Greg beach

There’s this thing about living internationally–I like to think of it as the-shit-hitting-the-fan risk. What will happen or what will it be like if something out of your control happens? Perhaps there’s a massive uprising in your city and a government is overthrown. Maybe your city descends into lawlessness and you need to hide or flee? Maybe you live in an area that could be at risk of a tsunami. What if there’s a chain of terrorist attacks? What if you are the victim of a crime (and this is especially on my mind as a woman) in a country where there are few protections and often even prosecution for libel of female victims who speak out (looking at you, Korea)? What if there’s a massive earthquake and there is no help? Maybe the boat you’re on with a group of students for a field trip is sinking and the captain tells you to stay seated. Perhaps the country you live in goes to war with the unhinged neighbor to the North.

Yes, the shit can also hit the fan where you are from. In my case, the US. But if something happens there, I’m equipped with knowledge of how the system works, the language skills to communicate my needs or offer assistance, and a larger network of people from whom to draw support. When we go overseas, we exhilaratingly step into the unknown and a large piece of this is the risk. I am not the type to worry incessantly about events out of my control that may or may not happen. We can live in fear or we can try to live happy, fulfilled lives and I do not choose fear. But these ruminations do come up for me every time something horrible happens in places close to my heart. My list above is not made up. These are things that have happened either where we’ve lived, near where we live or want to live, or where we have friends–with the exception of the neighbor to the North, but it’s within the realm of possibility.

Of course, this most recent shake-up is the earthquake in Ecuador. By now we realize that this is an epic tragedy for people living on the coast. There are many small beach communities that are without power and clean water, sifting through the wreckage of demolished homes and businesses, and are essentially isolated because of destroyed roads and landslides. Much of the aid focus is on the larger, more accessible towns. From what I can piece together, help is arriving now, but I still worry that not all of these towns are getting the aid quickly enough. You think the real nightmare is the shaking, the falling of your house, the death and destruction all around and the reliving during the some 200 aftershocks. But then it took days for help to arrive. Where does it really end?

During our years in Ecuador, we lived in Quito, but we often went to the coast, to the town of Canoa. We made wonderful friends there, took all of our visitors there, and it felt like home away from home. Better than vacation. In Quito, we were clenched–always on guard, always moving, often cold, constantly wary. But in Canoa we could relax. We could let the guard down and some of the best memories of our years in Ecuador were forged there and so it hurts to feel so helpless-to know that people you care about are struggling in unimaginable conditions. Through the ex-pat grapevine, I have learned that our friend Patricia White of Betty Surf and Yoga and Greg Gilliam and his family are okay. Their homes and livelihoods are likely destroyed, but they are thankfully alive and well and helping the community the best they can.

And as I agonize about people caught there, of course I can’t help but imagine–what if I was there? We live overseas. The shit could hit the fan and the shit does hit the fan. Am I prepared? Can I handle it? Is this worth the risk? For now, yes.

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