Sunday, August 11, 2013

New Day, New Experience, New Knowledge ...

As I sit here in front of our porch windows overlooking the confluence of the Rio Chone and the Pacific Ocean on another promising morning, I can't help thinking how far we've come. To digress a bit, the thought of selling everything back home, packing only one suitcase and a backpack each, and flying away from everything I knew and was comfortable with was not a big deal for me really.

In my past married life of 30 years, I had moved 8 times nationwide from state to state all over the country with 2 children. I had actually moved 30 times in 31 years (not military but corporate). And, then I met my current husband 13 years ago and within 3 months had packed up what I could stuff into my Ford Explorer, left everything I was comfortable with - friends, work, newly built custom home, 2 children, 2 grandchildren (who lived in different east coast cities than me already), and drove across country from Chattanooga, TN to be with the love of my life in Washington state. 

So I know something about starting over fresh. I know how to reinvent myself and merge into my new surroundings no matter where it is, no matter the new "language", no matter the new customs, no matter how I was treated as a minority and discriminated against. Yes, this happens often in the US too to Caucasians when they are perceived to be Yankees or Rebels or not Texans and have the audacity to move to someone else's territory! Not a laughing matter and very real.

None of it mattered as long as I had my family!  That was my "home", that was where my heart was. All else would take care of itself as long as I opened myself up to the possibility of failure. Yes, failure! For if you conquer the FEAR of failure, you will always come out a winner!

Along that path, you discover how strong you are, how resilient and versatile you are. Don't fight it or you will fail. You will never be able to change another culture to mold to the one you are most familiar with. Nor did I want to!  I wanted to be open to new life experiences and, thus, succeeded to establish a good life no matter where I landed. And, if it wasn't where I wanted to live for the rest of my life, I knew I could just move on at some point in time.

All of the moving and changes brought its own challenges and my children made sure I knew about them!  However, as adults they are some of the most resilient people I know. Change doesn't effect them.  They go with the flow and know there's nothing to fear.  

So with that past life experience, it was an easy decision to make to embark on this new life journey of "country shopping" to find a new place to call "home". 

Mike, however, had a totally different viewpoint. He had left his home roots in northern Chicago to chase his dream by attending college at the University of Idaho, Moscow and then began his journey of leading the free life by homesteading 34 acres in Northeast Washington state in the mountain forest on a beautiful river. That's where he spent 37 years of his life building a hand hewn log home, a humongous shop with every tool and woodworking machinery he could stuff in there, and several out buildings. 

Once I joined him there in July 2000, we set out to truly do justice to the beautiful surroundings Mother Nature gave us and expanded and renovated without losing any of the charm and character we loved. It was still funky, nothing square or plumb. But, we had the time of our lives bringing out the best of what we had!  This was his success, his heart and soul, the only place on earth he wanted to live, and he was going to take his last breath while on that property!

So when I approached Mike in December, 2011 with the possibility of moving outside the US and going "country shopping", I expected a resounding NO!  My presentation was done with precision, detailed research, and facts and figures. As both of us are now retired Realtors with over 60 yrs of combined experience, I approached it as a "Listing Presentation" with only one opportunity to be heard, so I had to make it good. To my dismay, after a very pregnant pause, he actually said it had allot of merit and we should continue the discussion. 

Mike and I both loved traveling. In fact, that was one of our "likes" that bonded us together. We had always had the dream of living 6 months at home in the US and 6 months outside the country. We're no different than many and our dream faded quickly with the economic shift in 2008. To protect what we had left and realizing that at our age we could not recoup what we'd lost without working ourselves to death, we decided that the rest of our lives were going to be full of adventure and exploration. We were going to take care of US because no one was going to do it for us. 

Thus began our journey. We have encountered so many different types of expats in our trek across Panama, Costa Rica, and now in Ecuador. We cherish you all and commend you for your tenacity to take the bull by the horns!  You each have done it for your own reasons and in your own way. Kudos!!! We expect that the same will be true for those we meet in the future in Nicaragua, Mexico and maybe Spain. 

In the same light and with the same respect that we embrace your way and your decision of where, please give us the same in return.  It saddens me when I hear the defensiveness and disdain in the tones used when talking to me if I don't embrace the same viewpoint or don't instantly fall in love with where you now call home. 

It is truly no disrespect to you only that this is OUR dream and OUR journey that we are trying to figure out in our own way. There is no right or wrong here - JUST DIFFERENT!  And, that's ok! Thank goodness we're all different. But, please don't disrespect me. That's not a good way to make me want to call your new home mine. 

Our journey north this week from Salinas to Bahia de Caraques, was really pretty uneventful. In all of my research on the bus system, I could only find one bus that left Libertad going north as far as possible to Porto Viejo. It left at 9:30am ish so that's what we aimed for. Our taxi driver from Salinas advised us that we would miss the direct express bus that left at 9:05am. Dang! So we took the slow boat to China but enjoyed our comfortable ride along the coast.

As I was still quite sick with my cold, I did take the opportunity to doze. However, once we began going north of Puerto Lopez, where we had already been, I wanted to stay awake to see everything. Once in Porto Viejo, a large inland city, we were scooted away by a bus "hawker" to buy our ticket to Bahia. The cost for bus tickets total from Salinas to Bahia were $8 each. We finally arrived in Bahia at 4:45pm. A long day!

The trip north was actually quite invigorating for us, as we love GREEN - trees, vegetation, flowers of all kinds and diverse terrain with hills and mountains. It reminds us of home!  We were not disappointed!  Our visual senses began to come alive again. Salinas did not give us that as it is truly the dessert with very flat terrain, very little vegetation, and very few green spaces. It just is what it is - just not what we're looking for.

Taking a taxi through town, we immediately could feel the reason this city has proudly been called the "Eco Green" city. It is beautifully maintained and the streets and buildings are easy on the eyes. We met up with our agent, Miriam Weaver, and she instructed the driver where our building was on the malecon right at the confluence point of the river and ocean.

Upon entering, we were instantly gratified with space, wide open space with vistas of glorious green hills and mountains, Pacific Ocean and Rio Chone views, and flat inviting beaches right outside our windows!  We went from a 550square foot, "cozy" 2 bedroom, 1 bath to an approximately 1,000 square feet 2 bedroom, 2 bath with enclosed porch. And, even though not new, it has character, is appealing to the eye, and has space!

A little unpacking and taking stock of kitchen ware, off we went to have dinner at an outdoor restaurant right on the malecon overlooking the river. A beautiful night to walk!  The weather here has been warmer enough so to feel I could put on summer clothes every day, still overcast, but the sky gets bright and there is always some sun every day, which is good for our souls!

One of the things we have had to become used to is being resilient and resourceful along our journey. After spending an uncomfortable nights sleep on our wonderful Queen bed (we only had a very hard double in Salinas), Mike and I took 2 of the trundle bed mattresses and put them on top of our firmer mattress. Miriam had brought a queen sheet set back from the US and left those with us, if we needed them. They are a god send!

Another thing we've constantly had to deal with is sheets that are too small and are very coarse. Nothing ever stays tucked in and you feel like you're sleeping on sandpaper. So, the new sheets had deep pockets and completely wrapped around both mattresses beautifully and they feel like silk!! Our sleeping has improved 1,000 fold!

It took us 3 trips to town at 3 different markets to do our grocery shopping. The mercado for all of our fruits, veggies, and meats; Tia for dry goods, dairy, staples. And, Yanina for what we couldn't find in Tia. Yanina will now be where we go first. Much better choices! We walk into town and take a bike taxi back for $.50.

I have been enjoying sitting in front of our open terrace windows every morning while drinking my coffee, checking email, Facebook, and the news. I get to enjoy the serenity of watching and hearing the ocean and river collide, as we are literally on the point of confluence. I get to watch all of the early morning walkers and joggers many of which are my Facebook friends and I get to make a shout out to them from our apartment. 

We also had the pleasure of watching dolphins eating right at the shore's edge our first morning here! Thank you Dave & Miriam for alerting us to it!

Every Thursday afternoon, there is a "Booz" run in front of Coco Bongo Hostal in town. A restaurant owner from across the river in San Vicente comes over with excess wine, rum, vodka, tequila, whiskey, liquors, etc. for very good prices. I was able to get an Argentinian Malbec that is quite good for a very good price here of $5.50. That puts it back in the Costa Rican price range. Wine here is expensive compared to Panama and Costa Rica even though we're closer to Argentina and Chile. Go figure!

Friday morning we met up with another expat couple, Susan & Karl Heer, at the Green Bean coffee shop and the most delightful visit!  After a 3 hour nap and still struggling with my cold, we were picked up by fb friend, Donald Murray, and transported across the river bridge to San Vicente and down river to his apartment complex. We met up with his wife, Diane, and new expat arrivees, Sandy & Tom Powell, who live in the same complex. 

After much great visiting and conversation, we all loaded into Don's jeep and headed back over the bridge to Coco Bongo Hostal for Trivia night. A beer and a wine here totaled $4. I made it through the first session of trivia but was fading fast with my cold. Don was gracious enough to drive me home even though it wasn't a long walk. 

So yesterday was a really bad cold day for me and I totally gave up trying to fight it. I took my first nap only a hour and a half from getting up and another mid afternoon. I do believe I'm finally heading toward total recovery but will lay low today, as well. 

Mike took a nice walk yesterday while I was napping and brought me back a beautiful sand dollar, which now adorns our new abode. And, took some pictures along his walk.

The sun has just broken through so I think I will head out poolside to rest on the chaises and heal. If all goes well, a walk will be in order this afternoon.

Well, I did sun myself by the pool and Mike took a walk along the beach. Brunch was made by Mike but I'm not feeling up to an afternoon walk. Looks like another nap instead.

Last week I promised to reveal our budget for our month in Salinas.  I've actually started to do some very in-depth analysis of every month's stay since we started but I'll address that next week in my blog.

So...for the month in Salinas, we spent $1,825 on true living expenses and spent $1,083 on "one-time" expenses including medical and tourism.  We did not find Salinas any less expensive than either Panama and Costa Rica for the way we are living.  Now, as I said, I'm doing a truly in-depth analysis of where our money is being spent in each location. 

I can already see a correlation to eating out more than we ever did at home by far! And, the number of times eating out looks to correlate with the kitchen furnishings of our rentals.  For instance, we have been here 5 days and have only eaten out once.  That's a big difference already.  At home, we ate out 6-7 times a month. Wait until you see my analysis.

Have a great day everyone!!  Our journey continues to unfold...

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