Monday, March 31, 2014

We aren't in BFE - honest!

We never cease to be amazed at the people who think we are in the middle of an African desert with no modern conveniences available. This couldn't be further from the truth.

First, we aren't in Africa, we are in South America. Here's a little map to help you orient yourself as to where we are living.

This one shows the country of Ecuador and we are living in Azuay province and if you look close, you will see Cuenca.

We have good electric service, great tap water and decent Internet. We have lost water once since we arrived three months ago. If you don't count the power outages while they installed new poles, we have lost power twice and one of those was from an accident up the road from us. Our gas stove is great and so is our refrigerator, albeit a little noisy.

We do have grocery stores, big and small. We do have hardware stores, big and small. You can find most things you need for day to day living. You even can find a fair number of US brands but usually at a higher price. Toiletries abound, albeit highly scented. No problem finding shampoo, conditioner, soaps, sanitizers, razors, deodorant, toothpaste and even Listerine.

Toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, disposable plates & flatware, garbage bags and a wide variety of cleaning supplies are all available both in the large stores like Supermaxi and Coral as well as at little corner tiendas.

No problem finding pens, pencils, notebooks, scissors, tape, paper clips, binder clips, bulletin boards, staplers/staples, sticky notes and all the other assorted office supplies. They may not be exactly what you are used to in the states but they do the job. If you are like me, I do recommend bringing any favorite refillable pens/pencils as well as refills. Another thing to note, the paper size is different here which means folders are as well. We found many more legal size than letter size folders.

We've had no problem in the grocery store - even found Ramen Noodles the other day (good eats when you have a cold). We liked both the Scullo and SNOB brands of various things rather than buying US and paying extra. For the most part, we buy lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Can you believe we haven't  had ice cream since we arrived? We buy milk in a carton on the shelf and the same with eggs. No need to refrigerate the milk until opened or the eggs at all! Tons of snacky foods - chips, crackers, cookies. Yogurt is here but it's more of a drink than a thick food, we pour it over our nightly dish of fresh fruit. Recently a store opened that advertises Greek yogurt but we haven't tried it yet.

The things we have found lacking in the stores are:
  • Non-chocolate cereals. Choices are limited but we have found one we like and we add raisins, oatmeal or wheat bran
  • Whole wheat pasta (we have substituted vegetable pasta)
  • Decaf coffee or tea. We have found instant decaf coffee but we grind our own beans. We had some dark roast decaf coffee beans and decaf Earl Grey tea muled in to us.
  • Reasonably priced linens. You can find anything pretty much, but you will pay a lot more than in the US. Main reason we brought our own sheets & towels.
  • Denture tablets are non-existent. Period!
  • Clothing that fits us...especially socks & shoes!
  • Alcohol prep wipes and Disposable hand wipes.
  • Index cards. I use these for addresses to hand to taxi drivers and haven't found any refills yet.
  • Pseudophedrine and Benadryl. We will bring these back from our annual US visits. Same with large size Aleve, Tylenol Extra Strength and generic acid reducer.
  • Latex free bandaids
You can find an amazing array of computer parts and accessories but most are overpriced or antique by US standards. We did buy our printer here but took a while to find ink refills. We priced a can of compressed air at $17 - EEP! So we will continue to buy electronics in the US and bring them back with us.

There are events to attend daily, most in El Centro, but others scattered around town. For example, this Sunday the road in front of our house was closed for a 5k run (or some measure of run). Another time we had a parade walking down our street.

There are several nice parks around Cuenca. The largest, appropriately named Paradise Park, has paddle boats and Segways for rent! Playgrounds for kids include wonderful exercise equipment as well as jogging tracks. There are several good gyms, Yoga classes, basketball and soccer courts, a ton of museum, art exhibits (mostly free or a minimal charge of a dollar or two) and music galore. Cuenca has its own symphony and their concerts are completely free. Restaurants? You could eat at a different one every day and in a month you still wouldn't have tried them all.

So you see, we really aren't in BFE at all!
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