We only have one week left to be in Ecuador! How could this month have flown past already?!
Gary and I are eager to return to our comfy bed and our dog and cat, garden, neighborhood and dear friends. Eager to return to a city where burglary is less of an issue… although my town in NC has had increasing numbers of burglaries in recent years. BUT we are sorrowful to leave this relaxed lifestyle among friendly people in this tranquil landscape. And I shudder when I think about the amount of work that’s piled up in my business over the month of my absence. Remembering how clearly we felt the absence of ‘buzzing” vibrations in the air during our first week here, I hesitate to return to that nebulous uncomfortable buzzing sensation we experience in the US.
I will surely miss the community interaction that we engage in, here in Cotacachi. This morning I walked to the Mercado where the owner knows us. In Spanish, I asked her a question and she remembered the product that I buy. I asked if she’d seen my husband and she said he was at a shop across the street. Gary was gabbing with a friend up the street. When I joined him, our Spanish teacher drove past, waving. Then I chatted with another gringo friend on the sidewalk. We bought produce at one fruit stand and wine in a little market. I went around the corner and spent a couple hours in a cafe. The owner had brought us a bag of eggs from her chickens, so after eating I bought the eggs and left. In this town, poverty is intense; friendliness and cooperation go a long way.
Poverty is one factor that can be difficult for US visitors to face. Elderly great-grandparents begging barefoot on the sidewalks is hard on the heart. Savvy, homeless street dogs with wagging tails and filthy fur can be hard on a compassionate heart. Affordability can be a real issue for expats. They move here for the low prices. Then they exclaim loudly about how cheap things are. This causes the locals to raise the prices, just for expats. It’s self-defeating. Real estate is even worse. Eight years ago, a nice condo in a development could be bought for $45,000. Because of expats moving here and proclaiming the prices to be absurdly low, the sellers have raised house prices to the point that many cost the same as they would in the US! The former $45,000 houses in one development now sell for $120,000. Which means they sit on the market, not selling. This means locals can no longer afford a decent house. Everyone loses. The houses that native Ecuadorians live in are mostly of much lower quality and aesthetics, so expats don’t want to buy those.
A neighboring expat couple invited us over. They wanted Gary to do a greenhouse consultation, to help their greenhouse function better. They built their dream home here, on about a quarter acre within a walled expat community. He’s an architect and designed a beauty of a place. It’s a gorgeous brick house, square with a glass-ceiling atrium in the center. They told stories of needing to be present every day during construction. Unlike in the US, you can’t just hand the plans to a builder and expect the work to be done well. It is customary in Ecuador to cut costs and wing it with techniques. In order for the house to be built according to the blueprint, they had to oversee the work daily. As a result of their diligence, they have a gorgeous earthquake-proof home, with a lovely organic orchard. The view of the volcanos behind their landscaped yard is breathtaking! I took some beautiful photos of their trees.
Those who consider retiring in Ecuador can make a real success of it if they keep their eyes open and understand the cultural differences. The tradeoffs may be a hardship for some people. For the others, trading convenience and luxury may be a small price to pay for being able to leave the rat race and live a life of peaceful simplicity and community.