The 900 Square Foot Souvenir

Living RoomFor decades, travelers have filled their suitcases with souvenirs some of which turn into gifts, while others through flamboyant exposure are trophies of world exploration. It has often occurred to me to wonder how the airline limitations on luggage have affected the souvenir industry or the little shops that depend on the sales. Surely, with the outrageous surcharges on excess suitcases, extraneous shopping is better left to the rich.

When sitting at an outdoor café, often some endearing indigenous woman will appear selling woven baskets or hand carved wooden bowls. Though some are charming, others stunning works of handcrafted art, they are not going to fit in an airline limited sized suitcase. It melts part of my heart having to leave these items behind.

With the charms of Cuenca melting our objective thinking, I had a brainstorm. This is a flow of conscious thought, so stay with me. We love the city; thus far, this is our third trip here. We have ‘stuff’ in storage in New Jersey that has been there since we left the US in 2001. Stuff is a collective description since there is no furniture there. Most of the contents are Christmas ornaments, thousands of books, artwork from our California home, and items we have purchased from world travels when airlines were more generous. I refuse to part with any of these personally historic items, yet we are wasting money having them stored.

Oftentimes, I toss ideas out and Ron bats them out of the ballpark of reality. Knowing if I pitch enough ideas, eventually a home run is likely to score. Nonchalantly, I suggested that we rent an inexpensive Cuenca apartment for us to use three months a year, rent out the rest of the time, but use it to store what we have in storage. In the end, our saving on rent while in the city and potential rental income would counter the expenses of storage. Not really anticipating a positive response, I safeguarded my emotions by not loving the idea.

When Ron almost immediately said he thought it was a good idea, it took a few minutes for the shock to fade away. Generally, he needs substantial amounts of time to consider my ideas. I have often thought the motive was hoping I would forget them in the interim.

Before he had second thoughts, I was collecting advertisements on Gringo Post. We went to look at two apartments for rent. One apartment, newly remodeled was lovely, but the location was not ideal. The second needed a major overhaul. Both were unfurnished, so adding that to the equation, it turned into a pricey venture.

Then two different apartments offered for sale, furnished caught my attention. We looked at both. Though I loved the building and location, the apartment itself was a disaster. The owner is a Polish man who has lived in Cuenca for 20 years. He bought his condominium when the building was new, but had the most horrendous wallpaper of differing designs on all the walls. Every room looked like a different cover story for a magazine called Decorating Nightmares. His intention is to move to Canada, so selling the furniture along with the apartment was set in stone.

An American real estate agent, Isaac May, had the second apartment as a listing. We looked at Kitchenit though it is smaller, only one bedroom and 900 square feet (83.6 square meters), but it is tastefully decorated. The sale offer described it with options: completely unfurnished, semi-furnished or completely furnished. With a great placement in the city, we were immediately intrigued.

The current owner has been renting it on various sites and has achieved SuperHost status on more than one. I did not know it was possible until I found it on the sites themselves. He quickly turned over his extensive bookkeeping for the rental for the last three years. That too was impressive. The other advantages is the huge storage unit in the basement Stairs to loft bedroomand a designated underground parking space should we get visitors or renters that have a car.

We are thankful to Howard Wood and Mike Frohling for allowing us to drag them along to give another set of eyes at these places. It was really helpful.

Cutting to the chase, we met with the owner twice, negotiated and then made an offer. He accepted our offer. We contacted Andrea Jaramillo, the English-speaking lawyer everyone has raved about.  All of us met with her. Because we were leaving the country before the title search was completed, we signed over a limited power of attorney to the attorney. We received word that the closing will be tomorrow, Monday March 7, Queen bed2016.

We will be leaving Quito tomorrow. Our flight plan is Quito to Panama City, Panama City to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Vienna, and Vienna to Budapest arriving late evening on Tuesday, March 8.

Wednesday we have to gather all of our documents in preparation for the Hungarian Immigration office on Thursday morning. It is time to renew our Residency Visas. Maybe by Friday, we will be rested enough to celebrate.

Keep an eye on the BudaBaB website ( The Cuenca apartment will have a listing on there. The previous owner may have achieved super host status, but none of his reviews can transfer to us. We have to start from scratch. Thankfully, he has agreed to continue as our ‘manager’ until we return next February.

After completing my Ed.D., the frustration of finding a teaching position where I was willing to live, led to Ron and I leaving the country. We intended to travel for a year before settling somewhere in MA or RI. We left the US without any credit card debt, no car payments and our house mortgage paid by renters. We had $10,000 in the bank to make our way through a year.