Ecuador…More Welcome Surprises!

In July of this year I moved to Ecuador to have the experience of living in another country rather than just being a tourist! As we got close to what was the end of the trip from the Guayaquil airport, I looked at the lovely red tiled homes in the Andes and said to myself, “I could live here!” When I asked one of the other passengers on the van what town this actually was, she said, “This is Cuenca!” I knew I had found my new home. And so was the start of my living here, a town of about a half million people at 8200 ft. or 2500 meters in South America. What a journey! The beautiful clouds and mountains remind me of the Rocky Mountain West in some ways except with a very temperate climate of year round spring and 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night every day! There is a kind of rhythm, I find, to that kind of day.But there have been more surprises since I arrived three months ago–many of them cultural: The genuine welcome and support of the expat community, which is estimated to be from 8,000 to 10,000 people from all over the world, but principally, the U.S. Here the locals refer to retirees as “Tercer Edad,” or the The Third Age: It has a nicer ring to it IMHO than “Senior Citizen” or even “Golden Years.”There are also times I feel like I’ve enrolled in an Adult Day Camp as there is so much to do! I was aware of some of these activities prior to my arrival through the network of people I knew here, but experiencing it all first hand is another welcome surprise.

The Ecuadorian culture is a warm and welcoming one—your landlady (duena de casa) is likely to give you an air kiss and hug when you pay your rent. And instructors and even the meseros (waiters) who often recognize you after one visit and may even remember your name, greet you this way! It’s not uncommon to see the Ecuatorianos themselves offer each other these greetings, and you can witness this while walking in town (El Centro) or even while waiting to recharge your cell phone at one of the phone companies here.

And then there is the study of the Spanish language. Here the language is clear and kind of musical.

I decided to immerse myself in two different local language schools for a total of 13 hours a week of language study these past few weeks (not including homework or “tarea!”) Both schools are excellent, and it’s been delightful, and challenging, too! The locals seem genuinely happy you are learning their language and are happy to tell you that. They are patient as you search for the right word or verb tense!

This past week one of the language schools had a photo/essay contest (concurso). There were about 30 entries in all. I placed 5th (another welcome surprise or sorpresa!) and was awarded a dinner for two at a local restaurant for my photo of a sea lion (leon marino) in the Galapagos. The photo had to be of Ecuador, and the accompanying essay 200 words for the Intermediate 1 class I’m attending. Language learning, I find, stretches me in a good way and enriches daily interactions, and while it’s not “pan comido” (a piece of cake) it seems generally “vale la pena” (worth the pain!)

Speaking of cake, the Ecuatorianos love their sweets—lots of ice cream places here, too, and some of their “postres” or desserts are works of art!

I’ve included some photos of their postres, also some of our recent hikes, and the award winning photo of the sea lion below.

Todo Bien! (All is Well!)


Postres in Ecuador

Passion Fruit Cheesecake with Ice Cream (Helado)

Toreadora, Cajas NP


Toreadora, Cajas NP


Toreadora, Cajas NP


Toreadora, Cajas NP



Leon Marino (Sea Lion) Photo placed 5th in local contest in Ecuador at Spanish Coffee Club


Yours truly with the leon marino (sea lion) in 2006 trip to The Galapagos!



“Buen provecho” strangers in restaurants here remark as they quickly pass your table in a restaurant, “Enjoy Your Meal!” It’s a customary greeting, with friends and strangers alike, in this South American country the size of Colorado. It’s also one of the many “sorpresas” or surprises in this small country that has such variety: beaches, mountains, the headwaters of the Amazon, and the unique Galapagos Islands.

Ten years ago, I visited here and was struck by the beauty of the landscape. This past July I moved here…with 4 suitcases…to fulfill a long-held dream of living in and not just visiting, another country. It is a wonderful choice. On the equator, from which the country gets its name, it is forever spring in Cuenca, a lovely Old World Colonial City that sits at a little over 8,000 feet in the Andes, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The weather and the experiences seem to suit me: I’m immersing myself in Spanish language classes, and while it’s true that the locals appreciate any efforts made at communicating in their language, I know the experience will be richer the more I learn. There are so many things to do here –free symphony concerts, music with performers visiting from all over the world, artisan centers, classes of all kinds, and a strong expat community that is both welcoming and supportive. There are a lot of treasures to discover here, and I expect the adventure is a central part of the experience of it all.

Here are some photos of the hikes I’ve taken…from the local walks through small villages with a chance to have almuerzo (lunch) and meet the local Ecuadorian and indigenous people to the beauty of one of the most popular National Parks, El Cajas, in the Southern Sierras.

Todo Bien! (All is Well!)


Retama…a beautiful flower which often finds its way on pottery designs…see next photo!

Here is the flower (retama) on the pottery by E. Vega, renowed potter, Cuenca

Here is the flower (retama) on the pottery by E. Vega, renowed potter, Cuenca

Cuenca overlook the day we hiked to Baguanchi area outside the city

Cuenca overlook the day we hiked to Baguanchi area outside the city

Indigenous woman of Ecuador with dog on one of our hikes

Indigenous woman of Ecuador with dog on one of our hikes


Rural Hike SigSig to Gualeco (8 miles) with two new hiking friends (just for the day!)

Views on the rural hike

Views on the rural hike

Part of the hiking trails pass villagers' homes

Part of the hiking trails pass villagers’ homes

Rural Hike SigSig to Gualeco

Rural Hike SigSig to Gualeco

Rural Hike SigSig to Gualeco

Rural Hike SigSig to Gualeco

This is part of the trail in Cajas NP

This is part of the trail in Cajas NP

Cajas NP

Cajas NP

Looks like paintbrush in Colorado...

Looks like paintbrush in Colorado…


Hummingbird–lots of them in Ecuador! Larger than in the US…this one flew right in front of us!

Cajas NP

Cajas NP

Cajas National Park

Cajas National Park

Cajas NP

Cajas NP

Cajas NP

Cajas NP

Cajas National Park

Cajas National Park

Cajas NP

Cajas NP

Llamas in Cajas NP

Llamas in Cajas NP

Cajas NP

Cajas NP

Cajas NP

Cajas NP

Cajas National Park

Cajas National Park

On the way out of the park...

On the way out of the park…

Cajas NP

Cajas NP

On a cobblestone road out of the National Park

On a cobblestone road out of the National Park

Working Your Rejects—Trusting That New Skills Yields Results!

Last week I had the good fortune to see and take photos of a newborn owl and its mother. This was a first for me! My new telephoto lens did a great job as I trusted it to bring clarity to what my naked eye was seeing as I looked at the nest from afar! Sure enough—when I reviewed the photos more carefully, there the baby was in all the detail I had “hoped” when I was taking the photos! (Please see the Owl Photos in the April Posting!)

 I started to think what relevance this experience has for the job search—what do you need to trust in the way of new skills so that things turn out for the best and as you hope? One way is to work your rejects—something most job candidates don’t do. We tend to want to close the chapter and move on. But by not working the rejects, we miss out on a potential gold mine of information and opportunity!

 First you may be saying, “What rejects—I never heard from the xyz organization!” And you probably won’t. These companies are swamped with resume and application responses, many of which don’t even fit the job description! You can make an initial contact by phone or email that says, “I just wanted to know where you are in the selection process and let you know that I am still interested.” If they have made a decision, and you were not selected, here’s what you can do:

Tips on how to work your rejects: Write a letter (you can send an email, too, but a letter is more personal) basically saying “Congratulations to the person who was selected for the position and although I would have enjoyed being part of the team, I would appreciate any other suggestions you may have of where I might best use my skills.” Let them know you will be calling to follow-up to this letter. Then make the call. You can leave a message that says, “You were expecting my call” because you said so in your letter! You don’t know who this person might know who could be of help to you! It will also give you a sense of bringing closure to that job prospect!

There are several reasons this strategy has some good success:

  1. Most job candidates do NOT do this, so you are going to stand out just by making the effort!

  2. The employer may feel a bit “guilty” that you were rejected and more inclined to respond to your request.

  3. Since you are going to be asking the person for “advice” (and since most of us love to give advice and aren’t often asked) you are giving the person an opportunity to be helpful!

  4. It keeps you in the loop in case the person they hired does not “work out” for one reason or another! I knew someone who got a job this way…the employer simply did not want to start the interview process all over again. The candidate made it easy for them to hire her! And she was a good fit for the job!

Trust that the new skills you are applying to your job search will yield results and Work Those Rejects! By being more proactive, it will also boost your confidence in your search!

Sharpen your Resume or Create a New One!

Happy Ground Hog Day!

Whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not, you probably need to get your resume in shape! Here are some tips:


  • Look at samples of resumes you like for content and appearance (I like the books by Martin Yate, Knock ’em Dead Resumes, Knock ’em Dead Cover Letters)

  • Beyond what your responsibilities were, you want to include accomplishments—what did you do that will help this employer! Do that by quantifying your work. Every job can be quantified: What was the scope of the project? How many people did you manage? How large was the organization/department? How much money were you responsible for? How much money did you save? By what % did you decrease turnover?


  • 7 to 10 years of work on your resume—the exception is if you want to return to work you’ve done prior to this time frame; then you will have to include those years and experiences.

  • One to two pages is best

  • Include your name and contact information on the 2nd page in case it gets separated

  • You can include a separate Client List if you have been self-employed or worked as a contractor. Do this alphabetically.

  • If responding to a job description, include words related to it. Read the job description carefully!


  • Graduation dates on schools (unless you are a recent grad)

  • Hobbies and interests (unless it relates to this job)

  • Marital status

  • References provided on request” This is a given.

  • Be sure to spell check! This is important and if your resume is scanned for key words—misspellings will be ignored by the scanner!

Volunteer Work that uses your Skills:

  • Choose these projects carefully—especially if you have a lot of time on your hands—organizations will all want you!

  • It’s a way to keep your skills current and make a difference

  • It’s a self-esteem boost!

Temporary Work that uses your Skills:

  • You can register with one or more temp service companies—the general rule is go to an assignment, and do the best you possibly can in order to get more assignments.

  • Some of these positions can turn into full-time (or temp to hire) positions.

Addressing Gaps in Employment:

  • Be honest with yourself and an employer about the gaps—you don’t need to provide all the details if personal. Maybe you were a stay at home mom; maybe you were caring for an elderly parent; maybe there were health related issues.

  • Volunteer & temp work are both legitimate work experiences to address some gaps in employment.


  • Include as a separate sheet, not in your resume.

  • Be clear when you ask for references what you want them to emphasize. Check in advance that they will give you a good reference—don’t assume!

  • Be sure to use the Recommendations in your Linked In to get and give referrals.

Review of your resume—by two different kinds of reviewers~

  • Ask someone to review it who does resumes in general; Usually someone with an HR background is very good at this.

  • Then have someone review it who is in your field of work or the work you want to get into! There might be key words or concepts you have missed, but they won’t.

  • You have to like it! In the end analysis you make the call. If you are getting interviews, or you are getting good comments about your resume, it is working for you!

  • It used to be you had one or two resumes and your Cover Letter was tailored to the job…that simply is not good enough in this job market! Your resume should be tailored to this job opening.


  • White space—leave margins and some white space—some hiring managers like to take notes on a hard copy of your resume

  • Size of letters shouldn’t be too large or small

  • Font (for a lot of text you want Times New Roman (anything with seraphs or ‘tails’ like a book or newspaper because it is easier to read).

  • Arial or Verdana are sans seraph fonts and are better for headers or sections of your resume.

  • If you are including a resume in an email, select plain text & use sans seraph fonts

Finally, use a good quality paper when you print it.

Perhaps my favorite quote on resumes is from Tom Jackson, who wrote Guerrilla Tactics in the Job Market: “Make it Beautiful!”

And so you should since your resume represents you!

New Year, New Attitude!

Recently, I asked a recruiter of a temporary employment agency what she thought was the single biggest mistake candidates were making on job interviews right now. Without hesitation she said, “Attitude!” (Yes, employers often ask the agencies to send them candidates to be interviewed instead of having the temp agency make the choice for them!)

The example she gave was a candidate being asked a question by the prospective employer. He replied with, “It’s on my resume!” Needless to say, this person did not get the job. I suspect this response might be indicative of frustration on the part of the candidate for what seems like the obvious: yes, it is on the resume.

Stepping back from this, it’s worth looking at why the employer might ask a question that seems so obvious to you as the candidate.

The employer–

  1. Might not be very good at interviewing or didn’t review your resume in detail before the interview and is filling time by asking you this question.

  2. Is interested in seeing how you answer the question and express yourself relative to what is on your resume.

  3. May be looking to see that what you wrote in your resume is a match & is in sync with how you are answering the question!

 So here are some tips to develop the right attitude for your job search:

  1. Refresh Your Job Search! Review the job description before you go on the interview and review your resume. Practice answering what seem like “it’s on the resume” type questions with a new approach. Try answering some difficult questions with a buddy or ask yourself these questions and say your answers while looking in the mirror. What does your face tell you about the attitude you are “reflecting” to the employer? Would you hire you?

  2. Consider doing volunteer work related to the field you’d like to be in. It might boost your confidence and you might gain some new skills or use ones you already have. It will give you a “sense of purpose” while you do some good. Be careful not to devote too much time to volunteering if you can’t afford to do that!

  3. Learn a new job-related skill—take a class in person or online. Check your library or Workforce Development Center for free courses or sign up at a local community college or your alma mater. Some temp services provide skills training, too.

  4. Keep your spirits up—it’s likely the search may take longer than you’d like and maybe already has. Keep up your exercise and watch what you are eating…both of these will help keep depression at bay.

  5. Learn to love your job rejects—they are a source of further contacts that few people use.

We’ll talk more about volunteering and handling rejects in upcoming blogs.

Here’s to You and a New Job Search Attitude in this New Year!


The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Australia


Lace Umbrellas

Meili Snow Mountain, One of the sacred mountains to the Tibetans

Yunnan Province, China. Photo by Arlen Cwir

The Middle East


From an email to Friends from Bhutan, April, 2008

Kuzugampola (Hello in Bhutanese) Friends!

Ever since I saw a PBS special on Bhutan (The Land of the Thunder Dragon) some years ago, I wanted to visit here. It is a magical place, often called the last Shangri La, for the beauty of its mountains and valleys. Often it looks like a story book picture! It’s about the size of Switzerland and about a half million people. Apparently, they said they were a million so they could get into the UN, but then, given their sense of humor (truly!) and that census counts are not accurate…Bhutan is nestled between China and India and has four climate zones, from cold in the Himalayan north to tropical in the very south. We were in the central, temperate region. It was lovely spring-like weather.

We had a 9 hour ride on the “Lateral Road” the only road in the country. We started in Paro where the airport is (two planes blessed by their monks called Druk (Dragon) Air). We arrived in Thimpu, the only capital without a traffic light…I have a photo of the one police officer directing traffic. They tried a traffic light (yes, one) and didn’t like it so they got rid of it!

The feel of this country is unbelievable…wonderfully friendly and hospitable people with the men dressed in traditional “ghos” a komono-type outfit and the women in long skirts of beautiful hand woven fabric. The Bhutanese are a handsome people! You may have seen the news on Bhutan’s recent elections as they moved to a constitutional monarchy. It is an interesting time for Bhutan, this Buddhist Kingdom coming into the 21st Century. Their new King, who at 27 is as revered as his father, will be coronated this year. The King’s Father is married to 4 sisters (apparently, one said no!) But having more than one wife or husband is not uncommon in Bhutan.

(Note: In fact the King is now 31, the youngest reigning King, and was just married in 2011. The new Queen, a commoner and 21 years old, is as beautiful as he is handsome!)

Today is our last day (of 11) in Bhutan (internet was not always available on the trip) and did they ever save the best for last! We hiked to Tiger’s Nest Monastery
nestled on the edge of a cliff. It is a trip that, like Mecca, they would like the Buddhists here to do at least once in their lifetime. It is about a 3 hour hike up and is a beautiful one on a good trail with lots of steps in places. Several beautiful viewing points as the rhododendrun are in bloom. Set with the the prayer flags, it is a stunning setting.

Young Monks, Bhutan

TAKTSHANG (The Tigers Nest Monastery), Bhutan

Ura Yackchoe Festival, Bhutan

Bhutan: Book Recommendations

I got the Lonely Planet Bhutan book (there weren’t many to choose from when I went I 2008, but I found it a good choice. Check around and see what you like). It gave a good history of Buddhism, I thought.
I went with a company in Boulder called Asia Transpacific Journeys.

Several books I’d recommend are:
So Close to Heaven, The Vanishing Kingdoms of the Himalayas, by Barbara Crossette–lots of history and will give you some context. Great writer.

Beyond the Sky and the Earth, a Journey into Bhutan, Jamie Zeppa; a Canadian who taught in Bhutan and then married one of her students. The marriage didn’t last, but the story of her experiences being in the culture is interesting.

Treasures of the Thunder Dragon by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Whangchuck who was one of the previous Queens–travelogue and memoir. I got a library copy. I loved this book, too.

The Circle of Karma by Kunzang Choden (daily life and rituals from a woman’s perspective)

The Geography of Bliss, c. 2008. One more book that has a chapter on Bhutan and is just a great travel read. It’s written by NPR Correspondent, Eric Weiner:

A few DVDs:

Travellers & Magicians (Jamie Zeppa’s (see book above) Bhutanese husband is one of the actors.
The Cup (about Bhutanese monks and soccer)

I loved Tiger’s Nest (Taktshang). Do not be discouraged by guidebooks that say it is difficult. It isn’t. There is a path all along the way with lots of people.

Make sure you get to a Festival…anywhere. They are worth seeing and have a good blend of the sacred and the profane. Great photo opps, too.There is one main road that goes across the country and some of the highlights are: Paro, Thimpu, Punakha, and Trongsa. The architecture is lovely as are the people. Happy Travels. If you go to Bhutan, enjoy—I know you will. If you decide to arm chair travel this one, these books and DVDs should be a good start!

PS One book I read several years after my trip: It’s called Married to Bhutan, How One Woman Got Lost, Said “I Do” and Found Bliss, by Linda Leaming, a published writer, who apparently is mentioned in the Geography of Bliss book. She talks a lot about the culture and places. So it’s very thoughtful and chock-full of well-written information. The author lives there now (she’s American).


Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam



I have been (happily) to Thailand on three occasions…here are notes from an April, 2008 email to friends and the only time I’ve been there in the spring of the year…read how they celebrate their New Year! This was a happier time for the Thais,  before the recent floods of 2011, the worst in 50 years…

Today I arrived in Bangkok about an hour by plane from Chiang Mai, the city in the north where I have been staying since I arrived on Feb. 22nd. Bangkok has a new airport…quite nice on the design, and I understand it is the biggest airport!

It is the Thai New Year, a 3 day riotous celebration April 13 – 15, revolving around going home to see family, respect for elders, Buddha and water splashing (read drenching) to celebrate the arrival of the spring harvest season. It is a sacred and secular holiday time. Most people have off from work.

It’s called Songkran, a Sanskrit word describing the change in the astrological signs from Pisces to Aries. (I thought Pisces was the water sign! But “Ma Pen Rai, “never mind” as they say in Thai). It signals the New Year. They do celebrate Jan. 1, but this is a more auspicious holiday for them. Yes, I got splashed, and that is considered a sign of good luck. They love to “get ” the farangs (foreigners).
The kids and adults ,armed with power water guns, have a good time,and it’s a good way to cool off from the heat; but there has been negative press because of traffic fatalities. A little too much celebrating. I stayed out of harm’s way and watched some from the 3rd floor of the guest house.

Tomorrow I leave for Bhutan for 11 days where we will be at a minimum of 4000ft. altitude (and up to 10, 000). This is the last of the independent Buddhist Kingdoms. It should be spectacular. I had this trip in mind ever since I saw a PBS special about 10 years ago. And so the seed was planted!

Me and My Shadow, Thailand

Water on Leaf, Thailand