Changing with the Times

When once is living in a new country, it is always important that you live in that country according to their rules. As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “You’re not in Kansas anymore!” What she meant by that is that what was the norm in the United States, or wherever you are from, may not be the norm of the country where you are now living.

Here in Ecuador, for example, the immigration rules changed and instead of being able to get a Permanent Residency Visa, you now get a Temporary Residency Visa, which is good for two years. At the end of that time, or right before your Temporary Residency Visa expires, you can apply for a Permanent Residency Visa. As of yet, with the Temporary Residency Visa a Cedula, or Ecuadorian ID, has not been issued. They plan on having one, but so far nothing.

Another change that has occurred is that not only will those who are living here be required to have Health Insurance, but all travelers/visitors to Ecuador will be required to either have Traveler’s Health Insurance or Health Insurance that will be able to be used in Ecuador should the need arise. You will have to have an insurance card or ID and a letter stating that the insurance you have can be used in Ecuador. We have Tricare Overseas, which is a U.S. Government Health Insurance that is available for all U.S. Military personnel or retired/disabled former Military and their families. While you can print out a copy of the benefits letter from their website, because it does not specifically say it can be used in Ecuador, it may not recognized. Additionally, a Certified copy of the benefits letter is required and it could be required to be apostilized like documents that are used to get your Residency Visa.

Getting in touch with personnel at TriCare who would listen to what you needed and not just read script, proved to be difficult so we began researching insurance available here in Ecuador and found that there are many. One needs to do their homework and research the companies to find out which will work for your particular needs. There was one we looked into that is based in the U.S. and offers so-called International Health Insurance. When asked if they provide an insurance card and benefits letter, they kind of danced around without giving any kind of clear answer. The one thing they were sure of was that you needed to either pay $12,000 up front or you could pay in 2 payments. Needless to say we walked away from that one rather quickly.

There are companies who will issue insurance based on your income and your premiums are based on a percentage of that income. So you could be paying anywhere from $150 a month to well over $500 a month. After much research, we found a company that offered 3-4 plans, were not based on your income and there are no deductible requirements. We have the option of either using their doctors and hospitals/clinics, referred to as “in network” or using doctors, hospitals or clinics of our choice. If we go out of network, we pay the bill, then submit the claim to the insurance company and 2-3 weeks later, we are reimbursed and our medical services will end up costing us nothing. If needed, they even offer pet insurance!

We decided to use this company and selected their $20,000 policy. The $20,000 is a cap on medical they will pay per year and will cost us $200 each per month. If after a year we find we don’t need that much of a cap, then we can reduce it to the $15000 policy, $150/month per person, or if we need more can go to the next level. All our prescriptions will be covered and, if needed, can even have the physician visit our home. Nice to know that there are doctor’s who still believe in house calls.

Unlike the U.S., for example, where a visit to a doctor’s office can be expensive, my primary doctor charged $223 per visit, here in Ecuador the cost is nowhere near that. I had to see a doctor for what I thought was walking pneumonia and the visit was $30. Because he felt I didn’t need an antibiotic and prescribed some light medication to help with the cough, my prescription was $5. Here in Ecuador, most doctor’s make their own appointments, have a small office without staff, and thus do not have the overhead you find in the U.S.

Dentists here are not as expensive either. We had our teeth cleaned to check out one dental agency and the cost was $35 for a deep cleaning. I couldn’t believe it, my dentist in the U.S. charged $175 to clean my teeth and I have an upper denture and a full lower permanent implant!

In summary, it is important to be able to change with the requirements of whatever country you are going to call home. It will do you no good to say, “we don’t do it that way back (fill in the blank of where you are from).” You could be told to go back where you came from.

Since my last posting, we have been notified that our belongings will be shipped on the 28th of September and should arrive in Guayaquil on October 5th. I will be posting on the experience of dealing with Custom’s once we have completed our business with them. We will be going to Guayaquil the day before the ship is due to arrive and will meet with Customs to go over our inventory of what is in our container the next day. The shipment had been postponed due to Hurricane Irma hitting the U.S. Additionally, the settlement on our home will, hopefully, be held on September 28th as that too was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. The house had to be re-inspected to make sure there were no damages since parts of Florida had been declared a disaster area. We will be glad when the new owners take over so we won’t have the mortgage and homeowners insurance to content with any longer. In Florida, Homeowners insurance is very expensive and there aren’t a lot of company’s that will insure. Some areas require hurricane insurance, flood insurance, and more.

Until the next time my friends, wishing you all the best that life has to offer. Take care and God bless.

Hasta Pronto!

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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Ecuador, a Crown of Many Jewels

Ecuador has a crown containing many faceted jewels, such as Quito, Cotacachai, Loja, Manta, Salinas, Cuenca and many others. One such jewel is the town of Nabon filled with historic Ecuadorian style architecture, beautiful vistas and beautiful orchids.

On a recent visit, I marveled at how much the town made one feel welcomed. You did not feel like a stranger there. According to our guide, Sole, a native of Nabon, most days one will be greeted by the children who will run out to greet you. The day we visited, it was the last few days before school started again and everyone was out with families and enjoying the last few days of “freedom” from the toil of educational requirements.

Although small in size, Nabon is big in heart and is very clean. The citizens take extreme pride in how the town looks and that pride is reflected in how fresh and inviting Nabon looks when one enters. Even though the buildings surrounding the central park are hundreds of years old, they look as fresh and inviting as if they had been just built. The park located in the center of the town has a large sculptured dish to represent the sun and the park itself is filled with tropidary, beautiful flowers and amazing views.

Located higher in the Cajas, it was a little cooler than Cuenca and this particular day, there was sunshine alternating with fog and misty rain. Even so, Nabon was a delight to see and explore and with a sampling of some of its culinary wares, a wonderful experience.

One of the highlights of our visit was the Orchid center, which contains over 230 orchids that can be found all over Ecuador. Unfortunately, we happened to visit when there were few orchids in bloom, but there were enough to give you an idea of size, variety and beauty. Some of the blooms were so tiny, you had to look twice to make sure of what you were seeing.

The second highlight of our visit was a trip to Laura’s, combination artist retreat, restaurant and Agave products.  The agave plant not only produces some medicinal products, but produces a wonderful honey and liquor. Laura and her husband are a wonderful couple who love to give people a unique experience, enjoy a sampling of their life high in the Cajas and provide a delicious meal. After our lunch, we were invited to wander around their little piece of heaven and enjoy the spectacular views. The encroaching fog and mist, along with the various pieces of art and animals, gave a fairy-tale feel to the area.

Should you come to Ecuador, be sure to put Nabon on your list of places to see, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Before I close, I want to offer prayers to those who have endured not only Hurricane Harvey in Texas, but Hurricane Irma, two of the most powerful hurricanes in recent history, to make landfall within weeks of each other. The destruction is unbelievable. Our prayers are also going to the people of Mexico who suffered an 8.1 earthquake. Mother Nature is truly a powerful force and events like this makes me wonder if this is her way of reminding us that we only have one earth and we need to quit abusing it.

Until next time my friends, God’s blessings on you and may you and yours enjoy all the best that life has to offer. Get out and enjoy all that surrounds you and leave your gaming devices at home, put away the cell phone and iPad and quit texting, as you don’t know what you’re missing on this big blue marble we call home.

Hasta Pronto,

Terri at the Drake’s Nest in Cuenca, Ecuador


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New Challenges

Just as it seems like things are beginning to settle down, we get hit with a new challenge. We are in the process of getting our belongings shipped from Miami, Florida to our home in Cuenca. This has been a challenge, but one that we are up to handling.

First I was told that I could not ship all my fabric, sewing machines and art supplies as there was just too much of it. I pointed out that I had told our shipper exactly what I had and that there would be no problem. Wrong! I had to prove that I use the materials in my art quilts, quilts and art pieces and that I have exhibited my work. After much back and forth, the shipper’s legal department agreed that I do use the fabric in my art and am entitled to ship it.

Second hurdle is that we have been told we need to supply the make, model and serial numbers on all our appliances, tools and machines. This we were not told was necessary when we were packing or it would have been listed on the inventory next to the items. Now our shipper will go through the inventory to go to the boxes that have appliances, open them, write down the serial numbers, model numbers, and makes, re-pack them in the boxes and re-seal them.

Third hurdle was that everyone was insisting that we did not need a 40 foot container, until I reminded them that when they picked up the items in a 20 foot truck, they had to go and rent another truck to handle the items that did not fit. Now they agree that we do indeed need a 40 foot container and, of course, that will cost a little extra.

Fourth hurdle was being informed that we needed to provide certified copies of our pensioner’s letters, Visas and the inventory needed to be in Spanish. Our immigration attorney went back and forth with them for a bit explaining that we already had our Visas and all documentation used for approval were at the Immigration Ministry. We had to pay $20 for certified copies of the benefits letters, provide copies of our Health Insurance letters and will be paying $200 to have the inventory translated into Spanish.

Fifth hurdle was being told we needed to put a value on everything and that there could be no zero value on anything, even if it was something I printed out that was a free pattern, for example, I had to put at least a two-cent valuation. Once everything was valued, then I had to put a total as the total value had to be under $4500 for a 20 foot container, now that we are getting a 40, I believe it can be a little higher. The other problem we noted was that I had a couple of duplicate entries and I had to put (duplicate entry) next to the item. I could not remove it or the inventory numbers would be out of sequence.

The last hurdle is being told that because of the fabric, art supplies and duplicate entries, we now need to be in Guayaquil when the shipment arrives and meet with the custom officials to explain everything. So we will be flying down the night before as we will have to be there from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Additionally, we have to find someone who speaks English who can translate for us. It is going to be a L-O-N-G day.

Hopefully, everything will go smoothly and once back in Cuenca, I plan on having a tall, cold cervasa!

So the moral of my story is, if you are planning on shipping your belongings, make sure you do a very detailed inventory, place a value on the item and if it is an appliance, tool, etc. write down its serial number, model number and make, even if they tell you that you don’t need to.

Until later my friends, here are a few pictures of some of my art quilts that helped me convince them of what I do.

Hasta Pronto!

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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Another Gem in Ecuador’s Crown

Today I had a wonderful time visiting a wonderful jewel in Ecuador’s crown. It was a trip with a wonderful group of people to the zoo in Tarqui. All the animals there have been rescued and given a new lease on life. They have been injured and nursed back to health. I was amazed at not only the quality of life they have there but that you can get up close and personal with a number of the animals.

The trip up to Tarqui was spectacular with its ever-changing vistas! To look down into the valley and see farms, old Ecuadorian homes and the ever changing landscape was a feast for the eyes and the soul. The gentleman who owns the zoo also does Falcon rescue. Those who are too injured to be returned to the wild, live out their days in peace and become ambassador’s in the education of people on the importance of protecting its wildlife.

An unusual aspect of the trip, and one of its marvelous highlights, was to find out that the ostriches give massages! Yes, I said they give massages. It was something one had to experience first hand and I have to admit, I was the first to volunteer. It was unbelievable, although they were a little heavy “beaked” when it came to giving the massage.

Another wonderful experience, was being able to hold a Golden Eagle that had been injured and was being restored to health. To look into those huge eyes that showed no fear just touched me to my very soul. Those eyes spoke to my Cherokee heart in a way that I cannot explain. It was a very moving experience for me and one I will not forget any time soon.

At the zoo there were monkeys, parrots, toucans, a fox, peacocks, a water buffalo and Humboldt Penguins! Now to see Penguins in South America is something I would not have thought I would see. But these penguins are native to the Galapagos Islands. There were other animals there was well and it was very heart warming to know they are being cared for and given a second chance at life.

After the zoo, we went to a lovely restaurant for lunch where we were treated to Ecuadorian style lasagna, salad, yummy chocolate cafe with some kind of liquor, garlic bread, a delicious juice and a decadent desert that was a combination custard, fruit and granola. After a delightful repast, it was time to head back to Cuenca and home.

It was a truly delightful day spent with new friends and we are looking forward to the next adventure. It could be anything from zip-lining by some waterfalls to visiting a tribe near the Amazon. Whatever is planned, you can bet that it will be interesting and fun. Oh, and what was the cost for the day? Only $16.00. In Florida we could not have found anything at that low a price. I mean, to go to Disney or Sea World would set you back $120 or more and that is only for admission, does not include parking or eating!

Until next time my friends, remember to thank God for the wonders he has given us.

Hasta Pronto!

Terri at the Drake’s Nest


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Best Way to See Cuenca

I am sure there will be many different people telling you the best way to see Cuenca. Some will say by car or tour bus, which is nice except that you can’t stop where you want to stop or when you want to stop, unless of course you are driving. Others will say by bicycle, which is very nice on a bike path or a nice trail; however, riding along the streets or sidewalks could pose a hazard. The narrow streets of the historic area of El Centro is not a place I would want to ride a bicycle, much too congested with both vehicles and people and neither are always watching where they are going.

For me, and this is my preference, is walking. If you get tired, you can always find a place to rest, hungry, a place to eat and if something catches you eye and begs for attention, you are free to wander over and examine. For example, in the historic district of El Centro, the narrow streets just beg to be explored. You will find beautiful architecture, carved wood doors or intricate metal works. There are wonderful shop, restaurants, museums and parks to explore and many vendors, Mercados and markets. Hanging outside various shops you will find bright colors to entice you to come closer to look. Be warned, however, there are people there who will try to get you to buy their wares. You can find everything from wall hangings, to rugs, to household goods, to food.

One street may cater to shoes of all kinds. From cheap little runners to expensive leather goods. Another narrow street may have everything from clothing to fabric. As you walk along, a delightful aroma begins to make your mouth water. You turn the corner and there you find bakeries with every kind of bread, roll, sweet, cake or pie imaginable. From the open door of a cafe comes the tantalizing scent of the days Almorzo. I should note here that in Ecuador, lunch or the Almorzo is the big meal of the day. I don’t know of anywhere in the world where you can get a drink, soup, salad, main course and desert for $2.00! Believe me, these servings are not itty bitty and the meals are delicious.

The climate of Cuenca, approximately 70 degrees F most days, with nice breezes and sunny skies, make walking the perfect way to get around. If you are a photography nut, then you will find plenty here to attract your photographer’s eye.

A few things to keep in mind for which ever way you prefer to explore, car, taxi, tour bus, bicycle or walking. You are responsible for your own actions, if you step into a hole or trip on a broken piece of pipe, it is on you. You cannot sue for slipping on a banana peel that you saw but stepped on anyway. Due to the narrowness of some streets, you need to be aware that mirrors from buses, automobiles or trucks come very close to the curbs and many a person has been whacked by those, so rule of thumb, don’t walk close to the road edge. Cars do not always yield to pedestrians, even if they have the walk light, so be sure to look before crossing streets. Unlike the U.S., Ecuadorians do not have a sense of space so don’t expect them to move over for you.

The main thing to keep in mind is that this is a very laid back country and things go at a slower pace. Okay, people go at a slower pace, not necessarily the automobiles. So enjoy the city, take your time and relax.

Until next time my friends,

Hasta Pronto!

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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Much to See and Do

Cuenca is a jewel in Ecuador’s crown from its majestic views atop the mountains to its rivers and walking paths to its beautiful cathedrals. There is just about something for everyone and, it will take a while, but we plan on doing as much as we can at a leisurely pace.

One of the places that I thoroughly enjoyed and plan on a more thorough examination, is the Museo Pumapongo. This museum houses some beautiful pieces of Ecuadorian artwork, sculptures, ceremonial masks, samples of their stunning weaving, a full size replica of a hut used in the Amazon and elsewhere. Behind the museum one will find a walk-able Inca ruin that is terraced down a slope, there is a working farm field, indigenous plants, examples of tools used and more. We were unable to go to that part during our first visit as there was a lot of remodeling being done. Now we want to see not only the Inca ruins but what they did in the remodeling. There is even a gift shop where you can purchase coffee from the Amazon and other items.

On the lower level you will find glimpses of Cuenca’s past and Ecuador’s history. There are old sculptures, various types of currency that was used before they switched over to the U.S. dollar. One of the sad stories about that switch is that people who had hundreds of thousands of dollars in the old currency for retirement, found that when the dust settled all they had left was $400.00 in the bank and unable to retire. The opposite side of the coin, so to speak, is that those who owed thousands of dollars in mortgages and loans and paying hundreds of dollars a month, suddenly found themselves only having to pay eighty cents a month.

On the main level one will find beautiful paintings depicting Cuenca’s past, its history and other things. We noticed some exquisite stained glass while touring that level, but don’t know if  it’s still there after the remodel. On the upper level is where you walk through the native huts, see examples of Ecuadorian weaving skills, their ceremonial dances, face masks, feathered head dresses and much, much more. It is definitely a place one can return to again and again and find something that catches their eye that they missed the first time through.

Until the next time my friends, remember life is for living and exploring to its fullest.

All the best.

Hasta Pronto,

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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Tired but oh so happy!

At 3:45 a.m. this morning, we jumped in a cab and went to mini-bus station where we connected with a special van to go to Machala to get our approved Visas. My husband and I rode in the back, which was fun to squeeze his 6 ft. 4 in. frame and my 5 ft. 9 in. frame into the seats. The passengers in the front wanted to push their seats back and we had to tell them “no, por favor” and pointed to our knees in the back of the seat. They weren’t too happy about that, especially a lady with a baby, but they left the seats where they were.  Thankfully, the baby slept all the way to Machala and when she did awaken was good as gold.

The driver must have either been very angry that we were the last to arrive so that he couldn’t depart as early as he wished or he had decided to try to break the land speed record between Cuenca and Machala. The roads in areas along the way are in really rough shape as they are either in various stages of repair or have been washed out by slides due to the unusual amount of rain in that area. I came very close to being car sick, which is something that never happens to me. We were extremely thankful that we did not have to go to Guayaquil as the roads in that area of the Cajas are a complete mess with ice and snow! Yes, my dear friends, there has been snow in South America.

We arrived a little early, small wonder Mr. Van Driver, so had a light breakfast at a local restaurant. We had been there before when we went to submit our applications and have pictures taken. After breakfast, we went to the Ministry de Immigration and waited to be called. They compared our Passports with our files and then took them to get the Visa stamp. We waited, and we waited and we waited. Finally, we were told it was taking a long time due to the fact that only one person was processing the Visas as well as processing some kind of Certificates for those natives who were re-entering the country and today and tomorrow were the only days they could get them. It was a mad house, but at least they let us know.

Finally, after a four-hour wait, we were given the signal that approval was at hand. They handed me my Passport and asked me to verify that all the information on the Visa was correct. Passport number – check; first name, middle name, last name – check; date of birth – WRONG! Somehow, they had me being born in January instead of June, so MY Visa had to be redone. Luckily, Ray’s was perfecto. After about a half hour, mine was ready and once I approved all the information and signed the necessary copies, we had our Visas.

We left the Ministry and stopped to have a bite to eat for lunch and then it was on to the Minibus station where we had been dropped off to arrange for transportation back to Cuenca. Where the first driver tried to bust the land speed record, this one loved to see just how close he could time on-coming traffic and passing buses and large trucks. There were a few times there when I thought for sure that I would be having my Visa checked at the pearly gates. One thing I have noticed here, most Ecuadorians are gentle, kind, soft-spoken and the nicest people you could meet. That is until they get behind the wheel of a vehicle and then it’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I have come to the opinion that bus drivers, taxi drivers and special van drivers are muey loco en la cabasa!

Once we arrived back in Cuenca, our Immigration Attorney’s Assistant said, “Chao! See you tomorrow!” To which I responded, excuse me, but we have no idea where we are in Cuenca and would like to know how we are to get home. Whoops! He hailed us a cab and we made it home safely. This taxi driver was a good driver and even spoke some English. He wanted to talk, but we  were just too tired. Once home, we took off our shoes and opened a cervasa (beer) to celebrate our Visa Approval.

Tomorrow we go to the Attorney’s office to pay the remainder of her fee and to get a copy of the Visa in a shrunk down version that will be laminated so that we can use that as our Ecuadorian ID until one is issued and so that we don’t lose our Passports with its original stamps.

I need to close this so that I can get some rest as I had absolutely no sleep last night. Until later my friends, take care and God bless.

Hasta Pronto,

Terri at the Drake’s Nest

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