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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Observations - 2nd Edition

I continued to keep notes of more observations after my last post and I received a few responses from people, adding their perspective.   So, I might as well stay on the same track by continuing the theme of observations I (and others) have had during my adventure here in EC.

BTW...a friend of mine, George, provided some good entries.  He used to live in Florida, moved to Cuenca, got horribly sick (not related to Cuenca), spent weeks in the hospital, nearly died, got out of the hospital and journied to Houston for specialized hospital care, had a new heart valve installed, changed his air and oil filters, damn neared died AGAIN (had a 20% chance) but is now out of the hospital and getting better in his new home.  Cost?  Nearly ONE MILLION dollars!!!   SHEESH!!!   What a drama queen!!!  (just kidding George).

Ok...on to the list:
  • Bathtubs are a rarity in homes here.   Big showers, though, are not.   My house has 3 showers...no tubs.
  • Hot-tubs are nearly non-existent
  • A large majority of houses do not have light fixtures.   They have dangling light bulbs.  Drives me nuts, even in newly constructed homes, to see a wire coming out of the ceiling with a light bulb on the end of it....that's it.  UGLLLLY.   And, to make matters worse, incandescent light bulbs are banned here.  Therefore, the light 'fixture' is made uglier (if that is possible) with those swirly flourescent bulbs that, in addition to being ugly themselves, give off the WORST lighting. 
  • You're lucky if you have more than one electrical outlet in a room.  Two, you're doing good.  More than that is a rare exception.
  • 98% of all homes do not have any heating built in.  Not even canned wall heaters or baseboard.   NADA.    When it gets chilly, there's almost nothing you can do aside from putting another layer of clothes on or throwing a blanket over you while watching TV.  I've looked everywhere.  The only heaters I can find to add to the house are small portable 1500 watt dealybobs.   I bought one...an oil-filled radiator style on wheels... and it heats an area about....ohhhh....6 feet in diameter.  And, those suckers drive your electricity bill up!!!
  • Speaking of heat, it is very stylish and common to have one or more fireplaces built into the house.  BUT, they are 9.9 times out of 10, strictly for looks only.  They are not functional.  I have a big fireplace, a nice fire box, but stick your head in and look up and about 2 feet up is a 'ceiling' of concrete.  No hole extending to the roof to let out smoke.  Purely cosmetic.   UGH   You can see chimneys all over the city but nary a puff of smoke coming out of them.
  • Hot water heaters like we're used to back home....the big 50 gallon kind...are dinosaurs here.  Nearly everyone uses 'tankless' hot water heaters that produce hot water instantly when called.    You never run out of hot water because there's no tank to drain, and, when there's no tank, you're not burning $$ keeping a tank full of water hot all the time even when you're not using it.   I don't know why these haven't caught on long ago in the US.   They're pretty common in Europe, too.   And, they take up a lot less space (about the size of a suitcase).
  • You like pork?  Well, drive down any number of streets here in Cuenca and out near the sidewalk, you'll see people roasting pigs...the WHOLE HOG...head, hooves, tail and all.   Walk up, place your order, and plop down and enjoy some juicy pig pickens with the entire carcass rotating in front of you.
  • Buses pretty much don't stop...they coast to pick you up and let you off.  And, you can wave them down almost anywhere on the street along with the pre-defined marked bus stops.  Cost .25 cents
  • The EC government passed a law a few years ago allowing gays to get married.  Interesting, the country is 95% Catholic (which is the primary reason most gays are closeted here)...whereas...in the USA, which one would think is far more progressive and it's not as heavily Catholic, there is no such federal right.   Odd.
  • Jaywalking is perfectly ok as well as crossing against the light.  If there's no traffic coming, why not?
  • There are no RV motorhomes here
  • There are no travel/camping trailers here
  • There are no single-wide or double-wide mobile homes here
  • There are no manufactured homes here
  • If a family owns a toy, it's usually a motorcycle or ATV
  • Right of Way is Left of Way here...the car on your left has the Right of Way.  Confused?
  • Roundabouts are everywhere here.   They are very effective.  No lights to hold up traffic....traffic keeps moving, albeit it may appear chaotic, it works.
  • Even in new construction, it is very standard to have defined space for a maid's bedroom and own bath.   The bedroom is very small, large enough to fit a single bed and a bit of space around it.   The bathroom for the maid typically does not include a hot water tap at the sink and the shower (again, no tub) typically has an electric shower head (sometimes dubbed the suicide shower) that barely warms the incoming cold water.  Quite frankly, I don't want a maid living in my place, so I converted 'her' bedroom into a storage room and 'her' bathroom (which is outside the house) to the one I run to when I get out of the car and have to pee but can't wait to get the front door unlocked.
  • No such thing as you wheeling your own groceries to the car.    Grocery carts are prevented from leaving the store.  At the checkout, the goods are bagged and placed in another specialized cart by the box-boy and he/she will cart everything to your car and load your trunk...for a .25 or .50 cent tip.  ZERO wayward carts strewn about the parking lots like back home.
  • Very few places will take a credit card.   Generally, only larger stores.  Otherwise, it's cash, or debit card...sometimes not even a debit card.   And, forget trying to use anything larger than a $20 bill.  No one will take anything larger.  I paid for my furniture ($2,000) all with 20's. 
  • Sorry, no self-serve gas here.   It must be pumped by an attendant.   Hey...they have a job!!
  • Speaking of gas stations, the air and water dispensers are FREE!!!    So THERE....take THAT USA!!!
  • I'm taking Spanish classes.  The alphabet is interesting.   Yep, even that is different.   WE have 30 letters in the alphabet!!   'CH', 'LL', 'RR', and 'N' (with the squiggly-do over the top) are added to the standard 26.    Now, get this, 'B' is pronounced 'Bay' and 'V' is not pronounced like 'Vee'.  It is pronounced like a 'B' (Bay).  Soooooo....how do you differentiate between a 'B' and a 'V' when you are telling someone how to spell 'Victoria' or 'Belagosi'?    Well, for 'B' you say 'bay grande'.  For 'V' you say 'bay pequena'.    Got it?   Now, explain it to ME!!
  • I mentioned before that all the lawn mowing of the parks, street medians, sidewalk strips, etc are done by a crew of weedwhackers annnnnnd the cuttings are hand-raked...YESSSS....you read correctly.  Can you imagine?  I have NEVER seen a lawn mower, much less a riding one, used to keep the public greens manicured.   There's more.   Recently, I saw crews working on the weeds growing in the cracks of walkways, and those clumps that creep and overgrow their bounds.  They were using simple hoes and picks to manually and laboriously conquer the weed demons.  No chemicals.   In fact, you can't go to a hardware store (for example) and buy from an array of weed killers like you can at Home Depot or Lowes.   The only people/stores that can sell chemicals such as that are those who carry the proper license.   For example, nurseries typically have chemicals for obvious reasons, but they can't (or won't) sell it to the public.  Chemicals are tightly controlled here.
  • I've seen only a few fire stations in the entire city of Cuenca.   What's going to burn?  Everything is made of concrete or brick!   Sure, the couch and drapes may go up in the flames, but there's little other fuel for the fire to find to bring down an entire house.


  1. Ecuador just keeps sounding better and better! Keep them coming. Thanks for the great blog post.

  2. Yes. So totally coming for a visit. BTW, I'm about to go get arrested! They shall call me Umbrella Man.

  3. Love your posts, love the observations - really useful information in mucho humor! Thanks!


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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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