A Typical Week in My Beautiful Andes Mountain Town

After five years of living in Cuenca, Ecuador, I’m still in-love with this UNESCO heritage site. The town is stunningly beautiful with its 15th-century Spanish colonial and 16th-century French republican architecture. I can easily live off of $1,700 a month, and I don’t have to work. I don’t need a car because public transportation is abundant—$3.50 for taxis to anywhere in town, or buses and trams cost 35 cents a ride. I don’t chase high electrical bills because no heat or air conditioning is needed, thanks to the spring-like weather. Life is good.

So let me take you through a typical week in Casa Stiteler.

The start and end of most days are the same. My pudgy cat wakes me every morning at 6:30 a.m. (daybreak) by sitting on my stomach to get me out of bed—his way of hunting for food. I ramble downstairs, inhale some coffee, and open a can of cat food. I am soon joined by our four dogs who also con food out of me. I usually keep drinking coffee until about 10 a.m. Most evenings we eat (usually home delivered meals) around 6 p.m., and my husband Rowland and I blab about our day and what’s coming up the next (work, chores, errands). Then we head to bed at 7 p.m. (it’s dark every night by this time) and start our reading and TV watching. We sleep until the cat wakes us and we begin our routine again.

Monday is Supermaxi Day, which is more like a treasure hunt than a grocery shopping trip. Imports of my favorite snacks are grabbed up quickly by my fellow gringo hoarders, so I head out early and stake out Jiffy extra crunchy peanut butter. Once I’ve grabbed a few jars, I start my search for U.S. favorites like Cheetos, pudding cups, Hershey candy bars, and anything else I can think up to wreck my health. I shout “I’ve scored” when I find things like A1 Steak Sauce or real French butter. I, begrudgingly, also buy fresh veggies and fruits.

Tuesday is my “free day” as nothing is planned except to get 10,000 steps logged on my Fitbit. To reach my goal, I walk to Remigio Crespo, a chic New Town neighborhood filled with outdoor cafés, and some of my favorite restaurants—China Bistro, Black Angus, and Pizza Hut which is just a 15 minute walk. I stop by the Farmacia and pick up various meds and laugh when the total is just pennies compared to the U.S. (healthcare costs 80% less than back home).

Our maid, Marcia, comes Wednesdays at 9 a.m. with her two children—Daniela, 11, and Justin, 7—who she carts to school after cleaning. We usually chow down on pizza, then Rowland teaches the kids English, while I’m upstairs on the computer surrounded by the dogs until house arrest is over around noon.

Jorje, our gardener, comes every other Thursday at a time known only to him, so one of us has to stay home because some of our dogs are big and Jorje is afraid of our shepherd. Rowland and I take turns running errands and one of us stays behind, ensuring that our flowers and gardener stay alive.

On Fridays, I have several girlfriends who meet me for lunch downtown at the Remigio Crespo Museum Café. We spend hours being silly schoolgirls, fussing about our husbands, chatting about what’s going on in town, and relaying our exploits on recent trips. Our wolfette-pack sticks together and it’s nice to know I have friends that have got my back.

Saturdays I wander out around 9 a.m. to walk with my friend Sandy to the expat ferias (markets) around town to score treats. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., there’s a swarm of about 40 gringos at any time milling around the tables selling homemade cheese, fresh from the ocean salmon and shrimp, red velvet cupcakes, bagels, Loja coffee, salad dressing mixes and all sorts of goodies. It’s a social event as well, where expats can catch up with friends.

On Sundays, I do nothing that requires putting on clothing.

As you can see, I do what everyone else here does when retired—as little as possible but as much as I can. I don’t usually go to symphonies, fundraisers, or theater productions at night having endured a career focused on planning special events—but instead crawl into bed early, spending time doing what I like best—hanging out with my loved ones, watching crime shows, and eating Cheetos.