I have gotten some nice feedback and comments from my original post regarding making the move to Ecuador so I decided through Joe’s urging to write another article on this topic. This one will cover some of the issues with moving to small towns and things some may have concerns about. Our experience is from our small town. Your mileage may vary! First I am going to post an email that I sent to folks I have been communicating with regarding this exact subject, that email will show in italics and I will add comments in plain text.
….The one thing you really need to know about places like San Clemente, San Jacinto, Puerto Lopez and Puerto Cayo, Las Tunas etc is they are really small towns…are very basic, rustic and actually look rundown…coming from the US we found it to be a real culture shock looking at buildings that were not painted, block work that did not have a skim coat on it, wires hanging all over the place, rusted steel rods standing straight up to the sky on the top of the buildings, no glass windows, fences with barbed wire or broken glass topping them, homes made from bamboo…
Below are some photos taken from several different areas showing just what I am talking about.
Wood and bamboo house on the beach in Puerto Engabao
Broken Glass tops the wall around our rental house in Playas
Bamboo and palm frond houses in San Jacinto next to unpainted walls on a dirt road
Unfinished block walls
Bottom story looks to be brick with a concrete cover, top floor is wood – note dirt road
This upper porch is in need of some TLC
Folks start fires anywhere at anytime. In Playas you could call the fire department (los bomberos) and they would come and put it out. But in the smaller towns this is just how folks take care of overgrown vegetation and some even burn other items like plastics and used toilet paper…
this happened at least every few weeks across the street from our rental in Playas
Most of the mercados (outside public markets) do not have refrigerated storage for their products. You will see pork, beef, chickens and goat almost all hanging in the open air. I have purchased many things this way and neither Joe or I have had and problems. But…this is yet another thing that you need to be aware of. Also, nobody refrigerates eggs.
Fish, seafood including clams and mussels are sold from table tops not refrigerated in the Playas Mercado
These are just some of the things you will find in these rural towns …if you require nice restaurants, shopping malls, thing to do and people to see, these small towns may not work for you…remember we lived in Dolega Panama for almost 4 years before coming to Ecuador. We found that we liked laid back, small town living out of a tienda type places…but the infrastructure in Panama was worlds ahead of Ecuador, the US was there for many many years and their phone system, water and electric were copied from the US…yes I do like bigger food stores but mostly we eat out of these smaller places, the public mercado and now the folks that deliver right to our door…that is a bit of a “get used to” thing if you are going to Publix and shopping for all your food…just a warning so you come here with open eyes…If you spend a lot of time in the frozen food section or rely a lot on prepared processed foods…..oops! Frozen foods are either nonexistent in our local markets or the tiniest section of the supermarkets in towns near us.
Places like Salinas and Manta (I have heard that Crucita and Bahia are a bit bigger than our town also) are more up to date, have more shopping, Super Maxi and Mi Commisariato for your food shopping and other things to do. Here you would go to Portoviejo which is around a 1 hour bus ride each way, bigger town with two small malls – more shopping but not like Cuenca from what I understand.
Our idea of a swell time is not to spend a lot of our time commuting to and from better shopping opportunities. Someone in Panama told us they figured out that for them, consumerism was a disease, and that since living in Panama they were almost cured!
I would suggest that you go to one of the smaller towns and stay at a budget type hotel, basic not something posh!!! A lot of places allow you to cook and use their refrigerator so that you can get a feel for how it is to live out of small tiendas and buy your fruits and veggies from a truck..,you can see how small the rooms are, the bathrooms are and get immersed into life in a very small town, you can eat at the local restaurants and use the bus to get around to the different areas…if you tried this for a week you would see how you feel about the reality of this type of town and lifestyle…just a suggestion but by doing this you would have less Surprises in the future!!! Of course the more money you have the more able you are to insulate yourself from the local lifestyle…the less you have to change or adapt……The Accidental Tourist comes to mind, where with enough money and planning you won’t even know you’re here! But then, why are you here?
The critters and how they are allowed to roam free were a big surprise to us. While driving down a highway at pretty good speed you will most likely come upon several herds of cows, goats or even pigs walking along the side of the road or even crossing the road. Burros and horses are left to fend for themselves like the pigs and dogs in some areas.
These pigs were walking down VIA Data in Playas
I took this picture of my burro friend from the cutouts in our fence in Playas
This scorpion was sprayed by Joe when he found him in our bathroom in Playas
This weeks uninvited guest, Senior Bat here in San Clemente
You need to think about what are your minimal requirements for an area and a house. Here you most likely will not find central hot water, that means you will have a suicide shower (warm water on demand shower head), with only one bathroom that is pretty small compared to US standards, no hot water to your bathroom or kitchen sink, a cistern for your house water with a septic tank for your waste water and with this rental no washer or dryer and no laundry in town … water pressure is very low and slow. You cannot drink the water, you cannot flush toilet paper and this rental does not have any furniture except two beds and two plastic chairs and a oven/range — there is no refrigerator and no yard with a very small porch right on the street. That is the reality of this area…and even if you wanted to rent something better you probably could not find it in this town. What do you expect to do with your time, what would you like to do? We really don’t know you but coming from the US the reality is so different from what International Living has been telling folks that I just want to be sure you know what you are going to find…My friend Amy has her mother with her from the states right now and she is in total shock at how folks live in much of this country…It may not shock you to see it but it might shock you to think about living here in the midst of it……..
Let me know what you think about what I have said so far….my blog is what I see after being out of the states for a good period of time, living in rural areas with low standards of living…it is what Joe and I have evolved to over those years….
PS I am not trying to sway you either way on Clemente or any other town, just want you to know what the reality is in these little towns. We love it but again it is not for everyone!!! I think you need to look at many different areas and this will show you what place fits you both the best! Go and find your dream.
The folks I sent this email to were not to happy with me, I did not know them except through a few very general emails and was informed that they were pretty seasoned veterans of rural, third world situations…and from their response to this email they were pretty offended at what I said.
Let me say this for everyone out there, I write what I see, I write about what I feel is important, I write about life here through MY EYES. I try very hard to take a great deal of pictures so you can all make up your own minds at what you see. I also take a great deal of time to reply to each comment and every email. I go into a great detail and have tried to be open and honest about my observations. I do not get paid nor do I write for anyone except myself. As I have said in the past I will not try to sell you real estate, rent you a condo or sell you Avon — I do this because when we moved from the US there was very little first hand information on the internet to help make us feel comfortable about such a big decision. I cannot tell you if Ecuador is right for you and will not make your decision for you or try to dissuade you from doing so yourself. But please do not be offended if I try to show you how life really is here.
Next I cannot help you sell or buy property, there are folks here that handle these things, I am not a tour guide, cannot supervise your guardian and housekeeper because my Spanish is basic, rudimentary at best. I do not know the laws of Ecuador that is why we hired and paid for an attorney to handle our Visa Process and the purchase and closing of our home. I will gladly pass on names, email addresses and telephone numbers of folks that I have worked with and that have done a good job for me. I cannot be responsible if your situation did not turn out the same, I do not get paid when I refer you nor do I look for Expats to refer to people I have worked with. I write a blog again because it makes me happy to put our experiences and photos in some order. I like looking back and viewing photos of friends that we have made and places we have visited while on this life journey.
Blessing to all who follow our little adventure. I hope to have more photos and less pontificating in the future!