Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Creative currency - the gum replaces the nickel

Today, I bought two waters at the mini market in Oloncito and received back creative change.  I gave her $1.00 for the $.70 purchase.  The cashier was out of nickels so she gave me one stick of gum and one quarter (pennies are not used very often so she also did not have those).  I am pretty sure that this only works one way - I can't pay for my groceries using gum.

My $.30 in change

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Six months in Ecuador

Today marks six months since we moved to Ecuador. It has been a wonderful, trying, fabulous, frustrating time.  We are legal residents of the country, which means that we have our cedulas (Ecuadorian ID card) and the permanent resident stamp in our passports.

Here are some of highlights:
  • Moved from Guayaquil to the Olon area after we obtained residency.  We are renting a casita from a couple of expats while we look for our own property.
  • Bought a car (some people choose to rely solely on the great public transportation system - we did not want to be without our own car)  Scott detailed the process on his blog.
  • Opened a savings account.  This sounds like a simple task but it was not!  It took us three months to accomplish this task. The items required included: 
    • Color copy of passport picture page
    • Color copy of cedula
    • Letter of recommendation no more than one month old from an Ecuadorian who has an account at that bank (our Guayaquil landlady wrote this for us)
    • A cell phone number (or two - we gave two but I am not sure if they were both required)
    • Two land line phone numbers (we gave the number of our landlady and a lady who did translations for us)
    • Proof of employment, retirement income, or bank balance from overseas bank
    • Proof that we either voted in the last election or were not eligible to vote
    • Copy of the most recent month's electric bill showing where we live
    • Made a trip a week after opening it to pick up the ATM card, which took several hours since the system was down when we first arrived
  • Visited a hotel in northern Manabi province that is raising a baby monkey!  Something happened to his mother so they stepped in to raise him.  The monkey walked around on my head.  It was funny - just like kittens like to sit on shoulders, behind someone's head, he climbed right up to sit on my head.  He liked my hair and played with it quite a bit.

  • Scott heard a car accident one day at 5am, ran down the road and helped two people out of an upside down pickup.  Somehow, they were not harmed.  Others showed up and they all up-righted the pickup, changed a flat tire, and the couple drove off.  They saw us about two weeks later and could not be more thankful to Scott.  They told me that he was their hero.  It was a pretty cool moment. 

    Side note about this:  A Peace Corps worker was staying in our landlords' house the night of the accident.  The crash woke her up and she looked out the window to see Scott running down the road in his bathrobe.  She later commented that she wondered what superhero was going to help the crash victims (he looked like he had on a cape instead of a robe to her).
  • We have driven almost the entire Ecuadorian coast and stayed at a lot of hotels while narrowing down our list of potential towns where we might want to live.  Every trip has been very useful and we take a lot of notes and ask locals questions that are important to us.  One of the ways that you know which property is for sale is to find the for sale sign on the house.  There are some websites that sellers list on but most just put a sign on their house and wait for phone calls. 

    Just think about that for a minute - it is like knowing that you want to live somewhere in Minnesota on the Mississippi River but not sure which town.  To find your new home, you need to drive to each town and look for a property you like with a for sale sign on it. 
  • Taken two trips back to the US for family weddings.  Both weddings were awesome and both were outdoors, one in a backyard and one on a beach.  Luckily it did not rain either day. We got to spend time with our daughter's family each time, too - a great bonus.  Each time we return home, we come with more of our old stuff in our footlockers so now we've got everything here that we had planned to bring.  On future trips, we will pick up other things that we discover we can not get here or are prohibitively expensive (like electronics).
  • Walk the beach - we've walked up and down our beach several times, but not often enough.  Instead of driving to nearby towns, sometimes we walk there along the beach - much more pleasant way to get there. 
  • Learned just how quickly everything molds when days are overcast every day near the ocean.  The weather has turned now and summer is arriving but October and November were overcast every day.  Clothing, suitcases, shoes, belts and most other things were moldy within two weeks so I spent a lot of time cleaning with a water and alcohol solution.  We brought a dehumidifier from the US on our last trip. We haven't needed it since we returned as the sun is now out and things are not molding.  Fans seem to help so we have them on 24x7.  
  • Learning just how hard it is to learn a new language.  DuoLingo claims that I can now read 95.3% of all Spanish articles. I admit that reading is certainly easier than hearing but I sure don't understand anywhere close to 95.3% of what people say.  However, we are able to communicate so much easier now than when we first arrived.  We often know how much we owe when buying things and know what food we are ordering and what the waiter/waitress is asking us.  Progress!
 We are enjoying life and learning a lot!

This house is for sale but you will only know that if you see the sign on the front door.
The view looking north from where we are renting.

The view looking south from where we are renting.