Friday, Jan 11, 2019
It is three years today that I landed in Guayaquil with my wife, younger son, and our dog to begin my adventure in Ecuador. I remember walking out of the José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport with our mini-mountain of luggage, the humid, wet air hitting my face, and being bombarded with Spanish speaking men wanting to take us somewhere. Like jumping into freezing water, momentarily paralyzed and needing to breathe, my journey had begun and I needed to start swimming.
In that first year everything was new, and most everything was difficult. Buying anything…food, medicine, bus tickets, was an exhaustive effort of mind and body. Learning Spanish as quickly as I could, and that not nearly fast enough, gave me minimal words and phrases to at least try to be understood by the locals. Looking back on it, I equate my speaking skills to stone-age pictographs used in place of artistic paintings to convey detailed images. It just was lacking…and in many ways still is.
The earthquake at month four was a game changer to my experience in Ecuador. It uprooted the routines me and my family had created as we worked to adjust to our new home. It moved us from the coast to the sierras, from heavy heat to a repetitive chill, from a laid back Bahia beach vibe to a cacophonic Cuencano city.
It was also in this first year our dog of 10 years, Keeper, died. The year was in fact filled with a significant amount of change, stacked upon an already laid foundation of change in our country of residence, living space, work situation, family, and friends.
Still, it was an amazing time. It deeply bonded friendships we made, both on the coast and in the sierras. It created opportunities for my family to relate and connect in ways we hadn’t before. It required me to stretch in areas I need to work on…patience, understanding, acceptance. Funny how that happens. The work never ends folks. 😉
Year two for me seems ideal. Both my sons were with Heidi and I for much of the time. We made our way back to the coast as a family and had many fun trips and great times together. I consider this period a huge gift. Not many parents get to enjoy their adult children for as long as we did. It felt like a perpetual family vacation.
The second year also enabled us to reconnect with many friends we hadn’t seen in almost a year. New friendships, as well, were made enriching our return to the beach only that much more. My experience in the world continued to expand, seeing new places, doing new and challenging things. For me, that is worth any difficulties encountered along the way.
The third year saw my sons leave the “family vacation” to pursue their own adventures in new and exciting ways. As a dad of two sons, there isn’t a better feeling knowing these men can manage themselves anywhere in the world. That is just who they are. They make me proud.
This third year is also the year Heidi and I separated. It is a time for us to grow individually in ways we seemingly can’t do together. Some nights, as I climb into bed at the end of a not-too-exciting day, I hear the voice in my head ask, “What the fuck are you doing here?” It’s after I wake up, hearing the muffled roar of the waves, and seeing daylight break other the expanse of a calm sea, that I answer the voice.
“I know I’m where I need to be. This is good.”, and so begins year four.