Friday, January 27, 2017

Oh, The Times They Are A'Changin'

Back in the 60's we had all sorts of protests going--civil rights and the anti-war movements especially, as well as the beginnings of those for women and gays. I was a college student during those heady times, and while I had long hair (believe it!) and wore the requisite hippie attire I admit I wasn't a card-carrying member of the "revolution." My main concern was not going to that damn jungle, shooting at people I didn't know, and most importantly not having them shoot at me! Fortunately I drew a super high lottery number that kept me out of the fray.

Thinking back on it all I'm struck by how influential my brothers and sisters have been in altering society during my lifetime. We were vigorously rebelling against the Establishment, and our generation succeeded not only in helping bring to an end the Viet Nam war but advancing all of the other causes we were fighting for.

But in the process of creating an ever more liberal, globalistic world an unforeseen thing happened--the anti-Establishment folks became the Establishment.

Now out of nowhere Donald Trump of all people--a billionaire businessman with zero political experience and an undeniable member of the Establishment--shocks everyone by running a populist, anti-Establishment campaign that propels him into the White House. What?!?!?

So in this suddenly topsy turvy world in which we find ourselves, the proponents of the very same ideology that once railed against the Establishment have once again hit the streets and social media protesting, only this time they're fighting for the Establishment and the policies they've worked so long and hard to implement.

Who can blame them? Few anticipated this unlikely turn of events, so no Plan B was even considered.

In reference to my previous post about getting older, it's fun to be on the planet long enough to observe these cyclical ebbs and flows. I recently pointed out to a young person filled with fear about the election that back in the 50's America got caught up in an emotional frenzy about nuclear annihilation from the Russians. We kids had air raid drills at school where we got under our desks, and people actually built bomb shelters in their back yards.

Guess what--we're still here.

Isn't it great to be citizens of a country where you can take a stand, be committed to a cause, and peacefully protest when things aren't going your way? Maybe it's time for everybody to take a breath, take a chill pill, and let life unfold. It doesn't always turn out as expected, but based on my experience in the long run we'll be just fine.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Birthday Math

I'm 68 today and it's a pretty weird place to be. There's no denying my age, but whatever fleeting notion I had when I was younger of this stage of life is not playing out as expected.

From earliest childhood memories my grandparents always seemed old even though in reality they were in their early 50's. Pull out photo albums from back then--people 60 and beyond in age did look old and from an actuarial standpoint were old.

Yet here I am with absolutely nothing seriously wrong with me that I'm aware of, at around my high school weight and arguably in the best shape of my life. I don't feel my age; perhaps I'm kidding myself when I think I don't look my age; and Cynthia would vouch for the fact that I often don't act my age.

All of this is a good thing because we've always intended to reach triple digits--that is, at least 100 years old. I was doing the math and realized that I barely reached the two thirds mark of my goal last year. Thinking back that means I'll live as much more as since I was in my early 30's, which is astounding. Our kids were just starting school, our business was flourishing, and I somehow had the energy to be up on a ladder until midnight working on the home we were renovating near downtown Atlanta. It all seems an eternity ago.

Then I thought, "That's not good enough. I want to see Cynthia be 100 too." OK, so now the goal is 104.

And then I thought, "It would suck for her to reach 100 and then I just keel over. We need a little time to celebrate both reaching our milestone, so I'll shoot for 105."

Then I thought, "If I live to 105 we'll celebrate our 84th anniversary. That's not a memorable number." 85 years of marriage and 106 years of age it is then!

Now I'm thinking, "H-m-m-m, but we dated four years before we got married. 89 years together--that somehow feels so incomplete. I know---I'll go for 118! That means we'll have been together 100 years! What a story!!"

I went to tell Cynthia all of this and she was pretty excited too. In fact she yelled in a loud voice:


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Back in Cuenca!

After we arrived home Tuesday evening and lugged all the maximum weight luggage and stuffed carry on's up four flights of stairs, we were too pooped to do much except a little unpacking. Of course after 2 1/2 months away there was no food in the house, but we did have duty-free alcohol and yummy nuts brought back from the States, so after cocktails and snacks we hit the sack early.

Yesterday our "big event" was going to the Supermaxi to replenish our refrigerator and cupboard. It is a tradition for us to eat an Ecuadorian lunch at the same restaurant the day after a trip home to symbolize our return. The owner Juan knows this and gave us a big welcoming hug when we walked in the door.

I'm not sure why we made a shopping list because we basically needed everything. Wednesday is 10% off day on produce so we saved a little money, but our bill was still over $200. The checkout clerk was probably wondering how two old gringos could possibly need so many bags of food. If the bag boys at Supermaxi had any training, they must have been specifically told to pack bags as heavy as possible. The big bag of oranges and the big bag of potatoes? In the same bag. All the heavy bottles? In the same bag. And I've got to carry all this stuff up those same stairs.

For any of you planning to visit Cuenca, let me emphasize that altitude adjustment is real. This wasn't that much of a outing but we were exhausted and headed straight for a nap after everything was unpacked. Now all of this food is in the house but neither of us was up for cooking or even making a salad so we ate ham sandwiches and went to bed early again.

Today I was ready to rumble and planned an aggressive agenda. First stop--the ATM for cash. My card doesn't work. I go inside and it's determined that the chip isn't readable. I get a new card on the spot, complete the transaction, and am on my way to the gym.

After a good workout I walk into town to see what movies are available at my favorite video store. We managed to see a few films in the U.S. but are way behind on our annual quest to see all the nominated movies. $12.50 later I walk out with ten new ones to watch. Sweet!

My final stop is Tutto Freddo, a wonderful ice cream store where I pick up a container of deliciousness for the freezer. On the walk home I notice three things: 1) I'm tired, 2) I'm hungry, and 3) it's damned hot (summer here, you know). Ignoring #1 in favor of the other two I pick up the pace for the remainder of my journey.

This time I have multiple reasons to be out of gas so I'm off for yet another nap. Oh, let me share a quick story. When I was blogging quite frequently it wasn't unusual for a stranger to approach me around town and say, "Excuse me, are you Edd?" or "Hey, are you Eddsaid?" Yesterday on an aisle in Supermaxi I passed a woman I didn't know. There was eye contact and that familiar look of recognition. Sure enough, she said, "Excuse me------"

"-----are you Sparky?"


I replied that until that moment I had never been called Sparky in my entire life. So my question to you is, should I start calling this blog "sparkyspoke?"

Lemme know.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Back in Ecuador!

A l-o-n-g family visit to the U.S. has come to a close, and I'm thrilled to report that after months of chemotherapy and recent surgery our daughter Adrian is now 100% cancer-free!!. What a fantastic way for all of us to start 2017!

Cynthia and I are spending a couple of days with dear friends outside of Quito before returning to Cuenca. We left snow in New Jersey yesterday and awoke this morning to beautiful blue skies and warm temps. After yoga, a visit to the pool, and a nap, we're soon off to a neighborhood party. Quite a change from our life the past couple of months.

We love our kids and grandchildren more than words can express. We also enjoy all the dining, shopping, and entertainment opportunities in the United States, but we miss Cuenca very much and look forward to being home.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “OK, so you’re happy to be leaving all that behind to return to Ecuador? Why??” Some of the reasons may surprise you.

1. I can’t wait to put on sunscreen again. The high temperature in New Jersey last weekend was 26 and the low 13. Sure, the sun is often out but when you’re dodging the cold by hustling from the house to the car, then from the car to wherever you’re going, who needs sunscreen?

It’s summer in Cuenca now and the weather, like here, is glorious. But as opposed to the extreme seasonality in most of the States, we enjoy high’s in the 70’s and low’s in the 50’s year round. That equatorial sun is intense, so hooray—let’s celebrate needing to break out the Coppertone!

2. I detest the “fall back” part of Daylight Savings Time. At this time of year it’s dark in NJ at like 4:30 PM, and the sun is barely making a dent in the darkness at 7 AM. I find it totally disorienting (and a bit sad) to be yawning and looking at my watch during Jeopardy.

Another shout out for living on the equator—the sun rises and sets at 6ish every single day. And because of that consistency the time stays the same all year too.

3. I’m sort of looking forward to less choice. Yes, I know what I said earlier about all the opportunities. But it gets to be somewhat overwhelming. When “mustard” is on the shopping list back home I go to the Supermaxi and buy---mustard. In the States there are 30 different kinds. I thought I just wanted plain old mustard, but, wow, that Ass Kickin’ stone ground jar looks like fun. Or what about the whole grain one with Irish whiskey? Ginger wasabi? Who knew?? Fifteen minutes later I’m still standing there staring like Beavis and Butthead.

4. I can’t WAIT to stop driving!! One of my fondest financial memories was exchanging the keys to Cynthia’s car for a check that paid for our possessions to be shipped to Ecuador. I’ve driven more in the past two months than I have in the last seven years, and I yearn to get back to walking almost everywhere in Cuenca. “Pedestrian lifestyle” wasn’t on our wish list of desirable features when we first started thinking about moving abroad, but it always will be now. Walking rocks!

5. I miss my friends. We dearly love our family but over the last 6+ years in Cuenca we’ve become part of a “family” of friends with whom deep relationships have been built. This has been our biggest and happiest surprise of expat life.

In a couple of days we’ll be back experiencing all the things we’ve missed about our hometown. Of course when it’s time to return to the States we’ll be happy to see our family and support our daughter's continuing recovery but for now, as the lyrics of the John Denver song say, “Hey, it’s good to be back home again!”