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.
Christine went on to mentor me on the meaning of the five. "You have to have a community of friends you can count on; a Cuenca family. People you can share your deepest secrets with. Someone you can call if you've fallen on the sidewalk and hurt yourself. People who will show."
The five-month whale-watching season on the Pacific coast of Ecuador runs from June through October every year. By the time these awe-inspiring animals reach my waterside wonderland, they have traveled 4,100 miles north from the frigid waters of Antarctica.
A lot of people in Ecuador, locals and expats alike, do just fine without ever owning a car. In fact, getting around without one is part of the healthier lifestyle that they enjoy.
When I lived in Florida, I used to joke that my truck had more dates than me. I am not a professional mover, but by the time we sold our truck, I could have been—we had moved so many times. So, now, I'd do almost anything to avoid it.
I'm standing on the rooftop ledge of Todos Santos church in Cuenca. This three-foot ledge encircling the steeple and bell tower is one of the best places to get a 360-degree bird's-eye view of the entire city. Although the drop is approximately 30 feet and there are no safety barriers, the view is inescapably beautiful, so for me it was worth the risk.
After six wonderful years in Ecuador, Rita and I are making preparations to move on. Our beachfront condo in the resort city of Salinas is officially on the market.
With its population blossoming from 500,000 to 700,000, and tourism increasing by 30% over the last decade, Cuenca—a UNESCO Heritage site—is positioned as the new "hip" place for gap-year students, curious tourists, and those of us looking for the retirement promised land.
Flowers are a big deal in Ecuador. Walk around downtown Cuenca and you'll see flower-filled window boxes hanging from the French-inspired architecture. You can even take a stroll in Parisian-style parks filled with colorful gardens.
In life, we often take each other so seriously. We take offense when none is meant. Or step on someone else's toes without intending to. We communicate poorly.