Tag Archive | "Los Angeles"

Cotacachi & Green


One great benefit to living in Cotacachi Ecuador is that no car is required. This a a great benefit for green living.

Cotacachi is colorful beyond green.  This is the mural on the arts center in the middle of Cotacachi.

cotacachi-green

This shot was taken by Dennis Goff and is at his new interactive site for anyone who has been to Cotacachi or wants to find out more about it from other members.

Here is Dennis with us on a trek taking photos.

cotacachi-green

There is more about the new site and more pictures in a moment.  First, a Cotacachi business idea.

Many new residents in Cotacachi have bikes and a desire for cleaner living.

Merri and I love to see this happening. Protecting the environment is of such importance.  This is why we are working with our friend, Mark Owen, to take our North Carolina farm off the grid.

Mark recently wrote this article.

Two Wheels or Four?

By Mark Owen

The ever-strengthening desire for the industrialized nations to reduce their consumption of oil has prompted considerable interest in alternative means of transportation. Today, even the Madison Avenue marketing strategists paint a positive image around vehicles with high gas mileage. We all know that a concept has become mainstream when we see it on expensive television commercials and news segments during prime time. We have seen the Toyota Prius on commercials for a long time. Flex Fuel, Hybrid and All-Electric technologies are currently or soon-to-be available to the general public.  The Big Three American companies, Honda, and Toyota all have an all-electric car in development. BMW put a fleet of 700 hydrogen-powered cars in California last year. On the horizon are hopeful technologies such as chassie-free cars framed with carbon fiber bodies, Lithium-ion batteries for Electric and Hybrid cars, and small hydrogen power plants for the average Joe.

All those technologies are gearing toward making cars that are fundamentally similar to the ones we drive now. Designers and manufacturers have determined that consumer tastes change slowly. And these improvements may suffice, and they may come fast enough to make a significant difference. But there are many of you who are eager to push the envelope, live just beyond the comfort of the mainstream, and ponder the logical extremes of the challenges we face.
I like to venture out there once in a while, out there in those logical extremes. So I purchased an electric bicycle. I have owned it for five weeks now, and I am very pleased. Mind you, I live in Florida where the winters are mild. OK, the winters are better than just mild, they are great. The weather has not yet prevented me from riding whenever or wherever I needed to go. I have fitted my new bike with a child’s bike seat to the delight of my daughter. She and I ride to her school on the smaller neighborhood streets almost each morning now. At a relatively slow eighteen miles per hour and with no car encasing her, she enjoys more of her glorious environment. I have also intrigued many of the other parents that watch us drive up to school.

I also fitted the bicycle with a small canvas trailer. It is intended for transporting children, but I only use it to haul groceries from the store or tools to and fro my jobsites. I am a contractor who works out of a small Toyota truck. I usually go to my jobs in my truck the first day and leave all my heavy tools there. The ensuing days I have the option of commuting to that job on my new bike. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t, depending on the distance to my jobsite. (It also depends on my mood.)

As you probably guessed, these electric bikes cannot travel far before they run out of steam. They run out of steam even quicker if you are pulling a trailer. Even a ten-pound trailer with skinny bicycle wheels. I learned this on my first commute to work. I got about half way there and the batteries died. I had to pedal the rest of the way there. I also learned that day that I should have brought my charger with me. I made it home for dinner that night, and did not feel the need to go to the gym the next morning, if you get my drift. I won’t soon forget that lesson.

Regarding the range on many of the electric bikes available, most of them can travel up to eighteen miles on a full charge. This varies considerably. The roads in my part of Florida a very flat. So that factor is the same as the “typical” used in most range evaluations. Most electric bicycles are called pedal-assist, so you are supposed to help the motor along by gently pedaling yourself. The weight of the passenger(s) is a factor, as is the weight of any baggage. I also learned that tire inflation and brake adjustment greatly affects range. Under-inflated tires or dragging brake pads will reduce your mileage.

I have found that my commutes to my daughter’s school are a very pleasant six-mile round trip. We can go as fast as she wants, I get a little exercise, and I comfortably make it home to recharge before I turn around to pick her up. Going to my work has proven to be sketchy because I usually drive on busier roads, at higher speeds to keep up with traffic, and the distances have been greater. Splotchy battery performance during my work commutes is what affects my mood some mornings. If I have a lot of work to do that day, I don’t want to also pedal half way home. As a sidebar, a fella gave me two supercharged batteries that he wants me to rig on to my new bike. They will strap into my basket. The electrical connection will be easy enough with a one-dollar connector from AutoZone. These batteries are “glass-mat” type from Harley Davidson motorcycles and have considerably higher amp/hour output than my factory-installed bicycle batteries. If I am crazy enough to do this, my wife or I will report back to you in later issues. That article will be a Must Read.
I will certainly keep riding my electric bike. I like the interest it generates, and the ensuing discussions. I would recommend it, with reservations, to many of you. If you are interested, read on.

I have done lots of research on the various electric bicycles available. Many of them are French or Italian. This concept must be popular across the pond. Most the other bikes (not mine) install their electric motor inside the center of the rear hub. I think this concept will work well in later-generation scooters, but If you run out of battery charge in one of these bicycles, it is very difficult to pedal them the rest of the way home. This arrangement also concerns me because parts for this assembly become very particular, very precise. Improvisation during repairs and maintenance becomes problematic. These European devices, in my experience, seems to be Solid State in that their many curious wires all bundle themselves into the center compartment where there are fuses and too many switches for my comfort. This center compartment contains a motherboard, a very proprietary piece of equipment that could not easily be circumvented. These bicycles are more like a moped than a pedal-assist bicycle. Electric bike technology should not be that sophisticated.

The other main style I saw was a regular bicycle with an electric motor that drives a wheel that you press against the rubber of your front tire for propulsion. This method creates both friction and slippage loss. More importantly, front-wheel-drive in a small car is good; front-wheel-drive on a bicycle is bad. The motion feels un-natural, and the weight of the motor on your front forks is very cumbersome. I felt like I had to constantly worry about endo (end-over-end flipping) or the front wheel slipping out from under me. Besides that, the aesthetics of these vehicles seemed all wrong.

I purchased my bicycle because it was the only one of its kind. It was  second-hand off Craig’s List, and I have no affiliation with the manufacturer. I have looked up their website, though. It is a Synergy Cycle, from Los Angeles, California. I saw yesterday that they reduced their purchase price to only $799.00. This is about half the price of any other electric bike I have seen to date. Their website advertises that a full charge costs between five and 7 cents. I have no reason to doubt this because my bike charges via a small transformer from a regular outlet from empty to full in about 30 minutes. (I will verify electric consumption and report this after I get my new amp-meter for my next birthday.) Either way, this bike has small initial and operational costs. Paltry indeed.

First it is a regular, high-quality, rugged bicycle. It seems they retro-fitted the motor system on after-the-fact. I know, that’s a redundancy, but my old high school English teacher probably won’t see this. And I really want to get this point across. Everything about this bike is as simple as possible. Any bike mechanic can work on most of it. Parts are as easy to find or improvise as any ordinary bike parts.

But then there is the motor/battery system. This stuff is strange to everybody. Who do you get to work on one of these babies? You guessed it…you, yourself, and you. The motor is about as big as a grapefruit, and it is bolted to the right rear main stay. Its got lots of torque and can pull a trailer and me with ease. (Even though extra weight draws more from your batteries.) Its armature runs parallel to the rear hub, about five inches above it. It is connected to the rear hub via a metal link chain and freewheel. This allows the electric motor to operate independent of the manual pedals. The manual pedals can operate independent of the motor, too. One pushes while the other freewheels. Or both can run simultaneous for top speed and longevity.

The motor is wired to the battery pack via two insulated wires that are neatly strapped to the frame. That’s all, just two wires. The battery pack is a plastic case that holds two 12v batteries joined in series to make a 24 volt system. There is a female jack for charging and an on-off switch on the side of this battery pack. The battery pack is removable with one quick-release bolt and one electrical connector. This way you can bring the battery in to your home or office to charge while the bike stays outside. From the battery pack (on the “bike” side of the dis-connector) there runs one cable to a thumb throttle on the handlebars. The throttle is spring tensioned. If your battery pack is switched “on” you may engage and accelerate the motor with a simple push of your thumb. The throttle is spring-tensioned, and its default mode is also “off,” creating a double “off” safety feature. It’s convenient and dummy-proof.

The only wires I don’t like are the two joined at the base of the throttle cable that go to each of the two hand brakes. If you are agile enough to simultaneously push the throttle with your thumb and pull the brakes with your fingers, the action of the brakes will shut down the electric motor. Talk about redundant. I’ve gotta give them credit, though. That is the only fat on the whole machine.

The double kickstand is very stable. It lifts your rear wheel off the ground and allows you to work on rear components while freewheeling, with the bicycle in the upright position. Did I mention the front fork shocks and the double mono-shocks on the main frame? The factory seat is nice enough, but I added a “gel” seat cover I mail ordered off the internet for $15.00. Even at 20mph+ this bike is comfortable and handles nimbly.

As much as I rave about it, though, I am having a hard time convincing my wife about the comfort of my new bike. She compares it to her car, though. And vehicle safety is another issue I concede to her. Like a good mother hen, she asks that I call her the moment my daughter and I arrive at school. And isn’t vehicle safety one of the biggest impediments to mainstreaming small, efficient vehicles? When I saw a new Smart Car pass by me on the interstate, even I think to myself “that does not look safe from here.” It makes me wonder how unsafe my electric bike looks from the vantage of a regular car in traffic.

Even so, my experience with the electric bike has made me ponder concepts such as electric motorcycles that travel at highway speeds. I have already seen children’s electric scooters that hold large batteries under the footrest for a low center of gravity. Could these toys be made a little bigger? Could they accommodate two or three passenger? Is “Two Wheels or Four?” really the only alternative? What about three wheels? I have also pondered safety seats for adults, safety helmets, and 5-point safety harnesses, similar to the features in NASCAR vehicles. I have faith that one of you readers will someday retrofit an electric motor from an industrial fan onto a beefed-up tricycle frame, bolt on a couple of tractor-trailer batteries, and test-drive your prototype at 70 mph. Another one of you might mold a NASCAR seat and a modernistic faring from carbon fiber and add it to the mix. Now that test-drive would be a productive use of the Bonneville Salt Flats.

We are now witnessing the first generation of electric bicycles. They will improve. Maybe this means they will have to look and act more like cars. Some of these bicycles will accommodate themselves to the existing road systems. Some roads throughout the country will be dedicated exclusively for the use of “ultra light” vehicles. Or something far-reaching and un-knowable will happen to this industry. I’m not saying this industry is going to supplant the possible demise of the Big Three, but who knows? Maybe somebody will retrofit one of those French mopeds with solar wings and try to fly it across the English Channel. I will be right there to cheer them on.

We have been looking at business ideas in Cotacachi such as Ecuador export ideas.

Here is a Cotacachi green business idea.  Import or make electric bikes.

For those interested in Cotacachi organic ideas see  Cotacach Organic Gardens here.

cotacachi-green

Entrance to Meson de las Flores.

This photo is another at Dennis Goff’s new site. Here are some more shots.

cotacachi-green

Gary Scott and immigration attorney, Roberto Moreno, at Meson.

Dennis is a professional photgrapher who spends winters in Cotacachi and saw there is an an ever increasing number of readers at our site who want to connect with people who have “lived the experience” in Cotacachi.
cotacachi-green

Ecuador roses at Meson.

Dennis thought it would be fun… and informative to start a light site.

cotacachi-green

Start of a parade. Wouldn’t electric bikes be better?

Anyone can join and contribute to the network.  Dennis will monitor content to keep it appropriate.   The intent is to keep it light hearted and fun and a great place for like minded people who enjoy Cotacachi.

Ecuador-tours

Tour delgates at Meson.

You can visit Dennis’s site here.

Until next message, may your world be beautiful and green.

Gary

Learn  more about Cotacachi business ideas at our July 4-8 Ecuador Import Export Expedition

Enjoy savings by attending our real estate tours at the same time.

July 4-8 Ecuador Import Export Expedition
July 8-9 Imbabura Real Estate Tour
July 10-13 Ecuador Coastal Real Estate Tour

We provide discounts for delegates who attend two or three courses and tours in a month.

Attend any two Ecuador courses or tours in a calendar month…$949 for one.  $1,349 for two.

Attend any three Ecuador courses or tours in a calendar month…$1,199 for one.  $1,799 for two.

Plus during the month of April, (this offer expires April 30) enjoy  our extra 2-4-1 savings.

Because Merri and I will not be conducting the July tours, our 2-4-1 offer lets you attend the July 2009  Ecuador export tour free if you enroll in one of our three International Tangled Web Business & Investing Made EZ courses, in July, October or November that we will conduct.

You get two courses for the price of one.  Enroll in any of these courses that Merri and I will conduct below and choose any one of the three July tours free.

July 24-26 IBEZ North Carolina + Tangled Web

Oct. 9-11 IBEZ North Carolina + Tangled Web

Nov. 6-8  IBEZ Cotacachi + Tangled Web

There is no need to  hurry either. If you are not sure about attending two tours,  sign up and attend the July export tour now… then we’ll knock the tour fee off our International Tangled Web Business & Investing Made EZ courses, in July, October or November fee later.

You can also still take advantage of the two or three course discount as well.

For example, if you choose to attend all three of the July Ecuador tours… both real estate and export tours, then you can have the two or three courses discount and still attend a July, October or November International Tangled Web Business & Investing Made EZ course free.

The 2-4-1 offer expires April 30 2009.

We hope to meet you in North Carolina or Ecuador.

Gary


Cotacachi Travel Fares


We are very lucky that a current global airfare war has pushed Ecuador airfares down to ridiculous levels.  This makes it very inexpensive getting to our winter 2009 conferences and tours….plus gets all of us out of the winter doldrums!

Cotacachi travel fares can be reduced if you understand how to get to Quito and then how to travel to Cotacachi from Quito.

First airfares to Quito.  We often get requests about how to find the lowest air fares to Ecuador and Cotacachi from Africa, Canada,Europe, and the US.  See some incredible rates from all these destinations

We use www.Kayak.com to check fares and regularly find really low Ecuador air fares as you’ll see below.

For example, the round trip Ecuador airfare, Los Angeles to Quito Ecuador, is $480 including taxes. Lacsa is a Costa Rican airline and that Ecuador air fare is available today.  There are 40 flight Ecuador air fare combinations at that price right now.

Here are other US and Canadian fares form kayak.com.  All are round trip and include all taxes and coordinate with our January classes!

Toronto – Quito Ecuador – $660.  American Airlines

Vancouver BC – Quito Ecuador – $799.  Alaskan Air/Continental

Chicago – Quito Ecuador – $662.  United/Copa

New York – Quito Ecuador – $481. Lacsa

Houston – Quito Ecuador – $774. Lacsa

Dallas – Quito Ecuador – $670. Delta

Miami – Quito Ecuador – $496. LAN

Atlanta – Quito Ecuador – $653. American Airlines

One trick is to look for low fares to gateway airports such as Houston, New York, Atlanta and Miami…then look for a low fare from the gateway.  If you are looking for fares from Europe, Africa or UK, look for the cheap fares in the Sunday newspapers and then double check Kayak.

This does not always work though.  As we saw above, it is less expensive to fly to Quito via Dallas than Houston right now.

Sometimes the Ecuador air fare savings, especially from Africa and Europe can be enormous.

Take Johannesburg, South Africa to Quito as an example.  American Airlines offers the lowest direct fare of about $1800…however, if you take Egypt Air to London then you can save an extra $450 each.

If you know a cheap fare from Johan Airport to Amsterdam, Madrid, or London then go for that…and then continue on direct to Quito.  Fiddling around like this can save thousands!

Or get this one…go non stop on Egypt Air to Madrid…then Madrid AA to Quito. This approach brings the fare down to $925 per person round trip from Africa to Ecuador!  If you can find a cheap flight to Madrid from anywhere in Africa or Europe, then you may be able to save big time!

Keep in mind, there are always more than one way to skin a cat.  Think Creatively!!!

Check local European newpapers for air fare bargains to Madrid, Amsterdam and London from wherever you are.  Then check the fares from these three gateways to Quito.  Compile the fares and as above you can sometimes save in the above cases over  $1,500.

We are not travel agents of course, but we help Ecuador Living subscribers and our course and tour delegates find low cost air fares to Ecuador. We provide subscribers and delegates with an email code so we can sort their request amidst the hundreds of emails that arrive here each day.

As an Ecuador Living subscriber, you can also learn how to travel to Cotacachi from Quito at Cotacachi by Train, Plane and Automobile

And don’t forget we can arrange to meet your flight in Quito!

You can subscribe to Ecuador Living Service here.

Until next message, may every fare in your life be fair!

Gary

Join us at a course in Cotacachi or on Ecuador’s coast this winter.

Jan. 16-21 Ecuador Spanish Course

Jan. 22-23 Imbabura Real Estate Tour

See condos like this in Cotacachi for $46,500.

Ecuador-real-estate-advertising

Jan. 24-27 Coastal Real Estate Tour

See Manta condos like this one. Delegates are inspecting the 1,000+ square foot patio.

Manta-Condo

The patio has this view.

manta-condo tags

Feb. 9-11 Beyond Logic-Shamanic Mingo

Feb. 13-15 International Business & Investing Made EZ

Feb. 16-17 Imbabura Real Estate Tour

Here is a long shot of Cotacachi.

Cotacachi-condos

March 8-9 Imbabura Real Estate Tour

March 10-15 Ecuador Export Expedition

March 16-19 Coastal Real Estate Tour

Attend any three Ecuador courses or tours in a calendar month…$1,199 for one$1,799 for two

Here is our Ecuador tour schedule for the balance of 2009.

Date                    Course                      Couples Fee

May 21-26  Ecuador Spanish Course         ($999)
May 27-28  Imbabura Real Estate Tour      ($749)

June 12-15  Shamanic Mingo Tour             ($999)
June 16-17  Imbabura Real Estate Tour      ($749)
June 18-21  Coastal Real Estate Tour         ($749)

July 2-7       Ecuador Import Export Expedition ($1,499)
July 8-9       Imbabura Real Estate Tour     ($749)
July 10-13   Coastal Real Estate Tour        ($749)

Sept. 17-22  Ecuador Spanish Course        ($999)
Sept. 23-24  Imbabura Real Estate Tour     ($749)
Sept. 25-28  Coastal Real Estate Tour        ($749)

Oct. 21-26   Ecuador Import Export Expedition ($1,499)

Nov. 6-8       International Investing and Business Made EZ Ecuador ($999)
Nov. 9-10     Imbabura Real Estate Tour          ($749)
Nov. 11-14   Coastal Real Estate Tour            ($749)

All Cotacachi Tours and Courses are condcuted at our colonial inn, meson de las Flores were we enjoy Breakfast “al fresco”.

Cotacachi hotel El Meson de las Flores

All Coastal tours are conducted on the beach from our coastal home at Hotel Palmazul.

manta real estate in Ecuador tags

You should normally plan to arrive in Quito two days before the course.  We will pick you up at the airport, help you to your hotel in Quito and bring the group to Cotacachi by coach.

For coastal tours we travel as a group from Quito to Manta by air, then tour the coast for two and a half days returning to Quito on the evening of the third day.

Here I am with Merri and Ma at Palmazul’s beach.

Ecuador real estate for sale

Here I am hiking with Ma above Cotacachi.

Attend any two Ecuador courses or tours in a calendar month…$949 for one$1,349 for two

Attend any three Ecuador courses or tours in a calendar month…$1,199 for one$1,799 for two

Cotacachi Cathedral at night.

Cotacachi hotel El Meson de las Flores

Shamanic ceremony on mingo tour.

2008-04-13 Ecuador shamans

Enjoying the surf at Palmazul.

Ecuador real estate for sale

Cotacachi plaza.

Cotacachi hotel El Meson de las Flores

Palmazul beach.

Ecuador real estate for sale

Merri, me and Ma above Cotacachi

Gary Scott

Sunset at Palmazul.

Ecuador real estate for sale

Attend any two Ecuador courses or tours in a calendar month…$949 for one$1,349 for two

Attend any three Ecuador courses or tours in a calendar month…$1,199 for one$1,799 for two

Better still join us all year in Ecuador! See our entire schedule of 26 courses, tours, mingos and expeditions we’ll conduct in 2009.

The course fee includes meeting at Quito airport (day before the course)…transportation (by group bus) to Cotacachi and back to Quito. Course fee does not include air are. accommodations, food or individual transportation.

Cotacachi Crime Concerns


Numerous readers have sent Cotacachi crime concerns which we share here.

You are a salesman.  A salesman will tell you anything.  You know it is dangerous to live down there. Gayle

I often get notes like this …usually from people who have never been to Ecuador.  Galyle has one point correct for sure.  I have been a salesmen going on 41 years and always considered it a privilege to sell things I truly love and live myself…like Cotacachi Ecuador.

Really the village does not need selling. Cotacachi sells itself. All I have to do is tell the truth…so I sometimes get comments like this.

I visited Cotacachi and your hotel Meson de las Flores. It was exactly as you described it. I felt safe the entire time I was there. Thank you!  Monica

We’ll review more comments on Cotacachi crime in a moment…but one thing that is not a crime in Cotacachi or Ecuador is the great quality and cost of food. I just returned from Oregon and spent some time on the coast. Dungeness crab was $28 a pound…smoked salmon $19 a pound.  That seems like a crime to me!

The wonderful lakes around Cotacachi means we have great fish.  This is Lake San Pablo.

Cotacachi-fish

Here is a high Andean lake above Cotacachi.

Cotacachi-fish

and the trout they catch there.

Cotacachi-fish

Back to crime…let’s read what some people who live in Ecuador say about crime.

Hello Gary, Here’s a New York Times article you may have seen about an Ecuadorian man who was beaten and stabbed to death in New York. He was basically killed for sport…a hate crime.

Personally, I’ve been a crime victim a few times in Ecuador. During my six years there, I lived and traveled among the general population in a large city. I used the public transit system, the local markets, the bus stations… In this situation, you’re bound to be unlucky sooner or later.

But even in the worst of areas, I never worried for my safety. All I lost was money–or replaceable items–and I never carried any more than was necessary. I didn’t (and still don’t) worry that I’ll be killed or beaten for fun, or because I’m the wrong color or nationality.

My personal experience has been that Ecuadorians are basically non-violent people. They steal out of need. What little I lost likely went to feed a family… Best regards,  Lee

I agree with Lee. When you talk to people who have lived in Cotacachi or most parts of Ecuador…they’ll agree…petty theft is a problem from which you must protect…but hate crimes basically do not exist and violent crimes are rare.  Another reader who was a visitor to Ecuador wrote this note.

Hey Gary, first time in Ecuador, flew down from Quito to Guayaquil, heard how dangerous it was everywhere, been walking the streets day and night.  I wear a $15,000 gold watch. Today, I rented car, drove to Montanita.  Tomorrow, I am driving north, along the beach coast, then back to Guayaquil for a few days then over to Peru.   I´m from Mobile.   We have several shootings, stabbings, hit and runs a week, along with other crime. The bottom line is that most crime comes from just being at the wrong place at the wrong time. One of my next trips is Caracas, murder capital of the world…and yes, I am alone and over 60.  I will be in the Dominican Republic for Christmas and New Years, surfing with my kids. Bobby.   The only thing I suggest is it is better to burn out, than rust out.

I urge more caution than Bobby takes but could not agree more with his philosophy of enjoying life and embracing the incredible riches we have in today’s society instead of wasting away worrying about what bad could happen. Life is too short!

Back to fish. Merri and I love to accompany our chef, Santiago, to the Thursday fish market in Ibarra. I can buy about 20 pounds of crab for the same price as one pound in Oregon and it is really fresh!  One of our favorite jobs is helping the chef!

Cotacachi-fish

We also love watching the fishermen at work when we are on Ecuador’s sea.  Here is our last Coastal real estate tour watching the fishing on the Chone Estuary at Bahia.

Bahia-fishermen

There is a big modern town behind these Ecuador fishermen…

Bahia-fishermen

but they are pretty low tech!

Bahia-fishermen

Just canoes and poles…no gas surcharge here.

Bahia-fishermen

The fishermen who fish outside our hotel in San Clemente are even more low tech…no boat!

San Clemente-fishermen

We took our last group for a sea food meal in Manta.

Manta-fish-meal

Where this most expensive dish on the menu…a full lobster meal was $12.

Manta-fish-meal

My grilled fish was $6. That was no crime!

Which brings us back to Cotacachi crime. 

This reader who lives regularly in Cotacachi wrote:

Gary,  As you now I have traveled to Ecuador and the Cotacachi area many times over the last several years; nine times I think. I have always felt safe even during the evening walking about Cotacachi and have never felt threatened there or in Quito or the coastal areas. I always try to be aware of my surroundings and the level of cautions I may consider appropriate as I would anywhere in the world I am traveling, for example, in Quito I usually put my wallet in my front pocket. However, reading the accounts of crime in the area lately, and I appreciate your alert, I felt a little concerned as a North American. In the interest of thoroughness on this topic my alarm is that the message is we are being targeted. This may be obvious. As anywhere the perceived affluent are vulnerable. In this culture we stand out and In this sense we present opportunity and perhaps in the perpetrators mind fair game. I would only say that a common sense realistic awareness of taking precautions in unfamiliar areas in an unfamiliar culture is important. I think that you and Merri provide a real service with up to date information for safe travel and areas to live and lodge in Ecuador. Your tours also provide an excellent environment for safe guided travel.

Since I have had so little trouble with any sort of crime in Ecuador what I tend to recall are the simple unexpected kindnesses which I have encountered.  One time while  shopping at the Otavalo indigenous market unknowingly I dropped a small package only to turn around to see a little indigenous child running up to me tugging at my sleeve with a smile and handing it to me. Another time at the bank in Cotacachi I was  trying to cash a $100 bill – can be difficult as many know due to the fear of counterfeiting from Columbia. There at the bank after waiting in line for an hour only to be refused change due to that I did not have an account or permanent address they said; I left in exasperation. Unknown to me a young woman was observing  and having empathy for my plight had withdrawn an extra 5 twenty dollar bills from her account and rushing down the street to find me offered them to me in exchange for the 100 dollar bill. “De Nada” she said.

These are a few of the experiences of innocent kindness in Ecuador and of the Ecuadorian people that I choose to remember over my fears of crime. Thanks for keeping us aware and informed in our travels and adjustment to new and unfamiliar areas and culture.  Jim

Here is another note from a gringo who is resident in Ecuador.

Gary, I would like to add the following on crime in general in Ecuador. I have spent the past 9 years living in the Mariscal neighborhood of Quito, 6 months each year.  Many consider this a likely neighborhood to encounter crime in Ecuador since there is much tourism, thus many opportunities to rob people who actually have money or valuables on them.  I walk the streets until about 10 PM.

Ecuadorians are gentle peoples: They are not Cali, Caracas or Miami.  The indigenous peoples who inhabit the provinces north of Quito are among the most stable, economically affluent, and culturally integral of any class of people in Ecuador.  Crime is minimal as it is in most small towns in the USA.

Crime in Ecuador tends to be petty thievery, taking a backpack or purse from a cafe, stealing “things” which are left in the open unguarded.  Ecuadorians are not  a “gun culture” as exists in the United States.  It is beyond their imagination that a person would rob and kill another for a pair of tennis shoes.  It is further beyond their imagination that a young person would mass kill his classmates at school, and that the state would continue to allow unlimited access to hand guns and semi automatic weapons.The crime of Ecuador is based more on poverty, although there exists a cultural flaw in many people committing petty theft even when they do not need an item. These events are rarely associated with violence to people.

I’m a street smart kid (63) who grew up in Chicago’s south side and I know that Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington DC, New Orleans, and just about every major and “medium size ” US city is far more dangerous that most any city or neighborhood of the largest cities of Ecuador.  Only 2 cities of Ecuador have any significant crime, Guayaquil and Quito, and then only selective neighborhoods.   Almost all the people I know who have been robbed (6 or 7) in Quito have been men walking home drunk late at night oblivious to using their normal street senses.

Gary, if you do a follow up, feel free to include my comments.

I agree that the Mariscal neighborhood of Quito is one of the riskier areas due to tourism…and that it is not the nature of Ecuadorians to be violent.  We love the people here…the great scenery…the wonderful food…the low prices…the colors like these ice cream vendors in Bahia serving our last coastal real estate tour.

Bahia-Ecuador-workers

Plus we love the warm weather.

This is the final point. I was in a West Jefferson barber shop today and read the local paper.  This is as small town USA as you can get. Nine people were on the front page…all arrested for dealing drugs…cocaine…heroine…meths.  Then Merri saw a real live mountain lion run across our field. Then we visited our neighbor who showed us photos of five bears roaming the neighborhood.  I feel totally safe here and would not hesitate for a moment to invite people to come up (just watch the ice on the road).

So I can live in complete safety here…even though there is crime…in this.

snow

Or go to Cotacachi and San Clemente where the crime may be about the same…more or less…but in this.

Ecuador beach

and this

cotacachi-sun

at about a fourth or fifth the price.

So here is the salesman speaking. “Visit us in Ecuador. You will be glad you did!”

Here is a comment from a delegate at our last course:

Hi Merri:  I just wanted to drop you a note and let you know how much myself and all of our “extended family” enjoyed the course that you, Gary, and all of your competent staff put on earlier this month.  I am really just getting my feet back on the ground and I think that we are finally there.

Gary was awesome as we expected and gave me as really a beginning investor many insights and new ideas to think about.  I am speaking for myself, Charles, Jose as well as Rebecca and Betty who joined us after the Galapagos Islands.  You showed me that you are an expert planner and really went  out of your way to accommodate  us especially when we had people coming in at different times.

Francisco stood out as well.  Of course, “our man” Steve the excellent tour guide and all around helpful person.  Last and not least was Ray who also handled so much on the fly and did it well.
Ray really helped with the leaving process.  Also I will keep in touch with him about the possible medical conference I may put on at La Mirage 2010 in August if it comes together…..lots of work and much to work on to make it happen.  We really enjoyed your hotel and the hospitality.  It was  memorable. Thanks so much and we hope to keep in touch and continue with Gary’s newsletters!  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
Sincerely, Jim

Merri and I hope to serve you in Ecuador this sunny winter.

Gary

Jan. 16-21 Ecuador Spanish Course

Jan. 22-23 Imbabura Real Estate Tour

Jan. 24-27 Coastal Real Estate Tour

Feb. 9-11 Beyond Logic-Shamanic Mingo

Feb. 13-15 International Business & Investing Made EZ

Feb. 16-17 Imbabura Real Estate Tour

March 8-9 Imbabura Real Estate Tour

March 10-15 Ecuador Export Expedition

March 16-19 Coastal Real Estate Tour

Better still join us all year in Ecuador! See our entire schedule of 26 courses, tours, mingos and expeditions we’ll conduct in 2009.

The course fee includes meeting at Quito airport (day before the course)…transportation (by group bus) to Cotacachi and back to Quito. Course fee does not include air are. accommodations, food or individual transportation.

Multi Currency US Banks


Multi currency US banks are hard to find.

The US dollar has revived in the past few weeks. Fundamentals (debt, trade balance and low interest rate compared to inflation) suggest that this makes the current strength of the greenback a useful tool to diversify into other currencies.

Yet it is hard to walk into your local bank and open an account except in greenbacks.

This is a problem everywhere in the US. Most US banks that offer an FDIC guarantee do not offer non dollar accounts.

However one FDIC insured bank that does is Cathay Bank. This bank has Hong Kong roots and began in 1962, to serve the Chinese-American community in the greater Los Angeles area. However they adopted the motto “An Open Door for All” and have expanded rapidly.

Cathay Bank is part of a publicly traded financial institution with stockholder equity of approximately $994 million and total assets of $10.81 billion. Its service network is now in New York, Massachusetts, Washington State and Texas. Overseas it operates in Taipei, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.

The bank’s website states that it can handle payables and receivables in foreign currency, transfers funds internationally and offers investments in foreign currency including specialized services to help manage foreign exchange exposure.

They offer spot and forward currency contracts and claim that their exchange rates are favorable.

Cathay Bank’s services include:

Foreign Currency Options
Foreign Currency Time Deposits
Multi Currency Call Accounts
Foreign Currency Banknote Exchange
Foreign Currency Travelers Checks

I have not used this bank, but wanted to pass this data on as I know many US investors are looking for ways to use the current dollar strength to invest in other currencies. You can get more data at http://www.cathaybank.com/

Until next message, good global investing to you.

Gary

The first ice appeared on our North Carolina pond this week. Our mallards are complaining! Brrrr!

ice

Merri and I would rather work and play in the Ecuador sun than fight the ice and snow. This is how to enjoy a winter’s breakfast, in our sunny court yard, at El Meson de las Flores with friends.

sun-

Join us at a course in Cotacachi this winter.

Jan. 16-21 Ecuador Spanish Course
Jan. 22-23 Imbabura Real Estate Tour
Jan. 24-27 Coastal Real Estate Tour

We’ll visit the Otavalo markets.

Cotacachi-beads

Feb. 13-15 International Business & Investing Made EZ
Feb. 16-17 Imbabura Real Estate Tour

Ecuador-El Meson-Courtyard

Courses are centered around this open air courtyard in our colonial inn El Meson de las Flores.

March 8-9 Imbabura Real Estate Tour
March 10-15 Ecuador Export Expedition
March 16-19 Coastal Real Estate Tour

Ecuador-Beach-Work

You can even work online (as my friend Steve is doing above) while on the coast.

Better still join us all year in Ecuador! See our entire schedule of 26 courses, tours, mingos and expeditions we’ll conduct in 2009.