Posts by Denise Toepel

I have given up the rat race, I found a place that I not only can afford, but that I am learning to love. I have downsized, minimized to what is really necessary to be happy and have begun traveling to really get to know my new home. Come...join me.

China’s Christmas City bit me

The leaving of America means you leave a lot of things behind; you wonder during the holidays if it is necessary to burden yourself again with all the trimmings of the seasons.  Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Easter, Valentine Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, Fourth of July, the list is never-ending along with the supplies deemed necessary to have a “great day.”  I have managed to stop and think on a lot of them, due to our new country not having these holidays, but for Christmas, Ecuador is all in.  The stores don’t have Halloween here, so right after school starts Christmas sets in,, with expensive lights and glitter ornaments all made in the city in China that is called the Christmas City.  It is like a China Christmas bomb went off in all the stores.. not to mention the side-walk vendors.

I have some remorse that I didn’t just use some artsy fartsy natural branches that we have plenty of to celebrate the season.  Instead on a weak moment in Tia for $4.95 I purchased a Chinese “Christmas City” Tree and it came with a string of lights and one package of balls.  I was not happy with just one string of lights so I purchased 4 more along with 3 more packages of balls and a bright red glitter spray of holly leaves that I could separate and use for more shine.

I have never been more sad in my life.. the tree looked pathetic.  The lights on the top of the tree were weaker than the lower branches, (it got covered in dust so quickly because we do live in the dust bowl of Quito), the thought of taking it down now that the holiday is over is as bad as if I had the 20 foot tree that we had in Denver.  Not because it was a lame attempt, I had good intentions, but I fell for the glitter, I didn’t hold true to my very nature of reuse, recycle.  I thought I left the junk behind in America, but I fell for it again here. My new year resolution is to be more cognizant of my true self, to think more before I act.  The quick way is not always the right way.

I think I punished myself enough though, I had to look at the tree all holiday season.   I will donate it next year, this is my way of feeling better, although I doubt that it will totally cleanse my guilt.

Next year I will take the time to use what I have to make a tree that will be burned on New Year’s eve in the effigy fires, besides I will be moving again so it will be easy to not buy anything I don’t want to move.

I really thought I left all that behind, but shiny glitter habits are very hard to replace.  Not to mention a place to store it until I can re-home it so I don’t have to be reminded of it every time I see it!  Well, wish me luck on my holiday impulse addictions, one thing that I definitely thought I left behind.

Weekend in San Jose de Minas

Feeling blue, not the kind of blue that you can forget if something more interesting comes along, but the blue that makes you not want to do anything.  It is like you are drowning and everyone who is around you is breathing just fine.  You cannot tell them that you cannot breathe you just keep watching them thinking that eventually some one will see you and what is happening.  So, to answer your unasked question, yes, I have depression, it is a very heavy burden at times.  The thought of being with 100 plus people at a family Christmas reunion in a little barrio a long way from home was more than I could even think about.  What do you do when the plan was enacted before you could say, no.  It seemed like a good idea at the time it was suggested, but unless someone know how it feels to put yourself through the motions without the motivation or feelings, when you really want to just sit and hide and not talk or be touched, the darkness just deepens for you.  I went, I touched cheeks, I spoke immeasurably bad Spanish, I ate roasted pig, drank the native drink, and the music blared into the day and night.  There was sling shot contests for the men, there was a trompo spinning top competition for the men, with the women shouting encouragement, but from the side lines.  I was amazed that no one saw the women not doing the fun stuff.  I knew better than to say anything, it is culture, years in the making. I hope that someday after an equal amount of years, women are seen here too.  It deepened my sadness, seeing but not saying.

We stayed at a hostel in San Jose de Minas, it had a beautiful view, a comfortable bed, and a son that wanted to be our construction company when we build our house.  It it rare that someone does not see us as their next conquest.  We stayed there until 3 pm the next day…without hot water.  They asked us when we arrived when we would like to shower, they would need to turn something on so we had it when we requested. I know we told them at 9 am the following morning we would like to shower, before breakfast.  Nope, their son will not be our builder, we need hot water.

Arrival home was a thrill that lifted some of the funk, our dogs were thrilled we didn’t disappear as they had thought we had.  The furry guardians could take a long deserved break from the iron gate and walls that surround our compound, content that no unauthorized person breached the wall.  I was exhausted from pretending, I was sad that I have these feelings that prevent me from being like everyone else. I get so tired when I am back from an event that requires me to pretend that I am okay.

I am doing so much better today, I did appreciate the kindness of the people who welcoming us to their family Christmas celebration.  One day I will be able to thank them and be there in the moment, but for now, I just have to keep trying to breathe.

Running Away

I ran away from my problems.  I thought that I could stay and things would get better; all I had to do was work harder to find a job because being jobless had taken me on a vision quest like no other I had ever experienced.

The bills that could not be paid, the son that could not continue in college, the car payment and car insurance that I could easily afford when working that I was scrambling to afford each and every month was more than I could stomach.

The interviews that I did get were not appointments to interview me for my talents, but a cattle call of geriatric wonders like me.  We would stand in line for hours to see if we could actually work for the money that they offered or if we were just another cog in the wheel of a startup that was desperate for people to sign others up for Medicare or Obama Care and after the period of employment you would be left go again and the insanity would start all over for me.

So the escape plan for me started the day in January that enrollment for Medicare was over.  I had received an email that probably any other time would have been considered junk mail but this time it was fair game.  It talked about starting your life over again and being able to afford it by working overseas at home.

I was intrigued and read the whole article; I was not interested in signing up for the magazine or the course on how to be a travel writer, I just needed to know that others had already done it in some form or another.  I researched blogs, vlogs, and expat sites, I asked questions and joined as many sites as I could, I was hooked.

I spent the better part of a month reading and writing and corresponding with people who had made the jump.  They jumped to Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico.  I decided to jump ship too, my alternatives for staying on my positive – negative list were not compelling enough for me to sit through one more cattle call interview,  I could keep working to try to replenish stock lost in the last Wall Street crash but that would take until I was too old to even enjoy retirement.  So……

I minimized everything, the 5 grown children’s (store it at mom’s) memories, all the things that you really think you will need at one time (that you don’t), the man toys, the fabric collection in the sewing room, the furniture, the executive clothing, the barbecue, the boat… the car,,, everything went.  Then we went…. to Ecuador.

This blog is about why it is an option that really needs exploring for more people than you can believe.  The people who cannot sleep at night worrying about how they are going to survive their golden years.  The difference in stress for me once we decided it was an option, was like night and day.  My husband was retired military, I had moved many times to foreign countries and knew that this time I had to pick a place that was low-cost, had great dental/health care, housing that we could afford, transportation and organic food.  I found it in Quito, Ecuador.  Did we go there first?  No.  I don’t think that we could have afforded to, we just did lots of research and jumped, no ran.   Our alternative was to stay there long enough to afford a trip home if we could not stand it.  We were not sorry that we did it this way, it was less of an adjustment knowing that it was really important to try to put everything in perspective.  What we had before, what it would take to live like we did previously or adjust to our new retirement.  It was a no brainer.

This is my journey, it could be yours too, just ask or follow along with us.  We have had the opportunity to become the people we could only dream of when we were living in the United States.  I know it all sounds so crazy, it did to me too when I first thought about how was I going to accomplish this stunt,, but I did it,, and I am not sorry that I did.  I know that we did what was best for us and our future,,, what about you?  Have you saved for your retirement, do you rely on social security or disability?  There are options that are considerable, they are just not in the United States.  We came to a brave new world, full of colonial Spanish architecture, with buses that cost very little, taxi’s that are very inexpensive and food that is great.

We didn’t speak Spanish when we arrived, but day by day we are using our new language and plan to immerse our lives in their culture.  It was the best of both worlds for us, come and join me on my redefinition of myself.