Most of us would likely not put tattoos or cosmetic procedures on our list of vital requirements… If we thought about them at all, we would probably put them in the category of "fun to contemplate." I didn't have these sorts of things on my checklist for moving overseas at all…but all kinds of possibilities can open up when you're abroad.
When I lived in Florida, growing a vegetable garden was like flying too close to the sun. Everything got burned to a crisp. But in Cuenca, where the warmth of the equator meets the high elevation of the Andes, the climate provides near-perfect spring/fall weather year round. The average temperature is low 50s to mid-70s most of the year, with frequent rains, so my plants have a fighting chance at life.
Being younger expats is an interesting experience. Expat communities are often made up of older retired folks, including here in Cotacachi. But being young expats had its unique perks. We soon became a valuable entity in the expat community.
Ayangue is a gem among the treasures of the coast, and provides a great diversion on a sunny day. You should definitely keep this place on your "to do" list for when you come down to coastal Ecuador.
If you want long hikes and overnight adventures, head to El Cajas National Park, located about 18 miles west from Cuenca. The area is 70,500+ acres between 10,000 and 14,600 feet above sea level, with tundra vegetation winding through hills and valleys and spectacular views.
With the advent of more American-like grocery stores, expats started changing the way they shop. Expats often skip trips to the local mercados, where veggies and fruits are a fraction of the cost, and instead shop at the upscale supermarkets, which offer more conveniences.
The Symphony Orchestra of Cuenca was created in 1972, its goal "to promote the musical culture at the level of the largest orchestras in the world." Their vision was to make symphonic musical art a part of every Cuencano's life, offering free concerts to be enjoyed by all strata of society.
Less than two hours on the ground in my new "home," I started to get panicky. I had sold almost everything I owned and cared about and packed the rest of my belongings into two suitcases and a shoulder bag. And now I couldn't even breathe!
Americans often confuse Ecuadorians with our unusual habits and customs. During a leisurely lunch with my long-suffering Spanish teacher, Lucia, we contemplated the influence of expats and tourism, and how our foreign ways don't make sense to many locals—we're all learning about each other.
Christine went on to mentor me on the meaning of the five. "You have to have a community of friends you can count on; a Cuenca family. People you can share your deepest secrets with. Someone you can call if you've fallen on the sidewalk and hurt yourself. People who will show."