Friday, December 30, 2011

Loose thoughts about moving to Ecuador

Hola Readers:
Guaguas (pronounced "wa-was")  That's what kids are called in Ecuador.  I believe it is a Quechua word, not in my Espanol dictionary.  Think of the sound you make if you are going to say "watch" or "water".  The pronunciation is like the beginning of that word, repeated   "wa-was".  It seems it is an endearing way of referring to children. In Cuenca, it is used by everyone, across income, cultural and class differences. It seems when anyone uses it, the word is greeted by a small smile, as if the listener is recalling some endearing or comical thing a kid said or did.

I showed some pictures of  my young nietos  (grandchildren) to a Cuencana friend's 6 young grandchildren.  They sighed and murmured "guaguas" with this air of interest and contentment...and a big smile at me.  Very sweet.  So I will get to see my nietos in just a few weeks.  And my grown guaguas too!

Are you moving here?  A random thought about packing.  This is a small thing I always forget to mention: I love old t-shirts. You know the good quality ones that are really soft and friendly after a couple of years of wear.  Over the  many years that I was a gardener, it was common to see me out there in an old raggy t-shirt and jeans. No worry of stains or rips that can happen during garden work.  It did not matter to me if I was in the front flower garden or back, I was going for comfort.  Same for housework and other chores like cleaning the parrot cage or emptying the hot tub --- old t-shirts reigned.

What did I do when we decided to shed our way of life in Oregon and move to Ecuador? I knew that there would be no gardening, no parrot cage, no hot tub to I got rid of all of my used, ratty looking t-shirts.
So what do I miss now?  An old fav t-shirt to wear when I'm knocking around our apartment, re-potting a house plant or reading a good book.  The recommendation is this after talking with other ex-pats who came with only new clothes and miss having some worn, comfy clothes: bring a couple of the older things you love to wear just around the house.  

Informal dress occurs a lot in Ecuador. Business people dress up really nicely, like any metropolitan city, but the majority of people I see around the city are dressed very casually.   I think I'd describe my old clothes as "sub-informal" and "not for prime time". Consider keeping a couple of "sub-informal" items for private times. Just a thought.

Another thought: it is cooler here than you may expect.  Yes, there are beautiful days year around with afternoon temps of 70 degrees(F) (21 Celcius). But nights are rarely mild, often dropping to 35 degrees (F) (1.6 Celcius). It does not snow here. Frost is very rare.  But it not a balmy beach either. We are located high in the Andes mountains at 8500 ft alt (2591 meters) so Cuenca is cooler than most of Ecuador.  Go to the jungle or the coast and there are higher temps and higher humidity. That is where it is really tropical.

If you are coming to visit or to stay, pack sweaters, different weight jackets, a sweatshirt along with lighter wear -  you will benefit from dressing in layers so you can peel off as needed.

An elderly acquaintance came to live in Cuenca for a month.  She had packed tank tops, capris, sandals and flip flops along with one cardigan. No socks, no raincoat, no sweatshirt or warm sweater, no long pants.  She arrived during a 10 day streak of rainy, chilly weather.  She was cold and miserable but did not want to spend the money to buy warmer clothes. She thought because Cuenca is close to the equator, it would automatically be balmy.  To her credit, she did not complain much.

Although I have written this before, it is worth emphasizing - come prepared for 3 seasons of weather in one day. That's Cuenca! It is a wonderful city, muy lindo, full of many things to explore and enjoy. Researching what is needed to be comfortable is important to allow you to focus on the multitude of fun stuff.  I'm just sayin'......and even with lots of research and some visits, it is easy to forget some of these things. 

As you pack to move here, bring different weight coats, keep your sweaters, pack your tank tops and new clothes and a couple of old raggy t-shirts along with the newer things you pack.  You will be set for anything that comes down the valley.

Another thing to note:
If you move to Cuenca, you may have a more lively social life than you have had for some time. 

 Retirees have time to have lunch, chat over coffee, explore new places, go on picnics, etc.  The ex-pat community here is supportive, friendly, big on sharing ideas, recommending services, etc.  And its large enough to have variety and interest for most people. Most Cuencanos are kind,open,  friendly and enoy getting to know people from other lands. It is a very pleasant surprise to me that it has been very easy to meet people we enjoy so quickly after moving here last May. Our transition to living in a South American culture has been mostly smooth and quite delightful. 

                           Lunch (almuerzo) at mi amiga Maria Elena's home in Paute

A custom in Cuenca is to celebrate New Year's eve by burning some effigy.  To represent getting rid of your hostility at your boss or your anger at not getting that job you competed for. So hand painted masks and even whole figures are sold everywhere the week before Dec 31 for this purpose.  Here is a photo of some masks for sale:

The year 2011 draws to a close.  Have a safe, enjoyable New Year's celebration.

1 comment:

  1. Another interesting and informative post, Sharon.

    One question about pronunciation that came to me with your opening paragraphs about "guaguas": how is Guayaquil pronounced? I've only read the city's name and in my own head I say gwy-uh-quill. Now I'm wondering if that's even close!

    Happy New Year to you and Len! Have a safe trip back to the States to visit your families!

    The 'other' Sharon