Tag Archives: living

Ecuador – Permanent or Temporary Move

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I took a hiatus from writing specifically about Cuenca, Ecuador because I have been mulling over whether our family trip this summer will be a permanent versus a temporary move.  I have always been a “just do it” kind of gal, and I find the leap before you think approach to life very invigorating.  So why am I becoming more hesitant as the weeks roll past?

Because being on vacation is like being drunk at a party – your normal walls and insecurities come down, your hair is loose (be it yours or store-bought) and your soul is free and open.  Then you return home and after a few weeks of the normal routine, that vacation feel starts to wear-off.   That said, the best quick-fix solution I have come up with for reminding me why I am considering making this trip a more permanent move, is a visit to any McDonald’s between the hours of 8:30-10:00 am.

Is it the incredibly gross “beef” products they sell?  No. Is it the $1  any size coffee? No.  It’s all of the older, retired Americans who have made McDonald’s the new hotspot.  Yes people, if you are in your 70s and 80s and looking for a vibrant social scene of your peers….McDonald’s is the spot!!

This is both an interesting and distressing fact, depending on where the McDonald’s is located.  If in the wealthier suburbs, then you see groups playing cards, bingo, and being rather jolly. However, if in an urban or lower social economic center,  well then the scene is just depressing.

Depressing, because it is so clear that so many there simply crave human connection. Another person to hear their voice and know that they exist.  They sit and complain about the family members who no longer care about them, the friends who are awaiting open heart surgery, the medications they take, their aches and pain, their past glories, and the latest in local politics. It is depressing because their communion with the world happens for the few hours they are within the overly fried, mass-produced confines of Micky D’s.  Then it is back to home.

Now…granted, I am under forty, so bingo at Micky D’s is a way off…but it reminds me of how wonderful it is to live in a place where age is considered a privilege and not a purgatory, where friends and neighbors are family and your life is filled with the sight and sounds of young people (if you so choose). It reminds me that there are so many beautiful places and people to experience in this world and I am very blessed to have the opportunity to explore it.

So, we are looking forward to making Ecuador our home for a while and really learning about the country, its history, and its people.  We are looking forward to getting really good with our Spanish, growing our base of wonderful friends, and continuing to live a life rich in adventure, communion, love and laughter.

Yup, this a permanent move for us…well, about at permanent as we get.

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What You Get for $250 – Cuenca, Ecuador

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In one of my earliest posts, I said that it was possible to live in Cuenca and only pay $250 in rent per month.  A kind commenter, who currently lives in Cuenca, then replied that really the monthly rates are more in the range of $300-$500. So, delaying further discussion, I decided to see for myself.

After a week in Cuenca, talking to everyone from taxi drivers, to friends, to shop keepers and bank officers, I can say that the commenter was WRONG!!  You can absolutely live in a nice place in Cuenca for $250 or under and $250-$300 is considered the higher-end by the average Cuencano.  Yes ladies and gentlemen, that is a fact.

Sure if you want to live the high life/expat life, with the other expats, paying higher rental fees to live in condo buildings that are essentially occupied by other retired expats from North America (ex Mexico)….then go ahead and pay more. [There’s also that really fabulous, fully furnished house for $600 that I really want.]  However, if you are moving to Ecuador to make friends AND save money, well then you are in luck, because there are lots of options, you just need to have patience, a little flexibility and some time.

Okay, so why the serious difference in rental rates (perceived or real) between the commenter and I?  Language skills, living standards, other stuff ….take your pick.  All the conversations I had with people regarding living expenses were in Spanish.  While I did contact one of the expat real estate agents, it was on the last day I was in town and we really did not have a chance to speak.  For $250 and below (and it should be below), you can get a two bedroom newly renovated, apartment and the further you are from El Centro, the cheaper it gets.  I took a tour of a small, 2nd floor, 2-bedroom apartment that had just been renovated and the asking price was $250, which to me means that for a year lease you can get it for $200.  It is a 10 minute walk from downtown and in a decent/typical area.  I also spoke to the owner of a 2 bedroom, new construction apartment that had just rented it for $180.  It is walking distance to a Coral Supermarket (one of the supermarkets that we all would be happy with), a $2 taxi ride or a $0.25 bus ride to downtown and it is a block off a major road and right on the bus lines.

If you are looking for a place, there are tons of rentals, signs are posted on the homes (“se arrienda”) and foreigners are very welcome.  Just bring along some Spanish or a Spanish speaking friend, and negotiate heavily.

The big prize, however, is the home that originally got me excited about living in Ecuador.  I actually got to see the house in person, had dinner on the beautiful handmade/homemade furniture, and it is now the type of house I aspire to have…at the exact same price or less! [Side Note – Frank, Angie and their boys have created some really incredible furniture pieces, my personal favorite is the dining table and its seating.]

To supplement the pictures of the house, below are pictures of the neighborhood. The house is about a 10 minute, $2, taxi-drive from downtown area, or a $0.25 bus ride.

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Pictures of the home I visited, before it was furnished, are at following link – Frank and Angie’s Blog.

So when someone says it is not possible and you can’t, just repeat these words, “Yes you can!”

Ecuador, I’m in love… too bad you’re not a man!

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.

Welcome to The Black Gringa

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Welcome to The Black Gringa – a blog that specifically speaks to the international living and traveling.

The goal of this blog is to chronicle our travel experiences and introduce new communities for living and retirement that you may have thought about…but never seriously considered.  As I have considered relocating outside of the United States, I  often do Google searches, read blogs and articles, see beautiful pictures of exotic and far off places – but there is always something invariably missing.   What is the experience of African-Americans in that community?

My contention is that the experience for African-Americans living and traveling abroad is the same as it is for any American – interesting, exciting and engaging.  People around the world are kind, generous, gracious and warm.  Most of the time.  On occasion they can be rude and you may be refused service as my mother was in a restaurant in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  However, as with here in the US, for every bad apple there are a million good ones.  And the good ones are what we want to share with you.

This blog is meant to inspire you to think beyond your national borders and to help you create the life you have always dreamed of.  This blog will hopefully push you to be more adventurous and fearless in your daily living and  planning for the future.

Yes you can live in luxury on your monthly social security or pension check, in a place that is beautiful and peaceful, with the perfect weather and surrounded by the activities and types of friends you would have had at home.  We will show you how.

This blog will include regularly updated videos, pictures and audio that will present new cities and the communities we find in them. We will also talk about the cost of living and the transitions people make from living in the US to international living.

Let’s start living the lives we have always dreamt of and let’s begin that journey today!

First stop – Ecuador, South America