He Said/She Said: Our Move to Ecuador

My husband reluctantly agreed to write about the events surrounding our move to Ecuador….from his perspective. The plan was that he would tell his version and I would tell mine. He wrote his story in November. I realized I was not yet ready to write my story.

Moving to Ecuador, living in Ecuador and even attempting to leave Ecuador were stories – adventures that read like two different novels depending on which of us tells the tale. Every day was an event, every event cloaked in more events, the sum of which is unbelievable to me… adventurous to him.

Last week I finally wrote my story – the tip of an iceberg of tales. Here is the recount of our arrivals into Ecuador.

He said…..

Becoming an expat is a complicated process. We went all out – found a beautiful piece of property overlooking the colonial city of Cuenca, built a home and brought over all of our belongings. We moved to Ecuador.

The view from our house overlooking Cuenca.
The view from our house overlooking Cuenca.

To import your belongings requires that you declare residency, a process that can take several months and mounds of documentation. We tackled the process at our usual pace of 120 miles an hour – a pace that has contributed its own fair share of success and stress over the years.

Shippers were hired to load and ship two, 40-foot containers of everything from lamps, art, dishes and appliances to gym equipment and a wood burning stove. Expediters were hired to clear customs and manage the delivery and unloading of everything at our new home.

I left several months early to complete the residency process so the containers would be cleared duty-free. I thought this would take a week or two. Then I would return home, get the North Carolina house closed up and bring Marcia and the dogs back. There were complications.

There were problems with customs and the shipper so our Ecuadorian attorney agreed to intercede on our behalf, but she needed my passport. Reluctantly, I gave her my passport shortly after I arrived in June.

There were delays every other day. Days turned into weeks and then months. Still no passport. This office or that directorate had delayed this or needed to stamp that. The expediter wanted more money. She assured me she could get the containers cleared through customs…..with just a little more money. This went on and on.

Since I was there, I decided I may as well be productive. We needed a car, so I bought a car. I didn’t speak Spanish, they didn’t speak English. The roads up to our house were mostly dirt – well, mostly mud so we needed a four-wheel drive. I researched every car they showed me, most of them made in Japan. After several weeks, I decided on one and used hand signals to negotiate the price. I think I got a good deal.

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Construction on the house wasn’t finished. So, I made trips up to meet with the architect, trips up to meet with the construction manager and the real estate agent. I took pictures – lots of pictures and sent them to Marcia. I wasn’t sure it would be finished by the time she arrived and I started looking for a house we could rent – with four dogs.

On one of the trips up to the house, I came across a Chevy Suburban that had slid off the road in a ditch. It was an elderly couple – no English, of course. I tied my little Tonka Toy Grand Vitara up to their number and pulled them right out of the ditch. We were all shocked, but that little car turned out to be a monster.

I moved out of the hotel and rented a condo, explored the indigenous markets, found the grocery store, the post office and the best place for a cappuccino. I got to know some of the other ex-pats and went to the weekly social.

Four months had passed, still no passport. It had became apparent that I wouldn’t make it back home to help Marcia bring the dogs over. We talked every day by Skype but we had been living in two different worlds. Finally, she would arrive this week.

I hired a driver to bring us back from the airport in Quito with the four dogs. It was an 8-hour drive and her flight didn’t arrive until 11pm. We would drive through the night.

The three dogs in their kennels came out first. Then I saw her. I was so excited for our new memories to begin.

She said…..

It was like a band-aid being ripped off your arm. We knew it was going to happen but when it did, we weren’t ready (I wasn’t ready) and it stung.

We were having coffee when the email came that the containers with all of our belongings would arrive in Ecuador in three days time…two weeks early.

It was decided my husband would go over to attend to the details and everything went into high gear. That was early June. I didn’t see him again until October.

When he left, my next marathon was about 16 weeks out. It took a few weeks of denial but once I accepted that he couldn’t come home, I settled into my training. Everything I did that summer seemed to have a finality to it. The summer was very introspective.

Dakota and I sat on the back porch the last night we were in North Carolina.
Dakota and I sat on the back porch the last night we were in North Carolina.

After the marathon, I was home for one last week. I gave away the houseplants, brought everything in from the porch. The jeep dealer was going to buy my jeep back and the day before the flight, I took it to them. The tears were flowing before I reached the end of the drive and I sobbed all the way there. I didn’t want to sell my Jeep, I didn’t want to leave my home, I didn’t want to go. It was too late for these thoughts.

I rented a pick-up truck to carry the dog’s kennels already assembled to the airport. Our flight left from Atlanta, a 3-hour drive. We left early.

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Dakota, Dudley and Dylan at the Atlanta airport.

Check-in took two hours. Three dogs went into kennels and were loaded into the belly of the plane. Damen, the oldest, was in a carrier under the seat in front of me. He slept the entire flight. I did not.

We landed in Quito at 11pm and just beyond the stacks of the dog’s kennels in the baggage claim area I could see my husband’s face. All my worries subsided and, in spite of being emotionally and physically exhausted, I was excited. We set out for the drive over the mountain to our new home.

The driver got lost in Quito and drove around for over an hour. There were 8 more hours of driving after that. The dogs were everywhere. It was a very small car. The kennels strapped on top. There was an avalanche of rain. The car leaked. My husband sat in the front passenger’s side.

The two small dogs were scared and wouldn’t leave me. I couldn’t sit up any longer and crawled in the back with Dudley and Dylan. Dylan wouldn’t scoot over. I had to lie down. The floor was wet. I couldn’t believe this – I was so tired. I slept in what felt like a small mud puddle. I was cold. It didn’t matter. For at least a little while I slept. Off and on I heard the rain pouring outside. I felt a little drip on my back.

We pulled into the driveway of our new home around 10am. My husband was excited and proud. The dogs jumped out all at once. The driver was so kind. He spoke English and said to me, “Welcome home.”

I stepped out of the car and both feet sank to my ankles in mud.

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5 thoughts on “He Said/She Said: Our Move to Ecuador

  1. Thanks for taking the time to write the accounts out – both of you. Sounds unbelievably hard. We’ve moved family and cats and motorcycle to first England and then Germany, but that was a piece of cake because we spoke both languages and they are very orderly societies! Whew!

    Maria

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  2. Marcia, I love your story telling and this “He-said, She-said” is a great format. I can’t wait till the next episode. This will be another blog that I share with my wife – something I seldon do — not much on social media anyway. You and your hubby’s relationship is enduring and obvious – I shared a previous blog of yours with my wife that reflected this. Debra and I have had some similar (and some ongoing) episodes since my retirement – selling our previous home in the city, buying a townhouse (which we sill have – by choice) and a host of other challenges and activities to find land, work with architect on our old farm house look, and build with intermittent and recurring problems – including 2 small land slides. I love the mountains and our mini-farm while Debra loves the convenience of the city. She also likes the peacefullness (and cool summer temps) of the mountains while I like the vibe and pulse of the people in the city. So our story goes on to Chapter 2 also, hopeful we can get the right combinations without a total restart somewhere else – but whatever it takes… Thanks for sharing your story – really am looking forward to next blog.

    Chas

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  3. Marcia,

    As your sister I knew before, during, and after, that this move was difficult. I also knew that it was much harder than you wanted to share at the time. I anticipated, though not excitedly, the day that you would share the “whole” experience with us. I agree that you are a great storyteller/writer and reading this first blog left me wanting for more. It is a wonderful picture for those of us who have never visited this country. It’s also very different visiting a place versus actually living there, so that too was a very enlightening glance into Ecuador. I know as someone who loves you that it will continue to be hard to read more about this journey and the toll it took on you. However, I think not only will it be incredibly interesting, and at times entertaining but will also possibly be therapeutic for you as well. I hope it brings insight and healing where needed and joyous memories as well as your story unfolds to us all. I love you! Cheryl

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