Gringo, go home!! An expat pays a visit to the homeland
Editor´s note: Edd Staton is a Cuenca resident, writer and community activist. He is author of the Edd Said blog, www.eddsaid.blogspot.com, and writes a column for Cuenca´s afternoon newspaper, La Tarde.
I am back in the U.S. with my wife for the first time in seven months. We plan to spend five weeks visiting family and friends. I am of course very excited to be seeing our son and daughter and their spouses. Spending time with other relatives and good friends is always fun. And I really look forward to enjoying some of my favorite foods (look out, Popeye’s—here I come) again that aren’t available in Cuenca.
People who have lived in Cuenca longer than us caution that we should expect two things. The first one is obvious — sticker shock. I can already picture myself saying, “What? $15 for lunch?? In Cuenca we’ve had better meals for $2!! That’s ridiculous!”
We’ve also been warned not to be overly enthusiastic about our new life. “Normal” people are of course curious about why we’ve done this “crazy” thing and will ask questions. But gushing on and on about the food, the friends, the trips can make some folks uncomfortable about their normalcy, and what’s the point in that? Better to dial it down a few notches and then inquire what’s new with them.
In setting up plans for where we’re going to stay and what we’re going to do I’ve noticed a third factor for which I’m starting to mentally prepare. The tone of many emails from our acquaintances about our visit is borderline manic—“so-exactly-when-are-you-going-to-be-here-and-what-are-your-plans-and-oh-gosh-i-hope-we-can-fit-that-into-our-schedule”—and I’m like, “Whoa!”
It’s amazing to realize that we were definitely card-carrying members of that rat race until just a few short months ago, and that we have unwittingly changed so much so quickly in this more peaceful environment. Re-entering our old world I picture myself like Keanu Reeves at the end of the first Matrix movie where Agent Smith is raining blows left and right and Neo is effortlessly blocking them as if in slow motion.
I’ve already made the mistake of pointing out to a friend the go-go/rush-rush/pant-pant tension of his communication and inadvertently offending him (“Well, I guess some of us aren’t as fortunate as you, Edd”—oops). So like the enthusiasm thing, it appears less is more.
I don’t miss anything about actually living in the US. For example, we love not owning a car in Ecuador, and I dread driving, getting behind the wheel of that rental car at the airport. Our first stop involves plunging into the bedlam of Manhattan, the anti-Christ of Cuenca. I’ll just keep humming, “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere—–.”
The fast pace of life —the stress— the frustrating feeling of never getting everything done are aspects of a lifestyle we were very happy to leave behind. So it will be quite interesting going back “home” after so long away, and we’ll enjoy ourselves immensely. But I’m certain we’ll leave thinking “nice place to visit; wouldn’t want to live there” and know we will be ready to come back to the beauty and tranquility of our real home in Cuenca.
Photo caption: NY, NY: If you can make there …