Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Preparations Are Underway

Take a look around you.  Think about the clothes you have in your closet and dresser.  The next time you're in there, look at how much "stuff" you have in your kitchen.  Get a mental image of everything in your house, apartment, room, whatever.

Now think about what you would take with you if you were moving over 3000 miles away and you could take 250 pounds of you property.  What would you choose?

This has been a process for me.  At first I started thinking in terms of what I felt I couldn't do without.  It became glaringly obvious that I needed another way of looking at it. 

Now I'm spending more time thinking about what I can and can't replace in Ecuador and prioritizing what's really important to me. I mean, really, how much do I need my pressure cooker?  Sure, I love it, I use it all the time, and it makes my life easier.  Would I rather have that or four cooking vessels?  I need to pots and pans--the pressure cooker is a luxury.  By the way, I'm taking pots and pans only because the research I've done says that it's far better to bring your own because the quality of what they have there, in a word, sucks.

Would I rather have 50 pounds of clothes (that's fewer than you may think) or 25 pounds of clothes and 25 pounds of my sewing/knitting/crafting supplies?  If you know me, you know the answer to that without even thinking about it.

At first it was agonizing.  I love my stuff.  Each thing I got made me smile to see it or think about it, even though I have very little new stuff in my apartment.  When I look at all of it, I know I won't see almost any of it ever again (OK, a few boxes will be left with family to hang onto in case I hate it there and come back or to send down there a little at a time when people come down for a visit (are you going to come see me?--you're always welcome).  Even that list is getting shorter.

What I've decided to do with 99% of my belongings is to let someone else get the joy I've had over the years.  Somehow it feels better than have them stuck away in boxes somewhere.  I'll leave most of my files up here and a few other things, but most of it will go.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Apartment Photos

I have the photos to show you!  This is such a cute apartment!

This is one of the views from the roof of the building--lovely, isn't it?

Building front.  My apartment will be one of the first level ones.

"Living Room"


"Bedroom"  (Remember, this is an efficiency apartment)

The Kitchen.  I love the openness.

"Dining Room"

How lovely is this?  I'm thrilled with the large shower.  The photo is taken from the under-the-stairs storage area.

When you're up there on the roof, doing laundry, one direction is the lovely mountain you saw up a few photos and the other direction is the back of one of the Catholic churches.

 Yes, that's right, it says, "when you're up there on the roof, doing laundry...."  There's a washer and clothes lines up on the roof.  The washer is under a roof and some of the clotheslines apparently are as well.  Apparently it's very common to have the washing machine on the roof and fairly unusual in the smaller apartments and houses to have a dryer.

So, what do you think of my little palace-to-be?  Isn't it amazing?
Final view from the roof

Coming up: Preparations Are Under Way

An Apartment?

There's a mailing list for English speakers in Cotacachi and those of us who want to join them. It's simplicity itself.  If I have anything I want to tell everyone on the list, I send Jack my email and he forwards it to the entire list.

Two days ago there was an email saying someone wanted to sublet her efficiency apartment, fully furnished right down to the silverware, internet and cable, utilities, everything, from March 16 through the end of October.  The price?  $350/mo.

I couldn't help myself.  I jumped on it and emailed the woman who had the apartment and started emailing back and forth.  She sent photos of a very new or newly remodeled apartment that are lovely.  It's definitely the South American style but it's really fabulous.  It's a bit short on storage but I'm sure i can fix that in no time flat.  I'm thinking a nice used bookcase or two, some local baskets to store things in, and I'm good to go.

Now I just have to calculate my finances to make sure I can not only get there but be able to get through to the next month as well.  It's going to be tight but I have confidence I can get it done.  The indoor yard sales will happen on February 18th and 25th.  Whatever is left after that gets given away.  The "Friends and Family" sale will begin the week before the actual sale--just give a call or send an email and we'll set up a time for you to come by.

With any luck I'll be able to get some photos posted on here so you can see what kind of things are available.

Speaking of pictures, earlier today I received some of the apartment in Cotacachi.  They're in an email and I'll have to spend a wee bit of time figuring out how to get them from there to here but as soon as I do, you'll see them as well.

Coming up: Apartment Photos

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What To Do With My Stuff

For those of you who know me, you know this could be an issue.  I'm in no way a minimalist! I am living proof that nature abhors a vacuum.  With approximately 250# being my maximum amount of everything I can take, I have to lighten my load a bit--OK, a lot.

So, what to take?  Do I take my iron?  How often do I use it?  How would my life look without my iron in it?  Then, does it weigh too much to consider it?  It's all very interesting.

Then there's the whole issue of priorities.  Is it more important to take the iron or another outfit of clothes?  Would I he happier with more yarn instead?  Where would I get another one if I left this one behind.

That last thing is part of what is guiding me to certain decisions.  In my research I've been told to take my own pots and pans, linens, and electronic gear.  The pots & pans and linens just aren't available with the quality we expect.  The electronic gear and other things are more expensive down there.  I have no idea whether an iron would be easy to replace.

Do you have any idea how heavy clothing is?  Somehow I have to get down to 15 or 20 sets of clothing.  I know that sounds like a lot but that include pajamas, grubby ones, jeans and T-shirts for knocking around, one or two pair of shorts since 75 in the sunshine is still hot for me, nice tops and pants for something a little more formal, my raincoat and jacket, and a dress (?).   Now you see my dilemma.

Ah, and them we move on to the kitchen--the room that hold so many things near and dear to my heart.  I have already forgone the idea of bringing my KitchenAid mixer with grinder attachment in purchased a cute little plastic grinder that runs on people power and works quite well and I'm taking my stick blender to help bridge the gap the mixer will create. 

I have to part from my pressure cooker.  I truly love my pressure cooker.  It's a magical kitchen convenience.  It's automatic -- set it and walk away.  When it's done, it beeps to let you know to come tend it.  I had thought to replace it with my slow cooker which will make the toughest meat tender if left in there long enough but, alas, it, too, is a bit unwieldy and heavy.

Many items I had planned to have either watched over by family or packed into boxes I have decided to let them go to someone else who can love them.  The KitchenAid and pressure cooker fall into that category but they aren't nearly as near and dear to my heart as my fused glass art piece I got at an art fair in Bremerton.  The other is my Tiffany style lamp.  I has been an honor to have been its caretaker for the past 15 years but it, too, will live with someone else who will love it as much as I have.

Take a look around your home.  If you had to get it down to about 250 pounds, what would you take and what would you leave behind?  I know I'll be fine when all is said and done--it just seems a little overwhelming right now.

Coming up: An Apartment?

More Info and Lots of Links

This is going to be so much more information than most of you want but for those who do, sit back and relax and spend a little time reading this missive.

Even if you don't need the full story, the links may be of interest to you.  This information is culled from three separate emails I've sent out and even though I've gone through them to delete what appears to be duplicate info or web addresses, I may not have succeeded.  There may also be a reference in there that doesn't seem to apply to the general reader--again, these are parts of emails and some of the info will be written to a specific person.  Take what you want and leave the rest.
  • Medical care is so much less expensive there than here that I don't have to worry about medical benefits.  They also have medical care for low income seniors, regardless of their country of citizenship.
  • Prescription meds are extremely low.  There are people who go down there several months out of the year and pay for the whole trip in the savings they get for their prescriptions.  I suspect they take a lot more expensive drugs than I do but, still, that's a significant difference.
  • Currency is the US dollar -- very convenient.
  • I can keep my checking account up here and use my debit card down there.  Works out pretty well.  I can also use PayPal.
  • I'm still checking on it but I think Skype will cost the same there as it costs here and I will continue to have my same incoming phone number so it wouldn't cost my friends in the US a ton of money for a call.  I can also do free Skype-to-Skype.
  • Apartments in the part of town I want to live in can be found for $200 or so.  That's not for a tacky one in a seedy neighborhood -- it in the downtown area where there has been a lot of renovation in the last few years.
  • Transportation is WAY cheap.  I can take a bus from Cotacachi to Quito -- a two-hour drive -- for the cost of a single in-town fare here.
  • I might be able to earn a bit of money doing private tutoring but that's something I'll do after I get settled in.

This second list contains more web sites than anyone would want to look through but I've tried to give a little description of each one so you can pick and choose which ones you want to look at.
  • http://www.hgtv.com/video/getaway-in-ecuador-video/index.html  Househunters International video--when I watched it, the commercials would transition back to the show.  I had to restart them, fast forward to the end and then it went back to the show just like it's supposed to.
  • http://www.ecuadorvolunteers.org/amazon-coast/ecuador-volunteer-travel/ecuador-map.html The is an excellent map of the country.  Cotacachi is north of Quito (red dot).  North of there look for the little green dot just before the yellow star--that's Cotacachi.
  • http://nolimitsnana.hubpages.com/hub/Ecuador-Food A couple of the photos aren't all that appealing but they're all interesting and so is what the author has to say.
  • http://internationalliving.com/2011/05/cotacachi-u-s-style-comfort-at-ecuador%E2%80%99s-prices/ A nice view of the whole city, even though it's rather small.  The apartment I'm hoping to get (more on that later) is within a block of one of the church spires you see in the background.
  • http://www.larc1.com/ecuador/lamirage/lm_location.html Nice local photos.  La Mirage is a five-star resort where the rooms start at $79/night.  That may not be a ton here in the States but it's a small fortune down there.
  • http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/vickielizabeth/2/1223519280/tpod.html No photos in this one but I thought I'd share a fun read as well.  There's a Lavenderia in Cotacachi.
  • http://adventurousliving.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/cotacachi-ecuador/ Lovely photos and interesting story to read with them.
  • http://theflowonthreelakes.blogspot.com/2011/03/cotacachi-ecuador.html If you click on the batch of photos at the top of the page, it will enlarge them for you.
  • http://internationalliving.com/2011/04/cost-of-living-in-ecuador-on-38-day-per-couple/ Can you imagine me spending $320 a month for food and household stuff?  Oh, and then there's the $675 on food and beverages--right.  I'm confident my income will be sufficient to live a comfortable life there.
There are my first batch of links.  I'm sure I'll recommend more as time goes by but this is enough to keep you busy for a while.

Coming up next: What to do with my stuff

How It All Started -- Part 2

My friend and I kept talking about moving to Cotacachi.  We had even discussed the possibility of moving down there together.  She could find a small house with the guest house or a large house with lots of private space for each of us.  The reason for the living together part was that while she was up here in the States, I would be there to keep an eye on everything--to be her house sitter.

Eventually I realized that when she went or not, I was going to move down there.

She went on a second trip, specifically designed for people who were considering moving down there.  When she came home she decided she really didn't want to move down there for several reasons.  I was still hooked.

The research continued.  The two reasons to move that I couldn't seem to resist were the cost of living and the weather.  My body doesn't react well to hot or cold at all well anymore.  The consistent temperatures are so seductive to me.  When you pair that with all the other things I found, it was a no-brainer for me.

Coming up next: links, links, and more links.

How It All Started

Many of my family and friends have asked all about my upcoming move to Ecuador and what in the world made me pick Ecuador?  They wanted to know if I'd ever been there before, did I know people there, and whether or not I speak Spanish.  There were plenty of other questions but those were the top three.  There were so many varied questions and people that I lose track of who I've told and what I've told to each person. 

This is my attempt to help all of that go more smoothly.  Here I'll tell you how I got to this point in my story and in coming days, weeks, and months share the adventure with you.

For many of you this will be a lot of information you already have. For others this may be the first time you've heard anything about it.  So I'm going to start with the very beginning of the story and move forward from there.

How It All Started

A very dear friend of mine went to a conference in Ecuador.  She decided it would be a great time to extend her conference into a vacation so she stayed another four or five days so she could be a tourist.  One of the places she visited was Cotacachi.  It's in the northern part of the country, up in the Andes.

She fell in love with this lovely little town.  When she got home, we talked several times about it and she kept thinking about it and how it might be the place where she could retire.  She also said, "Cynthia, you would just love it there."

That's all it took for me to go to my computer and spend hours and hours researching Cotacachi, Ecuador.  The more I read, the more I fell in love with it.  She was right, it suits me to a T.  Here are many of the reasons:
  • The people are very accepting of gringos (that's not a negative term there the way it is sometimes used here).
  • The weather--oh, my, the weather.  Since it is at the equator, the weather stay the same all year round. Since Cotacachi is in the Andes at about 7,000 ft altitude, the daily temperature ranges between mid to upper 50s at night and upper 60s to mid 70s during the day.  That is my kind of weather.
  • Cost of living--It's still possible to live comfortably for $600 a month.  When I say "comfortably" I mean a somewhat frugal life that includes the ability to eat out on a semi-regular basis, have someone clean my apartment a couple of times a month (those of you who know me well know how much that means to me), and have money left over to put in savings if I want.
  • Pace of life--life there isn't rush rush hurry hurry. It's laid back with less emphasis places on having to everything NOW.  
  • There's a large English-speaking population.
So you can see the beginnings of why I adore it so much.

I've continued to research for at least several hours a week, learning more and more about the area where I've chosen to live.

That's it for now.  Coming up: more about my decision-making process.