Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Seven Year Itch?

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The three most frequently asked questions I receive are, in order:

Why Ecuador/Cuenca?

What do you do all day?

Do you think you'll live in Cuenca forever?

Cynthia and I arrived here seven years ago last month, and I think I've done a pretty good job through this blog of answering the first two. Regarding the third one, my standard answer has always been, "I don't really think in absolute terms like 'forever.' But based on my life history (this being the fourth city of residence in the last 20 years), I'd say probably not."

It's been interesting to observe the dynamics of our expat population in Cuenca over the years. We were part of the initial wave of foreigners who arrived in 2010, and for the first few years the flow of expats defied the laws of nature--the tide always came in and never went out. I still remember vividly the shock when one of our first couple friends returned to the States after only about six months. They're leaving already?!? It was unthinkable.

We later learned that the average lifespan of an expat is 2-3 years before going back or moving on. And that is exactly what has happened here. Sure, new folks continue to show up, but their numbers are offset by others who are leaving. Every week in online publications there are posts for moving sales from people we never even got to meet.

There's no way to get an accurate count on Cuenca's expat population anymore. The immigration office knows exactly how many residency visas have been issued, but it is impossible to determine the number who are still here. Gosh, thinking back to the early days I realize that almost everyone we met from the "Class of 2010" is gone.

It also dawns on me that we've lived in this apartment longer than any other dwelling of our soon-to-be 46 years of marriage except the house in Atlanta we built and raised our children in. We were lucky to find it and all of the furniture we shipped fits perfectly, so why move?

Well, two reasons have slowly crept into our consciousness. As you know we travel internationally a lot, and dealing with the scheduling hassle of getting to Guayaquil or, usually, Quito with minimal layover and/or overnight stays has become increasing annoying. Since we plan to travel even more in the next 10-15 years it would be so much more convenient to live in a city with an international airport nearby.

Second, those four flights of steps in our building (plus another flight inside our apartment) weren't that big a deal seven years ago. As we continue to age and often go up and down them multiple times a day, let's just say the thought of having an elevator has crossed our minds. Particularly on grocery shopping day.

Does this mean we're out of here? No, not at all. But it does mean that as opposed to buying a car, which has never been considered, an occasional conversation about the subject now comes up. And I have to admit it's kind of fun to contemplate new possibilities. What besides an airport would be important to us in a new place? What features in a dwelling would we really like to have? Where else in the country, continent, or even world might be a great fit?

We've found this new topic of conversation so stimulating that we've even fantasized about the next "next"--what life could look like for us beyond the years of active travel. What kind of environment would we be looking for? What would we be doing?

Whether or not the details of any of these chats manifest is irrelevant. Something we've known intellectually for a long time has now become an essential aspect of our existence and a key element in all the blessings that have come our way since we stepped off the plane in Cuenca seven years ago.

Rather than obsess about minutia, we focus on a strong, solid general intention and then pay attention in the present moment to everything coming our way that supports that intention--a person--an article--a conversation. At first it took courage to not "be in control." Now we get out of our own way and simply let life unfold. The results have been so much better on every level.

As seasoned expats and travelers we have no trepidation about adjusting to life elsewhere. Since there's no sense of urgency about any of this, enjoyable flights of imagination over a glass of wine will continue. If and when the time feels right, perhaps we'll be motivated to take action.

One way or the other, our life continues to be an excellent expat adventure.


Sanford Shapiro said...

Ed, great post. The power of life is directly related to the caliber and depth of the questions you ask, don't you think? For example, The difference between "why me?" and ""what do I need to understand?" is large and in some ways determines what you focus on, and what you notice, as you say so well, " everything coming our way that supports that intention--a person--an article--a conversation..." We get more of what we focus on in general.

You said: "Rather than obsess about minutia, we focus on a strong, solid general intention and then pay attention in the present moment " Seems perfectly suited to your good questions, and I love how you put it:

"We've found this new topic of conversation so stimulating"

Better questions puts you in better positions for curiosity and those feelings of stimulation.

For Debbie and I, we're of course in the early stages of newbie-ness, coming up on four months of our new Cuenca life. There's so much to love about the culture and life in Cuenca. Your post reminds me that it'a as much about perspective as it is about the details of a particular situation.

Virginia Crews said...

Hello, Edd and Cynthia! congrats on your anniversary! Wow ! I have followed your blog from the beginning! Loved it you are a very Funny Guy! We have been thinking of EC for years! Have been to the beach and Cuenca twice now. But now I am wondering if we missed that boat. I have pulled up some sites that show everything has gone up in price. A lot more than here in Bend Or! What do you think? I hope I got Bad info. If you have a moment to update a few basic items of living in Cuenca that would be great! IWe spent some months in Mexico last year and loved it but the Cartel are going nuts right now it seems. Thank You Virginia and Gordon vcrews97@yahoo.com

Edd Staton said...

Sanford and Debbie, welcome to Cuenca! Four months here? Quite soon you'll qualify as "expat experts" who can answer all the newbie questions on Gringo Post. ;-) Hope you two love it here as much as we do. I have a feeling we'll be here for quite some time.

Edd Staton said...

Virginia, don't believe everything you read (unless you read it here). See, I've read that Bend, Oregon is SUPER-expensive! I guess prices for some things have gone up but understand how cheap they were to start with. If broccoli goes from 75 cents to 82 cents that's a 10% increase but do you care?? Gas prices have been $1.48/gallon the entire 7+ years we've lived here, as have the two $2.50 natural gas tanks we buy each month. Real estate prices have gone down recently if they've moved at all. And, perhaps best of all, with the new trade agreement between Ecuador and the EU wine prices will be dropping as well. Hooray! No, you haven't missed the boat. All aboard!