What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
How long have you lived there?
What activities, clubs and organizations would you recommend to newcomers to help them meet others?
For the folks planning to visit and stay longer in Cuenca, Ecuador I recommend that you subscribe to the three printed media that are available for people abroad and those who live here. They are: CuencaHighLife, GringoPost, and the facebook group.
There you will get a good idea of what people are saying, what improvements the local and central government are making and planning to make, and how the ordinary expats and English speaking people are feeling, what they are doing, how they communicate with one another. Shops and businesses, restaurants, licensed therapists and doctors all post and are also asking to be recommended on Gringo Post.
For me, I am learning the names of the streets, areas, districts and bus routes so that I can get around. I live in a rural section about 12 miles from central Cuenca. I take buses from my district and taxis from the bottom of the hill, to locations within Cuenca, unless I have managed to locate a bus route, and then I hand the bus driver a written note of where I need to get off. The bus drivers always notify me because they can see me and my rain or sun hat, through the mirror.
I have attempted to go to many activities including free movies, therapist lectures, free Spanish conversation classes, but so far I have only managed to get to the Jazz Society Cafe. I arrived there after a day of shopping with only enough money to take the taxi home late at night. I told the head waiter that I would pay double next time. I am an artist, and when the pianist saw me take out my watercolors, he asked the house if I could stay. That worked. Not many clubs or restaurants take credit cards. The big supermarkets do, and they always ask for my passport copy. I recommend everyone have a color print of their passport with the Passport number written clearly at the bottom.
For meeting others, there are organized groups among the expat Americans and other foreigners and the meetings are posted in Gringo Post. I am a gringa so I read this every day. I select the events that I am interested in, with the addresses, dates and phone numbers, and copy them into a text message and into my calendar. There are specific cafes and restaurants that the expats do frequent. I attended a meeting of the American Consulate and Embassy one evening which took place at a popular art gallery. Members of the Business Bureau spoke and the group handed out envelopes for everything necessary to start up in Cuenca, from handyman to English speaking taxi drivers and licensed electricians, etc. There are experts in wifi and in Macintosh as well as any components for computer usage.
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In terms of religious, racial, economic and cultural diversity, are the people of this city or town diverse? Are they accepting of differences? Describe.
There are significant numbers of the diverse groups. It was one of the first things my Spanish teacher listed on the board. She listed 25% egroupo ethnico and 7% indigenous. The Ecuadorian history, which encompasses the last 11,000 years, reaches into the present; 25 percent of Ecuador's population is of indigenous heritage, while another 70 percent is of mixed indigenous and European heritage.
Most people seem to be part of a large number of different Christian churches and organizations, mostly posted in Gringo Post on Friday. That is where I get my idea about this. I am Jewish, and do not follow Orthodox here, but I studied Torah for a year and a half in the US with a Chabad educational group who was Orthodox. I learned that praying for peace and keeping a good feeling about life is not only healthy but productive. I have learned to proportion my hours better to accomplish what I need to do as an artist. I do not know who is accepting of differences. I live in a rural area and I don't talk about being Jewish. Very few people in any general population, religious or not, know anything about what being Jewish means. It's best to fit in with the population at large and not stress any differences, although I do put information on my Facebook page because I keep the friends I had in Berkeley. As a young person and being of Italian heritage, I am well aware of the beauty of music and art in the history of Christianity. I celebrate holidays of all religions and ethnic groups! I don't speak Spanish yet, but I sense that the Ecuadorian people are very accepting, quite attentive and interesting. The people I have contact with are appreciative of the arts, are skilled in labors such as carpentry, although most houses here are made of cement. The Americans here, are just, well American, diverse and educated. I was in a copy shop today and the kids there were using the computers. When they finished they came over to see my portrait copies, and one grade school boy spoke to me in English. He was probably a really good student learning language at that age.
What are the main industries in this city? What types of career opportunities commonly exist? How do most people find new jobs?
I see now by answering these questions the gap between the indigenous population and the expats. I live in a rural area where it is mostly indigenous. Therefore my broken Spanish attempts and there attempt at English too, is lots of fun, and educative. Good thing I have all kinds of dictionaries and grammar books on hand. The main industries in this city are as in the states. The telephone company does a really good business. People there are all Ecuadorian, well educated and some speak perfect Engish, to my relief so I can learn about my new phone.
Transportation is a big industry. Cabs are really economical and the drivers have cell phones and maps because it is not easy to know all of the districts and exact streets. It's not laid out like Manhattan!
In general, what are peoples' priorities in this city? For example, do lives revolve around work, family, socializing, sports, etc.?
Lives in this city seem to revolve around interest in where they live, apartment or house, rented or owned. I am sure most people have some kind of work, as some have written books or are expert in helping residents through their years of professional therapies and other businesses throughout their lives. Most are retired, and probably none are really rich because there is a lot of advice on how to live on your social security each month, Socializing seems to be happening within the events mentioned above. Since I am one of the older ones, I signed up for Kinesthetic Balance and Movement. I met a woman there who was kind enoug to walk me for about a half mile to my bus stop. Since the city is laid out around traffic circles and many small streets, with a few big avenues connecting the extreme edges of the city, it is really difficult to figure out for oneself, as a newcomer, what any given address entails. I have just "discovered" the URL for bus lines, and all of their stops. There are a half dozen bus lines each having a bunch of buses that are numbered. So when I leave my rural neighborhood, I have a choice of two bus lines. I note the stops, and so I only know how to get to El Centro for shopping, and to my Spanish class in the opposite direction, using one of the two bus lines. Every address entails a house number which reads like this (7-733) for example. It might say Ave such and such 7-733 y *which means and & in Spanish) and it gives the cross street. Most important places like hospitals give maps to tell you how to get there by car or transportation.
Sports seems to be mainly hiking, but there are gyms and workouts. Specific sports, like classical music events, must pass between people particularly interested in those sports or music. I have not seen much, perhaps soccer, but I pass over those events.
If a friend of yours was thinking of moving to this city or town from far away, what other advice would you give them.
I would first of all tell them that it is winter here now while it is summer in the 48 states.
The houses here are not heated, and I wear 4 or 5 layers of clothes. That said, if any of my friends are people who have more money, savings, and bank accounts than I do, I would tell them that they can live very well here. That they would fit in if they think they like being a part of a civilized South American country that is not in jeopardy of war or corruption like Venezuela, I'm sad to say. I have visited Brazil and I think it is a wonderful country. I think Peru must be very nice too. I liked the people in the Panama airport on my way here. Panama would be my second choice if I had to move. I think that there are ways to tell friends how they can get acclimated to Ecuador according to their lifestyle interests, in several ways. They can visit and have a stay of 90 days, before they need to leave. Some people leave for a few days to a nearby country and return as if for the first time and can stay for another 90 days. Some of these live permanently here like that, and not for a very long time...but they would have the option of exploring the Andes, the two major cities, as well as the Amazon side and the coastal areas, and visit the Galapagoes Island and also at this altitude, the Volcanos. I have not yet acclimated to the altitude. I still get out of breath even in the house here. Today I went to a health food store and talked about herbals which are good for shortness of breath, and the proprietor came up with Eucalyptus and aloe. I had asked for Dong Quoi, which is not a sedative but a tonic. I think the man noticed that I had a sniffy nose, and a dry cough so he recommended the eucalyptus. I accepted that because I agreed, there is more than the shortness of breath, and I hope this remedy helps me get rid of my dry cough. I had an illness before I left that started this chest problem and it is almost gone. I make a lot of chicken soup with reishi mushroom powder for my immnune system I used to be a massage therapist and studied these health issues. But now I am 81 years old and I have to be more careful. Most of my firends would be considerably younger than I, and would be more interested in the diverse restuarants and food stuffs that are advertised in gringo post. There are every conceivable type of restaurant, inclusing a chocolate factory. There are farms, and you can see corn fields by the side of the road on the buslines here, not in the city proper. This is not Mexico by any means, so tortillas and salsa are not even available here except in the larger supermarkets near where the americans live.
I would tell my friends what I did to get here. I got my background checks in the US, and had my birthcertificate, social security, fingerprints and FBI non criminal checks apostilled which took about 6 months. I was guided by a woman who knew the ropes as she had done it herself to get her working visa here, and that costs $300. To do this you can travel, visit the US for a certain amount of time, and you don't need to hire a lawyer. I hired a translator for all of my documents which I submit to the Ecuadorian government. I will vote here as a member of California in US elections.