Monthly Archives: March 2011

Settling Into A New Language In Cuenca

One of the first things that many of our clients are interested in finding out more about is learning Spanish in Cuenca.  While there are certainly a number of people in Cuenca who speak some English, Spanish is definitely the dominant language.  At the very least, you need to be able to give directions to taxi drivers, put in your order correctly at a local restaurant, and navigate the local shops and markets.  Learning a few key phrases can also make a huge difference in being able to communicate with your landlord, your neighbors, and your future Cuencano friends.

There are several different approaches to learning Spanish in Cuenca.  You can hope to pick it up as you go through life in the city, do home study with tapes and books, hire a private teacher, or enroll in formal classes.  We’ve tried all four methods, with varying degrees of success.

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The Truth About Ecuador’s Two Tsunamis

Cuenca is abuzz today with news of two tsunamis.  One is the freshly incoming set of waves from the earthquake in Japan this morning, and the other has been a simmering wave of incoming expats fanned into a tsunami by the local grapevine.  While both are serious, neither is going to be as big as their hype.

On the true Japanese tsunami warning front, the earthquake in Japan will be affecting Ecuador.  President Correa has issued evacuation notices for the Galapagos Islands, and coastal resident are being urged to seek higher ground in anticipation of heavy waves hitting Ecuador beginning sometime between 5 and 8 pm this evening.  The President’s statement to the nation included a note that nothing may actually happen, but for the next 60 days a state of emergency awareness will be maintained as a preventative measure.

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Ecuador’s New Hot Water Challenge

President Correa has sparked a new debate over one of the most basic creature comforts:  hot water.  Currently, the state subsidizes the price of propane gas tanks throughout the country, which are commonly used as cooking fuel and as the fuel for hot water heaters in most homes.  Declaring that state subsidies were meant only to support cooking uses, Correa has mandated that no more gas hot water heaters are to be sold or used in the country.

Unfortunately, the mandate was put in without providing an alternative to the gas hot water heaters (calefones).  As a result, Correa is being heaped with abuse by social commentators and heavily mocked on Twitter by Ecuadorians who have no interest in a cold shower (http://64.59.73.51/negocios/calefon-Correa-Twitter-Facebok.aspx).  Discussions of the issue freely admit that Ecuador has some financial and social challenges to overcome, but most deny that taking away the country’s hot showers is any kind of answer.

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3 Tips For A Happy Carneval In Cuenca

It’s Carneval time in Cuenca.  Last night’s fireworks show kicked off the peak days of the Carneval season, which ends on Fat Tuesday.  While the word Carneval conjures up images of bikini sambas in Rio de Janeiro or costumed parades through New Orleans, Cuenca celebrates Carneval in its own special way.  Here are three quick tips for getting into the spirit of things and enjoying the Carneval season:

1.  Bring a Baggie. Baggies serve two purposes during Cuenca’s Carneval.  They’re a very useful place to store your cell phone and camera while you’re out and about in Cuenca running your errands or seeing the sights.  They’re also a very useful place to store your own ammunition if you’re embracing the local tradition of throwing water balloons.

In New Orleans, they throw beads.  In Rio, they throw confetti.  In Cuenca, they throw water balloons.  Cars of teenagers will gleefully launch water balloons at you as they drive by, and innocent little children turn into precision bombers dropping plump globes of cold water down on your head.  With your cell phone and other valuables in a Baggie you can laugh it off … or select your own balloon from your Baggie to fight back.

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