Monday, August 26, 2013

Slowly fine-tuning our packing

We keep adding things to our packing list but we also know some of these things will come off the list when we start to actually pack our bags. Our initial plan was to use the High Sierra bags we bought for our month long exploratory trip.

 

The High Sierra AT3 rolling backpacks will be our carry-on and the High Sierra AT3 32" Rolling Duffle will be our first checked bag. We planned on two more checked bags each for the rest of our clothes and kitchen/bath items. We almost forgot Stu's bag with all his scuba gear so we will be over by one bag. Our tickets are Business Class on American Airlines so we get three free checked bags each, up to 70#.

We originally planned to use Sterilite Footlockers and purchased four of them from Wal-Mart. Then we discovered that they are over by .5" - we also learned that Delta and American are clamping down on oversize/overweight bags. The last thing we want to happen is to have to pay $200 each for four bags or worst than that, be at the airport and have to buy very expensive smaller bags to repack.

So I did more research and found these great bags from Wal-Mart, Protege Expandable Rolling 32" Duffle. Only $14 each, they are wheeled and sturdy. An added bonus is they fold back down into a compact size when not in use so we can stuff them into our bags whenever we return to the US and then use them to carry back new things.

They are a little smaller but since it turned out I had bought one earlier as a spare bag, I tried repacking one of the trucks and found almost everything fit. We'll use the luggage straps and TSA approved locks we bought for the trunks on these bags. Oh, and since I ordered four, shipping was free! The footlockers won't go to waste, we'll use them for storage here in our shed.

Our basic list to bring hasn't changed a lot but one recent addition was measuring cups and spoons. Why? Because all my recipes are in cups, ounces and table/tea spoon measurements, not metric. I also have bought a couple of items for dressier wear, things that pack well and will do double duty on our cruises.

That is one thing we have to take into account when we pack - we start off with a 7 day cruise to the Western Carribean. We have two or three 20" Protege Expandable Duffles, in fact Stu is using one right now for his trip to Maryland, and I think we can each fit what we need in one of those. Then we just need to leave enough room in one of the larger duffles to put the clothes and folded duffle. Since these are no longer available online, check your local store - they're only $10 and are great to have on hand.

We bought a bunch of Space Bags as well as some from Zip-Loc and we'll be using those for for all our clothes, towels and other linens. That should help the bulk. Due to the size of the duffles, I'm not really worried about being over 70#, they weigh very little themselves and I can heft the one that is currently packed. I could barely pick up the 49# bags on our trip last spring!

But Ecuador preparation will now take a backseat to prepping for our Route 66 motorcycle trip. Watch for updates on our main blog, Our Prime Years.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My New Children's Book to benefit Hearts of Gold Foundation


My first ever children's book is now available on Amazon. It's a rhyming picture book, What Do I Count, and is suitable up to age five. Good bedtime or anytime reading, teaches numbers. Great as a gift to/from parents and grandparents! {Please share the link with your family and friends.}

Kara Jaynes did an amazing job on the illustrations, making my silly words come to life. Thank you, Kara.

Hoping to have a paperback print copy with additional teaching pages available soon. UPDATE: Paperback book is now available on Amazon with the added bonus of additional pages to help reinforce learning basic numbers.

NOTE: All profits go the the charity Hearts of Gold Foundation to benefit needy families and children in Cuenca, Ecuador (our home for the next five years).


Friday, August 23, 2013

My reminder of our visit to Ecuador



My delicate little hummingbird we bought while out on a walk in El Centro one day. Handmade out of copper, I wanted the mobile displaying several hummingbirds but ended up with just one.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The packet is in the mail!!

Over the last month we've gotten  two birth certificates, four marriage licenses, two divorce certificates, one death certificate, two social security income letters, eight passport photos, and three background checks (by name). Now we've filled out all the necessary paperwork, signed all the forms and completed our initial wire transfer deposits to Ecuador Movers and put the whole package in the mail. Phew!!!!


We only hope everything was filled out properly, getting any replacements while we are off on our two month motorcycle trip will be a bit of a pain in the neck. Keeping our fingers crossed!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Think he'll become a professional dancer?


I guess some are born with Salsa in their genes!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Starting our Visa application process....

Guess what I got in the mail today? My birth certificate with a date that can be read! WOOT!! Now we have everything we need to get our Visa application process started. Thank you to Maite Duran from Ecuador Movers for going above and beyond in working with me as I asked a ton of questions.

Many do this on their own, once they arrive in Ecuador. I wanted to remove the stress from the process, especially since things can be very date/time sensitive once you are there. Maite and her co-workers are doing everything - notarizations, getting the papers apostiled, then translated then notarized and apostiled again. Phew! Exhausts me just thinking about it.

Hopefully we won't have any issues crop up while we are riding Route 66 on our motorcycles the next two months. If all goes well, we'll get...

...and then get our passports stamped at the Ecuadorian Consulate in Atlanta. All that will be left is dealing with selling my motorcycle, utilities, insurance, mail notifications, packing and then on to our cruise out of Tampa. WOOT!! 117 days and counting...


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Yes and No

Yes, Ecuador is considered a third world country. Yes, there are parts of it where the poverty is staggering and we know we couldn't live there. Yes, it's a country of haves/have-nots (as are most 3rd world countries).

No, we won't be living uncomfortably. No, we won't be eating bugs, grass and sticks. No, we won't be raising our own animals and growing our own food (although several of our friends are).

Yes, we will be walking a LOT more. No, we won't own a car (but possibly a small scooter or motorcycle). Yes, we will be learning Spanish. No, we don't think we'll be truly proficient but we will get by. Yes, we will hang with other expats/Gringos. No, we won't avoid making friends with other Ecuadorians.

Yes, the weather will be cooler in Jul-Sep, but still warmer than Dec-Feb here in north central Tennessee. No, we won't come back more than once a year unless there is a real family emergency (it is expensive to run back and forth plus we are only allowed 90 days each year out of Ecuador). Yes, we will miss our families but we miss them now!

Finally, not a yes or a no, but here is what we have coming to our town in Ecuador! A downtown tram system; the contracts were awarded in June. Originally slated to be operational in 2014, it is now projected to be 2015.


We are excited, not because we will walk less but because it will decrease the fumes from buses in the historic downtown area. [more here]


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How Far Is It from Cuenca to ...?

The website timeanddate.com has a distance calculator for all major cities on Earth. The Cuenca page lists distances from there to dozens of destinations around the globe, for example:
  • Guayaquil, Ecuador -- 77 miles
  • Lima, Peru -- 644 miles
  • Galapagos Islands, Ecuador -- 745 miles
  • Caracas, Venezuela -- 1,242 miles
  • Kingston, Jamaica -- 1444 miles
  • Miami -- 1,973 miles
  • New Orleans - 2372 miles
  • Atlanta -- 2356 miles
  • New York -- 3,017 miles
  • Phoenix -- 3,302 miles
  • Honolulu -- 5,580
  • and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- 12,395, almost exactly halfway around the planet
Another interesting distance factoid is that Cuenca is 199 miles from the equator, so the South Pole is 6,016 miles away, while the North Pole is almost equidistant at 6,414.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Ecuador Movers

I thought I'd share this video about the company we are using for our Visa paperwork processing, Ecuador Movers. 128 days and counting!



Saturday, August 3, 2013

Traipsing down the paperwork trail....

We are making progress. We've received my birth certificate, my late husband's death certificate, my two early in life marriage/divorce certificates and our Social Security statements. Yesterday we got the tracking information for Stu's New York birth certificate. Nothing from my two Virginia marriages yet....

Two whoopsies so far, one fixed, on pending. We printed the official looking online letters of benefits from the Social Security website. Sent a copy to our facilitator and she said they wouldn't work, they have to be originals (with a signature or stamp). So a couple days ago we headed to our neighboring town and stopped in the Social Security office. We got called immediately after registering and she quickly printed, signed and stamped our letters. Less than ten minutes and we were done!

From there we headed to CVS where we got our prisoner looking passport photos taken. Not cheap since we needed three photos each and they come in twos, but in a small town, there aren't a lot of choices.

Oh, the other whoopsie is my birth certificate from Massachusetts. It was the first document to arrive but I can't use it. The date stamp is all but illegible. Three phones with three voicemails left and no return calls. Sigh...frustrating. This was one of the most costly documents but VitalChek isn't liable for the accuracy or usability of the document. So next week, I'll be working on my novel from home where 1) I can hear better and 2) I can get return calls easily.

This week we will order our background checks, the last thing to be ordered. We have our contract from Ecuador Movers and will be sending that off to them shortly. Here's hoping that things will progress smoothly from here!

I also picked up some drop-in sheet protectors for the originals and have them all in a three ring binder. All the better to protect them and keep everything in one spot. Two steps forward and only one step back this week!


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