I can't believe we're here!!
It's feeling good, exciting, and just...fun.
We've spent the week just soaking up the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Cuenca, our new city.
We've said to each other more than once, "We're going to have a really good life here."
HERE'S AN UPDATE:
We took the red-eye straight to Guayaquil. It seemed we were the only Americans on the packed flight. Only 6 1/2 hours from NYC. Not bad at all. That non-stop flight is going to be our preferred way of getting here.
We did end up taking 8 suitcases. Ha. We were quite a sight, I'm afraid. But somehow it all went very, very smoothly. I don't regret one thing we brought. It was SO great to arrive at this place and have a few of our own belongings. We followed the advice of other expats regarding what to bring and they were dead on. (Some of the main items: rain gear, walking shoes, hiking shoes, a stock of sunscreen, linens, pillows, Vitamix, pots and pans, vegetable juicer, kitchen utensils, knives, vitamins, hats, coconut oil, camping gear, spring weather clothing and jackets.)
We had a driver, Jorge, pick us up in a van to take us on the 3 1/2 hour drive to Cuenca. Jorge was my DREAM kind of driver - nice and slow. He didn't try any of that crazy passing business on mountain turns (which is very common here in South America). We'll be using Jorge again and again.
We drove through the Andes and I'm telling you, they are so stunning it's ridiculous!!! The 5 am sunrise glistening along the mountain passes didn't hurt, either. This particular drive was the most gorgeous, green, and lush we've seen yet in Ecuador. It was like Maui meets the Swiss Alps. This photo out the car window does not do it justice.
We arrived in Cuenca and went straight away to a little furnished apartment we are renting. An Ecuadorian family we had met at church had this place available and so we went for it sight unseen, based on the recommendation of another American couple who used to live here. We had a welcoming party upon our arrival as two church families came to greet us. :) So very nice. The apartment is a two bedroom, two bath. It's very quaint (similar to some two bedrooms in New York). It's clean and in a safe/multi-gated area. AND, IT HAS A WASHER/DRYER & VERY HOT WATER! Yay. (Those are actually common around here in Cuenca, but still...what do we know? We're new at this! :) There is also a very fruitful tomato vine out front, which I love. And, the owners live right next door. They are as lovely and as helpful as can be, which is actually a huge benefit of living here. We're so glad we had this place to come to straight from the airport. We may not be in this particular apartment for the long term. But for now, we'll make it a wonderful little home for us as we get to know this city.
This last week has felt like a complete adventure!
We've been exploring our neighborhood, going to the a-m-a-z-i-n-g vegetable markets, shopping for a few home items, getting to know the stray dogs in the neighborhood (we want to adopt them all), taking Spanish lessons, cooking from scratch, making green juice, going out for $2.50 almuerzos (lunches), walking a TON (which I've loooved), setting up our little home here, and working on getting Ecuadorian visas, internet, and a bank account. We also went to THE MOST AMAZING concert by a guitarist and an opera singer. Cuenca is the cultural center of Ecuador and they have tons and tons of music, symphony, ballet, art, theatre, and opera events...and most all of them are FREE. We'll actually have a more cultured life here than we did in New York. :)
We got this entire loot for $12!! (the huge bunches of greens were only 25 cents each. Each pile of similar produce was $1.)
Living here definitely comes with some adjustments, I should add. Our set up in Brooklyn was - well- flat out luxurious compared to here. For example, we won't have a car here. I feel a little cramped in this apartment as the ceilings are much lower and there isn't as much natural light or as many windows as I'd like. Our kitchen is itty bitty for doing the amount of cooking that we do. There is no dishwasher. And the furniture proportions here are not so comfortable as Ecuadorians are much, much shorter than most Americans. :) But then I think of all that and I feel like a spoiled brat. And I remind myself HOW LUCKY we are to be here and to have this experience and to have this little lovely home available to us. It's funny how you can adjust to things. Last week at this time I was "adjusting" to these new home surroundings but now I'm feeling used to it. I've cleaned the place from top to bottom, which helped a bunch. I'm even excited to get a new shelf made for the kitchen so we can have a bit more storage space. And I've been tending to the plants out front. :) I'm flat out making this place a home and it's feeling really nice to be here.
On another note, today we did some walking to explore some other neighborhoods. We found some GORGEOUS homes. It made me excited to start looking at real estate...you know, for the future...just in case we decide we want to live in Cuenca a little more long-term. :) We'll see. I'm really excited about the possibilities.
P.S. We just got asked to be interviewed on an Ecuadorian radio show. Ha! Stay tuned, my friends. :)
P.P.S. Wish us luck on getting internet set up here. We've been trying for a whole week, but each day they prefer to come "mañana." :) That's the way of life here. :)