Monday, February 24, 2014

Trecer Edad!

                                ! Trecer Adad !
Yes, there is reason to celebrate getting older.  Trecer Edad (the third age)!

Now, at age 65, I can go to a separate line at the bank for seniors, handicapped, etc rather than wait in long lines.  Lan and Tame have half price tickets for air travel.  My property taxes and electricity bills (up to 120 kw/month) are also discounted after I endure the required procedures. Notaries may also give you half price on their expensive fees when buying a condo.
Best of all the 12% IVA (sales taxes) are refunded after registering at the SRI office.  The maximum monthly refund is $ 191.  The registration process requires:
 Visit the SRI (think IRS) office on Remigo Crespo, a block east of Loja Avenue.   It is the four story white building with the “smiley face” painted on the window.  Try arriving at 8am to avoid some of the crowds.  Bring something to read while waiting.  You will need original and copy or your passport and Cedula, a utility bill to prove you live here, and a bit of patience.
Get in line and proceed to the helpful guide who is bilingual.  Simple say “Trecer Edad” and he will give you a ticket number for your time at the Caja.  He will give you a bank registration form to take to your bank to certify that you have a local bank for direct deposit of your monthly reimbursement.
Take the bank form to the main bank office for signature.  Make a copy, then return to SRI  with all documents.  Your data will be entered into the computer and you will be given a form to fill out when you turn in your original receipts next month for reimbursement.  The receipts must have your cedula number and name on them.
Since my cedula ends with  a 1,2, or 3  I submit my receipts with the reimbursement form  during the first week of the month. Cedulas with a ninth digit of 4,5,6 submit on the 10 to 16 of the month; those ending with 7,8,9, or 0 submit on the 19 to 26 of month. 
Take your form upstairs to second floor to be edited before returning downstairs to caja 103 to turn it in.  You will also need a copy of your cedula, the Servicio de Renta Internas given to you when you first registered, and a copy of your Bank Registration form.  Your reimbursement will appear in your banco in a few weeks.  It may take longer the first time.   Whew!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Penthouse Condo for Sale

          Penthouse Condo $122,850
Our sunlit fifth floor condo with 640 square foot terrace displaying panoramic unobstructed views is charming. The large terrace has a large Jacuzzi and covered areas on each end accessed from both the living room and study. While designed to be a two bedroom, it was finished as one bedroom with study and natural light everywhere. It is located one half block off the Tomebamba River and a 5 block walk to Centro.

The one year old building has an elevator, a backup generator, centralized gas and hot water. No pets are permitted.  Email to or 098-599 4299. USA magicJack phone (828) 367-4321  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

We are licensed to drive!

                  Ecuador Drivers License

We felt almost like teenagers this week when we showed our Ecuador drivers licenses to each other!

After all, we did pass the test in Spanish. And the process only took four months. Well, yes, our effort to get our NC drivers record apostiled took over three months. And mucho dinero.  The government website and friends confirmed this was necessary.  But in the end we simply tossed the apostile!

The exam has changed!  The sample 100 questions bought on the street by ANT no longer contain most of the questions.  You better learn many new words in Spanish (many are on the sample test).

How did we complete this amazing feat?  It only took seven offices and eleven steps!

   1. Obtain NC driving record to prove our USA license was valid.
   2. Have driving record translated in Cuenca.
   3. Get it notorized in Cuenca.
   4. Download and complete Formulario para Canje de Licencia de Conducir (see #7 below)
          You will need weight in kilos and height in centimeters (with two decimal points)
   5. Obtain green blood type card from Red Cross on Borrero  street in Centro. And a copy. 
   6. Make copies of your Cedula and US Drivers license (color). Take every document to every office!  Your original Cedula will be examined by everyone.
   7. Obtain two passport size color photos.
   8. Pass eye, hearing, Psychometric exams.  Currently located one block right off Don Bosco on Salado. (#6 below)
   9. Go to ANT office to get all documents approved and scanned.  Just moved to Ordinez Lasso, turn right at first light after Oro Verde Hotel.  ANT will tell you when you may schedule your exam (usually a couple of days, max of 30 days)
   10. Go to Paute (best service), Giron or Cuenca to take exam (Jeffe in office #5, approval in #4, exam downstairs, back to office #6, license photo downstairs, license finally printed upstairs.  You see why service is important to avoid confusion and delays.  Paute even allowed us to go near front of line for final step to avoid returning the next day!  This office is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 8 to noon, but stayed open until 2:30 to complete our processing. The office is located in second floor of bus station near the river.
   11. After office #4 above,  go to bank two blocks north, then two blocks left to pay $48 and obtain receipt.  Entire trip with three short road construction delays and a great celebration lunch at Corvel in Paute only took 6 hours!

And they ask why Gringos do not have a car!

From my previous blog the requisites are as follows:

 1.  Original and copy of the original valid foreign drivers license.
2.  Original and copy of your ID documents such as cedula and censo. You receive these documents after you get your residency visa.
3.  Original certificate of authenticity.  This is a (apostilled?) document from your home state’s secretary of state office saying that your driver’s license is valid.  It must be translated into Spanish and notorized in Ecuador.
4.  Original and copy of your blood type.  You can get this at the Ecuadorian Red Cross for $2.50.
5,  Two photographs, facing, ID size
6.  Pass the psychometric exam ,eye and hearing tests, and the driving test ($38)  These are written, practical, and medical.  The psychometric exam is a coordination test. Cost $11.40
7.  Fill out the special request form which you get from the Transit office in Quito, or you can download it from the website.  ANT stands for Agencia Nacional de Transito in Quito.

I have added the websites and its details (in Spanish).

Print this form for application for drivers license:

Government website for Transit Authority:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

ObamaCare Penalty

                                  ObamaCare Penalty Clarified

In my previous post the individual mandate penalty for not enrolling in ObamaCare was described as $95 for an individual.  I omitted one important detail.  The penalty is actually the higher of $95 or one percent of your income!

Here is a summary of penalties (greater of):

   2014  Single $95 or 1%; Family $295 or 1%
   2015  Single $325 or 2% ; Family $975 or 2%
   2016  Single $695 or 2.5%; Family $2085 or 2.5%
The maximum penalty is capped at three time the individual penalty (eg:95 x 3 = 295). Penalties will be included in your annual income tax and enforced by the IRS.

So it's easy to see after 2014 the penalty (tax) gets very serious.

There are numerous exceptions and hardship exemptions. "Gaming" the rules is likely to occur. See the link to Forbes magazine below.

Please do you own tax research and plan accordingly.

There are two rules for exemptions for living out of the US. One is residence out of US for 330 days in any 12 month period. The other is the "Physical Presence Test" requiring you to live outside of the US for a complete year plus other requirements .

Further details are available at:

So that is another reason to promptly consider your plans for a possible new life internationally.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Blood Moons, Last Days?

                Are we Living is the "Last Days?"

This Thanksgiving will fall on the same day as the Jewish Hannukuh  celebration.  This will never happen again!

But the real story are the four  "Blood Moons."

Four blood (full lunar eclipse) Moons coinciding with high Jewish holidays has only occurred three times during the last 500 years:
  1493- Jews were expelled from Spain while America (Freedom of Religion) had just been discovered
  1949- Israel Reestablished and won war of survival
  1967- Israel won the Six Day War.  Jerusalem became part of modern Israel.

Now we well see this happen four times is the next two years (confirmed by NASA)!
  15 April 2014 on Passover
    8 Oct 2014 on Feast of Tabernacles

Then a full solar eclipse

                  And again in 2015:
     4 April 2015 on Passover
   28 Sept 2015 on Feast of Tabernacles

It appears world history is about to change in some major way...

"The day of the Lord will be as when the sun refuses to shine"     Joel, chapter 2

"There will be signs in the sun and moon  and stars, and on the earth dismay among the nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves"    Luke 21:25
                    Here is the link:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Avoiding ObamaCare

                                Avoiding ObamaCare!

Many people are dreading the 2014 implementation of the "Affordable Care Act."    Not us expats.

The law states US citizens living outside the US for 330 days during any twelve month period are considered compliant to this law by doing nothing except non-residence. Also true of those living in US territories.

The rule is similar to the IRS reg that exempts our US earned income from income taxes (but not social security tax).

Your passport stamps indicate the time outside the US.  One minute in the US qualifies as one day.

If you do not qualify for an exemption in 2014, the individual penalty is the greater of $95 or one percent of income for the year (maximum of 3 times individual penalty).  However the penalty rises very sharply after 2014.

Additionally, major care will have to be delayed or rationed increasingly as we age. Adding 30 million people to coverage with no plan to increase MD's must reduce available care.

A recent article cited the present 90% recovery rate for US prostate cancer due to our rapid delivery of care.  That compares with the 53% recovery rate under government care in England (12-18 month waiting time).  Bureaucrats move slowly.

You may also consider internationalizing your medical care to obtain rapid, high quality and inexpensive care in Latin America or Asia. Come to Ecuador, Panama, Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica to find many doctors trained in the US and Europe who speak English. Care in Asia may be found in Singapore, India, Taiwan, Thailand, etc.

Visit my post under "Medical Tourism" or a few ideas on routine care savings.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Charms of Cuenca

After almost 3 years of living in Cuenca, the best happening for us has been the people we meet.  The warm welcome of Cuencanas is part of the Latino charm which draws many Americans. In our daily routine, we continue to encounter new people that make our experience even more special.

This happened to us one recent Saturday morning.  While strolling down to La Esquina de las Artes ("The Corner") on Doce de Abril and Agustin Cueva, to purchase the homemade cheese offered each week, we entered one of the stores in the cluster of small businesses.  It just happened to be newly opened and the proprietor/owner was there.

The store (called Andrea Tello), is beautifully arranged and houses an array of jewelry, unlike anything you have probably seen in Cuenca.  It "caught our eye" immediately.  Not knowing this petite, lovely, attractive lady was the owner at first, we began to ask her about the jewelry.

She introduced herself as the designer and producer of all the fine jewelry we were gazing at with great interest.   After listening to the story behind this beautiful work of art, we discovered indeed, a beautiful gem:  Andrea Tello.

 Andrea Tello

I was drawn to a particular case of wondrously crafted earrings.  We begin to ask Andrea about these pieces.  This is when she shared her passion to preserve the culture and history of the indigenous people of this region.  Each piece she has created, represents flowers in which the indigenous women have sown into their dresses.

Below is a picture of four sets of earrings representing different kinds of flowers with special meanings.  Again, these flowers are sown into the women's unique, colorful indigenous clothing.

The first set of earrings is a design of a full flower representing a woman in the first part of her life. She has knowledge in natural medicines, respect for the flowers and their usage, and religion.  Many of the indigenous use the flowers in their daily living whether color for clothing, medicines, aromatics, etc.

The second set of earrings is a design representing the woman where the husband has migrated to the USA or Spain to work.  She is left behind to raise the children and handle all the family affairs including agriculture. Many of these women experience hard labor working in the fields in order to raise their families and preserve their lives.  They have a tough life dwelling in the Andes. 

In the third set of earrings shown above, the half flower represents one who is no longer single - she does not belong to herself but to her husband.  She is fine with this and has respect for her husband. 

The last set represents the flower meaning the woman had been raised with a little more money due to the father having migrated to work in another country.  Most of them had finished high school, can read and write, having  had more exposure to the world.

Andrea was born into a world and family of jewelry and is a 3rd generation jewelry lover.  Her grandmother, Imelda Cordova,  and parents, Miriam Guilen and Luis Tello, owned a jewelry store on Gran Colombia for 30 years called Joyeria Guillen.  While they did not craft jewelry themselves, they gained great experience through the years in purchasing stones and gems of all kinds.  She smiles with a twinkle in her eye, as she states her childhood includes growing up in the world of emeralds, rubies, and diamonds.
 Sue Gaither, Andrea Tello, Ma. Caridad Tello (Andrea's sister) & Miriam Guilen

Her gift of art, coupled with crafting this unique jewelry opened up a world for Andrea that has made her work known around the world.  The heart behind her work is as astounding as the pieces themselves.  At present, Andrea has employed 14 families in Cuenca, who have been trained by her to craft her designs. 

Until about five years ago, Andrea crafted and manufactured all of the designs herself.  But due to other countries now wanting to purchase her jewelry, it led her to open up a door for Cuencana families to be involved.

She is happy that she now can include other people in her endeavor, as it gives them an opportunity for employment.  It also gives them a sense of pride in their community and as well as in their work.  She takes about 3 to 6 months to train her employees at her home.  There they are also given the material to work with and asked to sign a "Comercio Justo" Agreement.  This states they will not copy her designs for resale.  She's had good experience with her employees and is honored to have these families work with her.

Andrea's first recognition for her work came in 2010.  One week before the event was to be held, someone told her of a competition hosted by UNESCO in Quito.  

 UNESCO (The United Nations Education, Science, and Culture Organization) is a specialized agency of the United Nations.  Its purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication.  They give awards to and for handicrafts in countries around the world.  

In 2010's competition, Ecuador's Ministry of Industries and Productivity (MIPRO) participated with their entries among which Andrea's jewelry was presented.  Bolivia, Peru, and Venezuela were also countries represented at this event.  The entries included crafts of textiles, ceramics, wood, natural fibers and jewelry.  

Andrea received UNESCO's Award of Excellence for jewelry among fifteen, who were recognized in this competition.  This recognition was awarded to Andrea for excellence, authenticity, innovation, commercial potential, respect for the environment, and social responsibility.

After this first recognition from the prestigious UNESCO, she was invited to another premiere event in Lima Peru, where she was awarded as one of the best artisans in the country of Ecuador
In September of 2011, Andrea was invited to Paris, France to participate in the largest designer show in Europe.  At this show, major companies from around the world come to purchase products.  At the end of the event, Andrea had sold everything she brought to the show along with orders for more jewelry.    Also, there were movie producers and designers at this event and she was given the opportunity for further exposure to her unique creations.

After returning from Paris, she returned to Cuenca only to immediately return to Paris in November of 2011 to participate in the 10th Anniversary of Diversity Cultural in the World.  This event was hosted by and in the UNESCO Building in Paris.  This is the most prestigious affair since only the Prime Ministers from around the world were invited to attend - it was not open to the public.  Because of this honor, she now has received open doors for her jewelry in other countries.

In a whirlwind return to Cuenca, she was then invited the next month by the mayor of Jerusalem and traveled to Israel to give an exhibit there.  Andrea's collection was also included in an exhibition in the famous Lourve in Paris, France as pictured below.

In 2012,  the highest honor came for Andrea when she was named as one of the five best artisans in the world.  

There are other events Andrea has participated in since 2010, but now her traveling days have slowed tremendously.  She states that since her jewelry is now known in other countries and selling, she wanted to fulfill her dream to open a store in the city of Cuenca - a city she so loves. Again, her passion is to preserve the culture and history of Cuenca regarding the indigenous people - especially the four remaining:  Cholas, CaƱarejas, OtavaleƱas, and Zuletas.

Andrea also has a beautiful family - her husband, Pedro, and son, Pedro Daniel.  She wants to be here for them. Her son is now 8 years old and has already shown a unique "eye" to the world of creativity - as he likes to draw.  Andrea says though he is surrounded in the world of jewelry, he's still "all boy," for he loves sports!

Please go by her store located at "La Esquina de las Artes " on Doce de Abril and Agustin Cueva.   The store is open Monday through Friday from 10am to 2pm and 3pm to 7pm; and Saturdays, 10am to 6pm.  She currently has a sale in her store of some beautiful pieces with a 20% and 40% discount.
And... if you mention to her that you read about her store on this blog, she will give you an additional 15% except for the new designs.

 Andrea and Sue

You will enjoy seeing her unique store and gorgeous jewelry creation.  Best of all, you will enjoy meeting God's lovely creation:  Andrea Tello.