With so much negativity in the media surrounding COVID 19, it's easy to get lost in a sea of anxiety and forget why we moved to Ecuador in the first place.
This article is part of my attempt to refocus my energy on the abundance of things I'm still grateful for. Perhaps even more grateful than before COVID 19 struck.
It's also a very timely article for me as I've just come back from a lengthy quarantine visiting my family in Australia. This has afforded me an additional perspective to better appreciate what I have in Ecuador.
Note - Check out Ecuador's official COVID 19 site if you're looking for official government policies and stats etc.
After my 3-week, turned 4-month, vacation to Australia, it was such a delight to come back to our garden full of hummingbirds (colibríes).
There's a charm of hummingbirds that regularly visit our garden in Cuenca. Yes, a group of hummingbirds is called a charm. How delightful is that!
They add a lot of atmosphere with their persistent chirping and darting around looking for flowers or the feeder. They are a constant reminder to enjoy the day, and for this, I'm very thankful.
Check out the charm having a friendly fight over the feeder yesterday afternoon.
And check out this post for more on Ecuador's hummingbirds.
Ecuadorian farmers have continued to supply affordable fruit and vegetables throughout the quarantine period with minimal impact to the supply chain. Yes, there were periods of panic buying and hoarding. But, this is not the fault of the farmers.
Dealing with COVID and increased protocols adds a new challenge, but there are numerous examples of farmers coming together to increase production and provide more income for their families.
The end result for our family is a steady supply of nutrient-rich food that we can easily access via numerous local tiendas or supermarkets.
Thank you farmers, truck drivers, local shops and everyone else in the food supply chain.
We've been able to use this time to finish up some projects and learn new skills that we can incorporate into our daily rituals.
Some projects we've been able to undertake:
This system took about a week to fully install as we had numerous trips to the hardware store to find additional bits. We then extended it to include 6 more levels which took an additional few days.
The end result is a continuous supply of fresh lettuces, basils, tomatoes, strawberries, spinach, and other leafy greens.
Continuing our path towards increased self-reliance, we've been producing more of our own basic necessities like bread, pizza and teas.
This cheese and olive bread was probably my favorite of our baking experiments thus far - check it out:
We've always been somewhat self-reliant with our vegetable garden, but we're now committed to producing more of our daily needs and offering excess to friends, family and neighbors.
We moved into our new house in Cuenca a few months before the pandemic hit.
Sure, we had a good feeling about them when we inspected the property and signed the lease, but it was still a new relationship and we really didn't know how it would hold-up given the new circumstances.
Our landlords have been nothing short of marvelous. They've shown understanding and a willingness to help that has included extensive repairs and even improvements.
We've had some bad experiences renting in Ecuador, so we're all very thankful to have compassionate current landlords.
Our family has remained COVID-free and healthy. We previously had a tendency to take our health for granted. But, not now. We pay much more attention to our health partly because we don't want to rely on doctors or hospitals given the risk of transmission.
Of course, we can't control everything and we've had to visit the dentist a few times. The medical professionals we've encountered in Cuenca have all been following the right protocols and we're grateful for the level of care we've received.
One of the most profound ways the quarantine experience of Michelle differed from mine was through exercise.
You see, Australia allowed its residents to go outside for exercise, so long as you took social distancing precautions. So I was allowed to visit the beach near my parent's house and I took this opportunity to go for a beach run every day. It was such a release both physically and mentally for me. It quickly became the one daily activity that I would look forward to the most. I even used it as a reward.
Michelle didn't accompany me on this trip, so she stayed with the family in Cuenca, Ecuador. The protocols were very different and Michelle was not allowed to leave the house for exercise for several months. I could see the impact this was having on her and felt rather guilty for having the freedom to escape to the beach every day.
But now we are together in Cuenca and the protocols allow leaving the house for exercise, we're both super thankful to live near small mountains that are absolutely perfect for hiking and biking.
We escape to these mountains several times each week to explore and give our minds and bodies some respite.
Just being able to spend more time with family has been a blessing. This included the unexpected additional months I was able to spend with my family in Australia.
In Ecuador, Michelle was able to spend more time with the kids. But, it's not just the additional time, but how it was spent that Michelle enjoyed.
Family time is normally connected to vacation periods where it's expected that we'll spend more time with the kids. The quarantine was different. All routines were broken. There was no school, no structure, and at times it felt like no rules at all. This unstructured time was spent doing random activities and simply enjoying time together.
This is still largely our approach to raising the kids. By slowing down and spending time doing activities that are enjoyable and educational. Schools in Ecuador will resume soon and perhaps there will be some more structure, but we're still expecting to be very actively involved in their education.
Michelle and I have recently been able to spend some quality time together. With reports of divorces skyrocketing during quarantine, I was a little nervous about how we'd react to spending so much time together. But, it's been great.
Our time together has also been spent differently to vacations or other blocks of extended time together. We've taken this time to do a thorough evaluation of our life goals (using this online course as the vehicle), practicing non-violent communication, and devoting more time to activities like yoga, meditation and reading together.
We now understand each other more than we have before and our communication has improved. Both of which we are super grateful for.
Michelle and I are very grateful to still have income when many are going without. But, we've both made changes to our income levels and how we're spending our time.
I've reduced my client load, so my income levels have also been impacted. Instead of more client work, I've chosen to devote more time to my own projects that will deliver a better long-term return on my time.
I doubt I would have made this decision if it wasn't for the priority reset that was initiated by COVID and the need for a strategy for post-COVID. This is a very welcome silver lining that has already increased my overall happiness.
With so much economic uncertainty, we've been prudently watching our expenses and have been able to make some adjustments to our cost of living.
We've mainly cut down on some discretional spending and it's helped us realize how much unnecessary stuff we were habitually buying. This has really helped us learn how to do more with less.
We diligently follow COVID protocols and wear masks when appropriate. I think we can all agree that wearing a mask is not ideal and we'd generally prefer not to.
Removing our masks when we come home has an almost therapeutic effect on us. It's symbolic that we are now entering our sanctuary away from COVID and the most obvious reminder of this is the simple ability to breathe without a mask.
Now, whenever we're at home, especially in the backyard, breathing freely and unabated, we find ourselves appreciating it. Our sincere thanks to all the workers that need to wear masks and other PPE all day. We salute you.
Michelle and I both work remotely, so we've been relying on technology for our income for a while. But, we've now increased our reliance on technology to the point where video calls are now the main form of communication with friends and family. Both locally and internationally.
We've often thought about how this pandemic compares with previous pandemics like the Spanish Flu, and how lucky we are to still be able to communicate with loved ones whenever we feel like it.
The vast majority of people we've seen and interacted with have been trying to do the right thing.
Our local community in Cuenca has been incredible. There's been an increased willingness to help each other and share important information via various Whatsapp groups.
We've found ourselves buying more from our neighbors. The flow-on effect of this is that we can get to know them better as individuals and we're looking forward to when we can safely have them over to share some food and drinks.
We're also indebted to the various expat communities on Facebook and otherwise that have helped us with real-time information. We've tried to return the favor by responding to other expats.
We still really miss the human interaction of the 'old' world. We haven't forgotten how much this impacts our belonging to the community. But, we're also adamant that it's our duty to make the most of this situation and we're content and happy doing just that.
What are you most grateful for during these changing times? I'd love to hear in the comments below.