Last night, I went to the regular, Friday night expat meet-up at the fabulous pizza restaurant, Fabiano’s, in the Ciudad Vieja (the Old Town) of Cuenca, Ecuador. There’s always a big crowd there, but who’da thunk that two of us would wind up looking alike enough to be twin sisters? Another woman complained that “She didn’t get the memo!”
That’s Regina L. Potenza of Cuenca, Ecuador (meaning she’s a permanent expat here) and Sarasota Florida, on the left.
All over the world, wherever American retirees living abroad (Expats) are found, they will gather several times a week, and for every excuse….such as a Writer’s In Transition group, which I joined…..just to laugh, eat and have a few beers.
Here’s the tableful, although truly, the whole restaurant was hopping with us.
And, my Ecuadorian friend, Leonardo Echeverria, had never heard of Fabiano’s though he has lived in Cuenca for 35 years. So, he has now become a member of the local Expat Family.
Today, I’m involved in stuffing my stuff into a rolling duffel and a large backpack preparing to get back out on the road and explore the coastal region of Ecuador…. including some exciting whale watching. The Pacific currents here are warm enough for calving, so the whales migrate to this coast from Antarctica between June and October.
Then, on September 14, I will fly from Quito, Ecuador to Panama City, Panama and proceed to design my trip from there; eventually winding up in Denver, Colorado, for my annual family visit.
And so, the sun sets spectacularly on this great adventure, outside of my kitchen window overlooking the Cuencan rooftops….
…..and the Turquoise Twins sashay into the sunset, as any good Western ends!
Men just seem to follow us! Note the three heads in each picture. Different guys, too! You can never have too many bright turtlenecks!
I just went out today and bought more ($10 apiece). Hope I can get them all in my suitcase! But, if that’s the biggest problem I face in my traveling life, I’m pretty darned lucky….and I’m the first to admit it.
Nine months ago, I became an American Expat to Montevideo, Uruguay, and, as spur-of-the-moment as that choice might have been at the time, it’s becoming more and more clear that it was the right one for me. Many retirees soon discover that the important, bottom line choice of which country to retire in, is a very confusing one. Even when a couple has two heads to put together on the subject.
For the past four decades, International Living Magazine has compiled an excellent list of suggested, welcoming countries, where life is good and far less expensive than it has become in The States. Because each recommended possibility is unique and all are very attractive and welcoming, we Gringos frequently stand bewildered before that foreign smorgasbord, wondering which country will be best for us?
Uruguay was much farther from home than the Central or upper South American countries on the list; and it was admitted to be among the more expensive. However, I had visited Colonnia during a trip to Buenos Aires and was very happily impressed. Much more so, than with the vaunted capital of Argentina! Perhaps for that reason alone, I bought my one-way air ticket to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Trust in my own instincts then took over!
Everything that happened to me during my five months in that little-known country, tucked deep down the Atlantic Coastline, between Brazil and Argentina, was simply a delight! I made many new friends among my fellow expats, as well as some family-like relationships with locals. Though I tried a few months of renting my own apartment, I was soon back at
Kurt and Txepi’s beautiful, new hostel, The Hanging Gardens of Babylonia, on the walking boulevard in the Old City and within sight of the waterfront pedestrian Rambla. A stored suitcase now awaits my return to that hostel at the end of this November, so comfortable was I in my tiny private room there
This time around, though, I hope to find a place to rent in upscale Pocitos, where green trees meet across the avenues and the beach is within easy walking distance. Perhaps I can afford an apartment or will find someone to share rent with because this is the section where most of the expat social life takes place. Sunday lunches at Club Banco Republica and weeknight meetups at several great restaurants….which I missed last time due to the necessary evening commute. Of course, my special section of Old Town has a lot of favorite restaurants, too…. El Pallenoul / The Hitching Post, and other cute, outdoor cafes with bright red or yellow umbrellas and strumming musicians.
I wouldn’t have left in April except that the weather turns chilly in a country this low on the southern hemisphere. Many of us snowbirds flew the coop, vowing to reunite when warmth returns in December. I knew that I would miss these New Best Friends, but I wasn’t prepared for just how much. After all, we hadn’t known each other all that long! But, perhaps, being of an international mindset, with the demonstrated will to transplant, put us in a more connected category than we had ever shared with our Stateside neighbors.
All I know is that I can’t wait to hug them hello again! They are now an important part of my family and not forgotten, even though we might not be in touch throughout this long off-season. There’s another reason I had to leave, which will continue to be the case unless I apply for Resident Status, the first step towards attaining a second passport. Without extension paperwork, I may stay in Uruguay for six months a year and then must be out of the country for another six months. That’s the way I’m handling it this time. An extension would be granted if I wish to initiate that Immigration process. When back in the U.S., I plan to obtain the necessary Apostille stamps on my documents in case I wish to do just that. Otherwise, it’s the life of a Snowbird for me.
The Sacred Valley of Peru and now, Cuenca, Ecuador, have been wonderful and are also filled with lovely friends from many countries. In three weeks, I fly for a month to test expat life in Central America, and then will spend a few months with my family in Denver, Colorado for a long-looked-forward-to visit.
But, all the while, this homeless, flittering, ocean-crossing bird awaits her now-annual migration back to Montevideo….a city which has proven that it doesn’t disappoint.
How’s that for an expat decision gone right?
AGE, SCHMAGE…….MONEY, SCHMONEY!
This was a book title I thought of a long time ago and never used. It doesn’t exactly explain itself, does it? And that’s the beauty of a title. Make it so intriguing that you lure the reader in and make him pick up your slim volume or keep reading on into your article. Or, increasingly in this day and age, your advertisement.
But, the reason I wanted to use that particular attitude in an autobiographical way, was that it does “Say it like it is” in justifying my particular lifestyle. And no, I’m not Jewish, but I love that succinct way of getting the point across with a dismissive flair of the hand or a telling facial expression. And the older I get….. and also, the poorer I get, if that were the case….is even more reason to carry such a happy-go-lucky attitude.
Here I am, less than a month before my 77th birthday, and I feel this truth more than ever. What does age have to do with it? Well, everything and nothing! You see, I’m weird. My family can’t explain me and they’ve given up trying; as well as attempting to talk me out of being an almost-constant world-wanderer: always either on a long trip or planning one. I’m also weird because I talk constantly, internally, to The Holy Spirit (actually, I interview Him) and then I (gasp!) write books and blogs about it.
Old Age has always been a universal basket to explain away odd behavior in an elderly person. Wandering away from home is another common appellation, dug up from that accusatory mindset. The thing is, I write about my international adventures in books and blogs and there’s, obviously, no irresponsibility or Little Old Lady Leanings in any of them.
So, AGE is not causing this “Craziness!” Hence, the Age Schmage dismissal! In fact, the very act of constantly getting older, and yet, remaining the same, becomes a more and more rarified quality. I love to watch the eyebrows go up, when I mention that ever-changing factoid about myself.
And what about MONEY? Many people automatically assume that I must be rich, to be able to afford airfare and all my international expenses; to just be able to pack up and go, where and when I wish on the globe. But, that’s not so! I live on my Social Security alone and I live cheap, compared to most people. I’m a hosteller. I own only what fits inside of my two suitcases…..plus, some writing materials stored in the States. I begin where most people hope they never wind up: homeless! But, this is the true face of freedom!
You can’t have it all and these are choices I have made: No house. No car. No stuff No pets. My accumulation lies within my journal’s memories, filled with reports of adventures and friends collected along the way. I’m happy…..and my regular income helps me to stay that way….but is not the cause of it. I watch it carefully and don’t require too much of it…simply regular dole-outs from foreign ATMs. Plus, payments on a credit card used to charge online air purchases. Debit cards don’t work in that case.
And now, with shaky things predicted to be around the corner concerning our national economic future, I’m trying to get ahead of the curve. And, guess what? Lo and behold, I’m already practicing many recommended tactics: Such as:
“Get out of Dodge, while yet you can! Find a nice, inexpensive but beautiful, retirement land where the healthcare is good and the costs are not so high! Apply for a second passport to increase your options!”
Well, I’ve spent this past year enjoying life in Uruguay, Peru and Ecuador, all of which fill that bill nicely and are on everyone’s advisory lists. Next month, I’ll check out Central American countries; also excellent candidates for living the good life without some of the homeland downsides; even concerning weather.
“Move your money into inflationary-free investments! Build a second income stream!”
I’m studying on that right now. And overseas is where the fingers point. All of a sudden, my journalistic, writerly qualities can turn investigative, because I’m on the cutting edge without even trying to be. I’m experiencing a global changing scene in a very “waterbugish” way. At last, my excellent photographs are about to be posted on money-making, perpetual-stream, photostock sites to generate a safety net, just in case social security gets downsized, someday.
Because nothing holds me down, it doesn’t harm me or dictate my life. I can shift on a whim and respond to the moment; just like a waterbug can, because it never breaks the surface tension. But, I’m also free to settle down with the right person, or in the right place, if I should choose to. How’s that for having choices?
Now do you see how the terms: “Age Schmage! Money Schmoney! Might just say it succinctly? They have both nothing and everything to do with me. That title was probably invented by some ancient Jew……unless, it was me, since I’ve never heard it before.
It’s not referring to your years or your cash flow. It’s speaking of Freedom!
This photo was taken August 7, 2014, when I was one of the speakers at the monthly Writer’s In Transition public meeting. I read from my movie script for an animated children’s film called The Candlewick Question, about an alternate waxen universe, where the candle population believes that their wick is simply for making hairdos. The movie deals with the existential question: What is the purpose of the soul?