It has been some time since I have written about my personal life here on the blog. I wanted to give an update on my life and all things Cuenca <3 If you don’t know me, hey! My name is Kelly! I am super proud Marylander that decided to move to Cuenca, Ecuador after falling in love. I took a big decision to run away from the DC rat race and build a life in Ecuador. My life consists of working for a local nonprofit, being fit/active, freelance modeling, lots of walking/biking/hiking/exploring, motorcycle travel, drooling over photos of my adorable nieces and nephews, and living a life of love with my beautiful partner. And cafe hopping, of course.
Professionally, I continue to work at the Hearts of Gold Foundation where I am the Program Coordinator. For those who don’t know, Hearts of Gold is a small nonprofit in Cuenca where we support grassroots organizations and their leaders through capacity building, mentoring, and solidarity dialogues. My primary role has been to develop this program, known as the Community Assistance Program, in its design, operation, evaluation, and day-to-day functioning. I have designed a year of course work based on a module we designed along with an AU masters practicum team to target 8 core capacities that are essential to nonprofit growth and sustainability. Needless to say, working on this program has been an incredible opportunity to grow in the nonprofit sector, especially as it has all been bilingual! On the side I have picked up skills in web development/site management, graphic design, translation, managing interns, data management, donor communication, fundraising, and marketing!
I don’t know why I am surprised, but 2017 has continued to offer major opportunities for growth as a woman. Personally, I am continually surprised about how living abroad affects me and how much I have learned about myself. I’ve learned that I am not always strong but that is ok, and each time I can pull myself up by my bootstraps and move forward. I’ve learned that I am more vulnerable than I knew, and how to use that to my advantage. I’ve learned that independence is something that I strongly value, but that I am not always the best at it. I’ve learned the power of true love and partnership and how caring for another can be the most rewarding and fulfilling gift of life. I’ve learned that it is never too late to come back to my faith. I’ve learned that being away from family can suck, but they are never more than a phone call away. I’ve learned that building a new family in a new place is incredibly heartwarming. Its never going to be easy, but living abroad has pushed me faster and faster to assess who I am, what I like, and the way I want to live. I may not be perfect or have it all figured out, but I am who I am and I am proud of that.
The opportunities keep pouring in in so many different ways. Last year I ran my first half marathon along with a couple smaller 10k races. This year, I took on a new challenge and ran a new Ecuadorian trail race, the Ruta del Hielero, which goes through the Chimborazo Volcano outside of Riobamba, which is the highest point on the planet when you measure from the Earth’s core. It was hard, dirty, crazy, and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I took on the 15k while Eduardo took on the 42k. I am so proud of the both of us for working hard and reaching our goals to finish!!! I have also been fortunate enough to continue a freelance modeling career here, which has been so fun to meet new people and support my low-budget lifestyle! I recently did another fashion show which benefited the Reina de Cuenca Foundation, and got published in a national magazine that accompanies one of the major Ecuadorian newspapers. Between a mix of commercial and editorial shoots, it has seriously been a blast learning about the art of modeling and collaborating with so many talented photographers, makeup artists, hairstylists, and stylists! I also graduated from a course offered by the Municipality and Universidad de Cuenca, where we became “ambassadors for peace” and will continue in an accredited program to become a certified mediator! This course also opened the doors to potential collaboration at the university as they develop a masters program in conflict management.
All in all, life in Cuenca is totally rad. I can’t say enough good things about Eduardo, his family, and the friends I have made along the journey. We are continually blessed with the opportunity to travel, the most recent being a trip to Mindo, a small adventure cloud forest town a couple hours from Quito. We took the motorcycle 13 hours north and had the best escape, relaxing, fun, invigorating trip! On the radar is a trip to the coast to run a half marathon, a visit from mom, and a summer visit back to Maryland. Hoping in the next year to do a deep jungle trip and a motorcycle tour of the Ruta del Sol, which goes all along the Pacific Coast of Ecuador.
That’s about all on my end for the moment. What’s new with you? Have we not been in touch? Let’s change that!