A lot of what you find in Ecuador is living outside of the box. One step outside of what we as expats think is normal is getting to know Ecuadorian’s personally. In the 10 months that we have been living in Cuenca, we have been fortunate enough to have made many friends both in the expat community and among native Ecuadorians. The blogs about Cuenca often tell about the exploits and adventures of the expats but seldom about the Ecuadorians themselves. From our experience, the rumors that Ecuadorians are leery of foreigners and keep them at arm’s reach, could not be further from the truth. When we bought our home in Challuabamba, we found we were living next door to a wonderful, middle class Ecuadorian family who have become very close friends. In their house live the great-grandmother and her son, who is the family father. Neither speak any English. The father’s wife, a great cook, has about as much English as we have Spanish. Then there are the daughter, two sons and a granddaughter that speak quite passable English. As a group they own and operate a company in Cuenca that designs and sells high end European kitchens. They also built our custom made upholstered couches and chairs some months ago. It was our good fortune to be invited to the father’s 54th birthday party last Monday during Carnival week. We arrived at their home at 2:00 PM on a beautiful, warm sunny afternoon, the only Gringos among 30 Ecuadorians of all ages from one to 89. Everyone there was family - uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews. We sat out on the porch of their modern home, overlooking the mountains, sipping whisky and soda and getting to know each of them. As the party grew to its full size, the laughter and stories began, some included our story which brought us closer into the family. Though we were something of an oddity and struggling with our Spanish, there were enough of them who spoke reasonably good English who told us what Great-grandmother had just said or asked us a question about something or another. A few had spent time in the US. Most tried valiantly to resurrect the English they had learned in high school while we worked hard to be understood in Spanish. We were treated like honored guests especially Jonny, who with his curly, red hair and party exuberance, became an instant hit. About four o’clock, dinner was served at tables for six, outside under a tent. A delicious “Comida Tipico” progressed from a choice of pork or chicken soup, to a huge main course of rice, chicken and enselada, and ending with a variety of cakes and coffee. Then, as typical in Ecuador, everyone got a chair, arranged themselves outside in a large circle, and the real party began. Glasses of whiskey were passed from person to person. Cigarettes were handed back and forth and the laughter went to an almost constant uproar. A family of thirty and three, wide-eyed outsiders laughed and told stories for the next hour or so. The one-year-old baby boy was passed from one person to the next. Two young men, who are currently at the University in Cuenca, were shocked to hear the price of a college education in the US as they pay $1000 per semester. Toasts of “Salud” were made to the birthday father every few minutes. We were taught the correct pronunciation for our Spanish guffaws. Then, as we finally gathered up Jonny to leave, we were invited to a brother-in-law and his wife’s home two weeks hence. We were no longer outsiders. It was very refreshing for us, with our family scattered all over the globe, to experience the warmth and camaraderie of an entire Ecuadorian family full of laughter, love and friendship. We watched with envy as four generations gathered together as a single unit of thirty people to celebrate the father’s birthday. As we drove home to our apartment in Cuenca, we realized we had stepped outside the box and had possibly found the real Ecuador for at least one afternoon.
A New Kind of Blog
There is a world of information about Ecuador. It is one of the most popular countries for people who want to retire to a place where the dollar goes much farther than in the US, a place for adventuresome families who want to experience a new language and exciting culture. However, much of what you read or hear does not touch on the practical, the problematic, or the local information necessary to make things work. There are many blogs which are basically daily diary’s from people who live here. But this blog will be different. We know how hard it is to get accurate and timely information. We have been through it. All of us who live here have learned step by step and we question whether it is necessary to have every newcomer reinvent the wheel. We hope this blog will help shorten the learning curve. There are many hurdles but all are surmountable. What is required is patience, an understanding of local ways, and a realization that you are going to live in a country which is not the same as the US, Canada, or Britain. Our choice was to live in the wonderful city of Cuenca in the Southern Sierra but this may not be your decision and you will therefore have to look further to find the answers you need for different areas like the coast or the Amazon. Please realize that all the suggestions and ideas are based on our experiences. Ecuadorian regulations change rapidly and must be checked before you make any investments or major decisions. Please email us at Sailorburr@gmail.com and let us know if you have any questions or comments.