It’s about 4:30 on Christmas morning…our first major holiday outside the U.S. It’s been about 7 months since we arrived here in Ecuador for our retirement and we still have no regrets.
I do give a bit of thought as to why we seem to be adjusting so well and I have a few ideas. First, disappointment can only come from unmet expectations. Because Diane and I had few specific expectations and arrived here open to a completely new adventure, it would be pretty tough to be disappointed. Our only expectations were well researched and were that we would enjoy a lower cost of living and a temperate climate here on Ecuador’s coast. Both of those expectations have been met and in fact, have surpassed what we anticipated.
Next, rather than focusing on some small items or experiences that are absent here in Ecuador, we truly focus on all the “new” that surrounds us. It is all quite stimulating. There is new food and flavors, a new language which we still struggle to learn every day (but are making progress), an entirely new culture with corresponding differences in work ethics, commerce, agriculture, economy, politics, and the legal/justice system. Learning how to get things done within a set of new systems and learning the required shortcuts and back doors are essential and keeps us on our toes.
The geography of the country itself provides ample stimulation to our senses with beauty and surprises every day. Music is everywhere and is a strong part of the culture.
We do enjoy our regular calls to family back in the states. While in the states, we lived thousands of miles from all of them so, unlike many families, we did not get the regular face-to-face visits that many have come to rely upon in their lives. Having served with the Air Force and then living in Alaska for many years, the physical separation from extended family was normal for me. Diane’s family is mostly from New York and she lived for many years in Florida and then in Alaska with me so she was also accustomed to some separation. Diane is planning a trip back to New York this spring and I know she’s looking forward to it!
We had planned to eat in a local restaurant today; a restaurant whose owner had told us there would be a traditional turkey dinner served. A phone call yesterday delivered the message that plans had changed and no traditional turkey dinner would be available. No worries! We could have chosen to be with good friends today but instead, we decided to stay home, cook a nice meal ourselves and watch T.V. and videos, just relaxing. I suspect we’ll go visit with them later today…unless naps totally disrupt our plans, which could easily happen.
Yesterday, we assumed the role of Santa and surprised a good number of unsuspecting kids on the streets of San Vicente for an hour or so. Our contributions were small but we could tell by their faces, they were quite happy and definitely surprised!
Diane called her brother in New York last evening and her entire clan was gathered there, as is the custom on Christmas Eve. She spoke to them all and it was great for me to say hello as well. She has a wonderful family! I tried to phone my son and wasn’t able to get him. I’ll try again today and tomorrow if necessary. We talk regularly and it’s always great to connect.
With my surviving clan mostly clustered in central Indiana and Diane’s based mostly in New York, we have been the outsiders, living in distant places outside clan territories. In my case, differences in politics and world views have also caused a deep divide between most of my ultra-conservative siblings and me; a divide that proximity would not heal. Diane’s family, while also conservative as opposed to our more liberal philosophy, is all great and very loving!
I prefer to think of our lifestyle as “living intentionally.” Often, folks are born in an area and grow up there by default, not venturing too far from their nest. Roots grow deeply as local friendships and alliances are made and lost and friends and community are integral to one’s life. One typically adopts the local views on politics and religion in order to fit in.
I’ve always colored outside the lines and Diane has never seen the lines. We simply do what works best for us without regard for the opinions of others. We rarely accept life’s default situation and work diligently to move in the direction of our desires.
When one is accustomed to regularly moving and living in different locations, such is provided by a military background or other circumstances, one learns a different set of skills necessary to adapt and adjust. I’ve come to believe that some do better at staying planted and putting down deep roots while others stretch their wings a bit and explore new places with a sense of adventure, one way no better than the other.
For us, holiday traditions are forming anew. We watched our friends decorate a home-made driftwood Christmas tree last night and it looked great! The Canoa Beach Hotel is filled with travelers from across the globe as they, too, experience new adventures over this holiday. We shared dinner with one of those couples last evening and listened as they described their recent trek to the Amazon as we sat in a small, Ecuadorian, beachfront restaurant. She’s a university professor and he, a builder/contractor from North Carolina. They were great folks and we had many things in common.
While millions of families will gather together this holiday to share a special meal and other family traditions, there are others celebrating in a completely different way.There are also many whose lives have been shattered by recent tragedies and for whom this holiday will have a different meaning forever. Indeed, there are many whose religion and customs do not recognize this holiday at all.
From the coast of Ecuador, Diane and I want you to know that we appreciate you and wish you the best this holiday and in the coming year. Remember to live each moment of every day as if it was your last, with no regrets.