Beach to blockade to airport! Oh my!

Sorry I haven’t blogged in six months (or more)! I’ve had countless experiences living as an expat in Ecuador, many that I’ve chronicled on Facebook, in snippets here and there. Yet my blog has lain dormant. This story, though, deserves a post.

This past Friday, my husband, daughter and I needed to get from a town on the Ecuadorian coast to an Ecuadorian city, where our daughter needed to catch a flight that evening, to start her journey home, back to Minnesota. (She’d been with us for a week of ‘seeing where mom lives’ and for fun on the beach. Every moment of her sweet face in my presence and in my new home was delightful! It was incredibly hard to see her leave! Miss you Em!)

Since Thursday morning she’d been sick with a stomach/intestinal bug that wasn’t letting up, which made the trip to the States seem daunting.
After deciding that taking a bus could be problematic (no real bathroom to use, and no stops along the way), my husband arranged with our hotel’s proprietor for a taxi to come and pick us up and transport us 3+ hours to the airport.
Then, two hours before leaving, the proprietor informed us that there was a protest happening in one of the towns we needed to travel through, and that the protesters had blocked all the roads through the town…no vehicles were being allowed to pass…not even buses, not even taxis.
With smiling eyes, he told us that he knew a taxi driver who could get us to the blockade, and that he had a taxi driver relative he trusted on the other side of the blockade who could get us all the way to the airport. He even offered one of his workers (his son?) to go with us to the blockade and walk us through the blockade and get us connected with the driver on the other side.
Wide eyed, we quickly we accepted his offer, and for $100 we got to the blockade (they were petitioning the mayor for potable water), walked about six blocks through the blockade, and then took the appointed taxi the rest of the way to the airport.
The way Ecuadorians treat immigrants and foreigners is mixed (for there are plenty of horror stories), yet the way we were treated is typical. Ecuadorians are incredibly generous, gracious, and helpful. Their empathy humbles me, and reminds me that God often looks out for us through each other.
Friends, wherever you may live, your small act of kindness to the foreigner/immigrant may reveal to them that God sees them and loves them…
PS Emily is back in Minnesota and is slowly recovering. It may have been something she drank or ate…we don’t know, yet we trust she is on the mend.

Newsy Update

So much to update you about…

For those of you unsure whether you want to dive into this post, I’ve added subheadings, so you can skip the parts you find uninteresting, and added links to photos and videos at the bottom.

If you’re still ready to click away, I won’t stop you… I love you anyway… ;-)

House Sold

First off, our home sold on May 13th. YAY! Since then, Rich has been living in an Airbnb in South Minneapolis, doing some contract work and online investing. He plans to return with me to Cuenca in July.

Digital Nomad Life

Word by Word, my copy writing business has picked up a few more clients. For a couple of these clients, I’ll be facilitating and marketing two separate online domestic abuse courses this fall. It is time to bring awareness, education, and practical help to a global audience.

Domestic abuse author and teacher, Jody Cowdin, as well as the founder of two domestic abuse nonprofits, Diane Stores, are both ready to get the word out, and help bring God’s mercy and healing to anyone on the planet.

God’s saying “Go,” so we’re stepping out in faith.

Appreciate your prayers for this effort, peeps. Thanks!

Another Year Older

I had another birthday, they keep happening!

This  year’s birthday started days early with a friend donning his chef hat and hosting a few of us for a five-course meal. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven…

Then you all started flooding me with emails, Facebook posts, texts, and phone calls. Thanks for the love, friends, every well wish reminded me what an amazing person you are and what a gift God has brought me in you! More often than you know, you left me in tears…

AndesThe day of was spent with a few friends on a hiking tour in the Andes. The weather was fantastic, the views spectacular, and the company even better. Lots of fun and moments I’ll always remember. I even made a new friend. Pics

The moon rose full that night, a perfect end to a perfect day…

Trip to the States

Since I could now leave Ecuador without visa issues (as I have my residency visa now), we made plans for me to come back to the States from mid-June to mid-July to attend a wedding Emily (our daughter) is in, celebrate the 4th at Grandma’s, and celebrate Mom’s birthday, as well as catch up with clients, friends, and family. On the way to Minnesota, we made plans for me to meet up with Rich and Emily in San Francisco to visit our son, Charlie, at UC Berkeley.

Whoa! What’s This?

A week or two before I flew out, I noticed something amiss in my lower abdomen. Looking four to five months pregnant and having been with Rich four to five months earlier, I visited a farmacia (pharmacy) far away from my apartment (for fear of what the neighbors might say), found the shelf with pregnancy tests on it and tried to read them. Since my Spanish is still sucking air, I grabbed the mid-priced one and hoped for the best.

The thought of being pregnant at 51 years old was a daunting… no, terrifying!

The test showed no signs of baby in the bin. Whew.

I grabbed a laxative, thinking maybe digestion was the issue. All came out well….

I didn’t have Ecuadorian insurance or an Ecuadorian doctor, but had a doctor recommendation from a friend. So, I emailed the doctor Monday, wondering if he’d ever see it. He responded within an hour or two, offering an appointment for the next day, Tuesday, at noon.

Doctor’s Visit and Testing

The doctor’s office was on the second floor above a farmacia (pharmacy), near where many expats live (playfully dubbed “Gringolandia”).

I arrived 10 minutes early and sat outside the closed door to his office, thinking he was out. At noon, I gave a gentle knock, in case he was there. He popped his head out the door, lowered his surgical mask, and said in a New York accent that he’d be with me shortly. A few minutes later an elderly expat couple exited his office with big smiles.

Dr Guillen is a tall, good looking Ecuadorian man in his 30’s or early 40’s. His demeanor reminded me of a humanities professor: academic and approachable, friendly and professional.  He invited me into his office, which looked more business-like than clinical. No receptionist greeted me, no nurse attended me. No one else was there, as far as I could tell.

His large, busy desk anchored the middle of the space, with windows to the street behind it. Against the right wall were cabinets and a scale, the kind you move the weights across a bar until it balances. I think a sink was over there too. To the left was a screen that shielded from view some area, maybe a testing area. There must have been a bathroom, although I was too distracted to notice. I took a seat at a chair in front of his desk, as he took a seat behind his desk.

He cut to the chase, and asked questions about my symptoms. He never took my medical history, temp, blood pressure, or even asked me to step on that scale (which I almost kissed him for). He listened, and then he said, “I got you,” which I interpreted to mean that he knew what was wrong.

As I lay down on the examining table behind me, he washed his hands. With no oversized paper napkins in sight, I unzipped my pants and lifted my shirt and gave him full privileges to my abdomen.

A special movie moment flashed through my mind as he felt around, asking if this hurt, or that hurt. No alien popped out, though, and nothing hurt.

He paused and looked puzzled, then said I needed an ultrasound.

I zipped up and hopped down, while he wrote on a prescription pad where I needed to go for the ultrasound and the name of ultrasound doctor. He instructed me to come back later that day at 4:15p, with the ultrasound results.

I asked what I owed him. He said that his fee was $20 for this visit and the follow up visit at 4:15p. I grabbed a 20, and placed it on his desk with a heartfelt verbal thank you.

As he escorted me to the door, we exchanged niceties. He was on his way to pick up his 8 and 10-year-old children from school, and he mentioned that his wife is from Minnesota.

I grabbed a taxi to the medical facility he sent me to, walked up to the window and made a 3:30pm appointment.

At 3:30pm, they collected the $38 ultrasound fee and had me lay down on an examining table next to an ultrasound machine.

The doctor came in, and asked me to unzip my pants and lift my shirt. He gooped up the instrument and, in five minutes, took several images.

Then he handed me some paper towels from a dispenser, and, as he was leaving the room, he said he’d be writing up the report and it would be ready for me soon.

I wiped my belly as best I could, zipped up and exited to the waiting room and then down the hall to the nearest bathroom, where I continued to clean up. A few minutes later, my results were at the desk in a white envelope.

Back in Dr Guillen’s office, I sat down in front of his desk while he hung the scan images on a viewer behind me, by the door. I turned sideways to watch from the corner of my eye. He looked at the images, and then he read the report. He read, read, and read, and then the room changed as the silence grew heavy. My heart and jaw had already hit the ground when he said “you have tumors in your uterus, big ones. Some are 5” in diameter.”

Then he said that these types of tumors tend toward cancer and that I should get to a surgeon ASAP. He gave me the images and written results, the name of a surgeon to consult, and said there was nothing more he could do for me.

Somehow I made it back to my apartment. A chatty taxi driver may have saved me from complete melt down that afternoon.

Going Forward

I shared the news with Rich, my husband/medical whiz, and together we discerned, with some online searching, that these tumors are probably not cancerous.

We decided to go ahead to seek a second opinion and treatment in Minnesota, when I’m home, after the long weekend in San Francisco (which was a blast! Pics/posts below).

And that’s where Rich and I are now, driving from San Francisco to Minnesota, for a second opinion and treatment options. Appointment is 2:30pm Wednesday (tomorrow).

I’m in God’s Hands, and content to let Him have His way with me and my health…

Videos and photos of these and other happenings:

Corpus Christi Celebration:

A special post for my beautiful daughter, on her 24th birthday:

Cuenca mannequins

Trip to San Francisco (if you cannot see several links to pics below, just visit my Facebook page and scroll down:

I’m legit, and other true stories

It is official. Last week, I received my residency visa, and today I obtained my cedula (ID card. See sample below). I may not look and sound Ecuadorian, but I am one of them.

No, I haven’t had a face transplant, this is a sample cedula (ID card)

Now I can leave the country without having to start the visa process over, and I can get store discounts and open a bank account.

I’m legit, and it feels soooo sweet!

To address what you all keep asking…

“But what are you doing?”

Well…last week I went on a four day expat tour that went into the jungle, about a five hour bus trip from Cuenca.

Day one, we arrived at Hosteria LuzCelinda, a beautiful hotel with a pool (welcome relief from the heat) that had internet (essential for me to be able to work remotely). Photos:
Video of rain in the jungle (at the hotel)

Hosteria LuzCelinda
Hosteria LuzCelinda

Day one’s evening: went to an open air dining area where they served us dinner, and members of the Shuar tribe presented us some traditions of their people, including a ceremonial dance that two of our group participated in. Ceremonial dance video:

The Shuar tribe is known as a head-hunting warrior tribe that shrinks the heads of its victims. A Cuenca museum highlights this tribe and has shrunken heads on display. The prevailing message is that the tribe no longer hunts and shrinks heads… Photos:

Shuar tribe dance
Shuar tribal dance

Day two, we hiked arduous and often dangerous trails (no guard rails here), in sweltering heat and humidity  through the Labyrinths of Chiguaza, where we encountered lush vegetation, towering trees, caves, bats, and spiders the size of your face.

And, in keeping with the name, natural formations of rocks covered in moss, that wend and weave through the jungle. It was spectacular! Photos:

Rock formations covered in moss, in the Labyrinths of Chiguaza
Brian with spider
Our fearless leader, Brian Gary, with a spider plucked from a web in the jungle.

Day three, we visited a cacao and coffee farm, where we picked our own cacao and where our hosts took the cacao and coffee from the plant, processed it before our eyes, and then served it up as hot chocolate and coffee. It was a wonderful education and the end result was well worth the wait. Photos:

Group at farm
Our tour group at the Cacao and Coffee farm, learning about a coffee plant.

Day four, we visited a botanical garden in Sucua, that had enormous tree trunk formations straight from a fantasy flick. Photos:

Botanical garden tree
Trees in Sucua’s Botanical Garden

The group was fun and easy, and, after surviving the labyrinth, we bonded too. I’m making new friends (anything can happen!). Photos of group:

tour group in the jungle
Tour group in the middle of our jungle trek. I’m way in the back, popping my head over the top of the lady in sunglasses (left middle)

Our hosts, Brian Gary and Jimmy Haro, did a sensational job of keeping us moving in one direction, with smiles on our faces. When you want to go, GringoNetwork is the way to go.

PS this trip was a test to see if I can work during extended tours/travel away from my apartment.  Internet at the hotel was iffy at times…too often, actually, but I did manage to get work done.

“Other things too?”

Yes, I’m doing other things too….

This week, I interviewed the executive director of the best women’s shelter in Ecuador, Casa Maria Amor, and learned about their programming and the women and children they serve. I don’t have permission to share what was said, and they don’t have a website, but believe me, they’re knocking it out of the park. Ecuador, and the dedicated staff of Casa Maria Amor, please take a bow.

I’m giving a new friend computer/email/internet lessons. Older expats aren’t always computer savvy…

I’ve gone to a few concerts, including an ambitious two-hour expat choir concert, that started with Opera and ended with Broadway. Many, many retired musicians come to Cuenca, where they can afford to live on their paltry pensions, and can stay active in their craft. They are some of the most joyous and vibrant expats I’ve seen.
Videos from the expat choir concert:

Expat choir, ‘orchestra,’ and soloist, Soprano Sandra Echeverri

“What about the house?”

We have a purchase agreement on it, and, no joke, it is slated to close Friday, the 13th.

Will see how that pans out…

Rich, my husband, is actively liquidating, stuffing boxes and hauling them to storage, and tying up several other loose ends. Thanks Rich! Once the house is sold, he will book a flight to Cuenca. Once here, he will see if Cuenca living is for him too…

Ok, there’s much more, and if you’re on Facebook, friend me for more photos, videos, and updates.

PS the earthquake relief effort here is ongoing. It may not be in your news feed, but it reverberates through the lives of each one of us here and many, many are still in desperate need. If you haven’t given anything, now’s the time. Even a small donation goes along way here. For the sake of some of the most gentle, generous, and industrious people on the planet, please do something. 
Credit card:
Tax-deductible donation in the States: send a check with Earthquake Relief Fund in the memo to
Ecuadorian Volunteers Association
P.O. Box 437
Naperville, IL 60566-0437

More info on Ecuadorian Volunteers Association:


And, for you beautiful souls who’ve made it to the end: the sweet faces of Ecuadorian children singing, even though…


Cuenca Stands

Yesterday I came across a scene I’ll never forget.

At an ad hoc disaster relief donation site, people were loading trucks with donations, for areas hit by Saturday’s devastating 7.8 earthquake.




What I failed to take a photo of, and was most moving and memorable, were the crowds of onlookers lining the sidewalks and filling the park.

Cuencanos often pause to watch what is going on, but this time it was different.

They weren’t chatty and half interested, like spectators.

They were attentive, quiet, somber.

They were standing in solidarity with the workers and the victims.


Stand in solidarity with the Ecuadorian people through your prayers, and/or through a donation to your favorite relief charity, or give here:

I’m safe

As you’ve heard by now, a devastating 7.8 earthquake hit Ecuador last night. The death toll keeps rising and thousands are injured. Many are trapped alive. It is horrible.

Earthquake map
Epicenter is the star. Cuenca is in red.

375 miles from the epicenter, I didn’t feel the tremors, although some Cuencanos did. I didn’t realize anything had happened until Facebook pinged me to share whether I was safe from the Ecuador earthquake.

Ecuadorians have been laboring tirelessly to build up their country. They’ve got wifi in many places, have built new roads and airports, and are even building a tram through Cuenca.

As they build, bullies knock it down: El Nino has brought widespread flooding and landslides, low oil prices are hurting the economy, volcanoes threaten to erupt, and now this. And this is huge.

Bricks and mortar can be rebuilt. The dead can be buried. But trauma and grief can steal hope…

If you want to do something, please pray. If you want to do something else, make a donation. 

Either to your favorite relief fund or to one that is here, in Ecuador:

If you want to invest in those who’ll soon be this country’s engineers, architects, doctors, and decision makers, make a donation here:

A moment for another makes a difference. The people of Ecuador thank you.


For you beautiful people who made it to the end. I know you’re wondering: Kyle is safe. :)


And then came Kyle

First off, thanks for the prayers. Our daughter, Emily, is recovering nicely from a tonsillectomy. I guess the most painful part is ahead, so please keep praying. Thank you!

As promised, and long overdue, I’m blogging about a visitor. Yep, I’ve had a house guest.

On St Patrick’s Day he arrived, hungry and weary….

A shower and a ham and cheese sandwich brought a smile. 20160317_201358Kyle Hilding, a fellow Gustie and a dear friend’s nephew, teaches English at a Quito university. He had a week to kill and wanted to see Cuenca. I was pining for company. It was perfect.

Outings happened, like a guided trek in Cajas National Park. It’s crazy, but not once did I feel like a bull fighter on the Toreadora Trail.

At 14,000 feet with a high level of difficulty and mud everywhere, I found myself, after landing on my backside more than once, quoting scripture, and singing songs that mention angels.

I almost quit, but then realized they’d have to airlift me out.

Kyle’s smile never faded as he skipped through the three hour ordeal.

Thick fog blocked beautiful views, I’m sure…


Museum visits, hot springs soaking, musical performances, and many moments around restaurant tables gave us time to hang out, get to know one another, and enjoy this great city.

I hope Kyle visits again and soon. Being with him reminds me that God’s busy blessing the world through some very special young people.

More pics of his week with me.

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Videos of some of the great music we enjoyed
Cuenca Orchestra
Playing Rossini:
Playing Sibelius (violinist: Aisha Syed Castro)
Jazz Society Cafe
Cuenca University Orchestra (flautist: Jamil Erazo)


Meanwhile in Minnesota, and Other News

Tomorrow, our daughter, Emily, has a tonsillectomy…in Minnesota.

I’ll be in Cuenca.

I was with her when she had surgery on her kidney as a 2-year-old, and have been with her through every other health problem.

It is torture to not be by her side for this one.

Jodi and Emily Pic 045
Emily and me



Expat living has a downside, and this is a big one. Please say a prayer for her and her doctors. I know a tonsillectomy is no big deal, but it is for me…

Love YOU, Emily! I’ll be with you in spirit and praying all day! Looking forward to seeing your sweet face on video chat later tomorrow. 

It’s almost gone!

Our home in Minnesota has a purchase agreement on it, with a closing date of 5/13. My husband, Rich, is not only Emily’s nurse for the next week or so, he’s actively liquidating our “stuff” and planning storage for the rest. He’ll be joining me, for at least awhile, once the dust settles and he’s officially homeless. Looking forward to seeing you, Rich!

That one other thing that consumes me

While here, I’ve been exploring the digital nomad life (that’s a newfangled way of saying working remotely…very remotely).

My latest big project has been writing fundraising material for a campaign to feed some of the most hungry and needy children in Cuenca.

Only one piece will have my name on it.

On Monday it was posted on the organization’s Facebook page and has, so far, been shared 11 times and liked 137 times (!).  I’m stunned and yet excited, as maybe it will help these children. You’ll find it at:

Until You Raise Your Eyes, You Will Think You Are the Highest Point

or at:

L to R: El Arenal staff member, a graduate’s mother, Colleen, me, an El Arenal staff member.  Photo by Geoff Odell,

Oh, and the campaign, Full Bellies, Dreams of Hope & You, launched today. Please consider a gift, any gift.

Really, any gift.

Eighty-four desperate kids in Cuenca thank you for giving them a chance. So do I.


Please? :) Thank you!

Girlfriends, are you sitting down?

And for you beautiful people who’ve made it all the way to the end…today I had one of the best haircuts I’ve ever had, along with a brow and ‘stash wax. $15 total. 



A very long distance birthday

IMG_0646Our son, Charlie, turns 26 today. What a gift God has given us in our children and what an amazing gift Charlie is to me. He lives, and is going to grad school, at UC Berkeley, so he isn’t back ‘home’ in Minnesota. We may be on different continents, but thankfully a mother’s love bridges all distance.

Happiest of birthdays, sweet Charlie! So miss you and look forward to seeing your face and hearing your voice later today, on video chat! Love you and looking forward to your next 26 years! Love, Mom

If you cannot see the post with pics below, visit


An album I created seven years ago for Charlie’s birthday is just as cute today, his 26th birthday! Happy, happy,…

Posted by Jodi Quinn Hill on Sunday, April 10, 2016


Easter Crucifix

Having grown up very Protestant, it is fascinating to be in a Roman Catholic country.

I had to share this pic with you, in case you’ve never seen an Easter Crucifix either.

Easter Crucifix
Easter Crucifix taken Easter Week, in the New Cathedral in Cuenca, Ecuador

Here is a video of church bells playing Easter morning from my apartment’s back door.

I had a visitor for a week, from 3/17-3/25, but I haven’t had time to give his visit a proper blog post. Stay tuned, Kyle will be blogged about. We had some fun times, and I have many fab photos and videos to share of our adventures. :)

Other news: I’m working and volunteering quite a bit. That global giving campaign for Cuenca kids I’ve mentioned previously, will be launching next week. You’ll know about it, don’t worry. ;-) Please prime your heart to help. These kids need anything you can give.

Processing with Jesus

Glowing candles, chants, music, and costumed characters filled the streets of Cuenca last night, Good Friday.

San Blas
San Blas Church with the full moon kissing its dome. 

Penitent and pious, sinners and saints, innocent and guilty processed, pausing only to watch as actors reenacted that night we call good.

All walked with Jesus to His crucifixion. All walked with Jesus to His death.

Jesus carries the cross
Simon the Cyrene helps Jesus carry His cross

Sitting in the Cathedral watching people rise to line up, I hesitated to join them. I’m not Catholic, Ecuadorian, or Spanish speaking. I stick out and still feel like a tourist, not like one of them.


Yet I am a Christian, just like them.

God sees me as His own, and He sees them as His own. We are His.

I joined the Stations of the Cross procession. Video

These gentle people accepted me and my presence with them. I never sensed a judgmental look or comment. It was remarkable and yet not really, for we are His children, all Brothers and Sisters.

They get it, I’m the one who doesn’t…or hasn’t, until now.

Video taken for the audio, as this was spoken at each station. Translation help welcome.

More photos below:

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