Our six-week road trip across the United States ended on February 28,2016 at Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. David, Katherine and I had criss-crossed the country, visiting family and friends from the California coast to Florida. We packed and repacked eight jumbo suitcases and three carry-ons, paid the hefty excess baggage fee and boarded Jet Blue for Quito, Ecuador. We disembarked at 11 pm to a fairly empty airport.We made our way through customs, hassle-free. Amid a crowd of eager drivers, we found our two assigned taxi drivers who took us to the Airport Suites where we spent two nights adjusting to the altitude and our new life.
Not-so-bright and early the second morning, Patricio our driver arrived to transport us across the country to our new home, Cuenca. (The not-so-bright refers to the time, not our driver!) We saw little of the volcanoes we passed through the Avenue of the Volcanes as fog and rain obliterated most of the high peaks.
But what we did see was beautiful.
Deep greens, crystal clear streams and beautiful skies. Dairy cattle grazing precariously on high Andean slopes. Families tending crops squeezed onto steeply-pitched fields. Colorful hats and skirts popping against a crazy-quilt landscape. Pint-sized brown-skinned children walking alone, close to the highway, heading for school without a care in the world.
We pulled up in front of our new home at 5:00 pm (our new landlord said he’d wait no later than 5:30) and unloaded the truck. Carrying even one small bag up 13 steps had me winded. The altitude would take some adjusting for me. David and Katherine moved with apparent ease.
From that first day at our Air B&B rental next to the Tomebamba River,we have moved twice in this year. Not unusual for expats who settle here. Someone said to expect to move 3-4 times before you find the place that totally suits you. We’re lucky. I think we’ve found our casa after numero dos.
Learning to live without a car was difficult for me. I missed jumping behind the wheel and taking off for who knows where. Katherine missed that too. I also longed for greasy Mexican food (my Atlanta friends know what I mean) and Crunchy Peanut Butter. David missed–nothing. He felt immediately at home and settled in without a moment of remorse. His two female companions–not so much.
Tears and despair have been frequent guests in our home here in Ecuador. Despite feeling we made the right move, I’ve questioned our decision because of Katherine’s unhappiness. But we were right. Over the months, she has found her place, made some friends, created a space for herself and now calls Ecuador home. She likes it…she really, really likes it. She’s shot up and thinned down. She’s developed into a young woman full of fun and ideas. She knows more spanish than she lets on. She has begun impersonating her old parents with amazing accuracy. Have I told you how much I love this daughter of ours?
We were planning to visit the US this summer but those plans have been postponed. Maybe next spring. Or summer. Time will tell. It feels too soon to return to the old home.
So what do I love about this place that has won our hearts?
Not in any order of importance, I love…
- no constant bombardment of advertising and marketing of things to buy
- family-oriented culture
- constant spring-like weather–cool in the morning, sunny during the day, cool again in the evening
- stress-free zone. i do not have to face the traffic (it’s horrible) nor do i have to make a commute. i have no work that must be done. some days it is fun to do nothing.
- history around every corner
- rivers running through the city, count them…four
- rubbing shoulders with indigenous men and women who keep their native dress and customs in the 21st century and fit right in
- the woman who started cleaning our house and who has become a dear friend that makes me laugh
- gringo-frequented establishments that satisfy an occasional need for familiar foods and conversation
- a culture of creativity and a cast of characters who make each and every day more interesting
- hummingbirds of all sizes
- gorgeous flowers that bloom in our front yard–no thanks to me
- a day view from our bedroom window on a cloudy morning.
today is ending up the long weekend of Carnaval (not sure of the correct spelling as I’ve seen it so many ways). unlike Rio or New Orleans, Cuenca celebrates not with parades but with spray foam, water balloons and string foam. i haven’t gone out much. but Katherine has had a ball! the city has been “at battle” for days. many people having the time of their lives. quite a few expats complaining about the unrest. such is life. a good dose of a water gun and spray foam from a stranger isn’t such a bad way to celebrate.
all is well for the Thornton-Vander Plaats in Cuenca, Ecuador. it’s been a good year. looking forward to many more. and remember friends and blog readers…our door is always open–except when string foam is being sprayed.