Sunday, April 27, 2014

Speed bumps ahead

A few posts ago, I wrote of the sporadic correspondence from the Ecuadorean Consulate in Atlanta, since then I have had some better response time, but...I am still learning the "be flexible" lesson. This week, it wasn't the consulate so much, as it was the "document expediter", here's the story. We must get our birth certificates, and marriage license apostilled by the Secretary of State in which they were issued, for us, California. I found an expediter online, and started emailing questions, told him we were going to be there and could do it in person, blah blah. His advice was better early than late, so I decided to to ahead and mail them. He received them on Friday, and found that the marriage license we had was not certified, so he mailed it back to us,  it's a hiccup, stay calm, no big deal. But wait,bad news...UPS scheduled delivery, the day AFTER we fly to Idaho and California, to be gone a week! I panic, my heart sinks, how could this hiccup get worse!?! 

So, I take a deep breath, and email the expediter my predicament...his advice, call UPS and have them re-route the package. Huge sigh! Seems rather simple now, thank goodness we had a professional in pocket! So I'll have the documents delivered to our hotel in Boise, will order a certified copy of marriage license to be mailed directly to the expediter, who then will take to Secretary of State for apostille, and it should be waiting for us when we get back to NC... Fingers crossed

We also have criminal background checks in process, that hopefully will be waiting for us when we get back, because we have to then send them to Raleigh to the Secretary of State for apostille. More hoops to jump through, and of course more opportunity for speed bumps, the good news is all the things we are doing here, is less we have to do when we get there, and it's MUCH easier here. The last of the hurdles will take place the last 10 days here in the states. Taking the dogs to the vet for vaccines and health certificate. We then have to take the health certificate to the USDA certified vet in Raleigh for his approval and stamp, Then have it translated and notarized, THEN take it to the Ecuadorean consulate in Atlanta for their blessing before we fly! ( ok, it's not really a blessing, but it feels that way) oh yeah, our appointment with the consulate...the day before we fly out! No pressure!! Deep breath, be flexible! 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Blame it on House Hunters International

One of our favorite tv channels is Home and Garden Network, and one of our favorite shows is House Hunters. If you've never seen the show, it goes like this: A person, or couple, or family is needing/wanting to relocate, they have a budget, a wish list, an agent, oh and a camera crew. The agent shows them many properties, some are under budget, some are over. Some check all the wish list boxes ( usually the over budget ones) and some fall short. They discuss upgrades, costs of said upgrades, schools, neighborhood, public transportation, resale value and then narrow down to three properties. ( you only see these last three contenders). Anyway, very informative, and fun to see what your money gets you in different parts of the United States ( and Canada)... But then! They came up with House Hunters International! (Insert angels singing) the heavens opened up!! We were in love!

From our living room we got to travel all over the world, making mental notes of where we could go and how much we could expect to spend. The possibilities were truly endless. We saw people buy dilapidated 100 yr+ farmhouses in Italy for $18,000, and people buying 3 bedroom beach houses in the Virgin Islands for $850,000! We saw people following their dreams, selling everything in the States, and making a new life. Opening bed and breakfasts in Slovania, starting surf schools in Costa Rica, bicycle tours in France, and doing web based businesses, that one can do anywhere there is internet connection. It was on! We were hooked, it was just a matter of when and where. 

When we tell people we are moving to Ecuador, lots of them say, " like House Hunters?" And we say "yep, you may see us on there one day!" and you never know. We do plan on buying over there someday, we love having rental properties, and the idea of having places in different areas, is fun. Certainly the coast will be different than the highlands, and northern beaches differ from southern beaches, and we will have to explore it all.

 We recently say a YouTube video that a young student from Guayaquil made, of his sisters house building project. She bought land for $10,000 it had a road, power and water and she was building her 3 bed house for $5000. The material of of choice in Ecuador is cinder block, with rebar run down the middle, then they skim coat the walls, and stucco the outside, roof is either metal, tile or some kind of thatch. The house was probably not much more than 1000 sq ft, but after completion would be comfy and most likely a dream come true. How inspiring! Mike is already drawing blueprints in his head!

This house is a little close to the surf,  but on top of the hill would be nice. Stay tuned, you never know what channel you may find us on! Adios amigos!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Things to do

After hibernating indoors this winter, we are really looking forward to getting more outside time. I mean outside time, ALL year long! Here are just a few pictures of things we will get the opportunity to do living in Ecuador.

Ok, maybe not...but these next ones for sure!

Whale mating season is July thru September, and I hear they can be seen everywhere, so cool! ( the boat is a tad bit close, kinda scary, but unforgettable!)

Zip-lining, sure I'm game!

And of course, plenty of walking, hiking and biking. Stay tuned, soon the pictures posted here, won't be from Pinterest, but from our very own camera!!! The adventure continues! 38 days...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Did you know?

The Amazon spans 9 countries, the majority of the forest is contained within Brazil, with 60% of the rainforest, followed by Peru with 13%, Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname andFrench Guiana. The Amazon represents over half of the planet's remainingrainforests, and comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world, with an estimated 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species. 

There are more than 1million tribal people who call the jungle home, divided into 400 tribes. Some have land rights, and healthcare, and some remain "uncontacted".

Some interesting flowers found in Peru and Ecuador, Monkey Orchid

Panama hats were created in Ecuador, they were shipped first to the Isthmus of Panama before sailing for their destinations in Asia, the rest of the Americas and Europe, subsequently acquiring a name that reflected their point of international sale, "Panama hats", rather than their place of domestic origin. The term was being used by at least 1834.

The popularity of the hats was increased in the mid-nineteenth century by the miners of the California Gold Rush, who frequently traveled to California via the Isthmus of Panama. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt of the United States visited the construction site of the Panama Canal, and was photographed wearing a Panama hat, which further increased the hats' popularity. 

Good Panama hats are so pliable they can be rolled up, and will maintain their shape. 

Just some more fun facts, found the pictures on Pinterest, and researched with Wikipedia. Isn't the internet amazing! All this from my couch...this month, but 42 days and it'll be researching on the ground! Stay tuned, you never know what you might learn! Adios.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Consulates, Cabanas and Cows

Trying to get everything on the schedule, (dirty word for us soon) while remodeling the bathroom and the kitchen, we need to make appointment to get our Visa application started. At one point I emailed the Ecuadorean Consulate in Atlanta with questions, and they got right back to me. But this last email has gone unanswered for over a I tried to call today. Opening message on the other end said they were an "appointment only" office, and to make an appointment, email...hmmm. Ok, remember , be flexible, email again, ask old questions, with new questions AND request an appointment. Now, we wait. Maybe it's mañana.

I recently read on an expat forum, that Consulates are for people, and Embassy's are for countries...if you ever wanted clarification. There is something called an Apostile, similar to being Notarized, but on an international level. Something to do with The Hague ( older blog readers will know, younger ones- google it) anyway, sometimes the forums say you need things like Birth Certificates, and marriage licenses apostilled in the state they were issued! Well it got me thinking, we just happen to be going to the state in which we were both born, AND an email to the Consulate asks, no begs, for clarification, just hope we get an answer before we fly out there next week. It's got to be a very well timed dance, these hoops we must jump through. ( mixed metaphors, but you get the idea)

And now the aforementioned cows, I found a new blog this morning, and this picture struck me. If you know me, you know I've liked cows for a long time. When the blogs and forums caution people from renting cars and driving in Ecuador it's because there are roaming cows and other livestock along the roads. Well here's the answer to why the cow crossed the road, looks like a nice resting spot to me. 

This next picture is during the high season, these cabanas are filled with food vendors, coconut and ice cream vendors and of course hand made crafts for tourists. Different parts of the coast host various festivals throughout the year, so there is almost always something going on somewhere, if you're looking for a crowd. But equally, if one place is having a festival, better bet the beach down the road is empty, and quiet. Looking forward to it all, stay tuned, the adventure continues!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Yard sale

I have touched every item we own, either putting it aside for the yard sale or packing it to ship. We had great traffic on Friday, sold half the electronics, and lots of interest on the cars and house. Saturday we didn't have near the traffic, but... The yard sale was a great success, we made over $2000 AND sold the car for blue book value! We still have quite a bit of stuff, something's we are still using ( couch, lawn mower, coffee pot, microwave) so we will have another one day sale May 10th. Will put our lowest prices on things, and clear out. We will use Mikes car til we fly to Boise and Long Beach to visit the family, then sell it and get a rental for the last couple weeks. We can drop the rental off at the Atlanta airport befor we board the plane, and Adios!

Now that the yard sale is over, (the house is gutted,) I need to continue packing the things I can, organize them in the garage, and work on other projects. We have a bathroom remodel to do, that'll be fun, we already bought the new cabinet/vanity at IKEA. Need to look at Lowes for flooring, and start demo. We want to paint the kitchen cabinets, and finish some shelves in the laundry room, then it'll be ready for pictures. The property management company will come in and take them, to start the rental process. They post on Zillow, and make applicants pay to apply, do background/income checks and will get the right people to rent. Would love it to be rented for June 1st, but it wouldn't kill us if it wasn't.

The yard is still a mess, and we have a puppy play date scheduled for this afternoon, so I better get busy. But in 48'll be nothing but relaxing!! Hasta mañana !

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Fun facts

Flag description: Three horizontal bands of yellow (top, double width), blue, and red with the coat of arms superimposed at the center of the flag. The flag retains the three main colors of the banner of Gran Columbia, the South American republic that broke up in 1830. The yellow color represents sunshine, grain, and mineral wealth, blue the sky, sea, and rivers, and red the blood of patriots spilled in the struggle for freedom and justice.

Coat of Arms: In the background of the oval shield is the mount Chimborazo, while the river originating from its base represents the Guayas. They both symbolize the beauty and wealth of the respective regions (Sierra or Costa). The ship on the river is named Guayas as well. In 1841 it was built in Guayaquil and was the first riverine steamship built on the South American west coast. Instead of a mast it features a Caduceus representing trade and economy. On top a golden sun surrounded by the astrological signs for Aries, Taurus, Gemini and Cancer representing the months March to July to symbolize the duration of the March Revolution of 1845.
The condor on top of the shield stretches his wings to symbolize power, greatness and strength of Ecuador. The shield is flanked by four flags of Ecuador. The laurel on the left represents the victories of the republic.[1] The palm leaf on the right side is a symbol of the martyrs of the fight for independence and liberty. The Fasces below the shield represents the republican dignity.

Language: Spanish (official), Amerindian languages (especially Quechua)
Religion: Roman Catholic 95%, other 5%
Time Zone: UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Electricity: The majority of outlets in Ecuador are 110/120V AC (60 Hz).

Location: Western South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean at the Equator, between Colombia and Peru.
Area:109,483 square miles (283,561 square kilometers)
Population: 15,439,429 (July 2013 est.)
Capital: Quito
Geography: Ecuador is divided into three continental regions—the Costa, Sierra, and Oriente—and one insular region: the Galápagos Islands. The continental regions extend the length of the country from north to south and are separated by the Andes Mountains. The Galápagos Islands, officially called the Archipiélago de Colón, are located 620 miles west of the Ecuadorian coast.
The main spoken language in Ecuador is Spanish (94% of the population). Languages of official use in native communities include QuichuaShuar, and eleven other languages. Ecuador has a land area of 283,520 km2. Its capital city is Quito, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the 1970s for having the best preserved and least altered historic center in Latin America.[9]The country's largest city is Guayaquil. The historic center of Cuenca, the third-largest city in the country in size and economically,[10] was also declared aWorld Heritage Site in 1999 as an outstanding example of a planned, inland Spanish-style colonial city in the Americas.[11]

There is great variety in the climate, largely determined by altitude. It is mild year-round in the mountain valleys, with a humid subtropical climate in coastal areas and rainforest in lowlands. The Pacific coastal area has a tropical climate with a severe rainy season. ( except that the annual rainfall is 45" per year, which is the same as NC, so the rainy season can't be that severe! Costa Rica gets 196" of rain a year in certain places...yikes!) The climate in the Andean highlands is temperate and relatively dry, and the Amazon basin on the eastern side of the mountains shares the climate of other rainforest zones. 
Because of its location at the equator, Ecuador experiences little variation in daylight hours during the course of a year. Both sunrise and sunset occur each day at the two six o'clock hours.

Check out the temperature of the water. It all makes it sound like heaven, we can't wait to check it out in person, we are so ready!! Thanks for taking this journey with us, we will continue to share, hope you enjoy. Bueno Dias!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Our weight loss plan

As we embrace "middle age" we have been trying to get healthy. Last year late summer we started walking and hiking, and much of this move was hatched while doing that. We eagerly logged miles and then would optimistically get on the bathroom scale...nothing, nada, zilch no change. We eat pretty well, Weight Watchers taught me a lot back in the day, but I decided yo check our portion sizes and cut back a bit. Still nothing, didn't gain-which is good, but I'm talking we hiked over 50 miles in a month! We swore we would give it 6 months, but winter came and even if we bundled up, it was pretty miserable. We contemplated joining a gym, using the treadmill, but in the end neither of us could imagine walking on the treadmill for 6 or so miles.

Many of you probably don't think of us as old, but we feel it. We have reading glasses all over the house, and I had to have my first cortisone shot for bursitis in my knee. We religiously take our Glucosamine Chondroitin for the aches and pains and look for supplements that we think we should be taking. Bottom line is we are well aware that our " golden years" are affected by how we live now, so we are trying to get in the best shape possible. 

Many of the blogs I've followed are retirees, 60+ years, and I've been happy to read they have all benefited from the new healthier eating and exercise of the Ecuador lifestyle. Almost everyone I've read about has reported a weight loss of 25-45 pounds! It's  not just Ecuador, a blog from Costa Rica said his father who went for a 10 day visit lost 14 pounds! Beach town, big city, or mountain village doesn't seem to matter, fresh food, fruit,( no processed/prepackaged food) and walking seem to do the trick. We look forward to the fresh seafood on the coast. Look at these shrimp.

These shrimp are half a pound each, and all these were purchased for $3!! You can buy them right off the boat, as they bring the boats onshore. Ecuador is the worlds second largest supplier of shrimp, who knew? I saw one picture ( which I can't find anymore, sorry) where the shrimp were as big as bananas! We'll find some personally and post pictures, after we get there.
This is another reason Americans will lose weight, fruit. Nan, the blogger, said she bought 8/$1 oranges, 4/$1 mangoes, misc other stuff for $1 and the star fruit were free. I personally think those bananas are straight garbage, but I think she was making banana bread. And the avocados are for smoothies, she says it doesn't add much flavor, but a gloriously smooth silky texture. I'm game! Ecuador's number one export is bananas, with shrimp and cut flowers close behind, funny I love all those things! Because of the climate, something is always in season, I recently read cherries and peaches were at their best last month, wow.


We will weigh ourselves before we pack the bathroom scale into the shipping container, and won't weigh again til we unpack, anywhere from 24-60 days, it'll be interesting to see what it says. It better be good!!!   Mente sana-el Cuerpo sano!   ( healthy mind-healthy body)

Here is a link to the Blog I got the photos from. Check it out to hear from a person who is already on the ground in Ecuador. >>> Finding Our Paradise in Ecuador

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Beach house

Wanted to show you pictures of the beach house in Crucita where we will start our coastal living adventure.

Fully fenced, double lot, there is a doggie door that leads to this tree area. Houses on stilts give living quarters view of the ocean, and provide shaded outdoor space, brilliant!

Two bedroom, living, dining, kitchen, bath, laundry ( note the bikes we can use) rent is $500 with all utilities combined $145 per month. (I can't even pay one utility for that in NC!)

The beach is a 4 minute walk down the road, Crucita is known for fishing,shrimping and paragliding. Fisherman dot the ocean, and boats line the shore.

Packages and power lines

In the States we take home delivery of mail and packages for granted, but in Ecuador you will be hard pressed to find a house with a mailbox. I'm told They do exist but they are the exception rather than the rule. So, in the absence of home addresses and mailboxes, how does one go about sending and receiving mail and packages to Ecuador, especially mail or goods from other countries? The Ecuadorian Postal Service offers a service by which one can receive packages from the States rather quickly and at a reasonable rate.  The service is called Club Correos (Mail Club).       


Here is how Club Correos works: For a $10.00 yearly fee, you are assigned a physical address in Miami which gives you a U.S. shipping address where you can receive packages from online retailers in the U.S. Each Club Correos customer has an individual box number which distinguishes you from other customers who use the same Miami street address.   It is similar to renting a P.O. box at a UPS Store location. The shipping cost from the States to Ecuador is about $5.00 per pound which I’m told is a reasonable rate for international shipping. Club Correos bills your credit card for the shipping charges. With this service, all customs matters are taken care of so you don’t have to deal with Ecuadorian Customs officials.   When your package arrives in Ecuador, the post office gives you a friendly call( or email) to let you know that you have a package waiting for pick up.  They will even deliver the package to your house, if you can tell them how to get to your house.  Remember, most houses  do not have assigned addresses so unless one speaks good Spanish and have a house that is easy to recognize it is better to just pick up the package at the post office.

Power lines and electricity are to say the least...different in Ecuador. Blogs have said power outages are often, not for very long, but often can be very annoying. Just long enough to make you reset clocks, have to restart computers, etc. but until we are there ourselves, we have to expect the worst, and hope for the best.

These pictures are from Livingitupinecuador blog, I had to share, I can honestly say I've never seen anything like this! The larger, more "cosmopolitan" cities will have better wiring, less outages than smaller beach communities, but like I said, we will have to encounter it first hand to see what are deal breakers. And with all our "being flexible", maybe it won't be so bad. Ecuador does use the same type of power as the states, so no adapters are needed, that'll be nice. We've stocked up on surge protectors and those little things that make your 2hole outlet accept three pronged plugs. Thank you, whoever wrote that in their blog, very usefull information! Well I guess that's it, more to come. The adventure continues!

What will we do?

Many have wondered what exactly we will do living in Ecuador, the short answer...whatever we want! But really, besides walks on the beach, hikes in the hills, riding our bikes, shopping the small tiendas (mom and pop store) and the mercados ( think farmers market), bus trips to the larger city 30 miles away ( for visa stuff, and bigger grocery store, sightseeing) and of course siesta in the hammock, we don't plan on doing much. 

Mike has his website building business, most of which he can do on the lap top, (and before I get up in the morning) and according to the expat forums and blogs I've read, there are expat women looking for knowledgeable American I may only be semi-retired. We have two houses that will be rented and bring income, we have a property management company all set up, and they will collect rent and keep up on any repairs. They will contact us via email if there's anything we need to know or approve, and they'll direct deposit the rental income into our bank account.

We will work hard when we have to, and play hard when we want to, I'm calling it "island time", but it's more about being flexible. "Mañana" is the motto, it literally mean tomorrow, but it's more loosely translated to...not now, I'll get to it later. As Americans our work weeks are longer and our vacations shorter than other nationalities, even the work day is longer, that simply means less time with our loved ones...I don't want to live that way anymore. We want to make every moment count, we are not guaranteed 80+ years, so we have to start as soon as possible! fit as much in as we can  because we could die tomorrow.
Beach life will be different than city life, and that is where we are starting, we have the house in Crucita for 2months, and while there we will search for the next rental. Word of mouth will give us more inventory to look at, and we will have our container arriving, so we can rent a partially furnished place. There is 1400 miles of coastline, who knows where our second "home" will be, I'm sure we will live in one of the larger cities someday, but housing is more expensive, so we will watch the budget and see just how far the money goes before we decide to change. There is a lot we just won't know until we experience it, but that's part of the adventure. You only live once, go enjoy it! Hasta mañana!