After seeing about 20 houses/apartments we realized we would have to go a bit over our original budget to find a place large enough to accommodate us comfortably, that would be secure enough, and that would be in a good location. Saturday we went with a realtor to another home in a place called Pillagua (I am going to try and get some of these locations up on google maps for those who might be interested). It was a beautiful home with a great view, but most of the walls were curved, which wouldn’t leave much room for wall hangings and some of our furniture. We went back to see a house we had seen the previous day but were unsure of because of the price. We had met with the owner’s daughter originally; this time we met the owner.
It’s a 3 bedroom house, with a studio, living room, dining room, and kitchen. It has maid’s quarters with a small room and bathroom, another room that could be used as a workshop, a grilling area and wood fired bread oven outside. It’s even got an old rusty swingset. There’s also a large patio area for line drying clothes. It also comes with the gas tanks included for the hot water system; that saves us about $240 right there, as the tanks are $80 a piece new. The house is in a great neighborhood with green areas, in the valley where it’s warm all the time. Maria bargained with the owner and we got it down to $1100 a month. We will be taking possession as of May 9.
It turns out to be an advantage here to be a foreigner when renting houses; the Ecuadorian owners tend to see foreigners as more serious and with more integrity than their own people. No one checks your credit here when you rent, as a credit bureau system has only recently been implemented, and probably 80% or more of the population live outside of a credit economy anyway. So we shook hands on the deal with the owner and will start the paperwork next week.
We also found a good deal on a car through the US Embassy. Since this is the time of the year many of the diplomats change post, there have been several outgoing people selling their vehicles. In a copy of the Embassy’s weekly flyer we found a 2001 Toyota RAV4 with only 25,000 miles. It’s being sold by the Consul in Guayaquil. I immediately emailed and within a day we had agreed upon a price of $16,000 (original asking price was $17,500). I will go down to Guayaquil towards the end of June with my cousin and we will be driving it back up here, about a five hour trip.
I went to get cellular service today. I wrongly assumed that somehow a private company might be efficient and fast.
I went to one of the big cell providers here, which goes by the brand of Movistar-yes, that is a take on “Movie Star.” Funny how these twists on English take on such marketing power in a non-english speaking market. It’s actually run by a Telefonos de Espana, a spanish company. You go in, go up to the guy at the electronic info kiosk, and tell him what you need. He touches the screen according to your request, the machine spits out a number and you take a seat in front of the big screen TV. I was pleasantly surprised when my number came up after no more than a five minute wait, although there must have been twenty people there at the time I entered.
I went to the window corresponding to my number, and sat down in front of a young Ecuadorian woman. She asked me what I needed and I explained I just wanted a basic plan, no bells and whistles, and wanted to use a phone I already owned, which I presented to her. I gave her my passport and credit card and the process begun.
She seemed to be efficient and all business. I wish I could have seen what was on her screen, because though she asked me most of the regular questions only once-name, addresss, phone number, etc-it took over 45 minutes to complete the process. She must have gotten up three or four times to go somewhere with my passport. It seemed like she entered all the information not once, not twice, but at least three times. Not only did she have to type everything into a computer, but also had to fill out a sheet of paper that measured no less than 16 x 22 inches, with all the same information. This ultimately became my receipt.
Beyond the basics, she asked me other questions that make you wonder if they really need to know-maybe it’s for marketing, but who knows…your employer? are you married? Do you have kids? Of course, these same questions are often asked on job interviews here-not necessarily to weed people out, but because things generally operate on a more personal level here. At the same time, there are none of those protections of civil liberties like you might find in the US that prohibit these kind of questions here. And frequently, such information is used to discriminate. So of course, they still seem kind of weird and intrusive to me.
Once I got the printed receipt in duplicate as well as the giant sheet copy, I was sent down to the delivery window. I handed over a copy of my printed receipt, received my SIM chip for the phone, and the receipt was stamped “Entregado”-Delivered. Stamps are used everywhere here, giving a feeling of bureaucracy and officialdom to even the smallest purchase or transaction. I put the chip in my phone, and ironically, within minutes I was connected.
Nestle never was able to get me any results; I spoke to the same guy yesterday and they would be able to order chocolate for me from Guayaquil, but not the products I want when I want.
So I called the same company I mentioned earlier. I spoke with their sales rep here in Quito; he’s the only person I have to deal with to place an order. I was able to place an order after all. I placed an order with him yesterday, he stopped by the house this morning to meet me, and I should have my chocolate in hand by tomorrow afternoon.
This company actually produces chocolate for Nestle. While their product line consists only of dark, milk, white compound coating, and cocoa butter, they have competitive prices. The best part is, as I mentioned earlier, I can eventually get them to custom make chocolate for me.
Often, getting appropriate information in Ecuador quickly turns out to be a wild goose chase, sometimes with good results, sometimes not. I would compare it to the US probably as far back as the 1970s if not earlier. The internet is not ubuquitous here, the information that you do find on it often does not include pricing, and calling by phone does not always get you an answer either. Your best option, for better or worse, is ususally to go directly to the person or place of that which you are looking for.
When I was here a year ago last Christmas, I was able to buy chocolate directly from a Nestle distribution warehouse in the northern end of Quito. We went by today to buy chocolate, but Nestle is no longer located there. The guard gave a me a phone number which turned out to be useless. I called the Nestle office and got a hold of someone who told me he would talk to his boss, to see if there was a new location where I could buy the Nestle products I was looking for. Yes, Nestle itself could not give me an immediate answer about where to buy its products. So tomorrow I hope to get a hold of him, since I couldn’t reach him a second time after one phone call today at 1:30 pm.
I found another supplier of chocolate, but it doesn’t look like I will be able to buy from this company immediately as they only sell wholesale. I am going to speak with him tomorrow to see if there’s anyway I can buy retail for the meantime. What I did like about this company is that I can submit any chocolate sample to them, and they will basically reverse engineer it for me and make me a chocolate based on the formula of my sample. So I am planning to get some chocolate perhaps made based on some of my favorite French and Belgian couvertures.
We have looked at 10 houses/apartments in the last five days or so. Typically, a 2 month security deposit is required. So for a $1000 place you have to come up with $3000 right away.
One realtor, an Ecuadorian man, has shown us 4 places, two of which we really liked. One is a house down in the valley towards Cumbaya, which is the equivalent of the suburbs of Quito, and has become very fashionable in the last ten years or so. It has a much warmer climate than Quito and is a 20 to 40 minute drive to the city, depending on the time of day. This house was going for $900. It’s a 3 level home with all wood floors, wood stairs, and balconies outside all the bedrooms, and is about 3,000 square feet. It’s in a gated community and looked fairly secure. He told us we had plenty of time to consider this house
The other he keeps insisting on is a penthouse apartment on the 7th floor of a building in Quito. It has spectacular views of the city from North to South and originally started at $1,280-$1,000 rent plus an additional $280 condiminium fee. It’s a two floor apartment with a large living/dining area, kitchen, maid’s quarters and study on the entry floor, and the second floor has three large bedrooms and a terrace. It’s quite a bit bigger than our house was in Virginia, probably about 3000 square feet. He told us we needed to hurry upnd make a decision as he had two interested parties already. We figured he was probably bluffing. There are not a lot of people in Quito with $3000 cash ready to plunk down.
After seeing it once, the price came down to $1050, everything included. The apartment is especially attractive for the views and for the tight security-key operated elevator to your own entire 2 floors, 24 hour security guards at the door, card entry to the building. We saw another house today, just awful, and talked about the penthouse again; he offered it to us for $1000 today. We decided to go back down to the valley tomorrow to look at the house once more. Immediately he told us there was another interested party so we had better tell him our decision soon. We think he is bluffing.