Well, welcome aboard, as I begin an expanded venture on Expat Island of sharing with you expats and expat wannabees what life is like for a retired expat like myself living in Ecuador and particularly in the city of Cuenca.As a way of introduction, I am a retired college professor, elementary and high school administrator, and a teacher of history and the social sciences. I grew up in the Chicago area, and lived most of my life in various communities in the metro area. While a graduate student at New York University in the late 70’s, I studied and traveled the summer of 1976 in India. Imagine, a young man from the mid-west on his first trek outside the United States, venturing off to India. Talk about cultural shock. I loved it! It was and still is the most exciting experience of my life. Exotic can’t begin to describe India of the 1970’s. Nothing about India looked, smelled, sounded, or tasted anything like America. It was as if I had traveled to another planet. I had already fallen in love with India from my required readings, paper writings, and class attendance at N.Y.U., which prepared my fellow classmates and I for a venture into the country of the oldest living civilization known to mankind. The experience was absolutely exhausting and exhilarating at the same time, but never disappointing. When I arrived home, it took two months of rest before I began to feel normal again, and a year to feel like I wasn’t still somewhere in India. The sights, the sounds, the smells of the cities, of the villages, and of the farmlands; not to mention the endless faces of the masses of people–all of which were so indelibly etched in my very being. For a year after returning from India, I felt like I was a stranger in my own country. For the first time in my life, I viewed all the cultural stimuli of my life in the United States through a prism as if I myself was a foreigner.
The following summer our group traveled to the Far East. We spent two weeks in the People’s Republic of China, one year after a great earthquake had devastated parts of Beijing, and Chairman Mao had died. It was a period when it was still difficult for foreigners, especially from the West, to enter the country. A total of three weeks on three different occasions were spent during the summer in and out of Hong Kong, when it was still a British colony. I loved the excitement of Hong Kong, truly an entrepreneur society of capitalists, and at that time there were thousands of U.S. sailors making the most of their leaves in this city that never sleeps. Three magnificent weeks were spent in Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan, as well the country’s former capital until the mid-1800’s. My travels would end with a fascinating week in Bangkok, Thailand. When I completed my studies at N.Y.U., I had earned a masters degree in Asian Studies. Later, I worked on my doctorate in an unrelated field, married, had a family, dealt with career responsibilities; and as a result, my travel days were on hiatus until I retired. At which time in 2011, I retired and had my first and to date only expat experience with my move to Cuenca, Ecuador.
I share all this with you, so that you can have some idea of what educational and travel experiences I bring to Expat Island. In the months ahead, the writers and myself here on the island will explore many themes with you. Such themes include culture shock; relocation issues; daily living in a different culture; whether you may or may not be a good candidate for becoming an expat; tradition and change in third world countries; political, economic, social, and cultural issues that can impinge upon the lives of expats; as well as why I settled in Cuenca and what Cuenca and Ecuador have to offer. My blog link, “Cuenca Perspectives by Jim", already provides you with five years of information and history from my initial visit to Cuenca through the current time period. However, keep in mind, whatever you read is my perspective, and little of what I share should be taken as the definitive word on anything. Read and research with discernment; and do so within the context of your own personality, experiences, and aspirations. Do so, as you explore the life of travel, or of the possibility of becoming an expat, or of relocating to a new experience if you are already an expat.
I hope our readers at Expat Island will enjoy the journey with us writers, and much as we enjoy sharing our experiences with you.