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A Monster's Invaded Vilcabamba, Ecuador

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By John Curran, InternationalLiving.com

This article comes to us courtesy of InternationalLiving.com, the world's leading authority on how to live, work, invest, travel, and retire better overseas.

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Photo by John Curran, InternationalLiving.com

We witnessed its arrival. It knew enough to quietly sneak into town early one Monday morning while most residents were still fast asleep after a typical weekend of merry-making.

My partner Sue and I didn't know what to think standing there in the gloom and drizzle as two humans helped the monster get itself together. When the humans went away, the monster just stood there, motionless. Every so often, its eyes would change colors.

Its ever-changing eyes only had an effect on those at close range. The red one put most people into a funk, but there were some that just zipped on by, perhaps immune to the monster's powers. Its green eye seemed to snap most out of the haze they were stuck in, but a few seemed so bewildered, it took two changes to green to clear their fog.

But it was the monster's yellow eye that really scared people. Wow, they couldn't get away fast enough. "Maybe we should head for home," I said to Sue. "There could be more." Sure enough, as we made a loop around town, we encountered yet another three-eyed monster just a few blocks from the first. Horrors! Is there nowhere safe?

When we first visited Vilcabamba, Ecuador in 2006, the town was mostly "monster" free, three-eyed or otherwise. It's one of the reasons why we liked it so much- - especially since we'd been living in Dubai for six years. That city was chockfull of "monsters." It was no use moving back to the States or Canada either because they too were overrun with "monsters." So when we stumbled off a bus in Vilcabamba one night and immediately experienced something we hadn't in many, many years -- tranquility -- we decided it was time to make a move.

We've called Vilcabamba home for six years now and even at an altitude of 5,000 feet, it didn't take long for us to catch our breath. Now we do what we want... when we want... at the pace we want... and if that means sitting in the town square all afternoon watching the world go by, we can, because "monsters" don't run our life. It's the kind of laid-back lifestyle we were looking for... and found in Vilcabamba.

Word on the street was the traffic lights were supposed to replace the stop signs. Stop signs? What? Where? Like a lot of residents, we never paid much attention. A few years after we moved here, "One Way" signs appeared on the sides of buildings, but I guess most people figured if the dogs and horses that roam the streets don't pay any heed, why should they? It's refreshing to live in a place where dogs and horses are role models... not Kardashians.

After the original shock following the arrival of the traffic lights, things have pretty much returned to normal as residents realized they just have something fancier to ignore. That's good, because we like Vilcabamba the way we found it back in 2006. If we had wanted to live in "civilized" society, we would have stayed in Dubai, or moved back to the States or Canada. We just hope no other "monsters" come to town though because we've heard tales from up north of an especially hideous one now invading Cuenca. They call it "McDonald's."

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