Sunday, January 30, 2011

One step further

For a few weeks, we had been "sweating out" part of the process of getting our residency visas.  When we came back in December, we were told that we would have them in 30 days -- our paperwork was all in order.  Our lawyer needed another copy of my passport with the date my tourist visa ran out, but that was easily taken care of.  She sent all our paperwork to her colleague in Quito for presentation to the Ministry.  Well, the very next day, the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, fired the Minister because there was rampant corruption (selling of visas, for example) in the department.  He appointed a new minister, but the office was closed for a month for house cleaning.  It reopened January 12.  We kept waiting and waiting, but no one seemed to know what was going on.  Our visas were due to expire on Feb. 17, and we had return tickets to the US for Feb. 7.  (One of the requirements to get in the country on a tourist visa is, of course, a return ticket, although no one checked to see if we had one either time we entered the country.)  We went to our lawyer and told her that if we didn't hear that our visas were approved, we would be leaving the country on our flight.  Within a couple of days, the lawyer in Quito called our lawyer and told her that our visas HAD been approved.  Our passports were sent to Quito for the application of our "silver certificates"; we should have them back this week.  We then go to Quito to get our national identity cards -- our cedulas -- and then we have to get our census cards -- our censos -- here in Cuenca. 

This means that we can look for property in earnest.  We had found a couple of places on the internet that interested us.  We saw one on Friday -- very beautiful, but remote with no access to it and no way to get electricity to it.  It was in a valley, and we suspect it floods (a river runs through it) and that it is government land; it is past the checkpoint to El Cajas National Park.  We were scheduled to look at a place in Nabon, about 50 miles from here, on Monday, but yesterday Ray received an email from the real estate agent we talked to, telling him that the property had been sold.  There is another place, also in Nabon, that we are interested in, but we haven't heard back from that real estate company yet.  The system here is unlike that in the US.  Anyway, we're giving it another month, and then we'll evaluate and make a decision.

Until next time, be well.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Medical cost and New York style pizza

At our apartment in Cuenca, Barbara and I sit across the table from each other to use our computers, do our planning, research and paper work. It seems that even though we share space, I wait until she posts on the blog to respond to her issues. That sounds about right, doesn't it ?

Barbara's last post was about the medical system in Cuenca but I think she left some things out - I hope I am still allowed my opinion. Here's the scoop - Barbara has one of the very best health insurance plans known to man ( only Congress has better ) but it doesn't apply in Ecuador. So what good is it ? It is a good point of reference. The fact is that she had a medical procedure here in Cuenca that she has had done in the U.S. many times. A process that determines her overall health and how she is doing managing her diabetes. The difference is the tests and lab work was all done by MDs and was way more extensive than in the U.S.. Normally taking 2 weeks the whole process was done in 24 hours, from 1st contact to prescription. Out of all this only the 1st consultation at the clinic was subsidized ( $6 ) the rest is all private business. Her prescription is name brand and the cost is 25% of Canadian prices, I forgot to say she paid less here for all of this than her co-pay would be in the states and her test results and ultra sound are her personal property.

Moving on - we have often said that you can find just about anything here that you are used to in the states, pizza isn't one of them. For the last 2 months we have been pointed to New York Pizza, well we finally found it. The only things New York about New York Pizza in Cuenca is a waitress who speaks a little english and New York prices.

We are finding there is a lot of misinformation being disseminated to gringos in Cuenca and it isn;t coming from Ecuadorians.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Visit to the Doctor

I'm a type II diabetic. I've been in Cuenca for 45 days, and because of a mix-up in my insurance coverage in the US, I didn't get my full 60-day supply of medication before I left to move here.  Last Monday, needing more medication, I walked into a clinic at Av. 12 de Abril and Av. Solano -- Casa de la Diabetes -- and talked to the receptionist.  She spoke no English and I speak little Spanish, but she told me to come back at 5 PM, when the doctor would be there.  We were there a little early and the doctor was a little late, but within a few minutes of the doctor's arrival, I was in his examination room. He did the usual tests, like blood pressure, and spent time talking to me about what I needed.  He spent a good half an hour dealing with me, mostly overcoming the language barrier.  He spent this time with me even with a full waiting room. He told me to come back to the clinic,  which has a lab associated with it,  for  blood work the next morning and sent me to his private practice for ultrasound tests. 
The next morning (yesterday) I had the blood work done -- glucose, cholesterol, hormones, electolytes, serology, etc. -- as well as a urine test.  This was at 8 in the morning; I was told that the results would be available at 4 in the afternoon.  At noon, I went to the office for the ultrasound.  The examination -- by an MD, not an ultrasound technician -- was very thorough and, during the procedure, every step was explained to me as it was going on.  I'd never seen my liver, kidneys, or pancreas before, and this is not my first ultrasound.  She told me that everything was normal; the report even noted that I don't have a gall bladder! Within 10 minutes of leaving the examination room, I had the images and report in my hands. In Ecuador, your medical reports are your personal property.
After getting something to eat, I hadn't eaten in a while and was hungry, we went back to Casa de la Diabetes and, true to the promise made earlier that day, the report was waiting for me. We waited to talk to the doctor.  He looked at the reports, talked to me a little, and wrote out a prescription for a new medication.  Instead of giving me a month or two's worth, as I would have received from my doctor in the US, he gave me two weeks' worth, and told me that he wanted to see me at the end of that time.   
So, what did all this cost?  This very efficient and thorough process, which would have taken at least a week in the US, took 24 hours.  I had never had more than a quick glance at any of my test results in the US, so I can't compare the completeness of the tests, but I suspect that the tests I had here were at least as complete as any I had in the US.  And the tests are my personal property -- I decide who gets to see them.  They are sitting next to my computer right now. 
So, what did all this cost?
The cost for the initial consultation and exam? $6.
The cost for the blood and urine tests? $55.
The cost for the ultrasound?  $30.
The cost for the second consultation with the doctor? $0
The cost for the medication? $11. (and this is not a generic medication)
Total: $102
Remember, the US health insurance I got when I retired does not have any effect here.
Why did he give me only two weeks worth of medication?  Not because I'm his new "cash cow" -- not at $6 for two consultations -- but because he cares about my health. He's going to keep close watch on my glucose levels for a while; I'm a new patient with new medication. 
The treatment I got was the same (except for the shorter time span it took here) as any I ever received  in the US.  So, what's the difference?  I leave it up to you to think about it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A day in Paute

In my quest to find some land to build on in Ecuador, we were invited to Paute to spend the day at our lawyers retreat. Her get away has been in her husbands family for generations and was once an operating hacienda in the mountains of Paute.
View from the front of the property

There is a caretaker, his wife and their daughter who look after the place. Slow but sure they are bringing the property back to it's former glory. Cows and sheep, chickens and a fish pond as well as a nice garden and lots of fruit trees.

The caretakers daughter.

The ladies cooking a freshly caught chicken.

It was a great day hosted by some of the most gracious people we have ever met. We don't speak much spanish and they don't speak much english, what a great day in a beautiful environment with wonderful people.

This outing has given me hope that we will indeed find our place in Ecuador and make our retirement desires come true.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ringing in the New Year in Cuenca

Happy New Year!
Our first New Year's Eve in Cuenca was a wonderful experience.  In Ecuador, people make mannequins, stuffed with paper and, sometimes, fireworks, to represent the old year.  We saw them for sale all over the city and in Azogues, but many people make their own.  Here are some pictures of two we saw in town at stores:
But the real treat was watching our neighbor, the woodcarver and restorer, and his children build their ano viejo (old year) figure. 
As you can see, the children (this picture is of our neighbor and two of his eight children) really enjoy the process of making the figure.  The tradition is that, at midnight, the figures are burned in the street so that all the trials, tribulations, and sins of the past year are destroyed.  It sets the stage for a new start for the New Year.  We were invited to come watch our neighbors burn their figure.

When we left the apartment at 11:30 PM, our neighbor and his sister (who speaks English) invited us to come to the apartment and join their family, waiting for the time to burn the figure.  We walked into a wonderful family party -- people of all ages, from tiny babies to the matriarch of the family.  People were dancing and having a wonderful time.

Our neighbor was dancing with his mother.

Then it came time for the burning of the figures.  Our neighbor and his family had three, and soon other people in the neighborhood put theirs on the pile, so we had about five or six on the pile.  It was too dark on the street to get a picture of the pile before the blaze, but here is a picture of the fire itself:
Can you imagine what would happen if you did this in the United States?  Remember, this is on a narrow street, right next to stores and apartments; of course, the construction here is adobe covered with stucco (this is an old part of the city). Some people put fireworks in theirs, so every once in a while there would be a "boom!"  And, remember, this is going on up and down the street and on streets all over Cuenca.  Looking north and south on our street, we saw big blazes as far as we could see.

The children were all excited, running around in the streets.  They had fireworks, too.

 We stood on the opposite side of the street and watched the blaze until it had almost burned out.

 Here I am with our neighbor and his mother. (I feel tall!)

We were then invited back up to the apartment for coffee and humitas, a kind of corn-meal pastry cooked in a corn leaf.  We got home at about 1:30 AM -- the latest I've been up for any occasion in decades.

It didn't matter that few of them spoke English and we speak almost no Spanish.  We felt welcomed.  These people don't have a lot of money, but the warmth they showed us was worth so much. Our neighbors are wonderful people. Ecuadorians are wonderful people. 

The country-wide party continues; I can hear firecrackers (they sound like half-sticks of dynamite, actually) as I sit by the window writing this.