The impact of what I am planning really hit home this weekend. I am exchanging friends and family for strangers: known for unknown; English speaking familiar and sure for Spanish speaking confusion; a market where prices are stated, goods are standardized and legislated to be exactly as advertised for a market where haggling and negotiation is normal and uninspected goods are sold on street sidewalks and open air stalls. I am exchanging the purchase of government appraised meat for the flesh of guinea pigs slaughtered, skinned, and roasted on reused poles in open air road side fires: where a bowl of chicken soup may contain the chicken’s foot and who knows what else.
In exchange for a system where pedestrians have rights and drivers generally obey traffic lights I will have one in which I am told less than diligent pedestrians are targets and drivers behave like lunatics. The sidewalks I now trod are relatively smooth and flat and have handicapped curbs cut for ease of travel. In exchange I contemplate the cobbled stoned and tiled pathways of my future along with the declining function of my decaying knees. Instead of the relative freedom I presently enjoy walking alone at any time of day on public streets, I am warned my new habitat houses pickpockets and thieves ready to assist me in divesting myself of any of my remaining worldly goods – even in broad day light.
I am leaving my son’s grave site where the memory of picking glass out of his beautiful hair as he lay dead on the hospital gurney is as fresh as if it was today. I am leaving my grandchildren to grow into adults without having known them or they me in any substantial, nurturing way. I am selling all, or nearly all, my worldly goods to go to a country in which I know no one and no one knows me. Is this insanity? A dream world? …Or is it wakefulness?
Although I have a superior academic education, I have paltry little beyond the normal, acceptable and accepting living skills. I lack significant negotiation skill beyond those necessary to deal with clamouring children, a disgruntled spouse or a disinterested clerk at the returns desk of the local department store. My computer came equipped with a virus detector which eliminates threats and automatically scans for oddities while I peacefully sleep. My doctor schedules in my annual physical and my dentist timetables the regular inspection and cleaning of my teeth. I have spent my life accepting government regulated standards for education, shopping, health and safety without questioning those standards. I have lived in Pleasantville.
Spring weather has finally arrived! Time to put away the winter coat, boots, scarves, toques and gloves. Awe, spring! My favourite time of year. Like the butterfly budding from its cocoon, letting go of the constrictions of winter garb is a ritual heralding freedom, flight and new horizons.
Although my journey to new lands is months away I feel like I am personally awakening from a winter’s season of life to the portals of spring. As I move forward in divesting myself of the shell of my constricting “normal, comfortable” life, I feel the pull of adventure. At a time when many would think of me as entering the Golden Years, I feel alive to new possibilities and exploration, not the prospect of rocking chairs, Medicare and coffins.
Every day has an opportunity to cast off my old life and experience the new. My “stuff” is slowly finding new homes. Saying goodbye has not been as hard as I once thought. There is still a lot to be done, but little by little I am moving closer to my dream.
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.
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.