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Sights & Sounds of Cotacachi, Ecuador

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Sights and sounds on a typical day in Cotacachi, Ecuador

 

Super Bowl at the Monkey Bar

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Since our beloved St. Louis Rams didn't make it to the playoffs, we faced the serious dilemma of which NFL team to give our allegiance on Super Bowl Sunday. Would it be the Baltimore Ravens or the San Francisco 49ers?

Farmacia (Pharmacy) (by Cotacachi Expat)

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I thought it was the altitude. I felt more fatigued than usual after a run, plus my fingers and toes were always cold, and my thick mane was thinning out. One blood test later, I learned I had a problem with my thyroid. No big deal. I take a tiny pill once a day, every day, and that takes care of that.

Without a prescription, I walk into any farmacia (pharmacy) and request my meds. $2 for a month's supply. Still cheaper than Walmart. Plus, I don't have to contact my doctor for prescriptions.

The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) (posted by a Cotacachi expat)

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Often, we expats face unforeseen problems and make matters worse by resisting the flow of life. This was one of those days for my husband and me. Every two weeks, we grocery shop at Supermaxi in Ibarra, thirty minutes away, for many imported goods from the U.S.A., such as Kellogg's Muesli, Pace picante sauce, Gatorade, and Snickers bars. Normally, we hire our favorite taxi driver, Giovanni, to take us shopping, run various errands, and return us safely home with a loaded car of goodies. In all, it’s a three hour round trip for which he charges a measly $15.

Thanksgiving at La Mirage

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More than 70 expats gathered at the 5-star resort in Cotacachi for a 6-course Thanksgiving dinner.  The food was amazing, and nobody left there hungry!  It was a great way to spend the holidays with and meet new members of the Cotacachi expat community.

Massage at La Mirage

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Some friends of ours gave us a gift certificate to La Mirage, the 5-star hotel and spa on the outskirts of Cotacachi.  By Ecuador standards, La Mirage is extremely expensive, hence the reason we have not visited there in the two plus years we have lived in Cotacachi.  This gift gave us the perfect excuse to indulge and treat ourselves to a luxurious massage. 

Rainy Season

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Last year’s rainy season was unusually dry resulting in rotating power outages for a couple of hours per day because of the reduction in energy output from the electrical generator in Cuenca.  This year has been just the opposite.

Contrast of Cultures

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Sometimes, in the routine of day to day life here, you can forget that you are in a foreign country. Other times, it becomes apparent that we are living in a very different culture. This morning, I made the two mile walk into town to the Sunday market through the indigenous community of El Batan. As this is a long holiday weekend commemorating the "Day of the Dead", the music and celebrations had continued throughout the night. My excursion into town this morning was like passing through the aftermath of a war zone. Men were passed out and laying on the side of the road.

Unrest

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The political events of the past few days have made headlines around the world.  Concerned about a new law that would limit their benefits, the police went on strike.  President Correa was attacked in Quito and fled to a nearby hospital.  A state of emergency was declared.  Surrounded by hostile demonstrators and virtually sequestered in the hospital for the entire day, Correa was finally freed when government troops stormed the building.  The events were broadcast throughout the day, and many shops were closed as everyone was glued to the local television. 

Bureaucracy

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Simple things in Ecuador take a long time. Bob, who bought our first apartment at Primavera II, and I have been working to change the name on the water bill. First, we went to the municipality. There we were told to go to the water plant for instructions. At the water plant, we were given a list of documents that we needed to get from the municipality. We returned to the municipality for the required documents. From there, it was back to the water plant where the papers were stamped. We were then sent back to the municipality to pay $10 to make the change.

What We Miss (and Don't Miss)

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Cotacachi is a small town and doesn't have all of the conveniences that we were used to back in the States. As much as we feel that we have gained by moving overseas, there are a few things that we miss.

Maid Services

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One of the benefits of living in Ecuador is the ability to hire a housekeeper at low cost. In general, it is possible to hire a local woman to clean and do laundry for $10 per day or less. It is not always easy, however, to find a good maid who cleans well and is reliable. Showing up for work on time is not always their highest priority. Angela and I have been fortunate to have had two good housekeepers during the time we have lived here.

Crime

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Theft is a problem in many low income countries, and Ecuador is no exception. As is the case everywhere, it pays to use common sense especially in large crowds. In Cotacachi, I am aware of a couple of break-ins during the time that we have been here. However, I have never felt insecure in Cotacachi while out at any time of the day or night. It still has a small town feel here. In Ibarra, I do not have the same feeling. On a shopping trip a while back, my wife's friend's fanny pack was snatched on a busy street in broad daylight.

Internet

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Internet options in Cotacachi are available but somewhat limited. The most common way is by using a small device called a Porta stick that plugs into your computer and allows wireless Internet from anywhere in Ecuador. The cost if $55 per month but the speed slows if you use more than your monthly limit. That can be a problem if you do much downloading or streaming. At Primavera II, where we live, a high speed wireless connection with our apartment is available for $70.

Flowers

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Ecuador is a flower lover's paradise. At the market, two dozen long stemmed red, pink, or white roses can be yours for $2.50. A small assortment of a variety of flowers costs $1.00. Ecuador exports many flowers to the United States where the mark up on them is substantial. For all you romantics out there who want to lavish your wives with flowers without breaking the bank, Cotacachi is the place to be.

Driver

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As we do not have a car, it is sometimes more convenient to call a taxi rather than walk or take a bus. In our time here, we have had many taxi drivers, but none better than Giovanni. In the many times that we have used him, he has been punctual, courteous, responsible, and friendly. Although he does not speak English, most of his business comes from expats who have recommended him to their friends. He recently bought a new car with more space because the foreigners that he picks up at the Quito airport to bring back to Cotacachi usually have a lot of suitcases.

Having a Car

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Having a car in Cotacachi is a luxury that few people find necessary. Virtually everything in town is within easy walking distance and taxi's are readily available at low cost. The expat housing developments, which are mostly on the outskirts of town are also within easy reach. Buses leave from the station for Otavalo and Ibarra every few minutes making it easy to go to the surrounding towns for shopping and entertainment. If you prefer to take a taxi, it costs $5 to go to Otavalo and $10 to Ibarra.

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