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31 Firsts of Our First 18 Months

Posted in: Our Perspective, Where to Live

Relocating to a foreign country brings with it a long list of firsts. Here are a few of mine.

This has been the first time I have . . .

  1. Stepped on a tarantula
  2. Not been able to understand a single word being spoken to me
  3. Google translated out of necessity
  4. Run dry of known words half way through a sentence
  5. Been able to understand and communicate in a foreign language
  6. Marveled as I listened to my daughter speaking Spanish like a local
  7. Litter trained a puppy
  8. Seen parasites
  9. Hosted parasites
  10. Eaten Guinea Pig (Cuy)
  11. Hidden money in my socks, and my top
  12. Made income from freelance writing
  13. Been the minority
  14. Not owned a car
  15. Feared death by electric shock in the shower
  16. Overcome my fear of cooking with gas
  17. Almost overcome my irrational fear of crossing busy streets
  18. Fallen in love with the Andes
  19. Hand fed monkeys (!! :))
  20. Liked a City
  21. Washed dishes in cold water, with hard dish soap
  22. Been water bombed by strangers
  23. Found the head, feet, liver and heart of a chicken in a plastic bag, stuffed inside the chicken before roasting it
  24. 31firsts-chickenhead

  25. Seen cockroaches
  26. Bought unrefrigerated eggs
  27. Frozen in the shower because the propane tank went empty
  28. Only spent $10 and could hardly carry home all my groceries because they were so heavy
  29. Not freaked over the absence of seat belts
  30. Had a sunburn on the top of my head, and feet
  31. Not flushed used toilet paper
  32. Felt closer than ever to my best friend in Canada

It’s been a very interesting year and a half for our family, and we look forward to many other firsts as we continue to explore this country and hopefully others.31 firsts gringosabroad.com

What firsts have you experienced traveling or living abroad? I would love to hear about them if you want to share by commenting on this post.

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Meet the Author

Dena Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. She is a travel blogger and content marketer. She is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with GringosAbroad.

41 comments… add one
  • Janet LeBlanc Jan 31, 2015, 7:54 pm

    Dena – Do I understand correctly that you have cockroaches in Cuenca? I thought that insects were pretty rare (if any at all) that high in the Andes. We are sick to death of bugs in South Carolina and were optimistic we’d be rid of them in Cuenca. ???

  • Lou L. Mar 6, 2013, 12:43 pm

    OK lets get down to some serious talking, forgetting all of the bugs and the like.
    we want to find out about the fishing in streams, not large lakes. I believe that the streams that run from the mountains are better to catch fish in and are better to eat. My question is; what kind of fish are in the streams, and does one need license to fish there? For an old gringo like me would I need an out of state license. Looking forward to your reply Folks.

  • AJ Mar 6, 2013, 10:58 am

    I grew up in Guyana and can relate to some of the items on the list of 31 – 21, 24, 25 and 28, to name a few. When I was growing up cars didn’t have seat belts.

  • Lou L. Mar 5, 2013, 9:48 pm

    Hay Dena stepping on that spider. Did he feel big under your foot? i guess when one is younger, one can take all sorts of different adventures. Us old guys like to keep a low profile and stay in our comfort zone.
    The snow is melting here in NS . Spring will be upon us , Time to start planting.
    You folks should grow your own tomatoes, corn, potatoes. Save some money.
    Have a good day tomorrow. from all of us to all of you Lou.

  • AJ Mar 5, 2013, 4:20 pm

    “Not flushed used toilet paper” – I read about this a few weeks ago on another blog. My wife and I are not comfortable with this. Sounds disgusting. Anyway, we put it out of our minds and made a deposit a few minutes ago on a lot at the Mirador San Jose development south of Manta.

    • Geri J. Mar 5, 2013, 10:26 pm

      Alert — This is a detailed description of how we handle the used toilet paper (which cannot be flushed) here in Cuenca.

      The toilet paper thing takes a bit of getting used to, but after a year we have adapted. The problem is with the pipes from the houses/apartments to the street. They are narrower than the pipes found in the US and Europe and clog much more easily, and can cause a serious and nasty backup.

      Most of the homes and businesses here in Cuenca have covered receptacles for the used toilet paper with foot pads to open them. When folks ask us how we “deal” with this situation, I explain that to mitigate odors and unsightly messes, we fold the paper into little square pillows. If things are too yuck, we wrap them up with more toilet paper. (Women have been doing this with sanitary pads for ages.) In our part of our city, trash is collected three times a week. This helps a lot.

      Because of infrastructure issues, I don’t see that this will change any time soon. I have heard of new buildings going up where one can flush paper down the toilet. I don’t know which ones they are as we live in an older multifamily building constructed under the old system.

      • AJ Mar 6, 2013, 8:32 am

        Thanks for the detailed explanation, Geri J. It’s helpful.

  • Lou Jan 31, 2013, 9:56 am

    Hay! you guys . did some morning reading on your blog. always enjoy it. I have come to this conclusion….Your are young, got many years ahead, they will pass quickly. Enjoy them while you can. This “Old Boy” has made a decision to stay put.
    We have heard the expression, the grass looks green on the other side of the fence. you know what? I like the grass on this side of the fence. It only looks greener on the other side. Looking forward to spring so i can get my veggie garden up and growing, I do the planting, God makes it grow. very enjoyable indeed. have fun folks. Lou.

    • Jim Jan 31, 2013, 11:47 am

      Actually the grass is greener in Ecuador and you can plant it or veggies or herbs any time of the year. And there really isn’t much for pesticides and artificial fertilizers that you have blowing around the Valley. Our health has improved since moving here. I love Nova Scotia, but it’s not a great place to live any more.

      • Jim Jan 31, 2013, 1:36 pm

        I’m really like having fresh oregano and basil year round. I’ve decided to start growing tomatoes and potatoes. A gringo who’s been here a few years told me once that you can drop a seed anywhere and it will grow…we have 4-5 tomato plants growing a few feet from our compost pile. We didn’t deliberately plant them there. Growing is lot of fun here.

  • Lou Jan 31, 2013, 9:45 am

    Folks just through reading your comments. about no flush toilet paper, tarantulas. and the like, not to mention parasites. You Know what? that’s if you don’t mind, could i please stay here in N S. All I have to worry about is the high cost of living, 1.30 a liter for gas, 5 bucks for a lb. of meat. Oh! Yeah and four cats. Other than that, Hay! it’s OK

  • andrea Jan 30, 2013, 5:13 pm

    Oh! And the cockroaches. Do they fly there? We met flying cockroaches our first night in Honduras. I had NO idea that winged roaches existed.

    It was a horror movie moment, for sure.

  • andrea Jan 30, 2013, 5:12 pm

    The toilet paper thing is a shocker. I lived in Honduras for a year at one point in my life and was horrified to find out that they didn’t flush their toilet paper! Using a public washroom for the first time I found that it lacked a seat (!) and beside the toilet was a small cardboard box half full of used toilet paper. DIRTY SIDE UP.
    I could never understand why they’d throw it in there DIRTY SIDE UP.

  • Suzanne Jan 20, 2013, 1:40 pm

    Parasites? What parasites did you see, but, more importantly, what parasite(s) did you play host to?

    • Bryan Haines Jan 22, 2013, 1:56 pm

      We saw our dog with parasites… climbing out of her. And we don’t know the specific type we had. With symptoms and blood tests our doctor determined that we had them – but we didn’t get their specifics. The medicine took care of them.

      • Terry Jan 30, 2013, 10:15 pm

        Back to the parasites as host. Did you get them from your dog? Is there any way to protect yourself from becoming host in the 1st place? I’ve read they can play havoc on the health. Is it safe to drink water straight out of your fawcett or do you have to buy safe drinking water? When we toured Mexico we were told not to drink the water or even let the water run into our nose or mouth in the shower. How would you compare your quality of water there in general?

        • Bryan Haines Jan 31, 2013, 9:23 am

          I don’t know that they can be traced back to their origin. Likely food or water. We drink tap water on occasion – if we can’t avoid it at a friends house or a restaurant – but we try to avoid it. We have a filter in our house that we use. Here is more on tap water in Cuenca https://gringosabroad.com/how-to-drink-the-tap-water-in-cuenca-ecuador/

          I have never been to Mexico so I can’t compare. Maybe another reader can help…

      • Suzanne Williams-McAuliffe Jan 31, 2013, 11:28 am

        I’m assuming intestinal – those are common in dogs and cats in the US. Indeed, all puppies and kittens that get vet care are wormed prophylactically. Not so common in people but, in the rural area where I grew up, kids got them – from playing in the dirt, we were told. Not that I want them . . . .

        • Bryan Haines Jan 31, 2013, 11:34 am

          Yes, absolutely – they were intestinal. I guess I should have clarified that – but in terms of specifically, I don’t know.

  • dennis fahey Jan 24, 2012, 8:51 pm

    Fun post! (Which hand did the monkees get?)

  • Andre Hugo Jan 3, 2012, 4:39 am

    I love your sharing with us. I smiled through reading this post. As a Canadian who now lives in Quito, I related to many of your “firsts”. Of my own experience, I add:
    – being in the front seat of a car on a narrow winding highway when a bus, truck or car, travelling in the opposite direction, pulls out into my lane to pass.I now recognize this as normal and the only rule of the road being that the bigger guy wins.
    – Zip lined from mountain top to mountain top high over valleys below.
    – lifted off the side of a mountain to sail on a a parachute over the Pacific Ocean and town below. (I’m a senior)
    – saved a person’s life by giving CPR and another life by applying the Heimlich maneuver on a choking lady.
    – being robbed by pick pockets on the street and had a camera stolen in a classy hotel.
    – enjoyed such a continuous and enjoyable life of discovery and appreciation of the lives of other.
    – saw the plight of very poor, but happy,friendly people and joined others in helping them.

  • Geri J. Jan 2, 2012, 9:35 pm

    Great list! Couple of questions:

    (1) Where did you see the cockroaches? (yuck) and
    (2) How close to the town center do you find tarantulas? (These don’t bother me much — just curious.)

    Geri

    • Bryan Haines Jan 3, 2012, 11:12 am

      Hi Geri,

      The cockroaches were on the coast – we saw them while in a vacation rental in Salinas. The tarantulas live in the ground, so I guess they would need soil – so right in the center of town, there won’t be too many, but on the outskirts of town you’ll see them (or could see them).

    • Jim Mar 6, 2013, 9:21 am

      I was on the back of a pickup last week, I saw a very large tarantula scurrying across the road, the driver gently swerved to ensure he squished it. I guess the locals don’t much like them. This was outside of Vilcabamba.

  • lou Lutz Oct 1, 2011, 9:08 pm

    Dena some of those comments about cold water, no flush toilet, no phone, no TV, an old car that needed fixing nearly every time we had to go someplace. barley getting by on what money i could make in a week, been there and done that . where ? right here in NS. but would not move, as things are better now. like to come for a visit though.

  • Jim Cohoon Sep 29, 2011, 11:56 am

    Dena, is that pic above where you live?

    • Bryan Haines Sep 30, 2011, 8:32 am

      Hi Jim, that is actually a picture I took of a drive down the Andes to Salinas for a vacation.

      • Jim Cohoon Oct 2, 2011, 8:40 am

        Looks absolutely beautiful. We’re hoping to get to Salinas very soon. I heard of another beach that is less crowded and cheaper to visit which we may consider depending on safety etc.

  • Christina Sep 29, 2011, 7:22 am

    I like your no. 31. Hooray for the digitial world, skype and all. Many people had asked us, if it had not been so sad to leave everyone behind. Well, you don’t! Its actually quite easy to maintain contact if you want to and you definitely ahve lots to talk about. Now our friends come visit us here for 2/3/even 4 weeks instead of a weekend and we have a closer realtionship than ever!!
    Spent the whole summer with a friend and his two boys, tonight picking up another one, and end of october we’ll see grandma!

  • Lisa Sep 29, 2011, 7:01 am

    Love you list of 1st!! I remember the baf of chicken parts inside the chicken when we lived in Trinidad and Tobago I was shocked. Also shocked when we went to a “River Lime” river party they had a big pot of stew and i got a duck paddle on my plate ………… We cant wait tohave our first in Ecuador.. We have just reserved a condo int he arcadia building with Mark.
    And LOVE the comment on the 10 worth of grocerys you couldnt carrie

  • Jim C Jul 5, 2011, 11:30 pm

    Number 30 covered. Thanks Bryan, just saw it.

  • Jim C Jul 5, 2011, 11:29 pm

    Can you elaborate on number 30. Is there something we should be prepared for?

  • Eric Lutz Jun 17, 2011, 5:27 pm

    Tarantula, Huh? Hmmmmm…… got to ponder that one. The biggest thing i ever stepped on in NS was our cat’s tail. And she never forgave me.

  • Denise May 20, 2011, 9:27 am

    Curious – can you not flush your used toilet paper?

    • Bryan Haines Jun 11, 2011, 6:51 am

      Depends. In Cuenca, yes, along with the other cities. But you’ll still find a small trash can beside the toilet almost everywhere. In the more rural areas, the systems aren’t built to handle the paper. It is, surprisingly, not nearly as bad as it sounds. My grandparents used to have a cottage in Canada, and they had to do this – the septic system couldn’t handle the paper. Adds interest, don’t you think?

  • Tami May 7, 2011, 4:54 pm

    Passing an 18 wheeler – going down Cerro de la Muerte in Costa Rica – double yellow line, hard right curve. I earned my 3rd world driving “stripes” (medal?!) that day. Whew.

    • Bryan Haines May 17, 2011, 12:23 pm

      Sounds like an adventure. Also sounds like a typical drive down the Andes!

  • Dena Haines Jan 24, 2011, 10:03 pm

    Hi Spencer,
    It wasn't fun stepping on that tarantula! But it was in the entry way of our apartment building, and all that popped into my mind was it crawling up the steps and freaking out my daughter, soooo . . . just like back in Canada I immediately thought "squish the spider" so I did. Stepping on a tarantula is a lot different than stepping on the tiny spiders I was used to, next time I'll be running for the broom to brush it away. If there is a next time, we hardly ever see them. When we do see them, it's after a rain and they are squished on the sidewalk, poor little spidies.
    We are having a wonderful time here 🙂
    Thanks

  • Spencer Jan 23, 2011, 5:44 am

    Not sure stepping on a tarantula would be much fun but other than that it certainly seems like you are having an awesome time on your travels!

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