Sunday, July 21, 2013

First month in Ecuador

Scott and I are one month into our new life in Ecuador.  It has been a month of learning, exploring and settling into a rental apartment.  Our facilitator, Dana, has assisted immensely every step of the way.

Apartment living
Many folks who are moving to the Pacific Coast move straight to their final destination and take buses and taxis back to Guayaquil for each visa step (minimum of 5 trips).  We knew that we would not enjoy making the trip at least five times in a two+ month period.  Instead, we decided to find a 2-3 month rental in Guayaquil, figuring that we could explore this huge city and improve our Spanish while living here. Dana's daughter, Sierra (bilingual), and her recommended taxi driver, Daniel (knows every neighborhood), drove us around looking for a short term apartment rental in Guayaquil.  We had some pretty specific requirements that are not relatively common in apartment hunting.  We required fully furnished, a very safe area, and short term.  Sierra found an available apartment complex which worked out perfectly.  We are in a one bedroom apartment with a full kitchen, real hot water in the shower (no suicide shower) and very secure.  We signed a two month lease but already know that we will be extending for a third month.

The kitchen/living room in our apartment.
The rent includes everything except electricity - wifi, water, garbage, etc.  When we were moving in, the housekeeper showed us where our electric meter is located so we can monitor our use.  She also gave us a copy of the June electric bill so we would have an idea what our bill will be in July.  After hearing about people who keep their AC on day and night then are surprised by their high electric bill, I was thankful for her forward thinking.  We did use our AC a bit much the first week but cut back a LOT after watching the meter count up too quickly.  Now we generally use it for just about 30 minutes in the late afternoon to cool the apartment off enough to be comfortable.  Once the sun goes down, we open the windows and let the cool evening air in, which is perfect for sleeping.
 
Investment CD
It took the better part of the month to obtain the investment CD that we need to establish residency.  We kept going to banks asking to open one but there was always a different reason why it would not be possible.  Finally, we asked Dana to recommend a translator since we were clearly asking the wrong questions.  Gaby, fluent in English & Spanish, came with us to Banco Pichincha and we were able to sign up for the CD within 2 hours.  We wrote a check to ourselves and five business days later (for the check to clear our US bank) completed the paperwork and walked out with the CD.  It finally felt like we were moving forward instead of in circles.

Savings account
The rules for opening a savings account are more strict than in the US.  We are required to obtain a letter of reference from an Ecuadorian who has an account at the bank.  Now that we have the investment CD, the bank representative told us that it is very important that we open a savings account.  We are having difficulty finding an Ecuadorian who will write us the letter.  We asked our landlady.  After she understood what we were asking for, she asked if she could do it "later."  I am hopeful that she did not mean "no" but since Ecuadorians are too polite to say no outright, later may have been her way of saying that.  We may ask at a restaurant that we frequent.  Perhaps one of them has an account at Pichincha.  Funny how the bank already has a bunch of our money but will not open a savings account for $100 without a reference.

Exploring
We have spent a lot of days walking around our neighborhood and the surrounding areas.  There are a lot of cool little shops that we stumble upon.  Check out the bells at one shop:






We are walking distance to two malls, the World Trade Center, the visa office, and our bank.  The first week we were here, we took taxis to those places but now that seems like a waste since they are all 1.5 to 3 miles away.  Walking allows us to get to know the area and get some exercise at the same time.

One of the cool places that we went was to the Historical Park, which contains not only historical buildings but also a wildlife area containing plants, birds and animals from all over Ecuador.  And the whole park is free!  What an incredible place.
Yellow and Blue Parrots

The signs are in Spanish & English

Green Parrots - they were so cute together.

Actual living, moving Pink Flamingos.  Not lawn ornaments!

Collared Peccary "These peccaries go around the wet and dry forests of the province of Guayas.  It feeds on fruits, herbs and tubers.  These animals are gregarious and live in groups."

Scott with a large-leafed plant.  The elevated walkways were a nice way to preserve the plants and keep us away from the animals.
Monkeys!

Some of the historical buildings in the park.  The middle one was the original headquarters for Banco Territorial.
Inside the church
That was about when my camera battery died.  I missed out on pictures of the urban / rural area, which was pretty cool.  They have a "typical" historical home of a farm owner and one of a typical "worker" on the farm.  There were folks dressed in costume and ready to answer any questions about the plants, animals or anything else about their farm or life.

Guayaquil Anniversary Celebration 
Guayaquil was founded on July 25, 1538 and the anniversary celebration began on July 20 around the city.  We went to the Malecon 2000 and found this cool exhibit of photos taken around the city.
Art on the Malecon 2000

The Santa Ana neighborhood

Kennedy Avenue Bridge

Music Plaza
 Random things
If you own a home and build a garage but have no driveway, create your own!




There are improvements going on all over.  The day we walked under this overpass, the workers were just finishing installing these wood laminate panels.

In our apartment complex, visitors ring the door bell when they arrive.
The door bell
We spend between a few minutes and many hours each day working on our Spanish using a variety of tools - Duolingo, Spanish for Dummies, daily interactions, electronic translators, etc.  Through a recommendation by Gaby, we have found a Spanish instructor who will be working with us but she is out of town for the next 8 or so days.  Little by little, we are improving.  It is so exciting when I pick up a newspaper and understand the main points in an article.  If only speaking and understanding spoken Spanish were as quick to pick up on as reading...  Maybe it will be once we have our instructor working with us.

I look forward to sharing more of our life and times in Ecuador with you as Scott and I navigate our way together through this wonderful country.


Until next time,
Emily

4 comments:

  1. Nice write up! Keep up the good work.

    Cliff Y.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Cliff! It has certainly been a fun and interesting beginning!

      Delete
  2. Muy simpatico Emily and Scott. Bueno trabajaro.(an excerpt from tenth grade Spanish):=)

    Dennis

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