Moved to Cuenca from: Seattle, Washington
Living in Cuenca since: Valentine’s Day, 2012
Single: That’s kind of a weird story. I came here with one of my oldest and dearest girlfriends, and in my second year, I weakened and invited my ex-husband, whose long-time dream had been to visit Vilcabamba, to join me, so
now we live together, but we’re not remarried.
Hobbies: Writing novels, painting, cooking, making paper earring art.
Sources of income: Social Security, teaching classes & art workshops, writing books & managing my internet magazine.
Websites: www.carolynvhamilton.com (my writer site, where you can see my
multi-genre books) & www.adventuress-travel-magazine.com, my internet travel-essay magazine for “women over 50 doing fun things.”
Why did you move to Cuenca? After I lost my job as a grant writer for a non-profit, I had a series of job interviews with thirty-somethings that made me realize age discrimination is alive and well in the US. I began to realize I was
overqualified, and I didn’t really want a job at Costco or Walmart just to pay for rent and gas for my car. I didn’t want to spend any more hours in my life doing things other than for my own personal dream projects. Living in a foreign country again (I’d lived in Paris and spent 2 years in Suriname with the Peace Corps) had
been on my bucket list, and it was time to go! I had planned to move to Puerto Vallarta, where I have friends, but through International Living, I realized Cuenca was a much more affordable option. And I love the spring-in-Seattle-like weather!
Did you have any fears about moving to a foreign country? None at all. After living in the Amazon rainforest and then the capital of Suriname, I thought, “How difficult can it be?” I knew I could learn to speak Spanish if I really applied myself. And of course you have to come here with a round-trip ticket, so it’s not like
you’re stuck if you don’t like it. I am sad to say that I think today there is a lot of xenophobia in the United States. Before I moved here I traveled a lot, and I believe people all have the same wants and needs and desires. I’ve been helped in the oddest moments by foreign strangers, both men and women, help that
would never have been offered in the US.
How do you feel about living here? After three and a half years, I still love it. At
this point, I can’t imagine living anywhere else, even if I suddenly came into a best-selling novel amount of money! Cuencanos are warm and polite and respectful people, and I love that about the Ecuadorean culture. I feel perfectly
safe on the streets at night with families and young lovers holding hands. I love the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables and hamburger with no pink slime! I have made wonderful new friends among both the gringos and Cuencanos. A male friend told me, “All my life in the US I concentrated on my work and on my career, and I realize now that I never made any real friends until I moved here.”
What’s your favorite thing about living in Cuenca? It’s a small enough city to run into your friends when you’re out and about, yet big enough to have a great variety of cultural things to do and modern medical care options. I also love all the greenery.
How was your Spanish before you moved here? For decades I’d been a dedicated Francophile and now felt like I should have chosen Spanish instead. I’d taken a couple of Spanish 101 courses, but my French always got in the way. Once I got here it was a lot easier to learn Spanish.
How’s your health since you’ve been here? My health has always been great, so no change. The altitude took me about two weeks to adjust to, that’s all. Interestingly, the ex’s cardiologist recently told him his heart (he has high blood pressure and an atrial fibrillation) is “functioning 40% better” than when he got
here two years ago.
Did you have an “ah-ha” moment when Cuenca started to feel like home?
Not really, but I think it takes at least a year to become accustomed to any new city, find your favorite stores, restaurants, shops, and professional resources.
What’s your advice to other Golden Girls still living back in the States?
Don’t you think it’s time for a new adventure? Men have mid-life crises; can’t we have mid-life epiphanies? Just take a chance--amaze your family, impress your friends, scare your children, and just do it!