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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Observations - 3rd Edition

It's a never-ending, process of human nature ...that of observing the differences between places you've lived and/or visited and wherever you are right now.   The habits, the personalities, the structures, the processes, the topography, the attitude, the law, the clothes, the food, the weather....the list goes on and on.

So, here's s'more of the things I've taken mental note of:
  • Though drywall can be obtained here, it's rarely incoporated in construction.  But, just the other day I saw a truckload of it being delivered to a new construction site.  'Bout broke my neck.
  • Police don't have souped up cars here.  In fact, they drive the same thing we drive.  Typically, they are four-wheel drive pickups or Chevy Grand Vitaras like I have.    They are practically on-par with the public when it comes to the power under their hoods.   Even their motorcycles are rarely any larger than what everyone else has. 
  • Speaking of Police, I have yet to see ONE chase scene in the 9 months I've lived here.  Darn nearly daily back in Seattle!!
  • Windows are single-paned with aluminum framing.   For some reason, the sealed double-paned standard we're used to back home hasn't taken on here.   Sure would be nice to deaden the noise!
  • There seems to be no requirement for licensing, or vaccinating, pets here (or if there are, they are not enforced).   It's rare for a person to spay or neuter their pet (sorry Bob Barker) for two reasons....cost and most people like leaving things to nature.  No collars, no identity/address tags, and leashes???  HA!!
  • Once you're outside the city, there's little to no names on roads, whether paved or not.  Makes you wonder how emergency vehicles would find them?
  • Many, many, many homes are dual purpose.   They have a tienda (store) in the front/first level.  It seems every 5th house has a tienda.  They may simply sell candies, basics like milk and eggs, or maybe a mini-ferreteria (hardware) outlet for light bulbs, nuts and bolts, plastic piping, and general electrical stuff.   Many have a re-bar cage-like front so the public can't enter.  This way, the occupants can continue doing their house chores but when a customer walks up and announces 'HOLA!!' they come to the front and serve their customer.  Money is handed thru the bars and the goods passed back the same way.  It's a method of working from home!  No commute!
  • If you find a Petro Commercial gas station, it is owned by the government, and you'll find the Super gas at least .10 cents cheaper than the privately-owned competitor.
  • Umbrellas are dual-purpose here.    The obvious, is for rain.  But, just as many people use them to shield their heads from the intense sun on a clear day.
  • 9.999 cars out of 10 have a cover over their steering wheel.
    • Ditto with carpets covering their dashes
  • 7.875 cars out of 10 have at least one light out...usually a tailight.
  • There's no such thing as license tabs here.  If you're pulled over, you have to show your Matricula (registration) which shows if you are paid up or not.  
  • City taxi's MUST be yellow and carry orange license plates, otherwise they are not a legitimate taxi.
  • Instead of a 'Merge' sign at the on-ramps to the Auto Pista (freeway), we have 'Pare' (Stop) signs.  What?    Start from a dead stop to enter a freeway?    No one pays attention to them....they drive right through them, accelerating to match the speeds of the others already on the Auto Pista....as it should be!!!
  • Stopllights can be a mystery.   Sometimes they're overhead, other times to the side of you, or across the street on the corner, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.   I'm used to pulling all the way up, but oftentime find myself under the light or the light is now behind me, leaving me with nothing to look at to know when it switches.   So, I just watch the other direction to start moving or wait for the inevitable horn behind me.   There is also the mixed-message light.   Solid green, switches to green with yellow flashing, switches to leaving only green, then suddenly red.
  • I'd guestimate more than 50% of the homes in Cuenca (higher if rural) do not have a dryer.  They hang their clothes out to dry.  For those who don't have drying lines, they drape them over bushes, plants, whatever will expose them to the sun.   Countless times I've seen many still out during a thunderstorm.  I don't know if they WERE drying, or maybe they were left out to be in natural 'wash cycle'.  Whatever, the next day the sun will come out and they will dry...that is...unless it needs a second rinse which means just wait til the afternoon.
  • On sunny days, you will likely see people washing their clothes and/or blankets and such in the rivers.  The large smooth rocks make it excellent for scrubbing.  Then, they lay everything out flat on the lawns that line the rivers and take a nap while they dry. 
  • Vacuum cleaners are luxury items here.  They are EXPENSIVE!!!   I have never seen a vac with a beater bar/brush motorhead.   I've only seen suction-only models.  Of course, carpet is not widely used here, so maybe it's not such a big deal.   But, here a commonly known brand (from back home) asking price is usually over $700!!!   The 'cheap' ones are very small, compact, wimpy canisters for $200.
  • Don't DARE go near the major grocery stores or the Mall on a Sunday afternoon unless you feel most comfortable waiting in long lines for parking, as well as the checkout, and lots and lots of screaming kids.  Sunday is the day for families to go to the Mall and spend time hanging out and shopping.  The parking lots are full with backups spilling into the access streets.
  • General aviation is minute here.  Back home, it was common to see small airplanes and helicopters buzzing about every day.  Here, it's so rare, that you take notice when they do fly overhead as the oddity of their existence makes you look up.
  • Believe you/me, there is NO separation of Church and State here.  There are photos or paintings or statues of Mary, Jesus, and other religious personas everywhere.   Behind the Customer Service counter at the supermarket, in banks and government buildings, doctors offices, in oil paintings sold on the streets, in taxi's, in schools and universities, in public parks....EV....VRY.....WHERE.    Houses have small crosses on their roof and darn near one is hung on the wall of every room inside.  Crosses dangle from rearview mirrors.  If there's an undeveloped hill, look closely and there will probably be a cross at the top, or maybe a Saint or an Angel keeping a vigil over the city below.   Me, I cross my legs and arms a lot....maybe that counts.   A super-dooper ex-pat couple I know, found a great rental house and gave notice on their old place.  Some time later they were in a conversation with the landlady who asked them if they were Christian.  No, she considered themselves Budhists.  Confused, the landlady asked them if they had a Bible.  Again, No.    The landlady informed them she would no longer agree to rent to them.  OI VEY.
  • We don't have parking meters here.   You have to buy a slip of paper from a local merchant ($1 for 4-30 minute slots here in CUE).  When you park, you write the date and time in one of the empty slots of the paper and lay it on your dash.   Uniformed agents roam the streets examining the slips of paper.  If you don't have one, or it has expired, they take a photo of your car with a digital camera, then write a ticket on a 5 x 8 pad, peel off the backing, and slap it on your window so it sticks.  No blowing off in the wind here.  It's on there GOOD.  I know, I got one.  $10   Side note:  Quito's parking slips are ridiculous.   You have to buy one long slip for each block of time you are going to park.  Check out the photo below where I had to prepay for late afternoon thru early evening parking.  The agents can also have your car towed if you are parking where you shouldn't be.  I see them pass up all kinds of violators.  They may be avoiding confrontation, I dunno.    LOTS of people park in no-parking zones and simply flip on their flashers as if that gives them validation and go on about their business.  Meanwhile, they are impairing the movement of traffic by shutting down one lane.   People will even sit in cars with their flashers on (ie; outside a bank) instead of driving around the block until their other person is done with their task.  There's a lot of loopholes in this semi-honor system.
  • You don't need anything bigger than a $20 bill here in EC.   Buying $2,000 in furniture?  Get out 100 twenty dollar bills.  Anything bigger than a $20 is presumed to be bad and a high-risk...98.157% will not take it.   Even small stores have a tough time having enough change to break a $20.  Oftentimes, the clerk will run next door, then next door to the next door until he/she finds someone with change to bring back to you.
  • You can buy USED tires here.  Yes, you read right!  Scratch this one.  I was always under the impression (when I lived in the USA) selling used tires was illegal.   Ooopsie.  As Gilda Radner once said "Never Mind!!".


  1. I don't know where you shop, but I've used 50 dollar bills at Coral & SuperMaxi without any problems. And whats with not shopping at SuperMaxi on Sunday? I've found if you go right when they open, there are no crowds. You can get your shopping done & checked out quickly. I do it all the time. And what's with being able to buy used tires? You must have led a very sheltered life. Used tires are sold virtually everywhere in the States. Just my 2 cents worth of truth.

  2. Dan.When it comes to dogs,there is in fact a law here that says that the owner must (every year) vaccinate his dog.But as you know they make great laws here but don't do enough to control them.This is the dog law for Ecuador.


  3. Great article, Dan. Your writing is always entertaining and informative. And, having personally spent a little time in Ecuador, I think your advice and your observations are right on target.

    Mark A. Raborn

  4. It's too expensive prices for a vaccum cleaner, you can get them from $80. Maybe those prices are "gringo" prices.

  5. coming from Italy, a lot of the above sounds familiar, including the parking scratch cards (which are often difficult to find)


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About Me

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Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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