Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Five, Four, Three, Two, One -- 2011!

The crescendo was increasing as the countdown to a new year, and a new decade, was upon our group of friends as we stood with drinks in hand on the penthouse terrace viewing all of Cuenca, from east to west. None of us had experienced a Cuenca New Year celebration so, being novices at it, we all had our visions as to what would ensue. We weren't disappointed.

Earlier in the days before we had enjoyed the Christmas parades, decorations and parties, as this beautiful country observed the many aspects of the holy days relating to the birth of Christ.

But tonight was a time for assessing the past year and preserving the good and getting rid of the negative events of 2010. And how the Ecuadorians get rid of the negative! How about burning effigies of those who represent a bad experience? All over the city, we saw life-sized effigies of paper mache, representing many of the world's more famous personalities, down to local notables. Plus many of the effigies were made so as you could design your own including a choice of many facial masks sold separately.

At the stroke of midnight, Cuenca erupted! What a scene! Fireworks lit the night sky as far as you could see. Every variety of color and design imaginable, coupled with the roar of explosions that made it hard to hear anything else, made us have a feeling of catharsis in that there was a sense of relief...we had made it through 2010. Making it through 2010, for many of us "expats", signaled the end of a trying, event-filled year of major transition. And a feeling of great accomplishment was felt by most of us who have successfully made many changes in our lives, with a true expectancy of a happy and challenging future in our new country.

Looking back, Pat and I reviewed our 2010, from the time we decided that it was time to leave the United States and to seek a different life in Ecuador. What we found was that, as thorough as we were in our studying, research, and planning, there were and are many surprises and twists and turns in process, resulting in a huge need for being flexible and adaptable. Bottom line -- it's doable and well worth the effort.

We had considered moving to Ecuador back in early 2009, but hadn't really put a plan in motion until we had done a lot of evaluation, both emotionally and practically. A lot of things had to fall into place in order to facilitate this move. For example, I had to have a successful back surgery, scheduled for early February. Pat's job was a nightmare, which wasn't getting any better, resulting in her feeling a lot of stress. An honest evaluation of what was happening to our country in terms of its future, weighed heavily on our minds. The list goes on and on.

Once we decided in early 2010 to move, we put our action plan into effect and set milestones for getting things done. Would we need a car? What about our home and furniture? What about finances? Would Ecuador be accessible to our families, and, would we be able to travel back and forth? What requirements do we have to meet in order to obtain residency in Ecuador? All of this and more isn't news to our fellow expats, but it might be helpful to those of you who are contemplating such a move. And I know that there are a lot of you these days.

The stateside events mainly included the disposition of our home, selling our car, storing (in our case) our furniture, setting up mail and phone service, obtaining all of our legal documents from the Secretary of State, county officials and the Ecuadorian consulate. Our Ecuadorian attorney had given us a pretty good checklist of those requirements. And finally, setting a date for our departure and purchasing airline tickets. Almost all of these things are affected by timing and, without fixed dates, it's hard to plan too far ahead as the accomplishment of those milestones dictate what happens next. It can be frustrating...the not knowing.

Once in Ecuador, another set of events take over as we transition to a new life, all of which prolong the full enjoyment of living here. Make no mistake, there were and are many wonderful aspects of Ecuador living that impacted us immediately, such as the cost of living, the precious people and the eternal beauty of Cuenca. But along with the good things, we needed to become familiar with totally new surroundings, begin the process of finding the "just right" home, complete the somewhat complicated steps of obtaining residency status, learning the language, and figuring out how to get from place to place.

So at the end of this two-pronged transition period...all of 2010, we come to: Five, Four, Three, Two, One....2011! Everything is done! We made it! We live here!

When the fireworks and noise were going on, Pat and I felt a great and joyous relief as we knew our year of transition was over and that we could now really start living in this wonderful country. If there was an effigy of 2010, we would have gladly watched it burn as it represented a lot of uncertainty, stress and change. Welcome 2011, we're going to have a great year.

Friday night on that terrace meant a lot more to Pat and I than just beautiful fireworks and explosions.

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