By Sylvan Hardy
In an August guest column on this website, expat Tom Ashdown explained why he returned to Cuenca after spending two years in Spain and Italy.
Like other expat Baby Boomers, Tom had fond memories of Europe from his days as a university student. He remembered the outdoor cafes, good wine, cheap train travel as well as the rich culture that history that seemed to gild the cities and towns and countryside. “I was a romantic,” Tom said. “I wanted to breath that rare air again and to be part of a new lost generation.”
What Tom and his wife discovered when they moved to Spain and later, to Italy, was a Europe far different from what he remembered. What they witnessed was a Europe of resentment and fear, a Europe filling up with immigrants who had little interest in assimilating into the broader culture. They were the victims of robbery on several occasions and she was a victim of a mugging.
“It seemed to be in decline and without the vitality I remembered from years before,” he said. “And it felt dangerous, particularly near the neighborhoods where the immigrants lived, which were the funky multi-cultural places I really enjoyed when I was going to school.”
Tom says he is not surprised by Friday night’s terrorist attacks in Paris. “We were never victims of terrorists, but we felt the tension between the immigrants and the locals. The possibility of it was a topic of conversation with the locals and other expats,” he says. “The sad thing is that this will make Europe even less attractive to expats considering moving there not to mention tourists who will decide to go somewhere else. I’m afraid that the carefree Europe of my early visits is gone for the foreseeable future.”
Tom adds: “One thing it does is make a place like Ecuador much more attractive. Living in Cuenca, I feel like I’m out of the line of fire.”
“I say all this with a great sense of sadness for what is happening in Europe, especially for the victims in Paris, but also for all the people who will lose more of their freedom and more of their hope for the future. Eventually, the pendulum will swing back the other way and things will improve, but it could be a long time.”
To read Tom’s article about why he moved to Europe and why he came back to Cuenca, click here.