The Ants and Other Adventures — in Quito, Ecuador

Sometimes that’s all it takes to save a world, you see. A new vision. A new way of thinking, appearing at just the right time.

— N. K. Jemisin, Emergency Skin

Moving to Ecuador has definitely given me a new vision and a new way of thinking. It sure would be great if that meant I could now save the world! But alas.

This move has jolted me and my family. In the best sort of way. In my last post I talked about how great we had it before we moved. As we live and learn, now in Quito, I’m realizing that we’re building up to a great life once again. Last time we met here on WordPress, we were still on quarantine. Well, we’re out, and we’ve been exploring. And Steve got to physically go on campus for some pre-planning and get away from the Zoomy Gloomies.

Our first venture out was on a short walking tour with our neighbor. He took us to Parque Carolina, and, man, was it nice to get out of our little apartment compound. It was especially exciting to realize that we really did live in a big, bustling (albeit masked) city. The park was awesome, and we didn’t even see the entirety of it. Of course I had to pee five minutes into the walk, but when I found a public bathroom, I chickened out when I saw three women sitting at the entrance, looking like they wanted a fee for entering. Visions flooded me of the fates, goddesses weaving my destiny and probably adding a new line into my life for “chickening.” Ah well.

I managed to get home without peeing my pants.

Another kind friend took us on a driving tour of the city, and that was pretty cool, too. We got a sense of the scope of where we lived with better reference of where things were. And to the kids’ delight, we made a stop at Parque Metropolitano, where they almost immediately ditched the playground equipment for a pile of boulders. I love those kids.

As we drove around and then landed at the playground, I kept thinking this place reminds me of San Francisco. It was a cool, cloudy day, and the colorful houses were squished together on hilly streets. The park was surrounded by eucalyptus trees, and the smell brought me to San Francisco Zoo.

Even in another country, there are reminders of home. My heart goes out to my Bay Area home right now as it is burning and smoking and dry. My uncle lives in Boulder Creek, and he and his wife had to evacuate last week. Scary times.

Meanwhile, here, we’ve had some heavy rain the past couple of nights. I think maybe that’s why the ants have come. Perhaps they were looking for a new dry spot, and they thought that coming in through our bathroom window and trailing into our bedroom into a teeny tiny crack in the baseboard would be their new vision and new way of thinking. Think again, ants. I thought about grabbing a couple of my kids, setting up some rocking chairs, grabbing some wool, and weaving a great tale of the ants’ destiny of death if they dared try entering the house. But Lysol was quicker.

Adventures of ordering lunch at Almuerzos, our local (across the street) lunch joint, bartering at the market for fruits and veggies, traversing the streets where cars and taxis and motorcycles will run you over, and figuring out how to launder cloth diapers have all been part of our process of a new way of thinking.

It’s been a lot. But it’s been fun! And I’m sure I’ve given much entertainment to anyone who hears my broken, horrible Spanglish. Oh, and that banana passion fruit that I am “trying to like”? I discovered that if I make it into a smoothie with banana, coconut water, and ice, IT IS DELICIOUS.

Level up.

Until next time, we’ll be adventuring, exploring, and supporting our new community here.

If you’d like to donate to our cause, click here.

Our first venture out to the park — seeing the city, some more mountains, and what looks to be a super wonky building in construction.
A pretty nice view from Parque Carolina if you ask me.
The third-born got a taste of freedom…and wants MORE!
Parque Metropolitano. Like I said, the boulders were a big hit. Note: Asher’s peace sign is a no-no here. Only thumbs up from now on.
I really have no idea what kind of juice this is. Yay for language barriers being the impetus for new experiences!
THE ANTS!! Pray for us as we defend our home.

Getting Better at Life — in Quito, Ecuador

I knew when I met you adventure was going to happen.

A.A. Milne

But did I know that the adventure would lead me to Quito, Ecuador? No, no I did not.

My husband and I have had such a wonderful life together — from getting married right out of college, to moving to Michigan sans jobs and sans apartment, to going through grad school together, to relocating to Florida to get dogs and have kids and teach. Man, it’s been good.

Steve and I always say to each other that we’re getting better at life. We love to learn new things and apply them to life. And our life in Florida was so, so good. We had a great house and big yard. I had an awesome kitchen with all the tools and appliances I wanted. I had AN AWESOME VACUUM (not the first time I’ve mentioned my vacuum cleaner in a blog post — see this post about burning all of the things). Steve planted *all* the fruit trees in our yard. He built a pirate ship in the backyard for our boys. We had our dream screened-in porch built. Our life in Florida was so, so good.

So good that we needed to leave.

Steve and I decided early in our marriage that getting stagnant was something we would actively avoid. Even if stagnation was happiness.

We were extremely happy in Florida. But we had gotten to a point that we didn’t feel we were learning new “life things.” We had our routines. We picked our fruit. We made our bread. We biked around the neighborhood (sometimes picking up abandoned bikes for Steve to take home, fix, and sell). We got lots of free Panera coffee (and lots of other free stuff, too). Life was great! But it was time for a change. And not an easy one.

I think life in Florida had gotten easy. And when things got easy, we started floating. (Not that floating is bad — I think of tubing down the Ichetucknee River, not a care in the world.) But when we’re floating, it’s easy to float right on through life, not a care in the world.

So in January, before Steve had the job in Ecuador, we made our minds up. We were moving to another country. If not Ecuador, somewhere (preferably Spanish speaking — here we go with our high school level Spanish skillz).

Between January and now, a lot has happened:
– Steve getting the job at Alliance Academy International.
– THE PANDEMIC.
– “Quarantine” becoming a word on the most misspelled list.
– My St. Johns Country Day School teaching career coming to an end — through a screen from my guest bedroom.
– Getting fed up with police brutality.
– Supporting and celebrating and uplifting black lives.
– Processing lots of heavy stuff while still being somewhat trapped at home.
– Starting the moving process by selling a LOT of our stuff.
– Packing up 8 big ol’ suitcases.
– Renting a van, driving to JAX airport, flying to Miami for a 6+ hour layover, and eventually making it to the middle-of-the-night lights of Quito.

And here we are. Grateful and exhausted. (Actually, not so exhausted anymore. We’ve been here just over a week, and I am just now able to get some words typed — and not have to deal with altitude headaches.)

We are excited to reset in so many ways: learning a new culture, a new language, a new land, and, not to mention, a new kitchen. I am excited to make our new apartment a home — and my goal in doing that is to support the local Ecuadorians as much as possible. And once we’re out of our mandated 2- week quarantine (done this Friday!), we’re anticipating some awesome hikes up mountains and to markets.

It’s weird working to get to a place in life that is so good — like a well-oiled machine — and then completely ditching it. I’m learning patience in my new life already as I work my way around a kitchen with flimsy plastic tools and a glorified toaster oven for an oven. Part of the agreement in getting this apartment was the previous tenants leaving some stuff for us. In my mind, “some stuff” meant some basics — dishes, cutlery, tools. But they left SO MUCH STUFF — full kitchen and bathroom cabinets. I came into this experience excited to reset to a more minimalist lifestyle, but when we got here, we found ourselves having to go through someone else’s stuff before we could even relax.

That’s part of the process, though, and what better time to do it than in our 2-week quarantine. And it’s fun discovering weird food items in the cabinets. Like Coca Tea, made from the same plant that produces cocaine. (We’re donating that.)

We’ve connected with an awesome new friend, Cameron, who works for Education Equals Hope — a non-profit that provides “for the education of those living in desperate and difficult situations” — and we were able to donate a ton of stuff from this apartment to people who will use it. We encourage you to donate to the cause as well, from wherever you’re reading this.

Though the walls of our apartment are white and completely blank, we can see mountains through the window. Though the rice and pasta and bread and beans take (WAY) longer to cook, we are eating together as a family.

Life is different. We have a lot to learn. Like how to eat banana passion fruit (I’m trying to like it, I am) and guavas (the SEEDS!). But that’s the beauty. We are out of our comfort zone, still trying to get better at life.

And getting better at life means making life around us better as well. We are here. In Quito. Fully committed. And we’re going to live life in a way that supports the people and economy here. Like Cameron, we are firm believers in education and hope. While Steve will be back in the classroom educating, I’m going to try to be in community with people here. God is good. And, man, those mountains he created? They are something else.

If you’d like to donate to our cause, click here.

Crossing the threshold of our apartment for the very first time. WE WERE VERY, VERY TIRED (of having masks on all day).
Yes, there is an electric wire around our apartment complex. Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.
Making time for normalcy — chess and Mario Uno.
You better BELIEVE I brought my starter to Ecuador. Bread has been made. Bread has been shared with neighbors. If you’d like to donate in a way to get food to people who need it here, check out Pan de Vida and give them some of your money.