I wasn’t enjoying the winter here on the edge of the North Atlantic so I flew south. Birds do that under their own steam. But the three months are ended and I am back in los EE. UU. Butterflies and maybe a few moths migrate. But, I didn’t see any other creatures in the airports, or in the aircraft, joining me in my flight to warmth. I tell a lie, there was at least one dog. After a couple of days of camping in nasty airports between connections I arrived in the southern Andes of Ecuador. I was on the side of a valley and upstream from the town of Rumizhitana.
The arrow indicates where I lived during my three month escape from winter. What this google view can’t show is the vertical dimension. Between the main road and the road thru the valley, along the river, is a drop of 150 feet. To get to the river a zig zag path descended in half a dozen sections. Something kids and mountain goats bounded over. Us old types don’t bound but I did make the trip every week somehow.
There were sunny days. But most were more like this sepia….it was the rainy season.
A series of valleys run from the provincial capital of Loja province, the city of Loja, to the valley of longevity and the town of Vilcabamba. Rumizhitana is about twenty minutes south of Loja. A road connecting a dozen little villages eventually reaches the border with Peru. Every ten minutes or so a bus goes past, heading north or south. If you are old, as I am, you get a discounted fare. So for sixty cents US I could bounce and jiggle the forty minutes to Vilcabamba. Or the twenty minutes north, to the big city. Over the three months I spent on the edge of Rumizhitana I took the bus half a dozen times to Vilcabamba. I saw people there I’d not seen since the Covid thing grounded me in the north. I’d lived in Vilca off and on for five years so I knew a few folks. It has proven the end of the line for some. The obits were read to me. Terry died a couple of days after I returned. On his next to last day he’d sat with me and Patrick, another tavern owner, and described his unending battle with the Veteran’s Administration. I guess the USVA won, by attrition. Terry died on a park bench in Vilcabamba. I’d heard so many of his stories about being one of the US special forces fighting in various places It seemed strange he was suddenly gone. What the bullet couldn’t accomplish the bottle did. Roland also passed on to the next world. He was more pickled than most. The “Drunk’s Corner” across from the park will seem strange without him. But no doubt his replacement is there already, bending an elbow, the grim reaper at his shoulder.
Representing the US State Department as needed, Charlie tends bar and waits tables at his bistro in Vilcabamba. He’s spent years building the business, weathering Covid and the town’s politics. He’s done this with the help of his Ecuadorian wife and extended family. Nice place to hang out and if one is retired that’s a major activity.
A bit out of focus and shirtless for the relative heat, I stand for my self inflicted “selfi”
There is no end of advice available for how to live our lives. There’s a lot of advice too on how to handle the end. There is some feeling for where the transition should occur. With family and in your own country? a common desire. Does it make a difference? From whence you depart for the far country? The USA or Ecuador, which is nearer the after life. My game of musical chairs, going back and forth, south and north, risks my kicking the bucket while in the north. Somehow I’ve come to feel Ecuador, in one of the lush green valleys, should be my point of departure. Where I should be when life’s tune ends.