Dos Cumpleaños + Salsa en Cuenca (Episode 87)

We had a busy Tuesday with two birthday parties and my friend Stephen’s arrival from the states. On Thursday, we went to Café Libre for dinner and then Salsa Dancing at Verde Pintón y Maduro.

Be sure to check out our next video. Stephen does some crazy adventure sports here in Cuenca that Amelia and I would never do!

Abin’s Birthday Party at Namaste India

We’re leaving for India in a couple weeks to attend Chinnu and Abin’s wedding, but today was Abin’s special day! He turned 30 years old and we celebrated with him at Namaste India.

Abin Bday

It’s a tradition in India to celebrate birthdays at midnight on the “morning” of the actual birthday so we left home around 11:15 PM to walk down to El Centro. It’s also tradition to smear cake all over the face of the birthday boy or girl.

Abin Cake Face

In addition to cake, they made lots of delicious Indian food for the party. They’re so thoughtful – they made several vegan dishes that everyone enjoyed.

Abin Bday Feast

Stephen’s Arrival from the States

That afternoon, my old friend Stephen arrived from the States and he stayed with us for several days. Our next video will feature his wild and crazy antics. He took a buseta from Guayaquil with Operazuaytur for $12.

Stephen Arrival

Olesya’s Birthday Party

It was also Olesya’s 30th birthday on the same day as Abin’s! We have two friends born on exactly the same day: one in Russia and one in Southern India! What a small world!

Olesya

Olesya stays with an Ecuadorian family who was happy to host her birthday party and welcome us into their home.

Olesya Bday Party

You may remember Olesya from our Food With Friends video or her Yoga in the Park video.

Dinner at Café Libre

On Thursday, we went to Café Libre for dinner with Stephen before going salsa dancing. As always, the food was AMAZING!

I had La Especial de la Semana (the special of the week), which was pasta in a cashew cream sauce covered in veggies with a side salad.

Cafe Libre Especial

Amelia had the Raw Lasagna with a side salad.

Cafe Libre Raw Lasagna

And Stephen had the Jack ‘n Jack Gua Bao. YUM!

Cafe Libre Gua Bao

Salsa at Verde Pintón y Maduro

After we ate dinner at Café Libre, we walked a few blocks over to Verde Pintón y Maduro for some Salsa Dancing. Amelia and I didn’t dance but we’ve decided to take some lessons when we get back from India. Stephen loves Salsa so we mainly went for him, but we thoroughly enjoyed watching all the incredible dancing!

Stephen Dancing

They dance several different styles of Salsa here in Ecuador: Kizomba, Regular Salsa, Cha Cha and Bachata. I couldn’t tell  you the difference, but they’re all very beautiful styles.

The venue had a $3 drink minimum, and the drinks ranged from $5 to $8 so the minimum was easy to hit. We spent about $35 on 5 drinks.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Our First Q&A (Episode 86)

We get a lot of the same questions via the comments on our videos and via email, so we thought we’d answer several of them in this video. Please let us know if you have any others and we’ll add them to our next Q&A video.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Bringing Pets to Ecuador: Daisy and Alicia’s Excellent Adventure (Episode 85)

We’ve had LOTS of questions about how to bring pets to Ecuador and about how pet-friendly Cuenca is, so we thought we’d record a quick video talking about our experience bring Daisy and Alicia here. It was quite the adventure!

For our fellow vegans, we’re using the term “pets” in this post and in the video for SEO value. More people search for pet travel and pet services than they search for companion animals or fur babies so we don’t want to miss out on that search traffic.

USDA APHIS – Pet Travel from the US to Ecuador

If you’re bringing your pet to Ecuador, the first thing you need to do is read through all the guidelines and certificate paperwork on the USDA APHIS website: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/. APHIS stands for “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.”

Here’s the page with the Health Certificates for Dogs and Cats, specifically for Ecuador. You need to have this paperwork with you at all times while travelling internationally with your pets.

The very next step is to find a USDA Accredited Veterinarian. They will help you fill out all the paperwork and plan your vaccine schedule. They’ll also work with the USDA to make sure everything on the paperwork and the vaccine schedule is correct. We used Town & Country Veterinary Clinic in Marietta, GA. They were very helpful and we highly recommend them if you live in the Atlanta area.

You’ll also need to find the nearest USDA APHIS office to get all the certificates endorsed. You need to make an appointment with them, and it could take a couple weeks to get on their calendar so plan accordingly.

The vaccine schedule is complicated, especially if you have multiple dogs at varying stages of their vaccine schedule. Daisy and Alicia both had some vaccines that had not expired yet. That meant we had to get boosters for some vaccines while making sure others were given during a specific window of time.

Even working with an accredited vet, we still messed up on one of the vaccines, which caused us to delay our trip by two weeks. Thankfully for us, but not for millions of other people, Hurricane Irma passed through Atlanta on the day we were supposed to leave and closed the airport so we were able to change our flights without paying any fees.

Pet Friendly Air Suites Hotel in Guayaquil Ecuador

The hotel we mentioned in the video is the Air Suites Hotel in Guayaquil. It’s only a few blocks from the airport, it’s very affordable and they accept pets. We’ve stayed their several times and it typically costs about $35/night. The rooms are small, but they’re very clean.

They don’t have much for vegan breakfast; mainly coffee, toast and fruit. We usually bring a PB&J with us when we stay there. You can walk to Mall del Sol, which is about 10 blocks away. That mall has a delicious sushi restaurant with several vegan options.

Air Suites Hotel Guayaquil

Renting a Home that Accepts Pets in Cuenca Ecuador

We talked about finding a rental house in Cuenca that would accept pets in our Cost of Living in Cuenca Ecuador + Rental House Tour. Not all landlords will accept pets, and some will only accept small dogs like Alicia. Daisy is considered a large dog here, and she’s only 30 pounds.

Pet Services in Cuenca

We’re going to record a full video on pet services in Cuenca, but for now, here’s who we use:

If you have any other questions, please let us know in the comments and we’ll try to answer them in our next Pet Care video.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Cuenca Day In The Life + Vegan Lunch at YuraVeg & Shopping at Sukasa (Episode 84)

Let us know if you’d like to see more of these Day In The Life videos. They’re a lot of work to film and edit, but we really enjoy making them.

In this video, we walked over to YuraVeg for vegan lunch and then on to Gringolandia and Sukasa. We hope you enjoy the beautiful scenery and the interesting people we see along the way.

Amelia’s Bruises

I wanted to get this out of the way first! No, I’m not abusing Amelia! She started taking pole fitness classes again at Samsara Pole & Yoga, which gives her bruises from head to toe, but especially on her arms and thighs. We’ve already had some friends comment about them. If you haven’t figured it out by now, Amelia is a total kid-at-heart. She loves to play, even if it gives her bruises 😂

Amelia Bruise

Vegan Lunch at YuraVeg

Our friend Olesya recommended YuraVeg for some delicious, low/no-oil vegan food so we decided to give it a try. It’s about a 25 minute walk from our house in the Sucre neighborhood near Loja y Remigio Crespo Toral.

YuraVeg is a vegan and vegetarian restaurant so be sure to tell them no queso, no huevo y no mantequilla.

YuraVeg Sign

We had the Arepas Veganas, and they were AMAZING! For $5 per plate, we each got two arepas with 4 different sauces. Yum! We will DEFINITELY be adding this place to our regular rotation!

YuraVeg Arepas

Helado Vegano en Fratello (Vegan Ice Cream at Fratello)

It seems that a day in our life wouldn’t be complete without some helado vegano en Fratello! Clocking over 20,000 steps (that’s 10 miles) really works up an appetite! Although we don’t need an excuse to eat Rene’s delicious vegan ice cream 😋

I had the helado fruta rojas and Amelia had the helado chocolate, as per usual.

Helado Vegano 1

Helado Vegano 2

Shopping at Sukasa Cuenca

We were hoping to film inside Sukasa, but the guard at the front door said they have a store policy against it. I told him it would be promoción gratis (free advertising), but he said it wasn’t his call. El gerente (the manager) makes that call. Oh well. Their loss.

Sukasa

We did find the queen-size mattress cover Amelia was looking for. The price on the package was $28, but it rang up en venta (on sale) for $18. What a bargain!

Believe it or not, that’s not to protect the mattress from me. I rarely sweat. Amelia, on-the-other-hand, is experiencing hot flashes and night sweats. She’s only 50, but her mom also went through this phase of life early.

Sukasa Mattress Cover

Sukasa is located in the same stripmall next to the Supermaxi in Gringolandia.

Supermaxi Gringolandia

Cuenca is a Big Little City

Every time we leave the house, we bump into someone we know. That RARELY happened in Denver. That’s one thing we love about Cuenca: it has all the amenities of a larger city, but it still has a small city feel.

Pam (on the left) and her husband were the previous renters of our house. Amelia met Susan doing Belly Dance at The Tribal Fusion House.

Pam & Susan

Samara and Samantha are Xavier’s wife and daughter. You met Xavier in our Apartamentos Otorongo video.

Samara y Samantha

Watch Where You’re Walking!

Ecuador is not a safety minded country. They follow the Jeff Foxworthy philosophy of “Let ’em break a bone! They’ll learn!”

There aren’t a lot of handrails in Ecuador and the sidewalks are a walking hazard. You ALWAYS have to pay attention when you’re walking.

These post holes were on a relatively new sidewalk in Gringolandia near Sukasa. You could break your leg or ankle if you stepped in one of these!

Holes

The retaining walls on the sides of bridges rarely have rails, so you could easily step off one of them and fall 15 or 20 feet, sometimes into a raging river.

Tomebamba Bridge

Other Stuff from the Video

Dog Wash

You may have noticed the Dog Wash in our video. It’s located on Calle Federico Proaño, La Salle 2-21. We took Daisy there a couple times before Jessica at Maxi’s Pet Care started offering grooming services. We were very happy with Daisy’s bath and it was very affordable. The sign says a wash starts at $6, but that’s for small dogs. I believe Daisy was $10.

Dog Wash Cuenca

Cuenca’s Bike Lanes

One of our regular viewers asked us about bike lanes in Cuenca. You’ll notice a LOT of them in this video. Cuenca has been adding them throughout the city for several years as part of a health and environmental awareness campaign.

Cuenca Bike Lanes

Pacha Kuna Organic Market

Pacha Kuna is an organic market located next door to YuraVeg. It’s closed on the weekend so we’ll have to go back another day to give you the full tour.

Pacha Kuna

Chakana Coworking

Coworking spaces are very popular here. Chakana Coworking is located in the same building as YuraVeg and Pacha Kuna. Ecuador is a bit behind the technological curve, but they’re working hard to catch up and I’m guessing coworking places like this are helping.

Chakana Coworking

Cuenca Fashion

We video a lot of clothing storefronts to show that Cuenca and South America is a modern city with modern fashion. Weddings are also a huge thing here, so there are lots of bridal shops. I can’t find a website for this one, which is common in Ecuador. Most places at least have a Facebook page, but I couldn’t find one of those either.

AD Bridal Cuenca

Street Performers

Most major intersections in Cuenca have entertaining street performers. You’ll see everything from guitar players to firebreathers to jugglers with clown noses. And they’re extremely talented!

Juggler

Juggler 2

First Tranvía Sighting

We don’t live near the new Tranvía rail system here in Cuenca so we haven’t filmed it in operation until recording this video. We’ll take a ride on it at some point to give you the full experience.

Cuenca Tranvía

Gas Truck Sighting

We’ve talked about the gas trucks in a few of our videos, but we were able to record part of the song today. If you’re curious about the song lyrics, I spent several hours one day translating them: Cuenca Gas Truck Song Lyrics & English Translation.

Gas Truck

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Vegan vs. Plant-Based: What’s the Difference? (Episode 83)

Welcome to our blog! We haven’t thought to promote it before, assuming people would dig deeper and find it, but several people pointed out they didn’t know about it so we thought we’d tell you.

All of our videos have an associated blog post with more pictures, context, details and links to relevant information and businesses. If you ever have a question that we didn’t cover in the video, check the blog post linked in the YouTube description. It might be there.

This video is a response, of sorts, to the rash of “ex-vegan” YouTube “celebrities.” Several, including Rawvana and Raw Alignment, have said they’re eating animal products due to health issues caused by their previous “vegan” diets, which were extreme fad diets that happened to be vegan.

These people were never actually vegan, though. They lacked the vegan ideology and mainly focused on the diet/vanity aspects related to being thin. Additionally, many of them were using veganism to hide an eating disorder for which they need to seek professional help.

Veganism Defined

A lot of people (especially celebrities who are paid by the animal ag industry) like to redefine veganism to paint vegans as hypocrites. However, there is a clear definition of the vegan ideology that was written more than 40 years ago. It states:

Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

The key phrase in this definition is “as far as is possible and practicable.” It’s impossible to be a perfect vegan in a world built on top of animal exploitation. All we can do is try our best to avoid most animal products “as far as is possible and practicable.”

Just because we have to get a vaccine that’s made using eggs doesn’t make us hypocrites. Unfortunately, the companies who make vaccines are resistant to adopt vegan methodologies because it costs money to switch their production systems over, so we’re stuck with what they offer.

The same goes for bugs and small animals killed during the harvesting of our crops. There are ways to reduce the impact of our farming methodologies on insects and animals, but they’re more expensive so most companies haven’t adopted them.

With that said, nearly 80% of all land on this tiny planet is used to either raise livestock or the grain that’s fed to livestock, which yields less than 20% of the calories we consume. So if you really want to reduce the number of insects and small animals killed during farming, go vegan.

The Plant-Based Diets

Veganism is NOT a diet. But it does have a major dietary component because we eat several times per day. Just like with the omnivore diet, there are several different types of plant-based diets:

  • Fruitarian Diet – only eats fruit.
  • Raw Vegan Diet – only eats uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains.
  • Vegan Junk Food Diet – doesn’t care about health; eats anything as long as it doesn’t come from an animal.
  • Whole-Food Plant-Based (WFPB) Diet – basically, the Mediterranean Diet without animal products; lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds and mushrooms.
  • WFPB No-Oil – WFPB without any oil (olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil, etc.).
  • WFPB No SOS – WFPB without any added sugar, oil or salt.
  • Starch-Based Diet – Dr. McDougall’s version of a WFPB No SOS diet that focuses on complex carbs like potatoes and whole grains.
  • Nutritarian Diet – Dr. Fuhrman’s diet that allows small amounts of animal products but is primarily a WFPB Diet.

There are others, plus some people opt for water fasts, juice fasts and intermittent fasting.

However, NONE of this has anything to do with veganism. They’re diets that happen to be vegan or mostly vegan, and just like all the omnivore diets (Mediterranean, Atkins, Keto, Paleo, Weight Watchers, Zone, South Beach, DASH, etc.), some have been scientifically proven to be healthier than others.

Whole-Food Plant-Based (WFPB) No-Oil Diet

After extensive research and reading, we opted for the WFPB No-Oil Diet promoted by many doctors and scientists, such as Dr. Greger, Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Campbell, Dr. Popper, Dr. Garth Davis, Dr. Neal Barnard and many others.

We have a LONG blog post on LottaVeg.com listing our Credible Nutrition Sources and we also share our criteria for selecting them. We encourage you to read through that blog post and develop your own criteria for choosing who to trust.

Credible Nutrition Sources Banner

Please keep in mind that just because someone publishes a book doesn’t mean it’s true; it only means the publisher thought the book would sell. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called experts misrepresent the science to sell books, supplements and diet programs that don’t work in reality. Trust no one.

We also have a list of the Best Plant-Based Books for a Longer, More Vibrant Life over on LottaVeg.com. If you want to know the science behind our diet, we encourage you to read two or three of these books.

Proteinaholic by Dr. Garth Davis is a good place to start because he goes into detail about how to spot bogus, corporate junk science. If heart disease is a concern for you, skip straight to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

Recommended Plant-Based Books Covers

That’s the difference between our diet and most other diets: there are dozens, probably hundreds of doctors and scientists who study it and use it to treat their patients. It’s not one guy who published a book that misrepresents the science in order to profit from your confusion.

They may not agree on all the fine details, but they all agree on the main premise: eat plants, not animals. We evolved from primates who eat plant-based diets. We didn’t evolve from lions and tigers and bears.

Unsavory Truth

If you want to know why we don’t trust science paid for and/or conducted by corporations or industry associations, please read Unsavory Truth by Dr. Marion Nestle (no relation to the food company). She has made it her life’s work to uncover corruption in the food industry, and it’s far more insidious than we ever thought.

Unsavory Truth Nestle

Studies funded by any industry, including beef, diary, egg, nut, avocado, olive oil, pomegranate, cereal, blueberry, etc. cannot be trusted. Whether plant or animal, food studies funded by industry are setup to sell more products; not discover scientific truth.

Other Useful “Ex-Vegan” Response Videos

GojiMan

Mic the Vegan

Plant Based News

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Our Big Surprise + Emergency Trip to US Embassy in Guayaquil (Episode 82)

WE’RE GOING TO INDIA!!!

Amelia is finally letting me tell you because we can’t keep it a secret any longer. That’s because we had to make an emergency trip to the US Embassy (Embajada de los Estados Unidos) in Guayaquil to get my passport renewed. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Our friends Chinnu and Abin from Namaste India are getting married! Their story is a full blown India Rom Com (Romantic Comedy) that we’ll share on a later date.

Chinnu Abin

We’ve been going to Namaste since our first week in Cuenca, and we forged a friendship with Chinnu and now Abin, too. We’re VERY honored to be invited and excited to attend their wedding in southern India!

We will also be staying in Amsterdam for a week on the way to India, Amelia’s first time to Europe and my first time to mainland Europe. But before we can go, we have some obstacles to overcome…

Yellow Fever Vaccine (Vacuna de Fiebre Amarilla)

The Yellow Fever Vaccine is a requirement to go to India for anyone who has visited or lives in a country that has Yellow Fever, and Ecuador fits that bill. If we show up in India without the vaccine, they’ll quarantine us for 6 days and that’s NOT how we want to spend half our time in india!

Amelia was in charge of the India Visa process, and she thought we needed the vaccine before we could apply for the visa, which isn’t correct. You can apply for the visa without the vaccine, which would have alerted us sooner to the problem with my passport.

In the states, you generally get vaccines at your doctor’s office, but it’s different here in Ecuador. We emailed our primary care doctor and he directed us to the health ministry office on Doce de Abril near Parque de la Madre.

Centro de Salud Cuenca

We walked down there one afternoon (it’s only about a 10 minute walk from our house) to find out they only give vaccines in the morning. This was during Carnaval so they weren’t giving vaccines again until after the holiday almost a week later.

So the next week, we went back to get our shots but the line was already about 20 people long when we arrived shortly after 8AM and they don’t open until 8:30 AM. We both had other appointments that morning, so we left and came back at 11:30AM only to learn they had already run out of the Yellow Fever vaccine for the day. Apparently, they get a fresh batch every day 🤷‍♂️

It was Friday, so once again we had to wait until the following week to go back. We got there right at 8AM the following Tuesday and we were already 5th in line, but we managed to get our shots and the Yellow Fever booklet we need to go to India. It only took 4 trips.

Our shots were totally free. Vaccines are covered by the national healthcare program even if you’re not on the IESS plan.

India Visa & Your REAL Passport Expiration Date

With our Yellow Fever booklet in hand, we went home to fill out the online visa application for India. That’s when I realized we had a problem.

Here’s the second eligibility requirement: Passport should have at least six months validity from the date of arrival in India.

You tell me. Does that mean the passport needs to be at least 6 months old? Or does it mean it needs to have a least 6 months remaining before it expires? Amelia thought the first; I thought the second.

So after filling out the online form, it told me I’m not eligible for a visa because my passport expires within 6 months of our trip.

That means your passport does NOT expire on the expiration date printed on your passport. It actually expires 6 months BEFORE that date.

Ecuador and many other countries have the same rule. You cannot enter their countries with less than 6 months of “validity” left on your passport so keep that in mind. We’re setting calendar reminders for 8 months prior to expiration so this doesn’t happen again.

If I had left Ecuador, they wouldn’t have allowed me to reenter. I would have had to stay in the US for 2 to 3 weeks waiting for my new passport before returning. Thankfully we avoided that situation.

Emergency Trip to the US Embassy in Guayaquil

You can use DHL to ship your passport, application and money to the US Embassy in Guayaquil, but this adds several days and a lot of risk to the passport renewal process. I would NEVER ship my passport and leave myself stranded!

Las Busetas de Operazuay Tur

So we opted to take a buseta with Operazuay Tur from Cuenca to Guayaquil to file the passport renewal paperwork in person. You can only go to the embassy on Tuesday or Wednesday from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM so plan accordingly.

Operazuay Tur

Courtyard by Marriott Guayaquil

Rather than take a buseta that leaves Cuenca at 6AM, we went the night before and used some of Amelia’s points to stay at the Courtyard by Marriott Guayaquil. We’ve stayed there before and it was REALLY nice. This Courtyard is as nice as any Marriott back in the states.

Marriott Courtyard Guayaquil

Courtyard Guayaquil

Courtyard Guayaquil Lobby

Mall San Marino

The Courtyard in Guayaquil is only a couple blocks from Mall San Marino, which has a NOE Sushi Bar with vegan options.

San Marino Mall

One of the things that continues to surprise us is how similar other countries are to the US. This is one of the nicest malls I’ve ever been in, with many of the same brands you would see in the states, plus several brands from Europe that we don’t often see in the states.

We’re taught in the states to think that South America and developing countries around the world are still living in the dark ages, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Except for the language being spoken and printed on most (not all) signs, you could plop this mall down in any American city and no one would believe it came from South America.

There was one more difference: it was PACKED with people on a Monday night! The malls are dying in the US mostly thanks to Amazon and online shopping. However, Amazon hasn’t overtaken Ecuador because reliable, affordable shipping options don’t exist here, yet. That means people still do most of their shopping in the real world.

Mall San Marino People

NOE Sushi Bar San Marino Guayaquil

We’ve eaten at the NOE Sushi Bar in Cuenca and the Quito Airport several times, and it’s delicious! They have two pages of vegetarian sushi options, and all of them can be veganized except the tamago (which is egg).

NOE Sushi Menu

NOE Sushi Menu 2

Be sure to tell them you’re vegan: Somos veganos (or soy vegano if you’re alone). And remind them that means no queso, no crema, no juevo, no carne, no pesca. They always bring us a little abreboca (small appetizer) that’s vegan; some avocado sushi on this occasion.

NOE Sushi Appetizer

We also ordered the Yasai Maki and the Bonsai Vegetariana, sin crema. Since some of it was fried, it wasn’t the healthiest of dinners, but it certainly was DELICIOUS! We’ll have to eat extra clean for several days to make up for it!

NOE Sushi Platter

Renewing My Passport at the US Embassy in Guayaquil

Hopefully we don’t get in trouble for showing the embassy because they wouldn’t let us film anything. As soon as they saw my camera, they told me to put it away. There were LOTS of people waiting in line, but they lifted the rope for us and let us go straight to the front since we’re American citizens.

All the guards were VERY polite, smiling and happy. We’re so used to the sour attitudes of security guards in the states, it was a pleasant surprise to be treated with respect and kindness.

US Embassy Guayaquil

We had to leave everything at the security entrance except our passport docs. They asked us to turn off our phones and watches, too. Luckily, they let us pass without shutting off my Fitbit because I had no idea how to turn it off. They gave us a number to collect our things on the way out.

After going through the security scanners, we exited the security station and entered the beautifully landscaped embassy grounds. More smiling guards were there to point us in the right direction. Again, lots more people were waiting in the open air to go inside the next building. And again, they pointed to the door and sent us in before everyone else.

Once inside, there was another security scanner with a line of people and they escorted us in front of them. There were 13 windows serving another LONG line of people, but only one window for American citizens. We had our own waiting area with chairs to sit in. There were 3 people in front of us, but it only took about 10 minutes before it was our turn.

I handed my passport, application and passport photo to the agent and he reviewed everything very quickly. He crossed out the TravelingMailbox address I had entered and told us to use our Cuenca address, instead.

Then he said we needed a color copy of my passport details page, which nearly gave me a heart attack. I was afraid we would need to leave the embassy to get a copy made, but if we did that, we wouldn’t be able to get back before 11:30 AM when they close. Then he said there’s a copy machine outside in the courtyard area, so my freakout was short lived.

He also told us to go pay the cashier, who was at window 14 around the corner from the other 13 windows, and bring the receipt back to him with the copy of my passport. The cost was $110 for a passport renewal.

We went outside to a small green kiosk with a man sitting inside who does nothing but make copies. It was $1 for a copy. Then we went back inside, again being escorted through the security line, then escorted in front of the line to pay for our renewal. They gave us two receipts: one for the agent and one that I’ll need in order to pick up my passport in two weeks.

We went back to the original agent and waited behind two people for about 5 minutes. Then he called us up, took my passport, the color copy, the corrected application, and the receipt, and told us to wait a few minutes for the approval process.

About 5 minutes later, he called us back up and gave my passport back to me, along with a green slip of paper saying my application has been approved and it would be ready in 15 calendar days.

He told us it should only take 8 to 10 business days, though, and he asked if I wanted to DHL it back to Cuenca, but said that would add another 5 to 6 days to the process so I opted to go back to Guayaquil to pick it up. With our trip so close, I will only feel comfortable if they hand it directly to me.

We left that area, walked back through the grounds and into the security entrance building, gathered our things and exited the embassy. A cab was waiting across the street so we hopped in and he drove us back to the Courtyard hotel.

Amelia arranged a late checkout for us so we did some work in the room and then went for lunch at NOE again before heading back to the buseta terminal near the Guayaquil airport.

Operazuay Tur Guayaquil

Overall, it was one of the most pleasant experiences we’ve ever had with our government, and it was in another country! Everyone was super nice and helpful, but most of the guards didn’t speak English so we had to practice our Spanish under stress.

Now we wait and hope my passport gets here on time without issue. 🤞

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Flashback Day In Our Life + Apartamentos Otorongo Tour (Episode 81)

This is a flashback day in our life. When we first moved here and stayed at Apartamentos Otorongo, we had a daily routine that included fresh fruits & veggies, and fresh baked bread.

Apartamentos Otorongo

When we came to Cuenca on our exploratory trip in 2017, we stayed at Apartamentos Otorongo for a week, and when we moved to Cuenca later that year, we stayed at Otorongo for almost 2 months while we looked for a rental house.

Apartamentos Otorongo Sign

The location is perfect for getting settled here in Cuenca, and we loved Xavier, Samara and Samantha. They’re wonderful hosts and made us feel right at home from the first day. We also got to know Sara and Angelita, two of the staff members who helped teach us Cuencano Spanish, and kept our rooms spotless.

We made several gringo friends during both our stays at Otorongo, and we still hang out with most of them. Some have moved away, either back to the states, to another country or to somewhere else in Ecuador, but we stay in touch with them, too. Otorongo is a great place to start building your Cuenca community.

If you want the best deal on your stay, especially extended stays, book through their website at HotelOtorongo.com. That’ll save you money while making Xavier and his family more money by cutting out the middle booking site.

Mercado 10 de Agosto

Mercado 10 de Agosto

Nearly every morning during our stay at Otorongo, we walked along the Tomebamba river and up the stairs to Mercado 10 de Agosto for fresh fruits and veggies. It’s best to go in the morning while everything is still very fresh. Since they don’t refrigerate their meat in the mercados, it can get quite smelly by the afternoon.

Amelia Mercado

After we loaded up on produce, we walked across the street to one of the panaderías for fresh baked bread. If you’re vegan, some of the bread has cheese (queso) inside it and some is brushed with butter (mantequilla). We usually bought the whole wheat buns and some water bread, which is a popular type of bread here made only with flour, yeast and water. Each bun/roll costs 13 cents.

Panadería

Lavandería Tomebamba

Otorongo has an onsite washer and dryer available to guests, but we preferred supporting the local economy by letting someone else wash, dry and fold our laundry. Lavandería Tomebamba is a convenient location and just a few blocks from Otorongo.

Lavandería Tomebamba

When we stayed there, the cost for a load of laundry including detergent was $3.50. Now they have a pricing structure that starts at $2.90 and goes up to $6, depending on the size of the load.

Amelia Lavandería

If you’re contemplating a move here, Otorongo is a great place to start your new adventure. It’s the perfect location with convenient access to all the things you need to begin a new life in a foreign city.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Cuenca Expat Pros & Cons Part 2 (Episode 80)

Here is our Cuenca Expats Pros & Cons list, our second top 10 list of things we love about Cuenca and a few things we don’t love so much. You can view our first top 10 list in Part 1 here: Top 10 Things We LOVE About Cuenca Ecuador + Top 5 Things We Don’t Love (Episode 71)

Top 10 List of Things We LOVE About Cuenca – Part 2

#10 Very Few Bugs

Cuenca is over 8,000 feet in altitude so we don’t have a lot of bugs here. We’ve only seen a couple mosquitos in the 16 months we’ve lived in Cuenca. We do have a few flies and fruit flies, but nothing like the lower altitudes.

While spiders aren’t bugs, we do have some of those, including a tarantula that crawled in under our kitchen door. I shooed him out of the kitchen with a broom and he never came back.

#9 Low Crime Rate

Cuenca, and Ecuador in general, has a very low crime rate. Guns and ammunition are difficult to find so there aren’t a lot of violent crimes. Most crime is petty theft, especially pickpockets. However, over the past few years, the city has installed cameras in popular pickpocket spots, which has cut down on crime in those area.

There is also a strong police presence on the streets and trails around Cuenca. And they’re very friendly. We feel completely comfortable asking them for directions and they often help people cross the street safely.

Cuenca Low Crime

Ecuador’s prisons are also under occupied (only 38%), and they offer very effective rehabilitation services that have resulted in a low recidivism rate (meaning ex-convicts return to prison at much lower rates than in the US).

#8 Small Businesses

Ecuador has a form of regulated capitalism. It’s considered a social republic with a democratically elected government. That means big corporations don’t rule the country, which levels the playing field so small business can compete.

While there are some large stores here like Coral, Supermaxi, Kywi and Sukasa, they’re usually the same price as small vendors, and sometimes more expensive. For example, the small vendors at the mercados are much less expensive for fruits and veggies than Supermaxi.

It can be challenging sometimes to find the things you’re looking for, and a single item may require several trips to different areas of town, but we like supporting small businesses and don’t mind the extra walking.

#7 The Weather

Eight months out of the year, the weather in Cuenca is absolutely beautiful. It’s sunny and 70’s most of the day with an occasional brief rain shower. It seems to rain more during the night than during the day for those 8 months.

Cuenca Weather 1

Cuenca Weather 2

#6 Coffee & Chocolate

Coffee and chocolate are two of Ecuador’s primary exports. Due to its tropical climate near the equator, Ecuador is ideal for growing both of the beans used to make these food products. They also don’t need to be hyper processed and shipped around the world, so we get extra fresh versions of both and you can taste the difference. Yum!

Déjame Que te Cuente

#5 Panaderías

As vegans, we embrace unprocessed carbs from whole foods, including bread made with whole grains. Some of the bread in the panaderías (bread shops) is made with refined flour, but we usually avoid those. Instead, we buy whole grain bread from Kelbert at ArteSana.

ArteSana Kelbert

They also make fresh sourdough (made with white flour) that is amazing, but we usually buy their whole grain breads: Chia & Flax, Chia & Sesame, Rye, etc.

Artesana Sourdough

ArteSana Whole Grain Bread

Tosta is another one of our FAVORITE panaderías in Cuenca. All of their bread has as sourdough base and most of it is whole grain. ¡Su pan es muy delicioso!

Tosta Sourdough

#4 Cuenca Flower Markets

You can buy beautiful and inexpensive flowers throughout Ecuador, but there’s nothing quite like Cuenca’s world famous Flower Market. It was included in National Geographic’s list of Top 10 Outdoor Flower Markets for good reason. It’s incredibly stunning.

Cuenca Flower MarketCuenca Flower Market Cuenca Flower Market Cuenca Flower Market

#3 The Blue Crew

Cuenca is one of the cleanest cities we’ve ever seen, and that’s almost entirely due to the blue crew: Cuenca’s street cleaners. They work from before sunup to after sundown, 7 days per week to keep this city spotless and we couldn’t be more thankful for them.

Blue Crew 1

#2 No GMO’s

GMO crops are banned from Ecuador, despite heavy pressure from the US to allow them. In fact, GMO’s are prohibited in Ecuador’s constitution!

They are allowed to import GMO products like soy sauce and textured vegetable protein (TVP), but they must be clearly labeled. We really appreciate that. We would hate to see the same thing happen here in Ecuador, that is happening in India and other developing countries that made the mistake of allowing GMO crops.

GMO Soy Sauce

#1 Affordable, High-Quality Healthcare

This probably should have been on our first list of things we love about Cuenca because it was one of the main driving factors for our move from the US to Ecuador. We simply couldn’t afford healthcare for my spine back in the states.

My two surgeries cost almost 1 MILLION DOLLARS! And the insurance we have now with Amelia’s company back in Denver would only cover 40% of that after a $12,000 deductible!

Another spine surgery back in the states would bankrupt us, and I’m not willing to do that to myself and especially not to Amelia at our age.

Top 5 Things We DON’T Love About Cuenca – Part 2

#5 Lack of Punctuality

Time is a fluid, non-binding construct here in Ecuador and throughout Latin America. Their culture just doesn’t think of time the same way us Americans and Northern Europeans do. Most things rarely start on time or end on time. It has required us to learn patience and lower our expectations, which aren’t bad things for us rigid gringos.

#4 Lack of Organization and Communication

We’ve gone to events before, but were never able to find them. Signs are rarely used and people can rarely be found who know anything about what’s going on. Combined with the lack of punctuality, we’re commonly left wandering around lost, and often going home without finding the venue.

The city is also replacing the water lines in our neighborhood, so the water has been off quite often in our house since we moved in. Unfortunately, they don’t communicate the outage schedule so we have no idea when it will be off and are unable to make plans for it. We now keep jugs of water in the house so we have water to drink and so we can wash our hands.

The lack of organization and communication can be very exasperating.

#3 Public Urination

Yes. That’s a thing here. And a common one. We rarely go anywhere without seeing someone peeing behind a telephone pole or tree. We’ve even seen women squatting in plain sight of passersby. For us overly clean Americans, it’s a bit gross and uncomfortable to make eye contact with someone peeing in public.

#2 The Rainy Season

While Cuenca is beautiful 8 months out of the year, the other 4 months are dreary and damp. The rainy season starts in late April and goes through early July. That’s when the winter, cloudy season starts and ends around late August. Last year, we only saw the sun for a couple hours during that entire 4 months. I told Amelia we need to go someplace sunny for a few weeks during future rainy seasons.

#1 Sidewalk Hazards

The sidewalks throughout Ecuador are hazardous. There’s no better way to put it. From gaping holes to cut off post stumps to trash racks to slippery terracotta tiles on a steep decline, you’re literally taking your life into your own hands simply by walking on the sidewalk. It requires your constant, diligent attention.

Cuenca Sidewalk Hazards 1 Cuenca Sidewalk Hazards 2 Cuenca Sidewalk Hazards 3 Cuenca Sidewalk Hazards 4 Cuenca Sidewalk Hazards 5 Cuenca Sidewalk Hazards 6 Cuenca Sidewalk Hazards 7

Although we do occasionally see people in wheelchairs, the city is not very handicap accessible. That’s something to consider before moving here if you’re physically challenged.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Hiking in Upper Cajas National Park – Cuenca, Ecuador (Episode 79)

On this excursion outside Cuenca, Ecuador, we went to Upper Cajas in the Cajas National Park. Edwin picked us up about 9:30AM and the drive took us about 45 minutes to reach the check in station.

Cuenca to Cajas Map

Entry into the park is free, but we did have to sign in at the building by the parking lot before venturing down the trail toward the lake.

Upper Cajas Lake

We followed Ruta 1 Rosada, which was an easy/intermediate trail. There was quite a bit of elevation gain and loss with a few spots that were quite difficult to traverse.

Upper Cajas Ruta 1 Rosada

We saw lots of mushrooms and beautiful flowers, but this lone yellow flower set against a dark backdrop was truly stunning.

Yellow Flower

These circus flowers were also visually captivating.

Circus Flowers

Edwin was nice enough to hike up the 1,000 foot incline at the end of the hike to get the van. My legs haven’t fully recovered from the nerve damage so they were very weak by that point. Edwin sent us down the hill to the lower parking lot where he picked us up. If you need a safe and reliable driver who speaks fluent English and really takes care of his clients, Contact Us for an email introduction.

Edwin

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Yoga in the Park + 3 Year Veganversary (Episode 78)

We celebrated our 3-Year Veganversary over the weekend! We went vegan on March 8th, 2016 and haven’t looked back! We did several fun things to celebrate our compassionate, environmentally friendly and healthy lifestyle, and we share a couple of them with you in this video.

We also just passed 500 subscribers on our Amelia And JP YouTube Channel! Thank you all for subscribing and continuing to watch our videos! They’re quite the labor of love so knowing so many people enjoy them makes it all worthwhile!

Yoga in the Park with Olesya

You may recognize Olesya from this Food With Friends video or the 2nd Food With Friends video, but she’s also an amazing yoga instructor. In fact, Amelia says she’s the best she’s ever had!

Olesya Amelia

The yoga style in this video was relaxing and restorative, but she also teaches much more difficult yoga that gets the heart pumping and the sweat rolling. It all depends on which class you attend.

You can visit her facebook page at Yoga con Olesya en Cuenca for her schedule or to contact her about her upcoming classes or private training.

3-Year Veganversary Dinner at Fratello Vegan

We thought celebrating our 3-Year Veganversary at Fratello with our good vegan friend, Rosy, was apropos.

Fratello Sign

Amelia Rosy

Rosy was our very first vegan friend in Ecuador, and our VERY FIRST subscriber on our Amelia And JP YouTube Channel! She subscribed before we even launched our channel and now we just passed 500 subscribers! It’s really hard to believe!

Our dinner at Fratello Vegan was delicious as usual. We hung out with Rosy and ate her brother’s amazing vegan food for almost 3 hours! I messaged Rene on Facebook the day before to order a small vegan chocolate cake for our Veganversary.

Fratello normally has a cake on-hand, but Amelia really wanted our own oil-free chocolate cake. If you want something special, it’s best to message Rene a day in advance. This cake was moist, decacadent and utterly delicious!

Vegan Chocolate Cake

The Impact of Veganism on Our Lives

We didn’t go vegan on a whim. We spent several months researching the diet aspects because we were raised to believe humans would die without eating meat, dairy and eggs. It took a lot of documentaries and reading to reverse a lifetime of brainwashing from animal ag marketing messages. Sometimes, I’m still shocked that we haven’t died of some nutrient deficiency yet!

Here are the Best Food Documentaries and Other Mind Altering Films that we recommend. And here are the Best Plant-Based Books for a Longer, More Vibrant Life that we recommend.

While veganism isn’t a diet, food is a really big part of being vegan. We don’t buy shoes or coats or cosmetics every day, but we do buy food every day so it’s always on the top of our mind.

We choose to eat a vegan Whole-Foods Plant-Based (WFPB) Diet, a term coined by Dr. T. Colin Campbell back in the early 1980’s. We eat NO animal products of any kind, and we avoid all processed foods, including oil, which is a processed, refined fat just like sugar is a processed refined carb. This way of eating has dramatically improved our health while leading to significant weight loss.

JP’s Weight Loss as a Vegan & WFPB

Before we went vegan, I weighed in at 197 pounds! At 5’10”, that’s borderline obese.

JP Before Vegan

After 3 years of being vegan, I’m down to 164 pounds and a size 30 jeans! I haven’t been this thin since before I graduated college in my early 20’s! Taking all that weight off my spine has also enabled me to be more mobile while reducing the level of pain I feel on a daily basis.

JP 3 Years Vegan

Amelia’s Weight Loss as a Vegan & WFPB

Amelia has seen a similar transformation. She weighed 130 pounds before we went vegan and WFPB. At 5 feet tall, that’s considered overweight.

Amelia Before Vegan

After 3 years of being vegan, Amelia has lost 25 pounds and now weighs only 105 pounds! She hasn’t been this thin since her early twenties, as well!

Amelia 3 Years Vegan

We’ve lost the weight slowly over the last 3 years, and we’ve kept it off because our diet is ideal for both losing weight and keeping it off. Combined with our “big why” to reduce animal suffering and protect our planet from environmental destruction, it has been very easy to stick with it.

Like I said before, veganism isn’t a diet (even though food is a big part of it). Rather, veganism is an ethical stance to cause the least amount of harm, as is practicable and possible, to innocent animals and our environment. Therefore, we don’t have “cheat days” because that would mean we would be violating our own ethical and moral standards.

By not having cheat days on our ethics, we also don’t have cheat days on our diet. The worst things we consume are oil (sometimes when we eat out) and beer/wine. Those are the only two things we consume that are unhealthy, and we try to avoid them as much as possible.

Improved Cholesterol Numbers

It’s not just about the weight loss, though. Our total cholesterol levels are under 200 without a statin. I have a genetic predisposition for high cholesterol and have been battling it most of my adult life. The only time it went below 200 before going vegan was thanks to a high dose of Simvastatin, a drug that I NEVER want to take again! The side effects were horrible!

Despite what the dairy, beef and egg industries would have you believe, we’ve known for 80 years that high blood serum cholesterol leads to cardiovascular disease. And since the 1960’s, we’ve known that dietary cholesterol, and especially saturated fat, increases blood serum cholesterol.

The blockages present in the vast majority of Americans is literally made of oxidized cholesterol, which can be cleaned out by eating a WFPB diet that’s free of cholesterol laden animal foods and low in saturated fat.

Heart disease kills over 600,000 Americans each year, but you don’t have to be one of them. We recommend reading Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s book, Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease for details about how to prevent, arrest and reverse the number one killer of people eating the Standard American Diet.

The Impact of Our Veganism on Our Planet

During our 3 years of being vegan, we have dramatically reduced our environmental footprint on this tiny blue and green planet. In 3 years, Amelia and I have saved:

3 Year Vegan Stats

These numbers come from The Vegan Calculator, which is based on stats from the documentary, Cowspiracy. If you’re skeptical about these numbers, great! We encourage you to do some independent, unbiased research. These numbers are corroborated by countless scientists and international organizations much to the chagrin of animal ag, which has paid for their own biased research.

When doing your research, please consider the source. Industry funded research is seldom reliable, whether it relates to plants or animals. We recommend reading Unsavory Truth by Marion Nestle to better understand how insidious corporate junk science has become. You simply can’t trust anything until you understand the study methodology and conclusions.

Vegans for Life

After 3 years of being vegan, our only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner. Both Amelia and I considered going vegan many years ago, but never pulled the trigger. We were too afraid of the unknown. But once we realized how horribly the animals suffer, how destructive animal ag is to our environment, and how unhealthy animal products are for human health, adopting a vegan lifestyle became unavoidable. We just couldn’t continue living as hypocrites once we knew better.

This brings us to a quote by Maya Angelou that I mentioned at the end of the video, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” We try to live our lives by this guiding principal. We’re far from perfect, but we’re doing the best we can. And each day, we try to do a little better. That’s all any of us can hope to do.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!