I never quite pictured my laidback friends, Judi Porter and Jackie Poehner, as staunch feminist members of the bra-burning NOW [the National Organization for Women], fighting for equal rights and marching for same-sex marriage rights. When proposition 8 passed in California which banned same-sex marriage, and Judi and Jackie were at risk of losing their teaching positions due to their sexual orientation, they pulled up their roots and headed to the suburbs of Portland, Oregon. There they lived for the next 30 years as same-sex partners, without much ado. When Jackie and Judi started contemplating living abroad for their retirement, they knew their checklist needed to include social acceptance and legal protections for those living in the LGBTQ culture. And Ecuador became a viable option.
In the major cities like Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, you can enjoy all of the Western conveniences you are accustomed to. New cars abound, including several brands made in Ecuadorian factories. Everyone has cell phones, and internet connections are just as common.
When I lived in Florida, growing a vegetable garden was like flying too close to the sun. Everything got burned to a crisp. But in Cuenca, where the warmth of the equator meets the high elevation of the Andes, the climate provides near-perfect spring/fall weather year round. The average temperature is low 50s to mid-70s most of the year, with frequent rains, so my plants have a fighting chance at life.
Being younger expats is an interesting experience. Expat communities are often made up of older retired folks, including here in Cotacachi. But being young expats had its unique perks. We soon became a valuable entity in the expat community.
Ayangue is a gem among the treasures of the coast, and provides a great diversion on a sunny day. You should definitely keep this place on your "to do" list for when you come down to coastal Ecuador.
If you want long hikes and overnight adventures, head to El Cajas National Park, located about 18 miles west from Cuenca. The area is 70,500+ acres between 10,000 and 14,600 feet above sea level, with tundra vegetation winding through hills and valleys and spectacular views.
With the advent of more American-like grocery stores, expats started changing the way they shop. Expats often skip trips to the local mercados, where veggies and fruits are a fraction of the cost, and instead shop at the upscale supermarkets, which offer more conveniences.
The Symphony Orchestra of Cuenca was created in 1972, its goal "to promote the musical culture at the level of the largest orchestras in the world." Their vision was to make symphonic musical art a part of every Cuencano's life, offering free concerts to be enjoyed by all strata of society.
Less than two hours on the ground in my new "home," I started to get panicky. I had sold almost everything I owned and cared about and packed the rest of my belongings into two suitcases and a shoulder bag. And now I couldn't even breathe!
Americans often confuse Ecuadorians with our unusual habits and customs. During a leisurely lunch with my long-suffering Spanish teacher, Lucia, we contemplated the influence of expats and tourism, and how our foreign ways don't make sense to many locals—we're all learning about each other.