2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage

2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage
VIVA CUENCA

VIVA CUENCA!

My mission in publishing this blog is first to provide a living history of my settlement and life in Cuenca, and to provide myself and the reader with a journal account delineating my reasons for why I have chosen to settle in Cuenca. Second, the posts are my way of staying in contact with family and friends back in the states, and to provide them with an understanding of a country and culture that most North Americans have little knowledge and awareness. Third, the blog is open to one and all who wish to compare and contrast the experiences of expat bloggers living in Cuenca, so that you can determine whether or not from your perspective Cuenca is an appropriate move for you. Fourth, my blog provides another example of how expats view and interpret life in Cuenca. Ecuadorians and Cuencanos who may read this blog are especially invited to post comments that may enhance all expats understanding and appreciation of Cuneca and its people, or to correct any misinterpretations in my assumptions and perceptions of Cuencano culture. Finally, I hope I can convey the feeling of love and appreciation that grows within me each passing day for this heavenly city nestled in the Andes and its very special people.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

LIVING IN CUENCA, ECUADOR AND DINING IN LIMA, PERU





One of the many perks to living in Ecuador is the easy travel to other countries in South America.  In the last year I took advantage of that perk by traveling to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Buenos Aires, Argentina for five weeks.  I also spent a prolonged weekend traveling by bus with other expats from Cuenca to the coastal town of Mancora in Peru; where there was surprisingly very good food, as well as sun-drenched beaches.  In July, this year, I traveled with friends, Doyle Beard and Nancy Thalman, to Lima, Peru for eight nights.  On impulse of suggestion, we decided one afternoon while dining at Aji Rocoto in Cuenca to procure our airline tickets from Guayaquil to Lima for the approximately two hour flight, and two weeks later we were in Lima.


Suddenly, the three of us invested time in a Google crash-course on Lima.  We had a list of restaurants, museums, historical tours, and other activities with the hope of encompassing as much as we could in eight days.  We were further helped with assistance from Michael Wagner, the young owner and chef of the recently opened Aji Rocoto in Cuenca, which in my opinion, is the most exciting gourmet restaurant in Cuenca today.  Michael is from Lima, and a graduate of the Cordon Bleu Academy in that city.  Who better to guide us through the labyrinth of Lima culinary delights than Michael.  Michael's suggestions as not only where to eat, but also what dishes he recommended as the house specialties at the various Lima restaurants proved to be invaluable.

Why the big deal about cuisine in Lima, Peru?  During this decade, Lima has become one of the gastronomical capitals of international cuisine.  The fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cooking with their emphasis on fresh seafood in particular, has caught the International eye as gourmet restaurants now present this fusion fare to the haute cuisine big city markets throughout South America, Europe and the United States.  Peru, like Ecuador and Chile, is along the western South American coast; all of which are blessed with the freshest, least contaminated, and greatest abundance of seafood that can be found anywhere in the world.  

You may be wondering why this unusual pairing of a Peruvian fusion with Japanese cooking?  Simply, there are a large number of Japanese who have settled in Lima over the years, and Japan being a series of large islands traditionally has focused it dining habits around seafood as well.

An emerging practice in the gourmet restaurant realm is the world-wide franchising of fine-dining experiences into a standardize form of high quality.  Gourmet for some restaurateurs has become big business.  Astrid Gutsche and Gaston Acurio, the wife and husband team who trained in Paris, made their way to Lima, and contributed highly to Lima's current cuisine reputation as they opened Astrid and Gaston in Lima, one of the top five restaurants in Lima, usually ranking two or three in most ratings.  Some ratings rank it as the best in South America. 

The Acurios have franchised their culinary delights to many major cities in South America, the United States and Europe, further developing parallel restaurant chains in gourmet areas like Italian and Chinese as well.  These restaurants are ranked highly by food critics, and a recent restaurant opening in New York City cost its investors eight million dollars to open.  Nice deal for Astrid and Gaston, as they provide the brand and the formula without the economic risk.  

A standardize product is sent to the various restaurants around the world, and it becomes each individual chef’s responsibility to prepare and cook the prepared sauces without deviation to guarantee the  standardization of the product, while the actual combination and proportions of ingredients in the recipes remain concealed and protected from theft and duplication.  If the franchise financially fails, the corporate owners (in this case the Ascurios or their corporate company) do not take the hit, but the investors in the individual franchise do.  It’s a really sweet financial arrangement.  Of course, standards and new products and revisions must come from the international kitchen to insure quality, novel dishes, and refinement of dishes with a new flair to attract new customers and retain repeat customers.  Otherwise, the entire franchise can be in jeopardy, once it's reputation for quality is jeopardized or changes in taste are not accommodated. 

Noe is an example of a chain of fine-dining sushi restaurants in South America.  In Ecuador, Noe is located in Cuenca, as well as in Guayaquil, and in Quito.  I have found Noe to be very good; and  among the best with what I have eaten in some of the best sushi places in Chicago, Baltimore, California, and Hawaii. I don't pretend to know all about the nuances of sushi and sashimi, or how authentic places like Noe are with traditional Japanese sushi.  

 Noe Sushi Bar in Cuenca, Ecuador

I doubt authenticity of any cuisine in this day-and-age is possible as there is no one standard traditional Mexican, or Italian, or Thai, or Japanese cuisine.  Even in their countries of origin, there is such a variation of food preparations and tastes over time, from region to region, and among the various cooks within even the same neighborhood--similarities of preparation and taste, but each cook with his or her own personal touch.  

I doubt most people who generally patronize fine-dining establishments are able to tell the difference from a restaurant that offers a standardize meal to one that does not, as long as the aroma, and the flavor and texture to the palate is found to be tantalizing and satisfying.  The ambiance, the service, and the artistic presentation of dishes can all be the complement to good food, whether it is a standardized dish of preparation or created from scratch in the kitchen.  For better or for worse, standardization of gourmet food is increasingly becoming the norm.  Hopefully, however, there will continue to be a place for the individual chef operating from an individually owned restaurant as well.  I do feel sorry for a chef with a creative touch, who is impeded by the restrictions of following a formula dictated from afar.  Creativity is the difference between being an authentic chef and just being a cook who follows a set recipe.

Obviously, to be a creative chef in a large gourmet chain requires working out of the corporate head-quarter's molecular kitchen, which often looks like a cross between a science lab and a conventional kitchen.  Such chefs today need to have a background in chemistry to go along with whatever natural talents they have to produce whatever innovative product is needed to satisfy the tastings of the intended clientele or focus group in this increasingly new age of molecular gastronomy.

Since my friends and I made a spur-of-a-moment decision to travel to Lima, we were unable to dine at the Numeral Uno restaurante in Lima, which is Central led by owner and chef, Virgilio MartinezCentral is not only rated the best in Lima, but fourth in the world, and has earned a Michelin star.  Martinez is renowned for using new types of herbs and bacterial plant life unbeknown to culinary cooking until his innovating introductions. Reservations need to be procured weeks if not months in advance.  So if planning a gourmet tour to Lima, and you want to experience the restaurant with a reputation for Lima's best, I would encourage you to initiate reservations at least two months in advance.  We met an Australian couple who attempted to book reservations after they arrived in Lima, and they were told the restaurant was booked for the next six weeks.

While we were unable to dine at Central, we did visit Astrid and Gaston, under the culinary direction of Chef Diego Munoz, who offers a thirty-three course themed sample menu in the restaurant’s staid dining area.  We decided to forgo the sampler dinner and dined in a more casual room, La Barra, where we could order from the regular menu, and do what the three of us often did, either share are  plates or offer samples from our plates, so we could experience a variety of dishes even if at times only for a taste.  Seafood was definitely our fare for the afternoon. Unfortunately, with the loss of my camera, I no longer had photos of our dishes to post.  Luckily, at least Nancy had a couple of photos of the interior

                      

 

The La Barra dining room at Astrid and Gaston was very busy when we arrived.  We were among the last to leave.  The bar is partially viewed above, but the open kitchen area further to the left is not visible in this photo.
 

Nancy especially was taken with the ceiling design.  Notice that these are live plants that are hanging from their pots inversely from the ceiling.

We had among our appetizers, octopus.  Now, I've never had octopus except from Chinese buffets, where the octopus inevitably was the texture of rubber.  Often even with squid, it is difficult to find a restaurant preparation which delivers a tenderized squid.  Astrid and Gaston delivered an appendage of octopus that was about four or five inches long with a thickness of approximately an inch-an-a-half that was out-of-this-world delicious, and remarkably tender as well.  It was truly cooked to perfection.  Nancy and I also had a very good fillet of white fish, which was one of the best I have ever had.  Nancy liked it as well, but would have preferred that the sauce had a touch of lemon to it.

Malabar, with its well-known chef, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, is also ranked highly as one of Lima's top gourmet restaurants.  All of us dined on some very good seafood dishes and were not disappointed.  Chef Pedro puts his expertise to work, as he is known in Lima as its best chef for applying the dishes and fresh herbs of the Amazon to the palates of his clientele.  He has a reputation for always exploring new opportunities for new tastes and flavors.  



The yucca cheese bread called casabe (the round balls), and yucca cracklings were oh so delicioso.  They came with a house prepared Aji Negro and Brazil Nut Cheese, which was the perfect spread.





   Doyle had the Corvina of the Day with Clams (above photo)




    I had the Smoked Amazonian Paiche Fish with fresh palm salad,
    tropical red wild mushrooms, and fermented plantain juice.


  
Nancy had Homemade Noodles, Roasted Pig, and Crisp Mushrooms.


The first restaurant on our tour provided a very good meal, but did not appear on any critic's top ten restaurants in Lima.  Cafe del Museo, located in the Larco Herrera Museum, which is in a beautiful garden setting; and there we began our plunge into the delectable delights of fresh Peruvian seafood fusion dishes. 

Nancy had Spaghetti A La Huancaina Sauce with Shrimp in a creamy mild aji pepper and cheese sauce, topped with fried shrimp breaded in panko flakes.  I had Moche Steamed Sea Bass in a clay pot, served in its own juices with mild Peruvian spices, and accompanised by yucca.

Cafe del Museo with its indoor and extensive outdoor terrace furthered enhanced our meal by the fact that on this particular evening we practically had the place to ourselves.

 

 
             
Cafe del Museo, part of the Astrid and Gaston Gourmet Food Empire


One evening, we also dined at Las Bruges de Cachiche, which ranked as the third best restaurant in Lima on Virtual Tour.  The restaurant is located in a very large old mansion that has been converted into its current stateliness.  It was the single most attractive restaurant in our Peruvian dining experience.  The restaurant provided large open spaces that gave the appearance of separate dining areas as the spaces where divided by right angles, and by various height levels to the different eating spaces.  A grand piano was also on site.  We were amazed at how busy they were for a Tuesday evening.

Cerviche is a tradition from Mexico southward through all of South America.  Ecuadorian cerviche is prepared more in a broth, keeping with the Ecuadorian tradition of making fine soups.  Peruvian cerviche is not of a broth consistency.  Cerviche can be identified by various names dependent upon the type of fish or other seafood that is used in its making.  We had some very good cerviche at Las Bruges de Cachiche.  Cerviche is almost always served cold whether it is of Ecuadorian or Peruvian preparation.  However, the absolute best cerviche we ever had would be served to us the next day at Fiesta's Restaurant in Lima, and it would be served hot on Plantain leaves.  Once again at Las Bruges de Cachiche, the three of us dined on seafood delights, and Nancy very much enjoyed her Lobster Thermidor (below):



Almost all of our meals involved a focus on seafood, even when we ordered pasta dishes.  Corvina is a generic term used in South America for any variety of some 270 species of drum fish and croaker fish, which can be found all over the world.  Other varieties like tuna, or salmon, or trucha (trout) are often designated separately from corvina.  Lima is abundant in its use of fresh shell-fish as well, which is my favorite kind of seafood.  All of our seafood dishes were very good.  We certainly had no complaint with their preparation and variations of sauces.

While all of our seafood dinners were wonderful; Doyle, Nancy, and I unanimously agreed without a moment's hesitation that the absolutely two best meals we had in Lima were at Carnal and at Fiesta, and neither dinners were seafood.  The aforementioned restaurants were very good, the two to follow were outstandingly excellent.

Carnal is an excellent restaurant for steak anywhere in the world.  After five years of not enjoying a high quality steak in Ecuador, Carnal was an absolutely incredible blessing.  


 Kobe New York Strip Steak

From our New York Strip cuts of Kobe beef to our Angus beefs, the steaks were extraordinaire.  Broiled to perfection, and oh so tender.  Doyle and Nancy are from Houston, Texas, so they know something about good steaks.  They said their steaks were the best they've had anywhere in South America during the five years they have lived on the continent.  I especially enjoyed the fact that my  steak was served with fat along the edges, the way American steaks prior to the 1980's were served before some Americans became health conscious and foolishly were led to believe that all fat was bad for them.  The sizzle in the flavor and tenderness of the steak is in the fat.  




Our time at Carnal was a special day as we celebrated with Doyle his 85th birthday.
  
Our last full-day in Lima was enjoyed with another meal that truly was outstanding, which was Fiesta.  What a heightened way to end our gourmet tour of Lima's gastronomical treasures!  The restaurant was packed for its afternoon dining.  We partook of the best cerviche we ever experienced, followed by goat ribs braised with garlic, duck with rise chiclayo style, coriander, and famous loche squash.  Both dishes along with the hot cerviche were to die for. The cuisine at Fiesta is based on pre-Columbian northern Peruvian dishes known as chiclayo.

   

            The Hot Cerviche at Fiesta Restaurant


                 Jim at Fiesta Restaurant

What all of these restaurants had in common was very good service.  However, Carnal had a young waiter, I believe his name was Julio, whose service was exceptionally outstanding.  It was like he had a sixth sense, and just knew exactly what we needed and when we needed it.  He was always attentive, without hovering over us and making himself obtrusive, and he was never abrupt with us.  At one point Nancy began to cough repeatedly, but not for a prolonged time.  Julio was immediately there to provide her with a glass of water and placed a napkin under it without hesitation.  Nancy was very touched by his immediate and unsolicited response.

All the restaurants also had very good to excellent pisco sours (somewhat like a whiskey sour, only made from piscos (grapes), which is the national drink of Peru.  Fiesta had an excellent Passion Fruit (Mayacura) Sour that was out of this world.  Nancy and I imbibed on pisco drinks in practically every one of our restaurant settings.  Doyle was so thrilled to be able to order alcohol in Peru whose prices were not in the stratosphere like cocktail prices in Ecuador.  He loyally stayed with his Beefeater's gin, with each drink served over one large ice rock throughout all of his drinking endeavors.

I would characterized Peruvian cuisine as using recipes which are hundreds of years old, with spices that most Norte Americanos, Europeans, and Asians would have little if any familiarity.  Well on the other hand, the fusion dishes are innovative, as well as flavorful, and definitely not bland in taste.  Peruvian cuisine uses much in natural herbs and spices, but not in heat.

Obviously, since our visit to Lima was a gourmet tour for a brief period of time, we have no idea how Peruvian food tastes from regular "mom and pop" restaurants.  When I was in Italy earlier this year, it did not matter where one ate, it was next to impossible to have a bad meal.  Whether the same is true in Peru is an unanswered question for us.  Nor can we answer the question of how everyday meals in Peru compare with comparable meals in Ecuador. 
,
If there was a disappointment in our dining experience, it came with the desserts.  All the desserts were good, and some had an original flair to them; but none of them had that “wow” effect that made us feel “now that was truly outstanding”.

What most surprised the three of us was the relatively inexpensive price for such up-scale dining.   The cost of our average dinners with at least one appetizer, main entree, and dessert, not to mention two alcoholic drinks, and sometimes coffee, with tax, and with ten percent tip only cost us between fifty to one-hundred dollars apiece, dependent upon the restaurant and what we ordered.  I know from experience that it would have cost at least fifty per-cent to double in comparable restaurants in Chicago.  In the late 1990's, I paid one-hundred dollars for the set-meal price for an evening at Harry Trotter's, one of the top gourmet restaurants in the world during its time, and that did not include drinks, tax, or tips.

We can easily return to Lima tomorrow and visit six or eight new locations.  No doubt our new choices would be equally as tantalizing.  However, we would definitely return to Carnal and Fiesta.  Doyle, Nancy, and I hardly scratched the surface of the fine-dining scene in Lima, despite our best efforts.  We are just glad that living in Ecuador increased the likelihood that we would travel and explore other places in South America like Lima; and that for you foodies out there, we have provided you with a starting point in any consideration you may have in exploring the gourmet dining in Lima.


Part II:  What to See and Do in Lima Besides Eat, and Would I Live in Lima or Cuenca?







Monday, July 6, 2015

BEST FOR RETIREMENT: ITALY OR ECUADOR?



Italy or Ecuador?


Where people choose to move and how long they choose to reside in a given locale will obviously vary from person to person.  A number of expats here in Cuenca, for example, have recently been exploring Italy for consideration as a possible place to resettle.  I am quite contented with my life in Cuenca.  My recent travel to Italy was the fulfillment of a life-long dream, and I never seriously considered it as a place for me to live.  However, for those who may wish to give countries like Italy a serious consideration for migration, let me present you with my perspective of the pros and cons of such a move:


Cuisine, Food, and Wine


1. Italy has some great advantages, such as some of the finest cuisine in the world that is exceptional at every level from gourmet to humble family-owned ristorantes.  It’s almost impossible to get a bad meal in Italy.  Italia is also wine country, and alcohol there is not as expensive as in Ecuador, which holds true even with the difference in value between the dollar and the Euro. I was in supermarkets where two to three dollar bottles of wine in Italy cost six to nine dollars in Ecuador. 



Travel to Nearby Countries


2. Just as Ecuador serves for me not only as my home, but also as a way-station to visit other parts of South America; Italy serves with the advantage of its great Euro-express trains to move travelers quickly to other cities in Europe without the hassle of visas, and without the inconvenience of converting currencies, since most countries in Europe use the Euro.  Both issues are a problem when traveling from Ecuador to some of the other South American countries.  For example, visiting countries like Brazil and Argentina will cost hundreds of extra dollars to secure the visas with a U.S. passport. Not to mention the time spent in processing a visa to Brazil.  Unlike Ecuador, other countries in South America are not on the dollar. Therefore,  currency conversion is required,  which includes the hassle of familiarizing oneself with the foreign currency, and then translating the cost of everything from a given country’s currency back into dollar value to understand what one is spending.


One can also travel from Italy to many countries in Europe in less time and with less expense than one can travel from Ecuador to most other South American countries, due to closer geographic proximity between Italy and their European counterparts. 



Cultural Capitals of Their Respective Countries


3. No doubt, Italy is a cultural center of the world, with which Ecuador cannot compete.  Cuenca may be the vibrant cultural capital of Ecuador, but it is not in the same cultural league as Roma or even Florencia.  Of course, to enjoy the cultural activities of Rome and Florence will be very expensive for most retired people, who no longer enjoy the incomes they did while they worked.  Cultural activities in Cuenca in comparison are reasonably priced and often free, and much is offered for retirees to explore and dabble in the arts at prices they can afford. 


Bio-Diversity and Natural Beauty
 
4. Both countries have remarkably beautiful scenery, with Ecuador possessing greater natural diversity, but Italy does not do that badly in that category as well.  Much of coastal Italy is breath-taking along the Adriatic and the Mediterranean seas, the mountains and lakes to the north, and the beauty of the Tuscan country-side, and Italy too has it islands.  Ecuador’s northwestern coast in the province of Esmeraldas is said to be quite attractive, but I have yet to visit it.  As one travels down the Ecuadorian coast south of Manta, the coast is nice but from what I have been told, it is not as attractive as north of Manta, and it is not comparable to the Italian coasts in beauty.  Both Ecuador and Italy have a great deal to offer dependent upon what appeals in topography and climate to various expats.


Cost-of Living Factors

5. The best bet for a somewhat comparable cost-of-living in Italy with Ecuadorian cities would be to settle in a small town in Italy, if you are amenable to small town living.  Generally, the small towns will often have more amenities to offer than one would find in many small towns in Ecuador. 

When compared to Cuenca, Quito, or Guayaquil; numerous small towns in Italy will provide less dependable electrical and internet services.  Even in Rome, we often had to step on a pump to generate tap water in public restroom sinks.  Small towns in Italy as compared to Cuenca will also have fewer people who speak English, which can be quite a problem for new expats who do not know Italian.  Nor will Italian small towns offer the cultural amenities and social activities that Cuenca or other large cities in Ecuador do. As for me, I am big-city oriented; the thought of living anywhere much smaller than Cuenca has no appeal for me.

Overall, the cost-of-living factor is definitely in Cuenca’s favor.  Unless people are quite affluent they can expect to forget about living in the nice neighborhoods of the central cities like Rome and Florence, as is the case in most of the big cities of the world.  Every day I spoke with well-educated, two-income couples in Rome, Florence, and Venice who daily took trains into work, because they could not afford the housing costs in the central areas.  Of course, the last leg of the trip into the historic districts of Venice requires boat rides to work as well.  

I also can’t imagine being an Italian and living in these particular cities and dealing with such massive waves of tourists who are there all the time, although I suppose to some degree that depends upon in what part of these cities one resides.   No doubt, some relief is experienced in the winter months, but there are still so many tourists even then.  Cuenca is growing as a tourist magnate.  However, unless the Chinese inundate Cuenca with throngs of tourists as they are encouraged by the Ecuadorian government to do, I don’t see Cuenca attracting the numbers of tourists that even Florence which is more comparable in size to Cuenca currently attracts.


Climate and Weather

6. I absolutely loved my month in Italy.  Nonetheless, at the end of my month-long stay, I looked forward to returning to my home in Cuenca.  Rome was just beginning to get very hot when I left, and I was just beginning to notice mosquitoes.   Avoiding the hot summers and the cold winters in Italy was also one of the major reasons why I left Chicago for Cuenca, and I don't miss mosquitoes.  No doubt, upon my return to Cuenca, I do miss some of the totally sunny days from mid-April through mid-May that I enjoyed in Rome, when I could bask in the warm temperatures that were in the 70’s and low 80’s.  I wish we had more sunshine in Cuenca than we normally get, especially in the afternoon.  However, nothing is perfect, and it’s difficult to beat Cuenca’s over-all moderate temperature patterns of general consistency throughout the year.  On the other hand, other parts of Ecuador do have some of the same extremes in temperatures as found in various times of the year in Italy, and Guayaquil is always hot and humid.


Italianos and Equatorianos

7. The Italians are an interesting, fascinating, and a generally helpful people.  They know that their contributions to Western Civilization from ancient Rome, through the unity provided to Europe during the Middle Ages by the Roman Church, through the Renaissance of the Italian city-states have far exceeded their numbers and the size of what constitutes modern day Italy.  Yet, they are not an arrogant people, and very much like being appreciated for their love of life, and their passion and zest for living.  Italian contributions include some of the most fabulous art and architecture ever created, world-leading fashion designers, creation of music and opera of a high order, development of sports-car designs second to none, and extraordinary cuisine and wines that all bespeaks of the Italian love for the sensual and the aesthetic; and Italians take the time to enjoy all that they have created.  What is there not to like about a culture and a people who have contributed so much to factors that make life worth living, and why an immersion by living in such a culture would not be appealing?

Generally, Italians can be helpful to tourists, but some can also become quickly short-tempered or impatient when faced, for example, with giving instructions in Italian which are not quickly understood by English-speaking tourists; or having difficulty communicating with a tourist over something being ordered. Cuencanos, on the other hand, are among the most patient and friendly people in the world, and very slow to anger.  Maybe it is part of the indigenous cultural background as well, but Equatorianos generally appear to be even more laid-back than the Italians.  Both groups have roots in a Mediterranean culture, and similar to Ecuador, Italians also take their respite at similar times from 1:30 to 3:30 every afternoon to close down their commerce to relax.  Even where I stayed in the Trastevere area of Rome, the department store and the supermarket closed as well, which doesn’t happen in Cuenca.


Parli Italiano a Habla Usted Espanol?

8.  I do miss the sound of Italian.  I believe it truly is the most beautiful language in the world.  No wonder the greatest operas were produced in Italian.  I love the emotive quality of the language, and the synchronization of hand and body movements of the people with the spoken word. In the U.S. if a guy uses his hands to speak, he’s accused of being gay.  In Italy, the hands are as integral to communicating as the spoken word.

I was surprised at how little English is spoken in the places I visited in Italy.  I marvel at the Northern Europeans who travel.  They speak in their native tongue, easily transition into English, and have no problems sounding fluent in Italian when speaking to the wait-staff or retail clerks.  

There definitely is more English spoken in Cuenca than in Italy, which was a surprise to me.  English is the universal language, and Americans and Brits are among the major tourist groups to visit Italy especially during the summer months.  Nevertheless; Italians, maybe out of a cultural chauvinism, generally resist learning English. 

As beautiful as Italian sounds to my ears, I want to continue to learn Spanish. At my age I don't  want to give thought to learning another language.  I also love the sound of Cuencano Spanish.  While it does not have the flourished intonations of the vowel sounds like Italian; it has none of the harsh (sh) sounds of most other Spanish dialects including Castilian.  Cuencano Spanish is also said to have a musical lilt to its sound, which truly makes it an inviting sound to the ears;  and is spoken with a crispness and clarity that is missing in many Spanish dialects.


Currency Convenience for Expats Living in Ecuador
 
9. At least for the foreseeable future, Ecuador and the United States will continue to share a common currency.  Italy also shares a common currency with most European countries.  However, for expats living in Italy, there is the inconvenience of exchanging dollars for Euros based upon their income sources from the United States.


Bureaucracy

10. From what I read and experience, both Ecuador and Italy are balls of monstrous confusion when dealing with their government bureaucracies; with their ever-changing laws, their ever-changing daily bureaucratic interpretations of laws, and their very bureaucratic enforcement of rules.  Make a move to Italy from Ecuador or as an alternative to Ecuador, and there will be no change for the better in dealing with bureaucracy, not to mention starting the entire documentation process of getting settled in a new country all over again. 


Medical Services

11. Both Ecuador and Italy have good to excellent medical services in the big city areas, and both countries offer socialized medical coverage as well.  Between the two countries, the cost of medical coverage to the individual and the quality of medical services appears to be a draw.


Political and Economic Factors

12.  Political and economic factors are also making both Italy and Ecuador very shaky at this time.  However, this is a world-wide phenomenon; so I cannot say in this respect that one country has an advantage over the other as far as a consideration for expat migration.  Italy, however, is being inundated with large numbers of migrants, legal and illegal.  Not to mention boatloads of refugees, most from Muslim countries; which if it continues unabated will certainly cause major problems in the big-city areas of Italy as is currently happening in much of Europe.
 
These are my perspectives as to the pros and cons of living in Italy or Ecuador, particularly Cuenca, and they are simply intended to be a starting point of considerations for any expats in Ecuador who may be considering the possibility of a move to Italy, or for others who wish to become expats and are considering what may be the best place for them to relocate.  As for me, while Italy has many favorable advantages, my deal killers are the extreme variations in Italian weather throughout the year, and the higher cost-of-living in Italy.  I will continue to enjoy my wonderful life in Cuenca, dream about where I want to travel next, and continue to drool over the memories and images of the fabulous food I left behind in Italia.


Click on the link below, if you wish to see the Story Photos of my travel in Italy:

http://cuencaperspectivesbyjim.blogspot.com/2015/06/jims-month-long-travel-to-italy-rome.html   

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL ADVANTAGE FOR ECUADORIAN EXPATS


For most expats, who move to Ecuador; the cost-of-living, a nicer climate, and beautiful and diverse scenery­­­­ are many of the pluses that attract folks to make a move to Ecuador, and particularly to Cuenca.  Closely aligned with the advantage of a lower cost-of-living are the advantages afforded to expats who enjoy international traveling.  Thanks to the money saved by not living in the states, expats with a comfortable income can afford to do a good deal more international traveling while living in Ecuador. 

I have lived in Cuenca for over four years now.  While Cuenca is my home, it also serves as a way-station as I travel to other destinations.  Along with one or two trips a year to visit family in the U.S., I also traveled the last two years to other countries in South America and in Europe. 

Last year I enjoyed a long weekend in Mancura, Peru.  I intend to shortly visit Lima as well, and enjoy some of the gastronomical delights of the city with a reputation for some of the finest gourmet restaurants in the world.  Eventually, I would like to visit Medellin, Columbia, which has been a favorite tourist destination with many expats who live in Cuenca.   

Last year, I also spent a total of five weeks in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, and enjoyed both cities immensely.  The food in Brazil is outstandingly good; and from my experience, the Brazilian beef is superior to that in Argentina.  Later in the year, I rendezvoused with my brother and his wife to enjoy a couple of weeks in New Orleans, with its Cajun and Creole foods, and its evening’s of jazz and blues.  This year, I recently returned from a month in Italy; visiting Rome, Florence, the Tuscan countryside, and Venice.  I had extraordinarily great weather, and only a half-an-hour of rain the entire trip. For someone like myself who relishes art and architecture, city-planning, history, and food.  What more could I ask from an extraordinary month in Italy?

If I had been living in the states, the high cost-of-living compared with Ecuador would have prevented me from doing the amount of traveling I am currently enjoying.  This differential would also hold true even with the elimination of the cost of trips back to the states to visit family.  International traveling advantages are just another point which some potential expats may want to consider, if they haven’t already, as among their reasons for a possible relocation to Ecuador.