Where are you from, and what brought you to Cuenca?
I grew up in Los Angeles and spent most of my adult life on the coast in Orange County. I was planning to retire in 2017, after thirty years in the Fire Service, but I was offered an early retirement package in 2011, so I decided to retire early. We wanted to explore a different culture and Ecuador seemed like a good place to start. My family and I spent our first 6 months in Manta enjoying the coast and relocated to Cuenca because it had so much to offer.
You’ve been going by James Drummondo for awhile now—you added the “O” at the end recently. What’s the story behind that?
That’s actually my family name. My grandfather is from Madera—Portugal. He left Madera in 1913 and came to the States and then joined the Army. When he got out, after WWI, he applied for the New York Police Department and dropped the “O”. A lot of people did that—Americanized their names. When I joined the Fire Department, one of the veterans started calling me, “Drummondo”. I asked him how he knew that was really my name, and he said he just thought it sounded good. He made sure it was on my locker, my helmet, my jacket…. When I moved down here, I decided to use my family name again because I liked it.
What do you like best about Ecuador?
The one dollar beers. (laughs) No, really, to be honest, I love the Cajas. The geographical diversity of Ecuador is perfect for an outdoor person like myself. In fact I enjoy the Cajas so much I decided to make it my office, which is where I guide my fly fishing and hiking tours. I also have three kids and I honestly feel that it’s an all around safer environment down here.
What have been the biggest challenges for you moving down here?
I loved living in California and, of course, I miss my family and close friends. The separation has been much harder than I thought. I also didn’t realize how much I’d miss the fire service, so I became a volunteer bombero here in Cuenca. Great Department: we’re lucky to have them. My girlfriend still calls me Chief though.
You’re not officially retired yet, are you?
I thought I was, but I kept seeing opportunities—services that people needed that were within my skill set. So I started Fintastic Adventures Guide Service and Cuenca Home Inspections. Before moving here, I owned and operated an international home inspection franchise for almost ten years. What I have seen a need for here in Cuenca, and what I want to concentrate on, is doing pre-move in inspections for renters—either for houses or apartments. There is a need for a professional to come in and help people make an informed decision before they move in. Before they put that deposit down.
Do you have any advice for people planning to move here?
Get the real scoop on what’s going on. When we came here six years ago, there were no online resources and a very small expat community, but now there are numerous resources and definitely no shortage of expats. Get in touch with them and take advantage of their experiences. You’ll be surprised how generous people are sharing their stories and contacts. The best advice I have, if you are seriously thinking about moving down, is to make an extended exploratory trip. Also, start learning or brushing up on your Spanish and don’t be afraid to use it.