Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Musings on the expat life

At present, life is quite fulfilling, here on the outskirts of Quito, Ecuador....

On the plus side:
-Walk to work in 3 minutes
-Free education for the 2 kids
-Semi rural area (30-45 mins to Quito)
-6 hours to Maria's hometown, where there are an abundance of grandparents/siblings/relatives/friends
-Friends and family visit more often...unlike Libya and Colombia...I wonder why? :)
-Spring/Summer like climate all year
-Plenty of volcanos to climb, including one right out the back door.
-Bicycle all year
-Run in shorts all year
-3-4 hours to the Amazon
-5 hours to beach
-Tax free salary
-Housing costs included...3 bed/1.5 bath, guest house, lots of fruit trees and space for the kids to play.
-Longer holidays than teachers in Canada...nearly 4 months
-Fresh, cheap, ripe, sweet fruit and veg
-Excellent vegan fare, every day at work, prepared by a true vegan chef
-Cheap public transport/taxis
-Top health care with no waiting

-No pension
-No disability insurance
-Costly to visit family in Canada (I recieve 1600usd airfare each year/costs 4 grand when Carla turns 2) and far less frequent visits
-It's not our house...don't have enuf $ to buy here and won't sell our place in Canada to buy here

Expats questioned in the 2009 HSBC expat survey (to paraphrase) "showed that 58 percent lived abroad for more than 5 years (expat-lifers), with Canada being one of the top 3 countries for settling down in, due the best quality of life."
Hmmm....for us, living in Ecuador would appear to add up to a better quality of life, compared to what we would have in Canada. How can that possibly be, with Canada being voted the number one country in the world to live in for a number of years? Lifestyle, travel, work/life balance (more time for family), no commute, food quality, housing situation (can't afford the same thing in Canada) etc...
Ok, so I must have something wrong as I seem to be doing this all backwards!

What to do in the future? Stay here until Ramon hits middle school age? Seek out a dose of healthy culture shock (which I crave) in yet another country? Or settle back in the Great White North to pay into a pension plan and RRSPs? Well, the notion of settling anywhere seems utterly alien to me, I've been travelling since I graduated from high school in 1980 and have developed at taste for the rewards and risks inherent in this vagabond lifestyle. On the other hand, with 2 kids now in tow, a continuation of the type of lifestyle of which some of the consequences are not being able to remember all the homes one has lived and all the different telephone numbers, may not be doing them any favors.

Perhaps it's time to ponder the benefits vs costs of endless wanderings before I become as jaded as Paul Theroux; "...there are many advantages in being an expatriate worker, but there are more disadvantages, and after working abroad for nine years as a teacher in the seasonless monotony of three tropical countries I have decided to chuck the whole business..." But then Theroux always did seem to dwell on the dark, dour side of life, which makes me wonder why the guy ever bothered to travelled in the first place, other than to make a living writing travellogues that chumps like me pay to read.

I dunno...in the end analysis, I still find it difficult to believe that the wandering/searching/restlessness will ever stop. Afterall, wouldn't that be akin to retiring without any goals for the future? Gotta keep life fresh, new and exciting!

Your comments/thoughts are most welcome :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mindo...1300m in the cloud forest

Went for a bike ride today...that's the 1st photo...around to the other side of the volcano Ilalo...then up 800 vertical meters in 9km to the top. That's Cotopaxi in the background. That ride sure blew out the cobwebs!

Left school early on Friday to check out http://www.mindolago.com.ec/english/index.html
for an overnight outing with my class in May. Director lent us the school's new Honda CRV....sweet......2.5 hour drive towards the coast.....spent the night. Mindo lago is one wet place...but not sticky hot. The vegetation drips even when it's not raining. Ramon loved the raft and Carla loved the frog frog concert at 6:30pm. Even had a candlelight dinner...the 1st in who knows how long! Last pic is Ramon doing mechanical work already.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Uncle Skippy and Aunty Annette's Ecuadorian Adventure

Except for everyone having colds at somepoint, we all had a great time. It had been about 6 years since we had seen them!
-The Ecuadorian Chinese food...they didn't even get to eat guinea pig!
-Annette getting a buzz off the coca leaf tea
-Trout lunch in the cloud forest with hummingbirds galore
-Bellavista cloudforest lodege...more hummingbirds
-Having drinks high above the town of Banos
-Tour of a sugar cane processing site....squeeze the cane, boil and reduce, dry into bricks. We bought 10 at 50 cents each
-Being upgraded from a Nissan sentra to a Daihitsu 4wd for N/C...gutless but nimble and took us on alot of roads we couldn't have explored with the sentra. 500usd for 10 days...gas is 1.47 a US gallon.
-Boat trip down the Rio Napo...an Amazon tributary
-Papallacta hot springs....
-Easter parade in Quito's historic centre
-Views of the closest point on earth to the sun...Chimborazo 6300m....from 4000m on the teleferico
-Skippy having a beer with Ramon....well no one else seems to drink in this family....and why do people keep leaving beer in my fridge? For the next vistors I guess...that could be you!
-Seeing many snow capped volcanos including Tungarahua above Banos
-Aunty Annette going native....twice
-Trying hard not to tickle the president's guards
-Toys for the kids and olympic hats and shirts from Uncle Mike...thanx!
-Yes we drove that windy gravel road in the photo
-scorpion on the patio....(I caught it on the road...only the 2nd one I've seen here)
-Ramon carrying on the tradition of calling uncle Skippy by his real name of uncle skippy
-But the best was just hanging out with family :)

Just found out that the day we left the jungle....the town we stayed in got flooded and some people died. The restraunt we ate in flooded out. The road was closed as well. Got out just in time!