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).


  1. I miss you, just knowing that you are not over in Olon...
    I understand about leaving Daisy... I did not get a real goodbye with Frankie and it haunts me. Love to you dear lady.. I am hoping someday to cross paths with you again. Please keep in touch

    1. Thanks,always, Karen for always caring.
      You are a special friend, one that completely understands what this journey has been about, since we landed in Ecuador about the same time.
      We go way back.
      Please always know how grateful I am that our paths crossed, and I will be forever thankful.
      Love you,

  2. This made me tear up, Leigh. Beautifully written and from the heart. I know this was a difficult transition, now I know how difficult. Sending you love and hoping our paths will cross soon.

    1. Gosh, Laurie!
      So much to catch up on!
      I can't wait to talk to you and will PM you my new USA phone number (from my new smart phone, which is so far, smarter than me).

  3. Good luck to you. I remember reading your posts before I moved to Cuenca in 2011. I hope your adventure continues. Enjoy your grandkids.

    1. How kind to hear from you..
      Cuenca is a great place. Been there many times.
      Wishing you all the best during your adventures in Ecuador.
      And, yes - so grateful to be closer to at least some of my kids and grandchildren again.
      A blessing.

  4. Leigh, the very best wishes to you and your new adventures! xxxx,Louise

    1. Thank you to much, Louise.
      We have "known" each other for a long time (thanks to FB)
      If not in person, feels like it.
      Wishing you all the best, and please -- lets keep in touch!

  5. Replies
    1. Mine too, Gerard.
      This was the right decision for me at this time, but a huge part of my heart will always be in Ecuador.

  6. Wishing you the very best, welcome back to the USA.

    1. Feel like I have landed in the land of "Jetson's"..but expected that.
      It's going to take a while to assimilate, but getting there.
      Slowly but surely.
      I always appreciate your comments.

  7. Congrats on your move back to the USA. I think your blog was one of the first I read about life in Ecuador. I guess it has been over seven years and we are still here in Canada still unsure of what to do with our retirement days. This last winter we spent three months in San Miguel in Mexico and really liked it. It is a good central spot for exploring.
    Daisy sure is a sweet dog and I think it was a good decision to leave her in Ecuador.

    Anyhow good luck and thanks for sharing with us for so long.

    1. Thank you, Shelagh!
      Daisy is doing well. I chat with my friends in Olon often, and she has settled into her new life well with new mommy, Annette.
      But I sure do miss her!!
      I have es-pat friends that live in Mexico, and they love it there.
      Wishing you the very best on whatever decisions you make, and wherever life takes you.
      It's an adventure!

  8. I did no know you were leaving us. You were and are such an important part of Olon. I wish you the best in your new path. Hopefully the ones behind, will keep fighting to maintain the paradise we choose to live in. And please kept spreading the word as BEAUTIFUL Olon and wonderful Ecuador!

    1. Hi Maria,
      I thought you knew.
      I came by several times to your place (Sea Garden) to say goodbye. Talked to LoLo, but missed you.
      YES -- Olon is a great, great place to live.
      And I will keep spreading the word.
      Miss you, and think of all of you there often.
      Please say "hi" to everyone for me!

  9. Aww! Been to Olon since you left, only to find that one of the most remarkable local attractions was no longer there! Will you return to visit?

    1. Awww, Dan --
      Back to you!!!
      Miss all of you guys so much!
      I'm happy to be back closer to my family, but a HUGE part of my heart will always be there in Olon.
      I hope to come back and visit as often as able.
      Hugs to you and your family!

  10. hi leigh - i'm looking for info on Olon...i can't seem to find an expat group for Olon. cany ou point me in the write direction.

    1. Hi Dana!
      There are a couple of FB groups that are geared specifically for the coastal region around Olon.
      In particular, Ruta Del Sol Mates (
      Also, a gal named Deb Anderson (who lives in the area) has a great e-mail newsletter about events, etc happening in and around Olon. I'll ask her to add you. Hope that is okay.
      Are you living in Olon now, or planning to visit?
      It's a wonderful, magical place!
      Please keep in touch!