Life in Ecuador:
Stories of the Bitter and the Sweet

By Linda McFarlin 

Life in Ecuador, like life in any other country, can sometimes deliver the sour when we are anticipating the sweet. This can be shocking, especially when our expectations are high but our "reality check" button isn’t fully functioning.

This has happened to me several times while living in Ecuador. I bite into a citrus fruit that looks and smells like an ordinary orange, fully expecting it to reward me with a rush of juicy sweetness.  Instead, I swallow a mouthful of pure lemon juice! Surprise!  It's really a lemon masquerading as an orange.

There are also lemons that are green when ripe and taste mildly sweet instead of sour.  To further jar me out of my usual expectations, Ecuadorians call limes lemones.

At least with so many varieties of lemons and limes available, I can stir up plenty of thirst-quenching drinks most any time.


Do you have an Ecuador story to share with us?  We'd love to hear about your adventures, trials and tribulations, triumphs and even your colossal screw-ups.  Click here to write your story.  Add photos if you have any.


When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

The optimist’s slogan, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade," is definitely applicable to life in Ecuador, and what delicious lemonade you can make!   

I find that the challenges presented while traveling and living in Ecuador offer two basic choices.  I can complain, blame, worry, manipulate and make myself really miserable when life doesn’t give me what I want.

Or I can take the negative little surprises that come my way with as much equanimity as I can muster and set about making that lemonade.  

When I can manage to meet adversity with creativity and a certainty that I’ll somehow overcome, even triumph. . . I usually do. 

Glean Wisdom from Those Who have Gone Before

Readers can gain wisdom from the experiences of those who have made the move to Ecuador and have a successful and happy life in Ecuador.  Pro-Ecuador is collecting the stories of people who have moved to Ecuador to live or to retire.  

Some are expats from other countries.  Others are Ecuadorians who left their country to live elsewhere before returning to live or retire in Ecuador. All these individuals offer unique perspectives and share gems of wisdom that can help us become global citizens. 

These Ecuadorian tales, some cautionary, some amazing and some transformational, are offered in a spirit of inspiration and encouragement and also as an early warning system for our readers. 

They, too, have been handed a few lemons in life but have managed to transform them. Curious and courageous, many of these adventurers have listened to their hearts' desires instead of to the admonitions of their minds. Following their impulses to leave the familiar and explore distant lands has brought them to Ecuador.

Claus and Maria Elena
and the Place of Singing Waters

What could possibly entice a European/Bolivian couple to create a new life in Ecuador?  The story of Claus and Maria Elena Egger is fascinating in itself—their fated meeting in Barcelona, fleeing great danger in Colombia and finally settling in Ecuador. But the charmed life they created for themselves and their children in Ecuador, on land that Claus calls the Place of Singing Waters, is an amazing tale of shared vision and its eventual unfolding into Pakakuna Gardens.

They've transformed a barren wasteland into an incomparable garden. It now blooms continually with a great variety of flowers and trees and has been their home for almost three decades. As of late, a new kind of blossoming is occurring as the Eggers make another dream come true.

Pakakuna Gardens is becoming a holistic international community. It will be complete with its own wellness center, clinic, store, stable and beautiful houses and villas. And even more gardens.

Don and Anita: Altruistic Entrepreneurs

He was a guard for the queen of England and a pilot. She was a properly-brought-up girl from north of London, trained as a professional nurse.

They met at a military dance and fell in love. Since then, their marriage has been filled with travel, excitement, challenges and the kind of personal success most of us only imagine in our daydreams.

The course of their lives was altered when Anita was injured during a plane flight. What followed and the influences that led to their move to Cotacachi are revealed in their story.

They created a new life in Ecuador, combining their many talents, ambitions and know-how in the fulfillment of yet another dream of theirs, one that will have far-flung effects upon the citizens of Cotacachi.

Read a personal story about their life in Ecuador here.

Jeff Stern's Hidden Place in Ecuador: Gianduja

One of those hidden places in Ecuador that is definitely worth the effort to locate is Gianduja Chocolatier, Jeff Stern's Ecuador chocolate factory in Quito.

Jeff is a graduate of L'Academie de Cuisine in the U.S. but is mostly self-taught. He studied and worked with several major chocolatiers in Washington, D.C. before opening his own factory in Quito.

He and his family live in Cumbaya, a 10-mile drive from Quito, in the house his wife Maria grew up in.  It's conveniently located right behind the chocolate factory, complete with lawn, two children and loving grandparents.  Jeff has the best of both worlds, enjoying his work but seldom far from his family.  I wonder how he is able to keep his kids out of the chocolate?

A visit to Gianduja is a chocolate-lover's wish-come-true.  Jeff meticulously melds cacao, sweeteners, flavors and colors into his delicious designer chocolates. Bet you can't each just one.  I couldn't . . . 

Lynn Allen: A Shuar Indian from the Amazon Jungle of Ecuador and a North American Teacher Find True Love

This is a must-read story if you want to understand Ecuador.

"My life in Ecuador and with Gilberto has led to adventures I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams.  None of us know where life will take us, but like the mighty Amazon, life can have a direction that is strong and relentless.  

"Once we are in its flow, it's best to let life take us where it will, without too much resistance."

Lynn started life normally enough, growing up in Chicago, Dallas and New York. After teaching school for many years, she retired.

Little did she suspect that a trip to a jungle spa in the Amazon would lead her to the love of her life as well as a brand-new life in Ecuador.

Click here to read more of her story in her own words.

LeRoy and Shirley: Two Seniors Live It Up on the Ecuador Coast

When they moved to Vilcabamba in 2005, LeRoy and Shirley expected to enjoy the Valley of Longevity's health benefits to the max. They didn't realize that Vilcabamba's altitude was a problem for them until LeRoy visited Jama on the Ecuador coast. Suddenly he was free of pain and able to breathe easily again. 

Before you can say "guanabana," they'd sold their house in Vilcabamba and said 'hola' to Jama. Now LeRoy and Shirley have a new home among the coconuts and mangos, plus a house at the beach and more building projects coming up.

Life has been a bit harder there than in Vilcabamba.  And much busier.  However, the incredible sunsets, delicious fruit and beach house more than compensate for the difficulties.

They say they have no desire to go anywhere else in the world, not even back to the United States for a visit.  For Shirley and LeRoy, life in Ecuador is the best!

Read their story.

Antonio: The Embodiment of the American Dream

An Ecuadorian who will soon be living in Ecuador again is Antonio, a young man who arrived penniless in the U.S. at the age of 20 and made his fortune remodeling buildings in New York City, where he owns a very successful construction company.  

The story of his road to riches reads like an American novel. He got a job hauling trash at a construction site, learned English, and then was hired as a construction foreman. 

The crew ignored him because of his youth and inexperience and he had to fire half of them.  After starting his own company, he underbid several jobs until he took business courses.

He persevered, developing a winning plan that eventually led to wealth and success.  His personal philosophy and successful formula for both working and living embraces a wide range of acceptance of religions, races, ideas and perspectives.

He is fulfilling the American dream not only of wealth but of personal happiness and satisfaction as well. And he is doing it on two continents. 

Click here to read Antonio's story. 

Other Stories of People  Living in Ecuador:

Jungle Jane: Living in the Amazon basin of Ecuador - Her Story

Lynn Meisch: Anthropologist, Scholar and Otavalo Expert

Phyllis Cooper:  Cotacachi Woman with a Vision

Joan's Story: Relief from the Pain of Fibromyalgia

Cesar Alvear:  A Young Man talks about Participatory Democracy in Cotacachi

Leonardo Alvear:  A  Cotacachi Community Leader talks about 21st Century Socialism

Caroline's story: Finding her Life's Purpose in Ecuador


We can't wait to hear your story!

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