Saturday, February 12, 2011

La Viña and San Valentin

“I’m leaving with or without you,” Mark said, and then our phone connection got cut off.

I had never seen Cuenca, Ecuador; I wouldn’t have a chance to visit, but Mark had made up his mind for both of us. It was settled. In most cases, that would spell “disaster.” But in the next three months we would marry a son, sell everything we owned, pack up life in four suitcases and leave for Cuenca, Ecuador---our new retirement destination. You can read the entire story in Guideposts Books -- “A New Direction.”

Here it is almost a year later and tonight we celebrated “el dia de San Valentin” (a little early!) at the restaurant that Mark took me to the night we arrived in Cuenca (tired, jet-lagged, and barely able to stand). It was Mark’s surprise for me (we always celebrate Valentine’s Day a couple of days early!). We hadn’t been back to La Viña since June 4, 2010.

Tonight, over raviolis and vegetable lasagna, we talked about the things that had changed in a year! It’s mind boggling when you stop to take it all in, but it all seems so natural to us now. More and more Americans are flocking to Cuenca; I can’t go outside for a walk without running into at least four or five Americans. They’re everywhere! Tonight on a walk with Mocha a “gentleman” handed me his business card and said he’s starting up his internet marketing business here. It seems that Cuenca is the meca -- not only for retirees -- but for entrepreneurs as well (young people in their early 30’s). I gracefully took his card and continued on my walk.

During dinner at LaViña there were five American couples, two French, one Ecuadorian and one Asian couple. It was a nice meeting of the worlds on "Valentine’s Day." What seemed a little “strange” at first all seems perfectly normal now: hailing a taxi, walking the cobblestone streets, carrying an umbrella (because you just never know when it’s going to rain), and planting my feet firmly before taking a picture instead of walking and talking at the same time.

We have survived the “crisis six-month period” as it is called; not all couples make it that far. In fact, in the book Culture Shock it's the most crucial period. Unfortunately this weekend there are some couples that won't be celebrating Valentine's Day: one or the other has decided that Cuenca isn’t for them and they are packing up and leaving for the States.

It’s not just about love, it’s about the ability to adapt to a new language and culture and -- frankly -- some folks cannot. Fortunately, we had the experience when we were in our 20’s and 30’ which made language and cultural learning more of a joy than a “pain.”

So we toast to our new life in Ecuador with flowers, wine, and dinner at La Viña – being able to speak both Italian and Spanish—(what a gift!). 

And tonight we walked along the river and counted our blessings (again!). It’s not even Valentine’s Day, but we are thankful for all of God’s blessings in our lives—both big and small.

Con Mucho Amor,

Connie and Mark

A Saturday Night Wedding!

Front Entrance of La Viña

Vegetable Lasagna
La Viña from the street

La Viña -- side room

Buon Appetito!

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