When I saw my best friend from high school last year, she handed me a big stack of International Living magazines and explained that an American of retirement age could survive quite well in Latin America. After my initial shock at realizing that I was indeed old enough to collect Social Security, and that that alone could qualify me to apply for a residence visa in countries like Panama and Ecuador, I gave it some serious consideration. I had the vestiges of Spanish acquired in Chile as an exchange student in 1967 and a couple of months to kill during the slow season at our family owned fireplace store, so off we went, David and I, to Ecuador.
The Air BnB’s in Ecuador were a great way to get to meet the Ecuadorian people. We made some soon to be lifelong friends this way. After a week or two of sightseeing, we started meeting families in the selva (jungle) and the Andes outside of Riobamba and we became involved in their lives in ways that we could not have predicted.
We started our trip in Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, by getting accustomed to the altitude of 9350 feet. Quito is overwhelming with it’s 1.6 million people perched atop the peaks and valleys of the city. We stayed in an Air BnB in a middle class neighborhood with a lovely family who introduced us to Ecuadorian food and they even provided tour services to Otavalo for the day.
In Riobamba, we stayed at the Casa 1881, a restored Spanish Colonial Bed and Breakfast with a vintage feel and all the luxury of home. While we were there, our host Santiago got us tickets to the bull fight, a rare event even in Ecuador. We came to love staying at the Casa right in the old town of Riobamba and would soon come to think of it as home.
Our trip to Baños rewarded us with our new friend Sebastian Moya, a guide to the selva and many parts of South America who lived in Europe for many years working as a tree surgeon. Sebastian speaks 5 languages and he organizes volunteer groups all over Ecuador.
Part of Sebastian’s vast network of friends and family lives in Ulpan where they are restoring a 100 year old adobe farm house, named Bio House, for the purpose of entertaining guests from Air BnB. After David helped Sebastian repair his fireplace in Baños, we were asked to join the family in Ulpan to help with another fireplace at the Bio House.
We were met in Ulpan by a rousing group of about 60 school children, parents and dogs all representing their tight knit family structure and community spirit along with their support for the project Bio House. They put on a program of introduction, cakes and dancing while we simply fell in love with the children and the project. In Ulpan, the children have to walk several miles to school in Chambo where they are given a basic education which does not include English. They asked us to stay at the Bio House, run it as an Air BnB and teach English and the Bible to the children at their community center. This was starting to look more like a mission trip all the time…
The story continues in Ulpan with building projects, fishing trips and English classes, but that is the subject of a few more posts. Why Ecuador? The people.