Getting Ready to Sell my Stuff

In preparation for moving to Ecuador, I started to take pictures of my “stuff” in order to sell it off. It is not easy. I have limited space in my small mobile home to keep the potential possessions available for a buyer. I dislike messiness and it looks like I will be living in it until everything is sold which could take up to (or even over) six months. I am starting with things I haven’t used for a while and even then I think in the back of my head: Would I use this (need this) again before I move?

It is funny how I have become attached to things – stuff that could be destroyed in an instant, yet keeps me tied to this spot like a caged animal. I try picturing my things acting as anvils chained around my neck or attached to my leg. They drag me down, tug at my life force, and hinder a new life and new adventures. This exercise in mental imagery helps a little, but old ways die hard. I paid good money for this “stuff” which ties me and in some (sad) ways defines who I am and what I enjoy.

It is both a physical and emotional effort to release myself from these physical possessions. Yet, I know the surgery of letting go is necessary if I am to make the biggest move of my life. One might think putting up my home would be the hardest, but that is not what I am finding as I begin this process. It is the smaller, more intimate items: things that the children have given me over the years that will be the hardest to part with

My children have feelings about my move that range from horrified to completely supportive. The former set loving, well-meant, guilt traps on my heart while the latter verbally strengthen my wings and encourage flight. Just as they grew up, moved on and started new lives, whatever their concerns, in the end, they will have to let me grow and move on too.

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Information from a Recent Visit to the Ecuadorian Consulate

After a trip to the consulate I learned that it will cost around a thousand dollars to get all the paperwork and visas needed to move to and retire in Ecuador. That is without the help of a lawyer! My birth certificate, marriage certificate, my husband’s death certificate and a statement of pension income all have to be translated into Spanish then notarized before I can make the real application.

The woman at the consulate told me to get an extension on my visa while in Canada, then gave me the form to complete. Doing so would give me 6 months of living in Ecuador before either getting my retirement visa or being kicked out. Perhaps you could apply for another extension, but that would be another cost and I hope not to have to think about that. In addition to the paperwork I need to show a return airline ticket to get this extension. I was also told to bring a Spanish-speaking translator to the consulate when I apply for the extension so they can be sure I understand everything I sign. Once in Ecuador I can apply for the retirement visa: it cannot be done from here in Canada. Hopefully I will have all the necessary paperwork already completed and will not need a lawyer.

Questions and Quandaries

Shakespeare’s Hamlet said: To be or not to be, that is the question. My question is similar: Do I sell everything and move or stay put in my tight, but comfortable, nest? I think it would be a terrible thing to come to life’s end and say, “I wish I would have.” I’ve read that people come to regret what they did not do much more than what they did do.

Without a lot of money to spend visiting Ecuador before moving there is not an option I can afford. It’s all or nothing, and doing nothing is not so appealing. Not that I am complaining about my life. Canada is a wonderful country! I have a pension after years of work that lets me eat every day; afford a movie on occasion or a small dinner out with friends. Health care is excellent and I feel safe in my neighbourhood. My nest feels tight, but padded and comfortable.

Yet… Yet, there is that little niggle that tells me there is, and should be, more to life than mere comfortable existence. The times in my life that have been the most memorable have been experienced outside that zone of comfort that presently envelops me. Those times that I value most were initially shrouded in trepidation. Stepping off the gang-plank into waters unknown took courage (or an external push), but I was (almost) always the better person for having made the plunge. It was sink or swim.

To date I have swam, perhaps clumsily; but I made it to shore. I have gulped down the sea waters of experience, become breathless from exhaustion, but emerged with a renewed joy of having lived and grown through it all. I’ve had some cuts and bruises. I’ve made some mistakes, paid the price and still went on breathing.

So… what is it now? Fear? Definitely fear, but what’s new about that? Age? It could be, but time will only increase that as an excuse, and I recognize it as an excuse. Health? So far, not a huge concern. It could be in the future, but then again if I had a crystal ball what fun would life be?

What will my family think? That’s a big one. I value their opinions and advice. Unlike the character in Simon and Garfunkel’s song: I am not an island; I do feel pain. My children and family are important to me. However, they certainly do not ask my permission to live their lives, and I would not expect them to. So, should I care what my family may or may not think? Perhaps. They do know me quite well and may be able to point out what I cannot see. They could also be blinded by their own wishes and expectations about me and for me.

In the end only I know only I can live my life, which leads me back to my question: should I pack up and move overseas or stay put? My heart is saying, YES, move on to new life, new adventure. My head counters with all the negatives, which I suppose is its job. My heart says forget all that and LIVE. The battle will rage on until I decide to choose: will it be, should it be, Sensible Head or Sensitive Heart?

What would you do?

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks – Learning Spanish

Spanish language school in Vitoria

Spanish language school in Vitoria (Photo credit: Zador Spanish schools Spain)

Today I started my first in-class weekly Spanish lesson.  The class had 20 students, all of them younger than me and most by more than a generation.  I was the only one who had never taken a lesson in Spanish or traveled to a Spanish-speaking country.  The pace was quick, but the instructor, Carlos, repeated everything in such a clear voice I could hear his enunciation without a problem.  I couldn’t always repeat it properly, but I tried my best.  the amount of vocabulary he covered in two hours was mind-warping.

By the time 2 hours had passed we had covered introductions, asking for and giving addresses, adding and subtracting up to 100, the sounds of the vowels and the alphabet.  Whew!

Then he had us take turns being characters reading dialogue from a script.  There were times I felt tense, but I’d much rather learn in a classroom than become flustered on a foreign street.  I wonder if there is any way to make this learning easier?  Any suggestions from those who have been there?

 

Remembering a Wondrous Surprise

I went to bed February 23, 1981 expecting to have a restful sleep.  The night got cold and the fire burned so low the house chilled to 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit), about the temperature inside a refrigerator.  When I awoke, Walter was snoring, his head buried under the heavy covers. I reluctantly pushed myself out of bed into the otherwise quietness of the night.

Wrapping a nearby sweater around me I made my way to the wood stove: only a few dying embers remained. Coaxing the flame, I added some wood, and then straightened to get more when a sharp pain pierced my abdomen.  Once it eased off I gave it little thought.  I put another couple of pieces of wood into the stove and planned to go back to bed when a second more forceful pain made it clear I was in labour.

I shook Walter awake, but just as he was putting on his pants I realized we wouldn’t be making it to the hospital.  Still in a sleepy daze, one leg in and one leg out, he started to panic.  When a third contraction started the baby down the birth canal, I kept one of my legs on the floor and the knee of the other on the bed.  Walter hopped about wanted to know what to do: boil water, start the car, what???

The next contraction pushed the baby’s head out.  That got Walter’s attention!  He grasped the small head wanting to pull.  I ordered him to let go.  He fretted and fussed about how to get me to the hospital with this head sticking out.  I told him to calm down and make sure the baby didn’t fall onto the floor!  On the next contraction the baby slipped out without harm.  Walter, pale and limp, sagged onto the end of the bed in a heap.

I gathered up the baby, patted it gently until it cried, and then with the cord still attached wrapped it in a blanket.  By this time, Walter had recovered enough to get his pants on, and to ask about the sex of the baby.  Neither of us had paid any attention during the birth.  Unwrapping the blanket, I was overjoyed to finally have a daughter.

My next thought was: a daughter – what did I know about raising a girl?  Lord, help me! Holding His miraculous gift, I prayed to be worthy of her, to know how to love her and that she would grow to know she was abundantly cherished.

I had a custom of giving older siblings a present from a new addition, so Walter got the boys up to greet their new sister. They crowded around oohing and ahhing as I pulled a chocolate bar for each of them from beneath her blanket.  It was the first time she impressed them, but not the last.

After getting everyone dressed, we drove to the hospital.  The nurses checked the baby and deemed her a healthy girl: 9 pounds, 6 ounces.  Some days, times and events stick in your memory like a hot brand searing your brain, like a meteoric impact crashing into your heart:  the birth of our daughter that cold winter’s morning, February 24th, 1981, did that to me, and for me, and I’ve never been the same.

The Road Home

The road in from the highway was hilly, narrow and barely graveled.   Half rotted timbers from the original log road broke through the dirt in places and the ditches were overgrown with weeds. In spring, buried culverts swelled the road in mounds that looked like beached whales sunning in the middle of nowhere. These bulges remained until the frost completely left the ground then descended to almost level by midsummer only to be heaved up again in the winter.  The effectiveness of the culverts suffered as years without proper maintenance passed.

Travelling on the road in the summer produced a cloud of dust that followed a vehicle like the exhaust of a jet engine.   With care, two could pass, but it left occupants in a choking, dust cloud for several seconds. It also meant driving nearly blind until the dust settled.  Graders came down the road at least once a summer hauling weeds and dirt up from the ditches and spreading a lump of debris on the center of the road, including embedded rocks.  These rocks could be as high as 18 inches although it usually was more like14.  Passing a grader meant taking a chance driving over the hump and then clinging to the margin of road remaining.  Until the grader made its exiting pass the road was practically a one way street.

Soil on the sides of the road varied from sand to clay to black muck.  The corner where the concession road broke off to our side road was entirely black muck.  One summer a ditch clearing backhoe got sucked in by the muck.  In trying to make corrections the rear of the machine slipped sideways and got sucked in even deeper.  The hapless operator radioed for help before climbing out of his sinking machine.  By the time two large trucks arrived to assist, the rear of the trapped backhoe was barely visible and it had started to tip onto its side.  With little room for manoeuvring the men pondered logistics, situated their trucks as effectively as space allowed, and then attached chains from the backhoe to the trucks. 

Diesel engines strained unsuccessfully at the load, their exhaust crowding the air with spent fuel, their wheels digging into the logs beneath the surface of the road.  Visible tremors hammered the area shaking dead limbs off surrounding trees sending flocks of birds skyward.  The backhoe sank further into the muck.  The owner arrived and after some discussion he climbed through the muck, and got into the partially submerged cab.  The crew balked but the owner pressed them to pull as he revved the backhoe’s sinking engine.

The wheels of the large trucks sent clots of dirt, logs, and stone flying.  The owner, his determined face barely visible inside the cab, gunned the backhoe’s engine. Muck started spraying out from behind the submerged machine sinking it deeper.  It looked like the muck was about to swallow both machine and man when it suddenly released its hold.  The backhoe sprung to the road causing one of the rescue trucks to plunge into the edge of a diagonal ditch.  Its liberation was not nearly as dramatic, but the damage to the road during this whole operation was substantial.  Two loads of gravel made a cosmetic repair, but the road continued to sink over the remainder of the summer.

 Where and when was this road?  In a third world country?

No, it was Northern Ontario and it was the road that led to the path into our home in the late 1970’s.  That path led to our one room house where we lived with our children, a handful of animals, and a lifetime of memories.

Retired and ready to live!

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”  How often we have heard these words then gone back to the old (normal) way of living?  My first year of retirement has been a year to truly recognize this new freedom, get some fluff taken care of, and learn to live in a brand new way.  I’m finally ready to be free of the restrictions of being identified by my job title or the expectations those paying my salary.  My pension may be small, but I want to get the most out of it.  The question is, “Now what?” or even. “Now where?”