Sunday, April 24, 2016

Different Points of View

You might fairly inquire how it is I know what I´m talking about---what credentials do I possess to write about Cuenca, Ecuador?  I ask myself the same question. Experience is the main guide when time comes to write the stuff of my Ecuador Experiment.

So far I´ve learned enough to know I´m a complete novice at living in this city. I´ve learned enough, after six months, to know that what I do know is much less than there is to find out---what I know is no more than the tip of a titanic iceberg.
Subway Restaurant on Cuenca Street

What captures my interest about the ex-pat matter are not only discoveries of differences and similarities between the cultures of Ecuador and the United States, it´s also a dawning internal discovery occurring at the same time. For most of us who have repatriated to life in Ecuador, the older years of retirement age present new territories of being alive.  These two enormous changes in time and place combined make for solid adventure.

So yes, it is true---due to inexperience what I write may be off the mark, but write I must if I´m to blog. So I employ slang and say I´ll take a stab at it. 

I´d say work and money are not treated like gods in Ecuador. In this society people as a whole do not confuse wealth with happiness. In the United States, work separates from the functions of daily activity. What I mean is that work is placed upon a special pedestal. It´s work! Nothing is more important than work!  And it´s unacceptable to interfere with the main purpose of work---which is to please the client--- an end to which both boss and employee subordinate almost all else.

Llama animals outside Cuenca

Not so in Ecuador. Work here is one of a number of forms of participation in the living of life. It isn´t an end in itself. It is one of the means toward another end--- which I´d describe as the goal to live without the pressures of undo concern. Here in Cuenca one time I had to wait for the supplier of a service to go out and get a coke before she offered to me her business attention. Although the customer is important, in Ecuador the customer doesn´t necessarily come first.

Not so long ago I had ordered furniture to be made by an Ecuadorian cabinet maker in Cuenca, the work excellent and completed in timely fashion. I had e-mailed my phone number and e-mail address to this man´s business, but he didn´t call or e-mail to schedule the  delivery. He arrived with the furniture across the street from my apartment in his truck twice at times I wasn´t home. It wasn´t until his third delivery attempt that he managed by chance to catch me at home. This I think is an example of a more general trait. The evaluation of time as important appears evaluated as less important, in Ecuador---on a different plane than time in the United States, where what is considered not wasting time has cultural value.    

Life in Ecuador on the whole is lived one day at a time. Few people have much extra money. The average salary amounts to about $400 a month. As well, the 2015, fourth quarter Ecuador unemployment rate of 5.65% is enough notification to keep most employees from taking their jobs for granted. I´ve noticed many Cuenca people don´t discard items that have little value because in Ecuador virtually every penny counts.  
Monument in Cuenca

But I don´t sense people consumed with worry about what tomorrow may bring. I speculate one reason why might be contained in the national memory of Ecuador. The country´s history is replete with dislocation in a long and tragic story that goes far back into the time of the ancient Incas. If nothing else, Ecuadorians are made of sturdy stock.