It is difficult for me to describe the moment.
It was like being doused with hard rain while hurrying home before a building thunderstorm. Or, like the moment you realized while reading the second-to-last chapter of a novel, that this story will not have a happy ending.
I was sitting in a bistro listening to a dear friend speak of her latest goings on. My habit is to be as attentive as possible, while also saving space for a little daydreaming and eavesdropping on snippets of conversation from those around me. Because I was distracted, I was taken by surprise as the deluge of her words soaked into me. It seemed almost incomprehensible as she said them — mid-sentence — a cast off remark from a book already known, and dotted with pinpricks of rain.
“I am lonely,” she said.
She went on.
“I remember the first thing that struck me when I arrived in Cuenca was the scent of roses and a thrilling exuberance that zinged like a current in the air. I tried to breathe it all in, altitude and attitude, but I could not. I was overwhelmed by the fragrance and the opportunity for friendships, creative expression, and everyday fun. I believed at that very moment that I was, at last, at home. And, after all these many years, I feel it still.
“But, my heart has grown weary.
“I am disheartened. I often wish to call on my many friends to visit with me, to enjoy the warmth of shared coffee and chit-chat on the terrace. But, my many friends can no longer hear my pleas. They are gone away.
“My first year in Cuenca was crowned with friendships. It seemed that we were all smoothing old scars of personal loss, and shedding the weight of a left behind collapsing nation. We were fresh and wished that the whole world bloomed as Cuenca does. Friendships came easy, friends as varied as flowers always in bloom. I indulged in childish behavior once again and revelled in every moment. I was drunk on the heady mixture of youthful energy and deep comradery while cradled in the care of stately architecture and my own lessons learned. We were all as one, energized with optimism, enjoying a new measure of affordable comfort, and most importantly, time to share each other’s fascinating stories about children grown and at home, places far away, and what it means to be a family.
“It seemed it would last forever. But, of course, change always comes, and always comes too quickly. And all too quickly, it arrived for me.
“He told me he moved to Cuenca after his wife died because he thought spending the rest of his days playing golf would be a tragedy. I guess he likes tragedies because he said he missed golfing and was moving back to Texas. He left one morning and did not come back.
“I asked him to write, but I guess the link is broken.
A couple I relied on to join me for concerts, packed off to Vilcabamba, to California style heat. Another couple returned to Toronto to help a hospitalized grandchild. Two more couples left due to their medical issues while someone else packed off for India, another to Colombia.
“My closest neighbor, just a door away, passed away this past winter. I have her cat and a few of her houseplants. She loved them both.
“The welcome parties I once hosted are history; the Bon Voyage fetes are no longer required because so few are left to attend.
“I don’t go out visiting much anymore; I no longer go out much at all. Instead, I wrap myself in memories — a weave of alpaca, smoke from driftwood fires and my thinly beating heart. My daily stroll is now through a field of dreams, and although they stoke warm memories, sometimes when it rains, or the clouds dip deep, I chill.
“I long for the comfort of friendship.
“I so wish not to be forgotten.“
These folks are here to say to you, “You won’t be,” and are committed to assisting and caring for those among us most vulnerable to be cast or left aside. This organization is collectively known as, Expat Assist, and their mission, ”serving, honoring, assisting retired expats” allows for a wide array of opportunities for people of all ages and interests to get involved.
“The highest priority of Expat Assist is maintaining contact with folks who are homebound, or shut-in. It is far too easy for these friends to get left behind in the ebullience of Cuencano life. For these folks, water-rafting is replaced by long hot baths. Hiking in the mountains of the Cajas becomes struggling uphill to the market, dining out gives way to a sandwich or soup while watching the lives of others on television. They need our help just as we need the wisdom they gathered, and the fruits of their labors. But, what comes first? How can we best assist each other to have a means to contact others in time of crisis, have a daily visitor, and be engaged in community activities?
To bring both order and a clear direction of effort, the members of EA composed a questionnaire giving the community an opportunity to cast their vote, to add their voice, to answer the call to action. By drawing on the wisdom of our neighbors, a bright and determined voice will emerge.
We want to hear from you.
Please take a moment to respond to the Ecuador Assist questionnaire.
Peace and Love.