We’re back after six weeks in the states and want to thank all the people who wrote emails and asked if we were OK as we had not posted anything for many weeks. We are fine, just a little exhausted from living in a suitcase for weeks on end. The culture shock was, however, palpable. It felt very strange to hear English spoken by almost everyone but that certainly made everyday transactions in the US at the stores and on the phone much easier. It was interesting to hear the background babel in English rather than Spanish. The high ticket prices of almost everything were expected but we had really forgotten what a dramatic difference there is between Cuenca prices and the US. In the year and a half we have lived in Cuenca and gotten used to the prices here, we have found that we are concerned when a taxi driver tries to extract $2.50 instead of the $2.00 that we know the ride is worth. We have become used to buying local brands at the market rather than imported products and saving 20 cents here, 50 cents there. And we had changed our diet to almost all fruits and vegetables. In the last year, we had adjusted to the local economy. But, when we started shelling out, what to us, were huge amounts of money for things we had become used to at a lower price, it was quite a shock. We did make quite a few purchases of items that are hard to get in Ecuador, enough to necessitate the purchase of a new suitcase to hold all of them. We brought back several things for friends which is an excellent way to avoid the high cost of shipping new items. Almost everyone here makes a special point of asking friends if they need anything that can be brought back in a suitcase. The visit to Best Buy and Costco made us feel like kids in a candy store.
There are a few ways to fly from the US to Cuenca which of course depends on where in the States you originate but for those of you who are on the east coast and planning a visit to Cuenca we can offer some up-to-the-minute information. Miami and Atlanta are the main departure points for either Quito or Guayaquil, the only international airports in Ecuador. We flew Delta out of Guayaquil to Atlanta then on to North Carolina. Guayaquil airport is quite modern and large. If your connection takes many hours, there is a baggage storage area on the first floor. We had 12 hours in Guayaquil so the storage company was a big help. Atlanta is a zoo and is the busiest airport in the world according to Delta’s information. You need a good hour or two there as almost all connecting flights are in different terminals requiring a train ride between terminals. We made our return to Ecuador from Atlanta to Quito. The airport in Quito is quite antiquated with few amenities probably because the new airport outside of town is almost complete yet has had a year long delay in opening. The old airport is right downtown and makes for a hairy approach on landing as you skim over roof tops toward a rather short runway. Depending on what cab driver you get in Quito, a taxi ride to the old part of town is about 12 dollars. We spent the night in Quito as almost all flights arrive late in the evening after the local airline connections to Cuenca have ended for the day. The three best local airlines to and from Cuenca and either Guayaquil or Quito are AeroGal, Lan Ecuador, or Tame. Between the three airlines there seems to be a flight to Cuenca almost every of the daytime hours but they end around 7 PM which is the reason for the need for an overnight stay.
We are glad to be back as Cuenca feels like home to us now. But, as the sage said, “Wherever you go, there you are.”