Friday evening took us to ExPat night and we sat at a long table full of people we know and got to know each other just a little better. One fellow sat down beside Shelley and they talked about what it takes to be an ExPat. The fellow said he felt the general nature of an ExPat was changing. In the past they seemed to be mostly adventurers; people who had done a lot of travelling throughout their lives and just happened to end up in Ecuador.
"These days" he said "there seems to be economic reasons & political reasons; more so than in the past."
Shelley spoke to the fact that nevertheless most of the ExPats still seemed to have a sense of adventure. Later when she thought about it some more she decided that since now the world had become so very small, with airplanes, the World Wide Web, television & even Skype the dedication to that sense of adventure didn't need to be as strong. Thus you get families & retirees along with intrepid adventures & those running away from a bad past. We're in Ecuador, the land of shrunken heads & llamas and yet in our own front room we watch the last season of ER with dedication and talk with our friend in Holland & kids in Canada over Skype without a second thought.
"Living on our boat in Canada was more isolating that living here" Shelley told the fellow while laughing and gesturing to the long table of friends. The fellow laughed too.
Even later again Shelley thought, that maybe it's not only the world that's changed but the people too. The retirees here are all children of the 50's, 60's & beyond when the world (for better or worse) did change a lot. Fear of change (of something different) is still strong in us but maybe it's weakened a little over the years? In any case, at ExPat night you see a bunch of people that are happy where they are and everyone has a story.
We've heard rumours the city of Cuenca is going to shut down the tourist bureau just off the main square and that the event calendar that was published each month is going to be discontinued. Budget cuts are the reason, of course. There doesn't seem to be any entertainment in the gazebo in the main square on Sundays these days either and perhaps this was also a fatality of budgeting. We continue to go downtown on Sundays but these days we sit in the main square and people watch until we're fortified for our fruit/vegetable shop at the 10 de Agosto market. We're regulars there now and know what a bag of tomatoes or a papaya should cost and Brian & Fredi always stop with a couple of the ladies so that Fredi can pay her respects. Loyal to a fault, Brian always got a roast pig lunch from one of the ladies upstairs until last Sunday she wasn't there and he was forced to go to another vendor. He got almost twice as much meat! Perhaps it's only a first time customer bonus; often this will be the case. When we first moved to Cuenca we used the event calendar a lot but this dwindled as we set up a routine and got to know where to go when festival days were happening. Gringo Tree also provides information on events, so we won't miss the calendar that much but we're sure tourists will.
Having determined to spend a non-social week, we still had to think up things to entertain ourselves and decided to go on one of our serendipity bus adventures. We picked up the No. 1B on Gran Colombia and rode it up into the dusty hills behind the village of Sayausi. We saw goats & sheep & cows & fields of corn and our route took us along the Toma Bamba River where at one point we saw a tennis court as nice as one you'd see at an upscale country club in Vancouver. There the tennis court was, surrounded by dirt fields & older houses, looking pristine and wonderful.
"Twenty years from now" Brian conjectured "this whole strip along the river will probably be very upscale with new homes everywhere".
A little further down the road we were amused at what appeared to be a mock African Village replete with thatched cabanas. The sign said that it was a restaurant, aptly called Las Cabanas.
On our determinedly non-social week, we keep running into people. We ran into a friend downtown & chatted on a street corner for 20 minutes; walking in our neighbourhood, a friend honked at us as he drove by (we craned our necks & waved) and we ran into a couple we know at Feria Libra & gabbled with them for half an hour. We'd gone to Feria Libra to pick up a day pack & a fine toothed comb to brush the gravy out of Fredi's mustache from time to time. Both items we were able to pick up within 15 minutes of hitting the market. Brian did his usual Fredi meet Ecuadorians routine & then we detoured to take the obligatory look at the animals and ran into our friends. It's nice to be in a place small enough and to have been there long enough that this running into people happens from time to time. It makes you feel right at home.