Wow, has it really been over a month since I wrote a blog?? Many of you have emailed me or asked if everything is OK and I'm happy to report that all is well.
There are two reasons for my absence from blogdom. One is that Cynthia and I have become partners in a tour company and travel agency here in Cuenca. My initial responsibility is to design and write a new website, an activity that has been a much bigger (and longer) undertaking than I anticipated. After spending hours in front of this computer many days describing our excursions and deciding things like layout and graphics my creative juices have been running a bit dry.
Our announcement to friends and family about jumping into business again has been met with a chorus of "What? I thought you moved to Ecuador to retire!" Well, yes and no. We came here with no definite plans except a nebulous idea that we wanted to reinvent ourselves and would keep our eyes open for interesting opportunities. Part of that reinvention definitely involves more travel, so sharing our sales and marketing expertise with an already successful company in that field presents a win/win situation in which we are thrilled to participate.
Secondly there just hasn't been a whole lot to write about. We've been here almost two years now and are pretty much settled into our daily lives. The befuddlement and errors that defined our early months have faded into memory and serve as humorous reminiscent stories at social gatherings.
I'd like to expand on that idea by relating what it's like to live abroad well past the honeymoon phase. As we continue to chat with new arrivals it's fun to remember that their questions and general confusion defined our early experience as well. But after awhile what was initially exotic becomes normal; less time and energy is spent just trying to make it through each day.
As an example, it once took what seemed like hours to successfully complete a simple trip to the grocery store. I was unfamiliar with the layout--totally unaccustomed to my new reality that everything (and more) I could possibly want was not always (or ever) available--and my sadly limited Spanish didn't include any words involving food items.
I'd wander aimlessly through the aisles like Moses in the wilderness, or stand and stare like Beavis & Butthead. Now I'm in and out of the Supermaxi in no time, pausing only to check for treasures like Jif peanut butter or Heinz pickles that occasionally appear on the shelves (those two been MIA for months) or to continue my never-ending quest to figure out what in the hell those cuts of beef are (they look like someone hung up a cow and attacked it with a chain saw).
I used to get lost all the time. I still don't know the names of a lot of streets but seem to always end up where I'm going with minimal shenanigans. I even sometimes correct taxi drivers when they're veering off course. My cab rides around town provide many opportunities to improve my Spanish. We chat for five or ten minutes on the way, I pay the driver $1.50 for the "lesson", and emerge from the car at my destination. What a deal!
As a result I'm happy to report I can now converse fluently with babies and dogs. But you never know when you're going to run into a precocious toddler with an advanced vocabulary who makes you look stupid, so chats with canines are always preferable.
The most amazing change that has happened for me is at some unspecified time I no longer particularly felt like I'm "living abroad"--or living in Cuenca--or living in Ecuador even. I simply live here. No labels. No more comparisons to the States. Just here. Cynthia often says that you can come here to live or to create a life. This is much deeper than a difference in semantics, and we have made the second choice.
We've never been expats before, and the path we've chosen continues to reveal itself day by day. People often ask me if we're going to live in Cuenca forever. The truth is, we never thought we'd leave Atlanta or Charleston. And while we knew Las Vegas wasn't a permanent residence how could we have imagined we'd end up in Ecuador?
My best answer is this: we don't know what "forever" means, and for the foreseeable future, yes, Cuenca is our home. We're healthy. We're happy.