Head Cold Hell: Nose-Blowing in Ecuador

Ecuador is not for the faint of nose—–so to speak.

You see, they sell an inferior brand of Kleenex, at least here in Cuenca they do.


I don’t know if this is a nation-wide tissue issue—one that rubs raw all things nasal-related across an entire swath of the country—or if this dysfunction is isolated to the highlands of southern Ecuador.

Whichever the case, my nose will never be the same.  It’s raw.  It’s red.  It’s had an up-close encounter with sandpaper masquerading as tissue.  I’d rate it medium grit.

kathy nose P1000276

The astute among you may have guessed—that I’ve been sick.  And you wouldn’t be wrong.

(No, not sick in the head.  Well, sort of sick in the head, in as far a head cold counts as crazy.)

It all started with a sore throat, devolved in sneezing and snotting, and ended in over-all, head-cold Hades.

Kathy cold DSCN9796 (2)

Have you ever noticed how head colds have a way of doing that—making you feel miserable all the way down to your fingers and toes, making you feel please-amputate-my-nose miserable?

But this is not a post about the nose, per se; it’s about the Ecuadorian tissue, to be specific.

Now, you know how I feel about Ecuador.  I’m crazy about this country.

cuenca love P1000563

Still, some of you have asked if there’s anything I don’t like about it.

Well, let it now be known, I’ve met my Ecuadorian nemesis—the wanna-be Kleenex of  Cuenca.

Don’t get me wrong.  My message is still the same.

Come to Ecuador.  Enjoy the clean mountain air and still-affordable sea-side retreats.

cold  Collage

Just don’t blow your nose here.

If you have any thoughts of vacationing in the country, please, for the love of God, leave your nose at home.

Or bring your own, lotion-coated Kleenex from North America.

Such is the nasal reality of Ecuador.

It blows.

DISCLAIMER:  Sara says there’s nothing wrong with the Kleenex here in Ecuador.  She says it’s all in my head.  “Hell, yeah, it’s in my head!” 

When’s the last time you had a head cold?  Are you picky about the brand of tissue you use?

98 thoughts on “Head Cold Hell: Nose-Blowing in Ecuador

  1. I’m just getting over a head cold that knocked me out for almost 2 weeks! And … I kept forgetting to buy kleenex so I had to use paper towels. ouch! I hope you feel better soon, try and get some raw ginger. That’s what I do when I’m sick. If it’s too strong boil it up and make a tea. Wishing you well.


    • Fortunately, I’m fine now. I was mostly sick late last week and over the weekend. Funny that you mention paper towels, as my Sara sometimes uses those to blow her nose. No wonder she thinks the tissues here aren’t a problem! I will try the ginger next time. We have some in the frig right now. Great to hear from you. Hope your week is going well!


    • You people. Hundreds…thousands of “words” on what, Kleenex? People, stay home! I can’t even believe I’m posting a reply on this. The other day a guy wasn’t coming because he can’t get Post Raisin Bran. Some people living on a dollar a day and complaining. But and endless scroll of…Kleenex? I think I will just go jump from the top of my building. Just when you think you’re getting away from the ugly complaining American, they pop-up in Ecuador of all places.


  2. I personally prefer the old fashioned cloth hankey. Much easier on the nose than all brands of kleenex combined. Never without one. We allergy prone folk can appreciate a soft application! Hang in there!


    • Hmmmmmm–maybe I’ll try the cloth hankey next time. Seems like one would need a lot of them, however. And thank God I don’t have allergies. Now, THAT would be HELL here! Thanks for the suggestion, Emily. Hope you’re settling into your new home.


  3. Oh, terrible. But I do love the red dot, it causes one to zoom right in. Feel better my friend and if you like send me your address I will send you cases of excellent Kleenex for the next time.

    Hugs from somewhere outside Dallas with a special wish for health



    • You’re so sweet, Lisa. I haven’t sent you my address for one very good reason. We don’t have one. I know–imagine that. Our house has no number and our street has no name. We have a PO Box, but it won’t really hold a package. Thanks for offering, my friend. Guess you’ll just have to visit and bring some! HINT, HINT!


  4. OMG, Kathy, I hope you get better asap. I can’t help but think though, back when you were shipping 40 boxes or so to Ecuador, and Sara came back to the states to oversee that, couldn’t somebody (namely, Sara) slipped in at least one box of Kleenex into the shipment? Come to think of it, you might want to consider starting an import business and selling Kleenex over there. That way, you’d have a steady supply. I believe in the stuff. It really works!


    • I know! Silly us. Now that our container has arrived we keep thinking of lots of things we should have sent. However, it wasn’t only 40 boxes–closer to 220–most of which were books. Hard to blow your nose on those, right?! LOL You crack me up! Great to hear from you, Monica!


  5. I agree with Emily. I’ve also adopted the cloth hanky since moving to South Africa. I used to think they were disgusting but now I love them.

    I also understand the frustration of not being able to find certain much-loved products – food, toiletry or otherwise – after moving to another country. It’s just part of being an expat, and totally worth it in the grand scheme of things, but frustrating nonetheless. Feel better!


    • It really hasn’t been that big of deal adjusting to new products. I exaggerate a little. Okay, maybe more than a little. At any rate, I may try the cloth hanky next time I get sick. As I said to Emily, however, it seems one would need a lot of them. Thanks for the suggestion, Heather. Glad you made it “home” safely.


  6. I’m with Lisa: where, oh, where is the address? Your connection to Kleenex has been crippled by this lack of info, Sista. We can all send you so many you can start your own underground tissue business. I can just see you now in a trench coat on the street: “Hey, buddy. Wanna buy a tissue?” LOL! Hope you feel better soon. May that nose of yours survive!


    • You’re so funny! You know they sell cigarettes here one at a time. I suppose one could sell Kleenex the same way. As I said to others, however–we have no address. Our house has no number and our street has no name. I know. Wrap your brain around that. Hmmmmmm–think there may be a song in that. Damn, if it hasn’t been done!


      • I swear! Crazy, isn’t it. The container had to be directed to our house–a map drawn to get the driver into the neighborhood and then he had to be waved down to show him the rest of the way. I kid you not. I’m gonna have to write about the container.


    • So glad you had a good laugh! That’s how I get through most not-so-pleasant experiences. Laughter is literally the best medicine in this case, I suppose. Great to hear from you, Cindy. Hope your week is going well!


  7. Oh how funny! No, no, that’s not nice to say. I’m really sorry that you haven’t been feeling well. Nothing is worse than when we’re not feeling perky. As someone with a headache this morning, I commiserate. This, however, is a self-induced headache. Trying to run away from my beloved caffeine again. P.S. Glad to see that your sense of humor didn’t get blown away with your cold. P.S.S. We’ll all bring Kleenexes when we come.


    • Oh, I’m so glad you laughed, Kathy. As I said to someone else, that truly is the best medicine, in this case especially. Fortunately, I’m feeling much, much better now. I’m glad it wasn’t one of those terrible hanger-onners. Sorry to hear you have a headache. Good luck with the caffeine withdrawal. I know that causes one hell of a headache!


    • Glad to hear to your TP standards. LOL That here is also pretty rough. Alas. Thanks for the offer to ship some Puffs, but sending stuff here isn’t easy. My house has no number and my street has no name. Take care, my dear.


    • Thanks for sharing the link to Gringos Abroad. I read their blog, but hadn’t seen that post. Great information. Thanks for the offer to bring Puffs, as well. Funny how these things seem not to matter as much until you have to use a lot of a product. Hope your week is going well.


  8. You are so right about the Kleenex in Ecuador — and many, many other developing countries. It’s like wiping your nose on sandpaper! I think they just don’t sweat the “small stuff” — like really refining the paper, so it does feel really scratchy and raw. So sorry you’ve been feeling badly — poor Kathryn!!! (But SO happy you’re loving Cuenca so much!!) Feel better soon….xoxoxoox b


    • Exactly, Betty. Ecuador isn’t alone. The only difference for us has been the ability to purchase North American brands–even in Haiti that was an option. I really didn’t have an issue with the Kleenex until I got a cold. Periodic use of the rough stuff is no biggie. Thank God I don’t have allergies, right? Thanks so much for the get well wishes. Actually, I’m much better this week.


  9. Oh my gosh, laughing my buñuelos off this morning.

    One of my son’s favorite books growing up was “Thrump-O-Moto.” In it there’s a character named: Rednosebeerdrinker (I’m serious). The red-nosed photos you posted remind me of him.

    Make it a highfalutin day!


  10. hey well feel better soon! We could all send your a care package of tissues from the USA ! How about that, might not get there for this cold but it will be there for the next!

    The photos are simply humorous ! well done!


    • Glad you got a kick out of the photos. Not exceptional as photos go, but fun. You’ll have to wait and bring Kleenex when you come visit. Hard to mail things to me, as my house has no number and my street has no name. There’s a way. Just haven’t mastered it yet. Thanks, Jeff. Take care—————


  11. Oh…so sorry to hear you’re not feeling well…I must admit that when I’m ill I cannot display as much humor as you do…generally people avoid me like the plague. Hope you recover soon!


  12. You are sick with a head cold or you would have asked your visitors to bring some good kleenex for you as well. Never hurts to stock up on things like that. Feel better soon! Hugs and chicken soup (which has to be fabulous with fresh free range hormone free chickens).



    • Sara was kind enough to make me some soup. She’s good that way–especially with anything that involves cooking. I promise that as soon as folks come to visit, we’ll ask them to bring Kleenex. Just can’t believe we didn’t think to put any in our container. Silly us. Hope your week is going well, Lisa!


  13. You’ve really made me laugh too, especially the one with you in bed…you look so glum I can’t stop smiling!
    And I’m with you on being completely miserable with a cold. I hardly ever get ill so I think that’s why I’m such a wuss when it comes to a stuffy head and sore nostrils. There is no cure so you might as well wallow.


    • So glad I was able to make you laugh today. I have a confession about the photo of me in bed, however. It was posed for maximum effect. In other words, I tried to look especially pathetic. Sounds like I succeeded. I’m like you, however. I rarely get sick. Thank God I’m feeling better now. Hope your week is going well. Great to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by.


  14. Hi Kathy…I am up on the mountain with JK. Reading your blog about your nose and Kleenex just cracked me up. I can relate. I have a condo in Cotacachi and everytime we go down to EC things I take are toilet paper, kleenex, paper towells, soap, and detergent. Sore nose and sore butt are things I don’t want to have. Usually the first week I am down there I get what I call, the Cotacachi shits. Got to have that nice soft toilet paper, or my butt is going to feel like your nose. Yikes. Do you read the Gringo Tree?. If so post something in there asking about the possibility of getting paper products. A town the size of Cuenca should have a store someplace that has American products. Cotacachi, little bitty down, no way. My husband and I both love Cuenca and plan to eventually move from Cotacachi to Cuenca. Waiting for the light rail system to become a reality. Maggie Beesley


    • How damn funny, Maggie! The Cotacachi shits–that’s hilarious. Sorry to hear you get it every time you return. That in and of itself is the shits! Glad to have given you a chuckle, as well.

      Yes, I do read Gringo Tree. In fact, my partner Sara is an editor for them, and they asked me to begin writing for them a couple of weeks ago–just haven’t had time yet. I should post a question. I suspect I need to take another look at Supermaxi here in Cuenca. We generally don’t shop there, since there’s not one near our house.

      By the way, I hear that Cuenca is moving 70-some French families here as part of the light rail system. Don’t know if they are engineers or designers or what. It will be nice once it’s built. Looking forward to meeting you. When will you next be in Ecuador?

      Say hello to JK for me!


  15. Hey Kathy! I know it’s been ages since I’ve commented–I got a full-time gig at my local community college, and it is kicking my ass! Lol. I’m teaching five classes, have six preps, and have 165 students. Quite a wake-up call from the adjuncting thing.

    Anyway, your plight reminded me of when Robert and I went to Montreal for a conference. I presented a paper, and Robert was tagging along since we didn’t get much travel time together. On the plane between New York and Canada, this woman (way too handsy with zero regard for personal space) was practically a carrier for the Bubonic plague. She hacked and sneezed and spat all over me. Miraculously, Robert didn’t get sick. I, however? Well, I presented my paper with a fever and attended exactly zero other panels. During the worst of my awful illness, I begged Robert to leave me in the hotel and go explore the town…mostly in search of a pharmacy. I asked him for Tylenol for the aches and fever, as well as Kleenex. He returned with the Kleenex (thank God for the French-Canadians)…and like three different types of medicines that had pictures of people with colds on them. The labels were, of course, in French. And, as it turns out, would you believe that not every country uses the same color-coding system as America for their meds? Neither of us could decipher what in the world the medicines were, let alone the dosage instructions. I ended up having to rely on Google Translate to help me figure out which product would be best. I didn’t start feeling better until I got home and got a prescription.

    Being sick in a foreign country is completely unadvisable. Just don’t do that again, okay? 😉

    Glad to hear you’re on the mend, and sorry to hear that you don’t have an address, lol. My first thought as I read was, “Well, I’ll just send her some.” Good thing I read the comments! Lol.


    • Oh, wow, Amanda, I am so damn delighted to hear from you! That full-time gig must be awful. Seriously, that’s an insane number of hours! When I taught full-time at UK, I only had to carry 12. Bless your heart. Plus, you’re a new mom! How is that sweet girl, anyway?

      Your Montreal cold sounds like hell–total hell. I was once sick when we lived in Vietnam–another cold–though, actually, it HAD to have been the flu. I hadn’t been that sick in over a decade. God, I wanted someone to shoot me. Damn it, if Sara was unwilling to assist me in that regard.

      Thank God you were able to get home to finally get some meds.

      Take care, my friend–and don’t work too hard. Thanks for reading!


  16. VERY recently I had a three week long stint with headcold/allergy/sinus infection nightmare. I feel your pain. Literally. Feel better! Should I mail you some tissues? Even though you won’t get them until the NEXT head cold nightmare. My sympathies to Sara for your illness. Hahahahahahahahaha!

    HUGS FIRST ! 🙂


  17. This is me, JK. I forgot your question. Too many martinis! I do remember flying back and forth to Nic, passengers would always carry their most important “possessions” in their laps. Sitting in the back of coach looking forward, all you could see were these towering packages of toliet paper. Hysterical. We were more interested in our hine-ees than with our noses. BUT, you painted a funny picture with your words and I laughed my arse off. Glad you and Maggie enjoy talking about your favorite place. Give my fond regards to Sara. Luv 2 U 2.


    • A likely claim, whoever you are! Would the real JK, please send up?! LOL

      Seriously, love the TP on the way to Nic story. That’s a good one. I think in your situation I’d be more concerned with my rear, as well. Forget the noses. Lordy. Guess you could grab a banana leaf. Yes, it was fun talking with Maggie. Looking forward to meeting her in real life. Love to you, too!


  18. But how’s the toilet paper?

    I haven’t had a cold in years. Fortunately, I’ve got good genes (or a killer immune system) and rarely get sick. Tara has never seen me with anything worse than a stray sneeze or errant cough. Of course, now that I’ve told you this, I’m sure I’ll end up with a nasty virus next week. Knock on wood!

    Hope you feel better soon.


  19. Feel better! I had a terrible, week long cold about 3 weeks or so ago. Miserable. But, lucky me, I had 5 boxes of lotioned tissues. All gone now.

    I think the TP would really get me. I think this is why I would be a terrible time-traveler. I’d be upsetting the time-continuum by serreptitiously hiding toilet paper in my pockets.


    • Thank you. Fortunately, I am on the mend now. So glad it didn’t last longer. Sorry to hear that you were sick, as well. No fun! I DID get a laugh out of your comment about time-travel with Kleenex in your pocket. What a hoot.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. Hope you’ll come back soon!


  20. Luckily for me, I don’t suffer from a lot of allergies, except when I lived in the South. The pollen there could take down an elephant!

    Note to self: bring tissue packs when I visit Kathy and Sara in Ecuador.

    Hope you’re feeling better!


    • Thanks, Jackie. I’m happy to report that I am, indeed, feeling better. I feel the same way you do about not having allergies. I’m grateful–and amazingly I never even had them when living in central Kentucky where so many folks who have never had issues elsewhere do when they move to Lexington.

      You’re sweet to offer to bring tissues when you visit. I may take you up on that. Hope your week is going well.


  21. I can see from the comments that you’re feeling better (very good) and that the toilet paper is a close relation to the coarse tissue situation (very bad), so I am compelled to ask: do the tampons induce slivers? If it’s going to go anywhere near a moisture-producing orifice, Kathy, I like it nice and soft.

    Thus far this year, I’ve suffered two colds. I hope I’ve had my allotment for the year.


    • Yes, I am on the mend–hell, I’m mended. Must admit that I’ve not tried the tampons here. I was smart enough to bring some from home. I can only imagine what they’d be like–yikes!

      Hope you don’t get another cold, too. Two in one year sucks. But then you’re a year-round snot–in a good way–oh, yes, a good way!


  22. Oh, God, that’s the worst. You know the moment your nose has hit the skin-breaking point and anything but a pet’s fur is too much–let along cardboard tissues. I’d send you some of mine if I could get out of my sick-jammies!


    • Yeah, I had to laugh when I saw we had both managed to share cold posts within hours of one another. Must admit, however, that I liked yours better. Love it when your sarcasm kicks in, Sandy. Hope you feel better soon!


  23. I haven’t had a cold for years and my fingers are crossed. I’m making sure we have lots of kleenex in the pantry while sending healing vibes to you and your poor nose. Get well soon, Kathy.


  24. I see as I scroll down the page through your many sympathetic comments, Kathy, that you progressively got better — first you were feeling a little better, then way better, and then almost back to normal. Love the speech balloons and other artwork on your photos. Charming.

    At the mention of sandpaper tissues, I, too, wondered about the toilet paper — is it like the rudimentary, rough kind you find in gas station restrooms on back roads in the U.S.? And then, my thoughts ran to tampons and other feminine products. I wish you the best with those.

    Actually, here in the U.S. I note that our Kleenex and other brands of tissues are getting smaller and smaller, while the prices get bigger and bigger. I rarely get colds, fortunately, but allergies, oh, yes. I was hoping that there in that high-altitude-Cuenca few allergen pollens would exist, especially if the humidity is low. It’s the humid moisture wrapped around pollen and other particulates that do me in.

    Love hearing details of everyday life in Cuenca. Keep your stories coming.

    Oh, and if we had broader broadband we could email you tissues; or with better WiFi, sail them to you, as on a magic carpet. Wouldn’t that be cool.


    • How funny, Samantha. Love the notion of broader broadband. Sail away, my friend. Sail away.

      Sorry to hear you have allergies. We had old family friends who suffer from terrible allergies back home in Lexington, KY, but while they were here–no allergies. Unfortunately, when they got home the allergies kicked in big time. I didn’t know that humidity made things worse, but now that you mention it, that makes sense.

      I’m so, so grateful to never have had any allergies. I’d feel sorry for anyone who had to deal with them with these tissues. I suppose at lower elevations they could be bad here in Ecuador.

      Yes, I’m back to my normal self. Thank God!

      Hope your week is going well, dear Sam! Great to hear from you. Thanks so much!


  25. You poor thing I hope your runny nose starts behaving itself.
    Its funny how you’re settling in so well to life in your new country yet end up missing something as small and insignificant as a soft Kleenex.


    • Thanks, Rosie. I’m feeling much, much better. I appreciate your asking. It is, indeed, silly how sometimes it’s the tiniest things one misses when far from “home.” I wonder what that says about us? I guess it’s the little comforts that mean home to us as humans. Hope your weekend is going well, my friend.


    • Sorry to hear you, too, has a semi-recent bout of your own. I think summer colds are the worst. So far Sara hasn’t gotten sick. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.

      Great to hear from you, Megan. I bet your getting excited about your upcoming trip!


  26. Ugh! So sorry to hear you haven’t been feeling well! You’re right about colds making you miserable from head to toe. They have a way of doing that. And yet, when you have a cold, others will say, “You’re not sick. You just have a cold.” You’re supposed to suck it up and carry on, because “it’s just a cold.” And believe me, I know that the tissue makes all the difference in the world. (And for me, so does Advil Cold and Sinus.)


    • Thanks you, Robin. Yes, I’m feeling much better now. And, no, no one sent a care package–though a number of folks offered to. The problem is that our house has no number and our street has no name. Hope you all are having a lovely weekend, my friend!


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