The other day my wife Rita and I were sitting in a local restaurant enjoying a $3 almuerzo (lunch special, typically a soup, small salad, rice, and meat or fish with a juice) when I overheard a new arrival behind us say with obvious glee, “I got up today and had no idea what day of the week it was!” I had to turn around and tell him, “That’s nothing. Wait until you can’t remember what month it is!”
Sounds odd, but it’s true. Living in Salinas on the Pacific coast of Ecuador, there are few changes to mark the passing of time. This close to the equator the days are always 12 hours long, and the high and low temperatures only change about 10 degrees between the height of summer and the depths of winter. It’s surprisingly easy to find yourself trying to remember if it’s March or October.
What’s more, where we’re situated on the Santa Elena peninsula has a very dry climate—about the same average rainfall as Las Vegas—so every day the weather is pretty much like the one before and the one to come. With no big weather events to break up the days, you soon start to feel like you are truly living in an endless summer.
It sounds ideal, and most people I talk to do enjoy it very much. However, for the new expat, it is sometimes hard to deal with. For some, that feeling of not knowing what day it is can leave them feeling rootless and adrift. This is especially true for the newly retired, who also may find themselves for the first time in their lives with nothing to do to occupy their days.
Fortunately, there are many ways to combat this problem.
For some, this is a great opportunity to catch up on your reading. With e-books and e-readers so prevalent today, there is no problem with trying to find an English-language bookstore. Many expats take this route, and book clubs are common expat gatherings.
In Salinas, like many other places in Ecuador where there is a growing expat population, you will also find groups that meet regularly to do charity work, learn Spanish, plan day trips, play card games, and so on. Joining a group activity can add some structure to your life you may be missing.
If you have an artistic bent, this may be your opportunity to express yourself. I’ve met several expats who have involved themselves in painting, sculpture, writing, or photography. I myself brought several musical instruments with us when we moved, and I try to set aside some time each week to practice. Aspiring artists often find that new materials and new cultures inspire them and open up new areas for them. Again, speaking for myself, I discovered the charango, an Andean stringed instrument that is kind of a cross between a mandolin and a ukulele, and learning to play it is a fun challenge.
My personal favorite is to get out and explore. Ecuador has public transportation that makes it easy and inexpensive to explore your new home, but you don’t have to travel far. Even setting out to walk in a different direction, or choosing a different route back from the restaurant can introduce you to new sights and experiences.
Like anything else in life, the important thing is to get up and do something. Sure, we may live in a place now where very little changes, but that just makes it more important to make some changes in yourself. Living in Ecuador is a wonderful opportunity to focus on your life and to learn the joy and freedom of living in the endless now.
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