Monday, Jan 11, 2016

It Begins!

Beginning our travel day at 2:30 am in Las Vegas, the ever bright and flashing lights that make this city so well known, seemed to celebrate our departure toward our new adventure. My sister and brother-in-law drove us to the airport. We unloaded, and with 3 carts full of luggage,  and our dog in tow, we arrived at the ticket counter for our boarding passes. With passes secure in hand my wife, my son, our dog, and myself said good bye to the two terrific souls who helped get us here, then we proceeded through security.

Going through security, there was a TSA agent being trained as all the carry-on luggage, bags, purses, laptops, and shoes of passengers hoping to quickly get through entered the dark cavern of the x-ray machine. The agent training the man pointed and spoke, pointed again, and then the belt backed up, and the same item was brought forward again. More talking, more pointing…and this went on for 30 minutes while we waited our turn to get through. Meanwhile we saw a constant flow of new faces passing us by in the other security line. No matter what kind of scowl I used, or how many heavy sighs I let out, the agents manning the entrance way didn’t care how long I had to stand there. Somehow I knew this was preparatory work for the speed of things in Ecuador.

Hello Ecuador

We arrived into Guayaquil, Ecuador at 11 pm, Monday January 11th. The airport is small but modern looking, a big contrast to the many small dirt road towns we will pass through on our way to Bahai de Caraquez.   At baggage claim we purchased the use of 3 carts for our 9 full size suitcases, 3 carry-ons, 3 back packs and one dog in tow. Cost was $6.

Walking outside the airport a very slight rain and heavy South American heat welcomed us to Ecuador. We were hoping there would be a driver holding a sign with our name, but no such luck. We had emailed our hotel, Hotel Air Suites, in advance to ask for a driver to be sent and inform them of the amount of luggage we had. Their reply was that it would take 2 taxis and run $30 to get us to the hotel….which was less than one mile. They asked if this was agreeable, to which we said yes, and hence my expectation for the name placard. I just received my first lesson of moving into a new culture…let go of any expectations.

Now it appeared we needed to navigate the transportation transaction with no Spanish speaking skills, and apparently no drivers who spoke English. So here we are, 3 gringos and a dog, standing with 3 carts heaped with luggage, in the rain after a long day of travel, and looking lost. I just wish we would have asked someone to take our picture.

Wish I Learned Spanish

We had 3 men walk up to us and start speaking Spanish, presumably to take us where we wanted to go. I said, “Hotel Air Suites”. One of the drivers held a sign that said Montanita and Cuenca. Although we had been to Montanita before and thoroughly enjoyed it’s hippy, reggae vibe, that wasn’t where we were going tonight. Cuenca was a city in the mountains, up and over the Andes from where we were. Our destination was the coast, again wrong direction.

So we shook our heads and said no to the man with the sign. He nodded, turned and walked away.

That left us the other 2 men, but now there were 3 as another man joined our circle looking at our mountainous volume of luggage. One had a clip board and wore a white shirt. The other two were dressed in red shirts and looked like they were waiting for the man in the white shirt to direct them.

So how do I tell this guy where we are going? I kept repeating “Hotel Air Suites” and didn’t feel like I was confident they knew where I wanted to go.

I pulled out my phone and found the address. I showed white shirt guy and he nodded. He told red shirts to start loading our luggage into a reasonably large van….but I wasn’t sure it would fit us with the luggage.

How Many Bags?

They picked up each of our 70 lb bags filled with what was left of all our worldly belongings and packed that van tighter than a 20 person ride on a 12 passenger Guyanese minibus. (Guess you have had to be in Guyana to appreciate that metaphor.) There was still not enough room, so we had to enlist a second van.

White shirt guy was telling me how much the van was going to cost. Since I only know my Spanish numbers to 10 I wasn’t sure what he was saying, so I pulled out my wallet and reached for some bills. Bingo! It’s a $20 spot. But now I have to figure out the additional cost of the second van. I did hear the word “diez” so I pulled out a $10 and put it with the $20. I got a “Si” and a nod from the driver.

Tips Are Universal

So van #1 was filled with our luggage and we were going in van #2. As I started to get into the van, the two men in red shirts started saying something to me. I just looked at them blankly, like at times when I was in pharmacy school and the instructor was speaking English but making no sense to my brain.

Finally, with a consternated look, one of the red shirts said the word “tips”. Suddenly I awoke from my stupor, laughed nervously with embarrassment, and gave them each a $5 bill. I guess that was the right amount because the man with the consternated look smiled big, said gracias, then the 2 men turned and walked away.

My wife was terribly concerned that the van with our luggage was going to go one way, and we the other. What can you do? Sometimes trust is the only answer. I’m happy to report all of us and our luggage made it to the hotel. Local time 12:15 am.

Welcomed Exhaustion

We are exhausted and ready for bed. Our room is clean. It has a minimalist feel to it, but the AC works. I am grateful that we are safe, comfortable, and can sleep.

I encourage you to follow along with Todd Talk in Ecuador. I expect I will be sharing many tips on how to plan retirement in Ecuador with a “first hand” insiders perspective. Heidi and I expect our Ecuador retirement to be filled with new and crazy adventures too!

I do promise however to not only share the positives about retiring in Ecuador, but also those things that may be a real pain in the ass. More than anything I want my blog to be an honest conversation about a man who decided it was time to start living outside the box, and picked Ecuador to begin that journey.