I met with a group of people on a tour of this area just a little while ago and I was reminded that there are things I've forgotten since I got here and other things I don't really think about so I thought I'd share a little of that with you tonight. If people on the tour were wondering, I'll bet some of you are as well.
The one that pretty well stopped me in my tracks was, "What do you miss the most?" Wow! I don't know. I had to dig back to when I first got here and think about it. Actually, what came out of my mouth immediately was, "Thrift stores." While I really do miss them a lot, it's not something most people will miss. I have a couple of specific reasons I miss them, not least of which is getting high quality specialty yarn and unbelievable prices. Not much of an issue for most folks.
That took me to then thinking about what I miss that other people might be able to relate to. Oh, I suppose I could have said television in English or English language movies in theaters but I don't care about either. I'll try to keep that in mind, though, for the next person who asks. What else? Well, I do miss some of the craft supplies I could get so easily there but that's not a huge hardship. There are so many things to do here that I can make a few adjustments. There are a few foods that would really be nice to have but I've learned to work around that and to not even miss them all that much anymore.
Of course these are all things. What I really miss the most is my family. I might not have seen them all that often when I lived 1200 miles away from them but I knew I would probably see them once a year and now I'm not sure how long it will be before I see them. That's kind of hard sometimes but I also believe I give my granddaughters a great example for living their lives for their highest and best--not selfishness but what makes them the best person they can be for the world they live in.
Back to things. Oh, I can't buy clothes or shoes in my size here. Cotacachi is too small for it to go over all that well but I think someone in Cuenca could do very well with a store that sells larger sized clothes and shoes. They have a much larger expat community and I know there have to be lots of people down there who can't get clothing and shoes because they just don't make them that large here.
Then there's the flip side. There are so many things here I would miss terribly if I moved back to the States. I would miss the connections we make with one another here. I had to come up with a guest list for the housewarming party I'm throwing on Saturday. I finally narrowed it down the just under 50! That was narrowed down. There are at least a dozen people, probably closer to two dozen, I would have loved to invite but I have no idea how I'm going to fit that many people in my house even with it being an open house where folks can just come and go as they like. I'm also counting on good weather so lots of folks can be outdoors part of the time. Still, how in the world did I get that close to that many people that fast?
And it's not just me. Almost everyone I know has many times the number of friends here that they had wherever they came here from. Just last night a man I know was sharing that he asked a friend who had lived in the same city his whole life how many friends he had and then shared how many more we all have because we live in a community of like-minded people who share a culture with only 300 other people. And that's not even it because there are people in Cuenca where I've heard there are closer to 3000 expats who have had the same experience. We just connect faster and more closely than we do in the States. These aren't just acquaintances, either. Some are, of course, but someone I've known for less than five months told me that if I got a little strapped for money with all I've been spending I've been doing on getting my house the way I want it, to let her know and she'd float me a loan. How fabulous is that? I can't even tell you half the stories that are prime examples of what I'm talking about.
I would miss the local culture. Those babies riding around on their moms' backs are just so amazing. They aren't crying back there--they look out at the world, they nap, they just hang out with the confidence that mom is right there, always. The children are so adorable. OK, children are adorable everywhere but these children hold a special place in my heart for some reason.
I'd really miss the soup. That was only partly a joke. The food tastes so different here and it's so fabulous. I would miss that a lot. I know I've told you several times before how fabulous the fresh produce tastes here. It has a rich flavor that was missing in the States. I love the little celebrations. You can be outdoors and suddenly see a little procession of people coming down the street. You can ask one of the locals what it's about and they will likely shrug their shoulders and say, "No se." ("I don't know.") It might be a school that's celebrating an anniversary as it was when I saw one not long after getting here. Perhaps it's a children's football (soccer) league marching through town with their banners held high. Or it might be something that's not a celebration at all. A funeral includes everyone walking down the street with the pallbearers actually carrying the coffin all the way to the cemetery. There are no cars involved in a funeral procession.
I would definitely miss the sense of family that is here. A friend of mine lost her husband a year ago and when one of the locals asked her if she was married and she told them about her husband, this man said, "We are your family now." If that had only happened once it might be a fluke but it happened to her more than once and I've heard that from someone else as well.
On a more practical level, I would miss the prices. When I was talking to the group today and told them that I needed to find a less expensive place to live a few months ago and told them I had been paying $350 a month, they were all a little shell shocked. Then I told them I now pay $160. I told them I really could live on $600 a month but that it didn't leave anything over for having much fun, though it did include eating out a couple of times a week. You can't do that in the States.
All in all, I think there are more things I would miss if I went back than there are that I miss being here. It feels good to know I've found the place that makes my heart sing. Thanks for sharing the journey with me.