"BURNING THE BRIDGE"
TO OUR BEAUTIFUL OREGON HOME - and returning to Cuenca Ecuador
Here we are 20 months later and comfortably settled into a South American culture and lifestyle, and our simplified way of living - loving our retirement and freedom. Of course this CHANGE didn't happen without frustrating challenges (Bo calls them "opportunities to grow"), moments of panic attacks, melt-downs, and questioning ourselves in the beginning, "What in the world have we done?" Yet, because of the amazing people we immediately began to meet and the loving Ecuadorian people who continued to embraced us and welcome us into their lives and families, Cuenca grew on us and challenges became victories as we began to feel more and more like this was HOME.
Living thousands of miles away from the familiar, from family and friends, and from all the luxuries and conveniences of the USA is not an option for many who might dream about leaving their country and retire somewhere else. Not knowing the language is also a big part of the decision not to leave your comfort zone. Yet, so many take the big leap, get out of their box, and go for it. After a year or two, they sell everything and return back to their country and families. Did they fail? I THINK NOT! I admire anyone who takes a chance and makes the leap to brave a new adventure. We've talked to so many people in our 20 months here who have come for different reasons - some for an adventure, some for economic and financial reasons, some for political reasons, some are even here to save money and then plan to return to the USA and continue their retirement. One couple lost everything in a flood and chose Cuenca as an affordable area to start all over again. I could go on and on.............
Why did we come? Our main reason was to find a new location out of the Oregon Willamette Valley 8 months of rain. Summers were beyond beautiful and the weather was perfect, but 8 months of overcast, damp, LONG winters was a continual yearly struggle for Bo. In the end, it became a struggle for me too. Our second reason was to retire early and enjoy our 60's free to travel and enjoy life together NOW while we still have our health. Our third reason? The changing political and economic atmosphere of the USA inspired our decision in a big way to ex-pat. Oh, there's lots of other reasons why we made such a change in our lives, and we are still learning how to adjust to a completely different culture and lifestyle - but we are back in Cuenca, happy to be home, and ready to continue our ex-pat adventure.
After our recent return to Cuenca from the USA - and weeks of selling and giving it all away - we admit that if we knew it was going to be such a difficult, heart-wrenching, letting-go-of-everything task, we may have never done this. Garage-selling our beautiful household treasures for practically nothing was a hard one for me. Bo sold a 25-year accumulation of his shop tool treasures, and the first day he struggled big time. By the second day, he was blessing people and ready to sell and give it all away. When we were ready to let go it became easier and easier, but the work part of it was exhausting and draining. Our weeks in Oregon were not a vacation. It was a time of purging and selling and letting go from morning until late evenings. I could not see a light at the end of the tunnel. A few generous friends blessed us with their precious time and helping hands, making this exhausting task a bit easier (Thank you dear ones - you know who you are!!). Emotionally, it didn't end for me until the day when I was able to walk away from our empty cleaned out property and head for the airport.
So, IT IS DONE! Bo and I are back in Cuenca and we both feel like we are on vacation. I have an even greater appreciation for our simple lifestyle here, for our small but lovely apartment that is truly home, and for the many friends that have embraced us since our return. This few weeks' journey has inspired me to reflect on the last year and a half of living in another country and my reasons for wanting to go "BURN THE BRIDGE" and return back to Cuenca to call this HOME.
1 - COST OF LIVING - Isn't this THE BIG ONE for so many who have left the USA? We noticed it even more this last visit - hearing that the cost of everything has gone up. Well, we were in "reverse" culture shock after living in a country that allows us to live such an inexpensive affordable lifestyle.
The COST of groceries and eating out (which we did a lot of because of the hours of work and exhaustion) put us both over the edge. We finally had to accept that this is the USA not Cuenca when it comes to the cost of anything. Homeowners and auto insurance, and gas and auto expenses were also things we dealt with there that we do not have, need, or want here. Yes, maybe we will have an auto down the pike - but for now, walking, buses, and taxis suit us fine. One day, while in Florida, my girlfriend and I were in a shopping mall. There were two stores we needed to go to a few stores apart. I wanted to walk to the next store, she wanted to drive there. I said, "It's right there!" She replied, "Yeah, they look close, but it's a mirage. Besides, driving saves time." Here in Cuenca we have TIME, and we walk miles and miles and love it. Bo said that the most walking he did in the States was walking from the door to the car. I agree!
2 - HOME IN THE COUNTRY vs CITY LIVING - I must say that being back at our beautiful Oregon home had it's allure. I loved hot-tubing every evening after a long day of purging and selling, and I loved the summer country smells and quiet country life. I loved being surrounded by trees and having no traffic zooming by (we lived in a very isolated area). Yet, I looked at all that work - yard work, big house to keep clean, old house to keep updated constantly, and imagined STUFF once again pouring out of every room and shop and shed. Then, I thought about our Cuenca apartment in the city, so cozy and comfy and beautifully furnished with EVERYTHING we need, near our market, pharmacy, and every other store we need something from, including walking distance to the Tomebamba River, Parque Calderon, Parque De La Madre, and so many other fabulous beautiful sites. Knowing that this season of our lives is for living in the city and not the country made me want to leave it all behind and return to our Cuenca city life!
3 - FAMILY AND FRIENDSHIPS - It was such a non-stop working time for me in Oregon that I was only able to spend time with friends that came by the house to see us and/or help us. I didn't realize how much time and how difficult a task this would be for me - my emotions and energy were low during this working trip. I'm grateful for the friends I did get to see, but sad I didn't get to say goodbye to others. I am thankful for the friendships we now have in Cuenca, and I realize how much time we are able to spend here with the people we love. Retirement life isn't as busy and all-consuming where we are constantly working and unable to spend time with the people we enjoy. Being retired ex-pats is a good thing for us. More time to play and be with our friends - and we have some quality and wonderful friends here. For this I am so thankful to my God.
4 - HEALTH - I must say, when Bo and I go back to the USA, we become foodaholics. Eating healthy and exercising are a big part of my life. So I always return from our trips back home feeling fat and sick and tired of food. Do I enjoy my garbage-gut meals and zillion Starbuck's White Chocolate Mocha's, and on and on? You betcha! That's what you do when you're on vacation - eat out and pig out. Well, 6 weeks is a long time to be pigging out for me. So, I'm happy to be back in Cuenca where I'm home and able to eat healthy and exercise again. What a joy to go to the market and get those amazing fresh fruits and vegetables and organic eggs, and fresh meats. I LOVE IT! Since we've been back, I've been enjoying my daily market trips even more - with a greater appreciation for the quality and inexpensive cost of food here. Oh, it's the little things.........
5 - MEDICAL - While we were back at our house, Bo was spraying a mold remover solution on his shop ceiling, and he got some in his eye. It required a visit to a 24-hour care clinic where they flushed his eye out and gave him a prescription for antibiotics (which he never filled - who could afford it??). There went $160 of our meager garage sale money. We are so grateful for the excellent and inexpensive medical care we have and continue to receive here in Cuenca. It's a big question for many planning on moving here, and we have both personally experienced nothing but the best of medical care here. We now have the IESS government insurance for $80 a month - and we are covered for all of our medical, dental, eye, and pharmacy expenses. We've heard about the pros and cons of this coverage, and some choose to use the IESS for catastrophic coverage and continue on with their already established medical physicians. Our excellent family physician whom we have been patients of for a few months now charges $10 for an office visit (and spends as much time with us in that visit as it takes!). We've had x-rays, dental work, and eye care here. Every out-of-pocket expense is crazy-affordable-inexpensive! We always laugh when we leave an appointment - for joy! Back in the USA, we paid over $500 a month for our medical premiums and that was for a $10,000 deductible and catastrophic coverage ONLY! What's not to love about our medical care and caring physicians here???
6 - HOME - Last and best of all - We're home! Coming home was a long long journey. To fly back from Oregon to Guayaquil is beyond a long journey. Well, this time Bo and I stopped in Florida to be with friends until our return. So, we flew from Tampa to Miami and were supposed to have only an hour layover, ready to arrive in Guayaquil at 7 pm - where our driver would be waiting to pick us up and drive us to our Cuenca home that evening. We should have been in Cuenca by midnight. Unfortunately, our plane had mechanical difficulties and they had to board us on another flight, landing us safely in Guayaquil at midnight. Our driver patiently waited for us (what a guy!!!) and drove us safely home by 4 am. Now, that was a LONG journey. When we opened our apartment door and I walked in and saw my lovely place, I was SOOOOOOOO HAPPY! It was as though we had been gone for months. I have come to love our home and Cuenca more and more the longer we are here. As tired as we both were, Bo managed to haul our 8 suitcases up 3 flights of stairs. We fell into bed by 5:30 am, and slept most of the day. Yes, we had arrived home at last!
It takes time to readjust to the altitude, food, and lifestyle upon returning, but we are now settled back into our daily routine, eating healthy, exercising, and enjoying our beautiful city. The worst is over - BURNING THE BRIDGE - and the best continues - LIVING IN ECUADOR!
What I Missed About my Cuenca HOME!
It was a joy to walk back into our cozy colorful apartment in Cuenca after being gone for several weeks.
Seymour was waiting to greet us - with all our lovely lush green plants. I missed our colorfully splashed walls.......
I missed our spacious organized kitchen.......
.........where we love too cook healthy gourmet meals.......
......and I missed having special friends around our table for delicious dinners or weekly English classes.
I missed opening my curtains every morning and seeing our beautiful Historic Cuenca view and letting the hustle bustle of city life sounds into our apartment.
I missed taking care of my beautiful lush green plants (thank you to my three ñañas for taking care of my home).
I missed hibernating in our TV room and watching a knuckle-gripping Thriller movie.
I missed cozying up in our living room, lighting a Yankee "Midnight" Candle........
....and just relaxing and reading a good book.
I especially missed spending time in my "girl cave" with my photography and other artsy pass times.
.......and at the end of a "City Life" day of retirement - I missed cozying up in our comfy KING bed and resting for the next day's adventure!