Sunday, January 10, 2021

Great Finds Along The Way

Part of our preferred approach to Spanish immersion is watching music videos on Youtube. Along the way we started with the Mexican band Mana who we first hear in the 1990's in Puerta Vallarta. We also heard Ana Gabriel about the same time. Mana is a rock group that leans toward love songs while Ana Gabriel is a traditional Mexican singer - cantanta. As we settled in here in Cuenca we let Youtube go it's way and it introduced us to many new Latino groups. Among them, some of our favorites are Natalia Lafourcade - a singer/songwriter from Veracruz Mexico, Diane Fuentes who is a singer from Cuba, Manuela Mejias is a Colombian singer, Carlos Vives is a singer from Colombia as well, and our latest find is Luz Pinos a singer from right here in Cuenca. The list is long of others that we like including Monsieur Perine from Colombia, Zu and Nuria are a Spanish pair, and we found a non-latin singer named Taimane from Oahu Hawaii. The last link is an Argentine group Los Pinguos. We are adding some links below. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. Peace and love and more soonish...

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The End Of Our Vanlife?

It's a fair question to ask after what it took us to get to Ecuador during a global pandemic if we are done with vanlife. The answer is no. The current situation requires us to wait a while, but we - okay I - spend a lot of time thinking about the next rig. The last vehicle we made some choices based on fitting into a storage container for the boat ride across the Darien Gap from Pamama to Colombia, but the next rig will have no such issue. Our plan is to go see South America and then sell the vehicle here and when we go finish Central America we will buy a vehicle there and sell it there when we are done. With no crazy size requirements there are lots of possibilities. Here are some of our musings.
First a truck with a camper. What it lacks in good looks it also lacks in function. There are times on the road when you need to be able to "stealth camp." That amounts to pulling into a residential neighborhood and parking for the night. The ideal way is to park and cover the front windows while slipping into the back to sleep. The truck camper isn't a great option for that. The second idea is the old, rusty, Ford van. I don't like fixing things enough for a rust bucket like that and it would be nice to be able to stand up inside in the next van.
I know I could convert a tiny van, especially since we wouldn't take as much stuff as we did leaving the States. Let's be serious though. These things are super tiny. So maybe something bigger?
With these rigs we could have an ensuite guest room! There would be room for hitchhiking serial killers and maybe even some hippies. Anyone want to buy a ton of bus seats? Otherwise I don't know how I would be able to dispose of them once the conversion began. The fuel economy and ease of operation might be lacking as well. Pam seems to be against getting a commercial driver's license for Ecuador for some reason. Oh well, a boy can dream. We will probably just have to wait and buy a vehicle that is already converted to vanlife when the pandemic subsides enough for us to overland travel with relative ease. That's all for now. PEace and love peeps!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Residency Visas in Ecuador

If you want to stay in Ecuador you either have to hide once your original 90 day tourist visa is up or you need to get a resident visa. There are three options for a person who wants a resident visa - Pensioner visa, professional visa or investment visa. The pensioner visa requires that you have a steady, monthly income of about $800 for an individual or $1100 for a couple. After I list all three I will add the other things necessary for the visas. The investment visa means that you need to "invest" $40,000 in Ecuador. The easiest way is a 2 year CD which pays 8.5% interest yearly. You can also buy a house or apartment or start a business, but the CD is easy. We opted for the professional visas since we both have college degrees. Our degrees needed to be registered in Ecuador and the rest of the visa documentation needed to be completed as well. We had to order transcripts and copies of our diplomas along with our marriage licence and Pam had to do an adiitional affidavit of name change since her diploma was in her maiden name. All of those documents had to be apostilled in Ecuador which is like a kicked up notary public thing. The rest of the required documentation for a visa requires a FBI and a state criminal check which requires you to be fingerprinted on 4 seperate forms. The process also has costs and we opted for a Visa company to do our paperwork to limit the headaches. Our total cost for both visas was between $4000 and $5000. Both of our visas are complete now and we are now going to apply for and get our Cedulas which is a National ID card that is used even at the grocery stores. It is the basis for most other items like a pass for the Tranvia - the tram that runs through town. We hope to have them in hand by mid next week. As to the amount of income necessary for a pensioner visa, you can live in Ecuador for $1100 per month as a couple. There are furnished one bedroom apts for about $400, food and utilities are really inexpensive and many apartments include the utilities in the price. We are fully settled in now and next week we are hosting a couple of artists who have a showing at a place near our house. It will be fun to have some guests in the guest rooms. We will certainly post about that soon. We hope that you are all well and we wish you peace and love from beautiful Cuenca.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

What The Heck Are You Yapa-ing About Paully?

There are always adjustments to be made when you move, and Cuenca is certainly no different. There are thinks that are are hard to find and new things to learn about. 

One of the things that are difficuly to find is real Maple Syrup. Add to that a sourdough starter which requires use or waste every day and the fact that sourdough pancakes are easy and you face an adaptation.

Luckily, the fruit is really cheap and a basic syrup is fairly easy. A basic recipe for syrup allows you to "dog out" your pancakes. You won't find an easier recipe to remember as it is equal amounts of liquid to brown sugar - so 1/2 cup of orange juice or pineapple or even lime juice in a pan and as it begins to boil add the sugar and stir until combined. If you want something even better then slice some bananas and saute them until browned before adding the juice and sugar and you have something pretty special.

The local fruits offers some new choices as well. Pitahaya is a relative of Dragonfruit. It has yellow skin that is easy to peal - revealing a white fruit with small, black seeds that is on the sweet side. There are sweet cucumbers, lots of mangoes and a lot of different sizes and colors of bananas that each have their own flavor and texture.

When you buy from the open markets you get the best prices as well as the possibility of a Qichua (Key chwah) tradition of Yapa. Yapa is akin to the baker's dozen where when you buy a dozen they threw one in. Yapa requires perhaps more consistency than the baker's dozen. Often, you need to be a return customer unless the vendor has the teacher gene and wants to "introduce" you to the yapa concept. In the banana realm yapa is often some extras that are near ready for banana bread already, but we have bought as many as 21 large bananas for $1 along the way.

While I am discussing the banana bread we made our first batch of Banana Bread Biscotti from some underbaked banana bread.  It turned out.  If you like dipping stuff in your coffee or tea they are perfect.

Travel Alert: 

Ecuador has officially dropped the quarantine requirement to anyone who arrives with a negative covid test so travel here is now an actual possibility. If you only knew someone who lived in Cuenca and had WAY too much room in their house....

Peace and love peeps and more soon....

Monday, August 10, 2020

A Day In Our Cuenca Life

 Today we had a couple of errands that were going to get us all of the way across town and offered a perfect opportunity to take along an actual camera instead of just phones for a look at Cuenca.

Where we live we are fortunate to get to choose whether we want to walk along the Yanuncay River or the Tomebamba River into town. Our goal is to walk as much of Cuenca as possible so we chose a path less taken today. Here are some of the views.

First, the street art.

Then our favorite picture of the day. This little gal was "dogged" out.

Next come the sights including the river Tomebamba and some great architecture.

Lastly, A batch of pictures of the outside of the house now that Pam - the crazy plant lady- has been having her way with things.

The only question is why aren't you here? You will notice 100% compliance with mask wearing in the pictures. 

That's it for now, but we promise some more soon. Peace and love peeps.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Semi Furnished and What That Means

Home Sweet Home:  The house we rented is semi-furnished which means that it had some dishes and cutlery, but no pots and pans. It has drapery, beds and beddings, but not enough bedstands and lamps. It had some livingroom furniture but no TV. It also included a microwave, blender, coffee maker, oven, stove, washing maching & dryer.

This place is quite spacious, with lots of blank walls as well, so art was going to be necessary.

There is a website that is a little like Craigslist here called GringoPost. We used that to locate virtually everything that we needed except for some pots and pans. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who got trapped elsewhere because of Covid, so there are entire apartments of furniture and furnishings for sale. That being said, the stuff that is expensive here is still expensive on GringoPost.

The TV we were able to buy new and at a great price of $480 for a 55" RCA 4 K TV. Otherwise we did a lot of 2nd hand shopping and hit the jackpot! At one sale purchased a 3 piece living room set and coffee table. Another we were able to buy about 40 furnishing pieces including 2 wall hangings, a 3-piece mural, and a bunch of smaller paintings depicting local scenes. That sale also had a full set of dishes, some decorative plates, bathroom rugs, and US spec towel sets as well. The towels here are expensive and definitely not the same quality.

The Video House Tour

The TV/Family/Living Room:  Though most of our stuff is in storage bins plastic-wrapped onto one of two pallets and pending delivery in mid-August, a few items ended up in our flight bags (you may recognize one of the two fish rugs we had in our house in Washington).

The Kitchen and Dining Room (the office is on the left)
The Kitchen (and back door leading to the covered patio)

The 2nd Floor Landing

Another ad had a painting that depicted a local scene that had a low price so we walked over and took a cab back with our prize.

The Master Bedroom
The 2nd floor open area (A guest room is on either side of the open area, and the laundry room is through the doors on the right.)

OUTSIDE! As our house is in the city, high-fenced yards and gates are the norm here. It was just cement with a covered patio, empty window flower beds, and a patch of grass with a peach tree. So, the rest of our rental takeover was decorating outside.  We bought and potted a bunch of plants, flowers and trees. We added some gray to the outside paint earthtones and painted the gate red which has a double purpose. First, it breaks up the boring colors and then it is easy for deliveries and cabs as we are the house with the puerta roja - red door.

In addition, we found a local carpenter advertising on FB Marketplace that made us two sets of rustic patio furniture. We had another artist - of sorts - make us some cushions and pillows for the outdoor furniture and the couch pillows as well.
The two-story building across the street is the Colegio.  As schools are closed, other than the usual street traffic, it's been really quiet so far.

The car gate and parking area is on the other side of the peach tree. Pam is still trying to decide if we want to remove some of the grass and plant some more flowers under the tree.

THE COVERED PATIO: The last of the outside for now was the mural our friend Daniel Williams painted for us. We talked about what we wanted and he drew up a scene with Pachamama whos is the Andean Mother Earth.  There are also clay llamas that tell a story of the Tolita Tumaco culture that was pre-Columbian and is now extinct, but once flourished in the Northern Ecuador / Southern Colombian area.

There is always more to do. I plan on a wood-fired Bread and Pizza oven outside and we need to transfer our picture of South America on the outside wall that leads to the front door. We are musing over the idea of a solid door made of local wood that we can hang sideways as you come into the house and add hooks for coats and purses as well as bounting a mirror in the center of the door.

More on those projects as we complete them. The curfew was pushed back from 11 PM to 10 PM as the covid cases crept up a little. The people here are nearly 100% compliant with wearing masks and other health department recomendations.

Peace and love peeps and more soon...

Great Finds Along The Way

Part of our preferred approach to Spanish immersion is watching music videos on Youtube. Along the way we started with the Mexican band Mana...