Full-Hearted Living in Ecuador

by Manya on March 8, 2014

Cojitambo-2625Living in a culture that is new to you compels a grateful heart, which is one, if not the, key  to happiness and abundance.  I think this is one of the secrets as to why so many ex-pats love living here.

I have rediscovered – as I think I first did when I moved to London taking a year off from my depressed life at Harvard – that when one is thrust into a world of difference, unfamiliarity, frustrations, challenge, and adventure, one comes to appreciate every little moment of discovery, every shift in perception or attitude, every connection, every moment of grace.  In a new context, you don’t take anything for granted.

Even though, no matter where you are in your life in the world, isn’t every moment really a new context, if we allow and choose it to be?  But I digress….

Friday I went to a birthday gathering of a new friend with whom I had had only one but significant meeting previously.  I was honored to be included in her celebration for which she had organized an expedition to the Estancia Familiar Cojitambo, about forty-five minutes from Cuenca.  I set out in my tin-can car of a Chevy Spark with some trepidation as this destination takes me on a new route which is always an adventure in a country where the signage is minimal and the road quality variable.  I found much to my relief that the directions were clear and our destination easy to find.

Suddenly I am on the grounds of a beautiful small hacienda, recently renovated, at the base of the Cojitambo mountain.  I arrive before the busload of other guests, and am warmly greeted by the host owner, Servio, who proceeds to offer me two tumblers of canelazo, a warm mildly alcoholic beverage typically served during Carnaval which occurred last week-end.  Soon, my compadres arrive from Cuenca, and I am surrounded by 18 interesting new acquaintances, a few of whom will undoubtedly become friends.

Estancia Familiar Cojitambo Estancia Familiar Cojitambo

First we are driven by bus to the town of Cojitambo, where a couple of guys in our party invite a local guitarrista to join the group for the afternoon.  We then go up the mountain and take a hike to the summit of Cojitambo where lies the foundation stone of an Incan ruin dating back to 500 B.C.  There we have a spectacular 360 degree view.  The guitarrista acts as our guide.  Eventually we find our way back to the bus and return to the hacienda where we enjoy an absolutely fabulous meal.  For the entire afternoon, especially when the bus is having trouble getting up the mountain road and later during our meal, we are are intermittently serenaded by our musician friend.

This is just another day in my Ecuador life.  How can life be any better than this?  Only, it seems, when we remember to choose who and how we want to be in the moment, especially when things are not going the way we want.

Enjoy the pictures!

Servio Coronel, owner of Estancia El Cojitambo Servio Coronel, owner of Estancia El Cojitambo


Church in Cojitambo Church in Cojitambo Climbing up Cojitambo Climbing up Cojitambo

At the summit of Cojitambo


Cojitambo-2643 At the summit of Cojitambo


A personality! A personality!



Cojitambo-2621 One of two cabins at Estancia El Cojitambo


Foundation Stone of the Cojitambo Inca Ruins Foundation Stone of the Cojitambo Inca Ruins


Nancy April 23, 2014 at 9:24 pm

I feel like I am taking a bit of a mini vacation when I read and enjoy your blog entries. I have not yet visited Ecuador. I think I need to look for a trip that would be a fit for a visit to this place you now call home!

Manya April 23, 2014 at 10:11 pm

Nancy – one thing you would love, given your artistic nature, is the extensive artisan culture here (throughout Ecuador). Cuenca is considered the cultural capital of the country. You can join the Ecuador Expats Facebook page, ask questions, and get a wealth of information and support. Likewise, there is an Expat Women of Ecuador page. There are a lot of single expat women in Cuenca who form a wonderfully supportive community in addition to the general expat community. Our first trip to Ecuador we took through AWAI (a subsidiary of International Living) which was an 8-day structured photography and Spanish immersion trip, focused in northern Ecuador – the Cotacachi/Otavalo area where there are a lot of old guild artisan villages (plus a shaman village).

Alicia Parr April 6, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Beautiful photos and thoughts Manya. Thanks for sharing!

Talk soon.

Manya April 6, 2014 at 6:31 pm

Thanks for visiting, Alicia!

carmen March 16, 2014 at 2:58 pm

I was born in Cuenca, but live 27 yrs in NYC, I spent 40 days this year there, went back after 6 yrs, when I read what the expats living there say about my country, make me want to move back there, but I am a little bit young to retire, but I can quit and and to that anyway , but my kids root me here, (sights) , but because of you guys planning to spend January and Febrero in Cuenca, I love they way you describe your live there!!

Manya March 17, 2014 at 5:15 am

Gracias, Carmen! Let me know if you would like to connect when you come to Cuenca!

Libuse Leman March 15, 2014 at 12:51 am

This is nice and I am going to share it. I am interested in moving to Ecuador to retire.

Libuse Leman

Manya March 15, 2014 at 1:47 am

Thank you, Libuse. There’s lots of resources available on moving to Ecuador if you are looking to get more info and perspectives.

Suzanne Thurston March 13, 2014 at 12:12 am

Thank you for your heart warming account of our birthday adventure. I never expected the last phase of my life to be so exciting and stimulating! I share your grateful heart, especially when we have so many experiences like this day in Cojitambo.


Manya March 13, 2014 at 1:22 am

I’m with ya’, Suzanne! A blessing that we were able to choose an environment that would allow and enable this! Thanks for sharing your experience. Manya

Mike (Nomadic Texan) March 12, 2014 at 12:26 am

Thank you very much for sharing this little slice of your life. Every time I visit Cuenca and explore a new avenue outward, I wind up happy and content with life. I only got to spend 7 weeks last year in the city/region, but made the most of it. Cuenca holds a piece of my heart and always will.

My wife came for two weeks last March (her first time) and fell in love with its people, the culture and obviously the food. I took two cooking classes in August/September 2013 this time and thoroughly enjoyed them both.

If you have not experienced it tray the Restaurante Corvel in Paute. Chef Patricio is a dear friend of mine. I learned how to prepare Cuy and it was delicious I must say. I also am a huge fan of Don Colon and his restaurant on Parque Calderon square across from the New Cathedral. Tell them hello from the Nomadic Texan if by chance you eat at either place.

We are contemplating retiring in Cuenca when my wife retires in a few years and time cannot pass fast enough for me! I am envious that you are there already living the life I desire!

Manya March 12, 2014 at 12:46 am

Thanks for your comments, Mike. There are more and more really good restaurants in and around Cuenca now, due in part of course to the growing expat community. Given the importation of Chinese and French workers to work on the new light rail, I am eagerly awaiting some good Chinese and French food!

Elizabeth March 11, 2014 at 9:08 pm

Dearest Manya
Thank you so much for sharing with us your adventures in this beautiful new country of yours …What a great story that is. It would be so easy to ” complain” that it is difficult to make friends. Rather than doing this, you choose to see this as an exciting journey and are grateful for it. What an inspiration. I so enjoy reading your stories and your wisdom. Thank you so much

Manya March 11, 2014 at 11:27 pm

So glad you’re enjoying these glimpses into life in Ecuador. Consider a visit sometime! There are both ecolodge type resorts and fancier ones that are world class.

Michael Gossman March 10, 2014 at 1:27 am

I just discovered your blog and I am really enjoying it. It’s remarkable how similar we all are in our experiences. My family moved to Cuenca in September, 2013. We are really enjoying our new culture, language, environment and the people are so very friendly. I went to high school in London in the late sixties and that probably contributed to my wanting this very fulfilling experience upon retirement. Hope to meet you soon!

Manya March 10, 2014 at 2:35 am

Mucho gusto, great to meet you, Michael. Send me a message via FB or the contact form and we can set up a time to meet.

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