By Mark Bradbury
I’ve been writing articles for different magazines over the past 15 years, and sometimes I get an assignment that can almost write itself. This month’s topic, the People of Ecuador, is one of those subjects that I am talking about. It is an easy discussion about the people I have met here in my seven years living along Ecuador’s Pacific Coast.
About eight years ago, I began researching Ecuador as a retirement destination. I read dozens of articles and blogs, and watched quite a few videos, too, and almost without fail, I kept seeing the authors talking about the Ecuadorian people as a whole different ball game. They kept saying that the people here were a very warm and welcoming populace, and that living here was an easy transition if that was your final decision.
I decided early in 2015 that Ecuador would be my final choice for an adventure; my first expat experience. For close to a year before that I had been looking at other locations around the world, and one by one I had eliminated them for many different reasons. I was about to embark on my very own “Goldilocks” experience, and I wanted it to be just right!
So, after choosing Ecuador, I had to choose a landing spot, and I went about another process of elimination in finding a new home to start my life here. I knew that I wanted to be on the Coast, La Costa, and I wanted a certain amount of an expat connection. I began to go up and down the Pacific coastline, researching every city and town that had an expat presence.
Over the next couple of months I spent a significant amount of time on my laptop in Florida, scouting the web for interesting places. I settled on a small city called Bahia de Caraquez, in Manabí Province. I even went so far as to agree to rent a place near the center of town, and I focused on that. But, as things go sometimes, I wasn’t able to seal that deal because of some construction issues, so I made a hasty decision to move to a small coastal town called Olon, several hours to the south.
A couple months later, I was flying to Quito, on my way to Guayaquil, and then onto Olon. I didn’t know a soul, and my Spanish was Duolingo, mixed with four years of high school and college Spanish forty-plus years before. But I was full of confidence that I was making the right decision, and onward I plunged!
It was then, and continues to be, one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Why is that? It’s easy; I fell in love with the people and places of my new home country. It was almost an immediate affection that has only grown over the years for me.
My first real encounter with an Ecuadorian person was with a woman who met me at the airport to take me to Olon. With very few English skills, she made me feel welcome in her country right away. As we made the almost-four hour trip north to Olon, she made sure to point out all the beautiful spots along the Coast to me, and even stopped at a terrific oceanside restaurant serving some incredible Ecuadorian-style seafood. By the time we arrived in Olon later that afternoon I felt as if I had already been here for a while.
I spent almost three years there before moving north up to Manta. During those years, I met dozens of Ecuadorian natives, some who spoke English, and quite a few who only spoke Spanish. I always did my best to make them understand my less-than-perfect Spanish and we always found a way to communicate. I always tried to speak their language, and I think it helped me make friends along the way.
I could walk down the street and hear a loud “Hola Marcos!” from one of my neighbors almost every time. I was invited to family parties where I barely understood a word spoken, but I always managed to have fun because the hosts wouldn’t have it any other way! I went to birthday parties where I was the only Gringo (I was an oddity, I think sometimes), and I even went to a big baptismal event at the local church for a neighbor’s baby.
I could sit in the town square in the morning at a local restaurant and half of the people walking by on their way to the Mercado would wave and say hello. The owners of several of the beach cabanas learned my name, and some used to call me “Don Marcos.” I learned to be very comfortable in my new country because the people made me feel welcome. And they still do!
I moved to Manta four and a half years ago, first living on the beach in Santa Marianita for a few months, and then moving to an apartment in the city, close to everything. I remember thinking at the time that the city people would probably be so different than the friends I had left behind in Olon, but for the most part, that hasn’t proven to be true.
I have met so many Ecuadorians in Manta, and I feel the same way I did down south. If you show them respect, they will welcome you to their country the same way the people of Olon did when I went there in 2015. And isn’t that true for many other places, too?
A year after I came to Manta I met a young ecuatoriana and fell in love. This beautiful woman changed my life and made me realize that it doesn’t always have to be crazy to get by. The Ecuadorians call it “Tranquila,” or “being cool” in English. They embrace family and good times more than any other place I have been to, and enjoying as much of life as you can is their priority.
My partner and I have been together for over three and a half years, and in that time I have met so many good people, her family and friends mostly, and as my Spanish has improved, my relationships with these people have gotten more meaningful as well. They welcome me, and I welcome them. “Mi Casa es su casa” (My home is your home) is a way of life, and not just a saying that sounds nice.
Six months ago, my partner Irina gave birth to a beautiful little girl, and I became a father again after thinking those days were long gone. The same family and friends, and so many more people, have embraced me as part of their family and I really enjoy that feeling. I now have a little ecuatoriana and it is the best feeling in the world to know that our family here will always take care of her if I’m not here to do so.
Entonces, gracias a mi familia y a mis amigos por tus amistades y respeto! ¡La vida aquí está muy bien! Amo Ecuador y su gente!
(And so, thank you to my family and friends for your friendship and respect! Life here is incredibly good! I love Ecuador and its people!)