This week we heard that a couple who had been regular customers at our restaurant, were selling all of their things and moving back to the US. In fact, she had already left, and he was staying behind to sell of the last of the things they had collected here over time.
Because of the virus, we have been staying pretty much to ourselves out here in Yunguilla, so we weren’t aware of their plans to leave, nor do we even know now what caused their decision. They’ve been here a long time and we thought they were going to be permanent fixtures here.
In fact, over the last few months we’ve heard that a lot of expats were planning on going back; some due to the virus, others because they missed family. I think what we are going to all find out after the virus is finally beaten back (as we all hope it is), is that a LOT of people we knew here are gone. They left on repatriation flights when all the chaos was happening, and some didn’t even get a chance to say proper goodbyes to their closest friends.
Knowing that many people have suffered much worse—losing family members to the virus—it’s hard to complain about the sense of loss of community among the expats. I mean, we are all lucky enough to have survived this when so many people have lost their lives. And most of us can go back to families or to a more comfortable life if we choose to. Most Ecuadorians don’t have that chance. They are really the ones who have lost so much throughout the country.
For us expats, Cuenca will still be Cuenca when some sense of normalcy returns. We won’t run into as many people as we used to when we are out on the streets, but we will still get that “nod of the head” every once in a while, from a gringo we know (or don’t know). That common connection will still be there. And if there are a lot less of us here when the dust settles, maybe we will become close friends with people we knew only by sight before.
I know for us out here in Yunguilla, the sense of loss of community has been a little bit more noticeable, as we all live pretty far apart and don’t normally just run into each other unless there was a plan to do so. There used to be parties every once in a while, and Happy Hour meetups, but all of that has gone away. So, we keep to ourselves and maybe meet up with one other couple we may be close to once every week or two—someone we know has been as tightly hidden like hermits as we have been.
Personally, as someone who is rather outgoing, this self-isolation has been one of the few bad things about moving to Yunguilla. It was even before the virus. Now, it’s amplified.
Obviously, the biggest benefit out here is that the weather is pretty much always nice, we have lots of space, and lots of pets. And, the people we became close to out here are friends like we had in the US. People we can depend on to offer help with just about anything.
Of course, we have some of those friends in Cuenca, but here it’s sort of like what I imagine existed when the west was getting settled in the US. You made friends with people and you helped each other out regardless of anything, because you had so few people around you to count on.
Our friends here are a mixed bag, with an equal amount who I share political views with and those I don’t. But that is of so little importance here. What matters here is whether a person can call you to ask you to lend a hand putting up a barbed-wire fence. Or if they can get something for you since they are heading to Cuenca.
That’s really been a refreshing thing for me. To see that my politics don’t matter out here. All that matters, is how we each treat each other.
So, while this whole lockdown has been trying at times, it has made me realize even more what makes our Yunguilla friends so important to us. They are people we can count on.
And no matter what comes out of this terrible virus, my eyes at least got opened a little bit more and I was reminded of what made people important to me long before I knew what a republican or a democrat was.
I’m just sayin.’