It’s been a year of firsts—a year of new beginnings —a year of change and crazy chances taken by a couple of misfit lesbians in a truly wacky world.
In fact, this time twelve months ago we were just deciding we would move to Ecuador. It seemed the thing to do, but we hadn’t even broken the news to Sara’s family yet.
In honor of this year’s over-the-top insanity, I thought I’d share a few crazy photographs, images that highlight the wackiness of all that’s happened.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey, the nutty narrative in pictures.
We realized a few things at the dawn of 2013, one of which was that we had tired of American consumerism. We longed for markets that were open-air, not quite so tame—less regularly-rowed and rigidly right angled than those of Kroger or Trader Joe. The grid was great for the short-term. In the long run, we wanted wild. We craved the crazy of a wider world—thick with options and deep with possibility.
So my partner Sara and I decided to sell our home—a downtown, Victorian version of domestic bliss right in the heart of race horse breeding and bourbon brewing country.
I read once that home is where ones story begins, and with the eventual sale of ours, another tale was only getting started.
We wanted to know the world the way it really is–for most people. This choice, this challenge, this elbow-deep digging in soil and sweat, isn’t the life for everyone, but it’s the right life for us–and one the US had given us the privilege to select. Unlike so much of the world, we, at least, had the education and income to make a choice.
So, we prepared our home for the market but sold it to only the second couple who saw it. We sold our house in two weeks without even listing it!
That meant we had to hurry and box up our belongings, not easy for me, as my trash-savvy Sara says I suffer from a hoarding habit, from rubbish blindness. Whatever you choose to term it, I had to toss my trove of treasures, my stash of trash, as Sara calls it.
But I had one request of you, my readers. Do you remember?
I asked if you would you mind saving some replacement papers and pebbles for me, some new buttons, bricks, and bones? I promised I wouldn’t tell Sara you’d contributed to my hoarding habit—or her clutter curse.
I swore on a saved sale’s receipt and empty cat food can, I wouldn’t!
We scheduled a moving sale, sold most of our furniture, and moved the rest of our belongings into Sara’s father’s basement.
But just as we got deep into sorting and selling, packing and stacking—a leaning tower of almost-Ecuador—my dad’s FBI file arrived in the mail—a small, flat package containing only a single CD and only around 400 of the more than 1,700 pages I’d been promised. I even learned that Daddy had an alias! (If you are new to my blog, you might not know that my father was involved in organized crime. I’m writing a memoir about it.)
We moved into friends Mindy and Grant’s pool house, prepared our paperwork for Ecuador visas, visited my family home in Pittsburgh, and flew to New York to get married.
It was a whirlwind wedding–tieing our lose US ends in New York knots–nuptial knots, that is.
When Sara and I married 8 months ago, gay marriage was only legal in 9 US states, but now marriage equality is the law in 18 of them.
In May we crossed a line—another event horizon, binding the world as we knew it to one I’d never even imagined.
I’d crossed over into crazy a number of times, but now our nutty narrative unfolded on the far side of sanity—or, as I now think of it, South of Zero Latitude.
The bottom line is this–we were crazy about our new home in Cuenca, Ecuador. But that’s not the wackiest half of it.
In short, we flew to Ecuador with two dogs and twelve suitcases, and found a short-term rental in the center of the old city two days later.
Still new to Cuenca and nervous about taking public transit, I remember once when Sara and I boarded a bus, only to discover it was bulging. Heavily sweatered women crowded the aisles—babies and other bundles strapped to their backs. Since standing on a bumpy bus challenges my balance, Sara motioned to the only square inch of empty plastic. “Grab that seat.”
“I don’t want to climb over the pregnant woman.” I gestured toward the bulging belly occupying the aisle seat, blocking the window one. With that, two blue-uniformed school girls stood, pushed their smiles into the aisle, and motioned for us to take their seats.
After we thanked them, I said to Sara, “I’m too old to be pregnant, and I may shout ‘broken-hip-waiting-to-happen!’ But wow, how sweet.”
“Kindness is cross-cultural,” Sara said. “Like the bus, it unites us on a common journey, if only for a few minutes at a time.”
I suppose that’s how we felt as we traveled to Ingapirca, united in time and place, with a people and their past.
We learned to eat and shop like the locals. We even received our residency visas.
We learned that Ecuador is a paradise for the palette. It’s, literally, a foodie’s delight—and at prices even the most cash-strapped ex-pat will appreciate, especially when you manage to get your “cedula,” Ecuador’s equivalent of a national ID card, in only 3 months. It was an amazingly fast and relatively easy process for us.
July provided food for cultural thought, you might say. We learned what it meant and how it felt to be an immigrant in a new land.
It just so happens that all summer, especially in August, I was busy writing. Actually writing! Imagine that—I was engaged in the honest-to-God act of putting fingers to keyboard, lining up words one after the other like Lincoln Logs, constructing sentences—even entire paragraphs.
And, yes, (hold your compositionally-crazed, chomping-at-the-book horses)—
Then came the pigeon incident. Let’s just say, it gave me a bird’s eye vie of Cuenca, so to speak. It was an unexpected and short-lived love affair.
Ecuador in September taught us about abundance—
A lot about it—
That abundance is, as you might have guessed, so . . . well . . . abundant!
For example, I had heard how affordable the country is—that the economy is strong—that my US dollar would go a long, long way. However, my North American mind could never have imagined buying twelve tomatoes for a dollar or twenty long-stemmed roses for four. Who in the US or most parts of the developed world could anticipate spending eleven dollars for a month’s worth of electricity or having a $5 gas bill during the “winter” months?
But, as it turns out, the cost of living hasn’t been Ecuador’s greatest value to us as expats. Rather, it’s the people and place itself we’ve come to care about– even more.
I don’t know what I expected. It’s not that I hadn’t hoped for either of these. It’s something else entirely—the sheer surplus of each, I suppose.
More specifically, in September, we learned to enjoy the local street art; got to know our-now-dear-friends Juan and David; visited the waterfalls at Giron; and our container arrived from the US, as well–no problems–no hassles. Sara even got a job editing for the local, online, English newspaper. We were blessed.
Most days the skies in the Andes change hour by hour, sometimes minute by minute. Mornings are often blue-skied and sunny, but the day darkens as late afternoon rolls around and clouds thicken. Light deepens and purples as evening approaches. Sometimes weather patterns accelerate these shifts, transforming the mood in a matter of minutes—overhead a youngster, blue-eyed and blonde, morphs into a brooding old man, graying and hunch-backed. He ages eighty years in less than as hour.
These jurneys into the upper elevations of the Andes forced me to look at the sky in new ways, to realize that clouds are more complicated than I had once thought. They not only predict rain (and, now, store data); they also prove there’s more to gray matter than some might imagine. Maybe that’s why Sara says I have my head in the clouds.
November got started with disappearing dinner rolls and an unusual happening in our apple basket. (Click here for more details.) And like so many archetypal stories that get started with an apple incident, ours ended in tragedy.
You see, we adopted an infant guinea pig we named Anderson Cooper, but poor Anderson died after only a week. We were heart-broken.
Still, we celebrated our first Thanksgiving in Ecuador, with new friends, if not the most outstanding food.
However, December made up for the disappointments of the previous 4 weeks.
Last month I published a Christmas essay about my father in the Huffington Post, and my post on wrapping gifts with trash was Freshly Pressed, featured on the WordPress homepage. This were exciting accomplishments!
We, also had guests visit from the US, and hosted a huge party for 20 on Christmas day. OUR food was AWESOME, but our visitors on the 25th were even more delightful. It was people palette at its finest.
Just after Christmas, we drove to Quito with those same friends and visited the Avenue of the Volcanoes on the way. The landscapes were stunning!
What’s coming in 2014? How can we top 2013?
- More posts about our adventure in Ecuador, especially about our holiday travel.
- More posts about our trip to Pittsburgh last spring and more about my childhood, growing up with a father who was a bookie for the mafia.
- More art. After all it was an art post, of sorts, that was Freshly Pressed just before Christmas.
- More of Sara’s awesome images, as she has launched another year of daily photo taking.
So, we may be crazy lesbians on an outrageous South American adventure, but YOU–my readers, my friends, and family, you who have read my posts over the past year, especially my many new subscribers–you have truly made the past twelve months the richest we’ve ever lived. Sara and I love sharing our lives with all of you.
Thank you for reading, for partaking, and even, participating in our Ecuador edition of crazy. Hugs from high in the Andes, from both of us!
What was a highlight from your past year? Do you have any goals, blogging or otherwise, for 2014? Is there anything, in particular, you’d like me to write more about during the coming year?