Beautiful Spring-Warm Cuenca - Magnificent sunny blue skies and fragrant colorful tropical flowers blooming in December!
Ahhhh, December 5th one year ago! I still remember that day. We arrived in Cuenca via Van from Guayaquil. We hauled 8 suitcases up the stairs of our temporary condo in the heart of the Historic District. It was 5:00 pm. An hour later we were at La Vina Restaurant, one block away, toasting to our "new beginning!" I cried (yeah, I'm a big cry baby - so?????) Getting ready to leave the USA (it took 3 long months of planning, purging, and packing) was no small feat - but we did it!
Now, one year later - I reflect back and remember it all! How on earth did we accomplish what seems now like an impossible task? Of course, I don't think I could ever do it again, nor do I want to. Yet, if we have to, we will!! For now, we're so settled in - incredibly so! The thought of going back to the USA to live makes me cringe. This has become home and I love our simplified lifestyle. It's taken a year to say this - but there, I said it. THIS IS NOW HOME!
So, what makes it home after one year, you ask?
1 - We have settled into an apartment, at last! - Finally, after 5 moves in less then 5 months (read the blog!) - and it's beautifully, comfortably, inexpensively furnished and bursting with color. This has made it home. When we were renting those uncomfortable sparsely furnished temporary "white wall" boring places, my passion to decorate was stifled, and I never felt it was home. Though we are renting, this is ours - at least everything we've bought and placed inside is ours. We can move stuff around, splash more colorful paint on the walls (our trusting landlord is okay with that!!) drill holes in the concrete walls (what a mess - thank God for spackle), and add or take away and move things around. An interior decorator's delight (that would be me!!). Yes, this makes it home.
2 - Special friendships - When we decided to have a one-year celebration with our truly special friends here, we couldn't believe how everyone we invited wanted to join us and celebrate with us (one couple couldn't stay, but they showed up anyway just to hug us and congratulate us - that's a class act and meant so much to me!!). The evening was so memorable! What heart connections, what lovely people - everyone sharing their journey here - some newly arrived, some here only a few months, others we've known from the beginning. I cried (yeah, yeah - I told you I'm a cry baby!!). I've learned that we won't always connect with everyone we meet here. Some acquaintances will be just that - people we've met, shared some time with, but both parties have moved on because we didn't have that heart-connection. That's okay. It doesn't make it a bad thing or wrong! Our motto is, "If it doesn't flow, let it go!" By flow, I mean, it doesn't take work and so much effort to try and connect. Some people have the "I" disease. Have you met them? They just want to bloviate and rattle on about themselves and their lives and never ask about you. When you finally are able to get a word in, they are unbelievably ready to talk right over you and never heard what you said. Oh, how long a simple hour with the "I" people can be - as you begin to shut down and barely can listen to them, hoping they will eventually stop talking and come up for air. They don't and they won't! Some people have no joy. They just like to complain and mumble and grumble. Or they have a big black cloud that follows them where ever they go. I don't want to be under or anywhere near that cloud. And being around joyless people makes me feel so heavyhearted. Some people are rude and crude. I'm not a prude, but I don't like listening to potty mouths and the "F" word every other sentence. It's disrespectful, tasteless, and doesn't endear me to those men or women. Some people are KNOW-IT-ALLS! No matter what you say or share, they have all the answers (the "Ah, no.......that's not true" or "that's not how it is...." and on and on. They are not teachable, could care less what you believe or know, and they want to blah blah blah all about what they know. I shut down completely in these situations, not wanting to share with them now or ever. There's no way to go in a conversation with know-it-alls. How I love sharing my heart with people who are interesting to learn from and interested in learning from me. Then there are the people who love to talk negatively about Ecuador and the Ecuadorian people. "These people......." "This place......" Hey, first of all, I'm of Spanish descent, and I take rude criticisms of the Spanish culture personally. Secondly, I LOVE, absolutely LOVE Ecuador and its beautiful people, some of whom are very dear friends of ours. We have the same challenges and frustrations adjusting here as everyone else, but we don't trash the Ecuadorians. I remember an evening with an ex-pat married to an Ecuadorian who continued to trash the Ecuadorians with his wife sitting right next to him. I finally had to squash his conversation (he didn't care for me much after that). Never got together with him again! So, our one-year circle of special friends are people who are loving, tender-hearted, interesting to talk WITH (the conversation flows with mutual interest in each other) and people who are joyful, respectful and thankful in all things. It doesn't mean we don't share our challenges and differences concerning Ecuador and the Ecuadorians, but we do it in truth and love and with grace. We now continue to look forward to more special friendships as we enter year #2.
3 - Being "Jubilado" - Yes, after one year of being retired, I can honestly say it suits me well. I think Bo's getting used to not having his corporate profession and being retired also. I LOVE my freedom. I LOVE having my days to do as I please. I LOVE having all the time in the world to pursue the things I want to do that bring me joy and passion. Sometimes just sitting around in my sweats and doing nothing is all I want to do - AND I CAN! Yet, we find our days FULL, and we are NEVER bored here or feel like we are in a rut. When that begins to happen, it will be time to rethink our lives here and make plans to move on. For now, this is such a fabulous city to be "Jubilado" in.
4 - Speaking Spanish - A big part of feeling at home for me is speaking a language that has escaped me for 40 years. When I left home at 18, I lost so much of my Spanish language and fluency. Being raised in New York with a Puerto Rican family, I was fluent and bi-lingual because I heard my parents and relatives speaking Spanish all the time - and as children we spoke Spanish to our relatives who were not bilingual. It's so easy to lose it if you don't use it. So, living in a Spanish culture feels like home - hearing and speaking my language again brings me incredible joy. I want to become 100% fluent again. It's coming - after one year here of speaking Spanish daily, in spite of my mistakes, my tongue getting twisted, and giving the Ecuadorians a few chuckles (it's that masculine/feminine thing that really messes me up - Oh, and the verb tenses)! I am determined to continue to speak until one day, I master my language again. There are many Ecuadorians here who know English - rather they understand it, but they don't speak it. They lost it because they didn't use it after living in the USA for years and finally returning here. Our landlord lived in the USA for 20 years, but he does not speak English. His wife is pretty fluent. She said he never wanted to learn. His wish came true! Humility and a desire to learn is what it will take to master this beautiful language. I'm thankful for what I can speak. It's opened the door to so many beautiful Ecuadorian relationships, and we now have Ecuadorian "family" here. This has made Cuenca HOME one year later.
5 - Familiarity with the City - No matter where you move to, it takes time to get to know the area and the people. Bo and I have moved a lot in our 23 years together. The most difficult part for me during each move has been not having my close friendships and feeling lost in a strange land. Yet with time, I have always learned the area and made new and long-lasting friendships. Moving to another country is even more difficult because of the language barrier and the culture shock. Well, one year later we both feel at home here. Bo is learning Spanish (finally stepping out and speaking through his mistakes and persevering), we both are familiar with our neighborhood and have special places we like to shop, eat at , and frequent, and we have FRIENDS whom we can visit and who visit us. So, this has made our personal world here "home." I recently read some feedback about places to live in Cuenca, and places not to live. Living near the mercados was listed as a dangerous place to live - "don't live near any mercado." I laugh!! Bo and I live 1/2 block from the 10 de Agosto Mercado, and we are continually warned, "Tenga cuidado - es Peligroso!" (Be careful. It's dangerous!!). Hey, we got robbed back in Oregon for over $20,000 worth of our possessions in mid-afternoon, the same year we decided to move to Ecuador! It's dangerous in any city or town all over the world. Yes, we are cautious, we don't walk around looking like victims, and we don't flaunt anything to attract "un ladron!" Yet, it could still happen. We can become victims of crime here too. So, please, spare me. We love the familiarity of being near the mercado, having the vendors embrace us and smile and reach out to us when we walk by. We love the hustle and bustle of our city block and the noise and the vibrancy of activity in the day. We love the location of our home in this beautiful historic city. Yes, this apartment #5 has become home!
I could go on and on about what makes Cuenca home, but these are some of the major reasons that one year later we are truly experiencing a life we enjoy here. It's a big world out there, and there are so many places to travel to and explore. For now, we are focusing on Ecuador and hope to travel out of Cuenca and explore more of this colorful, humble, and beautiful country.
If you were a part of our one-year celebration, I want to thank you dear and special friends for joining us for the evening and toasting us and sharing your hearts with us and with each other. We look forward to more special times together! Through our current special friends, we will meet other like-minded and like-hearted friends and enlarge the friendship circle of support and encouragement, and laughter and inspiration. For those of you fairly new here who have shared with us some of your struggles and challenges (apartment struggles, visa process nightmares, initial culture shock and the language frustrations, personal loss and heartache since arriving here, etc), know that you too will be celebrating "one year later!" I hope we can be a part of your celebration and toast to your many victories, and that this beautiful city will finally feel like home to you too. Thank you for making our life here so special. It truly is the special people we meet along the way that make any place HOME!
We celebrated our one-year anniversary at Fabiano's (Presidente Cordova 4-84 y Mariano Cueva - Delicious food and caring owners)! An entire room was reserved for our circle of special friends, and a memorable fun evening was shared by all.
Bo and I took anchovies to Fabiano (who makes the best pizza in Cuenca), and he made us our special "White Pizza" - AND we ate the whole thing! Yeah, we're both from New York, and we don't do Pineapples!
We enjoyed listening to each of our friends share their story about what brought them to Cuenca and how they met Bo and me. It was inspiring, encouraging, and a very intimate time together.
TIRAMISU - Fabiano's delicious dessert sweetened the evening even more!
One year later, we continue to enjoy living one block from our beautiful Tomebamba River. It's been snowing and freezing cold in rainy Eugene, Oregon. Another reason why I love calling Cuenca HOME!!! Don't miss those long dreary winters.