Someone asked me recently where I would be living in Cuenca, would it be in a community of nothing but expats/immigrants or would I live in a community surrounded by non-English speaking people?
One of the challenges of living in a new area, whether it be a new state in your home country or a new city in a foreign county, is being willing to adapt. When we started doing our research for living abroad, and even attending an International Living Conference in Quito, Ecuador, we were amazed at the number of people who planned on being surrounded by those who spoke English and had no plans on becoming part of the community and culture they were soon going to be calling home. To me, they have a plan for disaster, unhappiness and will, in all likelihood, be returning to the United States or from wherever they moved from.
When one moves to a totally unfamiliar area, you need to familiarize yourself with your surroundings, find a place to live, find out where the local banks, groceries, utility companies are to be found in order to start setting up your new home and life. If you sequester yourself and limit yourself to an area where things are pretty much like what you left, you have cut yourself off from what can be a rewarding experience.
During our last trip to Cuenca, I spoke with a number of people and found that those who reached out to get to know their neighbors, settled in non-expat communities and immersed themselves in the culture and lifestyle of the native people’s there, were a lot happier. One lady I spoke with at the park in El Centro, told me that she was from San Diego, California. She had lived there for over 30 years and never knew her neighbors. She would wave to them and say hello, but no one ever associated with anyone else. Since living in Cuenca, she has many friends, lives in a non-expat community and is totally enjoying her new life and home. She has now been there for over 5 years and is a widow.
One couple I spoke with have been there for a year and are planning on returning to the U.S. They complained that people there are not friendly, won’t speak English and it’s too hard to get around. They live in a total expat community and never leave the place except to get groceries or perhaps take a walk or medical appointments. I asked if they had learned to speak the language, the response was “no, why should we.” They are of the mindset that “everyone, everywhere,” should speak English and act like those in the U.S.
I remember at the conference a woman made those same complaints and I asked her a simple question, suppose you opened your home to me to stay there until I found a place of my own and was able to get on my feet. You go to work one day and when you arrive back home, all your belongings were out on the street and I had totally redecorated and repainted the home to suit “my” tastes, how would you feel. She looked at me and said that it would be damned rude! It was “her” home and … Then the light went on and she saw what I was trying to get her to realize. We are “guests” in the home of Ecuadorians and it is up to us to make the effort to adjust to their way of living, their culture and the laws and rules of the land. We are NOT there to try to change their home to what we left. Many of the people I spoke with left the U.S. because it became unhealthy, too expensive to live there, poor quality of life and getting more polluted and unsafe each day. They moved to Ecuador for a better quality of life, healthier, safer and less complicated. Why on earth would you want to change a place that has what you were seeking into the hell that you just left?
The Ecuadorian people have a strong faith, a love of living life and a respect for the land. Yes, there will be challenges for us as we go from the comfortable what we know life to the out of our comfort zone and the unknown. The challenges of our new life will keep us stimulated, exploring and wanting to learn and that will help keep us healthier, learning to take life at a slower pace and, perhaps, even living longer as we keep body and brain active learning the new. I’m up for the challenge as is my wonderful husband. We wish we had done this years ago, but are grasping the chance to live better, healthier and happier while we still have the ability to do so.
Have a great day and enjoy the upcoming weekend. Until later my friends,
Terri at the Drake’s Nest