Thursday, May 2, 2013

Interim Lists

We've been here two and a half weeks so I thought it was time to list some pros, cons and just general differences and opinions.

First the pros - for us there have been quite a few.
  • We're walking - a LOT. Stu says we're averaging about 5k steps per nap (yes, afternoon naps are a common occurance).
  • The climate - while a bit cool at times (made worse by a drafty apartment), we don't really miss the heat. We're dressing in layers and always carry something in case of a rain shower. The weather here changes rapidly but the temperature variation from day to day is miminal - all year round.
  • The vegetation - never have I seen so many gorgeous flowering trees, bushes and flowers in general. Again, all year round.
  • The food - everything tastes so good. The fruit is amazing, no preservatives but so full of flavor. Since we aren't cooking, we're lacking in the area of vegetables but they look good, too. The ones we have eaten have been wonderful.
  • The restaurants - we've only been in a few but have loved them all. San Sebas, Magnolia Cafe, California Kitchen, Cafe Austria, Good Affinity all come to mind. 
  • The people - the includes locals as well as expats, most everyone has been welcoming and helpful.
  • Transportation - the most we have spent on a taxi has been $3, the least was $1.50. You can ride the buses for 25 cents, we've done that once and will do it again. It's easy to get around, just close your eyes if the traffic makes you too nervous. LOL!
  • The cost of living - some things cost the same as in the US but in general, you can save a lot of money living here. Rentals range from a couple hundred dollars a month to over $1000, all depending on what you want. We feel confident we can find something in the $250-450 unfurnished and $500-700 furnished. Many include the utilities as well as Internet.
  • No soda drinking - we haven't had one since we arrived. We drink whole milk, Limonada (fresh & delicious), Té helado (iced tea), cervasa (we both like Club Rojas when we can get it) and cafe americano con leche (strong coffee with a little sugar and whole milk)
  • Money is USD - yup, everything is in US dollars, no conversion!
  • Stress - ummm, none? Even when the mañana factor comes into play, that's okay. We're not in a rush for anything.
 As in life anywhere, there are a few cons. Some we don't consider as things that bother us, some are just quirky, some are cultural/regional and some we hope will change with growth in the city.
  • The buses - one day the diesel smoke spewing buses will be replaced with propane driven buses. That will be a good thing. In the meantime, the pro outweighs the con on this one.
  • The graffiti - there are some wonderful painted murals around the city but many have been "tagged". The same for any large plain wall, signs for businesses, houses. It doesn't bother the locals and while we don't enjoy it, we no longer let it bother us.
  • The dogs - it's very hard to see strays living on the street. There are a couple of expat organizations that are working to remove and spay them in hopes of finding a home for them. Dogs here are not so much pets as alarms. They aren't coddled or pampered. The surprising thing is watching them interact. If you have ever watched Cesar Milan, you will understand when we say these are very balanced dogs. We work daily to not "fall" for them and to adjust our view to the local cultural view.
  • The drivers - are very fast and ignore pedestrians for the most part. That said, we have seen almost no accidents, not even bumper taps. There is a rhythm and flow to the traffic that we have come to appreciate.
  • The language - this is only a con because we don't speak Spanish. We pick up new words and phrases daily and try to use them even when spoken to in English (by a local). Practice makes - well, it helps. ;-) We enjoy our chats with the maids at our apartments, the taxi drivers and the wait staff at the restaurants. All levels of English, including none, but they are all very patient with us as we work to get our point across. Lessons are a MUST. This is their country and their language.
  • The noise - everyone told us to be prepared for the noise from traffic, car alarms and barking dogs. We haven't found this to be an issue for us and we are in a busy area traffic-wise. May be due to being RVers and living in campgrounds beside interstates and train tracks. LOL!
  • Petty crime - as in many big cities, most crime is committed because an opportunity presents itself. We follow common sense guidelines - no large quantities of money, divide money into several pockets/purses/wallets, don't wear flashy jewelry (especially gold), don't flash large wads of money, when traveling by taxi at night call a driver you or your host knows, don't let anyone into your home area unless you know them.
Now for some of the quirky little differences that have caught our eye.
  • Paper products - napkins, toilet paper, paper towels all seem to be in a junior size. 
  • Matches - when we arrived in our apartment, there was a small box of matches for lighting the stove. We had trouble with them being so small and on a skinny plastic stick rather than wood. So intelligent Gringos that we are, we bought two big boxes of matches (50 cents). Opened them up and found....a lot of little tiny matches, just like were in the small box. LOL!
  • We have been able to find just about anything we need (toiletries, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, etc) in both local and US brands. We opt for the local at half the price (and works just as well).
  • The street sweepers - not the trucks in the US that roll down city streets at night, these are a large cadre of employees, dressed to match, rolling garbage cans and brooms around the city keeping it clean. BRAVO!
  • Living behind walls - this is the culture and it goes way back to courtyards inside the house. Some don't like it, we have no problem with it. Crime is everywhere in the world, there is no perfect paradise, deal with it!
  • The indigenous people are amazing! Their faces tell their stories, their brightly colored clothing make me smile, their friendliness is surprising at times and their strength is what legends are made from.
  • The little ones - we don't get the immediate smiles that we see back in the US but we intrigue them and they stare at us while we smile at them. Adorable!!
  • A smartphone or tablet battery lasts a long time without Internet access. Fortunately, where there is access, the speed is better (most of the time) than what we've been experiencing in campgrounds recently using our Verizon aircard. I love that I got my iPhone 3G converted to use here, 20 cents per call. Put $10 on it and won't use a tenth of the time.
  • Furniture - is usually low and smaller, just like the locals. Thin foam padding flattens easily under our ample frames. Ooops! You can get custom furniture made reasonably though.
  • Electronics ARE expensive - if you are thinking of relocating, check prices here to help decide what to bring.
I know I am missing some things but this has been a LONG post. At this point, unless something MAJOR happens in the next twelve days - we'll be back! We both love it here and think we'll be getting some culture shock when we return to the US on May 15th. 

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