Ecuador Stories: Claus and Maria Elena Egger and the Place of Singing Waters
Editor's Note: The process by which people end up in Ecuador is fascinating to me. The story of how Claus and Maria Elena Egger made their way to the Place of Singing Waters is particularly riveting.
What would bring a highly-educated, cultured Swiss psychotherapist and his beautiful, privileged Bolivian wife to a remote plateau outside the small town of Checa, which is miles from Quito? Checa, Ecuador, seems like an unlikely place in which one would find real sophistication or the kind of mental stimulation that feeds the intellectual mind and soul.
But once I heard this couple's story, it made complete sense as to why they are here. This is the story of their life journey together, mostly in Claus' words.
The Eggers are the owners of Pakakuna Gardens, a very special living experience being created in the garden setting of their 36-hectare estate in Checa. For a deeper understanding of this unique offering and of what they wish to accomplish, read their vision statement for Pakakuna Gardens.
A Match That was Written in the Stars
Their union was fated. Claus is convinced of that fact. Maria Elena had gone to Zurich to study German. Claus was living in a town about 80 kilometers from Zurich.
But it was in Barcelona that they finally met.
Claus sometimes conducted group tours while at university in St. Gallen. On one such tour to Barcelona, he saw Maria Elena. She'd gone there on vacation with her mother.
In his own words, Claus described their meeting:
I knew immediately that she would be my future wife. But my future mother-in-law was absolutely scandalized. The year was 1963 and she was a lady of the old school.
For me the whole experience fits the category of a para-psychological phenomena. I still remember every detail of our meeting.
I had left my group at our hotel and was walking along the Rambla de las Flores. I saw Maria Elena coming toward me in the company of a woman and a young man. It came to me spontaneously, "This is my wife!
I eagerly moved toward them, searching my mind for a motive to start up a conversation. I asked the radiant young woman if she knew where the Institute "Academia Suiza" was. No matter that I had learned Spanish at that Institute the year before! The question started a conversation between us and that was my goal.
Her mother kept trying to pull her away, so I asked Maria Elena to have dinner with me that night.
But her mother was not to be deterred. When I went to the hotel to pick up Maria Elena, her mother met me first and talked to me for forty minutes. Logically enough, she thought I was only looking for adventure.
The next day I took Maria Elena to a mountain retreat and told her that I wanted to marry her. The question was far too much for her; she didn't reply.
We both were in other relationships at the time. She had a boyfriend in London and I had a girlfriend in Switzerland.
I Almost Lost the Love of My Life
I knew that I was going to have to return to Switzerland for my final exams, but I was determined to spend as much time with Maria Elena as possible during the remainder of my stay in Barcelona.
I found a guide to finish my tour and I headed for Andorra. I knew she was going there but I had no idea at which hotel she'd be staying.
As my bus entered the town of Andorra, I had the strongest feeling that she was nearby. I ordered the bus driver to stop and I jumped off!
Sure enough, there she was, with her mother and her aunt. They were heading for a monastery (possibly to hide from me) and she would have been lost to me if I had arrived any later.
Her mother bought a car and I persuaded them to let me drive them to Switzerland to meet my family. Two months later she accepted my marriage proposal. I was 26 and she was 25. We were married in Appenzell, Switzerland.
South America Has Always Called to Me
My dream had always been to live in South America. First we moved to Colombia and lived there 11 years. Colombia is a beautiful country, especially Bogota and Fusagasugá.
I'm much more interested in society and cocktail parties than Maria Elena is. She is the introvert and her loves are reading and gardening. Living in the countryside in Colombia we found a shared interest in the land and had a wonderful life together. A strong bond to the land and to each other was forged during those days.
One of our children was born in Switzerland and two in Bogota.
Revolutionary Events Bring Radical Change to Our Lives
My major was in industrial psychology and then I changed it to clinical psychology, depth psychology and psychotherapy.
I was involved in a program of technical assistance between Colombia and Switzerland. As the head of business administration of a private economy faculty at a public university in Colombia (Universidad Nacional de Colombia), my work was with entrepreneurs. I was also an advisor of a Swiss Bank.
In 1967 revolutionaries began to infiltrate the university.
The president ordered a purge of the campus by military police in order to remove weapons. With my Swiss mentality I ordered the professors to continue teaching but with no success. The teachers left and I was all alone.
I heard glass breaking downstairs. I had been a captain in the infantry in Switzerland and was used to talking to soldiers. So I went outside to talk to the military police. I asked them who their chief was.
"There's no chief here. We don't need a chief!" they replied. They had bats and began to beat me. This was witnessed by professors and students at a distance. A friend of Maria Elena's called her and told her what had happened, that I was in an ambulance and had been shot in the head.
It was a scandal. There were pictures in the paper. Many people came to our house to talk to me. The leftists wanted to have a victim of the military police and get declarations against the police.
Because of my position as an advisor of a Swiss Bank, we received calls from people threatening to kidnap our children. We decided it was time to leave Colombia.
Life Eventually Led Us to Ecuador
We lived in Bolivia for three years so that I could get to know Maria Elena's family and the country of her birth. Back in Switzerland after Bolivia, I felt quite confined in that small country, even though it was the country where I was born. So I looked for ways to go back to South America.
When the opportunity arrived, we moved to Ecuador. I'd put out feelers with friends and told them what I wanted to find. We were searching for a rural life similar to the one we had created in Colombia.
A friend in Checa knew of land adjoining his and took me to see it. While Maria Elena was in Bolivia, I bought this 36-hectare piece of land and took her to see it when she returned.
The land was flat, dry. There was no water at all. We were willing to buy land with no water because we loved the beauty and safety of the land, sitting out here up high by itself. That's what sold us on it.
Editor: Water is piped from Checa, flowing through stone paved irrigation ditches to form waterfalls, streams and ponds. Recently something miraculous happened. After living on the land for almost thirty years, the Eggers discovered a pool of spring water at the base of the ravine on one side of their property.
The municipality has given Pakakuna Gardens permission to use the water. They will pump it up to Pakakuna. Tests show that it is pure, crystal-clear drinking water that will provide 8 liters of water a second per hectare. Claus now calls the property, Singing Waters.
Maria Elena accepted the barren piece of land that her husband meant to bind her future to. Her faith in his judgment and her own intuitive knowing that she was in the right place was all she needed as proof.
She set to work transforming the land into a verdant oasis.
My Work in Ecuador and My Personal Philosophy
In Ecuador I was asked to participate in the formation of a new modern liberal arts university. Together with Santiago Gangotena and some other persons, we co-founded the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, which today has more than 6000 students.
In Latin America, there is more personal freedom. People have hobbies.
Discipline is not as strong as in Switzerland, where people are more effective and successful in some ways, but impoverished in their quality of life. In Switzerland, after retirement, you are out!
Living in Ecuador has offered me the freedom to explore living on my terms. The last 15 years have been dedicated to psychotherapy and individual counseling, mostly with young persons with addiction problems.
It's difficult for clients to re-enter their family and society after therapy. I have found that hypnotherapy works well for this. I brought a new concept in integrated hypnosis to Ecuador to find the real origin of the problem.
Even cancer has very frequently a psychosomatic origin. Go back and you always can find the psychic origin of our problems. I assist those who want to go deep into their psyche and find the cause of their trauma.
Meditation is a very useful part of this healing process.
I almost left my practice because of a very special project I wish to undertake, one that is perhaps even more important to me than Pakakuna Gardens.
Creativity Heals, Not Focusing on Problem Solving
My life has been one of ongoing creativity and intellectual curiosity. I believe that occupational therapy is like killing time. It's not creative.
The purpose of therapy is not to heal a problem but to find happiness. Everyone deserves to find his own personal happiness.
This is the goal of life—to enjoy the good humor, good food and wine that life brings us, the pleasures of earthly living.
At the same time, I want to delve deeper into the sense of my life, to explore new perspectives I've not practiced up until now and to live life in integrity that goes against superficialities.
By superficialities, I mean the things we generally take for granted or accept at face value as true or real in our world. In challenging these so-called truths we can divine another, deeper understanding of life, of why we are here and how we can relate to one another.
A Fascination with Life: Past, Present and Future
Reincarnation is a subject dear to my heart. I have wanted to solve this mystery for many years. I want to find out why so many of the people on earth have a strong belief in reincarnation, so strong a belief that they take it as fact that reincarnation exists and even have proof of it in their lives.
Simultaneously with the development of Pakakuna Gardens as a communal village of educated, truth-seeking, eternally-curious elders, my life will focus on two areas of exploration:
1. Project R, a three-year project involving a multi-disciplinary team of about twenty researchers who will explore the hypothesis that reincarnation is a viable part of life and to uncover how it works and what its purpose is for us.
Reincarnation without a belief in karma doesn't make much sense to me.
I have the feeling that we come back to live again and that we do this in order to improve our personal evolution.
2. We can overcome personal karma in this life. There are many therapeutic processes that can assist people to do this. With an acceptance of death as a positive part of life and not something to be ignored or feared, we can fill our final years with creative productivity, longevity, communion, sharing and joyful expression.
My desire for Pakakuna is to attract people to live here who have a positive and still enthusiastic vision of the all possibilities that life has to offer.
For more information about the Pakakuna Gardens residential development,click here.
Read more about the magnificent gardens of Pakakuna Gardens.
To read the Pakakuna vision statement, click here.