The photo above shows a sign I keep on the pantry door of our little Casa Azul in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. It has a purpose. Probably not the one you think.
On the exterior, I can be just about whatever you need at the moment. Extrovert? It’s not my natural style, but I can play it well enough just about any time if that’s what you need. I made a good part of my livelihood as an adjusted-style extrovert. Curmudgeonly hermit-like introvert? Yes, it comes quite naturally, thank you. Business guy in suit and Johnson and Murphys? Sure, no problem. Country farmer with dirt underneath his fingernails. Even easier.
But my comfort zone is being my own boss making enough money to pay bills and travel a couple of times a year, and focusing on whatever my limited attention span is interested in for the next few months. I don’t mean that in an egotistical or sarcastic way. In fact, up until not so long ago my proclivity to boredom was the think I disliked most about myself. But during the last year it’s a simple truth truth I’ve accepted – even embraced – and knowing who I truly am, supercedes most, but not quite all, things these days.
I’m no longer caught up in things like image, public opinion, social status, or chamber of commerce award banquets. I just kind of like to be my own guy. Is that so wrong?
It’s easier some places than others. If nothing else, Ecuador has taught how to chill every expectation.
There’s a radical and immediate shift in time somewhere between Arkansas and Ecuador. I’m a high-strung traveler, anxious on airplanes, exhaustively pro-active in heading off unwanted potential surprises, hyper conscious of where everything is all the time. Travel Mode begins the night before a trip and doesn’t end until wheels down at whatever destination. It took me a while to learn that wheels down in Ecuador means time moves sideways into a different dimension.
High-strung doesn’t work here. And you’d better lose the attitude fast if you don’t want to drive yourself and everyone around you nuts.
I recall the time a carpenter finally showed up at the house a week after the initial appointment. He came in, surveyed the work, and immediately left because he didn’t bring his hammer. “Back in an hour,” he said. It’s always, “back in a hour, or tomorrow, maybe.”
The time three guys made an emergency call to save us from raw sewage overflowing a septic tank onto our back yard? You don’t even wanna know.
We have a water shortage here. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to get it through a municipal line. Other times, you call a tanker to fill your cistern. Need a shower desperately? The tanker guy will be there when he gets there.
Sometimes I’ll hear people talk with a wistful romanticism about their travels to exotic locations such as Cancun, Fiji, Madrid or maybe Puerto Vallarta. “Time stands still,” they say, dreamily imagining a life with so many umbrella drinks.
Maybe so, but in Ecuador, time gets turned upside down and “beach time” isn’t always the most romantic thing in the world. The key word in the sign on my pantry is “Relax.”
It isn’t perfect, but life is good in Ecuador.