Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Frank & Angie's Grab Bag

Half pound of this, handful of that.

I'm still not sure what I'm going to be doing.

Sure, no one cares, and that's fair. It's my life and my call, and if I was really desperate I would have acted before now.

I am going to leave the U.S. before long and land elsewhere. I just don't know yet where I'm going or when I'll be there.

So I dither. Gathering intelligence, I call it. I'm hoping to get smart real soon now.

As part of this process I recently splurged on a Borch map of Ecuador so I could get reliable information about what really was where. And a book called "Culture Shock Ecuador", which I may review when done. And finally, the "DIY Cuenca Landing Guide: Everything you will want to know to make your stay easier, less expensive, and more fulfilling".

The last is what I'll deal with here.

I don't know actually who wrote it. "Frank, Angie, Brandon, Angelo, and Alex" are listed on their blog, and they don't say any more in the book. You can't really tell who is writing any given passage either.

Frank and Angie are the parents. The others are their sons. They have been living in Cuenca, Ecuador for close to a year.

They make a production of being frugal. Of avoiding the expat ghettos, and of living as close to the day to day culture as they can. They sound nice, but desperate in a way. Like used car sellers during a weekend off. They way those people would sound if you knew them personally and you weren't marks, and if they were off-duty and ranting.

I feel as though I should like these folks and feel odd for not liking them. They seem sincere. I decided to buy their book (which is in PDF form) because no one else has tried in any real way, as far as I know, to collect practical information about Cuenca and package it.

So how's the book then?

In a word, sloppy.

I can't say I'm disappointed because I've been reading their blog off and on for a while, and am familiar with their galloping, free-for-all, shoot-from-the-hip style.

Still, this book is hard to read at times.

Some samples:

Item: "Out of all the washers they sell here the 'Whirl Pool' looks tough and seems like it will last a good long time. The whirl pool will set you back about $700 to $1200."

Item: From a photo cutline: "That's Frank and I up on the terrace eating...LOL no, just ya though didn't we?"

Item: "On Thursday's, Plaza Rotary market is mainly geared for the locals where they roast the whole pigs, bring out the fruit vendors and sell furniture, and there is less artisans craft stalls on this day."

Item: "Most expats do not ride the buses around town; rarely do we see gringos riding the bus; they would rather flag down a taxi and pay the $2 bucks to wherever they are going. But overtime this can add up because then you need to hail down a taxi again to take you back home for another $2 bucks. Then what if you want to go out again in the evening—there's another $4 bucks roundtrip, spending $8 on taxi fare for one day. In two weeks that adds up to $112 and in one month you will have spent $224 just on taxi fares. Here's what we do: Rather than spend $4 to $8 dollars a day on a taxi we spend $1 dollar. If we do go out in the evening time we do take a taxi just because we have read the buses aren't safe at night. The buses are perfectly safe to take during the day however; we have never had any problems or negative encounters riding the bus."

Item: "We have met with expats from the states who have had to use the emergency services in Cuenca and they were quite pleased with the outcome. Her appendix burst and she had to be rushed to the Hospital. She said that not only was the quality of care good, the hospital was clean and bright and the price for everything was amazing."

If these passages are not disorienting then you are not my kind of people.

I am.

And what I think is that someone who throws words into a pile and shovels them through a computer and then sells the result for $19.99 in PDF form does not get my trust.

I feel bad for saying this, but I have to wonder if these people have ever been to school, and if so, what they did there. Some parts of the book are so loose that I can't really tell what they're talking about. Reread the passages above if you think you really know what they said.

And the reason I bought this book was for solid information.

Which brings me to the nut. The most important things for me were:

  1. the best route into Ecuador
  2. how to get from the nearest airport to Cuenca
  3. where to find temporary lodging
  4. where and how to get reliable, reasonably fast internet service
  5. 100% solid, nuts-and-bolts advice on the immigration process

The last two were barely mentioned. They are the important ones. For me.

Internet service is a deal maker, deal breaker thing in itself. I already have a rough idea of the level of service and the challenges getting good service, but hoped for real information. Nope. Not here.

As for the most critical section, dealing with residency, finding an attorney to help, getting on-the-ground information about services offered, fees, who is good and who is not, and all the rest, well that is not in the book.

So let's have a summary. Let's decide.

Should someone interested in moving to Ecuador (specifically Cuenca) buy this book? Yes. And every other recent book you can find. And then read the rest of them for background.

Is this book great, or even good? No.

What I can say is that with pages 15 through 30 ("Choose a Hostel and Hang Your Hat") I probably got my money's worth. That section appears to be useful. Of course I can't tell without going there and seeing what actually happens, but it sounds as though they know what they have written about.

So overall, too bad. I was not expecting this book to be amazingly good, and was not pleasantly surprised.

Now if you want something really well written, the piece that made me suddenly giddy at the thought of Cuenca in the first place, read Top 20 Reasons I like Cuenca, which dates from April, 2008, and is unfortunately less and less true by the day.

Or visit Frank, Angie, Brandon, Angelo, and Alex directly at Discover Cuenca Ecuador



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