Fluffing our Nest: Prepping to Move into our New House

| March 15, 2017 | 4 Comments
Our new nest

Our new nest

I can’t believe 2 months have gone by without blogging!  Before another month slips away,  I want to share some of what we’ve been up to.  Mostly it’s been prepping to move into our new house.  In a flurry of activity at the end of January, we secured our “Professional Residency Visas,”  our cedulas (nat’l ID cards),  and bought a  3 bedroom house.  Having achieved these long-awaited milestones I thought I would *coast* into retirement.  Not so fast!

Shipping Crates from US to Ecuador

In early February, John and I joined a Tuesday walking group, which we continue to enjoy.  The group leader, Paul, told me how he sent 25 boxes in a wood crate to Ecuador from US for about $3000 total using Craters & Freighters and an Ecuadorian company, CoMar.  Wow.  That was a good price.

Before talking to Paul, I had thought my only option was buying a full or half shipping container for around $10,000 total.  I had early on decided I’d rather carry items in suitcases, since we had NO furniture to ship.  This new information changed my mind.  Plus, I have been slowly realizing that it would be years of dragging suitcases between US and Ecuador before we would have all our belongings in Ecuador.  ¡No Bueno!  We have an 8 ft by 10 ft storage space in Chicago that is mostly full.  Suddenly, my first priority was not furnishing our new house and measuring for drapes but prepping for a shipment from US to Ecuador.

Interior garden and fireplace

Interior garden and fireplace

After talking with my lawyer, I confirmed that I had 6 months from the time we last entered Ecuador before getting our resident visas — Dec 29 — to ship items duty-free.  Further, the freighting company estimated a 6 to 8 week delivery from Chicago to Guayaquil.  That meant a flight to Chicago in early April to pack up our stored items and have them crated and shipped.  The CoMar rep told me 2 to 3 days to move crates from port of Guayaquil to the aduana in Cuenca.   So ….. this was the time to buy and ship hard-to-find items from the US. 

The CoMar agent encouraged me to buy electronic items, saying I could recover some of my shipping costs that way!  Also, he said I must include clothes in the shipment, otherwise the aduana (customs) will be suspicious.  We’ve already brought all our clothes, but we’ll make a run to used store or something.  Okay, this is the game we play with our 6 month duty-free grace period.

  • Note:  The 6 month duty-free period does not start the day you get your resident visa but the day you last arrived in Ecuador BEFORE you obtained your resident visa, according to our lawyers.

Shopping to Prep for the Shipping Crates

Anyway,  I’ve have been racking my brain with what to buy in US and ship to Ecuador to best take advantage of the crates we will ship.  Online shopping is not my idea of a good time!  Too much sitting and staring at a computer screen.  I’ve been to Amazon.com, wayfair.com, overstock.com, rugsusa.com, bestbuy.com, macys.com, homedepot.com, and dyson.com. Yuk!  And unlike most women, I don’t even like to shop!!!  So far,  my shopping list includes:

  • Electronics — two 40″ TVs, computer tower, 4-in-1 printer, pair of shelf speakers, amp-tuner-radio, and a wireless Bose system
  • Books — on Ecuador and it’s history, anthropology, archeology.  Books have always been scarce here; there are no public libraries except those at universities.
  • Lamps & Lighting —  floor & table & swag lamps — US has a much wider selection at good prices
  • Electrical — Circuit breakers, electric panel,  12 gauge Romex, 14 & 16 gauge wires, connectors; surge protector strips –better prices, selection & quality in US
  • Kitchen items —  induction cookware set with 8 gallon pot & steamer insert; Pyrex bowls; Pyrex measuring set; 6 pack of spatulas, Cuisinart Coffeemaker, cleaning supplies for induction cookware.  Note: The only 8, 12, 20 gallon cooking pots I can find in Ecuador are for gas & electric cooktops — not induction.
  • Rugs —  three cotton/fiber 5 x 8 ft rugs —  *native* Ecuadorian rugs are wonderful thick, hand-knotted wool from Ambato, Guano, or Riobamba but VERY pricey.  Perhaps we’ll buy a small one eventually.
  • Quilts & bedspreads & sheet sets & pillows  — US has better prices and selection
  • Spices — Thai red curry paste, jalapeno powder, (Mexican) chili powder, caraway seed, real vanilla, cloves
  • Baking Soda — Arm & Hammer pure baking soda.
  • Vacuum Cleaners — one corded and one cordless

¡Chuta!  This situation has turned me into an internet shop-a-holic.  I will not have time to run around Chicago buying stuff.   Just 12 days in April to get every thing crated and freighted. 

  • Note: We are allowed to travel up to 90 days per year outside Ecuador for the first two years of our residency but if we want to get dual citizenship in 3 years, it’s more stringent.  I’m leaving our options open, for now.

Our *New* House and Planned Renovations

Rear yard

Rear yard

Oh yes, the other C-R-A-Z-Y thing.  The day we bought the house, I asked when we could get the keys.  We were told the former owners planned to stay for 2 months in our house!  Ouch.  I had opened my big mouth months earlier and said we had a year lease ending in June.  This was mentioned in a discussion regarding how soon we needed to buy and move in.   I never imagined we could buy the house and not be given the keys immediately.  Live and learn.  It was not in the contract.   Learn from my mistake! 

Consequently, every time we have needed to measure up the house, bring over a contractor, or take pictures, we have to schedule a time with the former owners. However, our wait is nearing the end.  They are to move out on or before April 1st.  At least they are very pleasant about it all and we genuinely like the couple — educated, funny, and smart.  Conveniently, the ex-owner is an architect and has given us a reasonable bid (16k) for the updating/renovation work.   We will get other bids before deciding on him or not.  More about that in next post!

The planned upgrades and renovation work in our new home are mostly electric and finish work — no moving of walls or remodeling.  We like the layout, the house just needs updating, with the following:

  • upgrade electric service in kitchen and laundry from 110 to 220 volts
  • add a new electric panel, adding light fixtures, outlets, wall switches, etc.
  • remove and replace all cracked & stained popcorn ceilings with drywall — 158 sq meters of ceiling
  • gut and modernize 2 1/2 baths  with ceramic tile; glass door showers, low-flush toilets, modern vanities
  • power wash painted brick bedroom walls
  • add built-in closets in the 2 upstairs bedrooms
  • sand and stain discolored wood trim (front of house)
  • add a new kitchen faucet with movable spray head
  • change keyed entry locks to keyless

Household Furnishings

Since the above work on the house will soak up much of our budget, we are frugally furnishing the house with “good enough” furniture for now.  The biggest challenge may be the living room sofas, which we’ll most likely work on with a local maestro.  Bedrooms should be easy.  Kitchen we are leaving as is.  Here’s a list of what I’ve got in the works:

  • a 2nd metal bed, an Ecuador Queen (160 cm x 200 cm)  —  Eduardo’s shop on Avenida Las Herrerias ($380).
  • pillow top memory foam mattress, Ecuador Queen, from Chaide & Chaide online  (under $400).  
  • like-new 31″ induction cooktop and oven at the Consignment Shop ($500)
  • outdoor furniture from the former owner ($250)
  • a like-new solid wood dining room table with 8 chairs ($600) found on Gringo Post
Metal Bed Eduardo is making for us

Metal Bed Eduardo is making for us

That still leaves lighting,  tables, and curtains, plus sofas in 3 rooms — two TV/family rooms (estars) and a sun room.  But much of that can wait.  Our only rush is family coming to visit in August and our desire to rent out the 2 upstairs bedrooms.  So we’ll want furnished bedrooms, dining room and a few sofas at a minimum!  As John says,  “the house holds it’s own.” 

Between hammering out renovation details, overseeing work in our house in April & May, and shipping household goods in April, we’ve got our hands full.   Hopefully, we will move in late May or early June.

What makes all the effort worthwhile is that we continue to enjoy our new lives in Cuenca.  Cuenca and its people continue to amaze us.   As we slowly widen our circle of friends and explore the music, art, food, and academic scenes, we feel lucky to be here. 


***”¡Chuta!” is a common expression.  It is like “Shoot!”   La lengua morlaca by Oswaldo Encalada Vásquez says it is an “interjección eufemística por ¡chucha!”   The latter, chucha, is “usada por señalar disgusto, ira, o también para insultar.  Also, “chuchaqui” is a Quichua-origin word for hangover.  I’m guessing they’re all related.

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Category: Expat Life in Cuenca, Prepping to Move into New House, Uncategorized, Working with Contractors

Comments (4)

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  1. jim laukes says:

    Can I bring a few bags of further supplies? and when will a sofa or air/land/sea b and b be available for short term visitors? in 2017…
    peace and light, Jim

  2. jim laukes says:

    Hi C and J,

    Good luck with the house, etc. Will you be giving advice on coupon clipping there?

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