Wow, it looks like I'm posting twice a year -- Christmas and Easter!
Since I last blogged we have two more grandchildren (Adeline Grace and Ellis Jon); we both have our Social Security; Mark is still teaching one ESL class per cycle at CEDEI; and I'm still writing (just not here -- it seems). Three more Chicken Soup books have come out and I have four stories in them, which is always fun. I love going back to the States to Barnes & Noble and browsing through the book section and reading my tales.
The holidays are always a time of reflection for us. We live in the club sandwich generation -- meaning we have elderly parents all the way to grandchildren, so we try to visit our kids and grandkids twice a year and my parents once a year. We're trying to avoid the holidays for travel, which means fall and spring visits to the kids and a spring visit to my parent's place in Brentwood, California.
After eight Easters in Ecuador, I think we've only made it back to the States for one of them. Easter is celebrated as a religious holiday in Ecuador (Semana Santa), so there aren't a lot of Easter bunnies, baskets, and all that goes with it. Good Friday is very quiet and most families spend the afternoon together eating the traditional fanesca soup (made up of twelve grains representing the twelve disciples). It's definitely an acquired taste and one that I'm not particularly fond of (for lots of different reasons). It's a fish-based soup with pumpkin, corn, herbs and spices, twelve grains, and served with fresh avocado, hard-boiled eggs, and plantains. The first time I ate it, I was sick for three days and haven't touched it since.
So do we miss our family during the holidays -- living in a culture that is so family oriented and rich with holiday tradition? Of course we do! Recently a question was asked among expats in Cuenca, "Are any of your relatives angry that you moved to Ecuador?" I'm not sure that "angry" is the appropriate word, but it's been a challenge for us. Our boys -- before they were married -- were definitely hurt that we "abandoned" them. They were 23 and 28 at the time -- with lives of their own. Our friends were somewhat confused and hurt. My parents were used to it (I think) because we were missionaries in Italy for seven years during our 20's and 30's. I think it's somewhat easier with sons because both our boys are married with children and sons (as you know) gravitate toward the daughter's family, so in a real sense we've done them a favor. They're free to do everything with the daughter's family -- Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and summer vacation without any interference from the in-laws (us). I'm sure they're secretly very happy that we saved them a lot of family conflict. That's why we try to visit on the off seasons and avoid any holidays.
Our grandchildren will still get to know us, but we've freed our sons up from any conflict. I'm pretty sure it would have been different if we had girls. I think I would have wanted to be more a part of their lives, but you know the saying: "Sons are sons until they take a wife; daughters are daughters for the rest of your life." Both of our sons married Lancaster County girls (Pennsylvania), which means they are very tied to family and spend Sunday dinners, holidays and vacations together.
For the most part, our family and friends really don't care to know about our life here and what we do. I find that so odd. When we lived in Italy, they wanted to know everything about our lives and what we did. They'd say, "Say something in Italian for us?" I wonder if it would be different if we retired in Italy; I'm sure we'd have more visitors to be sure. Cuenca, Ecuador reminds me so much of Italy with its terracotta rooftops, cobblestoned streets, majestic churches, and brick buildings. I feel like I have the best of both worlds: modern living with an Italian touch. I feel that our boys and their families are really missing out on a cultural experience that would broaden their horizons, but then again maybe they don't want that.
Anyway, I've stopped trying to figure it out and we're just thankful we made the decision to retire abroad. We live a rich and full life with no need to have a car (we can walk everywhere); we have an active social life; and we plan to do more traveling (using Cuenca as a jumping-off point). We bought our condo here (five years ago), so we could live somewhere else six months out of the year and rent our place, but we haven't figured out when we would do that. Mark would definitely have to decide to stop teaching and I don't think he's ready to give that up yet.
This Easter we're spending it at home. Mark got the flu bug and he's really sick, so we're enjoying a very quiet holiday. We celebrated last weekend by going to Gualaceo (45 minutes from Cuenca) and stayed at the Arhana Resort, which was lovely. We try to get away every three months after Mark finishes a teaching cycle and there are so many wonderful resorts close to Cuenca, so we have our choice.
I'll leave you with some pictures of our time in Gualaceo.
Blessings for a Joy-filled Easter,
Connie & Mark