Reflections: Half a Year Abroad

A mirror image of the sun, on the beach of San Clemente, Manabi, Ecuador.
A row of painted bamboo huts just outside of San Clemente, Manabi, Ecuador. They serve as restaurants on the weekends.
Fishing boats on the beach at high tide in San Clemente, Manabi, Ecuador.

We recently surpassed our 6 month anniversary as “Expats” to Ecuador. Sometimes people ask us, if it is what we thought it would be. To be completely honest, I really didn’t have too many expectations or thoughts on what I thought living in different country would be like. I was mainly focusing on arriving and surviving that initial culture shock that I was sure was inevitable. That first month here, was no doubt terrifying, and culture shock is definitely a very, real thing. The rest of the time has just been a whirlwind, as we moved from place to place, scraped through a lot of illness, and of course survived an earthquake. The earthquake was a remarkable event to say the least, but I’m certain that the soul reaching effects that it had on us, would have been the same if we had experienced in anywhere in the world at any time in our lives. We have mostly moved on from that, although we still experience the rattle of aftershocks, at least once every few weeks. They are normal now, and usually warrant little more reaction, than as if we were in a severe thunderstorm warning back in The States.
Material life, possessions, and modern life are definitely the biggest changes. But, it’s interesting how after just a few shorts months, the importance of those conveniences have little bearing on our existence. After the initial startle of life without things that we think we need, it’s incredible to realize how much we don’t need them at all. In the first weeks and months, it felt a lot like being transported back in time, and we had to go through some mental evaluations of our own to understand what we do and do not need. Life felt very old-fashioned and it took a few tricks of the brain to learn to cope with the things we could no longer expect, after leaving a more modern life behind. I suppose the quickest way to come to terms with these elements of life, is to simply not have them. At first it seemed like, every time I turned around, there was something I wanted or needed, and couldn’t find it. Sometimes we just didn’t know where to look, and other times, they just weren’t available. Other times we have found a desired item, only to realize that the price was so exorbitant that it was not reasonable to pay. The funny part is that now, just six months later, I can’t even remember what any of those so-called necessities were.
At the place we live now, we do have a very basic and somewhat primitive washing machine, but no dryer and no dishwasher. We do not have hot running water; we only receive hot water through the shower that is heated by propane. In our village, there are not any modern grocery stores, only small shops, most of which only have enough refrigeration to cool beverages. Milk, eggs, butter, and the like are not kept cold here, and are bought straight off the shelf at room temperature. We are not able to just walk in and grab a pound of hamburger or package of pork shops. Meat must be ordered, and usually takes a few days or even a week to get it. But, it comes straight from the source, never refrigerated or frozen, and usually just processed before it arrives at our door. We can find basic produce anywhere in town at any time, we just simply take a stroll to hunt down the produce truck. Many of the shops also carry the very basic produce for cooking needs, like onions, potatoes, and carrots. But, for the most part, we just wait until Thursday..or Friday..or Saturday, for when our regular produce truck decides makes a stop on our street.
Social life is vastly different for the kids and I, as we still struggle with the language, which is indeed a huge barrier to making friendships. But, we keep trying, although the process is much slower than I would like. Despite this, it feels like we’ve settled in now, and I’m hopeful that the simple calming of our spirits through a time of such great change, will be the trick to absorbing the language. The relative social isolation has been a great thing for us in reality, and has only brought our family closer than before. We have bonded in ways that I am eternally grateful for, and I’m confident that it is a long-term benefit.
So, with a few minor or perhaps major adjustments, life continues on just as life does in any other corner of the world. The seasons change, the kids grow, we do the laundry and clean the bathrooms, just like we always did before. We still run to the market at the last second for milk, or bread, or rice. Sometimes we get bored, grumble about the weather, and wonder why our house is always a mess. We struggle with outings due to our dogs, and are constantly trying to figure out how to do anything with them…and without them. Most of the time we just wing it, and they are not problem anywhere we go, as long it’s an outdoors excursion. Sometimes they get in dog fights, or disappear for a while, but they always come back, and no harm is done. They even go with us to restaurants a lot, because most of them have outdoor seating, and no seems to mind.
So, we are still us, the same hillbilly folks that got married in the mud in Iowa, but a bit improved I think. 😀


A featured article for the  Daily Photo Challenge: Mirror

13 Replies to “Reflections: Half a Year Abroad”

    1. I think it has a lot to do with mindset and how important modern ammenities are in your life. And time..with time and experience I believe all things can seen in a new light. Sometimes it is nothing more than fear that holds us back. Taking the leap is the first step, and by far the hardest part!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. No, I don’t think it’s been any easier for them or me. I think we are pretty even, as we’ve all had to go through the same social and language restrictions. They’ve certainly had their moments of frustration, and I’ve had mine as well. Some days are easier for me, and others for them. One thing is for sure, everyday gets better!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I have currently been living in Belize for three months and I’m realizing a lot of the struggles I’ve been having go back to culture shock. I relate to most of what you said. It’s good to know that what I’m going through is normal!

    Liked by 2 people

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