How to Get Around Cuenca – Part Two

Getting around Cuenca is fairly simple using 4 wheels, 2 wheels, or 2 feet. Last week, I discussed using cars, taxis, and light rail for daily transportation. Today, I will tell you about using buses, bicycles, and walking.

Buses

The bus system in Cuenca, or Moovit, is quite extensive and up to date. There are 475 buses crisscrossing the city until about 10:00 pm. Like the Tranvia system, you buy a $1.75 card to which you add money. Purchase your card at one of 4 offices in the city, and later look for a red sign in shops where you can go in and add money to your card. There is a map showing where these stores are and a map of the routes at the tourist office opposite Parque Calderon.

Get on the bus at the front, swipe your card for a $.30 ride, and exit toward the rear. The stop names are announced on each bus. The integration of one card you can use on both the Tranvia and the buses has started to take place and will be fully developed as the year proceeds.

Each bus has signs in the front showing a route number along with the start and end points. The  Moovit system operates with an interactive app which you can download to your phone or computer.. The system can suggest routes to destinations of your choice. You can select your route, find stops, determine how long your trip should take, and even learn how far you will need to walk to your destination after departing the bus. Wi-Fi is available on the bus for you to use your app when traveling.

Bicycles

Bicycles in Cuenca are very common as the city fathers have been very proactive constructing bike lanes throughout much of the city. Called ciclovías, these bike lanes parallel major roads and run alongside the rivers. They often  double with pedestrian paths, so the bike rider must be careful when coming upon a walker. These bike lanes may be cement stretches or gravel paths, and more lanes are being improved or added continually. Riding a bike is one way to combat the congested streets.

Don’t have a bike? No problem. Bike rental stations are scattered throughout the historic district and popular parks. Join the BiciCuenca program for a low fee and then pay a quarter for a 30-minute ride or $10.00 for a full day. First, register at the BiciCuenca office along the Tomebamba River and deposit $8.00 for a card you can use at any of the rental stations. A secret is to pay the quarter for a 30-minute ride, check the bike in and then pay for another 30-minute ride. Otherwise, a 60-minute ride is 75¢ or $2.00 an hour thereafter.

If you download the app, you will be able to see the amount of money on your card and find the number of bikes available at the stations. After your ride, simply return the bike to any station.

Walking

The cheapest and most scenic method to traverse Cuenca is to walk. Cuenca is mostly a very easy walkable city, as much of it is flat with only a few hills, while steeper hills lie outside the city center. There are, however, stairways between 80 and 90 step leading from the Tomebamba River up to El Centro. A couple of these have ramps in addition to the stairways. Three of the rivers have walkways running alongside in park-like settings, often with children and adult exercise equipment for your use.

Cuenca’s sidewalks are not uniformly constructed as many of these are old and may have broken pavement, holes, or other obstacles with which to contend. Consequently, these sidewalks are challenging for the impaired or those needing a wheelchair. Other stretches are newer and a pleasure to walk.

In Ecuador, pedestrians do not have the right of away. At corners, it is essential to look for turning cars before stepping into the street. Legally, you may jay walk with care.

However you chose to get around in Cuenca, you will have a positive experience, see the sights, and easily get to your destination. Cuenca is one of the safest cities in South America, which allows you to have an even better exposure to the city.

Fact: Cuenca employs a team of 1000 people who keep the streets and sidewalks clean, 7 days a week
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How to Get Around Cuenca – Part One

If you stop in front of a porch in Maine where two old men are sitting in rocking chairs and ask for directions, you will undoubtedly get the answer, “You can’t get there from here”. There are challenges to getting around Cuenca, Ecuador, but there are also solutions. Your choices are car, taxi, Metro (or tram), bus, bicycle, or walking.

Cars

There are approximately 858,000 cars (excluding 8,000 taxis) in Cuenca with a population of 436,000. In Chicago, there are approximately 1,731,600 cars (excluding 7,000 taxis) with a population of 8,901,000. This results in fewer people per car in Cuenca compared with Chicago, but there are more taxis in Cuenca than Chicago. My conclusion is there are too many cars in both Cuenca and Chicago. Might this not be an example of our problem with greenhouse gases?

The center of Cuenca and some of its close-lying areas are composed of predominantly one-way streets. Given the number of cars, there is more driving, faster speeds, and excessive gridlock. One-way streets are necessary in El Centro because the streets in this old part of town are narrow. Because of the one-way streets, going from point A to point B may require going around several blocks to arrive at your destination; hence more driving. High speeds are the results of traffic lights being coordinated to lessen the amount of stop and go. In Cuenca, from 2021 to 2022, the number of vehicle registrations grew 7.2% from 152,676 to 163,598 while the population grew 2.11% . It is this excess number of cars which result in the gridlock.

Taxis

Taxis are a popular means of transportation because they are usually readily available and the fares are inexpensive. With more taxis than Chicago, it is often easy to flag a ride. There are also popular phone apps for requesting a taxi. You never have to tell a taxi where to pick you up. You open the app and a map appears giving your exact GPS location. You will receive an estimated time the taxi will arrive and you can watch a car icon traveling the streets on its way to your location.

At times, however, it is difficult to get a taxi—on holidays when fewer taxis are operating and when it is raining and more people are soliciting taxis. All taxis are required to have a visible meter so you know the cost of your trip. Generally, a taxi ride within Cuenca costs $2.00 or $3.00. Drivers also expect a tip, so you can round up the meter charge. Uber and other cars-for-hire are not allowed in Cuenca.

Tranvia

Not to be outdone by the taxis, the metro or light rail system (called Tranvia) also offers an option of paying a fare with an app. Your charge will come from your local bank account. With the large number of tourists in Cuenca, it will probably only be a matter of time before the payment will come from any bank.

Jorge Moscoso, the Tranvia Director, predicts the use of the app will increase ridership by 20%. Currently, the Monday-Friday riders amount to 19,400. The Tranvia is new in Cuenca with only one 11 km line starting at Parque Industrial via the airport and ending at the Rio Tarqui. There are 27 stops along the way. taking about 35 minutes, but expectations are more lines will be developed in the future. You can purchase a card at the Tranvia office or various other locations for $1.00. You then insert your card into pay stations at various metro stops and add money to the card; you cannot use cash on the metro. The normal fare to ride anywhere on the line is $.35 (or a discounted fare of $.17 for students or senior citizens with a cedula). Without the card, expect to pay $1.00 per ride.

For the more intrepid, I will discuss bicycling and walking as well as the bus system in the post next week.

Fact: Getting around Cuenca is quite easy
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World’s Best Liveable City

Every year, the world’s most liveable city is ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) which is the research and analysis division of the Economist Group. This London-based group tracks monthly country reports, gives five-year country economic forecasts, and provides industry and service reports to countries for their liveability score.

You may remember in last week’s post, World’s Best Villages, I suggested we have a contest to name the world’s most liveable large city. I was surprised no one came up with the right answer. Continue reading to discover the most liveable city.

Livability Factors

Over 30 liveability factors are considered for each city. These include stability, exceptional healthcare, arts and culture, favorable rental conditions, low crime rates, education, minimal pollution and clean air, and world-class public transportation. Others have rated our mystery city for its parks and vineyards.

The city in question received a score of 100 in all areas but one—environment. The reason is UNESCO put this city on its endangered list for its plans to build more high-rise buildings. These plans will impact the nature of the city, obstructing the views, and crowding more people into a smaller land area where there are already already 2 million inhabitants.

The Covid pandemic altered the yearly list of most liveable cities with most falling in the ranks. The city in question was ranked number one in 2018 and 2019 but fell to 12th place in the 2021 rankings. Regaining the top spot in 2022 produced the superior rating during 3 of the last 5 years, still an impressive feat. Despite Covid, two countries had cities rising to the top ranks—Australia and New Zealand. They placed severe border controls resulting in its citizens having few Covid restrictions.

Have you named the city yet, or do you need more clues? Try these.

More Clues

The term Smart City has recently been coined to denote a community which uses data collected electronically to manage assets, resources, and services to improve the efficiency and liveability of an urban area. Listen to Peter Hanke, the Executive City Councilor of this city’s Smart City program say, “Our strategy is to underscore development in the face of climate change. We are working to achieve climate neutrality by 2040 to achieve an advanced quality of life for our citizens.”

Hanke goes on to say his city has been a model for social housing, a term applied to low rent or affordable housing, where the landlords and builders have a social conscience for their occupants. Along with the building projects, the city has placed an emphasis on open space with the result of 53% green space—its many parks.

You have probably guessed by now the city in question is Vienna. Vienna has worked hard to achieve this ranking (Covid aside) and continues working hard to retain the top spot. Its contenders, according to the 2022 rankings, are:

2. Copenhagen, Denmark

3. (tie) Zurich, Switzerland, and Calgary, Canada

5. Vancouver, Canada

6. Geneva, Switzerland

7. Frankfurt, Germany

8. Toronto, Canada

9. Amsterdam, Netherlands

10. (tie) Osaka, Japan, and Melbourne, Australia

Note the top nine cities are either in Europe or Canada, and no city in the United States made this list. Except for Japan, no cities in Asia or in South America made the cut either. Cost of living seems to be one liveability factor which has not been addressed. I think the list might change if this were factored in.

Vienna

What do you think of when you think of Vienna? I suspect most people would choose the arts—fine art, architecture, drama, and music. Are there others? There are over 100 museums in Vienna, a high number but low in comparison to other major cities in the world. For the architecture lover, Vienna has a stunning and eclectic mix of historic, modern, and contemporary buildings.

Vienna also has some of the best German- and English-speaking live theater. The Burg Theater is the pinnacle of German classical drama, and the English Theater is the oldest English-language theater in Europe. Yet, I wonder if most of you would chose music as your first choice for the arts in Vienna.

Vienna is often called the City of Music for its many musical attributes. Both Mozart and Beethoven called Vienna home, as did Mahler, Schubert, Haydn, Brahms, and the Strauss family (the Vienna waltzes). Also famous are the Vienna State Opera, the Vienna Boys’ Choir (and the less famous Vienna Girls’ Choir).

The city is also called the City of Dreams, referring to its famous psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud. A famous food item found throughout Vienna is the Sachertorte, a chocolate cake filled with apricot jam.

The fact this best-known city receives 6.8 million visitors a year speaks well for all of the attributes it has to offer. Are you ready to pack your bags for Vienna?

Fact: Vienna, not France, invented the croissant
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World’s Best Villages

Sometimes small is better. This may include where you live. The urban-rural battle has been hit head on by the United Nations World Tourism Organization asking countries to enter a contest naming their three best villages. There have been so many “best of” lists generated over the years, but village life has never gotten much attention by these list makers – until now.

Covid-19 has had a positive effect on the small village due to people wanting to avoid crowds, resulting in the growth of rural tourism. If you were forced to endure a lockdown, you looked forward to it ending. Where did your thoughts go when you were penned up? Probably out of the city and into the country. Green became your favorite color.

Playing off these thoughts, the UNWTO created this contest to recognize those villages which are

  • embracing tourism as a driver of development and new opportunities for jobs and income, while preserving and promoting community-based values and products
  • and recognizing villages for their commitment to innovation and sustainability in all its aspects — economic, social, and environmental — and a focus on developing tourism in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. [see here].

The Villages

The UNWTO sought to find villages which were promoting responsible tourism (as outlined above). They queried 57 nation-states which were members of the UNWTO inviting each to submit three of their villages which met the criteria. One hundred thirty-six submissions were received resulting in 32 villages making the cut. Only one country scored with all three of their villages: Spain. Those villages were Rupit, Alquézar, and Guadalupe.

Rupit

Rupit, Spain – www.nothingfamiliar.com/rupit-spain/

Rupit (from the Latin rupes or rocks) is a small village in Catalonia in Northeastern Spain, 61 miles from Barcelona. Visiting Rupit, deep in the Pyrenees Mountains, is like stepping back into Medieval times with its cobblestone walkways and views of the Rupit River, which divides the village but is united with a suspension bridge, allowing only 10 persons to cross at a time. This village is home to 277 inhabitants with a smattering of tourists. If you want to get away from the urbanity of Barcelona, a respite to Rupit would  fit the bill. This will make you feel like you are there now.

Alquézar

Even smaller than Rupit is Alquézar, population 301. Its name comes from an Arabic word meaning fort of castle. This is another Northeastern village, founded in 1099 in the foothills of the Pyrenees. If you visit here, you can bring your tent, as the town is located within a natural park with campsites around the area within proximity of sports activities including hiking the trails  and crossing the footbridges, horseback riding, mountain biking, and climbing.

Alquézar, Spain – Mapcarta.com

Collegiate Church Alquézar, Spain

Your visit will not require you to totally rough it, as you can treat yourself to a glass of fine wine from the wineries nearby or visit the Collegiate Church with its Baroque pipe organ or its museum with medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque works. Alquézar was declared a World Heritage Site in 1998.

Guadalupe

Guadalupe, Spain – Tripadvisor.com

Moving on to  the largest of Spain’s three best villages, population 2,113, is Guadalupe in the Southwestern area of the country. It’s claim to fame rests on its monastery, which began as a hermitage and became the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the site where, in the 14th Century,  a shepherd found a buried statue of the Virgin Mary believed to have been carved by Saint Luke. It became a World Heritage Site in 1993.

Guadalupe, Spain Shrine – Tripadvisor.com

The monastery of Guadalupe is prized for its architectural splendor and its artworks. The monks were skillful artists, ironworkers, and silversmiths, and their surviving pieces are on display today. Spain’s monasteries were secularized in 1835 but were returned to the Franciscans in 1908. Guadalupe serves as a holy pilgrimage destination and the area’s market town.

The lovely town square has a fountain believed to have been used by Christopher Columbus to baptize the first native Americans he brought to Spain following his second visit to America. This medieval village is one of Spain’s major tourist attractions.

The Best of Environmental Tourism

Of the 29 remaining villages, one stands out for its ecotourism: Choke Mountain Village in Ethiopia, about 200 miles from the capital of Addis Ababa. This village should get a reward of its own. The farming village uses biogas and ecological waste management, in addition to solar energy and sustainable land management. Additionally, they advocate for fair trade tourism, offering local honey, coffee, medicinal herbs, and beer as souvenirs to its visitors.

The four villages mentioned here seem far ahead of most large cities when it comes to protecting the environment. And speaking of large cities, if you were to rank the most livable large city in the world, which would it be? Let’s have our own contest. Send me a message using the contact form on this blog with your guess. If you are a winner, let me know if you would like me to use your name. The contest starts now!

Fact: The UNWTO advocates improving tourism competitiveness
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Embracing the New Year in Ecuador

Feliz Año Nuevo! Happy New Year! Ecuador’s custom to welcome in the New Year is “out with the old”. I’m waiting to see what “in with the new” will be.

The old is symbolized by papier-mâché  masks and large characters called monigotes which may represent anything real or imagined. These are effigies of well-known figures, Disney-like characters, or creatures from another world and can be six or more feet in height and elaborately decorated. They are stuffed with paper, cardboard, sawdust, or other materials and sometimes dressed in old clothes. A person may make his own mask or character or more likely, purchase one already made.

The masks and effigies offer visual delight to old and young alike. They are put on display in front of homes and businesses, anywhere along the street, or in parks and other public spaces. At midnight, they are ignited to burn away the bad things of the current year. They must be completely burned to prevent  any of the year’s displeasures from returning. While they burn, one custom is to jump over them 12 times to wipe away all bad things encountered each month. This can be a little dangerous, especially if the characters are filled with firecrackers.

My own neighborhood park was a site to behold with many of these characters on display for the evening burning. It was difficult to get close while individuals were assembling  their displays, but I attempted to get some pictures from behind the fences. When the evening came, there was constant noise from firecrackers and a band broadcasting all over the neighborhood until 5 o’clock in the morning.

Today, there will be piles of ashes all over the streets and parks. I will step over these and go looking for what is new in the New Year.

Fact: Another custom is to eat 12 grapes at midnight
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2 Opportunities to Move for Free

Normally when you move, you have moving expenses. How about being paid to move? The town of Presicee, Italy will pay you €30,000 (about $31,800) to move into one of their central town homes. Is this too far away? Then perhaps you would like to opt for some free land where you can build your own home. Continue reading.

Historic District of Presicee, Italy: Roberto Micoccio

Presicee is a town of round 5,300 population in Southeast Italy, in the Puglia region, a stone’s throw from Gallipoli, the “Pearl of the Ionian Sea”. Like other towns in Italy and elsewhere, Presicee has been losing their population to larger cities. Many homes have been abandoned, some in dilapidated condition while others are quite habitable.

Upon acceptance by application, Presicee will offer you a home of your choice, one built before 1991, with the cash split between the cost of the home and any repairs needed. These homes generally sell for €25,000. The town also offers other incentives such as tax benefits to create a business and bonuses for families with children.

In 2019, Presicee joined with its neighbor Acquarica, undergoing a similar population loss, to form a joint city, thus strengthening the base to allow the financial incentives to continue into the future. This new Presicee-Acquarica town allows for greater government support which invested will allow for increasing the number of financial gifts Presicee can offer.

A subterranean olive mill: Roberto Micoccio

Presicee can count it’s years to the middle ages as a town built around a fortress by monks, complete with crypts and underground olive mills. It came to called the “city of green gold” due to its lush olive groves which yield premium extra virgin olive oil. There are 23 of these secret olive mill chambers, one of which may exist beneath a home you might purchase or be on the popular guided tours circuit.

The houses for sale start at around 25,000 euros: Roberto Micoccio

Like a maze, city streets are either wide elegant avenues or winding narrow alleyways. Many gold-colored stately homes with inner courtyards and wrought iron balconies are juxtaposed with more simple white buildings. Outside the city, you will find olive groves with twisted tree trunks, byzantine crypts, purplish stone walls and fortified farms. Biking and hiking through pastures dotted with sheep or abandoned forts are popular pastimes.

Great, you say, but I don’t want to move all the way to Italy. In that case, there are options for free land upon which you can build a home in the US. Unlike the days of the free forty acres requiring no more than stakes at the corners of the property, today’s free land is a residential-sized lot in town.

Just like Presicee, Italy, six towns in central and north-central Kansas offer free lots to boost their populations. All you need to do is build a house upon the lot. These six towns are very stable communities with little turnover and 0-2% percent unemployment. Therefore, it’s unlikely you can find a living-wage job and may have difficulty establishing a new business. The best opportunity would be to telecommute, working remotely.

In my opinion, Western Kansas does not deserve its reputation as fly-over country. I spent 3 weeks visiting these communities a few years ago and thought they would be great for starters or retirees. https://wp.me/pdrVMz-3l  I thoroughly enjoyed the peace and quiet and the open vistas of rolling wheat and corn fields. The smoky hills of far Western Kansas actually have deep ravines rivaling the Grand Canyon of Arizona.

The two towns in Central Kansas – Wilson and Marquette – and the four towns in North-Central Kansas – Lincoln, Plainville, Osborn and Mankato -lie either side of Interstate 70. At the time of my visit, there was a wonderful old Victorian home offered for sale on eBay at an extremely favorable price. So many towns in Kansas are named for the towns which pioneers left, and I must admit to being partial to Mankato since it was named for my birthplace.

Mankato, Kansas – Tripadvisor

These towns vary in population from 680 to 1,850 and offer free lots ranging in size from 11,000 to 36,000 square feet. A home must be constructed within 1 to 4-1/2 years. More information can be found at https://kansascitymag.com/news/six-rural-kansas-towns-offer-free-land-to-transplants-heres-the-deal/

Besides free land, the other opportunities to live in Western Kansas are an escape from crowded, expensive cities; a 13.5% lower than average national  cost of living; and a less expensive home to build and maintain. As the differences between living in a large vs. small town become less apparent, the opportunities or small town living become more feasible. The Internet has also made this possible for employment, education, and shopping. The reasons for obtaining this free land are as many as the fields are many and wide open.

Osborn County Courthouse-Wikipedia.com

Are you thinking maybe it’s time for a change but you don’t know where to go or how to pay for it? Presicee, Italy will give you a home or Kansas will give land. Your next move could be an exciting adventure. Are you up for it?

Fact: Home or abroad brings new experiences
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The Pope, a Statue, and a Parade

It all began in the 1960s when a statue of the Christ child was blessed by the Pope, brought back to Cuenca from Rome, and a tradition was born. This statue, the Nino Viajero (child traveler), became the impetus for Cuenca’s largest celebration of the year, a children’s parade on Christmas Eve.

The focus of the parade are the statues of the baby Jesus. The first statue was made in 1823 when Josefa Heredia of Cuenca commissioned a local artist to create such a statue. One hundred years later, it came into the possession of the local Monsignor, Miguel Cordero Crespo. The Monsignor took the statue to Rome in 1961 where Pope John XXIII gave it his blessing. Monsignor Crespo then brought the statue back to Cuenca, displayed it with a parade, and the festival has grown every year since.

The Pase del Nino, or parade of the child, re-enacting Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem, begins at about 10:00 in the morning and proceeds along El Centro streets throughout the day, ending about 7 hours later.  Children dress up in sacred or secular costumes, march through the streets, and join the revelry, along with floats, horses, dancers, stilt walkers, and musicians. People line the streets all day to observe the children and to kick off the Christmas season. The parade has continually become more secular. Recently, the Three Wisemen have followed their star on motorcycles, and Mary and Joseph have done cartwheels down the street.

I attempted to take pictures of the parade, but I couldn’t get close enough. The pressing crowds prevented much movement behind blockade fences. I’ll leave the picture taking to the professionals from atop trucks. See here a 23-minute video in Spanish of the parade:

Cuenca’s festive celebration has been a latecomer to honor the Christ child. The Spanish actually introduced the observance to Latin America some 500 years earlier. However, over the years the parade has taken hold predominately in Cuenca and is considered the largest in Latin America.

As many as 50,000 may participate in the parade, while 150,000 will line the streets to watch. The parade is actually made up of smaller units, neighborhoods and nearby towns, each carrying their own statue of the baby Jesus. The parade brings visitors, expats, Cuencanos, and the Indigenous together to become one big family expressing peace and hope for the coming New Year.

Fact: Cuenca is often seen as the capital of artistic abilities and culture in Ecuador
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Hats Off to Ecuador

Of some 139 styles of hats today, only one is named for a country – and it’s the wrong country! I refer to the Panamá hat. This hat originated in Ecuador and continues to be made by Ecuadorians, though there are some international knockoffs. The best Panamá hats are made in Montecristi, a town in the coastal lowlands, where about 70 families continue to intricately hand weave the finest hats. The second most important town for the weaving of these hats is Cuenca.

Across and down the street from the 10 de Agosto Mercado is the Panamá Hat museum. There are two major steps in making a hat: weaving and blocking. The best Panamá hats are woven with the Toquilla straw growing in the coastal wet lands. The best of the Montecristi hats may have as many as 3000 weaves per square inch and take up to 8 months to weave. The cuenca and the brisa are two types of weave, the former producing a herringbone pattern while the latter shows a small diamond/square pattern.

Blocking the hat gives it its shape. The traditional Panamá is a fedora-style hat with a central dent in the crown, which appears pinched at the front while the brim may vary in width. At the museum, large machines are used for blocking. On display are hundreds of hats of varying styles and even colors. It has been said the the finest of these hats, the superfino, has such a tight weave it can hold water and even be rolled up and passed through a wedding ring. I wouldn’t recommend this.

If these hats are made in Ecuador, why are they called Panamá hats? There seem to be three reasons.

  • The hat originated in the Spanish colonial days of what became Ecuador, and by the 19th Century, Ecuador needed an expanded market for selling its local products. The hats, along with coffee and chocolate, were shipped to the more developed country of Panamá which had become a hub for international shipping. This resulted in the hat being called a Panamá hat. By 1944, it was Ecuador’s largest export product at 4.3 million hats leaving the country.
  • The second reason the hat got coined Panamá was due to the gold rush men on their way to California. These men traveled from Europe and the Eastern US through the Panamá Canal to get to the Western US. When they got to Panamá, they realized they would need a hat to protect them from the sun. There they found a lightweight brimmed hat would do the trick and referred to it as the Panamá hat.
  • The third possibility for the name of the hat is attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt who was seen wearing one on his 1906 visit to the Panamá Canal. This became a fashion statement for men, and they quickly bought the hat and called it the Panamá hat. Men such as Orson Welles, Humphrey Bogart, and Gary Cooper wore and helped popularize the hat. Whatever the reason, the name for the hat stuck and continues to be known  today as the Panamá hat.

It took a lot of hats to reach the 1944 export figure, however. By 1850, 2,000 hats had been made in the Cuenca area. A big moment for the hat came in 1855 when the hat was introduced at the World Exposition in Paris. This caused a quick rise in shipments to Europe, resulting in a half million hats leaving Ecuador. But a major mistake was made at this exposition: there was no mention of the hat being produced in Ecuador, leaving Europeans believing it was created in Panamá.

Other countries have gotten on the bandwagon producing look-alike hats using wood, wheat, and even palm leaves. Don’t be fooled by these. A true Panamá hat using  toquilla straw will show a flowering out in the weave from the center top of the hat. This is a genuine Panamá hat and you should be proud to wear it.

Fact: The Panamá hat is sometimes called the Johnny Depp hat
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Monday Chat

I would like to wish you the Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest of New Years. My pleasure has been having you following my blog this past year. I have appreciated your support.

I would like to tell you of some changes to my blog in the coming days. I am expanding the focus of my blog to include travel-related stories from around the world. Due to the world’s health constraints, I have not been able to travel and so my blog has remained fairly static. I would like to interject some new locations and interesting articles to bring new life to the blog.

I have been working to try to reach more readers and, with that in mind, I am going to try to monetize the blog to give me some capital which I can put to traveling. This should not affect the quality of the blog. This will go hand in hand with an expansion (I hope) of more substantial posts. That substance will result in being better found by the search engines.

Also, I am thinking of adding a once-a-month newsletter to let you know what’s behind this blog; that way, I don’t have to broadcast to the world messages like this one. I will let you know when I start the newsletter and you my sign up to receive it. This is purely optional for you.

I welcome your thoughts about these proposals and any comments you would like to make about the blog. You can reach me though the contact form on the blog or by email at MeanderingAlong@gmail.com. I look forward to a new year of new beginnings.

Warren

Where is Home for an Expat?

How do you define home if you’re an expat? Your definition may differ from other expats, but what’s important is how you define home. If you travel for a short time, home is your immediate past residence. If you travel for a long time, home starts to become an ambiguous concept.

Rebecca Knight has defined home as a place where personal touches include children’s paintings on the wall, magnets on the fridge, and shoes by the door (https://www.idealhome.co.uk/news/what-makes-a-house-a-home-206097). You may more simply define home as where your heart is, or a place where you feel most comfortable.

When you leave a place for any length of time, you may  feel you no longer have a home. If you are living out of a suitcase (or in my case less), home may become a place where you hang your hat. You may lose a sense of security, or you may feel you have become two persons having a foot in two different worlds.

For your own peace of mind, you may need to find new meanings for home, as home has now become a work in progress. Pico Iyer, an expert travel writer, with the help of National Geographic, gives us a 20-minute conversation defining his view of  a portable life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6GB1uAy3gE).

If you find yourself asking the questions who am I and where do I belong, you are not alone. To answer those questions, you might try looking within. There you will find you can have more than one home. With flexibility, you will become more connected with the world. Home is a concept you will take with you.

You can’t simply wipe away remembrances of your past, of course. Think instead of home now becoming a concept where you can add to your memories. You will find this flexibility makes you a more accepting person, which in turn makes connecting with others an easier experience. You will have more compassion and appreciation for the diverse people and experiences you will encounter.

If you’re uncomfortable with  the unknown, psychologist Gabriela Encina offers a website to overcome the fears of being an expat (https://gabriela-encina.com). She offers a free guide to overcoming your anxiety. Remember,  Pico Iyer said whatever you are looking for is beneath your feet. Consequently, you can be at home wherever you are at the moment.

Fact: Home is not a place…it’s a feeling
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