Living what we Value, Behaving as we Believe (Why we’re Moving to Ecuador, Part 1)


Let’s begin with a bit of context.

Several months ago my partner and I began our 7th year together.

Historically speaking, Sara has been the risk-taking half of our relationship.  Working for decades in international disaster response, she directed Habitat for Humanity’s rebuilding effort after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and later their response to the 2010 earthquake that nearly leveled Port-au-Prince.

I taught writing at the University of Kentucky until Sara received an assignment that moved us to Vietnam in 2009.  Since then I’ve created art, launched this personal blog, began a memoir, and started writing for The Huffington Post.  I’ve been our stay-at-home half, the one wanting consistency and craving predictability.

I’ve been the boring off-brand to Sara’s high-end adventure.

In the more recent past, however, Sara has begun to rub off on me, and some of these patterns have shifted.

I suppose it began with our move to Vietnam, subsequent relocation to Haiti, and most recent return to the US.  Having lived abroad, I’ve found it challenging to be at home again for any significant length of time.  I hate how easy it is to forget.  I hate that I have only distant and fading memory of post-earthquake Haiti—the newly homeless tented and tarped across the hillsides of Port-au-Prince.

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Camps near Port-au-Prince, March 2010

It’s too easy to become comfortable and lapse into a complacency that takes privilege for granted.  In America, we whine when it’s too cold outside.  We complain when a grocery store doesn’t stock the brand of bacon or napkins we prefer.  All too often, we’re pampered by convenience, sometimes even spoiled by ready-made and pre-packaged.  Assuming the biggest and best are owed to us, we’re, not only content to take it easy, but we also develop a sense of entitlement that most of the developing world hasn’t.

I, too, am guilty of this.  It’s nearly impossible to live cloistered in the middle of America and not be.

In the US, we’re insulated by oceans on either side, reap the benefits of Canadian wealth to the north, and complain when the poor from Mexico cross our southern border in search of a living wage.  We are the sometimes spoiled younger sibling of a, now, global family.  Why should we adopt the Kyoto protocol if it requires sacrifice on our part?  Do we care enough that climate change impacts the poorest of poor more that it does us?  Those people and places are far removed from our experience, one that’s defined more by cable TV and video games than hunger, poverty, disease, or need.

There’s nothing wrong with episodes of “Modern Family,” for example, but when we watch games like “Survivor” on “reality” television, because we don’t know the real experience of struggle—it seems to me we’ve gone too far.  It seems, at least to me, that something fundamental is amiss.  You only have to read or see The Hunger Games to understand that utopia too quickly collapses in dystopian nightmare.  How far is “Survivor” from the game Katniss is forced to play?

Our American inclination to reduce survival to televised game-paying seems obscene to me–especially in light of the actual agony lived by so many mothers who struggle to feed their family even one meager meal a day.

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I watched a mother prepare dinner for a family of seven (near Léogâne, Haiti, February 2011).

Sometimes I still think about Haiti during the rainy season,  the  night-time torrents of wet, the damp dark that soaks the soul of a person—

I think about a mother, holding her baby, in a make shift tent—barely a tarp over a mud slick floor—

I think  of that mother.

that baby.

that floor.

I realize I’ve got to change the lie I live–the double standard that says I care but then does nothing or not enough.

Sara and I simply don’t want to live this way any longer.

We want to know the world the way it really is–for most people.  (Unfortunately, poverty is a global norm.)

This choice, this challenge, this elbow-deep digging in soil and sweat, isn’t the life for everyone, but it’s the right life for us–and one the US has given us the privilege to choose.  Unlike so much of the world, we, at least, have the education and income to make a choice.   So wish us well–

–and pray for us–if you’re a praying kind of person– as we attempt to alter our interactions with the world, to change, not just our attitudes but our actions, as well–

–living what we value and behaving as we believe.

Are you as guilty as I am—spoiled by the benefits of living in a wealthy country?  Do you always live your values—behave as you believe?

Stay tuned next time for the reasons we’ve chosen Cuenca, Ecuador as our specific destination.

Note:  Please visit idiomART, our Etsy site.  In honor of our upcoming move, my holiday cat can ornaments are now on sale for 50% off—marked down from $14 a piece to $7.

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Again, please forgive my being an absentee reader of your posts.  I am spending every spare minute preparing our house for the market.  Things should return to normal once we are moved and settled.  I will be blogging from Ecuador.  I’m committed to that!  Love and miss all of you!

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101 thoughts on “Living what we Value, Behaving as we Believe (Why we’re Moving to Ecuador, Part 1)

  1. I wish you the very best in your new adventures – I can understand where you are coming from (a little bit, anyway) coming from the UK and ending up living in places like Mali. Going home seems all too easy and wrong in many ways. Yes, it’s great that most things work, but there are too many arrogant attitudes, and dare I say it – too much narcissism for my liking. What you say about America only serves to heighten what I believe it to be – I would not like to live in the US. (I mean nothing offensive, It’s just not my cup of tea) So, Bon Voyage and Bon Chance and live your lives the way that is right for you! :)

    • Thanks so much for your support. Malis is certainly a hot-bed at the moment, isn’t it? I forget if you are still there.

      Still, you’re correct. Reentry is rarely easy, and we do it with profoundly mixed feelings–good to be home but unsettled in that reality.

      And we make this current decision with mixed emotions. We question our motives. We try to be reflective.

      I can only speak as an American about our own cultural liabilities. At the same time, I don’t think the US is alone in its culpability in this regard, It’s an inevitable result of development and one I’m not qualified to address, to be honest. These are MY impressions. But I’m bothered by who we are as Americans. I know I myself am as guilty as many others. I only have had the privilege to see our culture from the outside looking in. And it is a priviliege.

      I could go on and on–but you raise such important issues. I can’t thank you enough for your thoughtful observations!

  2. This is a powerful and wonderful post Kathy. I admire you and Sara more each day, because you truly do live your values. Americans are definitely blind to the realities of a world much larger than our insular, Americanized view.

    I wish you so much luck and light for this journey. I’m excited to take it with you, even if only in a virtual way.
    <3 Lisa

    • Thanks so much for your support, dear Lisa! I’m teary-eyed just thinking about you and the wonderful times we have shared! Hope you all will come to Ecuador. I had forgotten that the same group your worked with last year had programs in Ecuador. That makes for some great opportunites, doesn’t it? I see you visiting soon, my friend.

      So, yes, our connection will remain virtual in the interim, but as you know our physical connectedness seems inevitable, as well. And I thank the blog gods for that! Hugs, my friend!

    • I know you get it! I knew you would! We are kindred spirits in our understanding of these matters. Wish I had your anthropology and psychology degrees to deepen my inishgt–but alas, I write. SO happy for your educated and informed affirmation. We love you too, of course. Bunches! We aren’t holding our breath about your visiting us there, as you advised, but damn, I would LOVE you to–especially to take a trip to Machu Pichu with us! We need your brain for that trek. We will carry you or hire someone to do so! LOL

  3. It’s good to hear from you. I’m sue you’ve been busy, but know that you’ve also been missed. Although I’ve never lived abroad I’ve done enough traveling to know what you mean about being insulated by privilege. When I was in India, for instance, it was pretty easy to reduce red meat intake. When we came back I couldn’t turn my head without being inundated with an ad for a fast food burger! Resistance was futile. You two are fit and healthy and have the skills necessary to be a help rather than a burden to any community you choose to be part of. I’m looking forward to hearing about your adventures in Ecuador. One of the other realities of bounty, it’s hard to just pack up and go!

    • God, Lisa, you are so right! Not easy to pick up and leave. In the past, we have left, but not picked up. This will be our first time to do that–and it is NOT easy, as you say. How did we accumulate so much stuff? It’s embarrassing, really.

      India is one of those places where the poverty is REALLY in your face–a lot like Haiti in that regard. India was painful for me. So much to say about that, but I won’t go off on that tangent.

      I so love hearing from you, my friend. And also want to affirm your mentioing of our not being a burden there. That can be SUCH a huge issue–folks wanting and trying to help but ultimately getting in the way. That’s a huge insight!

      Love and hugs, my friend!

  4. Great post as always and yes—we just don’t get it. I am guilty. I like my modern conveniences and electronics and all and I live with so much . I try not to take it for granted but I do. I am privileged compared to so many–even to those in our own great USA. Will be anxiously awaiting your first post from Ecuador–you guys rock!

    • Oh, yes, Beth Ann, we are all guilty, I’m afraid. We love our gadgets. Comfort rocks! That’s why folks go to spas, right? I find it hard to believe that you take your privilege for granted. I see you behave in a remarkably responsible way. Goodness, my friend, Comments for a Cause is such a brilliant and caring idea!

      Can’t wait to post from Ecuador, either! Hugs to you, my friend. So happy your package arrived. Saw your message just haven’t had a moment to reply as of yet.

    • Oh, Chrissy, how awesome to hear from you! Thank you, my friend. Hope school is going well. I have been so out of the loop I don’t even know what’s going on with you at the moment exactly. So sorry! Hugs, my dear. Big hugs!

  5. Can remember your reservations about returning to the US, before you even left Haiti. So I’m not too surprised by your news, although the location of your new home was a surprise! Wishing you and Sara all the best for the move.

    • Yes, Lisa, I DO remember. And that feeling has never left. Maybe that sense of unsettledness is just part of who I am–constantly questioning, I mean. I appreciate that reminder. I had ALMOST FORGOTTEN! How great to have friends who have been around for so long and are able to remember these things for me! Hope you and Willie are well! Thank you!

    • It’s just not right for everyone. We all have our gifts to offer. This just happens to be ours. Thanks for your support, Frank! Hope we can still get together for lunch before we leave! But God only knows how long it will take our house to sell! Hope you are staying warm!

  6. it seems odd to see so many ‘lisas’ in the comments above!

    this post is so powerful, so strong, so well written! how great that you can tap into that feeling of unrest and articulate it in easy prose for all to grasp.

    ” I hate how easy it is to forget.” i loved this part, and it’s so true. many people just don’t see how shallow their lives have become because they have not tipped outside if the comfort zone. we realize how lucky we are, and we question just what our true purpose is.

    i am proud of both of you and look forward to meeting you near latitude zero!
    lisa/z

    • It’s the “Lisa” thing weird? Where did you all come from? LOL When I was in kindergarten there were three Kathys in my class. Lisa and Kathy were both the rage way back when.

      We can’t wait to meet you either, LISA!

      I’m relieved to hear you think this is well-written. I struggled with it. Didn’t post if for days, as I didn’t feel I could get the tone right–SO thank you!

    • Yes, you DO DAVID! You all have got to come! The cycling may be intense in the mountains, but I bet it will be a fun challenge. When we made this decision, Sara and I joked that of all the people we know, you all were the most likely to visit. So we are counting on it. Will have guest room waiting!

  7. So much truth in this narrative…the increase in the number of so-called reality shows is indeed offensive and although I rarely watch tv…I’ve noticed when I exercise inside that they seem to be reproducing at breakneck speed…my understanding is that they are cheaper to produce…another case of quality going away because of the low bid…oh well…really did enjoy this post.

    • Gosh, Charlie, you are so much better off not to watch the stuff. I suppose, however, that they are on the TV a lot in workout centers. And yes. They are reproducing at an amazing rate. So great to hear from you, my friend!

  8. It’s joyous to read about this conscious journey you and Sara are engaging in. I’m curious to know your thoughts about Cuenca. I’m following a family from NS who have moved there. My biggest hesitation surrounds given up Canadian residency. We will see where the road takes us. First is to sell house and then first stop, an overdue visit to France.

    • Yes, Joss, I too am following Gringos Abroad. They don’t seem to be at all involved in international development, but I’ve enjoyed reading about their journey. Would you have to give up your residency? Could you not maintain an address there, as well, even at the home of a family member? Probably different there than in the US, though. If you decide to take a trip to Ecuador, we hope you will visit us. We plan to have a guest room. I’ll be curious to see where your journey takes you. Great to hear from you today!

  9. I love this honest and hopeful post! I love your sense of wanting to live by the standards of “rightness” that you believe in. We all carry contradictions through our lives, but I admire your strength and determination to live closer to your heart. Thanks!

    • Yes, thanks for understanding, Cindy. Sometimes it’s not possible to follow your heart, but we are fortunate to have that option. Love the way you have articulated this–the notion of living more closely to our hearts–and the idea that we all carry contradictions. And sometimes we simply must live with them and learn to tolerate tham–at other times we have the option of making a change. We feel fortunate to have that choice.

  10. “It’s too easy to become comfortable and lapse into a complacency that takes privilege for granted.” So painfully true, Sista. It’s easy to isolate ourselves from the problems of the world especially here in the U.S. So, so easy. I truly admire both you and Sara for your desire to be part of the solution to the world’s problems.

    • Oh, thanks, Sista! It is a bitter-sweet reality. And I think that is exactly my point—just how easy it is. ANd I notice my own inclination to forget. It’s so damn easy! I think having kids, however, may change all of that. I’m not exactly sure how, but it seems that it must. I love your efforts to limit your boys’ exposure to too much TV and too many video games. You live your values, as well. That’s part of what we love about you!

  11. “…living what we value and behaving as we believe.”

    Kathy – In my book (that’s not out yet), one of the things I talk about is integrating the wisdom we have with the life that we live. I oh-so-applaud you and Sara — the two of you could be poster children for “putting your money where your mouth is and walking your talk.”

  12. Talk about inspiration. So, if there is something I truly believe in, want to do, and feel compelled to be doing in my life….

    I should do it?

    Wow! :) I so admire you and Sara for doing this. Talk about walking the walk, and walking the talk. You have no idea how much in awe I am of you two.

    • Oh, but, Colleen, part of what I love about your is your continual aspiration to do the same things we are. You just accomplish that in different ways. Both you and David do. Look at the kinds of work you all do. You are so aware. and that’s what I love most about you! Think about it, my friend.

    • It’s just not for everyone. However, you do benefit from from experiencing a number of different cultures. That makes you more aware. It’s good to know what you can tolerate and what you can’t. Great to hear from you, my friend.

  13. I think many of us are spoiled and it’s good when we can move out of our comfort zone and deeply bond/realize what much of the world experiences. Will eagerly await any and all updates from Ecuador. You’ll continue to open our minds and hearts and actions, I am sure.

    • It’s all a matter of balance. It’s a blessing to live comfortably. And for parts of our lives that’s okay. And, truly, we won’t live without electricity or running water. Living in Ecuador will allow us to have a less commercialied life. We all do our part. Thanks for reading, Kathy! Have a wonderful day.

  14. I think in some ways I’m the opposite: having moved all the time while growing up and never having one place to call “home,” I like the feeling of being tethered to the Pacific NW. Which is not to say I don’t feel the occasional tug of wanderlust, but that is easily satisfied by road trips and Southwest Airlines frequent flier miles. If Tara and I are ever in Ecuador, we’ll look you guys up.

    And…the world needs more people like you two. Seriously.

    • I suspect that’s the case for a lot of folks who were forced to move often as children. I was one of those kids who lived in the same house for the first 19 years of my life. However, I suppose if I lived in a place as cool as the Pacific NW, I’d want to stay, as well. LOL

  15. How exciting for you both. A brave and adventurous move, but one that I’m more than a little jealous of. Growing up in NZ, I’m always conscious of the American “privilege” syndrome. Living here for 20 years, I’m now too accustomed to this comfort and abundance. So, beware, you may have started a ground movement…visitors that come check out how they, too, might live a more real life. Best of luck and love to you both. looking forward to your blogs.

    Nikki

    • So great to hear from you, Nikki! I think we all enjoy being comfortable. I suspect, it’s difficult to come out of a place like Haiti and remain the same. Haiti changed both Sara and me. Thanks so much for your support, my friend. We don’t mind folks coming to visit. Hope you will be one of them!!!!! If you’re in Lexington, we need to meet for coffee before we leave.

  16. Ecuador’s gain is the US’s loss, but I expect you guys will return stateside in a nanosecond should NYC ever get smacked with a tsunami. Who else will search for Milton and me? Good luck on your upcoming move!

  17. Yes. Yes. Yes! I am behind you and Sara 100%. May this adventure be just the right amount of difficult for you; I know you’re not doing this because it is easy.
    It is preposterous that we in the western world have so much, while the rest of the world has so little. Yet at the same time, the happiest people in the world are found not amongst the riches, but among the poverty. We are blinded by our riches, whereas those who are suffering seem clear headed in what is most important in life.
    You and Sara are such an inspiration; I’m looking forward to many wonderful blogs and memoirs detailing this adventure. Congratulations.

    • I’m so delighted to hear from you, Deanna! You are correct that the happiest folks in the world are not the richest. I hadn’t even thought to make that point. I hate that there is such an uneven distribution of wealth in the world. It still blows my mind that we think so many in America believe they need or deserve more. Hope you and your family are doing well, my friend!

  18. Bravo, Kathy! You and Sarah have a lot of courage to step our of your comfort zones and live true to your core. It’s easy to find excuses not to do it; much harder to walk the walk as it were. I agree with you about the sense of entitlement that is an unfortunate by-product of our relative wealth.
    I can’t wait to hear more about why you chose Ecuador and what you’ll do when you’re there.
    Hugs to you!

    • Hi, Jackie, so great to hear from you today!

      The thing I don’t get is why having so much wealth leads to a sense of entitlement. I think that fact it so important, but I just can’t wrap my brain around why that is. Thanks for pointing that out! I think I someone needs to give that more thought.

      Hope you and Reggie are well! Hugs to you, as well, my friend!

      • I was thinking that a sense of entitlement isn’t all bad. We should all feel entitled to basic human rights, basic living conditions. It’s that feeling of worthiness that makes us demand these things, to refuse to accept less. (Since MLK Day was Monday, I’m thinking of him right now) But somewhere along the way, somewhere between that and “Survivor” that entitlement gets out of whack. I don’t know when or how that happens.
        Thanks for giving me something to think about today, Kathy!

  19. Kathy, thanks for the very good explanation. One can’t argue with your reasons nor try to persuade you to do otherwise. Stay safe, knowing you’re doing a good thing. And I totally agree with you about shows like Survivor. What’s wrong with us if that’s how we deal with our adventure bug. Though not me. I’m a big Modern Family fan. But, all that aside, can you perhaps address in your next post how you and Sara, as a lesbian couple, are received when you go to these other places? Does anyone care or is that ignored and you’re treated business as usual? Ho hum and all that? Is it any different for you than being in the states? Just wondering.

    • I enjoy Modern Family, as well, by the way.

      Actually, the lesbian thing hasn’t seemed to affect us–that we know of. We are aware of avoiding Muslim countries. Sara and I would never go together to a place like Afghanistan. Sara lived there before we were together and she was in no way “out.”

      In a place like Vietnam, however, the government is in the process of recogniing gay marriage.

      Our larger problem has involved the fact that so many US-based NGO are church-based. Sara, for example, has had to turn down job offers from an organiation like World Vision, out of an unwillingness to sign a code of conduct as part of her hire.

      I won’t be able to address this in my next post, but I will try in the future to do so.

      • I know. We were pretty excited about the most recent news from Vietnam. An NGO is a non-governmental organization–the term used for non-profit organizations internationally. Have a great weekend.

  20. What beautiful honest writing. I applaud you for following your convictions Kathy, and I wish you and Sara all the best in Ecuador. I’m fascinated to know why you chose Ecuador. Do you know the country well?

    Even though I’ve lived in the US for over fifteen years I’m proud to say I’ve never watched any of those reality shows like “Survivor” or shopped in Walmart. For some time now – but especially after walking the Camino last year – I’ve been feeling that restless urge to go live a simpler life and one where we could give back to the community instead of always thinking of ourselves.

    Reading through the list of comments I’m astonished at the number of bloggers I also follow. Is the world so small? (I’m not surprised to see Lisa/zee here! Are you moving near her?)

    • Great to hear from you, Rosie. I will be addressing in my next post why we selected Ecuador. We will actually not be terribly far from Lisa, as Ecuador is a small country. Though Lisa says that Cuenca is her favorite city in the country. We will certainly meet her–can’t wait to.

      The blogging world is REALLY small, isn’t it. I have NO idea why so many of us follow the same folks. Birds of a feather flock together, maybe?

      Have a wonderful day, my friend.

  21. Most powerful line to me? There’s nothing wrong with episodes of “Modern Family,” for example, but when we watch games like “Survivor” on “reality” television, because we don’t know the real experience of struggle.

    BAM! You said it, sister!

    Living by your values – Love it. it takes great courage to be the change you want to see in the world.

    I will pray for you and Sara & for all those you encounter. Looking forward to your posts from Ecuador :)

    hugs
    MJ

  22. I remain in awe and think I love both of you for your choices to follow your values in this manner. Would that all of us could do so, perhaps our world would begin to heal.

    You and Sara are examples we should all aspire to. I am always so excited to see your posts come up to in my reader! This one floored me, thank you.

    • Oh, wow, I’m so honored to have moved you! You have made my day. This post was not easy to write. I worked on if for days, trying to get the tone right. I didn’t want to bash the US. I love my country. And I didn’t want to imply folks who don’t do this are making wrong choices. I only wanted to speak for us, while at the same time making a strong point. Thanks for the affirmation. Truly, you have made my day! It means a lot coming from you. I so respect you as a writer!

  23. Kathryn, I applaud your soul searching and I totally can relate to seeing the world as we’ve seen it and then feeling the disconnect when we re-enter America and our totally privileged lives here. I know you & Sara will have a brand new adventure and meaningful existence in Ecuador and I’ll be following your journey with delight!! Godspeed, B

    • Oh, I bet you understand more than most–especially after your last year of travel. What a perspective you must have by now. So happy you will read about our Ecuador adventures. Great to hear from you. Have a wonderful weekend, my friend.

  24. You must follow your heart, and I’m so glad that you are listening to it! Too many people do fall into the trap of allowing themselves to be spoiled, and complain when it’s convenient. Many times I’ve wished for a simpler place to live…. A friend of mine recently visited Peru for a few weeks. She shared her photos with me, and described what it was like to be there, to experience a completely different way of life, a different way to just BE. In every photo I saw of the people who live there, they are SMILING. The people who live there don’t have any of the luxuries that we have come to expect. As she talked about being there, I could see how much it affected her, she was very much at peace. I wish the same for you and Sara! I will look forward to reading your posts from Ecuador! ♥

    • Thanks, Holly! Sorry to be so late responding to these comments. Interesting to hear about your friend’s travel to Peru. We can’t wait to go there, as well. But it’s amazing how encountering different cultures affects us differently. Great to hear from you!

  25. Kathy, you express the feelings many of us have, about the complacency of life in a part of the world where concerns are relatively trivial, compared to what others are going through. Equador is another step in your and Sara’s life mission. Powerful hearts, powerful voices.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Renee. Again, I’m late responding to comments. I never used to be that way. Preparing for this move is overwhelming and all-consuming! I knew you’d be supportive, of our choice. I love your heart! And hope to do a guest post for your new blog once we’re settled there.

    • Oh, Robin. Thank you for your comment. I apologize for being so slow in responding. This process has been all-consuming, I’m afraid. Hope things will settle down once our house sells and we are settled in Ecuador. Stay warm, my friend.

  26. ***I think of that mother.
    that baby.
    that floor.**
    POWERFUL. Thought Provoking. Insightful.
    btw, I’ve discovered the meaning of Life, Kathy.
    To Serve Others.
    This is what you do so beautifully.

    Xxxx

  27. I do wish you and Sara well Kathy! I know that I wouldn’t have the courage to make such a move myself. Feeling as strongly as you do about helping those living in poverty, it is definitely the right course for your lives right now. Sending you both a huge hug as you begin this brand new chapter of your lives together. xxxx

  28. I am so inspired by you! Congrats on exercising your right to move and live how you please! Hope you are having oodles of fun. :).

    Btw, I had no idea that you write for the huffington post…

  29. Pingback: Friday Five | Jackie Cangro

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