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.

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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: https://www.facebook.com/jodi.quinnhill/posts/10209607956940445
Video of rain in the jungle (at the hotel) https://www.facebook.com/jodi.quinnhill/videos/10209586773330868/?permPage=1

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: https://www.facebook.com/jodi.quinnhill/videos/10209587306704202/?permPage=1

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: https://www.facebook.com/jodi.quinnhill/posts/10209586991016310

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: https://www.facebook.com/jodi.quinnhill/posts/10209587185181164

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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: https://www.facebook.com/jodi.quinnhill/posts/10209606804951646?pnref=story

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: https://www.facebook.com/jodi.quinnhill/posts/10209607978820992

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: https://www.facebook.com/jodi.quinnhill/posts/10209607934939895

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: https://www.facebook.com/jodi.quinnhill/videos/10209646013531836/?permPage=1
https://www.facebook.com/jodi.quinnhill/videos/10209644961585538/?permPage=1

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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. https://www.facebook.com/jodi.quinnhill.

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:
http://heartsofgoldfoundation.org/earthquake-relief-fund/
http://www.ecuadorcares.com/
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: https://ecuadorianvolunteers.wordpress.com/earthquake-relief-fund/

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

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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.

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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.

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Stand in solidarity with the Ecuadorian people through your prayers, and/or through a donation to your favorite relief charity, or give here:
http://heartsofgoldfoundation.org/earthquake-relief-fund/

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: http://heartsofgoldfoundation.org/earthquake-relief-fund/

If you want to invest in those who’ll soon be this country’s engineers, architects, doctors, and decision makers, make a donation here: https://www.generosity.com/fundraisers/full-bellies-dreams-of-hope-you

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

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

 

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.

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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: http://heartsofgoldfoundation.org/4609-2/

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

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.

lunch

Please? :)  https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/full-bellies-dreams-of-hope-you 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. 

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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 https://www.facebook.com/jodi.quinnhill/posts/10209459463588204

 

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.

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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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Remembering St Patrick in Cuenca

Cuenca is full of graffiti. It is annoying, mostly visual noise, but sometimes it catches your eye and makes you smile.

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Happy St Patrick’s Day, friends!

Pat’s a Dude
Although Irish Catholics whoop it up on March 17th, St Patrick was not Catholic nor Eastern Orthodox, he predates all that silly split stuff. He’s just a guy who went where God sent him (through a vision), and because of his obedience, God used him to single-handedly convert the Celts to Christianity.

Yep, he’s a dude.

2016 St Patrick’s Day take-away for me is that our Lord set the stage for Patrick before He sent him. In Celtic prophecy God planted that one looking like, sounding like, and dressed like Patrick, would come from across the sea. God also seeded Celtic mythology with triadic gods, making the Trinity an easy nod.

By and large, Patrick brought the Good News and, besides a few spiritual power encounters with Druids, started dunking people in the river.

Yep, he’s a dude.

Since I’m a foreigner in a strange land and got the divine Nod to stake out some time here, I’m banking on this notion that God sets the stage for those He sends. What that means for me, I don’t know. And maybe I’ll never know, and that’s okay.

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To help me celebrate, I bought my first clothing item: an alpaca wool/cotton blend poncho made by artisans in Otavalo, Ecuador.

$18.

Of course it is green.

Yes, I’m in my pajamas.

Don’t judge.

 

 

 

 
And for you beautiful people who have made it to the end…this is for you.
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The street where I live and other news

I live on Borerro street in Cuenca, Ecuador about three blocks north of Parque Calderon (the park located in the center of the city). I took these pics on a Sunday afternoon, so the stores are all closed (corrugated metal doors show you where the stores are). Stores line this street and all streets in Cuenca.

See the brick building with three balconies, one on top of another? I live right next to the  top balcony. To the far left on the pic, you can see the railing of the terrace just outside my apartment.

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One of my apartment windows looks out over the terrace. The window to the left of the terrace is my apartment’s office window. If you want to see the video tour of my place, to gather your bearings, you’ll find it here: https://youtu.be/uDeKFLgGPaM

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I am still loving this move. A LOT! The apartment, the city, the people, the weather, the vibe, the cost. I keep pinching myself to make sure this is real! God has been oh, so generous to me.

Even unpleasant moments are transformed…

Last Saturday, as I was washing and hanging out bedding, mopping the floor, and scrubbing walls, Poor Me slunk in and started her litany of lamentations.

“This is icky. Ewww!”

“I worked so hard this week, I should not have to do this too.”

“Ouch!  Blasted clothes pins!  Hanging laundry is treacherous!”

“It is a beautiful, sunny day, I should be out sightseeing.”

“I DON’T want to. I don’t WANT to! I DON’T WANT TO!”

She was totally annoying and then came the kicker, she threatened to visit each time I  grabbed the scrub brush.

She had to go.

So I went looking on a local expat posting site and found this:

Can you help a young indigenous lady find work?

Maria, my goddaughter, is from a family living in extreme poverty in the Amazon region, she came to live with us to escape a violent relationship. She is looking for work, but when people find out she’s not from Cuenca and that she’s a single mum, they tend to turn her away. Thank you so much to the kind people who have already given her work, she needs just a few hours more to make ends meet on her own and start an independent life. Currently she has one full day free a week and most afternoons between 1 PM and 3 PM. Her current families are very happy with her standard of cleaning work. She learns fast and is very keen to do her best to provide her son with a better life than she had. Please contact me if you can help. Thank you in advance…

With tears streaming, I emailed the author and the short of it is, Maria is here two hours a week cleaning, laundering, and shopping. She’s eager to do a good job, is hardworking, and incredibly pleasant. What a gift she is to me. I’m thrilled that the money I earn helps her, and that I get to be part of her story of moving into new life. God’s a wild man!


Word by Word

Word by Word, my freelance copy writing business, is doing well. I now have three clients, plus one client I volunteer for.
I spent Wednesday, with representatives of Hearts of Gold, at El Arenal, an after school drop-in center that provides a nutritional lunch, homework help, and other services, to the poorest of the poor children in the area.
To earn a living, these children and their families fill wheel barrels with  homegrown produce and sell it on the street. Produce they don’t eat, as it is their income, their way to survive. They live without running water (bathe and launder in the river), live in very close and unsanitary quarters, and are often illiterate, quitting school young to work for the family’s survival.
I’ll be helping create and execute a global giving campaign in April to raise desperately needed funds for these kids, to help ensure they have a future they can look forward to.
Check your pocketbooks, peeps. I’ll remind you when the time comes, in case you want to help move a kid from abject squalor to something beautiful.

Wait, what did you say?
Friends? Do I have any friends yet?

You keep asking, so much pressure…

Well, I AM gathering plenty of acquaintances, as I’ve joined a church, International Christian Community, a writer’s support group, Writing Our World (Wow on that acronym), and am joining Coffee Club Spanish tomorrow.

Friendships take time and effort, peeps. Have you forgotten?

For those of you who have never moved to a new location, here’s what I think is typical, or at least what I’m discovering. People already have their circle of friends and aren’t looking for a new face to mess with their happy social life.

Are you guilty of this slight? I know I am, and now I know what it feels like to be on the other end of it. What goes around comes around…

That being said, I think I may have a friend now. Meet Will Timmerman.

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We met in our attorney’s van on the way to the residency visa application office a few weeks ago.

He arrived the same week I did, so we’re both finding our way at about the same pace. Although, Will knows Spanish, so not really.

He has been incredibly kind and patient, and has been actively trying to introduce me to people he’s already met and made friends with (yeah, he’s much better at this friend-making thing than I am). He even invited me to his 66th birthday celebration luncheon last week.

This is Will on my laptop learning the ins and outs of Facebook, to keep up with friends and family far away. I’m glad I finally got to help him with something.

Will, thanks for having such a huge heart and for your blinding kindness. I’d be lost without you!

Whoa, this post is long. I should go.

Quick family update first:

  • Rich, my husband, has had the floors refinished and the house is staged. By the end of March, our house should be on the market. Thanks Rich!
  • Charlie, our son, is singing all the tenor solos in the Palm Sunday performance at First Presbyterian Church Berkeley. The piece is Dvorak’s Mass in D Major. Check it out. Charlie, go SHINE! I’m so sad I’ll miss another one of your performances…
  • Boots, our 14 year old tuxedo cat that survived lymphoma in December through one of those online drugs you raise your eyebrows at (petdca.com), has moved in with our daughter, Emily, and has adjusted wonderfully. Thanks for being such an amazing mama, Emily!
  • Family Skype date in 30 minute. It will be fun to see our four faces in different locations.

Ok, bye, and thanks for persevering and reading all the way to the end. Your interest, love, and support, mean the world to me.

 

 

 

 

Moments in Cuenca

I’m trying a new way to post from Facebook. Hope you can see this.

Here are some moments from this past week, in Cuenca:

 

And for those of you still here, thank you and bless you.

For you, a purple sky ablaze as the sun sets.
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