Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Cuenca and Hello to Cotacachi

For those of you who wonder why this blog has been on hiatus, I’ll try to explain.  Rachel and I are leaving Cuenca and some very dear friends behind.  I think I’ll devote another blog to the friends.
 Along with the stresses of waiting for our resident’s visas that we applied for last November, selling our condo, wondering about the construction of our new home in Cotacachi in our absence, packing and preparing for our move, we’ve simply just had a lot on our plates.  We’ve almost forgotten how and why we became Gringcanos (gringo Cuencanos) in the first place.  

It seems like every day we meet new Norte Americanos and hear their stories about how and why they came to Cuenca.  If you’ve been reading about life in the Andes of Ecuador you already know the reasons.  I often refer to ‘the C’s’ of Attraction:  Climate, Cost of Living, Culture.  For those who may need an explanation, you can ‘dial in’ your perfect climate here.  Pick your favorite daily high temperature then find the elevation where it exists.  We found our perfect climate between 7 and 8 thousand feet.  Cuenca and Cotacachi both fit that range; eternal spring, no furnace or AC needed.  Maybe you’ll find your Nirvana temperature at sea level on the coast. 

 The cost of living attraction is obvious.  A couple can live on a thousand per month here.
 The culture thing is a bit more ‘out there’.  Just think about living in a Latin Norman Rockwell moment.  Maybe that’s why Ecuador appeals to us 60 somethings.   We remember and long for those days of simple living.
That isn’t to say that life is perfect here!  It’s just better for us than any place we’ve ever been.  There are things about the culture here that will at first be annoying if not maddening.  Shed your type-A personality and you’ve got a good shot.  Life in general just moves a little less purposefully here.  Lose your watch and your calendar and live a day at a time.  There’s not much planning in Ecuador.  There isn’t as much stress either unless of course you are trying to change that. 
So why leave Cuenca for Cotacachi you ask? 
We gave this question a lot of thought and soul searching before we made our decision to sell our condo and build a house in the Imbabura.  It is truly a matter of personal preferences like choosing your favorite weather.  Some like the hustle and bustle of a vibrant and cosmopolitan city.  They want world class medical services, modern grocery stores and malls, free and abundant cultural events.  Cuenca is for you!
Rachel and I grew up close to the soil.  If there’s dirt under our fingers and sweat on our brow, we’re happy.  A calf sucking its mother in the middle of the road warms our heart.  We prefer pan pipes to salsa and Latino hip hop.  Buying vegetables and fruits at the open market is the Rockwellian moment that we savor.   Bicycling through the countryside without the diesel belching Blue Angels of Death (BAD buses) trying to smash you is like eating your lunch in a no smoking restaurant.  It’s just plain healthier. 

Many people come to Cotacachi and leave after a week claiming, “There’s nothing to do!”  I appreciate that, but then again both Rachel and I remember some of the pre-TV era when you read, visited your neighbors, worked in the garden, had Bible study, played cards, rode your bicycle or your horse and made a lot of popcorn every night.   Will I tire of riding my bike a mile and a half to the market?  No way.  It will just get a little slower.   Will we miss the nights out for the free concerts?  Maybe, but Cotacachi IS the music capital of Ecuador.    World class medical services are an hour and a half away in Quito.  To live your life around a possible heart attack seems a bit backwards to me.  Rachel and I have decided to take our chances and live for today.  We ride bicycles around traffic circles in Cuenca for crying out loud.  Besides, there’s a new independent/assisted living/skilled nursing facility going up in Cotacachi.  Even Cuenca doesn’t have that!
That leaves only one discussion point for us.  We will surely miss our good friends here in Cuenca.  We have shared much laughter, some tears, and wonderful adventures with them.  They know our hearts and we theirs.  God willing we will find new friends in the Imbabura, but our old ones from Cuenca will always have a special place in our hearts and a spare bedroom in Yanapamba.