquarium and bamboo plants.  Chinese food here is definitely not quite the same as back home, but this was  close enough.  I enjoyed fried rice, soup, chicken and veggies and Dave had a pork dish.  One thing that was different was there wasn’t the usual Chinese banter in the kitchen, I’m pretty sure everyone there spoke Spanish.  The owners went out of their way to make us feel welcomed and comfortable.  I’ll be back again I’m sure!

Next on the agenda was getting the vehicle to a mechanic prior to shopping.  The mechanic shop was very modern and comparable to US standards with a small air-conditioned office which all four of us sat in while waiting for the diagnosis and repair.  We were there for a couple of hours while the mechanics would hop on their motor bikes trying to find the right parts at the various tiendas (stores).  Porto Viejo was hit bad in the April earthquake so many of the tiendas have been displaced and are located in different areas temporarily and in some cases permanently.  The verdict finally came in that the correct part for the Blazer was in Manta (which is about an hours drive away) but they would put on a temporary part that would work fine for the time being.  You have no idea how hard it was for this simple solution to be  communicated to us in Spanish.  While we all know some Spanish, the words or maybe the pronunciation of the words were just not clicking for us.  The people in the shop were not very animated either and kept repeating the same thing over and over again pretty much the same way.  They did try writing it out for us, which helped some.  Sometimes a bit of animation, drama or gestures helps to ease communication,  which is what Dave and I often resort to.  In the end we learned that the temporary fix would take about an hour, but they would need to come back next week once the part was available to permanently fix it.  The good news is that labor is very cheap here so often times a day’s worth of work at the mechanics shop will cost the customer about $20 or so.  The parts can be the pricy items, but in this case, their part will be around $25.  Jill, Dave and I decided we would take a cab over to the SuperMaxi shopping area where we do the bulk of our grocery shopping.  They also have an office supply store, a hardware store, toy store, pharmacy and a home store in a modern indoor mall setting which is very handy!  Sy would come by to pick us up when the vehicle was done.

We were able to check some things off our shopping list such as new pillows with colorful pillow cases for our new chase lounge chair, dust mop, extension cord,  pots for plants as well as a couple of sweet little flowers to bring home. 

I’m a sucker for pretty plants, just like my mom and sister!  The plants in the hardware store were imported from the US and maybe are considered seasonal here, although I’m not quite sure.  I bought two small marigolds hoping they will hold up outdoors even with the high salt content in the air.  I also bought a colorful pepper plant and an African violet for indoors.  I would have purchased a poinsettia, however a small plant was around $13 so I had to pass although I love having them during the holidays.  The other plants were very affordable and I’m anxious to see if they will thrive this close to the beach.  Many plants/flowers cannot live close to the ocean due to the salt air as it burns them up.  So far I know that periwinkle and geraniums hold up quite well and I’m hoping that the marigolds do the same. 

The shopping center was bustling with people for black Friday shopping which they have a small version of here in Ecuador.  The mall had a beautiful nativity set and Christmas tree set up as well as some fun activities for children with a painting area.  I would say it was a perfect amount of décor, pleasant really.  The commercialization of the holidays has always been way too much for my taste back in the states, so not having it here has been enjoyable.

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Sy picked us up after shopping and we were on our way home although the traffic was crazy.  It was probably because of the busy shopping season, but also because it was Friday night.  Driving out-of-town last night was just another reminder of how I’m not too keen on having a car here at this point.  Driving in Ecuador is similar to other foreign Latin American countries we’ve visited.  The biggest hurdle being that there are no lanes and even if there were, no one uses them.  You drive wherever there is room on the road and use your horn quite often!   We made it home safe and sound though and although the day wasn’t exactly as we planned it, it was an adventure none the less.  Thanks to Jill and Sy for letting us tag along!

 

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The Differences here

The day we arrived it was close to sundown so we had a very limited amount of time to find some very basic groceries.  There are no grocery stores here as most of us are familiar with,  but quite a very tiendas (family corner stores with basics).  Jorge, our driver was nice enough to drive us to one and communicate with them in Spanish what we needed.  In most of the tiendas, you don’t go in and walk around.  It’s similar to a gas station back home with cigarettes, water, and snacks behind the counter like you might see in a larger city.  We bought some lettuce, other veggies for salad, bread, chicken, lunch meat,  4 large bottles of water (the kind that go on a water dispenser) and a few other misc items to get us by.  The water bottles were about $6 a each because you are paying for the bottle as well.  To refill them you simply exchange them out like we do for propane gas for grills.  I believe to refill is $1.  Jorge dropped us back off and headed back to Guayaquil and we headed in the house to start our new life.  It was weird.  Nothing is familiar and the little bit we packed  was as exciting as I used to feel as a kid opening my Christmas gifts.  Anything familiar is very comforting.  For example, most of the lighting is fluorescent and to me it is quite depressing. Lamps are very important to me to create a homey feeling.  I brought one tiny lamp with me that I used as a decoration in one of my bathrooms back home.  It was basically a night-light we left on all the time.  Here it is our only lamp and I was so happy to plug it is and confirm it still worked and was not broken.  My Scentsy lamp which is a beautiful light with glass stones in the inner glass wall was broken and unusable.  So all my Scentsy wax I brought will have to sit and look pretty until I can get a replacement (if that happens).

In terms of getting around, we will be relying heavily upon public transportation.  Tuk Tuks (Motor bikes with seating like a taxi) are very popular here as well as buses to get to areas further away.  So far we have not ventured out via public transportation but have actually met several ex-pats that have taken us around some.  Coming from the states and hopping in the car to go wherever is something I miss, but maybe I will get used to it.  A couple of the expats we met said they would not be without a car, however if we choose to have a car we better be prepared to learn how to drive as they do here.  Cars are also extremely pricey in Ecuador and unlike the states, they do NOT depreciate we’ve been told.  You will basically pay double for the same car you would back in the states.  The insurance however is quite minimal.  My understanding is that it is roughly $70 a year for the minimum “liability insurance” and then maybe another $100 if you want additional coverage.  Gas prices are about the same as the states.  Since most of the streets are dirt and very dusty, keeping a car clean is non-existent.  Also, the salt air is very tough on all mechanical equipment including vehicles.  One of our new friends here brought us a pad-a-lock to use as we were without one.  He said it would last about two weeks due to corrosion from the salt.

We are still adjusting to basic life and I’m about to do my first load of laundry.  We have no dryer so Dave is trying to install a clothes line for me.  Last night we had salad, chicken and string beans for dinner which was my first meal that I cooked.  I quickly realized that all the kitchen items that I gave away and sold on Varage sale, I would kill for now.  The “furnished” house is very basic and I discovered I don’t even have mixing bowls.  I may need to use pots for that.  Purchasing items here such as glass bowls is outrageous in price.  You will easily pay double or triple for the same item in the states.  A coffee maker that would cost maybe $20 in the states will be $45 here.  So the question is where is the affordability factor in us moving to Ecuador?  Property (renting or owning)….property taxes….health care….this is where you save.  If anyone considers moving here, I would highly recommend bringing as much as you possibly can with you such as shipping a container which we opted not to do.  In the long run, you will feel more settled and of course you already own the items.  Upon initially moving here, you have a limited time to bring the items duty-free.  So essentially you pay for shipping which in the long run is cheaper than buying everything here.  Dave and I have opted to live primitively (good thing both of us liked Gilligan’s Island growing up).  On our walk on the beach today, Dave found some flat stones (soap dishes) and some old fishing line and an old gallon jug with the top cut off that he said he could use as a shovel.  This is all part of the adventure!    🙂

**the pictures above are taken from our property.  The house, Dave hanging a clothes line, properties on either side, tractors/boats on the beach, kids playing in the ocean etc.

Spanish words of the day as taught to me by the handyman Stalin.

Coconut Palm Trees- Palmas de coco

Clothes Pins-Pinzas de ropa

Moving To Ecuador

Hello!  My name is Jenny Newhouse and this blog is designed to be both educational and hopefully somewhat entertaining (particularly in my writing skills…I’ve never done anything like this before).  I will attempt to capture what life in Ecuador is like for foreigners relocating there (both my husband Dave and I and our two small dogs).   I’m going to write about both our adventures and even our struggles in this new journey.  So sit back and enjoy the journey with us!

First, most people ask why we are doing this.  The easy answer is:  “Why not”?

But, here’s some history:  Dave and I have been married for almost 17 years and together we have 5 grown children, 1 son in law, 1 daughter in law and a brand new grand baby!  Both of us have backgrounds in sales, Dave having worked in the insurance industry for 20+ years and I having worked real estate for 10+.  Most recently our sales gigs were Dave selling campers and RV’s for Quietwoods RV in Neenah, WI and I sold safety and compliance materials for JJ Keller in Appleton, WI.   Neither of us are motivated by money, nor material possessions.  Our idea of success and enjoyment is not a new car, an amazing house or trendy clothing but rather enjoying simple things in life and travel!  We were blessed to be able to take quite a few trips south of the border and after each trip we would both come back saying “we could handle living here”.  Of course each time was more of a pipe dream not to mention the experience of comfortable resort living.  But we still were always drawn to Latin American culture, the slow pace of living, the beauty of the Spanish language and the beautiful climate that typically accompanies such places.  So for the past 15 or so years we have always dreamed of moving to a place like that.  This was not an impulsive decision for us to move and in fact about 3 years ago we started to prepare for something such as this even though we didn’t have a definite plan in place yet.  We started in 2013 by selling our large 4 bdrm home in Neenah WI where we raised our children.  With around 3500 sq ft of living space including the lower level basement, we had to eliminate a lot of stuff that accumulated over the years.  I new mind-set had to develop in terms of what was needed, what was wanted and what was just there because.  We sorted through things such as kids memorabilia, karate equipment, sets of China dishes, boxes of tax returns, seasonal decorations, yard tools and much more.  We were able to reduce down to a much smaller proportion of basically the same items to live in an 1800 sq foot home which we rented for the next 2.5 years!  In January of 2016, we both agreed the time was now to do this.  The kids were out of the house, we had saved some money, and we both still have good health!   Essentially we opted to get rid of everything and not put things in storage but rather take about 8 totes of personal belongings with us and sell or donate the rest.   So how was Ecuador decided upon?  Well interestingly, we have never even visited Ecuador but have been to countries such as Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic and were able to experience life outside the resorts.  We’ve experienced the poor plumbing, sketchy electrical, no WiFi service and unbearable humidity.  So we know somewhat what to expect in any Latin American country.   We considered Costa Rica for quite some time, however everyone and their brother seems to be drawn to that country and it is not exactly cheap anymore.  We found the prices to be comparable to that of the US and in order for us to make a move like this with limited funds saved, we needed to find something more cost-effective.  We had researched Ecuador over the years off and on (not seriously) and found how inexpensive it was to live there.  Ecuador seemed so far away though, and we were set on Central America….not South America!  But after much consideration, prayer and watching a final episode of International House Hunters Ecuador, we decided this was the place!  We started visiting the expat (Ex-Patriots) forums and blogs and found an expat with a  beautiful little house for rent on the coast just north of Manta in a town called Crucita.  The home is right on the ocean, affordable at this time and dogs were allowed!

So that’s it folks!

We will be arriving in Ecuador (flying into Guayachil) on October 10th.  In the mean time, we are spending time with our oldest daughter Brianna, her husband Jac and our adorable little granddaughter Emma.  On October 4-9, we will be visiting our daughter Brooklynn in Jacksonville FL and then we leave for Ecuador.

Again, I hope you enjoy this new journey with us!