Featured Post

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Expat Social Life in Cuenca

I've written much about places I've gone, things I've seen, car breakdowns (more to come), costs of living here, and the bureaucracy, but pretty much nothing about social life here.   I know a lot of my readers ('my'...as if I own you!!) are still in their respective countries contemplating a move here, so I thought it might be interesting for them to get a sampling of what kind of social life 'we' expats have here.

First, there are primarily 3 expat hangout slash social events a week.  In no particular order:

1.  Tuesdays at DiBacco's italian restaurant around 5:30pm ish to 7:00pm ish, located in the old central.  The owners and workers there know everyone's name and they are just as much a part of the social gathering as the expats themselves.  It's all about cocktails and chatting.   Most have become friends and yap about life in general, but there is always a few new people that show up and eventually become part of the seasoned group.   Some take a table and have dinner.
  • Side note:   On Thursdays, DB's has an expat gathering especially designed for 'newbies'.   This is where they can meet others like them and talk about anything pertaining to their move....where they're from, why they moved (usually the same reason), why they chose Cuenca, and share helpful hints and war stories amongst themselves.   DB's has also staged mini business fairs oriented to providing needed services to expats...such as banking, real estate, medical, insurance, etc.  Newbies eventually graduate to the 'seasoned' group that gathers on Tuesdays.  But, the underlying theme is for the more seasoned expat to help those who are coming down the road after them and steering them clear of the potholes they experienced before them.  The newbies become seasoned and passes along the torch to the next newbie, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.
2.  Fridays, expats gather at Zoe's restaurant, also in the old central area, in the upstairs bar.   In both instances of DB's and Zoe's, some people migrate to a restaurant to have dinner together after the social expat hour.

3.  On Sunday afternoons, when all else is deader than a doornail in the city, the gringos descend upon Inca Lounge & Bistro.  This is the most festive of the gatherings...IMHO.   Inca is situated on the barranco (embankment) above the Tomebamba river.  It is a very old building that you sometimes wonder if the planks under your feet are going to hold up.   But, as I've discovered in my life, the more older, creakier, 'worn-out shoe' of a place it is, the more popular it is.   I'm gonna digress a bit here....I worked in a famous disco in San Diego lo many a year ago.   We built a new place down the street and closed the old one.   On our opening night of the new location, someone etched in the bathroom "make this place old!!".   Case in point.

From about 1:30pm or so until maybe 5pm, you will find a large group of people crammed around mooshed-together tables in a small space in the garden outside.   Inside, sports enthusiasts are hunkered down in front of the TV monitors watching soccer.  Sometimes, local soccer teams show up after their game.  

Inca has a tinnnnnnny kitchen but OMG...the food produced from that tinnnnnnny kitchen is awesome.   Inca is one of maybe 5 places in all of Cuenca that knows how to produce a killer burger.  You have to WAIT....but the wait is worth it.  They also make their own fresh potato chips.   Michael, the owner, hails from Alaska, and he is constantly making the rounds schmoozing with his friends slash clientele.

Ok, so far it sounds like all I'm doing is promoting local businesses.  But, what is fun about this...is the fun folk who show up to these places.  First of all, if you have moved to freaking SOUTH AMERICA, you must be a person who's got some sorta guts and spirit, right?   I mean, it's not likely a person(s) who sits in front of the TV and watches Lawrence Welk while crocheting before going to their nightly bible study class...is going to move to Ecuador, right?    The expats I've met here are fun folks, looking for adventure and living life to its fullest in their retirement years.   THOUGH, not every expat is a retiree.  Nooooo.

I'm caught off guard at times when I meet YOUNGER people who opted to move here.   Two classic examples are folks who own two of my favorite restaurants.   The folks who restored the space and started the San Sebas cafe on the San Sebastian plaza have lived in many places in the USA.  They came here with their (side note...gorgeous) daughter Lindsay who pretty much runs the operations.  She's the kinda gal who looks like she's right out of a Dove soap commercial.

Then, there's Carol and George who moved here from San Diego along with BOTH their adult son and daughter.  They created California Kitchen in an old colonial building and all four of them have their roles in running the business.   Carol, who used to be a real estate agent, is one of the, if not THE gracious serving staff.  At 268493 (combine two of the numbers) she's still working the floor.

Geez, I'm still promoting businesses aren't I?  

Ok, when I was considering moving to EC I ran upon a communication on the inter nets (thank you George Bush) from two guys named George and Tom.  I wrote them asking questions about this place I was considering uping my life and moving to.  They responded with helpful answers.   When I visited EC on my initial exploratory trip I met them at Zoe's.  Before I knew it, a bunch of us went out to Mansion Alcazar for martini's then off to another bar and danced and blah blah.

Well, George and Tom decided to move to some god-forsaken place in Mexico.  I can only presume they intend to do a startup business as a new drug cartel on the scene.  JUST KIDDING BOYZ!!!  Anyhoo, recently the expat community threw them a going-away party.  Black tie....in SOUTH AMERICA for cripes sake!!!   Who packed their tux???  Not ME!!!  I digress.  About 40 of us gathered at the amazing home slash restaurant known as Joes Secret Garden.  JSG stages only-Saturday dinners in their house and garden.   Reservations only.   Their culinary talent makes people salivate at the thought of next Saturday.  

Everyone was bedecked in their glam gowns and suits.  It was a Cuenca gala.  The poor servers were pounced upon as soon as they entered from the kitchen doors as the oars-de-ooovers were scrumptious.  Anyone 25 feet back missed out.  Lots of fun socializing amongst friends and well-wishes to the _____ who were bailing on us.  Later, we were summoned outside and down the block to the riverside.  There, they put on a great fireworks display.  No one lost any appendage.  Back to the house/gardens.  Then, we were summoned to the back yard where there was a LARGE box wrapped like a gift.  Oh goodie....STRIPPERS!!!   Ahem...cough...cough.    Out from the box leaped John in boxers, sport coat, and diamond (?) encrusted tie....sans shirt...followed by a full moon.....twice....maybe it was three times, I dunno...I had closed my eyes. 

As the evening winded down, Joe tickled the ivories of his grand piano....his baby he brought down from the US.  We talked about his framed poster of Kitty Carlisle.   He played for her in one of her last performances at the age of 96 (Kitty, not Joe).   Talented in the kitchen and talented musically (Joe, not Kitty).

So, this might give you a bit of a taste of what just one element of expat social life is like in Cuenca.  No, we're not sitting on our front porches in a rocking chair talking about how things were better when FDR was president.  We're just a bunch of normal sickos who like to have fun.

Photos ahead are from the gala evening of sending off our friends George and Tom.   Don't sue me.

Uh River Dare Chee mi amigos!!!


The silver foxes, Regina and George (of George and Tom)

Tom (of George and Tom) and Magdelena (of Magdelena and Daniel...who bought my Peugeot....or....as they call it 'Pew Joe'

Bob and the sweetest gal on earth, Bonnie....of Ed and Bonnie.

Ed (of Ed and Bonnie),...aka Regis Philbin,  Tom (of George and Tom), and Anne (looks like Carol Burnett, no?)

Crowd gathered at the river for the fireworks.
Jim & Carolyn

Josh and Glen Campbell....wait...no....Josh and Rod from Tennessee.
DerryLyn with some blog writer lurking in the background.

Cathy & Bob

George (of George & Tom) and Cathy (of Cathy & Bob)


Don't Ask, Don't Tell.....I feel a full moon a-comin-on!!!

Barbie...of John-in-the-Box  & Barb

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered!!!


Mike, George (of Carol/George (of Calif Kitchen)) and Susie (daughter)

Carol....of California Kitchen fame.
Mike of Inca Lounge & Bistro, and John (John-in-the-Box)
Bonnie and Linda
Daniel & Magdelena, and Bonnie
Susie (daughter of Carol/George of Calif Kitchen) and Michel
Jim (son of Carol/George of Calif Kitchen) and ???? (whoopsie)

The 'secrets' hard at work in Joe's Secret Garden cocina.

Joe at the piano.  He'll be playin through June then he's headlining in Branson, Missouri!!!


  1. Bravo, Dan! glad you immortalized the event in print and picture, both well done. George and Tom should come back from that GFS place in Mexico (will never happen according to George) just for a welcome back party and to see who would jump out of the box the next time.

  2. Dan, enjoyed chatting with you last night at JSG over that delicious fried chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy dinner. Your writing style is natural and breezy, perfect for this kind of column, and showcases your personality well. Keep up the chatter... :)

  3. Dano;
    I enjoy reading your posts. As someone who is seriously contemplating a move to Ecuador; your posts elevate the "ALL'S GREAT=EVERYTHING'S GOOD" BS that I read every day. I have made two(2) exploratory trips to Cuenca & Loja and have enjoyed my time in your new "chosen" country. Time will
    tell if I actually pull the plug from the U.S.A. and move to Ecuador, but at this time .....it sounds like a workable site.


Wanna leave a comment? PLEASE DO!!

It's not very intuitive, so let me help you...
1. Write your comment
2. From the list of Comment As, just select Anonymous
3. If you want me to know who you are, simply type your name inside the comment box, at the end.
4. Press the Publish button
5. Click the box I'm Not a Robot
6. Press the Publish button again
7. If a 'test question' comes up, answer it and press the button
8. If you passed the 'test question' press Publish

About Me

My photo
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.

Total Views