How It Began
I now sit in the small studio room of 'The Butterfly House' in Vilcabamba, Ecuador and I marvel at the chain of events over the last nine months that has brought me here. Interesting time period, isn't it? Nine months to the day, October 17th to July 18th –the gestation period of giving birth.
Outside my window is some of the most tranquil and beautiful mountain scenery my eyes have ever seen. What's more, I share this path with a wonderful, loving and complementary partner, Julia, whom I love dearly and who shares my vision and purpose in being here. A more comfortable, yet also stimulating and esthetically pleasing situation would be difficult to imagine.
Without a doubt this latest chapter in my life that is currently being written is the fulfillment of a deep inner intention that has incubated within me for several years. Perhaps, it is simply a subtle subconscious yearning for 'something more', but in the spring of 2009 my intention finally gained the clarity and timely opportunity to become a reality. And it has been most interesting to take a look back and see how intentions and actions magically conspired to bring it about. Perhaps this intention could best be described as a yearning for greater purpose, and a more authentic way of life.
I hope that you will find this interesting reading, and that through the exercise, you may be inspired to follow your own dreams, in your own way.
A Little Background History
Since the fall of 2004 I was living in Surprise, Arizona, having purchased a nice new home there in a peaceful, growing community with every convenience at my doorstep. Prior to 2004, the previous decade-plus was a personally difficult period and I was finally feeling a new invigoration. My business as a freelance computer graphics artist was doing well and I was enjoying a period of relative prosperity and freedom from previous constraints. Years of just squeaking by to make my rent were over and although I had taken on the debt of a car and a house, I was now handling it all without a great deal of stress each month.
In the last five years I had also explored many new sides to my innate creative instincts. I had developed a musical repetoire as a instrumental soloist on guitar and played a regular gig at a local country club for a couple of years playing both original material as well as a few established 'cover' tunes which I love. It was well received and I got a lot of satisfaction from a few personal comments from people as they were leaving of how much they enjoyed my music. That made it all worthwhile.
In the fall of 2005 I explored exciting new techniques in painting through the inspiration of Farrell Douglas, a gifted artist and my girlfriend at the time. I created several fresh new works that quickly filled up the walls of my new home.
In mid 2007, Scott McLaine, a friend and previous business contact resurfaced after a period of hiatus and asked me to illustrate and design a 'new-paradigm' book which he had been visioning for several years, and he was certain I was the guy to do it. And so, I began illustrating the new project, 'The Torch of Noble Wisdom'. It has a wonderful pay-it-forward message to it and I was afforded the luxury of an extended period of time to do the illustrations. I finally finished the book in March of this year, 2009. It was the first hand-illustrated book I had done in a decade and I really enjoyed it, especially because the message was something I could totally endorse.
Also during these few years I found myself playing more golf, a game which I have loved my entire life since caddying for my dad as a child. At least 20 golf courses were within a ten mile radius of my home in Surprise and I indulged as much as my pocketbook would allow, particularly in the summer months when the rates were low. While never reaching the playing level of the competive pro, with a streak of dedicated practice I got pretty good.
I had always had a desire to teach the game, as I understood the mechanics very well, and enjoyed introducing several friends to the game. After training with Dan Shauger of Los Angeles in the summer of 2008, I acheived certification as a Class A professional golf instructor and became the featured Arizona staff contact for APerfectSwing.com. I began teaching the game to students of my own, which I thoroughly enjoyed and discovered I had a natural gift for.
There were several lovely women in my life during these years, which whom I had developed deep, heart connections with, but for a variety of reasons each of these relationships proved over a period of time to have a destined season and eventually evolved into each of us going our separate ways. Having been married for 19 years once a long time ago, I remember the quiet stability that such a union brings, and I confess part of me longs for that again. And so, such a relationship with a partner that has 'staying power' has been a primary intention lurking in my subconscious that had yet to be fulfilled.
So, despite my missing that enduring relationship, in the fall of 2008, life was pretty good for Jack. I was in a good place, busy with interesting work, playing lots of golf and always hopeful, I held a clean slate for the future and sensing something really good was on the horizon for me.
A Splinter in the Mind
But there is another facet to this story that needs to be expressed here: For the past three years in particular, as comfortable as my life had evolved, I became aware of a growing discontent. It was hard to define at the time, but as the doors of my perception grew, I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable with my 'external' life. It didn't seem to match the intentions of my internal state which was steadily evolving.
Although, it was easy and comfortable, I felt like I really didn't 'fit' well in this metropolitan area and the environment I found myself in was increasingly distasteful. More to the point, I had become tired of the predictable, homogenized illusion that life in greater Phoenix had become. I found myself dreaming of a simpler life, in a rural community of clean water and air, divorced from the ever-expanding corporate control structure, and were relationships with people were more 'real', in-synch and rewarding. Perhaps most of all, I desired to create a way of life where money wasn't the ruling motivation or sole basis of existence.
In my 14 years there, I had watched in astonishment as the city more than doubled in population and infrastructure. It was now an immense metropolis, albeit a rather comfortable, spread out and 'residential' one. Phoenix represented to me the epitome of what to me were the worse characteristics of what America had become: a corporatology, based on the relentless pursuit of material wealth at the expense of a deadened spirit and compromised values of the heart and soul.
The same 3oo or so franchises were endlessly repeated between housing developments, apartment complexes, golf courses (well, ok, I didn't mind that so much) and office buildings, mostly for mortgage brokers, finance companies, doctors, dentists, real estate agencies, all replicated with cookie-cutter precision in slight, predictable variations, and ultimately owned by the same conglomerations of soulless corporate entities whose sole objective and purpose is greater profits. (see the online video: Zeitgeist: The Addendum for an excellent expose on the ultimate insanity of our present profit-based economic system.)
Ten years earlier, I had begun to understand the enslavement aspect of the world's financial system that exists to benefit the 'elite' at the head of the banking pyramid and through which they maintain the power structure that controls things globally. Although I had resigned myself to the fact that while in this world, I had to play 'this game' to some degree in order to survive, I inwardly resented it. I grew increasingly dissatisfied with myself for compromising my internal values by becoming part of a system I saw as purely predatory in nature.
Yet, at the same time, I was quite aware that if I were to make a change in my life, I needed to be careful that I was moving towards something, and not away from something, for I had become savvy to the effects of positive and negative energy, and wanted to empower my life in the direction of good things. The thing is, I didn't yet have the clarity of what I should move towards.
I had been gifted with considerable creative abilities and I was aware that I had the responsibility to use them well. How I used them, and to what end I used them for would be forever become my imprint on this world... my legacy, and I desired to make it count for something that had eternal value. Doing anything for wealth, accumulation of 'stuff', or even public recognition meant nothing to me. I saw it as the great lie that is fed us from cradle to grave, and sadly, that most people never break free of in order to realize their greatest potential.
So, as I moved through the past few years, I was formulating these ideas in my subconcious, and they gradually became conscious, deliberate questions:
• Where is the best place for me to be?
• What should I do with my life?
• With whom shall I do it with?
And I went about my daily life watching the signs as I waited for the answers.
I didn't yet know what I'd be moving towards, but I decided I wanted to reshuffle the deck and try to exit the rat race, to the greatest extent I was able to. In early 2007, I put my home up for sale on the market. It sat there for 11 months with but only one showing. The timing was just too late and the market in Phoenix went dead quickly, almost overnight it seemed, as did most expanding communities throughout the nation. The only activity in home sales in my area were in the multitudes of vacant spec homes that developers were selling off at very low prices. Well, I trust my intuition, but I shrugged my shoulders and just figured it wasn't the right time. Another year passed.
A Crossing of Paths
On October 17th of 2008 I met Julia French. Our initial meeting did not reveal at first the significance which has since proved to become a profound destiny. We talked easily together, as we had on the telephone and through email earlier, but my first impression was that we came from two different worlds, although a natural 'chemistry' was undeniable.
Julia is three years younger than I, the mother of two grown children and lived in the opposite end of the metro Phoenix area from me in the 'fringe' town of Apache Junction, right next to the amazing Superstition Mountains, which features the most dramatic and rugged terrain in the mid-Arizona area.
She worked as a nurse/administrator in a hospital emergency room and I was searching for common ground between us and not really finding much at first. On an inner level, I believe I absolutely knew this was a fateful crossing of life paths, as I now recollect the moment our eyes first met. But on our first day, I sensed a decided 'coolness' to her demeanor. However, two things powerfully attracted me: her sparkling blue-green eyes, and a very alluring scent, which immediately got my full attention. So I determined to get to know her better.
I guess that was enough. I asked her out for a second date the next weekend for a concert and some hiking in Carefree, Arizona. By this time, she had dropped her guard down and let her
natural warmth be revealed that she had somewhat concealed on our first date. It was not till sometime later that I learned I was the first man she had dated in 20 years, since her ex-husband had committed suicide.
No, this is not light, casual stuff. Julia was just coming out of a lengthy period of self protection after great emotional trauma and even accepting the opportunity for a date with me (which had been denied scores of other men) was a huge step forward for her. When I understood that she needed time to know if I was someone she could trust, I knew then that I was in her life for an uncommon purpose at the very moment she was ready for it and I recall making a conscious choice to BE that man that she could trust. From that point on, we have simply grown in love together.
So, as it turned out, meeting Julia was indeed a pivotal event in my life. As the winter holidays came and passed, we became quite intertwined and spent every weekend together, even though we lived about 70 miles apart. I enjoyed playing Eucher (a card game) with her friendly mom and dad, visiting with her son and daughter and especially her adorable, beautiful grandson, Jackson, with whom I established an easy bond. We took a couple of road trips together, played golf together (she was eager to learn and interested), enjoyed home meals and movie nights together, and enjoyed indulging our mutual fondness for Starbuck's Expresso Truffle coffee. As time passed, I noticed a real complementary comfort with her that felt easy and right.
Julia is very grounded, outgoing and wonderfully adaptive, yet she has a healthy appetite for adventure and is not afraid of change, which is an excellent match for my quiet but intense scorpio nature. She is a Capricorn born the day after Christmas, and as such is a natural nurturer in the home, a great cook and an excellent organizer, which I love. Over the course of several months, it became apparent that we simply didn't have many 'rough spots' and when they did come up, we were able to quickly put them behind us without holding onto them.
Most importantly, I seemed to be playing the part of a catalyst of sorts in a spiritual awakening for her. She was hungry for the uncommon knowledge I had assimulated over the years in regards to spirituality, metaphysics and what is happening on the planet right now. I delighted in seeing her 'connect the dots' and become a more conscious individual. And I was learning my own lessons from her as well in becoming less self absorbed, which I saw as a healthy path that was needed for my own personal growth.
This relationship, which I questioned as having any staying power at first, had taken on a life of it's own and was evolving into a transformative union for us both.
A Random Link Begins a New Timeline
One day in February of this year, while perusing the website, projectcamelot.org –which I had often frequented for their video interviews with interesting people, I was watching the videos of a conference that was held here in Vilcabamba at Montesuenos, the eco retreat center/home of Brian O'Leary (scientist and ex-Nasa astronaut) and his wife Meredith Miller, (an extraordinary visionary artist) in the previous month of January. Vilca-what?... I had never heard of the place before.
The conference itself was quite interesting, which featured several new paradigm speakers on a variety of topics, including some valuable perspectives on the current worldwide financial meltdown and the overall trend of current world events. Always interested in seeing the big picture of things, I watched with interest to further my own understanding. However, as I watched, I felt compelled to check out Brian's links, one of which featured a beautiful 15 minute video of their eco retreat home there high up on a mountainside in the Andes, and just outside the famed 'valley of longevity': Vilcabamba. I was mesmerized by what I saw.
The eco-retreat center Montesuenos was created by Brian and Meredith as a work-in-progrress over the last five years in one of the most fabulous locations you could imagine. It is an astonishingly beautiful and unique architectural work of art in itself. The video also featured a beautiful soundtrack composed by Brian himself, also a talented jazz musician. I was impressed!
I found the mix of images and music of the Montesuenos video presentation quite compelling. It spoke to my heart and soul in a subtle, yet powerful way. As I watched, I felt like the answer to the question of what the next step was for me had finally been answered... it felt like 'green lights' in every cell of my body saying the same thing: YES.
I immediately emailed Julia with the link and the short inquiry: 'Want to go?
Her response was immediate: a resounding YES, as she had independently watched the same link a short while before and had already contemplated the location's beauty. This was the first in a line of many synchronicities that guided this journey.
April Trip to Ecuador
I immediately began formulating plans and buying airline tickets for an April vacation in Ecuador. We contacted Brian O'Leary and secured a week's stay at the Montsuenos 'guest cottage', a sprawling 4 bedroom hacienda next to the main house that feature large windows that afford spectacular views of the mountains surrounding and the valley below. We then each independently began to research this mystical place online.
To our surpise, there was a wealth of information available online about Vilcabamba. We were intrigued to learn that Vilcabamba has earned the subtitle 'The Valley of Longevity' as it is one of the few places on earth to produce an extraordinary high ratio of people who live past the age of 100, due to it's mineral rich soil, clean air and water and pristine ecological conditions. Ages in excess of 130 have been documented in the church records.
It lies in the souternmost province of Loja, Ecuador, bordering Peru to it's south. It's location is a virtual nexus point between the high Andes and the end of the Amazon basin. At 4,900 feet above sea level, it's location is just a little lower than the city of Loja , which is 40 killometers to it's north. The temperature doesn't vary much year round, stays mostly in the seventies and the valley enjoys a great deal of daily sunshine with brief periods of rain. In short, an ideal year round climate for human habitation. The year is divided by a predominantly wet and dry season. The wet season is in what the USA defines as it's winter months although South America is actually upside down from the States in relating its summer and winter months.
The valley has a rich history of being a vacation spot for the elite Incas, and is watched over by the ever present sacred mountain, Mondango.
Access to Vilcabamba is gained through a highway from Loja, the nearest city of about 200,000 which is about 45 minutes away by taxi over an undulating, twisting mountain road that occasionally turns to gravel. No superhighways here. And what few corporate franchises exist in Ecuador, they are confined to the larger cities and are few in number.
And so, on April 12 we departed for an 8 day vacation to this mystical place. Our trip was long, due to the four legs of flights and transpired almost 24 hours from Phoenix to Loja. But we finally arrived excited at our adventure and in good spirits. Just as promised by Brian, a taxi was waiting for us with a driver named Carlos. It was the tail end of the rainy season when we arrived there and sure enough it began to rain as soon as we landed. The 90 minute trip from Catamaya Airport, north of the city of Loja to Vilcabamba seemed endless as the day turned into night.
We were not used to the Ecuadorian driving protocols, which includes pretty agressive driving: passing around blind corners, asserting one's position in regards to other cars and even pedestrians. It's pretty much every man for himself in regards to travelling on the roads. There are (seemingly) no rules! To the average American, this seems quite reckless and I remember how this shocked me at first during my previous trip to Quito and Cotacachi in 1990. Crosses lined the highways into the mountains, remembering those who have died going off the cliffs, which are mostly sheer drop offs of significant heights.
Well, thankfully, I didn't notice any crosses this time. I've since learned that the roads here are not as dangerous as they seem to the uninitiated: This is simply the way things are down here. Among the locals, the taxis are all assumed to have the right of way... it is something well understood by all vehicles on the road, and while some of their maneuvers might seem risky in comparison to the very orderly driving habits of most Americians, who mostly drive their cars in fear of the police radar and photo cameras, the drivers in Ecuador know what they are doing. A good taxi driver expecially knows every inch of the road, spending their lives driving up and down it daily. Now that I've spent some time travelling by taxis here, I no longer feel anxiety when I ride.
Arriving at Montesuenos
The last half of our road trip was in the dark and it was still raining so we didn't get to see to much of the terrain we were driving into, except to note that is quite mountainous and the road twisted and turned, sometimes down to a single lane the further we went. They also had recent landslides from the rains which made for slower than usual going, which I learned is another facet of life here that happens in cycles.
Finally, the village lights of Vilcabamba came into view below us as we descended a series of hills from Malacatos and just ten minutes later, we had climbed the gravel road to the other side of the valley, up another steep incline and into the driveway of Montesuenos, where Brian and Meredith both greeted us with warm and smiling faces. We made it!
The Paradise that is Montesuenos (Mountain of Dreams)
Although it was dark outside, we could tell we were in a very special place. It just felt incredible! Friendly and congenial, Brian and Meredith welcomed us with a chat by a nice fire they had prepared in the guest cottage for us and they gave us a tour of where we would sleep. It felt like a reunion more than a first meeting. Wonderful people: Brian is an ex-Nasa Astronaut who was trained for the Mars mission in the seventies (which was eventually scrapped). He is a scientist, a contemporary of the late Carl Sagan, and has since been an outspoken advocate for ecological responsibility and free, non-polluting energy systems. He currently spends his time writing, occasionally lecturing, doing some of the manual labor himself in the continued building of Montesuenos plus playing and writing music in his spare time.
Meredith is a gifted visionary artist and her mystical artwork gracefully adorned the walls. She clearly has the gift of seeing beyond this reality and possesses and great sense of color and texture. Her paintings are of mixed media, and sparkle with intricate detail. Her inspirations are very spiritual and that is what is powerfully communicated in her paintings. Meredith's artistic touch however is not limited to her artwork, but is evidenced in the entire edifices and environment of Montesuenos grounds, down to the design and building of a beautiful cascading waterfall in back of their home and the meandering walkways and paths through natural gates that are lined with flowers and exotic plants.
I could strongly relate to both of these remarkably creative and conscious individuals.
The Montesuenos 'Guest Cottage'
The beautiful two-story structure we found ourselves in was built of tile, rough hewn beams, and rock and had a decided organic, natural feel to it. It was quite spacious and could accommodate up to ten people easily. We felt extremely relaxed. So when we went to sleep that night (and sleep we did, as we were exhausted) we had but only a little introductory taste of the special place we would call home for the week, but still could not have possibly imagined what dramatic vistas we would see upon waking.
Upon waking the next morning, my first sensations were auditory: mooing cows, followed closely by roosters crowing, donkeys eye-owing and birds chirping. I lay there for a long time in bed with my eyes closed, just listening, and smiling at the thought of cows mooing outside my window. I then opened my eyes, to see where I was as my waking consciousness slowly began to emerge from my state of sleep.
Words are inadequate to describe the experience... it was simply so much larger than can be translated verbally or can be conveyed in these few photos. Our bedroom had huge windows on two sides that looked out over the village of Vilcabamba, about two miles below us and a magnificent panorama of the huge lush mountains that surrounded us on all sides which revealed so many different hues of green. The vista was of such staggering beauty that I literally had a hard time believing we were really there. I remember having a similar experience visiting Maui and Kauai a couple of decades earlier: The sheer beauty of the place altered my state of being and I smiled to myself in recognition. Certainly, a greater contrast to the dry deserts of Arizona and concrete metropolis of Phoenix could not be possible. Yes, this is just what the doctored ordered!
The kitchen had fresh organic fruits and vegetables filling baskets for us (a daily occurance) and it was fully equipped for our use. Any details that we needed during our stay were promptly attended to by the good-natured and intelligent young man named Ullyses, the Guest Manager of Montesuenos, who actually went down the path to milk cows one day when we ran out of milk! He came back a half hour later with a full bucket, fresh from the cows udder! Gotta love it. There was one morning I was starting to feel a bit sick to my stomach (not uncommon for westerners visiting) due to the difference in the local water. Ullyses took some local herbs, mixed it up into a drink and gave it to me and within an hour I was back to feeling normal! Pretty amazing, as earlier I was starting to feel like I'd down for a day or two. The bathrooms of the guest cottage are gorgeous works of art (all four of them), displaying exceptional craftmanship of colored, inlaid tiles of swirling designs that endowed each space with a unique identity. Throughout the house, colors and shapes swirled and gracefully stimulated and teased the eye. Many architectural elements such as railings and gates were hand-crafted from the local tree branches and polished smooth, adding to the wonderful natural flow of everything. Windows and doors were configured with arches and circles and other angles... a most creative design.
We spent several days touring around the property, hiking up to the local sacred space which was the top of a hill a ten minute walk away that afforded even more dramatic vistas and were treated to a tour of Brian and Meredith's home, which was quite literally the most impressive property I've ever seen due to the extraordinary combination of artistic vision, organic flow and the amazing natural location of the property that sits high on a mountainside.
It certainly is one of the most unique bed and breakfast retreats in the world. All this, for only $25 per night, pp.! (which is actually the high-end of hotel costs in the area).
As the week went on, we both experienced our own individual internal response to this extraordinary new environment we were in. I was simply soaking in the extraordinary visual and sensual beauty that was everywhere, taking a lot of photos and not thinking much at all.
Julia was similarly affected, but her response took the form of gestating ideas of practical action. After a few days she began to speak more of a vision of work that had been incubating in her mind for some time now regarding voluntourism, a combining of the adventures of tourism with the practical purpose of doing needed volunteer work to help make the world a better place. She was curious as to wether this village would be a place that would welcome an idea such as this and if so, would it be well recieved? Is it workable?
So, as we enjoyed exploring Vilcabamba, we both were inwardly formulating possibilities of a renewed purpose for being. Like me, Julia was also feeling like she was ready for a change, but didn't know what. She had gone back to school to get her nursing degree, yet felt stagnant in her job at the Hospital and while she performed an important function there, she found it difficult to continue in it. Julia had dealt with the reality and trauma of death on a daily basis, as she was the primary person that would communicate with the families of a deceased loved one. I remember she would sometimes remark how she had a particularly sad case that day and just be totally spent emotionally. She also found it hard to exist in the highly structured, bureaucratic box of the profit-based system of western medicine, and her soul cried out for more authentic and meaningful life experience.
A Fateful Stroll
Most days included a walk down into the village, a two mile stroll, which often took an hour or two, simply because of the things we would notice along the way, and of course, I was taking lots of photos... talking to the cows and just enjoying the wonderful ambience. We would occasionally meet local people, both young and old (such as the 100 year old man on the left), who routinely walked up and down the steep hilly roads on a daily basis. I could never run out of interesting and inspirational subject matter for photos or paintings in this place... It had and abundance of what life in Phoenix so sorely lacked: character! Julia had brought little gifts that she gave to the children we would meet and it was a joy to watch their faces light up! They were so easily pleased.
About mid week, we walked down the mountain road on our way to the village and came upon a fork in the road where two roads merged into one, at the precise moment that three other people were coming down on the other side from the other road. We greeted each other and learned there names: They were Mary, Jay and Caroline. We began to talk as we walked on and to my astonishment I learned Mary was from Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the region where I spent the first forty years of my life! I had actually spent a year living down the street from her at White Cliffs. Another extraordinary synchronicity. Hmmm...
But it was Jay and Caroline that proved to be the most pivotal connection for us. We were all enjoying each other's company so when we got to the village, we decided to stop at one of the local cafe's named Sambuca, and enjoyed a leisurely conversation over lunch. Like many Ecudorian villages, Vilcabamba has a town square as it's center, which has a beautiful tiled water fountain and a gorgeous colonial Cathedral (above) as it's most visible landmark. Small shops and cafe's line the streets around the square.
Similar to meeting Brian and Meredith, it felt like we were reuniting with old friends. Jay and I seemed to instantly recognize each other and were immediately 'on the same page'. He was from Santa Fe and as he shared his personal story with me, I learned we had travelled a very similar path in life.
I experienced the same with Caroline too, who spoke in the beautiful british accent of her origins. Julia had a similar experience and we all became friends easily. While we were there we also met Erin, Jay's energetic, sandy-haired daughter
whom we would later become good friends with as well. Jay and Caroline had travelled the world over the past few years looking for a place to put roots down. They finally found Vilcabamba and have been here since September of last year, luring Erin to join them as well. They are both involved in the healing arts. Jay is a hypnotherapist and spiritual counsellor, well experienced in past life regression. Caroline is a Yoga instructor, dance instructor, gourmet vegetarian cook, herbologist and healer.
At one point in our conversation Julia began to open up and share her thoughts on doing voluntourism here in the village. Jay's immediate response was, "How soon can you get yourselves here and get started." Julia and I looked at each other. The answer was obvious.
I have come to understand that synchronicity is the language of Divine Spirit. If we learn to notice it, it can become a valuable guide to us. As we each were discovering these experiences of synchronicity, Julia and I would simply look at each other with the common unspoken understanding: There is an intelligence bigger than us was a work here, and a destiny was being laid before us. We simply had to have the courage to take the steps forward.
During the week, we had other travellers come and share accommodations with us at Montesuenos. A group of Canadians stopped for a night coming up from some extensive time touring Peru, whom we enjoyed a late night of conversation over dinner.
Then the next night we had a visit from a wonderful musician named Sue Terry from New York. Sue travelled in major league professional jazz circles and had just attended Stuart Wilde's Ayahausca workshop in the Quito area and decided spontaneously to extend her trip to Ecuador by coming down to Montesuenos for a couple of days. (Another synchronicity here: Stuart Wilde is an author I read for many yearsr and is one of my favorite teachers).
One of the real highlights of our trip was a jam session that was spontaneously arranged one evening with Brian and me trading spots on the piano while Sue improvised beautifully on her alto saxophone. It was a magical night and I grew to like her a lot in our short time together. Somehow I think she may be back here to visit again.
Our last day at Montesuenos was shared with three generations of an Ecuadorian family (left) that were in the midst of a travelling family reunion which included members from Paris, California and Ecuador. Good hearted folks all, we enjoyed their energy and enthusiasm of being here.
Archetype of Transformation: The Butterfly
To really tell this part of the story, I need to back up a bit. Shortly after Julia and I had met last fall, she was inspired to create a series of 'vision boards', one of which featured three butterflies and the words, "I am set free: boundless and without limitations, and able to become all that I am meant to be." The motif of the butterfly was important and imprinted a powerful archetype of transformation in her mind.
The morning of the day we took our walk to the village and had that fateful meeting with Jay and Caroline, Julia had begun the day with a meditation in the garden. As she did so, she was pondering the idea of voluntourism and also her relationship with me. She felt a strong desire to pursue the voluntourism idea, but was unsure if this was something she would undertake alone or if it was something that she would co-create with me as her partner. In that very moment, an orange and black butterfly fluttered up and landed on her big toe!
Staring at the creature and contemplating it's possible significance, which she perceived as validation from the Universe of what she had been contemplating, Julia then heard Meredith's voice from inside the house and went inside and began to tell her of what just happened. Meredith said, 'Stay right here, I have something for you," and came back in a minute with a book about Messengers in the Nature, which featured a section on butterflies. It said this (paraphrased): "If a butterfly visits you, it means that the idea you have been considering is ready to go to the next level. It then detailed the various stages a butterfly goes through: the Larva stage, which is the initial creation of the idea; the Cocoon stage, which the idea is given mental energy and goes through silent possibility planning; and finally the Metamorphis stage, which is the speaking out of one's intention, followed by action and thus making it a physical reality.
As we had walked down the path just prior to meeting Jay, Caroline and Mary, Julia was sharing with me what she had just read and was quite moved by it's significance. So after we had met Jay and Caroline, and the topics of conversation went the way they did, and Jay posed that fateful question to us, it became clear to both of us that we were being called to speak our intention out and make it a reality. There was no choice really involved, as it seemed to be divinely orchestrated. But, there's more. Much more...
The Butterfly House
The next day I had booked a counselling session with Jay at his home as I was desiring healing of my health problems (asthma, hypertension) as well as personal clarity of my life's purpose. So, I came to his home (he and Caroline were then living in the home we now occupy.) Interestingly enough, it's called 'The Butterfly House' – it has butterflies etched into the facade of the house in tile and stone. It's absolutely charming... a storybook-like cottage on the opposite mountain slope from Montesuenos. One must traverse about a half mile of a very steep mountain road to get to it. It is one of three private homes on a property that includes another eco retreat spa and hotel, Madre Tierra.
When I told Julia about the Butterfly House later, her jaw dropped open, although you would think we'd be used to this kind of magic by now... The motif of transformation was all around us. The Intelligence that creates worlds was speaking to us, and we made note of it!
And so, we left Vilcabamba at the end of the week a changed and more cohesive couple. Both of us were profoundly moved by our visit there and the people we had met. Most importantly, we agreed we both felt that Divine Intelligence was making a path for us to follow. It seemed to be calling us, with a mutual purpose for being there and it seemed to have the assistance of Spirit in every way. There were still questions that filled our heads and a vision and future that had yet to be fully defined, but we were pretty certain of one thing: we would find a way to return, together.
The very day we returned my mom and dad flew in from florida for a planned ten day visit... the first in three years, so I returned back to the airport to pick them only a few hours after getting home. It was great to see them again, and they really loved meeting Julia. This was their first visit west in three years and I enjoyed playing some golf with my dad and going for a ride out to the Superstition Mountains which we topped off with a stop by my favorite restaurant down in Julia's neighborhood, 'The Feed Bag'! But without a doubt the highlight of the week for me was figuring out how to play my Mom's favorite song, 'Star Dust', on the piano, which she just delighted in as it was the song of her and my dad when they were courting, sixty-something years ago. She asked for encore after encore with tears in her eyes!
We also enjoyed a Diamondback's baseball game courtesy of my daughter Carrie. She is a first grade Schoolteacher in downtown Phoenix and doing a terrific job. She also had her class of cute little kids with her and they all had a ball!
A couple of month's earlier, my son Justin came out for a week's visit. He is a new father with a daughter Amelia born last October, the first for him and his wife Jennifer. It was a year and a half since I had seen him and that was a great pleasure as well. Justin plays golf as well and we enjoyed some fun times on the links while he was here including a concluding round at the new
Raven Course at Verrado, one of the Phoenix area's best.
During this time, we also began to brainstorm between ourselves and with a conference call with Jay and Caroline formulated some essential groundwork for our voluntourism vision, which we labeled VIVE: Voluntourism in Vilcabamba Ecuador. We added the acronym 4U simply so that we could have a unique website url: VIVE4U.com. We then developed the logo and website over the next few days and set up the domain and hosting plan.
The process of writing and editing the text for the website flowed quickly and easily and it became the working model of our business plan. At this stage, we didn't know how VIVE4U would support us financially and we still have to work that part of the puzzle out, but we determined to step into the unknown and figure it out along the way. This would begin essentially as a volunteer project on our part and I could fund our modest living expenses in Ecuador with my continuing graphic work via the internet. As things develop we hope to recoup something for
our time and expenses in doing this but that is a secondary consideration to getting it started and off the ground.
As VIVE became further defined as a concept we were introduced by Jay to Christina Chaya, the Director of Vilcabamba's Community Cultural Center. At this point she was very pregnant and about to give birth and thus had to reduce her involvement with the Community Center which she had been working for a year on getting various programs going, but by herself it was slow going and she was in need of help. She welcomed our involvement and asked us to step in and take up the mantle of trying to attract the volunteers necessary for the various community projects, which would begin with the community building itself, a fabulous three-story building situated near the town center but in need of cleaning, repairs and refurbishing. Properly restored, the Center would be able to offer viable community services in the arts and education and we were offered office space there by which we would run VIVE4U to organize volunteers.
An Offer We Can't Refuse
Near the end of May, Jay contacted us and informed us that the 'large house' in back of them was becoming available for them to rent so they had decided to take it and asked us if we would be interested in renting the Butterfly House, as it would be vacant starting June first. This was our open door and we quickly seized the opportunity and secured the rental starting June 1st. Julia's son Christian was in the Army and was due to come home on leave for the first two weeks in July, so we planned our trip to be on July 18th, so that Julia could spend some time with hime before our move. Monthly rent was set at $325 per month, which included electricity, a weekly maid and a daily gardener of the grounds! When I took a look at my current adjustable mortgage, which was now upside down, and all the related expenses of keeping up the house, it was a no-brainer!
My home would either sell as a 'short sale' or eventually go to foreclosure, (along with the significant number of other Americians). I was perfectly aware that this of course would destroy my credit, however Eduador does not function in the western paradigm of credit. It is a cash system here, and based on the U.S. dollar, so a credit score was irrelevant where we were going. What's more, 100% of my income was now coming by working from home via the internet. This would no doubt continue as long as I had functional internet, which I knew was available in Vilcabamba, as I had tested that aspect while I was there in April. In considering all factors, there was no reason NOT to do this: I could continue to earn money as I had done, but with the stress of my high monthly bills reduced significantly, (by approximately 75%), I could now reclaim time for more personally meaningful and creative pursuits.
Family Visit to Santa Cruz and Yosemite
We now had a green light to go forward without hesitation and subsequently listed both our homes with an agressive real estate agent and began to plan for our move. Knowing it would be some time before we would be back in the states, I had one more road trip I wanted to make to visit my youngest son Nathan, his wife Sarah and four of my five darling granddaughters: Bella, Hana, Abigail and Elizabeth in Santa Cruz while we still had an Arizona address. So we planned a weekend trip for early June.
We drove through the night on a friday night to take the family out for breakfast at Paula's on Saturday morning. Paula's is a great little breakfast spot with a funky surf ambiance and we then went north up highway 1 and spent some time at the beach while Nathan and the girls flew a kite and played at the water's edge. After enjoying a couple of days with the family (those girls are just too cute for words), we embarked upon the 800 mile return trip (running out of gas on the way, but fortunately within a 15 minute walk to a gas station for assistance) through Yosemite National Park, which I had never seen before, and that was an amazing experience in itself.
Craig's List & Estate Sales
Once we were back, Julia put her truck up for sale and quickly attracted a buyer. The speed and ease at which this happened was amazing. I started posting my household items and furniture on Craigslist, and by the first week in July, had sold most everything. I just kept putting up ads and crossed off things as they sold each week and repeated the process. We also had planned three garage/estate sales for the last three weeks in June. The first one was at Julia's house in Apache Junction, and we virtually sold everything in the house that weekend. What little was left over, we carted over to my place for the next two weeks of garage sales, only this time, I decided to have it in my living area instead of the garage, as my garage door unexpectedly broke. This proved to be a good thing for this time of year in Arizona is pretty hot and people enjoyed coming into the air conditioning of the house while they looked over our stuff. We worked hard and spent the time to create excellent, attention getting signs and placed them around at strategic locations. After two weekends of this, we had again almost emptied my house out. I was particularly pleased to sell all of my paintings, albeit at greatly reduced prices save for a handful which I gave away to family and a couple of close friends.
Packing Challenges: Lessons in Letting Go
So, in the space of less than one month, we had emptied our homes and were faced with the final week of packing and making the difficult choices of what to take with us and what we had to leave behind. Back in the middle of May, after investigating various methods of shipping things down there, I decided to make a priority mail package through the US Postal Service. It was an 18"x15", 45 lb. box containing the sound system for my computer, some choice boxed set DVDs, printer toner and books. It cost me a total of $186. However, this was much less than it would have cost with any other carrier such as FedX or UPS. Jay provided his PO Box in Loja, along with the disclaimer that things work a little differently in Ecuador and the precision and accountability we take for granted in the US is non-existent there. Sometimes, parcel mail never arrives, or is endless ties up in customs, or simply stolen enroute. Still, I was willing to take my chances and off it went on May 18th. The USPS says it should arrive in two weeks.
After a month and no sign of it showing, I had pretty much given up hope of it ever appearing but around July 1 we got a note from Jay saying the package arrived. It's a bit of a hassle getting it, as Jay's daughter Erin had to take three taxi's to the customs, go to a bank, wait in line two hours, go back to customs again and pay the duty, which is whatever they say it is, not what you declare it's worth. They wanted to set it at $180, but fortunately, because Erin is fluent in Espanol and knows the gatekeeper there she was able to negotiate it down to $80. So, figureing some money to cover Erin's efforts my 45 lb. box cost me $280. to get down there. Pricey, yes, but still the best method for anything essential that we can't take down there with us ourselves.
We then plotted our Air Cargo which was pretty trickey too. After reading the restrictions and requirements of USAirways and then going to the Ecuador Customs site to find out what they require, we determined this: We are allowed two checked baggage items up to 50 lbs each, plus one carry-on item and a personal item (smaller bag or laptop computer). They also had size requirements: a box could not exceed 80 inches, total dimensions (HxWxD).
So now it was down to deciding what wast truly 'essential' and worth the expense to send down there, and what were the highest priority items to fit in our luggage that we would take with us on the trip down.
This presented a particular challenge to one of my prime priorities to bring down there, my greatest joy: a digital grand piano. I carefully measured the dimensions: exactly 80 inches. I would have to build a custom cardboard travelling box that fit it exactly (and I did). But would it pass the check points? With the cardboard, it actually measured closer to 81". I was hopeful. The other items that were critical for me were my two computers, plus two external hard drives, cables and related assessories and my three prized guitars and I was already over the limit without allowance for clothes or anything else. I intended to bring an expensive Water Ionizer and Juicer with me as well, but it wasn't looking like we would have room. It was getting depressing. Julia had a similar dilemma, which as most women could probably relate to: shoes, clothes and treasured household items.
Julia Has Emergency Surgery
To make matters more complicated, Julia doubled over with acute abdominal pain one day at work and it was determined she needed to have emergency surgery. This all happened less than two weeks before our scheduled flight. A co-worker at the hospital had died without warning the previous week who had the same condition, so it was a critical situation to be taken care of with surgery ASAP. As it turned out, she had an estrangulated internal hernia and obstruction in her intestines that would have had serious consequences had it not been immediately alleviated. The timing of all this, and the fact that she was able to get it done before our trip and on the very last day before her insurance ran out we felt was itself another instance of divine providence. But as a result of the surgery, Julia would not be able to lift anything for the next several weeks, which made our final preparations more challenging to say the least.
Another Amazing Synchronicity
All this time, I was continuing to work on my daily jobs with Brian Penry and other clients, which brings up another mind-boggling instance of synchronicity which deserves a detailing:
For the last three years Brian and I have collaborated daily through his business, Penry Creative. Brian functioned as the overseeing Art Director and interfaced with a variety of clients, mostly in the New York City area near where his home base is in Connecticut. I function as his primary graphics support guy. One of our biggest clients in these last three years is a business woman named Deborah, who controls several business operations and networking organizations which I was curious to note displayed a decided holistic and progressive philosophy. During this time, we had, and were continuing to develop several websites for her various business entities.
As Brian was her primary contact, I had no ongoing direct contact with her. Consequently, she had no idea I had planned this move to Vilcabamba, nor any knowledge of my connection to Jay and Caroline, etc. Get this: One day in late June, Brian called me in amazement to inform me that his client Deborah and her husband Coley were currently travelling out of the country and... guess where? Ecuador. "No kidding... where in Ecuador?" Vilcabamba. I was stunned. I mean, of all places in the world, she finds this tiny remote village in the Andes? "You've got to be kidding!" No...Guess where they are staying? They are renting your Butterfly House!!!
I am not sure what any of this means, but it is one amazing synchronistic connection that totally defies odds of chance. They apparently had an email friend, Susan who lives here in Vilcabamba (we have heard her name mentioned a few times but have yet to meet), and Deborah had decided on a visit and also to attend Jay and Caroline's July 4th workshop, "Past Lives & Personal Reality" through Susan's suggestion. (small world, isn't it?) As our Butterfly House was vacant, Jay made it available as a short term rental until we arrived. Perhaps that is the end of this story. Maybe there is a continuation that will play out in the future, but it certainly has got our attention and served as a powerful validation, if nothing else, that this move is our destiny.
Creative Solutions / With a Little Help From My Friends
Back to the move: In considering the exhorbinant expenses of shipping, and not really wanting to go that route, it suddenly dawned on me that if another person travelled there, he/she could take some critical things down with them for us as their checked and carry-on luggage and enjoy a nice vacation at the same time!
I asked my good friend Ken Babb if he would have any interest in taking an expense-paid trip down to Ecuador in return for acting as our 'pack mule' to assist us in this move and, being the good sport he is, he eagerly accepted. So, as challenges presented themselves, solutions were being created, one by one.
That took care of most of our essential things to get down there. I packed two boxes to leave with Ken to take down with me on the next trip when I return in a few months for a visit. Julia did likewise with her daughter, Jasmine, and thus we had a workable plan for this dramatic and extraordinary move abroad.
It was the last week and we were scheduled to leave Saturday afternoon. It was now Thursday morning and I did the final emptying of my home in Surprise, did a general clean up, put the remaining few items in the garage and arranged for Goodwill to pick them up as donations, and with that I bid my last 5 years in Surprise goodbye, not looking back. It was surprisingly easy to do (pardon the pun), although now, when I see this little photo of my house up here I am reminded of all the sweet times that were spent there and the people in my life during those years, and I can't help but feel a little sentimental. I've been blessed with wonderful memories and experiences. But hey, life is now and the future remains to be written, so it profits no one to look back. Onward!
We arrived at Julias home in the late afternoon after several errands along the way (we had a long list) and began to do our final packing there. This was a complex process of trial and error to try to get the weight of each box under 50 lbs using a bathroom scale. We were up until the wee hours of the morning early friday before we finally completed the task and made a makeshift bed on the floor out of some pillows and a few spare clothes. I had previously arranged a final golf game at Gold Canyon shortly after dawn on Friday so we only got 2-3 hours sleep that night, which was the predominant pattern all that final week.
My golf outing went great, and I got to play a final round on a course I had long wanted to play: The Dinosaur Course at Gold Canyon, but I had always considered it too expensive. Doug Hoxeng, a great guy I had recently coached regarding his golf game offered to cover my fee and also bought me lunch too. We shared the round with another golfing friend, Bob Keiser and had a great time of it. I was exhausted and did not play my best but it sure was fun and a fitting goodbye to Arizona golf... at least as a resident.
Julia and I regrouped Friday afternoon to do our final checklist and bring our final boxes over to her daughter Jasmine's house, as they would be bringing us to the airport in their truck Saturday afternoon (our moving day). The night before while were going through the difficult process of trying to fit our stuff in our checked luggage boxes, we decided we still had things we needed to get down there that wouldn't fit, so at the last minute we decided to send a couple of packages priority mail (like the first box we sent in May) and we would just have to wait lag time and pay the tarrif on the other end, whatever it turns out to be. Phew!! Done.
Goodbye Arizona / July 18th
Our last day in Arizona was spent meeting up with my friend and work collaborator Alfredo Saavedra for breakfast and doing some minute last errands in preparation for our flight. As it turned out there really were no moments to spare, but we had everything highly organzied and had planned it perfectly: All went like clockwork. I also had driven my car for the last time and I turned in my vehicle with the keys to the bank/leinholder and went directly to the airport.
We checked our bags in and to our astonishment, they were 50 lbs on the dime. My 81" piano box also sailed through! I was relieved about that but was concerned about my partner: Julia was not feeling well during all of this and was experiencing sharp stomach pains. I think all the stress of the last couple of weeks was particularly tough on her, as she really wasn't able to get the rest she needed after the surgery. She also still could not lift anything and it was uncomfortable for her to walk, so we gladly took advantage of the airport wheelchair policy for her, and I managed to wheel a cart with our considerable carry-on luggage though the five airports of our trip and all the related check points, (not an easy task, thanks to TSA and Homeland 'Security') but all went quite flawlessly and without undue hassle.
Touching Down in Loja
We arrived at our final destination airport at Catamaya (Loja) in the late afternoon, just as we had done on our earlier trip in April. Only this time the afternoon sun was shining on the mountains surrounding the airport turning them a warm orange/gold color and to our delight, a brilliant double rainbow appeared out of the rainy mist that covered the tops of the mountains. Again, we received a welcome message that could not be denied. We were where we are supposed to be.
Jay and Caroline sent a trusted Taxi driver named Lenin to pick us up and it wasn't hard to pick him out of the crowd that gathered at the airport terminal as he held up a sign that said,
'JACK'. We were to retain Lenin's services much in the days and weeks to come as driver, guide and all round handyman as we later bought appliances for the home in Loja, which to a foreigner, is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. He possesses a great disposition and friendly personality and although he didn't know english well, he pretty much understood our intentions. We feel we've made another trusted friend. Although she would deny it, Julia has been a big help in communicating as her espanol is quite decent and she could actually carry on conversations in the language. Me, I was limited to my kindergarten level two and three word simple phrases, like mi gusto los vacas and quiero ir al bano, but I'm slowly learning.
The 90-minute ride to our new mountain home at the butterfly house was interrupted by a stop at a grocery store in Loja where we tried to find some edible things that we could recognize. The most assessible one is called the 'Supermaxi' and, to my knowledge, it is the only grocery store of it's size in Loja. It is the closest thing to an 'american style' grocery store both in size and style with brightly lit isles and a slick neon sign. But that is where the similarity ends. Most of the brands were not familiar to us. Oh, a few were, but most were not, and it was a daunting job just to figure out what we were buying.
An Ecuadorian Supermarket
The most comical aspect of the Supermaxi is that they built about a dozen or so check out counters but made the isles so narrow that one could not push a shopping cart through them! In fact, your average obese American wouldn't be able to squeeze through! As this store is popular and crowded, this created a massive gridlock of empty shopping carts out in the isles that continually blocks access to the check out counters creating a mass of confusion as customers tried to navigate their full carts into the gate keepers in order to buy their stuff! Sheer lunacy!
It didn't take long for us to realize that this kind of lack of foresight and 'reverse efficiency' was a common theme to business in Ecuador. It's just the way business has evolved down here and no one really thinks about changing it for greater profit, although it would be easy to do. More on this aspect of Ecuadorian life later, but when we left the Supermaxi we had a greater appreciation for just how different life down here would be. We were trading convenience, choices and efficient order for freedom, adventure and a much simpler life that simply was not based on product consumption. 'Stuff' could be found, in limited choices and quality, but it clearly was not the basis of a way of life it is in the States.
Well, that's fine. That's not why I chose to come here anyway. So, we piled into the waiting taxi with Lenin keeping an ever watchful eye on our luggage in back under a secured tarp and continued on our innaugural trip to Vilcabamba and our new home, smiling at the experience. About halfway down the twisting mountain highway we were treated with the sight of a wandering cow as it waddled it's way down the middle of the road. I just had to laugh... as that one was for me personally. We continued to see things we were unaccustomed to: Burro's carrying cargo also shared the roads with cows, taxi's, buses and private cars. I like this place!
Finally, we decended the mountain from the neighboring town of Malacatos and Vilcabamba emerged in our sight. This time, instead of travelling through the village and up the southern slopes to Montesuenos, we took a right turn a good mile before getting to the village at the sign for the hotel/spa named 'Madre Tierra', and another mile up a steep and very narrow gravel road, we came to the entry gate of the property where our Butterfly House lay waiting for our arrival.
Home At Last
Our new home was a joy to behold. At night, the brightly colored internal walls of red, orange and blue hues look warm and cozy. Jay and Caroline, who were already retired for the night in the big house further up the hill from us, had left a sweet note for us on the table with a vase of fresh flowers welcoming us. And after emptying the back of the taxi out with our stuff and groceries, we were delighted to finally relax a bit, after a rudimentary unpacking to see how our cargo survived the long trip. Not bad... only two things were broken and fortunately, nothing of irreplaceable value. We collapsed in the comfortable queen bed and slept for probably twelve hours, which we repeated for the next several days as our bodies definitely needed a major recharging.
Shopping in Ecuador (or, the Search for the Holy Grail)
The next day, after unpacking our things and checking out the resources of our new home, we had some immediate needs to fill and called Lenin to take us back to Loja for the day to do some major shopping. Actually, one day was not enough. But over the next week we gradually got what we needed as we worked daily to organize our living space. First on the list was a small refrigerator that could fit in the limited space in our kitchen. We also needed a stove, oven, coffeemaker, linens, towels, etc. and a bunch of little things, mostly for the kitchen and bathroom.
In the USA, such shopping would be a slam dunk and only require 2-3 hours rather than three days. But like I said, this is a different world down here and looking for a specific thing can be like the search for the holy grail. Kinda funny really, and not without a good measure of entertainment value in itself. I think the different way of commerce here is one of the greatest contrasts to life in America. Personally, I don't mind it, but it helps to have a good sense of humor about it. Ecuador's commerce is mostly through small, family owned shops, and there are few places that provide variety of products and choices all in one place.
Take something as ordinary light bulbs: It took us two shopping trips into the city, and we still can't find the size we need for our lamps here. On a third attempt we finally found the right size, bought them, brought them home and plugged them in and they started to blink on and off: Aaagggghhhh!!! they were Christmas lights for God sake!!! I tell you, humor goes a long way here. It also took us two trips and about four hours to find some push pins and velcro strips. It's not that these items are in such rare scarcity, but they are just not available on every street corner as they are in the states, and one can only know from experience where to go for a specific thing.
Fabric and thread is another example: Julia was intending on creating a quilt and so we went to several fabric stores that sold fabric where she picked out wonderful colors and patterns, but none of them sold thread or needles! Now, does that make any sense at all? We still haven't found a place to get thread... And once we do find a store to buy thread, I bet you anything they won't sell needles. A different world indeed.
Cross Comparisons: US/Ecuador
But, alas, its all a trade-off and one I am happy to make. Although I still have much yet to experience in this beautiful country, I'll make a cross comparison for the interested reader:
Things I like about Ecuador:
• freedom (relative)
• an abundance of cows and other farm animals...
who make themselves known at dawn
• abundance of natural beauty
• simple lifestyle
• very low cost of living
• exceptionally comfortable, and balanced climate
• good hearted friends and neighbors of like mind
• beautiful native people, unspoiled by a consumer lifestyle
• a credit score is irrelevant, a cash only economy
• immunity to political nonsense
• a more real, authentic way of life
• small family-owned stores are the norm
• the women are beautiful
• if the power grid went down permanently, I'd still eat
well, have decent water to drink, and clean air to breathe.
Things I don't particularly like about Ecuador:
• it can take 3 days to find the right sized light bulb,
and even then it might blink on and off.
• the appearance of chaos and free-for-all on the roads
• apparent lack of order and efficiency
• very limited product choices and few of good quality
• the presence of military police in public places in the city
• poorly designed supermarkets
• Ecuadorians can get noisey at times, particularly in
celebration... they love loud noises, cherry bombs, etc.
Things I like about the United States:
• my family and good friends
• golf courses
• an abundance of diverse and beautiful scenery
• people are generally polite and considerate to each other
• convenience of product choices
• exceptionally good quality of most products
• easy access to information
• easy travel on well maintained roads
• motorists obey common rules
• well planned infrastructure that allows for expansion
• the illusion of 'order'
Things I like don't particularly like about the United States:
• Empire building / Agressive military policies
• Bush Jr's 'Patriot Act', 1 and 2 – the destruction of freedom
• the emerging police state (checkpoints, surveillance cameras, etc.)
• thoroughly corrupt politicians who are devoid of integrity and
a political system that ensures that psychopaths stay in power
• the reality of enslavement through debt
• a predatory monetary system (usury), as the basis of life
• a consumer based existence
• the lies of religion that entrap true light beings into
• advanced electronic mind programming through the main
stream media, cell phone towers, HAARP, etc.
• the relentless chemtrail program over the last decade
• rap music, heavy metal / the sell out of the youth for a buck
• an educational system designed to dumb down the public,
reward conformity and discourage critical thinking
Well, I could go on but I'll stop here. There are of course, negative aspects common to each country as the States have no corner on the market for criminals in government and other positions of power. In fact, that's pretty much the rule all over the globe, as only those who lust after postions of control get to those positions in the first place and are so thoroughly compromised that they have no choice but to dance to the tune of the money barons who finance their campaigns.
However, from my above lists, you can see clearly what the trade offs are... at least how I see them. I am sure having been here only two weeks I am still heavily programmed by the sophisticated technologies that cover every square inch of the US and all 'developed' nations... there is no way I could not be affected, even though I have been unplugged from the mainstream propaganda for over 15 years now.
However, I definitely can feel a difference here. I feel lighter.
As one expatriate here put it, "You just don't know just how much you've been living a life of illusion until you've broken the ties that bind, and have spent a good amount of time away from it. Then, one day, all of a sudden you see it.... you see clearly the consciousness prison which once held you, and you notice that you think differently than you used to, you feel differently than you used to and you realize you have reclaimed your personal freedom."
(see the short YouTube video, 'The Matrix and the Cave')
Ironic that I find that in order to reclaim my freedom, I leave a country in which 'freedom' is it's most heavily promoted propaganda. But it is only an illusion of freedom. And while Ecuador is not without it's own version of control system's and oppression, it is relatively benign by my investigation and experience. True, there have been periods of criminal governments in the past, (promoted by the USA incidentally) and Ecuador has also had good presidents who refused to be corrupted by the money powers that have ultimately been 'taken out' (by the CIA). But lets not spend too much time on that stuff. It is out there for any serious student of world affairs to discover if they really want to.
The present national administration of Ecuador has been quite positive in the opinion of most people living here, instituting several new policies that benefit the people over more powerful corporate interests. How long this present condition will last is anyone's guess. We are living in times of dramatic change globally as polaric forces increase exponentially. And if anything is certain, it's uncertainty.
But those who can read the signs are preparing for the obvious: a global financial crash, possibly in unison with a carefully planned lethal flu pandemic (instituted by the CDC and the WHO), forced vaccinations which will implement the long-planned microchipping of populations, manipulated terrorist strikes and carefully orchestrated wars to keep the fear factor up on the dumbed-down masses. Should such things come to pass, it is not hard to predict that people will gladly accept any 'solution' presented to them, even a worldwide totalitarian dictatorship, which is what we will get if current trends continue. History repeats itself. The currrent events of today are a textbook repeat of Nazi Germany in strategy, and most are completely blind to this fact. Not a pretty picture in my view, yet any truly aware individual can see this train rapidly approaching in the daily news.
However, that is not the big, BIG, BIGGEST picture... as all experience on this planet is ultimately for our benefit as souls. We are all here because we have things to learn on an experiential level. So, there are some major changes in the winds, that's for sure. But who knows?... maybe we will be pleasantly surprised?!!
I always like to hold out that possibility. One must never lose hope, or living is pointless.
But for right now, I am happy in this place I've chosen to be, (or has it chosen me?). Vilcabamba, along with it's tranquil neighboring villages are sweet, beautiful rural communities... the kind which I had always longed to be part of. The cows alone are enough to make me feel at home. The air quality and climate is ideal. The light wonderful. It is the healthiest environment on the planet. I have a wonderful woman to share the experience with and have seeded good friendships with individuals I truly like and respect. I've even managed to inspire several friends from back in the States to contemplate visits down here, a couple of which are already in the works. I do enjoy playing the role of a catalyst! :-D
And so, I'll end this lengthy saga now as I settle into life here in the Butterfly House of Vilcabamba. I'll continue to work everyday, do my best to be a blessing to others as I continue to develop my skills, and assist in the Cultural Community Center and VIVE4U.com as best as I can, and of course, nurture my creative instincts, which I can feel stirring a rebirth within me as I write this.
It feels good, and it feels right.
Till next post, Hasta Luego.