Monday, April 28, 2014


While on this journey to Cuenca, Ecuador and a new life here, my bride and I have had to learn many new things.  We've had to make some changes, reduce expectations, and - adjust to the new language of Spanish and the new Latin American culture surrounding us.  The biggest thing to remember is that we are guests in Ecuador - this is not our country, or what we are used to in the USA.  Here's a helpful rundown of our experiences adjusting for the benefit of future expat, friend, and retrospection alike.

  • Let the TSA screeners do their job.  Don't interfere with their policies or instructions!  'Nuff said already on this previously. 
  • Catnaps while waiting overnight in the airport are a good thing.  On the plane, too when you can.  Sleep is the traveler's "brain food" for getting the traveling done.  A sharp, rested mind makes less mistakes when it comes to making decisions.
  • Airlines have rules about luggage ID tags.  They didn't like our custom made tags we bought from Corporate Travel Solutions - they said in bright red with yellow background "Not Yours" - and United apparently agreed!  So our plans to easily find our bags on the baggage claim carousel were thwarted.  We had to read the standard United tags to find 'em. . . more work, but rules are rules, I guess. 
  • Quito is a mix of First, Second, and maybe Third World living.  Couldn't see for sure in the middle of the night as it was dark on our way to our lodging.  Several smaller residential type buildings appeared to be in repair or construction, with gray concrete walls.  Not sure about the roofs on them.  Quito also can have an unexpected power outage, as they did on the Monday before we traveled south to Cuenca.  Where did we put that pocket flashlight again?  Oh. . . we left it at home.  Drat!
  • Just because there's a bus station nearby doesn't mean they sell bus tickets there.  Bus lines also sell out of seats, so buy your tickets ahead of time a day ahead.  Trick is, you have to go to the right ticket office in person. 
  • They have restroom stops on the way from Quito to Cuenca.  Several of them.  You will reboard the bus if you are not wasting time with extraneous things.  No problem. . . no one stranded. 
  • The toilet paper you use (you did remember to bring a roll just in case?) does *NOT* go down the toilet.  It goes in the waste can beside the toilet.  Yes, it does get emptied.  Remembering this was perhaps the hardest habit to break for us.  I know I put the paper down the toilet several times in the last week or so but retrieved it before flushing.  Airports, some newer hotels, and malls excluded from this rule.
  • Did you remember to bring hand sanitizer for washing your hands in the restroom?  We did!  Not all restrooms have soap, much less paper towels.  Thanks to Leanne Crawley for this tip. 
  • Every residence and business in Ecuador has locked gates and doors.  To enter your lodging, kindly press the buzzer and identify yourself. . . in Spanish, of course. 
  • Ecuadorian lodgings typically serve *one* scrambled egg for your breakfast.  No wonder the people look so healthy!  We are losing weight that way. 
  • Everything is smaller in Ecuador: the doors, the cabinets, the rooms, the cars, the food portions, the stores, and the people.  Carolyn Anne loves the fact she is average size here, and "fits in" that way.  Me?  I stand out like a sore thumb!
  • Restaurants, stores, offices etc. open later in the morning than in the US, and close for almuerzo - lunch - in the early afternoon.  Office signs don't say what their office hours are. . . you have to be flexible. 
  • You have to pick up your feet when walking on the cobblestone sidewalks in El Centro in Cuenca.  I haven't yet fallen, but once when I was on the way back to the hotel  from our favorite breakfast spot, Panesa, I tripped upon attempting to enter the Hotel Tomebamba.  Thanks to Carlos the front desk clerk for mopping up the spilled café con leche I dropped on the entryway.  The hotel, like many other buildings, has a half inch clearance or so above the sidewalk. . . must make that adjustment to prevent another fall!
  • One taxi driver in Cuenca used a curse word - in English - twice during one trip.  I reproved him - in Spanish - twice.  Wasn't expecting that of the generally good chofers here.  Got the "hey, you mean I have to respect you?" look from him.  Praise God for communicative abilities no matter what the language. 
  • When you buy anything requiring travel - not city bus or taxi - or the use of a debit/credit card, you have to display your US Passport to the clerk.  Then you write your passport number down on the receipt. 
  • Cash outlays from your US financial institution is done at Banco del Pacifico in Cuenca.  Dunno if there are any other banks that will do this for you as yet.  What would happen if that bank would stop doing this service?  I shudder to even think. . .
  • The streets are well signed generally in the El Centro - downtown - of Cuenca, but the street signs - even for major ones - are largely not posted for streets in Cuenca.  That goes for major travel routes in Ecuador.  You really need to have a map and stick to the main roads.  Pity the traveler that drives at night. . .
  • The street addresses start with the street name, then the number.  The first number before the dash is the block number, and the number after that is the residence or business number.  For example, our vacation condo is at Honorato Vasquez 6-28 y Hermano Miguel.  The US way of saying the same thing is 628 Honorato Vasquez, closest cross street is Hermano Miguel. 
  • Dollars are in bronze coins in Ecuador.  The first dollar bill I saw here in Cuenca was at an original Mexican food restaurant just across from our vacation condo.  I told the owner to keep it for "bueno suerte" - good luck. 
  • Home Bible studies at Iglesia Verbo in Cuenca - a church that reminds us a lot of Grace Chapel in Lancaster - starts at 8:00 PM.  Everything starts later and ends later here in the Land of Manana.  Yes, they have an English speaking small group.

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