Saturday, October 8, 2011

If you are moving to Cuenca, Ecuador or coming for a visit: Bring enough warm clothes. I knew ahead of our move that Cuenca is not humid and never gets over 85 degrees F. But I did not quite"grock" how cool it often is. I have only lived here 5 months so perhaps the next 5 months may be very different... but I've been a bit surprised by the temperatures. Now, this is nothing compared to facing winter in Michigan or the humidity of Washington, D.C. in August. And I realize as I write this that winter is approaching fast for much of the United states and other parts of the world.

A friend who is coming to visit soon asked for advice in packing. So I told her I did not pack our winter coats when we moved here from Oregon. I was thinking we could leave them with my friend Cindy and would then have them when we fly to Portland for our first visit back to the US. Well, that was not the best decision I made.

Lenny's stir fried shrimp and vegetables made a delicious dinner!

The dwellings here are not heated nor are they air conditioned. When we arrived in May, we rented a cute cottagein a gorgeous setting that was not tight. The wind would come up and blow right through it. So the first week we were COLD several evenings! A hot shower before bed felt SOOOO good. Luckily, we had a new electric blanket in our luggage - it is a great thing to have.

Often, during the daytime, Cuenca gets up to 70 or 75 degrees degrees. The sun is out, it is gorgeous. But when that sun drops, the Andes Mountains keep things very chilly many night year around. By the way, "Cuenca" means basin - the city is at 8200 ft altitude with a ring of mountains around it. For those of you who have been to Mount Hood near Portland, OR, this is about the same height as Timberline Lodge.

Cuenca has a population of about 500,000 people but it feels smaller. Lenny walks every day and bumps into people he knows nearly every time he walks. A trip to the grocery store usually includes seeing at least one person we have met. And you often strike up a conversation with another English speaking shopper or practice Espanol there. It is a very nice thing about Cuenca - the friendly people living here.

Back to the coat issue, I bought an alpaca jacket for about $20 at a local market. It is warm and beautiful - that is a great solution. But I'll still bring our winter coats back from Portland when we visit. So I am writing this to underscore for people planning a visit or a move, you probably will not need long underwear in Cuenca but sweaters, a rain jacket and a warm coat will all be useful.

I am not complaining about this because I am not a great fan of very hot weather or humidity. I enjoy the fresh breezes that often prevail here in the late afternoon. The wind seems to come up many days at this time of year around 3-4 pm. About that time, the clouds often roll through and a heavy rain may ensue and continue off and on for an hour or two. and some spectacular thunder and lightning quickly rolls through the city.

Another thought about what life here is like: you wear layers and change them often. Something warm is helpful in the morning, you'll need to peel layers off by noon, you may enjoy wearing a tank top for a little while but then you'll often need to have rain protection by 3 pm. And most evenings this time of year require a jacket or coat as the temperature drops to 40-45 degrees F.

Weather is really a background issue in life here. Visiting markets, meeting kind, warm Ecuadorian people, chatting with friendly ex-pats about where to find certain household items or who found a great place for organic vegetables, wrestling with the challenge of learning a new language and practicing new Espanol words in public, sampling South American fruits, observing ways Ecuadorians parent young children...all of these things are what it is about to me.

This young nina is enjoying an ice cream cone on a lovely Sunday afternoon.

So why am I mentioning storing our winter coats in Oregon? it is just a word to the wise: when you are packing to come to Cuenca, pack that coat too!

Hope this finds you having a fantastic week end and looking forward to a fresh new week.



  1. Wow, sounds like a fantastic place, Cuenca! Would never imagine that it gets pretty cold there!

  2. we will definitely bring coats when we visit, and maybe and electric blanket... i hate to be cold when i sleep! ;o)
    i can't wait to come someday!

  3. Hi.... Loved this blog. I live in Portland Oregon and I plan on flying to Cuenca around April for a month. If I like it (and I think I will) I am coming back home, selling my house, and moving to Cuenca. I would enjoy visiting with you folks when I come down for my 30 day visit to check out the town. Plewase drop me a line if you like. Anything you need from town? Jack Honeycutt