Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series about a family’s move to Cuenca.
My wife, son, and I arrived in Cuenca a year ago and last week completed our residency process, becoming official cedula-holders. I can work, drive, and vote. And I no longer have to pull out a copy of my passport when I’m asked for identification.
We first visited Ecuador in December, 2013, staying for three weeks. The trip was amazing. We ate good food, had fun in the parks, and became acquainted with Cuenca. We also met some extended family who happened to be living here.
Based on that visit, in May last year we made the decision to move to Ecuador.
In the United States, I had a job, my wife and I owned cars, we were homeowners, our son was in a good school, and, of course, we had family and friends. Moving to Ecuador meant leaving all that behind.
The first step, though, was to get a job in Ecuador. Once I was hired for a teaching position, we needed visas, a task that was handled by a husband-wife team of Cuencano attorneys. There was still a lot to do on our part: we had to gather birth certificates, marriage certificate, background checks, a notarized college degree, and then get the all-annoying apostilles, which we had never heard of until we started the immigration process. Since the three of us were born in different states, there was the added burden of obtaining the apostilles from the secretary of state’s office in three different capital cities.
We got our first taste of the Ecuadorian official process when we went to Atlanta to the consulate for our visas. I emailed to request an appointment. They gave me day and time. I told them I had to work that day, and they told me to keep my appointment. The appointment was early in the morning and a five hour drive from our house. That meant staying the night in Atlanta. I took two days vacation and we stayed the night in Atlanta. We were five minutes late for our appointment at 9 a.m. and worried they would not let us keep it. In retrospect, though, I should not have been surprised that the two staff members did not arrive for work until 9:45. We were, by their time, early.
This was mid-July last year, and we had temporary one-year visas stamped in our passports.
Around the same time I gave my boss two-month notice. We were having our regular weekly meeting and I told him, “My family and I are moving.”
“Really?” he asked. He was a good boss and a good person. He was not concerned or upset about me leaving my position. He was only interested in my family’s plans. He asked when we were leaving.
“Mid-September,” I told him.
“That’s great.” He continued: “Where are you going?”
His eyes got big and his mouth opened. He leaned slightly forward toward me. “Ecuador!”
“Why in the world would you go there?”
Though we found everyone to be supportive regarding our decision, that kind of surprised reaction was often the response as we told family and friends. Of course, there were also those who were excited–and perhaps a little envious.
With a job lined up in Cuenca and my notice put in at my U.S. job, we had a lot of stuff to get rid of. We cleaned our house, made some minor repairs, listed it, and went under contract. I sold my scooter and canoe early in the process to get the ball rolling.
We put yard sale signs up and planned a three-Saturday event. As we pulled things out to sell, a corner of the house was reserved for the few boxes of things we would store with our family. The rest was hauled out to the front yard Saturday morning.
One section of the yard sale consisted of my son’s belongings. He happily carried it all outside and worked the customers to pay him top dollar, knowing that any money he made was his to keep.
The first Saturday was excellent. We made hundreds of dollars. Our son made the most. The second Saturday was decent, but only about half as much of a gain. I think only one person came the final Saturday. We still had a lot left. I had no idea how much stuff we owned. So much stuff we never used, so much we didn’t need. Getting rid of it all was liberating in one sense, overwhelming in another.
The rest was donated to Goodwill, sold at cut-rate to kind neighbors who were happy to help out, and given to friends, family, and co-workers.
As we sat in a house with only two beds and couch, we were ready for the closing date. It was scheduled just a couple weeks before our flight to Ecuador. We planned to spend the last two weeks with family. Then, the closing fell through. I’m still not exactly sure what happened with the buyer’s loan. But I knew we were screwed.
We had an empty house, three expensive plane tickets, a house already rented in Ecuador, and our cars were sold. I had also quit my job and taken a new one on another continent. We kept showing the house, but an unfurnished house doesn’t show too well. There were no offers.
We had to make a decision.
So, we said goodbye to everyone, locked up the house, and caught our flight to Ecuador.