Diane and Rob Sit Under The Limon Tree

We first met Rob through a comment he made on a post almost a year ago. Monday evening we got to meet both Diane and Rob in person. With their trip to Ecuador in full swing – memories already made in Quito, Salinas, Ballenita and Puerto Lopez –  they are now into the second half of their adventure this week here in San Clemente and points north.

San Clemente 8.20.2013 011In all honesty we got along so well that it was like we had known each other for years. We feel that way about many of the visitors to Ecuador that we have met over the past three years. I guess it is a kind of “like-minded” attitude in the folks that are trying to make the decision to move to our adopted land, and, in particular, our new home town.

Monday evening we spent hours out in the yard, talking and laughing, drinking a few Pilseners and having some munchies. I know that we will be seeing you again next year when you come to visit again. That is the true testament of how Ecuador and it’s beautiful and warm people affect most folks – they come back.

We pray for a wonderful balance of your adventure, a pleasant journey back to Canada and fond memories of your time in Ecuador.

Felices viajes!

Visitors from Montana USA, Belgium and the UK

About two weeks ago I got an email from Harlan Wells saying he had finalized his and his wife’s plans to visit Ecuador and would be arriving in Quito on October 22nd. That they would be traveling up and down the coast and would love to stop in and share a “Big Beer” with us. Now, I ask you, how could I resist visiting with new friends over a Pilsener?  He was coming bearing gifts a container of curry paste not just any curry paste Panang Curry Paste because of one of my old posts where I explained that finding green, red, yellow or Panang curry sauces here was impossible. How sweet to remember such a specific thing about our life here in Ecuador and then to buy the sauce and then carry it in your luggage all the way from Montana for goodness sake. I will be sure to make a very special dish with that sauce, take pictures to share with all our readers but especially Harlan for his thoughtfulness.

While working in my yard on Thursday, I hear someone yell “Nan Levin?” from a car that has just stopped outside our fence. And when I looked up and said yes, I saw four people smiling back like Cheshire cats!  What a great surprise and what lovely people.  Harlan and his wife Kari had made friends with two young surfers Jerry and Matt while traveling and were now traveling together on their way to Puerto Lopez for an overnight. We sat and had a very nice visit with these lovely folks.

I have told all of you who read our blog that I do it for several reasons, most importantly the safeguarding of our photos. With moving, having a computer stolen in Panama and hard drives that have crashed and burned we have lost many of our family pictures. Keeping them on-line in a program like WordPress, with stories of our adventures is a great way to safeguard them and when our memories start to go we can always look back on these old posts and see what a wonderful life we have had here in Ecuador.

But again I digress, while sitting talking with Harlan and friends I found out from Kari that he would be totally upset if I failed to post each day. He would go into work and the first thing he would do is find my current post and get his daily dose of “Finding our Paradise in Ecuador” and then start his day. That was the most amazing  and heartwarming comment that anyone could say about our little blog. As we talked the young men, who are not followers of the blog, asked questions of the area, our life here and how we settled on San Clemente. It was so funny to hear Harlan or his wife able to answer the questions about Joe and my life. And again heartwarming to see that our blog makes a difference to folks coming to visit Ecuador. I was humbled by their attention to the details of our itty bitty life. We do try to present our little piece of heaven in an upbeat fashion and try to be as honest as possible about the good, the bad and the ugly as we see it. I try very hard not to be to overly critical of life here because it is our life and if you start to nit-pick every little detail of your existence you will eventually find things that are not to your liking and they can become overpowering and take on a life of their own…being upbeat and appreciative of your life is a better way of living in my opinion.

Blessings to them on the rest of their adventure, I hope to hear from them with their thoughts on their visit. Maybe Harlan would consider doing a guest blog article on their visit, I for one would be interested in reading a recap of their trip, of course I would want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly!

Blog Hits 100,000 Views, Thank You

Well today is a pretty special day for us and the blog. My readers have now viewed the blog 100,000 times as of today. Thank you, thank you, thank you for following our adventure, our little bitty lives in Ecuador. I started the blog July 6, 2010 as a way to archive our stories as well as safekeeping of our photos. When we first arrived in Ecuador to start our new lives was the perfect time to start writing.

That adventure took us to Quito to get our visa applications started, Puerto Lopez just for the fun of it, Salinas, Playas and now to our home in San Clemente.

It has been a wonderful experience none of which we would change.

Thank you again for being a part of our lives. We now consider you our extended family wherever you may be.

A Moving Decision Part II

I have gotten some nice feedback and comments from my original post regarding making the move to Ecuador so I decided through Joe’s urging to write another article on this topic. This one will cover some of the issues with moving to small towns and things some may have concerns about. Our experience is from our small town. Your mileage may vary! First I am going to post an email that I sent to folks I have been communicating with regarding this exact subject, that email will show in italics and I will add comments in plain text.

….The one thing you really need to know about places like San Clemente, San Jacinto, Puerto Lopez and Puerto Cayo, Las Tunas etc is they are really small towns…are very basic, rustic and actually look rundown…coming from the US we found it to be a real culture shock looking at buildings that were not painted, block work that did not have a skim coat on it, wires hanging all over the place, rusted steel rods standing straight up to the sky on the top of the buildings, no glass windows, fences with barbed wire or broken glass topping them, homes made from bamboo…

Below are some photos taken from several different areas showing just what I am talking about.

Wood and bamboo house on the beach in Puerto Engabao

Broken Glass tops the wall around our rental house in Playas

Bamboo and palm frond houses in San Jacinto next to unpainted walls on a dirt road

Unfinished block walls

Bottom story looks to be brick with a concrete cover, top floor is wood – note dirt road

This upper porch is in need of some TLC

Folks start fires anywhere at anytime. In Playas you could call the fire department (los bomberos) and they would come and put it out. But in the smaller towns this is just how folks take care of overgrown vegetation and some even burn other items like plastics and used toilet paper…

this happened at least every few weeks across the street from our rental in Playas

Most of the mercados (outside public markets) do not have refrigerated storage for their products.  You will see pork, beef, chickens and goat almost all hanging in the open air. I have purchased many things this way and neither Joe or I have had and problems. But…this is yet another thing that you need to be aware of. Also, nobody refrigerates eggs.

Fish, seafood including clams and mussels are sold from table tops not refrigerated in the Playas Mercado

These are just some of the things you will find in these rural towns …if you require nice restaurants, shopping malls, thing to do and people to see, these small towns may not work for you…remember we lived in Dolega Panama for almost 4 years before coming to Ecuador. We found that we liked laid back, small town living out of a tienda type places…but the infrastructure in Panama was worlds ahead of Ecuador, the US was there for many many years and their phone system, water and electric were copied from the US…yes I do like bigger food stores but mostly we eat out of these smaller places, the public mercado and now the folks that deliver right to our door…that is a bit of a “get used to” thing if you are going to Publix and shopping for all your food…just a warning so you come here with open eyes…If you spend a lot of time in the frozen food section or rely a lot on prepared processed foods…..oops!  Frozen foods are either nonexistent in our local markets or the tiniest section of the supermarkets in towns near us.

Places like Salinas and Manta (I have heard that Crucita and Bahia are a bit bigger than our town also) are more up to date, have more shopping, Super Maxi and Mi Commisariato for your food shopping and other things to do.  Here you would go to Portoviejo which is around a 1 hour bus ride each way, bigger town with two small malls – more shopping but not like Cuenca from what I understand.

Our idea of a swell time is not to spend a lot of our time commuting to and from better shopping opportunities. Someone in Panama told us they figured out that for them, consumerism was a disease, and that since living in Panama they were almost cured!

I would suggest that you go to one of the smaller towns and stay at a budget type hotel, basic not something posh!!!  A lot of places allow you to cook and use their refrigerator so that you can get a feel for how it is to live out of small tiendas and buy your fruits and veggies from a truck..,you can see how small the rooms are, the bathrooms are and get immersed into life in a very small town, you can eat at the local restaurants and use the bus to get around to the different areas…if you tried this for a week you would see how you feel about the reality of this type of town and lifestyle…just a suggestion but by doing this you would have less Surprises in the future!!! Of course the more money you have the more able you are to insulate yourself from the local lifestyle…the less you have to change or adapt……The Accidental Tourist comes to mind, where with enough money and planning you won’t even know you’re here! But then, why are you here?

The critters and how they are allowed to roam free were a big surprise to us. While driving down a highway at pretty good speed you will most likely come upon several herds of cows, goats or even pigs walking along the side of the road or even crossing the road. Burros and horses are left to fend for themselves like the pigs and dogs in some areas.

These pigs were walking down VIA Data in Playas

I took this picture of my burro friend from the cutouts in our fence in Playas

This scorpion was sprayed by Joe when he found him in our bathroom in Playas

This weeks uninvited guest, Senior Bat here in San Clemente

You need to think about what are your minimal requirements for an area and a house. Here you most likely will not find central hot water, that means you will have a suicide shower (warm water on demand shower head), with only one bathroom that is pretty small compared to US standards, no hot water to your bathroom or kitchen sink, a cistern for your house water with a septic tank for your waste water and with this rental no washer or dryer and no laundry in town … water pressure is very low and slow. You cannot drink the water, you cannot flush toilet paper and this rental does not have any furniture except two beds and two plastic chairs and a oven/range — there is no refrigerator and no yard with a very small porch right on the street. That is the reality of this area…and even if you wanted to rent something better you probably could not find it in this town.  What do you expect to do with your time, what would you like to do? We really don’t know you but coming from the US the reality is so different from what International Living has been telling folks that I just want to be sure you know what you are going to find…My friend Amy has her mother with her from the states right now and she is in total shock at how folks live in much of this country…It may not shock you to see it but it might shock you to think about living here in the midst of it……..

Let me know what you think about what I have said so far….my blog is what I see after being out of the states for a good period of time, living in rural areas with low standards of living…it is what Joe and I have evolved to over those years….


PS I am not trying to sway you either way on Clemente or any other town, just want you to know what the reality is in these little towns. We love it but again it is not for everyone!!!  I think you need to look at many different areas and this will show you what place fits you both the best! Go and find your dream.

The folks I sent this email to were not to happy with me, I did not know them except through a few very general emails and was informed that they were pretty seasoned veterans of rural, third world situations…and from their response to this email they were pretty offended at what I said.

Let me say this for everyone out there, I write what I see, I write about what I feel is important, I write about life here through MY EYES. I try very hard to take a great deal of pictures so you can all make up your own minds at what you see. I also take a great deal of time to reply to each comment and every email. I go into a great detail and have tried to be open and honest about my observations. I do not get paid nor do I write for anyone except myself. As I have said in the past I will not try to sell you real estate, rent you a condo or sell you Avon — I do this because when we moved from the US there was very little first hand information on the internet to help make us feel comfortable about such a big decision.  I cannot tell you if Ecuador is right for you and will not make your decision for you or try to dissuade you from doing so yourself.  But please do not be offended if I try to show you how life really is here.

Next I cannot help you sell or buy property, there are folks here that handle these things, I am not a tour guide, cannot supervise your guardian and housekeeper because my Spanish is basic, rudimentary at best. I do not know the laws of Ecuador that is why we hired and paid for an attorney to handle our Visa Process and the purchase and closing of our home. I will gladly pass on names, email addresses and telephone numbers of folks that I have worked with and that have done a good job for me. I cannot be responsible if your situation did not turn out the same, I do not get paid when I refer you nor do I look for Expats to refer to people I have worked with.  I write a blog again because it makes me happy to put our experiences and photos in some order. I like looking back and viewing photos of friends that we have made and places we have visited while on this life journey.

Blessing to all who follow our little adventure. I hope to have more photos and less pontificating in the future!

Prices, Shopping and Services!

We have been in Salinas for a bit over a month now.  I have noticed so many differences between here and other places we have lived and wanted to share our experiences.

Salinas Beach - before

Salinas Beach - Before

Salinas Beach - After

Salinas Beach - After

Lets take buying a plant for instance — they don’t use pots they sell you a plant in a black plastic bag. Cost for a big beautiful asparagus fern $4, house plants around 2 ft tall $2 – $2.50, a large palm $8 and a 30 lb bag of soil $1.70 all 5 plants and soil packed in a cab and delivered and unloaded to our apartment for $3.  Internet seems to be slow but at least it does not go out for hours at a time. The cost is $34 per month.  Here in Salinas we do not have power outages in Puerto Lopez every day the power went out for a few hours and in Dolega we had our share of the power cuts as well but what was worse were the power surges – you needed to have surge protectors on everything especially your refrigerator.  Let’s talk thunderstorms we saw our share while living in Miami but nothing to compare to Dolega it would shake the house and Joe and I would bring chairs and sit in the hallway away from the windows after unplugging everything in the house. Salinas and Quito have a water system like in the states. Puerto Lopez has no water of it’s own and it is hauled in by trucks each day. You cannot drink the water and must use bottled water for cooking, brushing your teeth etc.  You have a cistern in P Lopez and must remember to have it filled or you could find yourself without water.  The sun does not shine every day in Salinas, this time of the year,  it’s bright and it does not rain but the sun may be out for several hours 2-3 days a week and 2 days full sun all day the rest of the time it is nice, warm but not tanning weather but that does not stop you from going into the water.  Veggies and fruits, are inexpensive especially locally grown items like strawberries $1 a pound, blackberries, papaya $.30 for a nice size, pineapple $1 for a large and many other tropical fruit and veggies. We found most basic vegetables were available in Panama but if you wanted mushrooms, brussels sprouts, asparagus or anything a bit out of the ordinary you could not find them often and when you did they were very expensive. The above list is found locally at very inexpensive prices: white mushrooms $1.50 a container, .626 kg which would be almost 1 1/3 lb. container of asparagus $1.90 and brussels sprouts .81 looks to be a pound are just a few of the items I purchased this week.

We were told that toothpaste in Ecuador was $5 a tube – that is not a fact, what we found was Quito, P Lopez and now Salinas you can get almost any brand of toothpaste at a reasonable price. What is most common is Colgate and the cost is as low as $1.50 a tube or if it is for sensitive teeth maybe as high as $3. Don’t buy it on the malecon as the price will be double these shops are for the tourists go one block off the malecon and you can find good prices.  Bathroom tissue in Panama was $2.35 for a 4 roll pack equivalent to Scott’s here I get Scott’s brand in a 12 pack for a bit over $4.

Telephone local service is $6 a month with .01 cent a minute for local calls, .02 cents a minute for the region, to call cell phones is .145 cents a minute.  I opened a PO box yesterday it was prorated for the balance of the year to $12.50 in January I will pay $20 for the year. No home delivery of mail in Ecuador I think you could get overnight or express type mail delivered but I have not looked into that yet. I understand that if a package is over 5 pounds it must go through customs in Guayaquil where you must pay customs fees and pick it up yourself but if it’s under 5 lbs it will be delivered to our local post office with no customs fees.

Clothing shopping here compared to Panama is better for us because I can find sizes that are similar to the US. In Panama everyone seemed to be shorted, thinner and both Joe and I could not fit in any of the clothes.

Going out to eat is very inexpensive we go to Cevichelandia which is around the corner from our apartment, for lunch we order almuerzo which means lunch for $2.50 each we get a bowl of shrimp soup, a plate of fried fish, rice, a few pataconies (twice fried green plantains) and a salad with a glass of fresh fruit juice. Dinner ranges from $3 for a fish dinner to $4 to 6 for shrimp and there are street vendors that sell many different items for a few dollars or very nice expensive restaurants where you can get great steaks. It just depends upon what you are interested in.

A picture tribute to Puerto Lopez

Itapo Hostel, Puerto Lopez

Itapoa Hostel, Puerto Lopez

Cocktail time!

Cocktail time!

Striking a deal on a fish, Puerto Lopez

Striking a deal on a fish, Puerto Lopez

Hostel Mandala - Whale tail sculptures

Hostel Mandala - Whale tail sculptures

Whale that died and washed up on shore

Whale that died and washed up on shore

Fishing from shore with a net in Puerto Lopez

Fishing from shore with a net in Puerto Lopez

Joe waiting on breakfast at Hotel Pacifico

Joe waiting on breakfast at Hotel Pacifico

Now to the most beautiful sunsets that I can remember – Enjoy!

Puerto Lopez revisited

After arriving in Puerto Lopez on June 1st we found the weather to have changed quite a bit over the three weeks we were in Quito.  There was less sun, more cool breezes and a bit of rain.  Of course, we were told that this was not the rainy season but it still rained a bit the week we were back.  We again walked the beach, had lunch at Centro and enjoyed the quiet peacefulness of Lopez.

Lopez was a hive of activity – most of the malecon kiosks were under repair – they had been moved off the sidewalks and pushed back onto the beach.  This was an excellent idea because it was impossible to get around when town was busy.  The vendors were painting and varnishing, replacing the palm frond roofs and doing some major renovations all in anticipation of the start of whale season.

We made several trips to the fish market area of the beach, watched as the workers removed large buckets of fish, shrimp, crab, ray, shark as well as squid and octopus.

Fish Market Puerto Lopez

Fish Market Puerto Lopez

We met some new friends who will be moving here in August or September.  Tom and Karen Wine who currently live in Atlanta stopped in Lopez while on a several week visit to Ecuador.  We found them to be good people and we hope to be seeing more of them after their move to Cuenca.

Karen & Tom Wine with Joe at Jimmy's Malecon Lopez

Karen & Tom Wine with Joe at Jimmy's Malecon Lopez

We happened upon a group of horses that were just grazing on the beach – as well as another strange creature that was totally unexpected on another of our walks around Lopez.

Horses on the beach in Lopez

Horses on the beach in Lopez

Piglet in Paradise

Piglet in Paradise

The days flew by and we were no closer to finding a place to live so we made arrangements for Hector to drive us down to Salinas.  We will surely miss this beautiful tranquil area and the many people that we met and count as our friends.

Joe & I enjoying one last drink in Lopez

Joe & I enjoying one last drink in Lopez

New friends

We were fortunate to meet a lovely family who had been living in the Puerto Lopez area for almost 2 years.  The Creasey’s took us under their wing and proved that Americans, especially those from the South, are a wonderful giving people. We had the opportunity to become familiar with Scott from his involvement in one of Ecuador forums that we were monitoring before our move.  As we did more research on areas that would be of interest to us Puerto Lopez popped up over and over again as a place that may be worth a look. We contacted Scott who was very gracious with his knowledge and answered numerous emails on our multitude of questions.  For the weeks that we spend in Puerto Lopez we were treated with the finest in Southern Hospitality by this gracious family.  We were sad to leave the area.  But our travels will always take us back to Puerto Lopez for all the wonderful things it has to offer especially to visit our new friends Scott, Pat and Jeremy.

Las Tunas Sunset at the Creasey's home

Las Tunas Sunset at the Creasey's home

Let’s talk FOOD

Now to the food — how wonderful to have fresh fish every day sometimes twice a day — yes, I am fish deprived and I admit to being in love totally with fish and seafood of almost any type – I found Puerto Lopez to be my Seafood Heaven — We located several places that fulfilled my seafood fantasy!  We loved going for lunch to Centro. It’s the local market that sits about 4 blocks from the malecon.  It had a wonderful outside eating area where several vendors served lunch during the day.  The meal consisted of soup, a main course and a glass of juice.  Most days it was either shrimp soup or a fish soup, made with mani ((peanut) sauce which was outstanding. The main consisted of fried or sauteed fresh fish, rice and a salad, some days they even had congrejo (crab).  The cost was $2 each after they got to know us it was $2.50 before.  What a treat!!!  Then we must talk about Mayflower Restaurant what a find… Joe would order the Fried Shrimp with papas fritas and I would get fish in mani sauce a peanut sauce used by the cooks of Manibi province.

Fruit salad and the beach what could be better
Fruit salad and the beach what could be better

We found the people to be very friendly some spoke a bit of English most did not. We have never really had an issue not speaking the language. It seems if you are kind and smile a lot people are just so easy to deal with no matter what the language.  We met Jhony the MotoTaxi driver who spoke a bit of English and took us on hair-raising rides around the countryside.  The beautiful management and staff of the Hotel Pacifico, especially Sofia who made so many phone calls and walked me all around town looking at properties and talking to people on our behalf.

Hotel Pacifico, Puerto Lopez
Hotel Pacifico, Puerto Lopez

We stayed at the Pacifico for well over a month and they took care of us like family – they even made me oregano tea and a very simple chicken broth one evening when I had suffered with a stomach issue that day. Our driver Hector who chauffeured us back and forth to Manta.  Senior Carlos who washed our clothes and smiled every time he saw us.  We also met the owners of the Whale Cafe who are from the US and have been living in Ecuador for many years, we spent many an evening drinking vino tinto and enjoying their vegetarian pizza or the best Spicy Thai Noodle dish I have ever had.  They also have a book exchange so bring your books if you plan on eating there.

I can’t say that I learned how to cook any of these wonderful dishes but both Joe and I truly enjoyed each morsel and will be back in Lopez soon to help ourselves to this culinary treat!!

Puerto Lopez or bust!

On March 31 we flew out of Quito to Manta with a two-hour taxi ride to Puerto Lopez – it was a beautiful day for traveling and we had an excellent flight that lasted a bit over 30 minutes.  Arriving in Puerto Lopez we were taken directly to our hostel Itapoa – located directly across the street from the beach.  What a simple little town with it’s brightly painted houses lining the ocean road.

Our first visit to Puerto Lopez Beach April 1, 2010

Over the next several weeks we would walk the town taking in all that this quaint town had to offer. The malecon (boardwalk to those of us from the North) is flanked by little banboo huts with palm frond roofs, the floors are sand and the furniture is sling backed chairs, bamboo tables and hammocks.  They serve batidos which are milk shakes made with fresh fruit of your choice like papaya, avocado, fresa (strawberry)  mora (blackberries), banana, tree tomato and many other tropical fruits.  These places which number around 20 also serve cocktails like pina coladas, coco loco and mojito cubano as well as the “Big Beer” a huge 22 oz. frosty cold Pilsener that Joe took as his favorite.

A fresa cocktail and the "Big Beer" April 1, 2010

A fresa cocktail and the "Big Beer" April 1, 2010

We spent many sunsets sitting at Jimmy’s or Ivan’s on the malecon cheering on the end of the day with our drink of choice.  What a relaxing place this Puerto Lopez is.

Sunset Puerto Lopez, April 1, 2010

Sunset Puerto Lopez, April 1, 2010