Ask anyone in the mountain town of Cotacachi, Ecuador, where to find the best homemade ice cream and they’ll direct you straight to Coo Coo’s Nest. Tucked away in a little alcove of shops and restaurants off Cotacachi’s main street, Coo Coo’s Nest is a café and gift shop owned by Deborah Angus-Oie and her husband Dan.
It’s a place where expats gather for coffee and a chat or to indulge in that famous ice cream or other treats like brownies and cobbler. Owning the café has given Deborah the chance to meet many different people and she says “it’s usually a lot of fun. There’s a great support system of people here and I have friends across the range—both Ecuadorians and expats. I’ve also become close to the Ecuadorian women who work here and I now consider them to be part of the family.”
“Life in Ecuador is easier in many ways,” says Deborah. For example, the couple doesn’t need a vehicle to get around as public transportation in Cuenca is readily available and inexpensive. A 45-minute bus ride from little Cotacachi to the nearby city of Ibarra costs just 55 cents per person. And their own two feet get them around town just fine. “If we had a car we wouldn’t get any exercise. But we like living on the outskirts of town and walking in every day,” Deborah says.
“Living in Ecuador makes a huge amount of sense for people living on a fixed income. A couple can live here comfortably for $1,000 per month. I know people renting apartments for as little as $250 but it can cost up to $550. And all your other expenses are low. If you own your own home, your monthly costs are even lower.”
Having said that, she’s glad of the income from her business and found the process of setting it up to be relatively straightforward. “There’s less risk here. You don’t need to invest as much as you would in the U.S., but at the same time, you won’t reap as much. Don’t expect to get rich here.” She also points out that there are a lot of part-time opportunities for earning income, like selling home-grown or artisan goods at the Thursday farmers’ market in Cotacachi.
Deborah tries to limit herself to working only four days a week so she can enjoy some leisure time. Her days off are often spent writing, painting, or spending time with the couple’s four rescue dogs.
Even though she admits that her Spanish is limited, Deborah says it’s never been an issue. “People here are kind and patient and I can easily get by.”
She’s also committed to helping the local community whenever possible which includes selling dog beds and t-shirts for Amici Cannis, a local animal assistance organization, in the gift shop. The café has also played host to a cooking class presented by an indigenous woman who wants to bring awareness about her culture and village to expats. And Dan gives free English lessons to anyone who wants them.
“There are incredible volunteer opportunities here,” she says. “They give you the chance to be helpful, but also to have a lot of fun.
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