Point of View
Captain and I have been on edge as we near the end of our Ecuadorian adventure. Will we be leaving Ecuador owning a piece of paradise? With the anxieties of property hunting, being in tune with my intuition has been difficult.
We rose early in the morning, to get a move on for our next excursion. I was in the kitchen when Captain yelled, “Come in here right now!” I hopped up from the table, ran to the room and prayed everything was okay. He hollered, “Look…dolphins!!!”
The reflection of the rising sun shimmered over the Pacific waters and the dolphins gracefully made their way south along the coastline. I took a deep breath and let out a sign of relief. Purchasing property is a major life change, especially in a foreign country. The dolphins were a sign from the Universe.
This Universe speaks to us through subtle messages in nature, random encounters, and ironic experiences. As I became the silent observer of the world around me, my life changed drastically. Carl Jung believed these are occurrences are not by mere chance. When a being harmonizes with Universal forces and is in tune with her Self, she can actually shape events. Do I have the power to create my own destiny?
We were taking an overnight trip South to visit Bahia de Caraquez to meet the seller of a prospective property. Captain was sure the seller’s price was out of our budget but I wished to see Bahia so this was a reason to venture south. Having become quite savvy at riding the bus, Captain and I decided we could handle the 6 hour day on public transportation. While we were that far south we’d also check out the beach town of Canoa, a popular destination for tourists visiting the coast.
Captain and I have never been very good tourists. I always chuckle when I am asked if we have been to ‘this place and that place’, all of which are tourist destinations. The hot spots are always overpopulated, overpriced and over-hyped. Most often, we hit all the traps the first few days we arrive, just to check it out. We leave as quickly as we arrive to minimize time spent with oblivious tourists, expensive junk for sale and noise pollution surrounding the spectacle. Most of our time is spent venturing where our paths will be crossed by only a few. In following the road less traveled, I have found more peace and tranquility than I could have ever imagined.
Bahia is a city praised for their community efforts of recycling and boasts itself as an eco-city; the first of its kind in Ecuador. I was interested to see the city and its environmental progress. A tour is available for people to learn about these efforts. Another day I may take the tour but not on this visit; this day I meant business. It was only a matter of minutes getting off the bus that I was reminded, recycling or not, I do not enjoy the city. The air is thicker, people are everywhere and never a still moment. There are many people who can’t imagine living any other way but city living is not for me.
Our appointment with Agent II had been scheduled the day before; when we arrived he was nowhere to be found. Please not another spacey agent! Captain asked a neighboring office to call him and within an hour he arrived on his bicycle. He sat with us for an hour while we discussed our dreams of purchasing Jungle/Beach/Waterfall. He gave us the spiel of “I really want to help you guys out” but then asked us our budget. Did he really think we were going to tell him this before seeing the lay of the land and hear his price? Captain replied, “Not a whole lot”. Agent II then said, “Call me in one hour. I haven’t been able to find the map of the property.” Are you serious man? We made the 6 hour journey here to discuss your property for sale and you don’t even have a map! Is this how all real estate agents do business is Ecuador?
We both were becoming frustrated as our trip seemed to be a waste of time. With only a week or so left, we were spending two days making no progress in our property search. Captain and I walked the main strip for a short while as we discussed where we would be staying for the night. It was 2 o’clock already and tension was mounting as we grew hungry. We quickly tired of the stale city air and endless echo of honking horns. To top things off, the zipper of the main compartment on Captain’s overstuffed back pack ripped; his backpack was left wide open.
It is a common trend for restaurant employees to stand at the door and recruit customers. A man outside an eatery we had passed twice was very welcoming and invited us in for ‘tipicos’, the typical lunch of rice, salad, fish and soup-all for $3.
Captain and I were having a conversation about real estate agents in Ecuador when the man sitting next to us asked us if we were American. The dialog expanded from there and an amazing connection was made. EcuaDon is a veteran who recently moved to Ecuador with his wife and loving his retired life overseas. He talked about their dreams of contributing to the people of Ecuador. What an inspiration he was on many levels…
It was so wonderful to connect with an American who desires to partner with Ecuadorians. I am very passionate about community and long to assist others in need. As much as I want to volunteer, I must be realistic about time and energy. Money has little value in my life but I have been told it makes the world go round. To a certain extent, I feel I need money if I wish to do the great things I dream of…
How am I going to ever make money in Ecuador doing what I love? After meeting EcuaDon, I realized there is a whole population of people open to an alternative way of living. Do these same people understand the importance of health and are they open to learning healthier lifestyles? If anyone could afford my services as a holistic health coach, it will be the population of expatriates. A wink from the world to remind me that as long as I am following my bliss, ‘making money’ will follow.
EcuaDon offered a few resources and shortly thereafter I joined the Facebook community of Expats. Not much time is spent on Facebook but I appreciate the connections created and maintained. After joining the group, one profile picture randomly caught my eye. The photo was in black and white with the exception to her eyes. This young blonde woman had the biggest, most beautiful blue eyes. She was not a typical Expat, much like me. I wondered what her story was…
Agent II never found the map. Captain and I left the bay city perturbed and stayed the night on the coast in Canoa.
Canoa, being the closest beach city from the capital of Quito in the mountains, is another touristy hot spot. The sandy beach is long and wide; the big waves are ideal for beginner surfers. It is also a destination for para gliders because of the strong winds at the coast’s edge. There were fishing boats lining the beach along with simple tents providing relief from the sun. The main strip is much like any surf town; bamboo huts selling shakes and sweet treats, restaurants with outdoor seating and hippies living out of their vans selling their handicrafts.
We found a pizza place on the North end of the strip just a block off the main beach drag. Captain lived on pizza as a kid in New Jersey and is a harsh critic of any pie. He recommends scouting out this small pizza parlor for a delicious slice.
Captain and I stayed in a hostel down the strip. Our neighbors were a newly engaged couple, one from Canada and the other from Ecuador. Both were farmers, one of bees and the other of produce. They talked about the connection with the land and told us their love story. They even shared a sample of mantequilla which I had been wanting to try before leaving Ecuador. The heart of the fruit is tart and has the reputation of being an aphrodisiac. Captain asked them to keep it down…
Whether it is the television at the restaurant or the music overhead at the local bar, everybody in Ecuador likes it loud! The volume only goes louder when neighboring businesses don’t agree on the choice of tunes. Needless to say, we were very grateful our hostel was at the end of the strip away from the hottest discoteques. The party lasted until the wee hours of the morning. The battling DJs were not concerned with sound quality, clearly only volume! Only a few feet from the dance floor, this set up looked out-of-place seeming more appropriate for the stage at a heavy metal concert!
Maybe Ecuadorians just blare the volume because they are deaf!
When I arrived at the beach, I was not prepared for chilly weather. Just a few hours north, it was summer! Granted, this is the end of the cold season and we experienced 2 gloomy days so the weather was not at its best. Crummy weather aside, the tourist town of Canoa was not impressive. My apologies to those who adore Canoa, but there was nothing that set this beach apart from any other beach town. When I asked Captain why he thought people frequented Canoa he said, “It’s in the guide-book!”
Having been in Same for 2 months, we know we are the only local gringos. Three times on this particular day, we crossed paths with an unfamiliar white man-once on the beach, a second time down the main road and hours later eating at the same place for lunch! Each time we saw him, I had the feeling we should talk to him but brushed it off. Captain looked at me as the man paid his tab and said, “We have seen this guy three times today. I think we are supposed to talk with him!” Was the Universe trying to tell us something? Wink.
As the man headed for the exit, Captain said hello. The French man confessed to not speaking English but Captain, being fluent in French, greeted him. With Captain’s expressions and tone, I could tell this was a meeting of fate. The man just so happened to work for the French Frommer’s, the popular tour guide-book.
Though we haven’t even purchased any land, marketing strategies for our dream retreat are being discussed. When people travel internationally, books by Lonely Planet, Foder’s and Frommer’s often serve as their guide. If our retreat is going to be in the middle of nowhere, we have to get our name in the book!
How ironic to meet a writer for one of these big name books. Our dreams are manifesting at this very moment.
With our real estate questions we have joined the Ecuadorian Expat Forum with has been very helpful in getting answers and feeling supported while considering purchasing land overseas. Captain and I have spent some time exploring the forum and noticed a few people talking about the North coast with mixed reactions. We are thankful for all the people who follow the masses. If it wasn’t for the tourist destinations, our private sanctuaries wouldn’t be paradise!
A man on the forum went on to talk about the Northern Coast and shared our perspective, “If I wanted to live with a bunch of gringos I would have stayed in America!” Captain and I invited this man and his wife to dinner. We were sure it had been some time since they had an English conversation living this far up north. The four of us met for lunch and all got to know each other; we may soon be their only other gringo neighbors in these parts!
Mr. and Mrs. Boatmaster talked about buying vehicles in Ecuador and showed us their used four-wheel drive Russian ride. Mr. Boatmaster mentioned selling it and getting a four door. It is totally my style and my favorite color, mustard yellow!! Could I have found my future ride? Mrs. Boatmaster also mentioned an interest in practicing yoga. Could I someday have a flourishing kundalini yoga studio? Wink…
The Boatmasters gave us contact information of a couple in Quito that had been very helpful in the purchase of their condo in Ecuador. Captain and I made plans to meet our new council the very next day.
We headed to Quito on the 6 hour drive across the Andes. It was a long bus ride that I had been dreading but it had to be done at some point. With a week left in Ecuador we decided get a rental car so we could get around easier if business matters needed to be handled. We missed the 6AM bus that was ‘nonstop’ so we caught the first bus and rode to the terminal in Esmeraldas. No longer are we amateur riders! I would call ourselves professionals but we made one timely mistake. Our bus was heading to Quito but it was not directo! The bus stopped for pick-ups and drop offs at more than a handful of villages.
Though we were only an hour and a half away from Quito, at 12 o’clock exactly, the bus stopped for lunch! If I had known we were stopping for lunch I would not have eaten so many treats by all the vendors coming through! Had I eaten something unsanitary? Probably, not much food on the bus seems like it would pass an inspection. Was I dehydrated? Probably but drinking water was the last thing on my mind on a 6 hour bus ride. Within the next 24 hours, I spiked a fever and didn’t feel so well. Shit…
By the time we made it across the big city, ate dinner and got our rental car, it was pretty late so we stayed the night in a hostel. In the morning, since we were in the area, Captain and I ventured off to Mitad del Mundo! Here you can stand on both the Northern and Southern hemisphere!! Tourist trap extraordinaire but when coming to Quito it’s something everyone does so we obliged…
In combination with my upset tummy and the effects of Quito’s 9000 foot altitude, I was not enthused but it was going to be a quick trip to the Middle of the World! Captain and I arrived early so we missed the crowds. It was a massive monument with various educational buildings to explore but we snapped I few photos and decided to leave shortly thereafter.
My stomach started to gurgle and I headed straight for the restrooms. Much to my surprise, there was no toilet paper. I should have known better because rarely will a restroom in Ecuador have TP! $2 to park, $2 for each ticket and to go to the top of the monument, another $2 dollars! Now they are making me buy my own toilet paper?! Precisely why I hate tourist areas, nickel and dime!
I was doing my best to keep my composure as I ran for Captain to get some change. He had no dimes for the TP machine so I darted to the nearest vendor. I was so anxious about getting to the toilet in time, bought a package of tissue and ran to the pot. As my insides unleashed, I wondered why I had only bought one package. If you have learned only one thing from my tales of Ecuador, let it be this: always have your own toilet paper and plenty of it!
Upon arriving at the best hotel in Quito, Captain and I were welcomed with open arms. Our legal counsel, Pitt and Bull, are an American and Ecuadorian couple and for the first time we were dealing with someone professional. Pit reassured us to sit back and relax as they took care of everything. When first meeting Bull, I knew I wanted her on my side. She is the sweetest woman but when it comes to business, Bull doesn’t take any crap!
I couldn’t help but notice the Pittsburgh Steeler shrine on Pitt’s office wall. When I pointed this out to Captain, the guys were friends for life. When Pitt told Captain that the Steelers are the most commonly aired football team in Ecuador, I was witness to Captain’s happiest moment here. He denied tearing up but I saw a tear. Steeler Nation! This surely was a good sign for many reasons.
Sometimes it is easy to overlook the Universe’s message. Four years ago, a friend told me about a book that I had to read. It came up a few times through the years and I finally bought it for my iPad to read on our Ecuador trip. Would you believe this book was about Ecuador and shamanism? Shamanism is a path I am being led down. As I read the book I felt pressured to connect with the real life characters in this book. While stalking the author on Facebook, I questioned my efforts and stopped my search.
Pitt went on to talk about the jungle tours he takes people on and how it’s quite a ‘trip’. He takes responsibility for a hand full of people and drives them deep into the jungle to an indigenous village. When the group arrives, a member of the tribe cries out with a special call. The shaman approaches each individual, looks deep into her eyes and ‘sees’ if she is ready to experience the spiritual realm.
My soul smiled and the Universe winked.
Captain and I expressed our desires of buying a Jungle/Beach/Waterfall paradise and living a life in the Esmeraldas province. When Pitt said it would be perfect for him to have someone in this area to send his clients to, my eyes brightened. Had we just met a future business connection?
Whether it is my chosen fate or my created destiny, as the universe shows me the signs, I know I am on the right path.
That night I met another guest at the hotel. She was a young beautiful woman and not a typical ex-patriot. Azul shared her amazing tale about leaving the United States. I was inspired by her journey to Ecuador in search of a more peaceful life. Before leaving the hotel, Azul left her business card. Arriving at her website, a beautiful profile picture appeared. Whoa! Why was this picture so familiar? Where did I recognize her photo from? Remember the lady’s profile in the Facebook expat group that caught my eye? Would you believe it was Azul?