People ask us all the time, “What do you do all day?” Our answer is, in the words of Bachman Turner Overdrive, “We love to work at nothing all day!” Seriously, like most retired people we have spoken to, it seems like we lead a very busy, active, and satisfying life here in Ecuador. Probably the best thing about it is, we feel like our lives are completely stress free. The only time we get stressed out at all is when we return to the States, because it seems like everybody is stressed out, impatient and always in a hurry.
We also rarely check our watches or calendar to see what time or even what day it is because time is so irrelevant to us. If we want to get up and exercise at 7:00 AM, we do, but if we feel like doing it at 8:00, we do. If we want to go to a store today, we go whenever we feel like going. If we decide to wait until manana, we do. Basically, other than a doctor’s appointment we have very few activities in our lives that require us be somewhere at a set time. It’s so refreshing and liberating not to be held captive by a clock or a calendar.
Since a lot of people have asked us what we do all day, we thought we would give you some ideas of how we spend our time.
Exercise: Across the Tomebamba river from where we live is a well-kept park. Every day at 7:00 AM and then again at 8:00 PM, we hear the sound of music calling people from the local barrio to come and participate in Zoomba class. While the sound of music might aggravate some, we welcome it. Cuenca is a vibrant and active community and we enjoy being a part of it. Stacey compares it to being on vacation in Hawaii and listening to music for exercising activities on a beach. There is no excuse for not going out for a walk/run in the community and we really enjoy it, and try to make it a daily practice. Exercise is a big part of Ecuadorian life, and no doubt they are inspired by the exploits of local hometown hero and two-time Olympic medalist, Jefferson Perez.
Relaxing on our Terrassa: One of the zero stress activities we really enjoy is just sitting on our Terrassa sipping a cup of excellent Ecuadorian coffee and watching the world go by. Or, if it’s the afternoon or early evening, the cup of coffee might be replaced by a glass of Chilean chardonnay. We enjoy watching the fascinating Andean sky. The clouds seem so close, you feel like you could reach out and touch them. We will also never tire watching the sunset over the El Cajas Mountains, and the constellations of the southern hemisphere in the night sky always fascinates us.
Social Activities: We have a lot of new friends, both Ecuadorian and gringos, and no shortage of social activities to attend. It seems like there are always parties, holidays and other festivities we get invited to attend. We also try to have a “Date Night” once a week and go out to one of our favorite restaurants.
Traveling: We take two major trips back to the U.S. each year of two to three weeks duration to see the family and to restock any clothing or supplies we want to bring back with us. We have also taken a few fabulous trips both within and outside of Ecuador while based here in Cuenca. When we are not traveling, we enjoy spending time researching new places we would like to visit in the coming year, and that list is growing.
Shopping: Since we don’t own a car, we often go shopping on foot. We know, that’s probably a strange concept for many in the States, but here it is quite common. Depending on where we go, that might take a half hour or an hour or two. Since time is irrelevant, we don’t mind how long it takes and enjoy walking because Cuenca is very walking friendly city.
Keeping in Touch: We try to stay in touch with our kids, grandkids and friends back in the US via Facetime, Skype or by phone. Having Magic Jack is a real plus because if we want to talk to anyone in the U.S., we can simply pick up our phone and call them or vice versa.
Current Events: We also stay up on current events in the U.S. and we do so via the Internet and social media, and we also have USA NOW TV (not to be confused with the USA Channel). This service is offered to U. S. service members and citizens living outside the U.S. All you have to do is sign up and you get seven channels for free, and you can also upgrade the service and pay for about 20 other channels if you want to, but we have no interest in any more TV. Likewise, we also try to stay up on current events here in Cuenca. One of our favorite methods is reading Cuenca High Life online, which translates news from local papers and republishes the news in English. This is an excellent way to keep abreast of things going on here. There are other online resources like Gringo Tree, Gringo Post and many other expat blogs and websites.
Work: Since I’m still partially employed, I try to carve out a couple of hours a day, two-three days a week to get a few work tasks done. What makes it a lot of fun is my work colleagues that I have worked with for years in the U.S., totally support our move to Ecuador. So far that arrangement has worked beautifully.
Volunteer Opportunities: There are no shortage of volunteer opportunities in Cuenca. Last spring, we experienced a 7.8 Earthquake and people were in dire need of assistance especially on the coast. We were leaving for the states a few days after that happened, so all we can do in that case was to make a donation to the relief effort. We have also participated in other worthwhile fundraisers, and also volunteered to take Christmas gifts to the poor indigenous children who live in mountain villages outside of Cuenca. In short, there are no shortage of volunteer opportunities here, and we plan to become even more involved in the future.
Assimilation: One of the things that is important to us is being able to assimilate into the Ecuadorian culture. Doing so requires at least a basic understanding of the Spanish language. We have taken some lessons, and continue to try and study a few times a week. While our progress is slow, it is improving. We do not want to be one of those gringos who can only say, “No habla Espanol.”
While we hardly ever watch our Satellite TV, we did sign-up for NFL game pass since we are both owners of a team in a Fantasy Football League, and it’s fun to be able to watch how our teams are doing. As Stacey has said a number of times during football season, the only thing that stresses her out about life here is how her fantasy football team will perform on any given week. I guess that pretty much sums it up. If your biggest stress in life is fantasy football, you have a pretty good life! We feel like moving to Cuenca, Ecuador was the best decision we ever made. We are really enjoying life and feel like we are living an active, enriching, and fun-filled adventure.
Hasta la proxima vez,
Steve & Stacey