“Sweet is the memory of distant friends! Like the mellow rays of the departing sun, it falls tenderly, yet sadly, on the heart. ” Washington Irving
I often think about what impact it has when people move away from family and community, especially because I have done so many times. I now live permanently in Cuenca, Ecuador after living in the United States for 62 years. The reasons are not important today. That is to ponder another time. But the impact continues to unfold.
A huge effect is that my grandchildren are growing up a half a world away. That, for me, is the hardest thing about living in another country, roughly 4500 miles from my children’s families. If I am brutally honest, we saw the two precious children who live in San Diego about two times a year before leaving the US. The grandson who lived 90 minutes from us – well we saw him more often but not every month. People have busy lives, other committments and priorities of their own.
I grew up with parents who had left Nebraska with two babies, a new tractor and two cows, to farm in Idaho, leaving their mid-West family and friends for the adventure of their lives. Two of my uncles and one aunt left Nebraska as young adults to perform as muscians on Broadway in New York. They continued to live there for some years, swinging from “nearly starving” to great joyous times when they had work. These people were among my role models. Staying within 30 miles of my childhood home was not ever on my menu.
I always wanted to live in a Latin culture, to learn Spanish from native speakers, to be a minority after being part of the privileged baby boomers in the US coming of age in the 1960’s. So here I am with a wonderful, huge retirement adventure I share with my husband, Lenny. Learning Spanish is much more difficult than I had imagined but I keep plugging along slowly. Eventually…I will do better if I keep working at it. I am proud of how well I do at markets and in taxis and restaurants but have so much to learn.
It can be challenging to keep a friendship vibrant from a long distance. But today contact is accessorized by Skype calls and e-cards and frequent emails, making connection much easier than earlier times. Imagine for a moment the US pioneers who bravely travelled West in covered wagons. If a letter was ever sent back by the pioneer woman, she would not know if it reached her loved ones. She could not see the computer pixel version of her father’s face or chat with a girlhood pal. We have it easy, comparatively.
So what does all of that have to do with Cuenca or quilting? Cuenca is a popular retirement destination for many people in the US seeking a way to stretch their retirement dollar and experience a charming new culture. BUT, it is not for everyone. It is important to do a lot of research and come with the right mind set – there is an array of other blogs that detail that. Please read those if you are thinking of coming here because about 30% of the people who come, leave for various reasons.
Here are the top 3 reasons people leave Cuenca, in my unofficial, observant opinion:
1) it is not as cheap to live here as some publications would have you believe;
2) People miss their grandchildren, family, friends or Starbucks – ok the last one is kidding.
3)if a couple is moving here, they must be in agreement about this adventure or the relationship will fail – or they will be moving back with a new rift the experience has opened;
4) health care is easier when you speak the language and understand the procedures that pop up as one ages. The healthcare here is good but it is not always what people in the US are accustomed to. In some ways, it is better, more accessible, cheaper. In other ways, it is an unknown and that can be frightening – just like none of us knows how we will age or what care we will need.
So quilting…it does not interest many people in the slightest but for me it is an active meditation. It is a stable, rewarding task whether I am in Oregon or Ecuador. That continuity helped me transition in our move to Ecuador. So much was different. So much was confusing. And a lot in the move was breath-takingly exciting too!
Quilting helped me feel productive in early retirement. It makes me feel the excitement of creating a new pattern and the hunt for fabric that would look fabulous in that design. Most people experience some surprises in adjusting to retirement. It is easier if you have new hobbies or old ones to continue.
My sewing machine broke last week. Yikes! I described this in the last post. Today, I sew with a machine a good friend brought over when my Pfaff decided it needed a serious consult with a professional. That will not happen until June when I visit the US because it appears there are no Pfaff repair people in Cuenca or Guayaquil. Another of Life’s Lessons on Patience. But for today, I have time to think about friendship, family and the ways in which we communicate.
Have a terrific week, whatever you choose to do. Notice how you connect with people. Thank the people who connect with you. Appreciating other humans is a great place to live.