Moved to Cuenca from: Clarksdale, AZ
Hometown: Newton/Boston, MA
Living in Cuenca since: March 2011
Current Occupation: In Cuenca, teaches Spanish classes, history of Ecuador classes and English "on-line" via SKYPE with an international sister school.
Source of Income: Work,work and more work! Martha is too young to apply for Social Security. She used a small inheritance to obtain an "Investor's Visa" ($25,000 requirement) to live and work in Ecuador.
Why did she move to Cuenca?
"When I was in college, majoring in Spanish, I got to spend a year abroad in Barcelona. So the decision to move to Cuenca wasn't a difficult one for me. I visited here for one month back in 2009 and when my ESL job in Arizona ended, I felt drawn to try a new adventure in Cuenca. Because I am not of retirement age yet, I still need to work. So I moved down in 2011 and accepted a job at a private school to teach ESL. It was a surprise for me when the school closed after only two months! But I quickly adapted and started teaching classes on my own. I found a great little house, sort of like a guest house, behind a big mansion. It's a charming and comfortable place for me, so everything just sort of fell into place."
How does she feel about living here?
"I love the tranquility I feel each morning when I get up and take a long walk by the river, early in the morning before the hustle and bustle of a new day begins. I meet a lot of people through my work. I'm lucky to have some American friends who bought a beautiful property out in the Yungilla Valley. They have a gorgeous 3,000 square foot house with a swimming pool, orchards and a bird sanctuary. So whenever I can squeeze some time free from work, I hop on the bus and for $2.50, I'm there."
How was her Spanish before she moved here?
"I am an ESL teacher and was fluent in Spanish before I moved here. I do offer the following classes for "gringos": Super Spanish - ideal for older learners who will learn the 5 most important verbs; Street Spanish - a slightly advanced class where one learns the necessary vocabulary for taxi rides, medical appointments, opening bank accounts and general necessities of life; and Ecuadorian Culture and History - a study of Ecuador starting at 10,000 B.C.
All of these classes are taught in an upstairs classroom at my restaurant, DiBacco's."
What's her favorite thing about living in Cuenca?
"I love this city. There is such a good energy here. For other women moving down here, I think it can be a bit overwhelming at first, both physically and mentally. It can be hard for some people because your brain has to work in a different language."
"This is a safe city for women. It's a user-friendly place and with all of the walking around you will be doing, you'll drop a dress size or two. I spend about $40 a week on groceries and I can go to lots of Ecuadorian restaurants and pay only $2.00 for a set plate for lunch.
How is her health since moving to Cuenca?
"So much better! I always loved to walk and this is definitely a walking-around type of city. I walk from my house to the restaurant every day. By the Tomebamba River, you have to walk up a long flight of stairs to get to El Centro. So I consider that my free 'Stair Master.' It does take a while to adjust to the altitude when you first move here. I definitely have more muscles and am smaller than I used to be - all good things!"
Did you have an "Ah-ha" moment when Cuenca started to feel like home?
"Probably when I mastered teaching on SKYPE. Then I knew I could support myself and make a good living. One of the reasons I bought my former restaurant here was because it has such great classroom space, so I can hold my Spanish classes for English speakers there. I've got a background working in restaurants, cooking and working the bar, so it all works together really well."
Her advice to other Golden Girls still living in the U.S.?
"There is a strong support network of women living here in Cuenca. And don't worry, as you get to know more people, you'll find there's someone for everyone here."
And as all of the other Golden Girls have said about the quality of linens here, Martha advises: "Bring sheets you like down in your suitcase!"