Wednesday, October 7, 2020

90 Days in Ecuador

This past weekend marked three months since I became an unofficial expat. And it’s the first monthly anniversary since the day I arrived that I am not on the move again! Continue reading to find out why.

Embracing life in another country.

First things first… Since my residency visa is still in process (currently my immigration lawyers are having my US university degree registered with the Ecuadorian government as I am applying for a “professional” visa), I had to get an extension on my migratory status as a tourist. Last year I crossed the 90-day mark when I was in Galápagos for the second time. I was able to go to the immigration office in San Cristóbal and fill out a one-page application for the extension; it cost $131.33 and was processed in about 15 minutes.

Me on my last day in Galápagos in October 2019.

This year, due to the ongoing pandemic, the provincial government offices are open but are doing most work online. Unfortunately, it is not a straightforward process, so I had to ask my immigration lawyers for help. Thankfully they were able to file for the extension on my behalf (the cost is essentially unchanged from last year) and I received the prórroga via email yesterday. This allows me to stay in Ecuador for another 90 days (until 12/31/20), during which time I expect (hope!) to receive my residency visa. 

Ghost crab on the beach in Olón.

In case you are interested, I plan to write a detailed blog post about the entire process and costs for obtaining my residency visa as soon as it is issued.

Besides dealing with the ongoing legal process, I am staying busy with work and life in general.

My neighborhood cat friend, Bosco.

As I wrote about in my last post, I officially started working for Groundhopper Soccer Guides this past June. My job encompasses a lot of things but one of my recent tasks was to proofread and edit a 597-page manuscript i.e. the 2020-21 edition of The Groundhopper Guide to Soccer in England. If you have any interest in soccer at all, even if you don’t currently follow soccer in the UK, you will enjoy this book because it’s as much about the history and culture of the game as it is a travel guide. Email me at to get your insider’s discount!

book guide groundhopper
We just finalized the cover for this season's edition.

One of my favorite pastimes (besides watching games on TV) is walking a couple of blocks to the Olón stadium to see some of the local leagues play soccer. It is a unique cultural experience that, no matter what level of talent is on display, often involves children and dogs on the pitch, various types of food and drink vendors, a fair amount of cursing, and plenty of unpredictable moments.

Watching a local soccer game in Olón.

Besides work-related activities, I spend most of my spare time doing my best to learn more about local life. I enjoy chatting with the various shopkeepers and restaurant owners, fishermen I encounter on the beach or at the local seafood market, and vendors that pass by on bicycles or motorcycles. Some of my favorite experiences recently have been a direct result of these conversations, all of which take place in Spanish. There is no question that mastering the local language is an essential part of full cultural immersion if you plan to live abroad.

It takes dozens of men to haul in a fishing net this big by hand.

For exercise, and to take a break from screen time, I go for long walks on the beach. A few weekends ago I walked all the way from Olóncito to Las Nunez, which is a small town about five miles north of where I live. The best part about this walk is that you can stay on the beach the entire way as long as it’s not high tide. I saw lots of shorebirds, a few sea turtle nests, plenty of interesting waterfront houses, and, generally, very few people. I capped off the two-hour walk with a huge bowl of fresh ceviche and a large beer. Then I hopped on a local bus for a quick ride back to Olón.

Nest of an olive ridley sea turtle.

The following weekend I walked the opposite direction a few miles to Montañita, which unfortunately involves a solid 20-minute stretch along the busy main road. But I was rewarded for my efforts with continuous humpback whale sightings and beautiful views from the unique open-air sanctuary that sits high on a cliff above the ocean. After a filling lunch featuring fried calamari, I walked a bit farther south to check out a small arts and crafts fair, then doubled back to the only large-ish grocery store in this area to stock up on provisions.

View of Olón from the Santuario Blanca Estrella de la Mar.

It has now been two months since I moved to the coast and, as you can probably guess if you follow me on social media and see my almost-daily posts of beautiful sunsets, interesting wildlife, and other scenes from daily life; I don’t regret it! I love this town and my cozy, comfortable apartment just steps from the beach. It is the perfect place to work, rest, get fresh air, etc. I recently extended my lease until late December and will wait until I have my residency visa before making further plans.

Sunsets like this are just a few steps away from my apartment.