I wrote a few weeks ago about the interesting split I feel after choosing to leave my country of birth (the USA) for an exciting, new experience in my retirement years in Cuenca, Ecuador. Well, I have a few more thoughts to share. My husband and I launched ourselves on an incredible cultural journey about 3 years ago. We live permanently in Cuenca, Ecuador. We visit the US every 6 – 12 months to see family and friends. We also stock up on a few things important to us that are not available in Ecuador. What, you ask? Things like all cotton quilting fabric, gluten-free products, new hi tech products, good socks, yeah, just little stuff important in our daily lives.
I continue to feel strongly supportive of the US, although I am very disillusioned to the point of desperation about the intractable problems with things like: how to get the elected officials to work together as adults instead of viscious bickering . There need to be real answers for the BIG issues: homeless children who go to sleep hungry every night, not enough jobs, rebuilding infrastructure to keep the country “running” properly, stop the favors to medical drug companies and encourage real healing among the population in a way that does not create drug-dependency.
Let me be clear: I love the beliefs of the US that I grew up with, ideas like: you can be anything you want to be if you work hard, for example. The US is one place people used to get ahead without stomping on others as you “climb up” to be solidly middle class.
Use just what you need
replace yourself and then stop – the world population is staggering
I raised my children with these goals as well: reuse, recycle, replace
do NOT just think of yourself!
look for the best in each person you meet
treasure the earth
The US financial “down spiral” of the past few years left many who had been solidly middle class in a terrible fix – loss of home, loss of job, horrendous stresses on family as their hold on a common lifestyle slipped out of their grasp, causing health problems, battered self-confidence, hopelessness, etc.
My heart aches for solutions to be found.
My current country of residence, Ecuador, has a high rate of poverty, a definite class division, “favors” may be paid (bribery) to get things done but this is no longer the preferred way. Ecuador stands with a foot in the “old ways” of priviledge, wealth and class difference, but with the other foot in a new place. The second foot rests, teetering among growing equality, increasing minimum wage, social security benefits for working citizens, attempts to ban money laundering, and successful exports of bananas (if you are eating a banana, it probably was grown in Ecudor!), among a few other successful exports.
There has been a disappointingly low national effort in Ecuador to preserve endangered species and protect the environment… and some dawning awareness of what it might take to move the country into an improved global vision.
I love the tenative steps Ecuador is taking toward parity for all citizens, a growing attempt to create a livable wage for people, which is still a way off but at least it is on the agenda. Also the focus on improving roads and services within the country, taking a tough stance on drug smugglers who bring drugs into Ecuador from Columbia and Peru across shared borders and by sea. These illegal drugs are on their way to the US. Because of demand in the US. Stop the demand for cocaine, for example, by US users and Columbia’s drug business would be severely wounded.
So every nation has problems.
Where is my heart, really? Both places! I love visits back to magestic Oregon, rustic Idaho and fast-paced California. Holding a young grandchild or talking with the two older grandchildren is priceless. I catch up. My heart nestles, creating memories. The relationship with each of the 4 grandchildren blossoms and stretches. But at the same time, I am ripped apart because I leave soon. So soon.
And yet… when I return to Ecuador, I know I am “home”. My heart lives with my children and grandchildren in Oregon and California. I think of each of my loved ones, friends and family members, every day. But my husband Lenny and I are happy to have joined a small community of like-minded people in Cuenca and reside in their midst. We cherish this opportunity to learn about a very different culture. The few Cuencano friends we have made are cherished. They share time, interests, family with us and seem pleased that we love the city of Cuenca and Ecuadorians in general.
My cats and Spanish studies, the quilts and exercise are all ongoing, absorbing activities. Lenny pursues interests he never had enough time to improve, such as Spanish, duplicate bridge and photography. Our plans to explore other parts or South America shimmer on the horizon.
Yes, my heart lives in more than one place, never to be completely grounded in just one country again. And it is really ok. One’s heart expands to accomodate the demand and opportunities life lays in our path.
What is your journey? Enjoy where you are today.