The Truth About Retiree Life In Cuenca
One of the major challenges facing expats, especially those living in a country where the people speak a language other than the one the expats spoke back home, is communication. Finding reliable service providers can be difficult. And being able to keep up with local news and events, even with each other, is often the difference between a fulfilling life and chronic frustration.
In Ecuador, specifically in Cuenca, the answer is an e-letter service and website called GringoTree.
Created in 2008 by a small group of Cuenca expats, GringoTree began as an email subscriber service reporting local events and offering tips and recommendations about products and professional services to English-speaking residents. About a year ago, GringoTree added a website, providing even more information through searchable databases.
GringoTree partners with an online newspaper, Cuenca High Life, which offers hard news, features, and opinion columns.
According to Deke Castleman, managing editor of the project, GringoTree has about 5,500 subscribers, some expats living in Ecuador and some considering relocating to the country, mostly North Americans.
Castleman, who moved to Cuenca three years ago after retiring from a career as a travel book writer and senior editor for a U.S. publishing house, says he has been amazed by GringoTree’s growth. “We’ve added more than 1,500 subscribers in the past year alone, and we continue to grow rapidly. Even more impressive, the GringoTree website now ranks number one among English-language sites in Ecuador even though we’ve only been online since October.”
Castleman says there are two reasons for the growth: “The first is Ecuador’s and Cuenca’s popularity as expat destinations. The second is that we provide useful, reliable information and have become the ‘go-to’ source for those living here and those thinking about coming.”
Cuenca expat and former British foreign correspondent Sylvan Hardy agrees. “GringoTree really knits the community together and is unique in the expat communities that I’m familiar with. If I want to know when the symphony is playing, what new restaurants are opening, or find a good dermatologist or Spanish teacher, I check GringoTree. If I need to know what the government in Ecuador is up to, and if it affects me, I can read Cuenca High Life. In every case, I know that I am getting information that has been vetted by professionals.”
Hardy adds: “One thing you discover early as an expat is that a lot of what you hear, either by word-of-mouth or on the Internet, is inaccurate, and often nothing more than rumor. Due diligence is required to get to the truth. This is why GringoTree is so important to Cuenca.”
In addition to offering daily community postings, recommendations, and news, GringoTree has recently launched a series of subscriber forums that ask readers about how they handle their money, why they decided to expatriate, what their monthly expenses are, and what’s the best coffee in town. “Our mission is to interact with the community, to find out what expats are thinking, and to offer them a forum to share their experiences,” says Castleman. “Another part of our mission is to involve subscribers in the larger community. One of the great advantages of living in Cuenca is the opportunity to interact with the local culture and local people. We want to offer an escape from the ‘gringo bubble’ that you see in so many other expat communities.”
Hardy says that GringoTree is not only an invaluable resource for English-speaking residents, but also for those considering relocating. “Given all the hype and overstatement out there about Ecuador, as well as about the expat experience in general, it’s good to have a place that accurately describes life ‘on the ground,'” he says.
Although GringoTree currently focuses on Cuenca, there are plans for expansion into other Ecuadorian communities, as well as to those in other parts of Latin America. “We’ve built a good communication model and are eager to share it with the world,” says Castleman.
To check out GringoTree for yourself and to sign up for the daily newsletter, go to GringoTree.com. For local news, go to CuencaHighLife.com. If you want to talk to Deke Castleman or make a comment about GringoTree, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.