Posted by: pennyinparadise | October 12, 2009

The Decision Is Made-Leave Ecuador

They say that, in life, change is the only constant.  I guess I must agree.   I have sold the condo in Cuenca and have decided that Boquete is the place for me to call home.    When I bought in Ecuador, I said I would give it a year and then decide which place I would sell and which I would keep.  I lived in Ecuador for 13 months have made the decision that  Boquete, Panama is my place in the sun (and in the rain too).   Knowing you would all then ask “WHY???”, I have answered that with the several reasons given below:

*  My Mom….my dad died in February and my mom is now alone and lonely in the US.    My residency visa in Ecuador gives me only 90 days each year, for 2 years, out of the country.   UPDATE April 2015:  I now understand that there is no minimum stay required to maintain residency, so this may have changed.  My first year ends November of 2009 and way before that I ran out of days that would allow me to be with her.   I decided it wouldn’t be good to stand over her grave and say “Well, I would have spent more time with mom in her older years, but I had to get that residency visa in Ecuador”.   She is way too important to me, and she needs me with her more often now.  So I will spend 3 months in Florida to be with her through the holidays, another month in the summer and will bring her back to Boquete for a long visit with me there beginning July 1st.

Mom chilling out

Mom chilling out

*   The Weather…..I am a Florida girl and the lush tropical rain forest of Boquete suits me better than the chilly upper Andes climes of Cuenca.   I found myself growing weary of the weather at 8,000 ft above sea level although my lungs really loved the dry air.   Although there are sunny, warm days, the vast amount of cloudy grey sky days and very cold nights just aren’t for me.   While it is more humid in Boquete, the close up verdant green mountains and beautiful flowers…and the ability to wear lighter clothes and most of all…sit out on my terrace at night with friends, was a biggie for me.  Boots and jackets are fun, but not all the time.   UPDATE April, 2015:  I now live in Alto Jaramillo in Boquete, which is at 4,200 ft above sea level.   Higher than I did when writing this article, so I’m a little chillier now, but still not the same as 8,000 altitude.

*   The Community…..Boquete is a very rare place…and the people there are also very special.   There are dozens of things to get involved with to help the local community, and Boquete’s ExPats are always cooking up something fun to do together.    Cuenca is a very special place, but the ExPat community  is VERY different from that in Boquete.   Maybe it is because Cuenca is a big city and people live mostly in condos and farther apart than in the small village of Boquete.   Whatever the reason for the difference, I much prefer the ExPat community in Boquete.  UPDATE April 2015:  Since leaving Cuenca 7 years ago things have changed.   There were approximately 300 ExPats there then….now there are thousands.   So obviously there is more of a community to hook into now than there was then.

*   The Politics….Rafael Correa is an educated and exciting president with great ideas on how to improve life for the people of Ecuador.   He is, however, in complete power and is very close to the political ideas of Chavez of Venezuela.    His recent placing of a 43% tax on everything that comes in from any foreign country, combined with the 12% sales tax, means that none of the US brands we find easily in Panama can be found in Ecuador….the 55% tax just makes them unavailable.   There is a tax of 1% (soon to be 2%) on any money that leaves the country….meaning the wire transfer of funds to Panama or the US are subject to VERY big fees.     Recently, despite Correa’s claims of transparency and putting away corruption, his sister was recorded soliciting a bribe to make a law suit against Chevron Oil go away….Correa’s response was to set about to close down the private television station that aired the recordings.    When a recent rumor circulated that he was going to abandon the US dollar in favor of a new SA currency, he announced that anyone found circulating this rumor would be jailed.    These minor issues can grow to larger issues.   Finally, the growing scorn of the government toward the US is cause to pause and consider what would happen should the 5 new bases in Colombia really become a thorn in his side.  Chavez has recently invited both the Chinese and the Russians to become more involved in his politics, and the recent photo of him embracing Mohamar Khadafi was just scarey.   Again, this is not Correa, but as they say…you can judge a man by the company he keeps.   So far these are only shadows in the background, but they added to the decision against having a major investment in Ecuador at this time.  UPDATE April 2015:  Well, time marches on.   Both Chavez and Khadafi are dead and “the brotherhood” is not what it used to be.   In addition, corruption in the US is gaining in popularity at every level, while corruption in Panama is being fought seriously and strenuously by the new president Sr. Varela.   The past president is now on the “most wanted” list and hiding in the US….the Supreme Court has cancelled his diplomatic immunity, which is HUGE and unheard of in the past.   

The Culture…..one reason I moved to Cuenca was to enjoy the vast cultural life and one of my main loves was the Symphony Orchestra.   Also, there was a very good Cultural Calendar published each month, allowing me to know where things were going on (concerts, art exhibits, museums, etc.).   The government declared that the economy required they cut funding for the Symphony and the Ensemble orchestras, and they stopped printing the Cultural Calendar….they even stopped publishing the online version.   Many locals say that this is really because Correa does not attend to the needs of the rich…only the poor…and that the poor don’t go to the symphony, concerts, art exhibitions, etc.   It is said they plan to reinstate this vital organ in the future, but for now it is defunct.  Whatever the reason….one of my main reasons for wanting to be there was removed from my life.  UPDATE April 2015:   Again, things have changed much since the ExPat community has grown to thousands.

So……here is the last report I will file as a permanent resident of Cuenca.  I’ll return from time to time for a visit, but at last I am free of the restrictions of permanent residency.   Below are photos taken just before I left…including some views of the capital city Quito, the visit by ex-husband David Ripple (to spend our would-be 30th wedding anniversary together), and some celebrations just prior to my departure.

Independence Square in Quito

Independence Square in Quito

More views of Independence Square in Quito

More views of Independence Square in Quito

Municipal Building in Quito

Municipal Building in Quito

Colonial shopping arcade in Quito

Colonial shopping arcade in Quito

David Ripple & me at the Piedra de Aguas Spa

David Ripple & me at the Piedra de Aguas Spa

David & me at Inca ruins

David & me at Inca ruins

So….my friends Mary Ann & Greg decided to tie the knot back in Vermont, and then returned to Cuenca to begin their residency.   Mary Ann (you may recall) threw me a birthday bash this year and hosted a Christmas dinner for friends last year (see previous posts).   So…it seemed a good idea to toss them a wedding reception as a farewell event in my condo.  Even the guy who bought my condo came….here are some photos of the event.

Newlyweds Mary Ann & Greg

Newlyweds Mary Ann & Greg

Girlfriends (L to R) Natalie, Christa, Cameron, Mary Ann & Marie Claire

Girlfriends (L to R) Natalie, me, Christa, Cameron, Mary Ann & Marie Claire

Guyfriends (L to R) Adrian, Alan, Greg, Dan, Peter & Mike

Guyfriends (L to R) Adrian, Alan, Greg, Dan, Peter & Mike

My friend Peter and me...he will be missed

My friend Peter and me…he will be missed

Turn about is fair play….Mary Ann decided to throw a SURPRISE going away party for me…..and was I surprised!!!   I have never had a surprise party before…..

As I came into the room to see all the smiling faces shouting SURPRISE!

As I came into the room to see all the smiling faces shouting SURPRISE!

Shock at seeing someone I had just hung up with on the phone 2 minutes earlier....SHE was already at the party when we talked!!!

Shock at seeing someone I had just hung up with on the phone 2 minutes earlier….SHE was already at the party when we talked!!!

Gathering of surprise friends

Gathering of surprise friends

So….I’ll be going to Argentina and Uruguay in January and then returning to beautiful Boquete.   It will be good to be back home.


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