It’s interesting what you get used to—and what you forget about that you used to be used to.
Since moving to Cuenca, Ecuador three and a half years ago my wife and I have noted how much simpler our life has become. For us moving abroad and retirement went hand in hand, so we’ve attributed this phenomenon to no longer having careers with the accompanying stress and pressure.
While that is certainly true, being back in the States to visit family during the holidays has opened our eyes to little things we formerly took for granted that cumulatively contribute to unforeseen complications.
Traveling north during the winter we knew to pack warm clothing. Well, it’s one thing to put things in a suitcase and quite another to actually “suit up” to go outside. In Cuenca, a pair of jeans, a long sleeve shirt, and a light sweater or jacket are all you ever need. My goodness, here in the northeast after pulling on more layers than a fancy wedding cake plus scarf, toboggan hat, and gloves I’m ready for a siesta before even leaving the house!
Coming from the “Land of Eternal Spring” I’ve found it quite odd to return to planning daily life around the weather. The only variable in Cuenca is the possibility of rain, so I normally carry an umbrella along just in case. Here in the U.S., every morning I check a website to see whether it’s going to snow or not.
Something else that really caught us off guard is how early it gets dark in the States. On the equator the sun rises and sets around 6.30 every single day. Our first afternoon in the States, it was quite disorienting when the sky started getting dark not long after 4 p.m. Each evening I start yawning, look at my watch and think, “Whoa, it’s only 7:30? I was ready to watch Letterman.”
We’d also forgotten about mail. That’s right, the mail that arrives 6 days a week. In Cuenca we get mail…never. Maybe 10 pieces the entire time we’ve lived there. I used to look forward to going to the mailbox. Now I don’t even have one.
We moved abroad before online shopping caught on. It’s obviously popular now—the FEDEX guy shows up so often with deliveries at my daughter’s place he almost seems like a member of the family.
I will confess though—I love going to a big grocery store in the States. My excuse is I’m shopping, but I’m really there to slowly wander down each aisle just admiring all the choices. Does anybody need 20 different kinds of mustard? Of course not. But it’s great to know they’re there—just in case.
But there can be too much of a good thing. I’m in and out of the Supermaxi back home in 20 minutes or less. The whole store is about as big as the deli and produce sections of the Shop Rite in Hoboken, NJ, I visited earlier this week. By the time I reached the banks of doors in the frozen food section I wasn’t sure if the glass was frosty or my eyes were glazing over.
Two hours later I came dragging in the door with the few items I’d purchased. My wife said, “It took you all this time to buy that?” I think I mumbled something about Count Chocula in response.
All of this is written in good fun, of course. We love our simple, predictable life in Cuenca, and we also enjoy the interesting variety of experiences when we return to the U.S.—even if they do sometimes involve surprising complications.
Oops—gotta go. We’re off to the neighborhood Target. I checked and it’s going to snow all day tomorrow…
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