Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Unraveling a Life In Southern California

Since our return to Orange County from Ecuador, we have been busy trying to figure out exactly how to disengage from our life here and start a new one as an ex-pat in a foreign country where we do not speak the language yet. I suspect that some of our friends seriously think we have lost our minds. Others have wondered how we could move so far away from our children (Pam and I both have one adult child who lives locally: Pam has an adorable 6 year old grandson). I am a psychologist and some of my patients are feeling a little abandoned, even though I reassure that it will be awhile before it really happens.

Complicating the matter is my conflict over retirement and dealing with all the issues that many almost-retired people face. For instance, I wonder what I will do with myself all day in Ecuador; I have worked daily since 12 years old and may actually miss it! Fortunately, I have an online business (anger management programs  and marriage education products) which will transition well in Ecuador, as they have excellent broad-band internet there. So, it is only my local clinical practice that I would be leaving.

When I mentioned this to other gringos in Cuenca, some asked: "So, why don't you practice locally in Cuenca: ex-pats needs therapy too! This opened my eyes to new opportunities that I hadn't considered before. I have no idea what licensing laws for psychologists are in Ecuador, but I will give it some thought (and maybe research).

We have  contacted a Realtor to list our house. We are also considering renting it out until the local housing market picks up, but the jury is still out on the wisdom of this. Been in this house for 28 years, so selling it is more of an emotional challenge than I thought it would be. Seemed easier when I was in Cuenca. Still, life is about transition and change, I remind myself. What to do with all the furniture? Sell it? Store it? What shoud we take? What if we do all this and decide we don't like Ecuador enough to live there permanently?

Stay tuned.........

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reflections on Ecuador

Hello everyone. We are now back in California after a 4 week stay in Ecuador including stays in Quito, Cotachachi, and Cuenca. Had a nice trip back home after a scare in Quito when I got called to the airline (COPA) boarding desk because about 10 passengers' suitcases were randomly picked by Interpol for inspection. This about 30 minutes before takeoff! All ended well when they decided I wasn't a terrorist, after all.

We are now seriously considering retiring in Ecuador. Here are some reflections I have had since my return:

  • I will never drive in Ecuador. I will probably sell both my cars here and take a taxi or bus down there. You can go anywhere in the city for a $2 taxi ride or a $.25 bus ride. Even then, it is wise to be intoxicated before hiring a taxi because even being a passenger is not for the faint-hearted. One taxi driver we hired side-swiped another as we were going to the airport. On the freeway,some drivers share a lane with wide buses while passing on narrow curves and steep hills.
  • You order bottled water "sin gas" or "con gas." This does not refer to your desire for intestinal discomfort, but to your choice of  or not
  • In Cuenca you can live very well on less than $3000 a month including rent. This includes having a maid, eating out, and enjoying life.Here is a one of the high-rise buildings called Palermo where many gringos live. You can rent a 1200 square foot apartmnt here for about $400-$500 a month and a furnished apartment up to 1500-1700 square feet for maybe $700. This often also includes utilities.


Here is a typical  view from the apartments:

If you are staying in Cuenca, stay at a hostel (bed and breakfast) called Casa Ordonez run by Alberto, his mother and two sisters who are presently in the United States.His staff is excellent. They are dedicated, incredibly helpful, and efficient.

    Alberto is a one-man support system and a strong advocate of Ex-pats moving to Ecuador. He has dual citizenship, was in the U.S. Navy, and knows Americans and their needs well. Their hostel has been in the family for years.No matter what you need - tours-medicine-haircut-American expat meetings-activities- restaurants-apartments-establishing residence-attorneys-Alberto is very willing to help. He is an incredible support and speaks English flawlessly.

    • The expats in Cuenca are extremely friendly and encouraging to move there. Some expats hang together while others believe they should integrate more into the general community. The experience is being with like-minded people who share many common interests. On our last night there, Alberto threw a little party and all had a great time. Joseph wowed us with his piano playing.......

    • While we are highly motivated to make the move, it is complicated to unwind things back home in Orange County. We will be meeting with a Realtor tomorrow to see what our house is worth these days. I have talked with my business partner about possible buy-outs, etc. Then there is the question of what to do with all our furniture, how do we handle medical care, etc. Will be sharing all this information in future blogs as we continue our adventure.......

    Thursday, July 22, 2010

    Our Day in Yungilla Valley

    Yungilla Valley is a gorgeous stretch of land about 60 miles south of Cuenca, off the Pan American highway. We had met two other couples at our hostel (the Casa Ordonez) and all six of us decided to hire a driver, Fabian, for a day trip to Yungilla Valley. Fabian spoke excellent English which made the trip all that much more  enjoyable. One of the couples with us was from Phoenix, here on a stopover from a Peru visit. The other couple was from Florida and were visiting with the thought in mind of buying and renovating property here. Meeting and connecting with fellow American travelers was a real if unexpected bonus of our Cuenca stay.

    As we made our way toward the Yungilla Valley, our altitude dropped from about 8500 feet to, I think, about 6500 feet. It became noticeably warmer as we descended.The scenery was breathtaking:

    Our ultimate goal was to view beautiful waterfalls near a town called Santa Elizabeth. To get there, we went through numerous other villages or towns such as Giron. Here are some pictures of the villages taken from our car:

     Finally, we made it to the waterfalls:

    After a lunch of "trucha" (trout) and "papas fritos" (french fries) in a local restaurant, we headed home with our new friends. Just to give you a flavor of the type of people who come here, Tom (left) is an entrepreneur/businessman from Florida looking for an investment/business here. Bob (right) is a retired airline pilot/sculptor, professional traveler who has been to over 80 countries with his lovely wife. 

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Around Cuenca

    We have spent most of the week in Cuenca to get a feel for what it would be like if we actually lived here. As I have mentioned before, Cuenca is a beautiful, historic city of about 400,000 people. Here are a few more  pictures around Central Park which is surrounded by churches and ornate government buildings.

    Many gringos as well as Ecuadorians hang out in this park. We even had a woman approach us from Santa Barbara, CA who, as it turns out, had a brother-in-law psychologist in Orange County whom I used to practice with. What are the odds of that happening?

    On Thursday night we went to the opera in Cuenca. called "El Elixir De Amor" (The elixir of love) produced by the faculty of Arts of the University of Cuenca in its tenth anniversary. Very nice opera at his opera house:

    The opera house itself was not exactly the Orange County Performance Art Center, but the play itself was wonderful, and we got excellent seats for $10 each (top price  tickets).

    Friday night was "gringo night" at a local restaurant called Zoe's. Two hours of networking while having a cocktail or two.People there were in various stages of transition to life in Ecuador. One couple had just bought a house here today. Other couples have been here for years. Some were just looking, like us. Everyone we talked to seemed to love it here and would not want to live again in the United States.

    People' s motives for coming here were varied, but the most common theme was to live better on less money as they retire. Some came down here essentially broke. Some seem fearful that the US economy will collapse and want to be prepared. Others have been very successful and just want a change in life style and scenery. Some are fully retired. Others are "retired" but then start small business here like real estate, or computer repair, or handyman work. I had anticipated having to give up my psychology clinical practice when I moved here, but locals encouraged me to consider setting up a practice in Cuenca to help ex-pats. Not sure what the laws are here to practice psychology: will have to put that on my "to do" list to find out.

    Some people rent for a while and others buy property almost instantly. Some bring their furniture and belongings, while others sell everything back home and buy new stuff here. You can ship everything here in 20 or 40 foot containers for $5,000- $12,000, depending on lots of variables. Most people sell their cars in the United States and don't need to buy new ones here because of excellent public transportation, walking (most people lose weight here because of all the extra walking), and the extensive taxi system.

    Shopping? We decided to check out a large store-complex called super-maxi.It has a grocery store plus other stores like a California mall.

    Prices were not as cheap was we had anticipated. Vegetables and local produced products were very much cheaper, but many American foods (which had to be imported) were actually more expensive than at Cosco's in the US. Locals tell us that groceries are much cheaper at other places, but it was nice to be in an American-style supermarket.

    The weather here is pretty much as advertised. Spring-like. It has rained at least a little almost every day, but then the sun often comes out. We typically dress in layers so we are prepared for most anything.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Our Day Trip to Ingapirca

    Pam and I had a wonderful day trip today to Ingapirca which is the largest pre-Columbian architectural complex in Ecudaor. We hired Miguel, a driver , to take us there. Took 2 1/2 hours to get there from Cuenca using both the Pan American highway and many other, sometimes partially paved and bumpy roads. But the scenery was gorgeous with the verdant Andes in the background, breathtaking valleys, and gradually building mist and dropping temperatures as we climbed higher and higher into the mountains.


    We passed many indigenous people as we drove through numerous small villages sometimes dodging cows, pigs, and sheep, as well as pot-holes  in the road. Good thing Miguel was an experienced driver and had a 4-wheel drive vehicle. His English was excellent and he was very willing to share perceptions about Ecuador and comparisons between his home country and the United States where his family currently resides (in New York City).

    Finally we arrived at Ingapirca which means "the wall of the Inca". The Incas arrived here around 1470. Before then, the indigenous Canari people had inhabited the area. It is believed that both the Canari and the Incas used Ingapirca as a religious site. According to guide books, it was common for the Incas to build religious palaces over the ruins of a conquered culture

    When the Incas conquered the area, they ordered all Canari men to move to Cusco. In the meantime, Inca men took up residence with Canari women, to subtly impose Inca beliefs on the local culture.

    Ingapirca is a mix of Canari and Inca Influences.

    The highlight of the site is El Adoratoria/Castillo, an elliptical structure believed to be a temple in the sun:

    The scenery is stunning around this site with llama and sheep grazing on the hills. A deep feeling of serenity overtakes many who see it:

    We even learned how the Incas kept a calendar by using holes in rocks and filtering rays of sunlight: Amazing:

    Back in the car and heading home, we reflected on the amazing architects and builders the Incas were. It is still unclear to me exactly what happened to the Incas. Maybe we'll learn more as we visit more places.

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    Our Trip To The Orchid Factory

    Several days ago, we hired a driver, Miguel, to take Pam and I plus one other couple we met (Don and Elizabeth from Chicago) to a town north of Cuenca called Gualaceo. Before I tell you about the orchids, a word about Miguel, a 31 year old Ecuadorian who lives on farm with cows. He lived in New York City as a chauffeur where he earned enough money to return home to purchase is farm. His wife and  two teenage children remain in New York.Because of his time in New York, his English was good enough for us to communicate, combined with our limited espanol.

    On to the orchid factory, called Ecuagenera. ( We learned that the orchid family, one of the most populous of all plant families is of great importance to Ecuador. It is believed that there are more than 4000 species of orchids in Ecuador, ranking this country as one of the most richly populated areas of the world.

    This is our guide, Michelle:


    This is the first step of a seven-year process. Seedlings are placed in sealed bottles and stored at a specific temperature.

     One of the final results is the beautiful monkey-face orchid. Incredible! Following is another variety which are endless.


    Saturday, July 10, 2010

    Exploring Cuenca and Meeting ExPats

    This week has been one of making friends, exploring Cuenca and and trying to imagine ourselves perhaps retired down here from the USA. Many people here are in the same process. Exactly how many people have already made the decision - expats  - is somewhat of a mystery. A recent blog which seemed credible puts the number of expats at from 800-900. Other people say the actually number is more like 2500 or so. Regardless, everyone we talk to who moved here says they love it and mad the right decision. (I guess the ones who didn't like it probably went home).

    Take the George Evans family from San Diego. They own a gringo restaurant called California Kitchen in Cuenca. Whole family moved down and opened their "ethnic" restaurant. "We just sold 45 years of stuff back in the states and moved here in May," says George with a big smile on his face.

    People who move here do so for different reasons. Some just want a new adventure in life. Others are disillusioned with the US or are afraid of the poor economic conditions and don't have confidence the USA will recover from its current problems. Others want to retire with enough money to enjoy life, which is becoming increasingly difficult to do back home. That is a major motivator for Pam and I. At 67, I could certainly continue my nice life style in Southern California, but unfortunately, I would have to keep working to do so. Here I could live on 1/4 the money that would be required back home.

    The cost of living here is pretty much what the other blogs have indicated. You can rent a nice unfurnished apartment (condo) in Cuenca for about $200- $500 per month. Add Utilities and furnishings and you maybe are talking $450- $700 per month. You can buy these same places for anywhere from $59000 to $160,000 depending on location. We are torn between renting and buying but we are leaning toward renting until we get our feet on the ground. I think that the economy of Ecuador is growing at 9% a year, so people tell us that purchasing is a very good investment. Not sure what the inflation rate is.

    Food is inexpensive and free of toxins and chemicals. Transportation by bus or cab is also very reasonable. For 25cents you can take a bus anywhere in Cuenca. Taxis are only about $1.50 or $2 for a ride anywhere in the city.
    If we move here, we would sell both our cars in the U.S. and probably not buy another one.

    Cuenca is a very beautiful city rich in history and tradition. We took a bus tour several days ago ($5 for a 2-hour tour). Here are some scenes I shot atop a double-deck bus:

    There are so many beautiful scenes framed by the Andes mountains and clear, blue sky. More later.

    In our next blog entry I will take you on an incredible orchid tour called Ecuagenera.

    For now, adios, hasta luego.
    Tony and Pam

    Sunday, July 4, 2010

    JULY 4 in Cuenca

    We arrived in beautiful Cuenca, in the southern Andes, yesterday. It is a quaint, historic, enchanting college town of about 400,000. There are many ex-pats here who have retired here from many parts of the United States. Amazingly we met many of them today in a special July 4th celebration Hat at a local resort in a city about one-hour from here by bus called Paute. There were probably 50 expats in our group, all of which strongly encoiraged us to move here.

    The resort was called Hosteria Uzhupud. Here is what it looked like:

    We had a lovely luncheon, followed by jazz, After networking for several hours we were treated to a very nice July 4th fireworks display. Who would have thought that we'd be celebrating an American holiday in such traditional fashion in a south-American country?

    During our conversations with the expats we learned much about living here. I asked if you could live comfortably on $3000 a month. Most of them laughed and said that for $3000 per month you could live like a king. Many live on much less than that. We learned the ins and outs of moving here and living here as well as the pitfalls to avoid.Several told us of renting beautiful apartments or condos for maybe $450 or $500 a month. We learned that you can buy a gorgeous 2000 ft condo with panoramic views of the Andes and the city for about $115,00 that would be absolutely top of the line in everything.

    Food here is also very inexpensive and is free of pesticides and additives. Chicken and cattle are free-range. Pam and went to a top-notch French restaurant last nigh called the 4 Rivers. A meal of chateaubriane was listed on the menu at $8.00. We had two wonderful entrees, salad, a glass of wine, and a desert. Total bill was $31 which included tip and state tax. And this was an upscale French restaurant. If you know where to go, you can easily get lunch for maybe $2 each and maybe dinner for $6, $8 or $10 each.

    Tomorrow we start more exploration of this historic city with cobblestone streets and  unique and varied architecture.

    Thursday, July 1, 2010

    Life in Cotacachi

    Nestled in the northern Andes mountains is Cotacachi, a very interesting little town of about 10,000 people with approximately 90-100 being expat Americans, 5 or 6 of which we have already met. Language is not as much of a problem as we feared because we know enough Spanish, enough of them know enough English, and with hand gestures and sign language we get by just fine, thank you.

    Our entrance into town was very scary, however. Seems like we got there exactly when crowds were escaping violence from one group of street dancers toward another.

    The policia were controlling the crowds with teargas as as we were pulling our luggage down this street to our hotel.We made it safely, but it was not the welcome we expected! The next day however we observed it from our balcony and it was a lot more fun to watch everything.

    Seems that there are hundreds of villages around here who celebrate once a year for about 10 days in Cotacachi each wearing unique costumes associated with their village or tribe. Some of the costumes are very elaborate. They are all competing with each other and dancing to the Gods, as has been tradition since the Incas conquered the indigenous people here. Unfortunately, some ot the tribes come to town and actively try to kill members of the other tribes while they are dancing. They win favor with their Gods if they spill blood which brings them a fruitful harvest. Sort of reminds me of LA gangs, each with their own colors and goals of killing members of other gangs. Some things never change!

    Other than the tribal killing thing, the street festival is fascinating. Street vendors all over. We had some talipia from one of them  this afternoon that was absolutely fantastic: fresh and flavorful.  The locals are very friendly and helpful. The weather has been beautiful, springlike temperatures with highs about 68 and lows about 50 at night.

    Food is ridiculously cheap here. Pam bought a lemon this morning for 10 cents that would have cost at least 60 to 80 cents back home. Her tab on her talipia lunch was $3. We bought Pam lipstick for $1 that would have cost $8-$12.We traveled to another local city called Otavalo that has the biggest open air market in South America. There Pam bought a beautiful turquoise and sterling silver bracelet for $24 that would have cost maybe $60 in LA. By the way, taxi ride there (about 20 miles) was $5; we could have ridden the bus there for $.50.

    That's it for today.....stay tuned for more Tony and Pam adventures.


    Wednesday, June 30, 2010

    Second Day in Ecuador Was Spent in Hospital

    Pam and I had a wonderful dinner at the Mansion del Angel where we chatted with several other Americans who were also staying there. Pam ordered Quiche and a salad and I ordered Shrimp in wine sauce. Big mistake. About three hours shall I out this delicately?.......My stomach decided it didn't want to deal with my meal. In short. all night I was sicker than the proverbial dog. Finally the next day things got so miserable that we called in a house doctor who started me on IVs and said I shoud go to the hospital. I said i didn't need to go to the hospital. He charged us only $70 for the visit and then later sent over another doctor (an internist) for a second opinion. This internist was a very young woman (still had braces on her teeth), but was very persuasive so I said I'd admit myself to Metropolitan Hospital in Quito which has an excellent reputation.I woulo have agreed to almost anything to escape the discomfort whcih I can only compare to being sea sick and hung over simulataneously.

    Now, haev you ever tried to admit yourself to a hospital in a foreign country where nobody speaks English and you don' t know the system? Fortunately we had a driver, Agostino, who took a personal interest in us and fortunately was bilingual. He stayed with us through the ER admission process and later stayed even after I was admitted to the hospital itself. He charged us maybe $80 for all the services and support he provided.

    So began my real life exploration of the quality of the medical system in Ecuador. Sparing many details, I was very impressed with the equality of care I received. I saw at least 15 doctors who varied in English speaking from zero to excellent. One doctor after another came in from various specialties and all asked exactly the same questions to which I gave the same answers I had given their predecessor.

    They all worked as a team, though, which was very impressive. I did have to put up with a nurse Ratchett but she was the exception. Most of the staff was extremely caring, gentle and concerned. Next day, I got the good news: no serious problem; just an intestinal infection (versus some other possibilities they were trying to rule out). Said to  stay away from salads, diary products, mayonnaise, and of course, non-bottled juices and waters. 

    The bill for all this care? About $695 which was an expense I didn't need, but frankly I was expecting a bill of about $3000 by US standards.

    So, it was on to Cotachachi for another adventure. Stay'll love this one!

    First Day In Ecuador And Already CausingTrouble

    Had  a beautiful flight from Los Angeles to Panama City to Quito, Ecuador. But, after we landed the trouble started. Went through customs and actually was in Ecuador for about 2 minutes when I was approached by a distraught man and a customs official who asked me to identify my suitcase as the man claimed I had taken his! Problem was, he was right! I had accidentally picked up the wrong one that looked very similar to mine. My challenge at that moment was to explain all that in SPANISH to the custom's official. So, back to the other side of the Customs's door where I located my suitcase but now had to go through the whole line again with the correct baggage behind a party who had about 50 suitcases that they had to load onto the conveyor belt.

    In the end,everything turned out OK and we were on our way to the Hotel Mansion de Angels In Quito where more adventures awaited us.More on that in the next blog. Stay tuned!

    Sunday, June 20, 2010

    Finally got our Inoculations for our Ecuador Trip

    Pam and I finally went to our different medical systems to receive our recommended vaccinations in preparation for our trip to Ecuador. First issue was deciding which vaccinations we really needed. Our MDs recommended we visit the CDC website (Center for Disease Control) to answer that question.

    We did that and found it to be extremely informative. You go to and click on "travelers' health." Then go to "destinations" and then "Ecuador." All the information you need is right there.

    We both decided on inoculations for typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.

    Now comes the fun part. I went to Kaiser for my shots: Total cost: $0

    Pam went to Scan and her total cost (out of Pocket) for exactly the same shots: $700.

    Wow! We can't figure out the difference yet as both of us have medicare to begin with which we then used to contract with the two different health systems.

    Will investigate the issues when we return. Health care is a major issue for us, ,and part of the equation in our decision to maybe retire in Ecuador.

    More later......

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    Spanish Anyone?

    One of the first questions people ask when they learn we plan on first visiting Ecuador for a month and then checking it out as a retirement destination is :" How is your Spanish?" Well, I have discovered that my Spanish is much better in my mind than it is in actual conversation. You see, I had two years of Spanish in high school and then another two years in college, but that was like 40 years ago!

    So, last January Pam and I hired a private tutor to meet with us once a week to teach us Spanish. Wonderful guy who was a certified teacher of both English and Spanish. But, very little progress because we had no opportunity to practice it between sessions. I admired his patience, though.

    So, I thought I'd buy Rosetta Stone per their advertisements. But, the cost was almost $600. So, I spotted a discounted Rosetta Stone package on the internet from China at a cost of only $100. Sounded too good to be true. It was guaranteed to be fully functional with a key code to unlock it. So, I purchased it, ignoring the little guy in my brain that said "don't do is a scam....if it sounds too good to be true, it is!"

    Well, you guessed it. It didn't work! It was impossible to get my money back! I still couldn't speak Spanish.

    So, now it is about two weeks before we travel to Ecuador and we will go to Plan B: Learn the language through immersion in the culture. We understand that many of the people we will be interacting with in Quito and Cuenca are bilingual and are eager to practice their English. So, maybe we can trade. Spanish lessons and tutoring are also supposed to be very inexpensive there, so we might just join a class.

    Will keep you posted, amigos.......

    Sunday, May 30, 2010

    You May Move To Where?

    In order to get feedback from others, I have been telling almost everyone I know I am thinking of retiring in Ecuador. The responses I am getting are very interesting. Usually there is a long pause during which friends are mentally trying to figure out exactly where Ecuador IS in the first place.

    A common first response is: "I never hear anything about Ecuador." I usually reply by saying"Exactly" meaning that there is little political unrest there or things to worry about such as drug running (as in Columbia), drug-related murders (as in Mexico), weather calamities or other newsworthy events. In short, it appears to be a relatively peaceful place to live.

    A second common response is: "Aren't you scared to go so far?" Well, the answer, frankly, is yes, but just a little bit. I am at the place in life where I want another adventure while I am healthy enough to experience it and enjoy it. In the end, it indeed may be too big of an adjustment for us, but I currently feel strongly that I want to give it a try. I had the same feeling some thirty years ago when I moved to California from Northern Minnesota. At that time I was getting "hardening of the thoughts" and felt I needed to expand my horizons, perspectives, and world views. I feel the same way now having lived in California for so long!

    We actually have investigated other places to live. specifically Panama which is also rated very highly as a retirement haven. But, real estate and cost of living has risen greatly in the last several years due to the huge influx of gringos into Panama. Also the weather was way too humid there for our tastes.

    By far the most frequent response so far..which encourages "Wow: Can we visit you?" Or, "we want to be your neighbor." Not sure what that means: may be code for "we think you are crazy but include us if it works out for you."

    Will keep you all posted as we progress in our adventure and more people give us feedback on our plan......

    Friday, May 28, 2010

    Our Ecuador Retirement Plan

    It is now about three weeks before we begin our adventure to a country to which we have never been - Ecuador. Our plan is to probably retire there in the next two years, from our current home in Orange, California where we have lived for twenty-eight years. First step is to visit for a month, then make serious plans for a move, if things go as planned.

    We have been telling almost everyone we know about our plans, to get as much feedback as possible. Does this sound like a crazy thing to do, we ask ourselves? Why Ecuador, of all places? Can we adjust to the many cultural differences that we will most certainly experience? What about medical care? What about language problems? Can we disengage from a lifestyle we have known for so long? What do we do with all our furniture now in a 2900 square foot house? What about leaving our friends and family members? These and scores of other questions loom in our minds as we prepare for the first step of our Ecuador adventure.

    First things first! Where IS Ecuador, people ask, usually after a glass of wine. We explain that it is between Peru and Columbia on the West Coast of South America. The Galapago islands are part of Ecuador, 600 miles off the coast. Ecuador has four basic regions. We are most interested in living in the Andes mountains either near Quito (the Capitol city) or Cuenca

    Of all of the cities in Ecuador, Cuenca (population 467,000) is arguably the most charming with its cobblestone streets, old-world cathedrals, colonial parks and urban rivers. The famously traditional Cuencanos continue a proud intellectual tradition that has produced more notable writers, poets, artists, and philosophers than anywhere else in Ecuador. Cuenca is the capital of the Azuay province, the third largest city in Ecuador, and the economic center of the southern Sierra. These distinctions, along with the city's incredibly preserved history, recently earned Cuenca the honor of being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site.

    So, why would we leave beautiful Southern California for Ecuador? The main reason is economic. I am a 67 year old psychologist who is ready to retire in a manner such that would allow me enough economic freedom to write books, and produce other mental health products (I specialize in Anger Management and Couples Therapy) that I have on the drawing board. Truth is, to continue my life style in Southern California, I would need to continue working pretty much full time. As an ex-pat in Ecuador they say one can live like a king for much less money (and stress).

    For over a year now I have been following newsletters and blogs about Ecuador. For instance, International Living gives Ecuador high ratings in terms of places to retire. Gary Scott publishes a daily newsletter explaining all asepcts of life down there for ex-pats. Seems like other advantages include the great spring-like weather year around in the mountains, the incredible natural beauty, the tremendous bio-diversity of plant and aninmal life, and the friendliness of the people. It is also politically stable, although the government leans to the far left, which may or may not be an issue for the average ex-pat.

    As I write this, I asked Pam what she would like to add. She says "I'm excited about the opportunity before me. I am looking forward to finding out what Ecuador is all about, meeting new people, tasting new foods, and seeing beautiful lush greenery. And the spring-like weather year around sounds great."