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Expat Life: FASEC International Food Festival

When Cuenca’s biggest fundraising event of the year involves delicious food from all over the world, you know we’re gonna be there!

Recently we attended the 25th Annual International Food Festival at Mall del Rio. The event supports FASEC, a non-profit, volunteer organization providing palliative and hospice care for patients with cancer and other chronic illnesses.

Thousands of attendees feasted on food from Argentina, Chile, Columbia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States.

Veteran patrons like us know to head straight to the dessert table for the best selection. Several of these yummy treats came home with us!

You can’t have a food event in Cuenca without a roasted pig!

Count on the USA booth to be grilling barbecue ribs every year. It’s fun to think back to 2010 when we helped establish this tradition and our country participated for the first time.

Argentina was cooking sides of deliciousness gaucho style over an open...

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Expat Life: Exploring the Otavalo Market

We recently visited the world-famous Otavalo Market in northern Ecuador where local merchants offer a dizzying array of textiles made with incredibly soft alpaca wool. Occupying an entire city block, it’s one of the largest indigenous markets in Latin America.

Asking prices are extremely low by North American standards, but since bartering is expected you can easily find yourself wondering how you’re going to fit an armload of goodies you just bought into your suitcases!

The towns of Otavalo and Cotacachi, where we stayed with friends, are both located in the Andean highlands. The gorgeous scenery of this part of Ecuador is dotted with many of the country’s volcanoes. Here is a view of Cotacachi volcano.

Our photos show some of the beautiful products available at the Otavalo Market! The craftsmanship is exceptional and the colors are so vivid.

Textiles aren't the only merchandise offered. Here we are with some traditional Ecuadorian art. You’ll find all...

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Retirement: What a Wild Decade!

Cynthia:  I was lying in bed this morning thinking back to ten years ago. So much has happened since then!

Edd:  Let’s see. At that time we’re still in a desperate financial situation in Las Vegas. We’re preparing to move to Ecuador, and in the midst of that chaos you’re about to be diagnosed with breast cancer. What an ultra-stressful period! You’re right---we not only live in a different country now, it’s really like an entirely different life.

C:  Plus we had no grandchildren then, and now we have four! Most of our “exotic” travel has taken us to New Jersey and North Carolina. No regrets about that though. We just got back from spending a wonderful Christmas in both places and had so much fun, right? 

E:  For sure. Decorating two trees and going to the mall for Santa photos twice was a double treat! You know, Cynthia, we could have never predicted creating three best-selling books and a successful...

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Expat Life: Would Moving Abroad Be Too Stressful For You?

Edd:  A guy wrote us wanting to know if there are racquetball courts here. I hope that’s not a deal breaker because when you’re thinking about moving abroad there are MUCH bigger fish to fry.

Cynthia:  Lighten up. Not having access to a gym would have been a deal breaker for you. For me moving anywhere is stressful, even if it’s to a different neighborhood in your same city. Not only do you have to deal with sorting through and packing/unpacking all your stuff, there’s also establishing new routines, meeting new neighbors. New, new, new. I’m sure lots of people stay put even if they’re not happy just because it’s easier.

E:  Would you say that people who try to figure out every little detail of moving abroad are poor candidates for having a positive experience?

C:  Not necessarily. Some people just naturally focus on the minutia. I do think getting bogged down with “analysis paralysis” can sometimes sabotage...

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Moving Abroad: Broom Man ~ June 30, 2010

Note ~ While we’re on vacation we’re sharing some favorite stories from our best-selling trilogy of books, Mission: Rescue Your Retirement. Here’s Cynthia’s Choice from Volume II, “Letting Go.” Enjoy!

It's moving day. Our current landlord (and friend) has kindly offered to take us, our suitcases, and groceries from his furnished studio we have occupied for a month over to our new apartment. We've huffed and puffed all our stuff down the stairs and are waiting for him to bring the car around so we can load and go.

Then he appears at the gate.

A man selling brooms, of all things. Not the straw brooms we're familiar with in the States. Synthetic ones with bristles maybe 3 inches long. But brooms nonetheless.

Now there are numerous vendors on the streets of Cuenca---lottery tickets, "street meat," assorted candies. We've even seen a guy carrying around handfuls of rabbit-ear antennae (remember those?).

The broom man obviously speaks zero English. He...

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Retirement: Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire!!

Edd:  I read an article about lies people tell themselves in retirement.

Cynthia:  Yeah? We’re retired. What lies are we telling ourselves?

E:  The author covered three, but one of them I thought was particularly interesting: “I’m busier than ever… I don’t know how I ever fit work into my schedule.”

C:  That’s a lie? We’ve said it ourselves many times and so have a lot of our friends.

E:  That’s why I found the article interesting. The author says the translation of this “lie” is, and I quote, “I fill my life with whatever I can because I don’t know what else to do with it.”

C:  Huh. Well, I’m guessing this “expert” on retirement is not retired, and he obviously doesn’t know anybody in Cuenca! I mean, as an example, here’s a story from one of our lunch outings. 

A group of ladies met for a midday meal and were spending the afternoon...

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Expat Life: Corpus Christi Festival in Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca’s annual Corpus Christi festival took place at the end of last month, but we’ve been so busy we’re just now getting around to telling you about it. Oh well, in “Ecuador time” we’re still early!

When we say “annual” we mean annual. As in since 1557! Although Corpus Christi means “Body of Christ,” somehow over the years the sacramental bread transformed into candy.

LOTS of candy and other sweets. Like 117 booths with over 60 varieties. The booths were set up all around Parque Calderón in the historic center of Cuenca so we decided to stroll over and check it out.

We crossed the Tomebamba River that separates New Town where we live from El Centro. First we stopped for lunch at a great Mexican restaurant near the festivities.

Edd had the BIG burrito...

And Cynthia barely finished her chicken tacos. With all that food plus a side order of guacamole and lemonade the bill was about $16. Love it!


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Expat Life: Renewing My Ecuadorian Driver's License

Cynthia:  Well, this has certainly been an eventful few days at Casa Staton. Last week we renewed our U.S. passports and this week you had to renew your Ecuadorian driver’s license. As we reported, the passports were a breeze. Why don’t you tell our readers about your license adventures?

Edd:  I’m thinking “journey” better describes the process of getting a license renewed. But since we have no car here let me first explain why in the heck I have a local driver’s license in the first place.

Confession time:  I let my U.S. license expire years ago. Oops. Since I still needed to be able to drive (and sometimes rent a car) when we were in the States, getting a license in Ecuador was an easy solution.

C:  It wasn’t that easy. You had to sit in class for two weeks to “learn” how to drive in Ecuador!

E:  Yeah, there was that. And five years later I was back at that same driving school, because the first step in...

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Expat Life: Sunday Surprises in Cuenca, Ecuador

It's never a surprise anymore that unexpected things happen around here. The surprise is finding out what's next. Case in point: this morning we look out the window and see a race happening down our street.

There was another race a few weeks ago so no big deal for us. But gotta ask...how often do races go by your window?

Then during brunch we hear music in the direction of a park across the street from our building. Not salsa or hip-hop for a change. Religious sounding music. H-m-m---let's go investigate.

Sure enough, there's a big stage set up

and the park is packed.

You may be wondering, "What's up with all the coats and puffy jackets?" Remember, it's winter here (although for us North Americans it only feels a little chilly). 

This turns out to be a full-on Catholic service with even communion being taken.

So maybe there was a tie-in with the earlier race. "Jogging for Jesus?" Now you language purists may be thinking, "That can't be right. The J in Spanish is pronounced...

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Expat Life: Food for Thought

Cynthia:  When you told me you’d read about an expat opening an artisanal food market on Saturday I knew to start making plans for that day.

Edd:  You bet. The ad promised fresh breads and pastries, cheeses, organic produce, wines, aged meats, and a bunch of other stuff like coffee, honey, homemade chocolates. How could we miss it?!

C:  Gosh, hearing you rattle off that list makes me think about our early days as expats here in Cuenca. Were we looking for things like aged meat and organic produce back then? Heck, no---we were sometimes just trying to figure out how to get home!

E:  The expanded selection of food choices over the years has been amazing. I remember how excited we were when the supermarket first started carrying rotisserie chickens! Now we can buy Heinz ketchup and Grey Poupon mustard, exotic mushrooms, European wines. And places like this new artisanal market can open and make a go of it.

C:  So off we strolled on a glorious sunny...

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