Several thoughtful blog readers and visitors here have asked me that question recently, so let me share with you all what I've told them. Cynthia and I are quite fortunate that through good planning and sheer luck we seem to have gotten all the big things right. We found a great apartment--our container arrived on time with minimal content damage--our visas were processed within the 90 day period. We know all these gears haven't meshed so smoothly for others and we are thankful for our good fortune.
But there are minor things that you just can't plan for, or even know about, until you're "on the ground." Specifically, we wish we had brought some items that we are now depending on friends (and in some cases strangers) to put in their suitcases or containers for us.
For instance, many of us enjoy making a yummy pot of chili, right? Well, guess what. Cuencanos don't like spicy food and there is no chili powder to be found in this city as far as we know. Local blog readers, I would love to be corrected on this one.
Horseradish? Nope, only an Arby's-style "sauce." Worchestershire sauce? Nada. We have a lame substitute called Salsa Inglesa. Dijon mustard? Grainy mustard? None that you'd be satisfied with. So if you're a "foodie" plan on bringing along your special spices and condiments.
If you're particular about personal care products load up on those as well. Even if you find them here they'll be more expensive because of import taxes. Ironically, we've located a Neutrogena night cream in our local pharmacy we're partial to that had disappeared off the shelves in the US. That's proven to be a rare exception.
Our washing machine is one of those HE (high efficiency) gizmos that requires a special detergent. During our exploratory trip we did have the foresight to see if these were even sold in Ecuador, and were pleased to find them in several appliance stores. We were even smart enough to buy and bring along a few extra bottles of ALL FREE in our container. Now we're finally running out and have discovered that the grocery store only carries one type, Tide scented, and it costs over $20/bottle. YIKES!! Many thanks to our friends from South Carolina who also have this type machine and are bailing us out when their container arrives.
Finally, let me tell you about a product everyone in Cuenca would benefit from that we didn't even know existed until our trip back to the States. It gets kind of nippy here a lot of nights. None of us have central heating or air conditioning and I've gotta tell you, those sheets are sometimes frigid when you jump in the bed. I pull the covers over my head, assume a fetal positon (or "tuck" if you're a diver--I often shout a word that rhymes while all this is going on).
But not for too much longer. Because that same container with the extra detergent is going to be carrying a brand new California King dual-control heated mattress pad! What?? Who knew?? Maybe we've lived a sheltered life. We had a crappy electric blanket once when we were first married, but somehow this marvelous product has flown under our radar for 40 years.
You crank that bad boy up a few minutes before "lights out" and ease into toasty heaven. Brilliant!! When we got into bed in our friends' guest room it was an OMG moment, I'm tellin' ya.
I hope you find these suggestions to be helpful. I'm sure other MIA's will pop up over time that I'll pass along. Hey, anybody here know where to get frozen puff pastry?