Friends back in the States are always asking us, "So what do you guys do down there?."
Usually our week starts with no plan whatsoever and life sort of evolves. Yesterday is a perfect example. We decided on Thursday afternoon to get massages the next day if anything was available. These are one hour hot stone massages for $13--why not?? I called and made appointments for us at 11; OK, we had a start for the day.
We needed to go to the grocery store and there's one near where we were going to be, so we thought we'd kill two birds with one stone. Cynthia then remembered there was also a hair salon in the area she wanted to check out--there went another bird.
Friday is "Gringo Night" at Zoe's, a popular expat hangout. We missed it the previous week because of the recently documented bus ride to hell and back and thought we'd drop by there in the early evening. Then I got an instant message from a friend inviting us to join him and his wife for dinner at 8. Sure, we'd love to.
As we were about to leave Friday morning for our massages I got an email from another friend who lives down the street asking us to drop for lunch at 1. Sure, we'd love to. So we did the massages, skipped the hair salon reconaissance, came back for the lunch, grocery-shopped at our usual neighborhood market, ended up missing Happy Hour, then went out for a terrific dinner.
Now we're certainly not always that busy, but this is how spontaneously a nothing day here can become overflowing with activity.
See if this sounds familiar. Our old lives went something like: get up and get ready for work/go to work/do your job/come home from work/be too tired to do much of anything in the evening/go to bed so you can get up and get ready for work---over and over again. Then the weekends were full of errands and chores, making it hard to keep up with friends and relatives on the phone or email, much less actually socializing regularly.
Expats have the time and the desire to cultivate friendships, and I find it to be the most unexpected joy of our life here so far. Cynthia and I have never been what you'd call "social butterflies." It wasn't that we were intentionally being anti-social hermits; our life described in the previous paragraph kept getting in the way, as I think it does for many folks in the States. Now our children are like, "Who are you people, and what have you done with my parents???."
Another thing. You're at a social gathering where you don't know a lot of the attendees. What's your go-to icebreaker question? You shouldn't have to think about this one long. It's, "So what do you do for a living,?" or the shorter version, "What do you do?," right? And others have probably asked you the same thing many times. It's the focus of American culture--what you "do" is who you "are."
That sort of thing rarely comes up here, especially right out of the chute. Long after we've gotten to know and like people we've learned they were previously a construction worker or a commercial fisherman. For every reason you can think of these types of friendships would have never had a chance to begin, much less flourish, before.
So the great news is all those preconceived social/status stereotypes don't seem to exist for most of us. From a crazyquilt of assorted back stories the commonality is we've all ended up in Cuenca, we're here to enjoy our lives, and we find ourselves enriched by each other's company.
Before we relocated people were always asking, "What are you going to do down there?." My answer was, "Within reason, whatever I want to do." It's wonderful to have great companions along for the journey.