Tag Archives: english

Cuenca Day 5 – In the Land of English

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Today, in the land of English, it was all about building camaraderie, community and family.  We spent the late afternoon and evening with our friends, Frank and Angie, and their sons.  We had the best lasagna ever (veg and meat), we had the best conversation, and we felt right at home.

Also, as a side note, there are many who will tell you that you can not find a livable, place to live for $250 and that it is so difficult.  This is soooo wrong.

Fact Check

  • The average price of a an unfurnished three bedroom house and apartment will range from $250-$300.  That is what a Cuencano will pay.  Now you can always pay more and people will gladly take your money on a monthly basis…but if you are wise and frugal and want to live locally,this price range gets done all the time.
  • Having seen what a $250 house looks like in the flesh, I can tell you that it was beautiful.  Hardwood floors, french doors, granite counter tops, small indoor courtyard, larger outdoor patio and garden in the back, front courtyard and private, secure gated entry with security intercom.
  • If you are paying up to $600 in rent, it better be for a beautiful, fully furnished, multi-story, 4 bedroom house in the city with gated entry, private yards and loads of extras; that is, luxury level (more detail in upcoming post).
  • If you can speak a little Spanish and make friends with locals, walk around and have an open mind, you will find what you are looking for to fit almost any budget…except free (probably).
  • If you want to live in a condo with other Americans or in an expat heavy neighborhood, then you will pay more.  If you want to eat and hang out in expat frequented places, you will pay more.
  • Everything is available to you …. so the choices you make are your own.

Now back to building community.  I do not advocate foreign resident communities that operate within themselves and for the most part, exclude locals, except where necessary.  I do advocate for nurturing friendships across language barriers and cultural differences so that each enriches the life of the other.  I also realize, however, that there is something to be said for the familiarity of home in a foreign country, for not having to struggle to communicate every time you speak, for having friends that “get” what this experience is like.

So my caution is – moderation is the best path.  Be willing to open yourself up not only to the new and local culture, but also, to the people who are also part of your own national culture.  I started out this post saying that we felt at home with our friends and we would have missed that had I been absolutely opposed to contact with any Americans (yes Canadians too) living here.

Even when you leave home behind, you still carry the warmest piece of it with you – and sometimes you find that warmth in new friends who are kindred spirits.

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Cuenca Day 4 – In the land of English

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Today, outside of speaking to ourselves in English, saying hello to our neighbors, and spotting someone we had met on the plane ride over, our entire day was spent in Spanish.   That said, I did spend some amount of time speaking with Cuencanos about the growing community of English speakers and visitors.

Two of these conversations centered around the frustration that it is sometimes  difficult and frustrating to provide Americans with the highest level of service because of language barriers.  While welcoming everyone, the lack of communication seems to have frayed some nerves. However, people here are so patient and nice that being able to  attempt some Spanish (even if you completely butcher it) it makes all the difference in the world.  It makes people feel like you have a stake in them personally, as well as in Cuenca.  Some words to learn –

  • Buenos Dias- good morning, Buenas Tardes-good afternoon, Buenos Noches – good evening
  • Perdonna-me – excuse me, muchas gracias -thanks very much, por favor – please
  • Cuanto cuesta – how much is it
  • Perdonna me por favor mi espanol no es bueno – please excuse me, my Spanish sucks.
  • Donde esta el bano – where is the restroom

Another conversation centered on not understanding how a person can move to a new country but (in essence) refuse to learn/speak the language.  This was different from the first set of conversations because it had nothing to do with wanting to provide better service to the expat community.  It had to do with a distaste for the imagery of complete buildings filled with expats who want nothing to do with the larger Cuencano community (except as domestic workers, taxi drivers or other service providers).

This certainly does not mean that these conversations mirror a brewing resentment in the local community; rather, it displays the need for expats to be more sensitive to the language situation. Everyone I speak to is happy with the increasing numbers of Americans and Europeans here because the city as a whole benefits.  I just think that people wish the Americans would be more social with Ecuadorians.

Americans complain about people not learning English and not integrating with the larger community when they live in our country. Then we move to their countries, refuse to speak their language and we stay in our own communities. Ironic, isn’t it.