By Darlene Blackett
When people ask me where we live I smile and proudly say, “We have two homes, one in Calgary, Canada, and one in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador!” That grabs their attention and they always want to hear more about the life we have carefully carved out for ourselves.
We’ve always had a vacation home where we would retreat on weekends and holidays. We would relax, work on the property, and enjoy the great outdoors with our family and friends. Once we reached our destination, it seemed as though a ton of bricks were lifted off our shoulders, and the hectic pace of our lives was left behind the locked doors of our principal residence. Those properties were always within driving distance!
Now we’re retired. Our time is our own, and the world is our oyster. We have four grown kids, three beautiful granddaughters, and a large circle of extended family and friends who live in different provinces in Canada. We don’t see them often, however when we do it’s always memorable and lots of fun. We always want to create a beautiful environment for everyone to enjoy.
Because the Alberta winters are long, dry, and cold, coupled with short days and long dark nights, we have chosen to live in Canada near our family for 6 months and in Ecuador where it’s hot and humid during the Canadian winter months. Being a “hands on” mother and grandmother is important to me. So if that meant physically being together for part of the year, I could handle being the virtual remote grammy for the remainder of the year. Luckily we all have reliable high speed internet and devices to frequently FaceTime, Zoom, call, or email.
John and I endure a 25 hour journey from the time we depart our Calgary home to the time we arrive at our coastal Ecuador home. It starts with a cab ride to the airport, usually three lengthy flights, then ends with a three hour cab ride to our Ecuador home. The best of both worlds, we tell ourselves as we drag our weary, exhausted bodies to our familiar beds, with the never ending sound of the pacific ocean waves lulling us to a short sleep before tackling unpacking our oversized suitcases. Of course all the systems that were shut down during our absence have to be restarted, such as our water purification system, gas to turn on the appliances, car battery charger, as well as numerous other details. Taking stock of necessary provisions is the next task at hand, and stocking up on groceries, beverages, and everything else. We always enjoy the drive to Manta however this restocking is an all day job that results in filling the entire truck! We always discover we’ve forgotten some things, or many of the spices have fallen victim to the oppressive humidity!
After a few days we start to feel relaxed, energized, and back to our normal selves, and we start leading our Ecuador beach life for six months of the year. I always regret that I didn’t study my Spanish while I was in Canada for the other six months. I’m very happy to converse in Spanish with the wonderful woman who cleans our house, our very appreciated gardener, our fabulous handyman, and our outstanding master carpenter. The never ending work resulting from the never ending salty, sandy ocean breezes tends to create so many projects which result in work for quite a few talented locals. We also have help from a lot of English speaking expat friends who are experts in plumbing, electrical, and security systems which is totally invaluable in a country such as Ecuador. It’s fun getting to visit with our friends and neighbors again. These are people from all over the world that we would have never met had we stayed back in Calgary all year long. These friends are thoughtful, generous, and helpful. Everyone helps one another in so many ways.
Juggling two homes in two hemispheres is not for the faint of heart. The bills never end at either location, nor does the maintenance and upkeep. One has to be prepared to plan and organize each home, and be able to manage their help remotely. Good neighbors are important as well. If it weren’t for our great neighbors, we wouldn’t be able to manage. And thankfully we have apps such as WhatsApp so we can send pictures back and forth, call, text and even send video!
With the relaxed public health rules regarding the pandemic, our family and friends are again able to visit us in Ecuador. The young grandkids will enjoy building sandcastles on our beachfront, hunt for seashells and sea glass, and splash in the waves at low tide. The bigger kids will enjoy all of that plus surfing and other water sports. We will all enjoy the delicious and fresh seafood, fruits, and vegetables. And I will enjoy having them around, loving life, and enjoying being a hands on mother and grandmother again!