This post offers neither the latest laughs nor greatest gaffs from our comedy of expat error. Rather it updates you on a few essential facts from our Ecuador adventure, routine as those particulars might be.
It’s easy to overlook and, thus, omit from posts the seemingly insignificant details of our lives—not news to us, of course—but important context for folks who don’t live here—which happens to be just about EVERYONE else.
I thought I was being merciful in omitting the mundane, but I’ve reconsidered, realizing life is lived one dreary or delightful detail to the next, that it’s only in the accumulation of ordinary that any experience eventually evolves into something extraordinary, indeed. After all, the particulars are what distinguish one life from another.
Today, then, I’ll catch you up in a bulleted format meant to compensate for this post’s length. I hope you can scan for information you may have missed, and while you’re at it, enjoy the photos I’ve included, ones a few of you have requested.
- Our First Month in Ecuador
After spending a few, more tiring than restful, nights in a bed and breakfast with our two dogs, we lived for the remainder of our first month in Cuenca in a stunning colonial home in the center of town. It was hundreds of years old but with completely modernized bathrooms and kitchen and walls more than two feet thick.
We made quite a scene arriving there with dogs Ralph and Lucy and our 10 (yes, that’s 10) suitcases.
The living space inside was huge and open, with tile and wood floors and a charming garden for the dogs.
- Language Learning
During our first 6 weeks in Ecuador, Sara took intense 4-hour-a-day Spanish classes. We even traveled with her school to visit Ingapirca, the largest Inca ruin in Ecuador.
My Spanish, on the other hand, most folks seem to understand, if it also makes me sound foolishly infantile from time to time. My efforts are not only far from perfect; they make me look toddler-like at best, staggering along, vomiting my pathetical pronunciation.
- House Rental
Sara’s Spanish teacher helped us locate our long-term rental in her own neighborhood, an Ecuadorian suburb (as opposed to the opposite side of town where most of the expats live).
It may interest you to know that we pay merely $350 a month for a 4-bedroom house with one and a half bathes and front and back gardens. The kitchen and main bath have been recently updated.
- All in the Family
After we had been in our house for only a month, decades-long friends of my mom came to visit Cuenca for four weeks. We had anticipated our own friends’ eventual arrival, but hadn’t ever imagined the first would belong to my 74-year-old mother.
Wayne and Judith rented an apartment in el Centro, one with a stunning, 6th-story view of the cathedral.
- Writing Life
I joined a writing group (WIT, Writers in Transition) that meets for two hours every week. I’ve also read the first chapter of my memoir at a literary event, attended a memoir writing workshop, and will share the second chapter of Kids Make the Best Bookies at a reading this week. The writing group has from 15 to 25 in attendance during most meetings, and these amazing folks have welcomed me, mentored me, and become fast friends.
- Sara’s US Container Duty
Sara returned to the US for two weeks, so she could repack and inventory our boxes, not to mention supervise the loading of our 20-foot container—now aboard a cargo ship, steaming toward Ecuador. It’s due to arrive here in another week— around September 9th. We can’t wait!
It’s a decent-sized container, but with no real furniture to speak of—mostly full of the many little items that make our house a cozy and creative home. And I do mean “many”—not only art, but nearly 1,300 books, as well.
- Kathy’s Baking Efforts
I’m learning to bake at high altitudes.
Some of you may remember, that I’ve rarely met a cookie I didn’t like—thus, perhaps, my love of baking. However, doing it at high altitudes (Cuenca is 8,300 feet) isn’t the same as doing it at sea level. Here things rise much more quickly and/or prematurely, depending on how you look at it. Because of this, cakes are likely to fall and cookies tend to flatten.
So far, I’ve made Toll House chocolate chip cookies and a chocolate cake. I experimented a number of times to determine the right amount of baking soda to use in the cookies—about half what the recipe calls for—but when I baked a cake this past weekend, it fell, even with the leavening agent reduced drastically.
The latter recipe adaption, clearly, needs more work, but I’ve had more success with pies, since they don’t require rising. I’ve done several apple and a few “mora” (blackberry), as well.
- Sara’s Garden and Kitchen Callings
Sara’s been working in our garden and cooking amazing dishes with the fresh ingredients available at the mercados. Some of you may recall her lovely efforts to transform our Lexington back yard. She’s begun the same here.
- Friendships and Social Life
We’ve made a number of new friends and find ourselves being remarkably more social here than we were back in the US. We love the weekly Jazz Society Café, and this week, for the first time, we attended one of the Saturday night dinners held at Joe’s Secret Garden.
- Sara’s Employment Opportunity
Sara has gotten a job here!
Many of you know that “mi esposa” has worked in international, disaster response for more than 20 years, most of it with Habitat for Humanity. She directed their response to the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and their intervention in the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
However, our residency visas here in Ecuador will limit our international travel for two years, so just this week the local, online, English language, newspaper hired Sara to take over some of their editorial duties. This will allow the founders of the site to expand and develop new marketing opportunities.
- Marriage vs. Civil Unions
Our marriage license from New York is not recognized by Ecuador, which has not yet legalized gay marriage. However, the government does allow gay civil unions, so we’ve gone ahead and had Ecuadorian civil union papers drafted and notarized.
We may not be recognized as married here, per se, but unlike in the US, our union is recognized as legitimate in the whole of Ecuador. This grants us all the same rights as married couples anywhere in the country, while in the US, we are considered married in some states but not in others. In many ways Ecuador is more progressive when it comes to gay rights than much of the US.
- 4-Month Anniversary
We’ve been in Ecuador for 4 months to the day that I’m drafting this. We’ve gotten our residency visas and picked up our “cedulas” yesterday. “Cedulas” are the national, photo-I.D. cards in Ecuador. They identify us as permanent residents of the country—with most of the same rights as citizens, including, interestingly, the right to vote.
We are thriving in our new country and invite you to visit!
Some of you may recall that Sara and I have had the opportunity to meet many of my blogging buddies, a number of whom visited our home in Lexington, Kentucky.
Ecuador may be a bit further to come, but we welcome your stopping by. We have two guest rooms.
One has your name on it.
What’s new in your life? How has your summer gone? Have your kids returned to school yet?
Note: Check out the sites of my friends imaged above: Lisa Kramer’s blog, as well as Colleen Brown’s and Tori Nelson’s. Other visitors to our home, whose blogs you might enjoy, include those of Miranda Gargasz and Emily Cannell. When we were married in New York, we were honored to have my blogging buddies the Lame Adventurer and Jackie Cangro as witnesses. They didn’t visit our home, but we visited theirs!