In the end, a global pandemic and a criminally negligent property developer wouldn’t keep us from our retirement dream. We’re going home to Ecuador.
But first, nine months’ backstory. I’ll be brief.
When last I wrote, Chantal and I were newly arrived and grievously ill in locked-down Ontario. Trenton, to be precise: quarantined in a thrifted decor, half-renovated house that belonged to a departed elder in Chantal’s extended family. We lived there two months. We had nowhere else to go.
I left my winter jacket at Mirador San Jose. We were permitted only one bag on our humanitarian flight to Canada. I thought the heavy alpaca poncho I bought in Quilotoa might protect me from a bracing Canadian March wind. Turns out no. So, we stayed in. Not that there was much choice: the stores were closed. Everything was closed. We took walks around the block. Mostly, we watched Netflix.
As the gods would have it, a 130-year-old Victorian country home went on the market directly across the street from my eldest son and his family. It was not in the greatest shape, cosmetically, but it’s what we could afford. We bought it, on the Internet, sight unseen – except for our engineer’s report and some gauzy, fish-eye photos on the realtor’s website. We moved our belongings out of storage May 14 and set about a new life in the village of Vankleek Hill, population 1194. Now 1196.
Chantal and I spent our summer in renovations. The new house was much in need and we had nothing better to do. As COVID-19 restrictions lifted, we took plenty of time with our small grandchildren, Riley and Rey. We had only ever interacted with them from a distance. The moment Riley learned about social bubbles, he asked if I would like to hold his hand. I thought I would cry.
I helped Dylan with his takeout barbecue joint. We visited my youngest son, Aidan, in Montreal. In August, Chantal went back to work as a consultant with the Strategic Joint Staff, planning Canada’s national defence response to the pandemic and vaccine rollout. I bought a motorcycle and we learned to ride two up. It was an enormously gratifying time. Endless days and sultry nights: the kind of summer that hangs in the air. A splendid Canadian season.
It would be nice to say that Ecuador beckoned, and we answered. To a certain degree, that’s true. I still natter at myself in Spanish. We creep the expat Facebook groups for Mark Bradbury’s nightly sunset photos. There is an undeniable longing. But it was the first true blast of arctic air up my pant leg that settled the question for me. I’ve never felt my scrotum pucker like that. I may not see my testicles again.
We’re booked to fly home in the New Year. I call Ecuador home because it is. Just as Vankleek Hill is now our home. When people question the decision, it comes down to this. We have a house. We have friends. A life. You don’t just turn away from them. Not especially when it’s minus my-god-what-have-I-done outside.
Of course, there’s the matter of our repulsively corrupt property developer. We filed a criminal complaint against her last month. She and her enablers at CNEL’s Manta office will answer to our lawyers, and the state prosecutor in Montecristi, regardless of whether they’re inclined to oblige. We will let that process unfold as it should.
In the meantime, we rented a lovely beachfront condo, courtesy our new friend Garrett Parker. Weekends we will visit our house at Mirador San Jose. Some neighbours will not appreciate our return, because of what I wrote in my last post. I don’t care; they had it coming. But why subject ourselves to their toxicity?
We recently made friends with a couple from Cornwall, one hour southeast of Vankleek, who also have it in mind to retire to Ecuador. They rented the condo next to ours, again thanks to Garrett. As is the expat tradition, we will show them around and help them to settle. They will pay it forward some day.
Chantal will continue to work remotely. I will fish with my friend Luis. We’ll settle our immigration status, renew our drivers’ licenses, and rematriculate our vehicles. In April, we come back to Canada and wait our turn to be vaccinated. Resume our lives as across-the-street grandparents, now with a third due in January. I can’t think of any finer way than this to spend our days.
In the end, the pandemic took everything – and then gave it back, with interest. We’re lucky. Don’t think we don’t know it.
Retirement 2.0 is three weeks away. We’ll make this one count.