Tuesday, October 15, 2013

PACKING FOR CUENCA ECUADOR - WHAT SHOULD I BRING TO CUENCA?? - This is what we brought back and WHY!!!

We've been back in Cuenca 14 days, and it seems like we never left.  It was worth bringing in those six free 70 pound suitcases and four carry-ons between the two of us (and having to enjoy flying Business Class to do so!!).  Just a few things have made our apartment look, feel, and smell more like "our home" and we don't have to wear the same shoes and t-shirts week after week. 

I did get burned out shopping back in the states (believe it or not!!) - probably because I was trying so carefully not to be excessive in the things I brought back with us, and also I was back to watching our budget.  We had spent quite a bit of money on our two months USA trip - eating out, doing our one month cross-country motorcycle adventure, and just being on VACATION without worrying about a budget.  That's what vacations are supposed to be, right?  Well, I can honestly say, "WE VACATIONED!"  It was our splurge of a lifetime, and we have no regrets.  Yet, at some point, we knew we'd have to come back to reality and consider adjusting back to our simplified CUENCA lifestyle and mindset.

I promised somewhat of a list of where  I shopped and what came back with us in those carefully packed and stuffed "Business Class Free Check-In's," so here goes:

1 - I did one 4-hour shopping spree at IKEA! If you don't live near an IKEA, or if you've never been shopping in one, well what can I say?  It was a shopping adrenalin rush and the perfect place for me to find the best household bargains. Actually, it was where I purchased most of our NEEDS.  These included: King Comforter and Duvet, Ikea towels (wish I had gotten one more set), a quality steel knife sharpener, Paper Shade Lamps and Halogen Desk lamps (several - and IKEA sells them already packaged - and they are so inexpensive and lightweight), miscellaneous much-needed kitchen wares, shower curtains, bath mats, and on and on.  Too many miscellanous items to list.  I spent under $500, and it was worth every penny for all I ended up with - quality needs that will make our apartment life more comfortable.  IKEA truly ROCKS!!!!
2 - YANKEE CANDLES AND PIER ONE/BED, BATH, BEYOND SCENTS - How I missed our home smelling like Pier 1 Imports!  I'm a Yankee Candle addict  and now my apartment smells like Pumpkin Apple, , Vanilla Carmel Latte, and Peach Spice.  YUM! (I'm yet to smell a delicious candle in the stores here and they are a bit expensive).
3 - iHOME- Somehow my Bose speakers back home are missing - boo hoo.  So, I agonized over what to buy that would be practical and not take up lots of room.  After several expensive stereo speaker purchases and returns, I ended up buying a small iHome that was on sale for $50.  Talk about compromising - but I'm okay (noticed I said okay) with this.  I'd much rather have my Bose Stereo.  However, this works.  I can charge my iPod while I play my music library, and I also can charge  my iPhone and play music.  I may end up mail ordering another set of speakers (Bose, of course).  We'll see!
4 - iPHONE - Finally, I have my groovy phone.  I've wanted an iPhone with wifi service for a loooong time - and I wasn't coming back to Cuenca without one.  I settled for a G4 because it's all I need (see, that "want" thing is not overcoming me!!) and I was able to find a brand new unlocked iPhone for $220.  Forget about getting one even close to that price in Cuenca!  I'm Happy!  I have to pay attention that I'm not another victim of phone theft.  We're not living here in fear, but we are always paying attention, as much as possible - not letting anyone rub up against us and get in our space - especially on the buses.
4 - iPAD - We hope to do more traveling, and this will take less room instead of dragging along a laptop.  After Bo's PC smashed when we tipped our bike, he has now taken over one of my MacBook Pros, so we can share the iPad as he learns to be an Apple guy.
5 - CLOTHES - Several of the suitcases were packed with clothes - mostly mine.  Ahhhh, to be  back in Cuenca and have shoes, jackets, pretty things, my jewelry, and an actual wardrobe to choose from.  Bo also broke down and bought new clothes (he hates shopping more than anyone I know!!) and also four pair of quality shoes.  He walks for miles and miles every day, and he thinks he's not going to have to buy shoes for two years - Ha!  Comfortable shoes are IMPORTANT if you live here and plan to walk.  As for me, I'm a shoeaholic.  That's one addiction I will never give up.  Yet, here I have probably 1/5 of the shoes I had when I was a working woman back home.  Yet, I'm happy!  I have more than the four pair of shoes I've been wearing for the last 10 months.  Oh, the little things that I so appreciate.  I'm also a used-clothes bargain hunter addict.  So, my wardrobe cost less then $200, and I have TONS of clothes - and I'm having fun wearing them too. Quality clothes in Cuenca will cost you.  I'm too cheap to pay for new clothes, especially at the price they want for the clothes I would buy.  I'm sooooo happy with my St. Vinnie clothes/wardrobe.
6 - COSMETICS AND HAIR PRODUCTS - Two of my dearest girlfriends are in the beauty field - so I was able to bring back quality products - some for wholesale prices and some for FREE.  I love FREE.  The beauty products Bo and I now have will last us a loooong loooong time (thank you Kay and Patty).  Though Cuenca has lots of beauty supply tiendas, I haven't found the quality of products I'm used to, and Cuenca's cosmetic prices are way up there for anything quality.  If not for my "beauty consultant" girlfriends and the sweet deals we got through them, we would not have gone this route.  We've been getting our shampoos and cosmetic products from iHerb, and that works for us too.
7 - PANS - Bo and I LOVE to cook!  Bo's taken over the kitchen, so he does most of the meals (I now have dish pan hands since I'm the cleanup crew).  We bought an inexpensive $80 set of basic stainless steel cookware when we first arrived here.  After much thought, I decided to only add a large EcoGreen-Non-Stick Fry Pan and a small wok to our cookware.  They were lightweight, inexpensive, and ALL WE NEED!  It's a great contrast to the kitchen cookware we had back in Oregon - A quality stainless steel or cast iron pot or pan of every size, weight, and function.  Not anymore.  Less is more!!!
8 - COFFEE GRINDER, PORCELAIN MELITA FILTERS, BREVILLE ELECTRIC WATER POT - What luxury to be able to heat water instantly for my tea.  What delicious fresh coffee we can make now with our coffee bean grinder.  I love one-cup at a time coffee!  Oh, and if I find myself not timing it right for hot water when washing dishes, I can heat up the Breville quickly and voila!! No greasy dishes!!!  Yes, it's the little things.......
9 - PHOTOS, FRAMES, MATS - For me, this is one of the MOST IMPORTANT things I was missing - my special family photos.  Being a photographer (it's my  passion), I absolutely adore having beautifully framed photography around our home.  So, now I will, once again!  Back home, I did all my own printing, matting, and framing, and our walls displayed like a photography exhibit.  Also, I had lots of beautifully framed family portraits gracing our shelves and walls.  It will be on a much smaller scale here, but soon our apartment will feel more like home because I brought back a small box of memorable pictures.  I also went to Michael's Art Store and chose some large colorful mats and frames that packed nicely.  Fun, fun, fun! Yes, there are amazing framing shops here that are unbelievably affordable for anyone who wants their art or photos framed.  I've used them and will continue to do so.  It's just that I personally enjoy the pleasure of doing it myself - taking the art of photography from beginning to end.
10 - COCONUT OIL - This was one luxury food item I was hauling here, no matter how much they weighed!  To buy Organic, Unrefined, Cold Pressed, Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil in Cuenca is very very expensive, when you can even find it.  Yes, they sell it here, but I haven't seen any label that addresses all of these things in the processing.  Costco had an amazing deal on 54 fl. oz PURE coconut oil for $15 each.  We packed and brought quite a few of those back.  Bo and I cook with it, put it in our tea or coffee, and I do oil pulling (google it!!) in the mornings and also use it as my face and body cream.  If you read about and learn the benefits of daily ingesting coconut oil and oil pulling , you'll see why it was important for me to bring these heavy jars back.  A tiny jar here of coconut oil is $55.  Yikes!!  When I run out of these, I'll go back to ordering my Nutiva Coconut Oil product from iHerb, which is still a lot less per jar and guaranteed PURE.

These are some of the main things that were important to us to bring back from the USA and worth hauling back to Cuenca.

What I decided NOT TO BRING (next trip, maybe!!):

1 - 24" MAC SCREEN - I miss having this large awesome Mac screen as part of my computer setup because it is fabulous when editing my photography.  It also makes a great TV screen for watching movies.  I agonized over this, but it seemed sooooo big and heavy once I pulled it out of storage, I ended up deciding against it.  My 15" laptop screen will have to suffice for now.
2 - TV - Many of our expat friends have purchased and checked in a TV from the states.  Another big decision for us, and here's why we did not go this route:  We do not watch that much TV!  Life here is full, and we find ourselves spending most of our time out and about - just walking - taking long long walks for miles and miles as we explore the city, or spending quality time visiting with friends, dining out with friends,  taking some of the many classes offered, hopping buses to see other areas of Cuenca and Ecuador, even just for day trips, helping expats blog friends that newly arrive by showing them around the city, and on and on.  When we have our down time where we stay home (seems rare sometimes), we read, cook, relax, decorate our apartment, and sometimes we'll just download a NETFLIX movie just to unwind.  Our life here may seem boring to some, but for us it has become richer and fuller.  So, NO TV yet.  We are now set up with a VPN Router which enables us to watch USA TV, and when the time is right, we'll find a small TV for the times we do want to watch it.  Our computers will do.
3 - HERBS and SPICES and FOODS - Bo and I cook!  We eat most of our meals in, not out.  We also mostly eat Paleo - meat, vegetables, and fruit and no processed packaged foods.  If we want any specialty spices or herbs that we cannot find here, we order them from iHerb.  We don't crave peanut butter and all those things I read about that expats write about on the forums causing them withdrawal symptoms because they can't find it here.  Our eating is healthy, simple, and we shop at the open market(s) near us.  Yes, we're alive, we don't have food poisoning, and we love having access to everything we need for our cooking needs 1/2 block from where we live.
4 - SEWING MACHINE AND SUPPLIES - Again, much thought went into this.  I miss my Pfaff machine and my serger.  I had every color thread and piece of sewing equipment and supplies to sew and create beautiful things.  Well, here they sell everything I will want and need when I decide to set up a sewing station.  It just wasn't worth the weight, space, and hassle to bring what I had.  I can just buy it here, and a simple straight stitch machine will suffice.  That may come later.  Right now, I don't have time to sew!
5 - BO'S TOOLS - Oh, how I miss having Bo's tools here.  He could build me anything I needed or wanted - just from a photo.  He did give it great thought, and since we weren't doing a container or pallet, there wasn't a practical or easy way to haul his heavy tools here.  So, we didn't!  Yes, they sell tools here, and they are very expensive for quality.  That mindset that says, "I already own that..." can prevent us from buying what we need here.  Because we still have things in our storage area on our property back home, we do already have that.  But, not here where we need it!  So, we're making do without, or we go and have someone cut us the wood sizes, and Bo is able to put the furniture or shelving together himself.  Our friend continues to lend us his electric drill, and just yesterday, Bo broke down and bought a square.  Woohoo!  How we are still learning to make do.

Well, that's about it for "What we brought back to Cuenca and why!!"  I purchased a corner "desk" work station two days ago - inexpensive and not real wood - but it works.  It's functional, and if and when the time comes to leave here, it will have served its purpose.  If we stay here forever, it will still serve its purpose.  Simple, inexpensive, and functional.  That's my new mindset when I go out to shop and buy.  To have the freedom of less so we can TRAVEL and GO is how we're living now. 

Yes, in two weeks, we've settled back into our tiny Ecuadorian flat in the heart of El Centro, and it's coming along.  We are more comfortable and settled the longer we're here, and continually getting used to that SIMPLIFIED LIFESTYLE.  Do I miss my USA STUFF?  Yes.  But I'm not suffering or miserable.  I'm happy here with less, and it's a process that continues to get easier and easier.  I'm thankful for the trip back home to Oregon and the USA and the carefully thought out decisions we made in what to bring back with us and how to do it.  It was what worked best for us.  Now we're relaxing and enjoying our Cuenca life once again - living here one day at a time!

We love being back - surrounded by mountains, majestic skies, and historic buildings and cobbled walkways.....

Upon our return, I loved visiting and hugging one of our favorite vendors, Anita!  She truly missed us.  I buy all my weekly bouquets from her, and she makes me the most amazing array of colorful flowers for just $2 to $3.  If you don't know Anita, you must!  She's precious..... (photo of me and Anita taken by Jvonna)

One of the things I love most about our city are the beautiful colorful flowers.....

I always have fresh flowers in my apartment because they are so affordable here!!

Ahhhh, and the majestic churches and historic buildings.....

Every corner, every block has the most beautiful historic architecture.....

.....and the colorful cobbled brick streets and sidewalks add to the flavor of this historic town.

Old and weathered walls and rooftops......

Colorful walls, windows and doorways......

Fabulous Iced Creamy Frappuccinos (made with love at Cafe Nuccallacta)......

Working people, city people......

Beautiful colorful childen playing in the streets.....

Parque Calderon - a place to sit and relax and enjoy the city people walking by....

Cuenca, a city full of people that love desserts, ice cream, and lots of sweets......

An artist sketches his work on this historic corner by a shoe repair store.  Grafitti on the walls is a regular thing in this city.

As we walk through our neighborhood streets each day.....

......and we stop to rest along the way......

.......I always smile and say to myself, "What's not to love about Cuenca?????"



  1. GREAT write-up and helps us fine tune things...several are already in our trunks to bring with us. ;)

    The photos are so great, I've missed them (as I miss Cuenca) and immediately recognized your flower lady!

    Stu wants to know what you used to carry things back in - we started with the Sterilite trunks but found they are 1/2" over the airlines size limits so we moved to slightly smaller rolling duffles from Wal-Mart.

    Miss you guys - can't wait till December to see you both and go house/apt hunting!

    1. Hi Donna and Stu,
      I'm sure all your adventures are keeping you hopping! Soon you'll be in Cuenca, settling into another great adventure! We carried things back in huge suitcases and huge duffle bags. I found our suitcases at the thrift stores. I doubt they were within the airline size limits, but we had such favor and they were never measured or weighed. I looked at the Sterilite trunks, but they were too small for the things I wanted to bring - so that's how we did it! If you check in outside the terminal, those guys ususally give you favor. Our bags were checked all the way to Guayaquil, so we never saw them again until we landed. It was all FREE, and we basked in the wonderful "Business Class" pampering. May your trip be as wonderful coming in as ours was coming back. It will be fun to compare stories.
      Hurry Back!

  2. Thanks for sharing your photos and the post of what you brought. Please take more pictures - they are so nice and vibrant. They make me want to go there.

    1. Hi Lynda,
      Glad you enjoy my photography! I hope you continue to read and enjoy my blog until you find your opportunity to come to Cuenca!

    2. Hi Linda,
      What a great blog entry! Your explanations are so well thought out and so helpful to others. I'm glad you got your iPhone and iPad. I'm a Mac person from the beginning and live on mine. I'm so infatuated with the Cuenca skies! Makes me long to see them! God bless you!

    3. Hi Carolyn,
      Glad you found this post informative and helpful. Yes, I'm Mac Happy how in Cuenca! Love my phone!!! We've had quite a bit of rain these past few days, and today it was sunny and magnificent blue skies with abundant white fluffy clouds. I look out our windows and am in awe of the skies and the view. Wish you were here!


Leave us your comments and I will respond with any questions you may have. Enjoy our Blog! Linda (y Bo)