Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Adventures in Ecuador Come to a Close

How do you describe the end of a life chapter?

For over five years Ecuador has been our home.  We have loved our adopted country completely.   The culture of Ecuador and its people changes your heart.  For my part, the personal changes are for the better.  The biggest change for me is adaptability.  The second is acceptance.  

When you learn a new language, you begin to learn the culture from whence it came.  Short phrases can unravel a whole new world of understanding.  Consider for a moment our English words wait and hope.  For most of us who have lived north of the Rio Grande, waiting for the plumber to come is different than hoping he comes.  Waiting implies a definite expectation of arrival.  With hope there's a little uncertainty.    In Ecuador as in most Latin american countries, the transitive verb esperar covers both situations.  Perhaps that is why we are always hoping the plumber comes because waiting will raise your blood pressure.

To be clear, type A people, myself included, have lessons learned or yet to be learned in Ecuador.   I can always identify a new gringo type A who comes to town.  Type A's don't always notice what is going on because we are so linear in our own little missions.   We sometimes fail to see the beautiful children walking down the sidewalk together, hand in hand.   We miss forty year old Jose driving his two sons and daughter to school...on his bicycle.    We miss nearly everything that really matters and what makes living here special.

So I guess that's it.  God wanted me to learn from Ecuadorians.  There are just way more important things than the plumber arriving on time or for that matter, at all.  

Rachel and I bought a house in Bella Vista Arkansas and will be living there together with Dodger in a couple months.  Rachel's job is to prepare our new home.  My job is to sell our home in Cotacachi to a fortunate and deserving family.

If you are reading this blog and you become interested or know someone who is interested in buying our home, give me a call or email.  However, there are some qualifiers.

I want the next owners of our home to be good people.  I want you to be good neighbors to my good neighbors in Yanapamba.  If you are not Ecuadorian, you must be good ambassadors of the country you come from.  I won't ask you for an FBI background check because you have to have one of those to live here now anyway.

But more than anything, I want you to be able to walk down the street of Cotacachi and see the children.

Why are we leaving Eden?

Eden is where you make it.  Our new Eden will be in Bella Vista, Arkansas.  My Eden is with Rachel, not alone in Ecuador.  Our lives have been blessed with good health,  friends, food, exercise, adventures, personal growth, and a climate that everyone wishes for but only those of us in Cotacachi can experience.

I've been fair and balanced about my observations of living in Ecuador up till now and I won't change that vantage point for my last blog.   I cherish the Ecuador experience. You don't need rose colored glasses.  There are many good places to live in Ecuador. Many love the coast, many (like us) love beautiful Cuenca.  We love nearby Otavalo, Atuntaqui, Quiroga, Ibarra, Chachimbiro, Tumbabiro, Cayambe, and the list would continue for hours.  The numerous small towns and cities are exploding in a five year wave of optimism this country has never seen before.  Most of these places looked more or less the same for generations.  There are new and improved roads, hospitals and schools everywhere. Development in thinking and action is a quiet revolution in Ecuador.

Young families with two or three children are everywhere.  The children see a much brighter future than their parents or grandparents.

Rachel's and my first two years in Ecuador was romance and adventure.  We were spontaneous and fearless. We rode our bicycles around traffic circles in Cuenca that many motored drivers avoided out of mortal fear.   We would have our 6 AM coffee and by seven we were off to places we'd never heard of, couldn't pronounce, didn't know how to get to, and couldn't speak the language once we got there.  One time we ended up in the jungle.   News flash:  Shuar is far more difficult than Spanish.

One morning I queried Rachel about our life in Cuenca. She said that she loved the charming city but 'longed to have her hands in the soil'.  That was music to my ears!  We followed our agrarian yearnings.  We sold our comfortable, modern, and sterile condo unit in Cuenca......

 and built our home on the laps of  Mt. Cotacachi and Mt. Imbabura.  I stood on this cow pasture back in January of 2010 before any houses were built.  Somehow I knew there would be a return.  It is now filled and fully developed.  In my mind it is the best place to live in Ecuador.

 During our year of construction we rented places in Otavalo and Cotacachi waiting (hoping) patiently for our house to be completed.

We've been in our Yanapamba home over 3 years now.

My story in Eden (Yanapamba) is different than Rachel's.  We both love to be outdoors. Since moving into our home in Yanapamba, I have lived outdoors, Rachel not so much.  There is this otherwise benign tiny gnat that hovers around waiting for the right flavor human.  If that human is the right flavor (Rachel is) and the person is allergic to them (Rachel is), it is a miserable, itchy experience that lasts for days.  Forget the remedies, we've tried them all.  Most of us quickly become immune to these tiny creatures.  I can lay down in the grass in shorts and never get a bite.  Rachel can be out for three minutes and be covered in bites that look like bee stings.  Rachel tells me that it is her T cells that are the culprit.  She's a nurse, go figure.  Rachel is a very special lady.  However, in this case, special isn't good news for her.  She is that one in a thousand that can never be comfortable outdoors and live in peace with these little creatures.

As a person who loves to be outdoors I can only imagine what it must be like to be in the idyllic climate of Cotacachi and dread the thought of going outdoors.  It's just not right, fair, or loving that I would impose this on her any longer.  My heaven on earth is not hers.  I love our home here, but it's not home without Rachel.

Our new home in northwest Arkansas, can get pretty cold for a day or two at time in winter.  It can also get beastly hot for days on end in the summer.  But there's no kryptonite gnats for Rachel.     The important thing is that we can be together outdoors year around.

Priorities:  God, family, friends, health.   All else is just a detail.  Where you live is a detail.  How you live is a priority.

Rachel has been busy repatriating to the USA.  She is making our new house in Arkansas our home.   She is making herself useful as a family member.    She is in 105 degree heat wondering if we are making the right move.

We'll be fine Rachel.    We'll always be fine.  I'm coming soon.

Meanwhile, Dodger and I are Rachel-less in Ecuador.  I knew I would stay busy for a month or so making sure both our outdoor and indoor home look sharp for their new owners.  We've put on a fresh coat of paint and re-stained and varnished the window frames.

The porch swing re-varnished

Our game table is nice and glossy again for a few  years

Our benches (all fourteen) got attended too

Well, you get the idea.

When you make your back yard your living room, you try to honey up even the crudest of outdoor 'furniture'.

So the terrace sink got re-stained...

The base to the round table on the terrace got a coat......

My great friend John (next door neighbor) promises to re do the top for me (or you?).  It will be very special when he gets done!

Even our little coffee table got a fresher look.  Rachel and I drank a lot of coffee at this table while gazing at Imbabura on one side and Cotacachi on the other.

My workbench/wheelbarrow garage got a little touch up

Pato worked hard to get our ladrillo brick sidewalk completed all around the house

I could promote our world location (Cotacachi, Ecuador), our neighborhood (Yanapamba), and our lot location (lot 11) all day long.  It's been my hobby and my passion to make our yard into our outdoor living room.   It is now at a point where one can really kick back and enjoy it!  I hope our new buyer appreciates outdoor living and abundant flora.

God must have appreciated our enthusiasm for natural vegetation because He blessed all of the grass, trees, bushes and flowering plants to grow and thrive.  Abundant mulching restored the organic matter.  I've planted trees and bushes that will grow for beauty and privacy without impeding the magnificent views.    Now that the ground is covered in vegetation, it doesn't take much care because the ground cover acts as a blanket to hold moisture in the ground and suppress weeds. The grassy lawn naturally goes dormant in July and August.  The last few days I fired up our sprinkler system to get the lawn green for the new owner.  Could that be you? 

If outdoor living is your thing and you are surrounded by beautiful mountains, you need benches to relax and enjoy the views.  You need hammocks for more profound relaxation, contemplation, and yes, just baggin' it.   We have five hammock stations and fourteen benches for these purposes.  We use them all.

But wait....what about the night time?  Must you go inside?  Not unless you are that unlucky one in a thousand!   Put on a sweatshirt and you are good for the evening.  I've put solar spotlights all around the house and property so that you can walk in your personal park in an ambiance that feels like moonlight, not too bright but just right to walk safely.  The lights stay on all night and no electric bill ensues.  

This spotlight lights the stairway to the terrace.  All the spotlights are positioned to light the floor or ground, not to spoil your night vision.

This one lights the way to the laundry room

This light is just one part of a triple duty bracket.  It is a plant hanger and stair light on the outside wall and a five star safety rated  hammock bracket on the inside wall.   Yes, those are wheels.  You have to have a little sense of humor you know.  Engineers might appreciate my torque management ideas, give me a break.  Hammock safety is number one.

Ours are the only hammocks in Ecuador on wheels, but I hope to start a craze.  They may also be the highest weight-rated hammock brackets this side of the Amazon river.

Finding the 3/4 inch threaded rod was easy.  Try to find 3/4" torquas (nuts) in Ecuador.  There's one store in Otavalo that has them!  The hardest part of this project was convincing my welder that I needed hammocks with wheels.

Well, I got way off topic here.  I was telling about the moonlight around the house, remember?

You have to flow with me now, this is my last blog in Ecuador.  There are lots of lights.  You need not stumble in the dark anywhere on our property.

The number of outdoor lights is classified information.  Who is counting anyway.

 How are you supposed to walk around outside all night without a little light on the subject?

Oh, and these little ones don't count, because they are just kind of ornamental.

Night time is my favorite time to be in our outdoor living room.  I only wish Rachel could have enjoyed it with me in the same way.

Suffice it to say that we wanted our outdoor home to be as inviting and comfortable as our indoor home.  We used many cast away articles of construction for yard art and furniture.   Eucalyptus window headers make excellent benches that will last a lifetime.

 A discarded wheelbarrow takes on retirement as a planter.   Every time I look at this pathetic piece of machinery I marvel at the young men who labored so hard building our home.

Hand fashioned soil compactors are useful to have around and are an ever-present reminder of how our homes were built entirely en su mano.  

Old wooden boxes used for mixing concrete make wonderful planter boxes when attached together, secured to an old scaffolding section, put on wheels, and stained for a bit of drama.

Our Indoor Home

Rachel and I wanted our home to be inviting, warm, casual, and appropriately Ecuadorian.    We also wanted a flexible and open floor plan where the three bedrooms could be used in different ways.  Since there was just two of us, we opted to make one of those rooms into our media room.  We had our furniture guy build us a media center for a big TV, amplifier, surround sound speakers, computer, play station, printer,  and a multitude of other peripherals that would keep us entertained and connected with our loved ones.

Since you can buy recent DVD movies for a dollar in Ecuador, Net Flix on the internet, home entertainment is cheap and plentiful.  We have a Slingbox with a friend in the US that we connect to for televised US sports and news.  Using Skype we sit on the couch and chat with our grandchildren who appear bigger than life  on the 55" screen.  Listening to our favorite music on Spotify is always an option.  Surfing and emailing is done with wireless keyboard and mouse.  The computer and amplifier do all the sorting of activities as directed by the remote.

With today's blue tooth speakers and extended range routers we bring our music and television to the far corners of the house and even to the entire outdoor living room and the terrace.  There's no need to be in the dark ages in Ecuador.  Very often though, we just shut it all down and just absorb our surroundings and remember why we came here.  

Our original bedroom configuration placed us in the master bedroom suite as our sleeping quarters.

We've never regretted the decadence of the jet tub with a glass of wine and music

All toilets should be hidden away, don't you think?

We actually moved our MBR to a smaller bedroom because you could position the bed for the most glorious sunrise over Imbabura.  What a way to wake up in the morning.  We often lingered there for an hour or more with our first cup of coffee.

This is the smaller bedroom to which I speak.  This is where we had our queen bed looking out the bay window to the face of Imbabura.  After Rachel went back to the states, I moved this all back to the way we originally intended.  I figured that most people would want the big suite for the MBR.

We loved this room as our master bedroom and perhaps the new owner will too.

The attached bathroom has a wonderful shower and window that you can look out to Imbabura while you shower!

Looking from the bathroom back to the bedroom you see two built in wardrobes that can come out and be replaced with a queen sized bed and night stands as we had it.  That set up gives you the early morning view I spoke of earlier.  These wardrobes can work singly or together in any of the three bedrooms giving you complete flexibility of how you want to use your bedrooms.

Our great room is our favorite room.  It is where we cook, entertain, and often listen to music.  We arranged the wing backed chairs so Rachel and I could face each other and still have our favorite mountain to view,  Mt. Imbabura to the southeast, Mt. Cotacachi to the northwest.  Sunrise over Imbabura, sunset over Cotacachi.  Yes, we alternate seating arrangements.

The curtain arch was just a fun replication of the big arched kitchen window

 The dining room is very handy off the kitchen but we eat up on the terrace most of the time.

We have two fireplaces that we almost never use.  The house never gets cold.  It never gets too warm either.   We  have two windows open 24/7.  Remember, this is the best climate in the world.

 The arched window above the sink looks out on the back garden down low and Mt. Cotacachi up high.  Your perfect view of Mt. Cotacachi is sitting at one of the bar stools on the 10 foot island.   Another great vantage point is the wing back chair in the center of the room.

I wrote this blog for a number of reasons.  It has been a catharsis for me in many ways.  I wanted to take a lot of pictures of the home we've loved more than we could have ever imagined.  I wanted our faithful blog readers, our dearest friends in Ecuador, our neighbors in Yanapamba, our extended family in the United States and the whole world to know how much we love Ecuador.

We are returning to another wonderful country, perhaps the most beautiful in the world, the USA.  We are after all Americans whether we live in North America or South America.  We have tried to be good ambassadors to the United States while in Ecuador and will do our best to be ambassadors to Ecuador upon return to the US.

The people who bought our condo in Cuenca were people who read our blog before coming to Ecuador.  They are still in Cuenca.  That makes them special to us.  Nothing could make us happier than to sell our home in Cotacachi to someone who has read our blog, followed our passion for Ecuador and want to make it their home too.  If you are reading this now and are wondering about a great retirement lifestyle where you can live comfortably on social security income in the best climate in the world, between two majestic mountains,  your opportunity is in front of you now.

The price of our home including all appliances, furniture, complete home entertainment system, outdoor furniture, umbrellas, hammocks,  lighting, kitchen tools, power tools, plates, silverware, move in ready is $159,900.  

Jim Miller

 Ecuador phone 0988322474
Skype phone (US) 605-610-3323 (Please leave a message)
or email (preferred) caissonrider50@gmail.com

House information:  3 bedrooms, 2 full baths, one with jet tub and shower, gas range top, electric oven, microwave, side by side stainless LG refrigerator/freezer, garbage disposal, (wired and plumbed for dishwasher, but none installed), gas clothes dryer, automatic clothes washer, gas califone (water heater), 55" Toshiba flat screen TV, Sony surround sound amplifier with 7 speakers and sub woofer, brand new Epson printer, hundreds of DVDs, etc.  There is a queen sized bed with night stands, a single bed, two love seats, two wing back chairs, foot stools, numerous small tables, dining room set with six chairs, six bar stools, several lamps.

Not included but pictured:  Tall (dark brown) hutch in kitchen, llama rugs by the wing back chairs

Floors are all tile, window frames and doors are solid hand crafted wood.  Foundation footings go to bedrock or hard pan.  Walls are reinforced with re-rod/concrete columns.  All walls have water vapor seals.  Wall material is ladrillo brick which is hardened brick and back plastered with stucco.  Tile roof.  This is some of the best home construction available in Ecuador and will withstand a major earthquake.

House size:  142 sq meters, 1528 sq ft.
Lot size 1000 sq meters, about 1/4 acre

City water metered at property entry (Yanapamba also has a reserve 14,000 gallon potable water storage)
City sewer
City electric
Perimeter security is infrared (the only gated community in Ecuador with such technology)

HOA fees covers our professional management service, our professional landscaping service, (mowing, watering, and trimming), professional security guard, and shared facility maintenance.  $142/mo.  There are fourteen house units in Yanapamba.

Internet:  We have our own proprietary tower and provider.  5 mbs upload and download,  $50/mo

Water is usually about $8-$10/mo

Electric is about $35/mo

Gas is about $6-$9/mo  We have a gas dryer, gas stove top and gas califone (water heater)

Direct TV is available for similar prices as in US but we use Slingbox in US.

Our yard maintenance is $50/mo.  They do a great job!

We are a quarter mile walk to the bus stop that will get you to Cotacachi for 25 cents, Otavalo for 45 cents, or Ibarra for 55 cents.  Many of us walk or ride our bike to Cotacachi a mile and a half away but taxis are available at $1.50 one way.