How We Came To Be Here
We’ve been in town two weeks and our first impressions are fading fast. We were reading a book (“Loving Frank” by Nancy Horan) and thought that living abroad as did the lovers Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheyney and were inspired. Well, I was thinking this at any rate a few months back when we were still planning on going to China. Horan paints a very romantic picture of Tuscany and it seemed like something one might try doing if one were wealthy – going to Tuscany that is. Little problem there with funding, especially nowadays. So, Ecuador and the Latin American connection came up but even Chiyemi admitted that it sounded like a pretty good idea.
There is a travel saying “Two weeks are too long and two years are too short”. We’re becoming accustomed to the city but that was the whole point of finding out what it would be to live in a foreign country in retirement. It’s definitely possible from an economic standpoint. Annual incomes here for Ecuadorians is $2840 per year according to Wikipedia which is oil rich (though refinery poor), exports vegetables and fruits (largest producer of bananas in the world in case you were vague on that point). The following photo shows $5.50 worth of veggies: a head of cauliflower, one of purple cabbage, two mangoes, a piece of zucchini, bags of shelled peas and another of strawberries, broccoli, some scallions, a couple peppers, a few carrots, a small papaya (the large ones are like basketballs), and a bag of chopped vegetables.
After sleeping, eating and taking care of other bodily functions laundry is one of the things that happens more or less without thinking at home and yes, gentlemen, I occasionally do the laundry. Without a laundry room one needs to find a lavanderia or give your clothes over to the hotel. Since this was a “budget trip”, we thought it better to carry our laundry in a large bag (this lends verisimilitude to your status as a Cuencano, lugging something on your shoulder) to the laundry on the other side of town. What your carrying can be alive or dead but should be large. You can get 10 lbs. of laundry done, folded, back in a day or less. And they do use US Dollars here exclusively. Coinage is either US or Ecuadorian but the pieces are identical in size.
Imagine also that these fruits and vegetables are delivered daily, fresh to the mercados and that this happens daily, all year long. There is no season here except rainy and less rainy. Imagine also that they are the best vegetables that you’ve ever had. The only way in which they are inferior to those in US supermarkets is size. The Ecuadorians are not gaga for giant vegetables though today we saw some cabbages this size of Vermont.
That’s Chiyemi’s hand and arm in the upper left size of the picture for a bit of scale. And, lest you think you are stuck going to the funky old mercado check out the veggie aisle at Supermaxi, the upscale grocery store in a better neighborhood where we’ve gone twice.
Our Laundry and Other Odds and Ends
I believe there were 28 pieces and so about 15 cents apiece. The hotel wanted 35 cents to do the same and we’ve since found that our laundry was charging an excessive rate and will move up the street where it’s 25 cents a pound for folded and laundered. We were paying about twice that. The point of all these numbers is to demonstrate that it’s possible, even desirable for Americanos (on fixed incomes, say) to pick up their belongings and expatriate to Ecuador.
I should take a picture of an almuerzo which means “lunch” but here it also means a fixed price (cheap) lunch for your busy Cuencano can find at any one of dozens and dozens of small restaurants on every street in Cuenca. The fare is becoming more and more clear as we take advantage of these almuerzos which run from $1-$2 and include: a large bowl of soup (and the specialité of Ecuador is soup. I will digress some time to explain the different classes of soups but here imagine an 8” bowl of homemade chicken noodle. The second course is a plato of large pile of rice, a piece of chicken or beef (we go for chicken), and either a chopped green salad in vinegar (like today), or a veggie of some kind. This is served with a glass of freshly squeezed juice – today’s was babaco, maracuya, sapote or one of several tropical fruits that are absolutely delicious but never make it to the states. I plan a digression into the look and taste of fruits sometime soon. We are sampling our way through them in the fruit section of the 10th of August market.
A note on the above picture – I took this because of the name which translated is rice with spectacles. Well, I found it funny anyway.