Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Things we miss while in Cuenca and Ecuador

A lot is written by fellow bloggers on what they miss from the United States once living on a permanent basis in Cuenca, and Ecuador for that matter.  Yes, Cuenca may be a retirement paradise on Earth, but it's not Paradise. . . Eden was the one and only paradise Earth ever had.  God said so in Genesis!  Cuenca is not "perfect" from a North American perspective, contrary to all the discussions on the 'Net and media reports out there on Cuenca being some kind of retirement nirvana.  Here's a listing of all the ways one gets less than desired in Cuenca.  As our beloved Pastor Pat Tanner of Grace Chapel in Lancaster has put it, you can "suffer for Jesus" in Cuenca.  Here goes. . .

It's *noisy* in Ecuador, and Cuenca, though with less population than Guayaquil, Ecuador's port city (think New York) and Quito (think Los Angeles) is nonetheless full of noise.  we're at perhaps our noisiest location this trip at the Hotel Milan, which has on its street not one but *two* city bus routes stopping for hordes of passengers at the sidewalk opposite our first floor (second floor in the USA) balcony window.  These buses are old, diesel engine running beasts, and are noisier than a John Deere tractor on a farm. . . especially when the driver hits the accelerator!  The noise doesn't bother me as far as sleeping goes, but Carolyn Anne has had her light sleeper tussles and moments with the invading noise.  She said we would have to change rooms due to it, but this last night seemed to be better for her.  The pedestrian signals chirping to cross the street when the light turns green 24/7 also doesn't help.  Our experience living back home in the Antelope Valley is much more tranquil noisewise. 

Level walking surfaces are another thing hard to come by in Ecuador generally.  No matter where you go in whatever city or town, you have to watch your step.  Entering a building you step up. . . sometimes way up.  Entering a room, you step down typically, but it could be up too.  My depth perception as you may know isn't the best, so I really have to watch it everywhere I go.  Keeps one humble, too.  I've found just one building that highlights the step changes in black striped accenting - a very nice condo building we hope to live at once we return permanently - and frankly wish more buildings would do the same.  Folks in the Antelope Valley, you don't know how good you've got it in this regard.  Disabled access for sidewalks?  Forget it in Cuenca, except for the sidewalks in the central part of El Centro.  And those are at a much steeper angle, causing those walking on the sidewalk perpendicular to the incline to lose balance when walking on that surface.  It would never work in the USA. . . a trial lawyer's dream come true where the lawsuits would come so thick and fast your head would spin!

Food: Ecuadorian food is bland to a fault, and getting anything to shake out of a shaker (like salt and pepper) is a lot harder here for reasons not immediately obvious.  The holes in the shaker look the same. . . the salt looks the same. . . what gives?  Same with parmesan cheese in the shaker.  I guess it's all part of the Ecuadorian way to reduce salt intake and reduce cholesterol. . . (sigh)

Foods I miss: La Victoria Salsa Brava hot sauce (La Costena is here, though and is appreciated as a pinch hitter for my favorite hot sauce), refried beans (Coral has every kind of bean in the bag on an entire aisle *but* this one. . . in the can or in the bag, it's not here in Cuenca), and longhorn or Colby cheese.  Sweet corn on the cob (frozen sweet corn is here, but a much higher price for the gringos here).  Frozen peas and carrots.  Fresh peas here, fresh carrots here. . . make your own.  Quaker chewy granola bars (what we brought from Costco in Lancaster to eat on the plane while traveling here).  Crunchier versions available for a sky high price.  An inexpensive 50 cent to $1 chocolate bar.  Three large Hershey bars - like what Grace chapel gives to new visitors - cost (bundled) over $9 at Corel.  Spices.  Ecuador has them, but they aren't anything like what you would use. . . food from the USA is decidedly spicier.  Make a list and bring your favorites, especially for cookies and holiday mealtimes.  Thomas English muffins.  *Any* English muffins!  I'm grouchy if I don't get my English muffin in the morning. . . Campbell's soup (available at the gringo friendly Supermaxi at a price, however. . . try $2 to $3 a can).  Hormel or Dennison's chili (the local brand is far too bland, with mostly beans and hardly any meat to it).  Albers corn meal - or any corn meal.  Oatmeal.  (It's served at the California Kitchen - a gringo hangout - in Cuenca in El Centro for $2.50 though.)  Pies, apple or otherwise.  Pumpkin is not on the shelf, though this isn't the season for it yet, even back in the USA. 

Big napkins (they're small as the Dickens here).  Paper towels are here, and pinch hit for them, though.     

Stores, by the way, don't do refunds of any kind, even large chain stores.  You bought it. . . you're stuck with it.  All sales are final, including sales of appliances that don't fit the dimensions of your kitchen.  Ouch. . . I saw an ad on Gringo Post where that happened to someone. 

Some things we almost missed:  peanut butter ($7 per regular size jar, Schullo's brand).  Higher price to be sure, but a welcome taste of home.  Paper towels ($1.39 a regular roll).  Double the usual price back in the States.  The friendly, helpful staff at the Mall del Rio Coral helped me to find these, to their great credit - and some help from the Lord in the use of my Spanish. 

Peanut butter, by the way, is not literally translated as such. . . not "butter of peanut" - mantequilla de mani, but is instead known here as Crema de mani, or "cream of peanut," or "peanut cream."  Oh the joys of communicating in Spanish when not completely fluent. . . (grin)  To their credit, Coral's employees that are bilingual in English wear white buttons with black lettering on them stating "I speak English" on them.  First store I've known of here doing that, and shows the Gringo influence, which while quite small at 1 per cent of the population of Cuenca, shows a willingness to be of help to extranjeros, or expats.  There is a strong ongoing need by business and professionals alike here in Cuenca to learn and better one's use of English.  I will most likely be assisting in this need by teaching ESL - English as a Second Language - for income and in a volunteer capacity at Iglesia Verbo Cristiana here in Cuenca, and that will be a great new chapter in what God has in store for me.        

Most of all, we miss you back in the States.  One more week here in Ecuador wrapping things up, and then it will be time to say hello to many of you by phone - at last - or in person.  Thanks to several of you for your emails and Facebook PM's to us and your prayerful support.  We couldn't have gotten this far without you! 

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