Monday, May 30, 2016

The Last Goodbye

May 30, 2016

I’m in the States now.  I have been back almost 6 weeks.
Leaving Ecuador was not a spur-of-moment decision. I had been planning it for some time.  After six years there, I was ready to come home. 

Mostly, I missed my family, though my three daughters and I have been spread out among four different countries for years (one on California, one in England, and one in Germany – and I lived in Ecuador).  However, my daughter in England recently moved back to Southern California with her family, after 13 years there…now just hoping my daughter in Germany will eventually return too.
I have five grandchildren (with one on the way in the next few weeks, in Germany) and I want to be closer to them to enjoy their formative years.
But it was tough, tough, tough leaving behind the little town of Olón, and all the friends made during that time – they became like family to me.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think about all of them, and miss them.

And to all the expats I have lifted lighters from:
Don't say I didn't pay you back.

(My contribution to one of the final potlucks)

The earthquake that happened just before I left was devastating and made it even harder to get on the plane to leave, knowing how really, really bad it was on the ground on the northern coast of Ecuador.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake happened on the evening of April 16, (four days before my scheduled departure) near the town of Muisne, about 3 hours north of Olón.

Taken just moments before the
earthquake hit.
Of course we felt it in Olón (my brother Jack had come down to help with the move, and he and some of our friends had just sat down to dinner at a restaurant next to the park) when the shaking started.  From our perspective, it started out somewhat slow, built to a large crescendo, and lasted longer than any earthquake I’ve experienced (25 years of living in California – Whittier, Northridge, Landers quakes to name a few). 
As the earthquake was peaking, we were able to run outside (keeping an eye on overhead power lines, and adjacent cement buildings under construction).  Others in Olón tell stories of not being able to stand up through it.  
Earthquakes are weird that way.
However, other than power outages, and some strong aftershocks, Olón escaped relatively unscathed.

Not the same can be said about areas near the epicenter.  Entire towns were decimated, the death toll is over 650 people, 12,000+ were injured, and hundreds of thousands of people are now homeless.
I personally know of at least three expat couples who live in the earthquake zone who lost their homes (a big shout out to Donald and Cheryl PaPania, Angie Wilkinson & family, Dave and Miriam Weaver – know that my heart and prayers are with you) and numerous locals who I still am not aware of their status.
My heart still bleeds for those affected by Ecuador coastal earthquake...yet what has been inspiring is to now watch how this little, beautiful, wonderful country and its people have pulled together to rebuild and regroup.
Please, if you are reading this, pray and support these efforts.  Ecuador is still a lovely, awesome, safe place to live and visit.

The other terribly rough part of moving back to States was leaving darling Daisy behind.
How much I miss her, dream of her, want to hug her again
But she never would have been able to make this transition back to the States.
She was about a nine-month old Olón beach stray when we adopted her, six years ago. 
She has run free all her life, rules her realm and everybody knows and loves her (locals, expats, and tourists).  She would have withered living in a more restrictive pet environment, and too old to make the adjustment.
Thus, I was extremely grateful for my friends Annette and Dan for agreeing to adopt her.  Though she’s a very independent and self-reliant dog, it is a BIG responsibility for them, since she is now older, and does require more regular medical attention.
My heart is forever grateful to Annette and Dan.
Daisy knows and loves them very much, and they love her…
And Annette, if you are reading this, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart about the way you handled the “last goodbye”.
You know what I am talking about.  You are a wise woman, and I miss you.

(Ummm…I was going to continue here about my “first hello” back into the States, but can’t quite figure out how to make that writing transition without making this post too long and perhaps disjointed, so following up shortly with another post).