There are good places, and there are bad places.
There are good people, and there are bad people.
But here’s the funny thing – in my travels I’ve also noticed that there are some cultures in which people are just generally happier, friendlier, and more helpful.
Ecuador is one of those places.
These basic cultural identities are qualities that a frequent traveler notices within just a few weeks of arriving in a new country. After several weeks, that initial impression is usually replaced with a more realistic view – averaging down for some cultures that seem happier at first and averaging up for cultures that seem “colder” at first. Now after three months in Ecuador, there has been no readjustment to the average.
My only conclusion is that I must be living in paradise.
We didn’t know what to expect before arriving in our latest host country. I generally take the time to learn a bit before traveling and living abroad, but this time, we were sent at the drop of a hat. We had a two-week turnaround to pack, cancel the utilities, rent out the house, say our goodbyes, and move.
My wife and I are now living in our, let me stop and count for a moment, seventh country. My mother had traveled here in the late 90’s and loved it. She brought back a number of souvenirs that I still have today, but I knew nothing of the people. I knew almost nothing about the land.
Now I’m here, and I have learned a bit. I learned about the culture, interacted with the residents, traveled between snow-capped volcanoes, and admired the glorious wildlife of this new (to me) country.
Slowly, I realized that I was also falling in love.
I’ve loved the landscapes of California, the people of Ohio, the emerald shores of Brazil, the mountain vineyards Austria, the resilience of the people of Russia, the Georgian cuisine, and the warm smiles of the Bangladeshis. But I have never found a place where all these qualities have come together like they do where I’m living now. I was smitten.
On Saturday, April 16, my wife and I were relaxing in front of the TV, binging on some Netflix in our eighth floor apartment. Sensing what I didn’t immediately, Stacy sat up. Ever since after having our first child, Stacy has had troubles with swaying motion, especially when it is out of her direct control. Sitting in the backseat or reading while moving through winding roads makes her sick. As a matter of fact, I have never had the pleasure of a roller-coaster ride by her side – my pleasure, not hers. It wasn’t surprising that she, then, felt it first.
“Earthquake!” She exclaimed as she sat up straight on the sofa.
We’re both from California, so we knew what an earthquake felt like. In any case, I didn’t immediately feel it. I sat up and looked over at her while feeling a bit surprised by her outburst. And then I felt it.This wouldn’t be the first time we had experienced an earthquake together – not even the first time in this country. “Okay, not a big deal” – I thought to myself, leaving The Good Wife rolling on Netflix as the building swayed a bit. After about 10 seconds, the swaying became more prominent. Another 10 seconds or so passed, and the swaying turned into rocking and rolling – and I’m obviously not talking about the kind that I like to listen to.
While I was watching the blinds move back and forth, the plants sway, and our pictures start moving on the walls, I noticed that Stacy looked down at her watch. We had never been in an earthquake that lasted long enough for us to look at the time. We both stood up at the same time. It got more violent. Something crashed down in the kitchen.
Books and photographs crashed down on the shelves.
We were frightened.
Stacy and I moved over to the center of the apartment where the beams were reinforced by structural columns. This happened to be in one of the bathrooms. Stacy and I both braced ourselves in the doorways and hung on. I was in the doorway across from the bathroom, and Stacy was in the bathroom doorway. The building continued to rock and roll. Behind Stacy, the toilet began splashing water onto the floor. We heard more items fall over. We stayed put. Ecuador, our new paradise, was receiving a dash of hell, and we were a far 108 miles away from the heat, the epicenter, which was on the coast of Ecuador.
Check in Friday for the next part in the series…
We do the research. You change the world.