A former high school classmate and cherished old friend when reconnecting with Roger through Facebook quoted the old saying: "When God closes a door, he opens a window." The years have seen a number of life changes for us that make that adage ring true. After being blessed with good fortune, a wonderful son and great experiences, we decided to look out that window and prepare for more of what this wonderful life has to offer. We hope through our blog to share our journey from this point forward with family, with friends and with many others. Hopefully we'll make some new friends along the way. We hope you find our tales of some interest, even amusement and perhaps an inspiration for you to treat each and every day as an opportunity and an adventure to share with those who are an important part of your life.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Vaya Con Dios, Mi Amigo!

Two of our fellow bloggers from Cuenca have made mention this week of the passing of Will Lacy. Several others in the Cuenca community have made mention of this event online on their or on expat Facebook pages. Today (Saturday, April 28) there was a celebration of life for Will in the historico centro of Cuenca with many expatriates and a number of Ecuadorians in attendance. For those of you aspiring to come to Ecuador as regular visitors or as ex-patriates, I think it's appropriate that you understand why the loss of this man so deeply touched us. It is my belief that each of us who knew Will and who had made the transition to living in Ecuador not only saw a little of ourselves but also a part what we wanted and aspired to become as a result of moving here.

Will was the equivalent of an ex-patriate energizer bunny. He was always on the go...always seeking and exploring something new in his adoptive land, often inviting and organizing trips or exploratory jaunts with friends. He also was always involved in contributing something back to his new homeland. My first knowledge of Will and his wife Val came from one of the regular blog reads I undertook become first coming to Ecuador. The blogger, Ed, showed photos and described a trip he, his wife, and the Lacys took to deliver charitible gifts to school kids in the rural area north of Cuenca. It seemed like Will was always involved in some form of charity ranging from volunteer work at the Feria Libre school to active fundraising for the Messengers of Peace Orphanage in the Yungilla Valley. While showing us some of what Cuenca has to offer after we had arrived, Will once told Suzanne and I: "Ecuadorians are different culturally than we are...that can take some adjustment and getting used to..but the first thing you should come to recognize and love is their capacity to give generously of themselves to their family, friends and, yes, even to us gringo newcomers, even when they have little left for themselves. It's important for us to be a part of that and give back to them and the community at large whenever we can!". Will was one of those people who was always giving something of himself to those he knew and met in everyday life. During our two month trial visit last summer, Suzanne and I were blessed with welcome and help from more people than we could count. We continue to cherish those people as friends and, in acknowledgement of their help and kindness, we try to follow the tradition of helping and advising newcomers as best we can. We were most fortunate to also have Will and Val Lacy as our neighbors for those two months. Despite their being nearly overwhelmed with a major remodeling project in the historico centro, they became more than just good neighbors. They became our mentors, guides and guardian angels. From finding a great map of the city to sharing how to use the local bus guide, from our first symphony concert to clapping hands with us as the resident ladies of a Cuenca nursing home danced in period costume, from discovering great almuerzo restaurants to taking the bus to a Texas hold em poker game, The Lacys were helpful, kind and inspiring. Despite the fact they loved condo apartment life, they encouraged us and even took us to local homes when we expressed a preference for becoming homeowners. In short, they helped us learn to love and cherish what Cuenca, Ecuador had to offer. Will's love and enthusiasm for life here was always evident and was highly, highly contagious.

In Texas hold em poker, Will loved to go "all in" putting everything he had in chips on the line. It became his nickname at poker games and when he won the first Texas Hold em Charity Tournament on behalf of his beloved Messengers of Peace Orphanage, he signed the trophy Will "All In" Lacy. Will was always "all in" in his committment to friends and things he loved. Perhaps that is why each of us who attended his celebration of life service felt such a sense of loss at his departure. His "all-in" approach to living here in Ecuador made us feel better about our own experience. He also made us want to do more, to invest more and to give more as part of that experience. We became better people for simply having known and been around this man and that, dear readers, is the best measure you can make of what someone's life has meant to you.

If you come to Ecuador and you choose to live here, look up some friends of will benefit from knowing them because they benefitted so much from knowing Will

Will has now gone "all-in" on the biggest adventure we all face. Vaya con dios, mi amigo....go with God, my friend. Surely, you are destined to show the angels in heaven how to go "all-in".

Monday, April 16, 2012

Has it really been one year?

We really promised our readers an update on our resident visa process and a follow up on our thoughts as to whether or not the services of a lawyer should be obtained.

However, we are going to defer that subject for a few days. Reason number one is we really needed a few days to decompress after our four day ordeal of dealing with the various bureaucracies in Quito (it DOES have a happy ending though. Suzanne has her cedula in hand and Roger's was approved. His cedula will come to Cuenca this week via courier.)

Reason number two is that as we write this, it is Monday, April 16th (2012) and that happens to mark the one year anniversary of our first posting on "Juntos en el Camino de la Vida". It's a good time to sit back, pause and reflect, and yes, to celebrate!

At the time we wrote "A New Beginning", we had done lots of reading and research but had not yet visited Ecuador. We were unsure as to whether Ecuador or Central Mexico would be our new home. A lot has happened. We even took time out in the middle of the intervening year to explore a third option: Thailand.

Of course, one of the most amazing things about the past year was the people. The people we met, the new friends we made and, of course, you guys. We are amazed at the number of people that have logged on to our blog and have followed our adventures as we traveled down the road of life.

During the past year, there were more than 9,000 visits to our blog. We began with a little under 400 visits in our first month and are now averaging 1,000 per month. About 55% of our visits came from "South of Zero".

(A big thank you to Mary and Steve for the wonderful job they do and the great service they provide. South of Zero made our homework and research so much easier when we first began to explore Ecuador and we still log on there almost daily to stay in touch with friends and the bloggers we enjoy so much!)

78% of our readership comes from the U.S. and Ecuador. Canada and Germany together account for another 10% of readers and in about equal portions (Cuenca is very popular with the Germans and Germany maintains a consular office here!). Panama and Mexico accounts for another almost 2% of readership and then the remaining 10% is scattered among an amazing diversity of worldwide sources. Thailand, Russia, Spain and Australia rounds out our top ten.

We also spent some some time looking at what you, our readers, were enjoying. Some of our old blogs continue to get visited so we are glad we included the archive listing on the side for your reference. We also decided to add a favorites list which will constantly update the top ten most read blogs for the convenience of new readers wishing to learn about some of the more interesting processes we went through in becoming "Expadorians" . Based on the comments and emails we received at the time, it was no surprise that "The Paperwork Seems Never Ending" came in at numero uno!

Thank you all for your interest, comments and support. There may come a day when this all seems routine but it doesn't appear that that will be anytime soon. As we wrote one year ago today on this blog:

"We are in awe of the options we have before us and we feel truly blessed."

We still feel that way today as we continue our journey, juntos en el camino de la vida!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Wine Guy Ecuadorian Wine Reccomendation and other stuff!

Suzanne and I have recently been in Quito, primarily to obtain certificados de censo and cedulas. We were partially succesful (Suzanne yes...Roger ooopsie) on that score. Look for more details in an upcoming blog which will be entitled "Do I lawyer up or not? - Part 2!"

On another front, if you're headed to Quito and looking for quality accommodations in the new town area, we heartily endorse the Hotel Sebastian! It's a quality facility at a more affordable (although not cheap) price than the Hilton a short distance away. Even if you don't stay there, take the time to dine out in their restaurant. The house wine at $4 per glass is Concha y Toro and the food quality, presentation and service was well, well above their mid price range!

On the wine front, The Wine Guy finally got to sample some wine from Chaupi Estancia, one of Ecuador's most established and successful wineries. I had heard about them well before my first visit to this country and had been anxious to sample some of their wine. They are located at a higher elevation in the Andes north of Quito. They are mostly renown for their white wines including a palomino fino type sherry which has earned accolades in international wine competition. THe Wine Guy, however, was impressed with their their red wine "Alyce" a meritage blend. Chaupi Estancia happens to be an international member of the Meritage Association which was found by California vintners to create a branded red wine blend somewhat comparable to French Bordeaux. The Alyce Meritage, in my opinion, ranks as the best red wine being produced in Ecuador and is retail priced in the $20-$25 range in Quito. We will be hunting for it in Cuenca and hope any of our friends will let us know if they spot it in our area. It is worth seeking out.

As always, Suzanne and I remain "juntos en el camino de la vida"!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Almost settled in!

We still have over a month to go before our container arrives with most of our worldly belongings, so settling into our new house has sorta been like camping out.

It's gotten better the past week or so. We now have regular chairs! We had been making do with two primitive wood chairs and a table we bought at the rotary market so we could eat on something else other than an overturned appliance box at the bottom of the staircase. (That lasted only about a week and that was a week too long...the furniture box is now doing duty as a nightstand in the master bedroom!) It worked for us but wasn't conducive to having visitors! Anyway, Suzanne ordered some furniture made to complement and supplement the furniture we have coming. We are now proud possessors of six upholstered dining chairs, two rocking chairs (oh, what a blessing they are!), two bar stools and an outdoor coffee table with two sectional love seats. The outdoor furniture is actually sitting right now in our otherwise nearly empty living room as a Mexican chiminea is under construction on the back patio where the set will eventually reside.

In any case we now can actually invite visitors who come knocking to come inside and sit a spell!

Roger's dream of a wine bar is now about 50% complete and our single vanity in the master bath is now torn out and being converted to a double. A bannister is also on its way to be installed in our spiral staircase leading upstairs to the family sala.

We shop almost every chance we get for little things. It's amazing how much joy there is to adding a simple shower caddy to the guest bath (especially since the water is shut down temporarily in the master bathroom). Believe it or not, a big day was the day we installed the garbage pickup holder on our outside wall! We were also excited to add a 7ft potted lady palm underneath the skylight at the top of our staircase. Art loving Suzanne has picked up a couple of pieces of Ecuadorian pottery and an Ecuardorian sculpture to add to the couple of pieces of small Ecuadorian art we had purchased last summer and left with friends for our return.

All these things are exciting works in progress and certainly have been more fun than installing alarms, electric fences and such. We do have to say, however, we spent an entire funfilled day indoors and online after our internet was hooked up! All these events of the past couple of weeks are helping to make our new casa a home. We anxiously await the arrival of our container to make it comfortably complete.

Life is good and the long multi-month process we started back in 2010 to settle in Ecuador is steadily reaching a welcome climax. We certainly have a lot to be thankful for as we look back at the path we've recently traveled: "juntos en el camino de la vida."