North Americans move to Ecuador for a wide range of reasons. The climate and cost of living motivate some, while many more retire here because of quality medical care and stunning natural beauty.
However, few folks, I know, say they come to this Andean country to benefit creatively, despite the fact that, many have, indeed, found new and unexpected artistic outlets since arriving. I didn’t move to Cuenca expecting to retire, and I have long been a creative person. Still, I’m one of many who has found exciting and unexpected opportunities to grow as an artist and author in Ecuador.
The writing group I joined just a couple of weeks after landing in Guayaquil and taking a late-night taxi ride over the Andes, with one spouse, two dogs, ten suitcases, and more expectations than I can count, has introduced me to some of the most creative folks in Ecuador. That group, WIT (Writers in Transition) helps many become literary success stories.
One creative genius in Cuenca and in WIT, in particular, is Glen Birbeck.
Born in Nebraska, Glen worked for much of his life as an engineer, but in retirement he has found new creative opportunity, splitting his time between Maine during the North American summer and Cuenca when the former’s miserable winter strikes.
Glen writes science fiction and is currently working on a novel called Murder on the Mar’s Show.
Many know Glen for his cartoons, some of which depict expat life in Ecuador with a humor and insight I’ve not seen anywhere else. So, today I’ll share one of MY favorites. It illustrates one amusing adjustment expats must make when moving to Cuenca or Quito or anywhere in between, living with pipes that can’t handle the flushing of toilet tissue.
The bottom line is this. Life abroad is rarely what we imagine it will be. In fact, expat living offers the unexpected on speed—whether we’re ready for it or not.
Sure, Ecuador doesn’t require the kinds of toileting adjustments we made when moving to Southeast Asia. There some toilets look like this:
Still, Glen, one of the many creative types in Cuenca, images one of the unanticipated realities of life in the developing world, the excremental one. It’s the shits, but given the plumbing, it’s one Ecuador is flush with.
How would you feel, if you couldn’t flush toilet paper? What might be the best and/or worst part about living abroad for you? What has enriched your creative life recently?
If you’re in the area, please join Glen and me, as well as other members of WIT, for a public reading on Thursday evening, March 6th, at 7. The event will be held at a Cuenca restaurant called California Kitchen (Luis Cordero 5-65 and Honorato Vasquez). Come early for dinner and a seat, because, at last month’s reading, there was standing room only.
This post was written in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes. Thus, I’ve included the 3 photos that inspired the piece (and have thrown in a cartoon, for good measure).