About Me

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Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
We are from Connecticut originally and have most recently lived in North Carolina, USA. We are starting a new life in South America so our retirement $'s will go farther toward a new way of life and a new adventure.Prior to June of 2010 we never thought a move such as this would be possible or advantageous for us. And, that is why we call this blog "Retirement: Plan B" We intend to see and do as much as possible in our retirement. Spend quality time with family, friends and each other.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dinner and some culture

Last night was a first for us here in Cuenca. We went out for dinner with friends. We tried a pizza place we were told was pretty good. It wasn't bad but it certainly wasn't "Pepe's" in New Haven Connecticut.
The pizza for the four of us was less than $16 with beverages. We then took a cab to the Banco Central Auditorium and listened to a symphony by the German National youth orchestra. The orchestra is said to be one of the top 3 youth orchestras in the world. The performance was very good and the price of admission (free) was even better. After the performance we caught a cab to take us home and for just a few dollars we had an enjoyable evening.

 I tried to get a couple of shots of the orchestra but I'm afraid the lighting was too low and the camera is only a point and shoot. So this is the best I could do. The video is just a short sample.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"ROAD TRIP" Ballenita, Puerto Lopez and Manta

Expectations and anticipation was set on high as we prepared for a great week. We hit the road Saturday morning thanks to the gracious offer of our friends to go with them to the beach. We were 3 couples traveling together for a trip to the beach.
  We  had a clear day and the views were just terrific as we went through the Cajas, the mountains which surround Cuenca. It still amazes me that we can look down on clouds and not be in a plane. I am not sure of the exact height we reach going thru the mountains but it does exceed 14,000 ft. One can feel the difference breathing at that height. We even saw a few llama, who really didn't care that we were passing by.

We made our first stop at a hostal in Ballenita " The Farrilon Dillon" When the call was made for  reservations we were told we would each have a room with a balcony and an ocean view. We  made the reservation for one night with a deposit. The owner then called to tell us we had to stay two nights if we wanted the rooms. We agreed and that was how it stood until we arrived and our rooms were not as we had requested. Others had booked before us, we were then told. We could have the rooms we requested for the second night and so we stayed. We had no other option at that point. As it turned out this was just the beginning of  a bad stay. The rooms were not very clean. There was a musty smell in the room and the pillows had a definite odor and the bed was comparable to sleeping on the floor. On top of this the food at the hostal restaurant was overpriced and not very good. Some food had to be sent back and other meals were left with half the food still on the plate. We were certainly not happy about the situation.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
It really is a shame because the hostal could have been a real nice place. I think that maybe it was a nice plade a long time ago but the owners seem to be taking in the money and not putting anything back into the hostal. The marine museum part of the hostal was interesting but once we started down the wrong path I only saw it as clutter.                                                                                         
We left the next morning following our "continental" breakfast of coffee, cold toast, butter and jam. um,um, good                                                                                                                                             
A shot from our bathroom window
looking down on the stairs to the beach from the hostal

We were on to Puerto Lopez, a day early, hoping a room could be found. We went to the Hotel Pacifico and found a room that was clean and comfortable. It was on the main road across the street from the ocean.  The people were very nice and accommodating and we stayed there one night before moving on to Manta.                                                                                                                                 
We didn't have a reservation but were lucky enough to find a very nice hotel overlooking the ocean. The rooms were clean, with air conditioning and a comfortable bed. Things were definitely looking up. We were able to relax and just chill until it was time for dinner and then we were given directions to a very good seafood restaurant.  After a nice meal it was back to the hotel for some more relaxing and a good nights sleep. 
In the morning it was back to Puerto Lopez where we were to stay for 2 nights. We had more good seafood and found a the Hostal Mandala where the food was good and the prices were very good. We didn't see the rooms but we can recommend the food. The following day was a great day Joan and I went to the Isla de la Plata. We went out on the boat the "Explora I "  on the way to the island we saw a mother humpback whale with its calf . The boat came to a stop and we were able to watch as the whale came out of the water and actually came within a few yards of the boat                                                                                                                                                           
We had really hoped we would get to see the whales. We didn't book the 3hr. whale watching tour because we also wanted to see the blue footed boobies. We were lucky enough to see a lot of them and also a pair with a chick. The guide said the chick is about 5 or 6 weeks old and would not have the blue feet for about 2 years.
So that was the highlight of our trip. We spent the night in Puerto Lopez and came home to Cuenca the following day. And as always, it's good to be home. One thing I would like to point out is that Cuenca is a large city , the third largest in Ecuador and has a pretty good infastructure. Not everyone in Cuenca has a lot of money but we don't have the poverty that is along the coast.
So Hasta Luego and best wishes to all

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Some things are different here. Some not so much.

  It isn't unusual to see junglers in the streets or someone bouncing a soccer ball on his head at an intersection in the middle of the road while the traffic light is red. No, they are  not auditioning for Ecuador's Got Talent or hoping to be discovered by the Ecuadorian version of "Ringling Brothers".This is how they are making a living. I don't know how successful they are or if they do this because they can't get a job but you see this more often then someone with a sign that reads "homeless, give me money". There are people here who just stand with a hand held out, palm up and look sad and helpless and I am sure there are some who are just that. Some people find things to sell and will approach a car stopped at a traffic light offering everything from soft drinks to popsicles. Some will even get on the public buses and tell a sad story about their poor hungry children and their poor health while  selling candy bars or a trinket of some kind. Just as in the states some of these people are scamming the public and just don't want to work.
  There is another type of entrepreneur  here that is more creative and much more entertaining. These entrepremuers are similar to those you will see on the streets of the bigger cities in the U.S. playing musical instruments or doing a mime routine. Always there is a hat or box or instrument case nearby for the deposit of coins by appreciative passersby.
  On, Mariscal Sucre, the street that runs along one side of the new cathedral and Parque Calderon you will often see people trying to make a buck. Some times there is a group of musicians playing traditional music featuring the pan flute. Sometimes they will be doing a Celine Dion number, also with the pan flute prominent.
  There is one man who is often there who is levitating above the side walk. He wears a gold robe and will capture your attention for sure.
The Angel..with palm up

Another that will capture attention is the puppeteer who is playing loud rock music and has skeleton puppets. He is really pretty entertaining and draws a crowd of onlookers.
  So when in Cuenca keep your eyes open because "Some things are different here and some things not so much".                                           

Monday, August 8, 2011

What to do with all this stuff????

When the decision was made to make the move to Cuenca we didn't realize that was the easy part. Putting the plan into action was something entirely different. There was the necessary legal stuff that had to be done but with the guidance of Gabriella Espinosa, our immigration attorney, that wasn't too difficult. Next step was to decide what to sell and what to keep. Once that decision was made we just knew we were on the home stretch and once we brought an auctioneer on board this too would be a piece of the perverbial cake. Well, our friends Mick and Kathy used an auctioneer and did very well. We contacted him and he gave us costs and percentages that he would charge which were quite different from what Mick and Kathy had and then he suggested maybe we should just sell the stuff ourselves. I guess he wasn't impressed with our "stuff". So on to the next guy and the story was even worse. One more call and things were not looking too promising for a professional seller to make us lots of money and do all the work.
  The yard sales were the way we had to go. The fisrt one was in the rain (Oh, the fun we had) but the results were actually pretty good, but we still had more than half our "stuff" left. We waited a couple of weeks and did it again. Good weather this time but only fair results.
  We had had enough of the yard sale routine by now and sold of few things on Craigs list and the neighbors came by and generously bought more "stuff". Finally, the last items we sold went to people we worked with and our selling was done.
  Of course, the garage was still too full of "stuff" to get a car inside and it was time to donate. Our neighbor's church was having a yard sale of its own to help indians in Alaska and so they came and took all the "stuff" that was left in the garage and Habitat for humanity took our living room furniture and we were out of "stuff" at last. It wasn't easy or smooth or professional and we lost a few hours of sleep trying to get through the process but it was over and we were relieved to move onto the next phase even though we were now sleeping on a mattress pad on the floor.
  Before we left Mooresville our neighbors, who had been great neighbors, of 15 years had a picnic to send us off. Some told us how they wished they could go with us and others explained why they could never do it. To their credit no one said anything like " ARE YOU NUTS"
                                 Some of our friends and neighbors, thanks guys you are terrific

Saturday, August 6, 2011

How we made it happen

  The story of how this episode of our lives came to be starts with me sitting at my computer in Mooresville, NC and seeing an article about the best places to retire overseas. My first thought was "maybe we really can retire" and so I read the article which was a reprint from "International Living". Cuenca, Ecuador was #1 on the list and I discounted it immediately because, who would want to live in Ecuador and where the hell is Ecuador, anyway. Panama caught my attention because Americans have been there for a long time and I had an idea of where it is on a map. The more I read the more the good and bad points of the list made me look at Cuenca and reconsider my early dismissal of Ecuador. During this research period I was getting the comments " I don't think so" and " I can't leave the kids" from my wife, Joan.
  I found a blog written by Kathy Wesson, who lived in Charlotte, NC. Charlotte is only a hop skip and a jump away from Mooresville  I sent an e-mail and asked if we could possibly meet to talk about Cuenca. My e-mail reached them while they were in Ecuador doing their exploratory visit and we met when they returned to the states. We established an immediate friendship over a mexican lunch as well as increasing our interest in Cuenca. Ecuador. Mick and Kathy left the states to start their expat experience 6 weeks later and the friendship continued via e-mail and skype calls.
  All the reports were good from Mick and Kathy and it was decided we would also do an exploratory visit to Cuenca. Joan still had her doubts 2 weeks into the trip but by the end of the 3rd week she was convinced she could live in Cuenca because she not only liked the city but we would be able to travel back to the US and actually see more of our children and family then we could if we remained in the states with jobs tying us down.
  Back in the states we went to work preparing for our move to Cuenca, Ecuador. We now could find it on a map and were sure this would be the right move for us to make.
  We had contacted an attorney while in Ecuador and started the paperwork required for establishing Ecuadorian residency. This would allow us to stay in the country on a permanent basis and to ship some of our household goods duty free. We didn't have a lot to ship but some things are more expensive here than in the states and some of our things we just didn't want to part with. The decision of what to bring and what to sell or give away was  difficult at times but we got it down to one pallet of belongings, which are now in a u-haul storage unit in Mooresville, NC. I took a longer time to find someone who would ship for us at a rate we wanted to pay. Some of the prices were way to high for the small amount we were shipping. We finally called Sandra Baquero, she's in Guayquill, EC. and arranged to have our things shipped at a price that fit our purposes and budget. Sandra walked us through the whole procedure and gave us more information than we ever expected. So the packing a sorting began and went on and on and on. This is not an easy thing to do. We were getting rid of somethings while buying new things to ship to Ecuador. Oh, yes we were also trying to find an auctioneer to sell the things we weren't going to keep. This turned out to be a very difficult and a never accomplish feat. That leads to how we actually sold and gave away our belongings. A continuing saga for the next post.

Dale and Joan