Friday, May 6, 2011

Do you KNOW anybody in Ecuador?

Back in the states, I had to announce to my therapy patients as well as my anger management clients that I would  be gone for a month to go to Ecuador, South America. First response often was "why Ecuador"? (while they were frantically searching their geographic memory banks to recall where the heck Ecuador is), followed by, "do you KNOW anybody down there?"

Well, we obviously did know a few people from our last visit and, as it turns, out, that is enough. The ex-pat community down here is very supportive and friendly. Gringos number about 2000 mixed in with a general population of about 500,000 (about the size of Long Beach, CA)- and surprisingly, many know each other due to numerous networking avenues. One of these is an e-mail newsletter called the gringo tree which announces gringo gathering spots, special events, services, etc. Another is a curious event called a "gringo night" to which gringos are invited to a restaurant for networking and libation. Right now, I know of at least three of these weekly events. Now mind you, some of the gringo's at these events are other Americans or locals  trying to sell you something, but my experience is most people are there just to connect with other gringos.

At one such event Tuesday night we met a lovely young couple from Washington, DC here for 6 months, living on investments and an internet business. They are integrating into the Cuenca community by her teaching  English to underprivileged children (on a volunteer basis)and he to Cuencano businessmen.  Before long, we were exchanging telephone numbers and looking forward to a future lunch date with this couple.

Last night Pam and I were enjoying delicious ice cream at a specialty shop just off a main public park(called Parque Calderon) in the center of the historic district. There we struck up a conversation with a very engaging 18 year old "girl" (woman? what do you call an 18 year old?) also from the D.C. area, but someone who grew up in West Virginia. She was traveling ALONE, just in from Peru. Call me "getting old," (and I do realize that many young people travel abroad these days) but we thought she was exceptional, comparing her to the many young people I know in the LA area who have never been outside the neighborhood in which they were born. What a different life perspective this young woman is going to have! But, back to networking. In the course of the conversation, she referred us to a local Spanish school here which she attends (Simon Bolivar school) and we will also be starting lessons (only $8 per hour) Monday.

In addition to these new people, we have contacted friends from our previous visit who have invited us to lunch, and to a Mother's Day gathering Sunday where we will meet many new gringos.

Do we know anybody in Ecuador? Yes, and the list keeps growing due to the affiliative nature of expats, adventure seekers, and others who make their way from other parts of the world to Cuenca.

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