By Terri Carroll
There was a lot going on in 2020. Amongst the chaos of a global pandemic, civil unrest, and a general feeling of unease in my own personal life, I began researching how to make a permanent move out of the United States. I had planned to retire to a country with a lower cost of living, but retirement at that time was still 10 years away. I felt the need to make an immediate move, and Ecuador came into view.
I arrived in Quito on January 6, 2021. Right from the beginning, I was exposed to the kind spirit of the Ecuadorian people by the young man that was waiting for me at the airport to drive me to my hotel. I was hungry, so even though it was kind of late, he found a place for me to get a sandwich and a freshly made juice. The following morning, he was there before the break of dawn, because I had an early flight into Manta. I knew that he had not had much sleep, but he chatted pleasantly about this new country that I hoped would adopt me, and seamlessly delivered me safely to my destination.
Fast forward to May 2021. I had some complications that required me to be hospitalized. Nobody wants to hear those words. And coupled with being in a new country where I did not yet have a command of the language. I was terrified, I was sick, and I was in panic mode. Thankfully, God sent two angels to my rescue, Dr. Gladys Garcia and Stella Coulter. Dr. Gladys had been my physician for the short time that I had been in Ecuador. When she told me that I would have to go into the hospital, she knew I was beyond scared. I felt like I couldn’t even put one foot in front of the other, so she jumped into action. She told me what to pack, came and picked me up, and took me for a COVID test, which was required before being admitted at that time. She was at the hospital everyday and when she wasn’t there, she was calling to check on my health status. And dear Stella Coulter. She had baked me a cake for the first birthday that I celebrated in Ecuador so I wouldn’t feel alone and now she was right in place for me when I was in crisis. She lent me a bag to take to the hospital and helped me sort out my insurance. I didn’t have much of an appetite, but she brought me a delicious panini daily, and that’s literally all I was able to eat. Even though she was INCREDIBLY busy with not one, but TWO businesses of her own, she came to that hospital EVERY SINGLE DAY. Once discharged, my neighbors were very concerned and caring, sending me soup and flowers, asking if I was okay, and telling me that if I needed anything to please not hesitate to ask. I cannot express how incredibly comforting the loving kindness was that I experienced from the Ecuadorian people, and how it helped me to be calmer at a very upsetting time. Every day I am blessed by cheerful smiles and a chorus of “buenos dias.” There is a slower pace of life here and the word “tranquilo” is used a lot by locals, and it basically means, “don’t worry.” The Ecuadorian people are very hard working, yet at the same time they put a high value on God, family, and just being present in the moments of life and enjoying them. They really get what’s important, and they live it everyday. I realized that so many of the stressors that drove me to seek a more peaceful existence were still operating in me, but each day I spend in Ecuador, those stressors drain out a little more.
Sadly, six months ago, my life partner passed away. I would share pictures and experiences with him weekly and he was looking forward to coming to see it for himself. His death was one of the most devastating experiences of my life to date and when I returned to Ecuador from being in the States for his homegoing and visiting my family, I was worn out and torn up. I was crying everyday, and just kind of floating through. I was not capable of resuming my life in Ecuador to what it was before he died. I was not up for seeing people, but my assistant, Giselle, was coming weekly to do house cleaning for me. I call her an assistant, because she was so much more than a housekeeper. She was the one that saw me at my absolute saddest right after Terence passed, because she was in my home when I was overtaken by sudden crying fits and the unpredictable roller coaster that is grief. And do you know what she did? She PRAYED FOR ME. She told me everything would be okay. She cared about what I was going through and she didn’t have to. That’s the stuff the Ecuadorian people are made of. They are good, authentic, welcoming and warm. Everyday I feel the sentiment behind the words that I heard when I first arrived, “Bienvenido a Ecuador” and I KNOW that I am home.