It is a question many people are asking themselves right now. For my wife and I, our answer is yes, we are staying. This is our home.
Maybe we would feel differently if we were in one of the areas of destruction. Our hearts go out to those who are struggling to survive. We recently traveled between Manta and Canoa, and we met wonderful people that we are very concerned about.
Here in Salinas, if you were dropped into town the morning after the earthquake, you would have no indication at all that anything had happened. So for us, it is more of a psychological test. Have you ever spent time on a boat, and then when you step ashore, it still feels like you are moving?
Well, that is happening with a lot of us now. Every once in a while, you’ll think “Here we go again!”
But we have not even felt any of the many aftershocks here in the peninsula. So maybe that affects our decision.
It is true, in the moments following the earthquake, after the longest 90 seconds or so of our lives, if you had opened a portal to anyplace else, we may very well have jumped through – but that is part of the normal “FLEE!!” signals your body is giving you during a life-threatening event. In hindsight, we were never in much danger. But while we held hands on the couch 200 feet up in the air on the 19th floor, feeling the building swaying as much as two feet from side to side while it shook, hearing things falling to the floor and waiting to see if we were going to suddenly start falling as well, we felt in our very souls that this could be the end.
But it wasn’t. And we are staying.
“Why?”, some ask, “couldn’t you get another earthquake? You’re not safe there!”
Where are you safe? People live in California, Oklahoma and Alaska, all of which have more earthquakes than Ecuador each year. The French Quarter in New Orleans is still popular after Katrina, and the Gulf states and Florida are still populated, despite the fact that they can be sure they will see more hurricanes. Tornado Alley in the Midwest is still home to millions, and consider Hawaii – on my first visit there, I was amazed that the first ¼ inch of the phone book was What To Do in an Emergency. It had instructions for how to tell if the siren was warning about tsunami, hurricane, earthquake, or my personal favorite – pyroclastic flow!
Ten years ago, while my first wife was slowly dying of cancer, a friend asked me how I could go on, knowing that I would soon be alone. I told him that I knew nothing of the sort. No one knows when his or her time is up. I could have been in a traffic accident, have had a sudden stroke, choked on a chicken bone eating lunch, or any number of things could happen to any of us at anytime. You can’t live your life thinking about when you might die, or paralyzed over fear of what the future may – or may not – bring.
Ecuador is a beautiful country, with friendly people – that we now see are also extremely resilient. Most of the country was unaffected by this event, and for the majority of us, life continues as before, except maybe it seems a little more precious than it did a few days ago. For us, the benefits of living in Ecuador and the quality of our lives here outweigh concerns about things that are really out of our hands anyway. Heck, remember what happen to Henry on M*A*S*H – we could leave the country only to have our airplane crash.
So we are staying, and I still encourage people to consider visiting and living in Ecuador. Come and see for yourself (frankly, Ecuador could use the tourist dollars right now), do your due diligence, and experience the variety of lifestyles and ecologically diverse locations this amazing country has to offer.
And if you make it to Salinas, stop by and say hi – we’ll be here.