The year 2017 has been a year of dramatic changes for us and quite the roller coaster ride. First we decided we were going to move to Cuenca, Ecuador and began the immigration process last February. Things were going fairly smoothly until they changed the laws on residency and we were suddenly scrambling to get things completed as best we could here. Then they put the Visa-via-Cable on hold and we either had to come to Ecuador to complete the application process or run the risk of our documents expiring and having to start over. So we decided to put our home in Florida on the market, sell what we didn’t want and ship the rest. On June 7, 2017 we put all our belongings in storage until our Visas were approved and then flew off to Ecuador and the start of a new adventure.
We arrived with six suitcases total and stunned that we had actually made it to Cuenca with only the clothes we brought with us, some necessary medications to last six months, and a vague idea of what we were going to do. Other than that, we were playing it by ear, so to speak. We were blessed with the hospitality of a dear lady whom we had met at the International Living Conference in 2016, who offered to let us stay with her until we could find a place to live. She not only acted as our benefactor and hostess, but also as tour guide and showing us the ropes. We will be forever grateful to Miss Heather Peden not only for her hospitality, but for her friendship.
By the first week of July we were living in a Penthouse, the only one in the building, on the fifth floor overlooking the Rio Tomebamba. We were in heaven and thought we had found the perfect place. Two days later we are sitting in our living room watching the sun disappear over the Cajas when a noise like a train pulling into the station roared through the apartment. It was the elevator for the second half of the building whose shaft was directly behind one of the guest bedrooms. Then the elevator servicing our side went out, as did the garage gates, and the oven. The garage gates were fixed the following month, but by then we had had enough and gave notice we were moving. The elevator’s on both sides were taken out of commission as being unsafe and the over, we were told, was fine it was the circuit breakers that were bad – the entire panel! At almost 70, we had no desire to climb 5 flights of stairs with bags of groceries or when we wanted to go exploring, fight with a gate or struggle with doors that refused to open. The owner didn’t agree with our decision, stated there was nothing wrong and refused to return our deposit. So we refused to return his keys until the first of November which would have eaten up our deposit.
September 1st, we moved into a beautiful 3 story home with 3 balconies, and inner and outer courtyard, built-in barbecue, 2 bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths, sitting rooms, eat in kitchen, inside laundry room, living room, dinning room, fireplace, whirlpool bath, and a huge loft that was to become my studio. Not only were we paying less, but we now had 4400 square feet to live in. The new landlord even had a special cabinet built for our dishwasher, which will stay here as will any improvements we make, if we ever move.
Next came the trip to Machala to submit our application for Temporary Residency Visa. We were up at 3 a.m. for the 3 hour trip, had breakfast there and were the first in line at the Immigration office. When our turn came, the young man behind the counter told us that we could not submit our application as we had changed from Visa-via-Cable to in person application and had not submitted a letter stating we were doing that. Our attorney’s assistant called our attorney who told him she was not informed of that requirement. She convinced him to print out a letter for us to sign, which he did and we signed it and our applications were submitted. Exactly three weeks later we received the word that we had our Visas and had to go back to Machala to get them. Which we did and, like the first trip, I became sick upon return to Cuenca. There is something in the air there that just doesn’t like me.
Now that we had our Visas, we could send for our container and our belongings. Which we did and were looking forward to having our personal effects and the rest of our clothes. We were assured with our inventory there would be no problems. Wrong! We were notified that our inventory did not match the inventory of the shipping company. There was a 27 item difference. What? They had totally emptied our Florida home, wrapped up the King Size Mattresses and bicycles and other items, yet they were not on the shipping company inventory. Okay, we have to go with their inventory and will see what is missing when we empty the container and handle that once everything is here. We traveled to Guayaquil to meet with Customs when our container would be opened and the contents compared to the inventory.
Now this is when our nightmare started. When they opened the container, the first thing I saw was the King size mattress that was not on the packing inventory of the shipping company. Then there were the two bicycles also missing on their inventory. This went on until all 27 “missing” items were uncovered. Since there were 27 items missing from the shipping inventory, we had to pull everything out of the container, open every box, tub and wrapped item, re-inventory and re-number every item, re-seal all the boxes, tubs, wrapped items and reload them into the container. A new inventory was created and translated into Spanish. A week later we were back in Guayaquil and assured there would be no problems. Wrong!
The Customs agent who had assured us all would be well, was not the one with the final say. We had “El Heffy,” as people on the dock referred to him, or the Boss. Anytime there was a problem on the dock, he was at the bottom of it. We went through another inspection and he proceeded to pull aside 37 boxes/tubs of art supplies, fabric and patterns. “This is not allowed,” he bellowed and was even trying to take antique quilts. We assured him that the “legal department” of the receiving shipping company had told me that it would all be cleared as it was used in my art work and personal use and not for commercial use. This company had also badly translated my original inventory so things like plastic milk crates used to hold books were 15 cases of leche or milk. A box of wine glasses was translated as “mas vino” or more wine and the Customs Official nearly had apoplexy when he saw the notation “el parro” and “el gatto” on the inventory. “You have pets in the container all this time!” It took a while to explain it was a statue of a dog and statue of a cat.
With a lot of talking by our facilitator, the number of fabric containers was narrowed down to 13 and I was given 5 minutes to go through and pull out what was important to me. I hesitated to pull out too much as I was afraid that everything, fabric, clothes and personal items, would be taken. Finally, we were told our container would be sealed and shipped to us in Cuenca by the end of the week. This second inspection totally drained me and I was physically ill from the experience. But at least we had our container and I wasn’t going to let one power-hungry official ruin my view of Ecuador or its people.
After a week, we were notified our container was on its way but only after I paid an additional $1,064 in fees due to the second inspection. I came unglued and told them the shipping company should be paying that as they had caused the problem with 27 items not being on the inventory and not doing what they said they would do. No money, no container I was told. Okay, we’ll deal with the company later, we paid and the container was delivered. Unfortunately, it was delivered at 7:30 p.m. and not at 2 p.m. as promised and the unloading did not finish until almost 11:00 p.m. Our neighbors were not happy as the 40 foot container blocked their driveways, preventing them from getting home, and it blocked the street access as well. Great way to make new friends!
Surprisingly, we only had 2 items broken, plus 2 lamps we need to find parts for as the shipping company when they wrapped the lamps removed the switches used to turn them on and off! They also jarred something loose in our 65″ TV and we are now trying to get that repaired.
Okay, we thought all the roller coaster riding was done. Then my wonderful husband collapsed during church services. We went to the hospital via ambulance, but the hospital told us their doctor was out-of-town and they had called our doctor who said we were to meet him at his office at 7:00 p.m. that evening. They gave Ray a pill and sent us on our way. We went to the doctor’s office and waited there until 7:30 p.m.; however, no doctor. Bright and early Monday morning we were at the doctor’s office. The doctor was very upset when he heard what the hospital had done. He had told them he was out of town and to have one of their doctor’s see us, but they told us the opposite. Our doctor immediately called the hospital and read them the riot act. He was almost in tears he was so upset at what had happened to us. We assured him that it was not his fault and we were lucky that things weren’t worse.
After looking at my husband, he referred us to an ear, nose and throat specialist as he had another sinus infection, had just finished up medication for the last one and the doctor didn’t want to give more medication. Saw three specialists, who surmised that the cause of the infections was an implant that had been placed in the sinus cavity. Excuse me! It was where? After x-rays, several consults in 2 days, it was determined that the implant had to come out to seal the hole that had been created between the mouth and the sinus. He had such a massive infection that it was affecting his vision and his health and we were told if surgery was put off, he could be dead in two weeks as the infection was starting to affect the brain. I contacted the dentist to get the name of the implant so that we could get the right key to remove it and was amazed when his email started off with “the implant I placed in the sinus cavity was …” and “just have them remove some fat from his cheek to plug the hole and he will be fine, do not let them remove the implant.”
Needless to say, we were not happy to know that the stupidity of this one doctor would be the cause of all the problems with the health. Surgery was done, he has made a remarkable recovery and in four months will have new implants placed. We could not be happier with the medical care we received, the caring of the medical professionals and the way things were handled. Even with our limited Spanish, they made sure we understood what the options were. In the States, the surgery, overnight hospital stay would have cost us $200,000 and that was not including the specialists or consultations. Our total bill here, including the specialists and consultations, was $4500 total! Our follow ups are no charge.
We have recently been notified that we will be receiving our Cedula’s in approximately two weeks times. This will be our Ecuadorian Identification cards and will make things even easier for us. At the end of 20 months, we will begin the process of obtaining our Permanent Residency status and a little further down the road, we will apply for dual Citizenship and an Ecuadorian Passport.
After all we have been through, we are feeling very blessed and thankful that we are here. If we had to do it all over again, we would, preferably without all the drama. But it is what it is and one can not change the past but only go forward. We love our life here in Cuenca, Ecuador and love its people. Even struggling to learn Spanish has not changed how we feel. To us, this is home and we really feel as if here is where we belong. I never felt like I was truly home or that I even belonged in the States, something was always missing. It is missing no longer.
As we prepare to celebrate our first Christmas in Ecuador, we want to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas. May the coming New Year find you enjoying all the best that life has to offer. Take care and God bless. In parting, I leave you with a few pictures looking back on 2017.
Until next time my friends,
Terri at the Drake’s Nest