ECUADOR IN PHASES - THE LEARNING CURVE EXPERIENCE
By Kay Ward
Like so many of you who also live here in Ecuador, I have been asked this question many times. For the past four years, I have responded by reciting the reasons I have enjoyed living in my new country as proof that I, along with thousands of others, have made the right decision. Here are my experiences.
I’ve been surprised by how much more I was getting than just a country on the dollar and inexpensive housing. Having lived in four cities in Ecuador and visiting many more, I’ve encountered the welcoming nature of Ecuadorians in so many sweet examples. For instance, my first week in Quito at the end of 2018, I was sick and headed to the pharmacy at the big mall not knowing a soul. At the pharmacy counter, I was struggling to tell the pharmacist my symptoms when a young man came up to help communicate with both languages – I knew then I had come to the right place!
From Quito, I traveled to Cuenca and spent the next year acclimating myself to this country, the people, the climate, the foods, and the language. My time in Cuenca was wonderful. I moved four times while there, living twice in the center of the city, once a little farther out, and 30 days watching a friend's house in Turi. My favorite thing was living in the city! The culture in Cuenca is like none other I’ve seen in any city….even in the US. The activities keep a person busy 7 days a week. However, I finally decided that if I never left Cuenca I might not see other beautiful parts of Ecuador, so off I went to….Manta!
At the end of December 2019, it was the first time in my life living by the ocean – my first response was, how great is this?! I was lucky to find a rental right on the ocean and it was walkable to Mall de Pacifico and the buses. There were several expat meetups at that time in Manta, so it was very easy to meet new people, but then the pandemic hit and that came to a halt. However, I was impressed by how Ecuador handled the pandemic and clamped down immediately. Many of us remember the lines at the mall just to be able to do grocery shopping, and suddenly embracing food delivery from restaurants. Eventually, by the end of July 2020 things started to ease – slightly! More people started to arrive again but the reopening of restaurants was delayed. In December of 2020 I made the decision to explore more and moved to…..Olon!
Olon is farther down the coast of Ecuador and in another climate zone which is more humid than Manta. However, the trade off in Olon is the beautiful beaches and beach bars along with a wonderful selection of restaurants. The local Ecuadorians embraced a newcomer and once again, it was easy to meet new people. Another plus about living in Olon is Montanita, a party town that is just two miles down the road, to explore more options to have a good time – along with a Tia Supermarket for necessities. Eventually the cooler weather set in around June and I was looking for a warmer climate. So it began time to explore and I decided to move to….San Clemente!
San Clemente is about four hours north up the coast from Olon. I was told Manta and the northern coast will provide more sunshine and warmth, with more days of sun per year, and I found that to be very true! The San Clemente area is made up of San Jacinto and the very small community, San Alejo, in between. When you consider both towns, you have good access to local tiendas and restaurants and, again, the bus system to travel to Bahia farther north or back to Manta for larger stores. San Clemente surely brought more days of sun, and who can resist the experience of going to Meiers local restaurant and his “store.” However, I found myself returning to the bigger cities on the weekend, so eventually I made the decision to move back to Manta in February of 2022. By then, the pandemic was fairly under control and Manta had opened back up and many new people were coming weekly and new restaurants opening just as fast.
My experiences in Ecuador have been life changing and I would recommend it to anyone – just come and don’t look back!