Expat Life

Expat birds of Cuenca in search of a roost

By Robert Bradley

I often traveled to northern Idaho ​when I was younger, ​and always loved it. ​I saw a​n incredible variety of migrating birds ​at rest in the wetlands of Lake Ponderay, or among the bugs in the aspens, hawthornes, and cottonwoods leading to the mountains. They relied on ingrained memory to guide them home. Their array of colors freshened the dulling snow with splendid yellows and greens and blues that were soon replaced by flowers and grasses painted in similar colors and displaying equal variety.

I remember when a local catalog company, Coldwater Creek, built a new warehouse one summer, and the returning fall geese circled round and round the buildings both puzzled and nervous. Where is our ancestral home? What happened to our meadows and wetland? They stayed just long enough to teach us their songs and remind us that they would return. Our job became learning how to save a place for them.

Now as we engage an Andean spring, the circular nature of our lives revolves, gaily wrapped in a sheet of blue so bright we must squint our eyes and shield our heads from the overwhelming sun. We are reminded that birds of our own making — snowbirds — are returning to their homes here, and escaping a harsh northern winter certain to come. Some, it is true, will be confused and nervous. They’ve lost their sense of direction. Others will squawk and complain while even more will breathe a sigh of relief and welcome the day when their visit is forever. It is important to welcome each and every one as we learn to save a spot for them, as well.

I met a couple today at Casa Azul. In order to preserve their anonymity, I’ll call them Mr.and Mrs. Smith.

What wonderful people. They are Yankee Catholics who spent a whole day traversing the city, searching churches celebrating mass at a time that was convenient and in a location that was to their liking. They came to the right country. The Smith’s are also searching for spiritual connection within the machinery and rhythm of everyday life in Cuenca. Fortunately
for us​, they possess that rare quality of emanating love that you feel in your bones when in their presence. It is, well … heavenly. They will fit right in and be a very welcome addition.

I met another couple at a downtown restaurant. They were sitting at a table next to mine and were eager, too eager, to chat with me about what they did, what they saw, how it compared to their hometown in Canada, the many improvements they would happily suggest to the mayor, and most important of all, their reason for being here. Here it comes, and I am not kidding.

“We came down here to get matching facelifts. Don’t we look great?” “Yes,” I replied. “You look marvelous!”

Tom and Phil flew south when they were priced out of Seattle. They will fly north next April and live on the streets again. Homeless. They hope to rent out their place here and return again next​ September.

Sheldon lives here because he loves it. He realizes​ his​ renewing spirit of optimism as he mourns the loss of grace in his home state of Montana.

David is here because he lost his love in China. Greg is here because he found love in Cuenca. Linda is here to make the place even prettier and Lorena is here for the light captured in her paintings.

What wonderful birds we are. Listening to nature embedded in our bones — calling her children home.

P.S.
Sadly, I must report that circumstances beyond my control required canceling the art show at MMAM – Vinculo.  However, I am busy working on a show of equal scope and endeavor.

Robert Bradley

Robert Bradley

Robert Bradley is a former restaurateur and Manager of multiple Meals on Wheels sites in Portland, OR. He has long experience in public service and community relations. He moved to Cuenca in February ’17.

  • LadyMoon

    Dang! I was planning to go to your exhibit, Robert. Look forward to it. I’ve been here 3 years (can hardly believe it) and came so I could, at age 70, FINALLY stop working and this was the only way I saw to do it. I’ve heard all the stories about coming and going. The thing I would add is that people seem to think life will be different here…but as some great philosopher said “wherever you go, there you are.”

    • StillAlive

      Good quote there ladymoon. With internet, political meetings and the availability of the right foods such as fresh salads or pigs in a blanket, we could just as easily be in Florida right now.

  • Thomas Englehart

    Lake Ponderay? Or Pend Oreille?

    • RJB

      Both are considered acceptable.

      • Andrea Lyman

        Actually not – it’s Lake Pend Oreille, and there is a little suburb outside of Sandpoint called Ponderay. I lived there for almost 30 years, before moving to Cuenca, and it is still a point of confusion up there!

  • Bev Anne

    Thank you for an interesting look at the diverse snowbirds and expats that you have come across in Cuenca.

  • Jean McCord

    I’m sorry the art show had to be canceled. I was looking forward to seeing it.

  • Galileo

    How many expats did you interview that are contemplating leaving Ecuador due to the requirements to purchase insurance that is state approved for Ecuador? Who is the author of this idea in Ecuador?

    • KeithB

      It would be great if there are gringos leaving who can’t afford insurance. They are being replaced by European expats who can. Definitely an upgrade for the expat community.

      • Galileo

        KeithB, you a making a mighty big assumption that European expats would somehow upgrade the expat community. I seriously doubt it!