When we purchased B-36-15, HolaEcuador suggested that we build on it within five years. They – that is, Hola and the as-yet unannounced (to us) but kinda separate Inmobiliaria Mirador San Jose S.A., AKA Inmirsan – wanted to complete the urbanization in their lifetimes. Ergo, no hoarding empty lots for a retirement twenty- or thirty-some-odd years into the future.

We wanted a vacation home. Retirement would come some other day. So we took them at their word. We would build within five years. We had five years to put money aside for the work. That was the plan.

As Mike Tyson famously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Ours remained valid until April 16, 2016 when a magnitude 7.8 destroyed much of the northern and central coasts, and a series of unfortunately timed, coincidental disasters finished the job.

Seven hundred people died and more than six thousand were injured. The federal government of Ecuador conscripted all available workers and construction equipment for the relief effort. We watched, and we waited.

We were not yet part of the community. We hadn’t even visited, except for our one day in Manta. But we worried about our neighbours.

Mirador San Jose was barely affected, except for some minor infrastructure damage. The surrounding fishing villages, however, were flattened. Manta was a wreck. Portoviejo, the Province of Manabí’s capital city, is still rebuilding.

There were stories of food shortages, and weeks without electricity or running water. We read that our compatriots were inviting into their homes local families who had lost everything. Those with vehicles went scavenging for food and shared what little they could find. Everyone pooled their resources: clothing, gasoline for generators, toys for the traumatized children. Such repeated accounts of goodwill and compassion touched us, profoundly. We knew this is where we had to be.

A Punch in the Mouth

Three months went by before we heard from HolaEcuador. The earthquake had scared off prospective customers and business was non-existent. So they ran a promotion: ten percent off the cost of a build, and half off the price of their fancy extras. For the home we had in mind, this was more than twenty thousand US dollars in savings.

Our five-year strategy suddenly found itself with a fist in its mouth.

It was a weird rationalization. On the one hand, we were helping. Right? On the other, we were selfishly saving a pile of cash. I mean, it’s not like we insisted on paying full price. They offered and we accepted. Save your peace prize nomination.

We settled very quickly on the Cotopaxi 2, which we had been eyeing for some time on HolaEcuador’s website. Then we loaded up on air conditioners, ceiling fans, a rooftop terrace cook station, and a west-facing glass wall so we could watch the sun set at dinner.

Our new sales guy, Michel, seemed relieved to have us on the other side of his desk. Apparently, we were among the very, very few who had responded to HolaEcuador’s promotional email.

Fast-forward to the late fall of 2016. We had already obtained a bank draft for our first deposit, and were about to sign the construction services agreement, when Hola notified us that our preferred architectural plans were redrafted to conform to new seismic safety standards. This meant several stout support beams and one hundred extra square feet of space to accommodate them. No extra charge.

We signed the agreement on December 14, 2016. We received municipal construction permits the following February. Work began almost immediately.

By June, we would take our first steps inside our unfinished new home.