Friday was people day. I was scheduled to have an Ecuadorian breakfast at Kookaburra Cafe with Rich and Nancy, who are two expats here in Cuenca from the states, who I met and interacted with through their blog. I was pleasantly surprised to meet Rich's brother, Bob and his wife, Roxanne as well. They are the folks from whom I am renting the condo. They also have a home on the Pacific coast of Ecuador, and rent out their condo when they are living on the coast. They were in town for a few days on business and staying with Rich and Nancy. Bob and Roxanne also have a blog. Both couples' blogs are linked on "Cuenca High Life", a web site for expats and travelers to Cuenca. I strongly recommend "Cuenca High Life' to people who plan on visiting here.
I can not begin to tell you how beautiful Bob and Roxanne's condo is, and how nicely furnished. There are so many amenities in terms of fully ceramic bathrooms from ceiling to floor and encompassing the bath tubs as well, to beautifully ceramic floors throughout the kitchen, living room, and hallway which adjoins the three bedrooms and two baths. Hardwood floors in all three bedrooms. Quality wood doors with a simple carved trim etched into the doors to set them off from just being plain looking doors. Wood framing around all the doors. Numerous inset and spotlighting throughout every room of the house. I'm no expert on home designs, so forgive me if I'm not using the proper carpentry descriptives. The walls and ceilings are set off from one another by wood cornices, and every ceiling in the house is then further enhanced by a higher inset that is also set off by wood cornices. It's an elegant home perfect for my tastes, and my understanding is that such a condo in our area would cost twice as much as the cost in Cuenca. I am not talking about the city of Chicago or North Shore market, then you could triple or quadruple the market value.
Roxanne, and I assume Bob, have some great tastes in art. There is a haunting painting of this young couple's faces above my desk where I type out these posts that I find absolutely mesmerizing. There is a sketch in the hallway of the faces of a young couple that is also very expressive. Lucky for Bob and Roxanne, I am such a good, decent, and honest guy. I don't recall them including all their paintings on an inventory of the furnishings that I have to account for when I vacate the premises.
At any rate, the five of us had an Ecuadorian breakfast with another couple, Mike and Patty, who were heading back to the states while their home was being built in Cuenca. Also present for breakfast was Steve, who also has his own blog. Steve was very helpful in the advice he gave me concerning the procurement of permanent residency in Ecuador. Please refer to his blog for further details. I could not have asked to start my visit with a nicer set of folks than Steve and these three couples. We had a very good breakfast, and good conversation. Ecuadorian seasoning is flavorful without generally being red-chilly-hot spicy, as commonly associated with Mexican cooking. The garlic-roasted potatoes were perfecto. I had the chance immediately after breakfast to meet with Steve's wife, Linda, as well, who had not been able to join the group for breakfast.
Friday evening many of the expats and newcomers gather at Zoe's a popular restaurant and lounge in El Centro or the Colonial Quarters. Imagine walking into a room filled with people you have never met before, and you look around and there are people you immediately recognize from their photos in their blogs. None of these people know a thing about me, because I've just started blogging, and I'm still working my way through the machinations of the site and my use of my first laptop. Some of the bloggers feel psychologically naked, "Oh you know so much about us, and we know nothing about you." was a comment I heard more than once.
Well, it didn't take anytime at all to break the ice, as the room filled and people congregated about sharing their stories and why they came to or are thinking of moving to Cuenca. It was a fascinating evening. I'll long remember standing out on the balcony and talking with various couples, while engaging in the feast for the eyes of the colonial facades and the cobble stone streets running down the block, and the way the evening sky seem to set off the facades of the buildings. In my first post, I stated that I had fallen in love with Cuenca from our first acquaintance, and I wanted to discover if our contact was simply a long-distance romance that could not withstand the test of reality. Unlike some cyberspace romances that went so well while we emailed, but not so well once we met, Cuenca has romanced me beyond belief. The question now is will our romance stand the test of time? We will see.
My only disappointment to date has been with myself. Karma has a way of catching up with us. I regret that I had not applied myself better in learning Spanish when I was in high school. Although over time, people will forget what they learn when they don't use it, that knowledge is still filed away in the old noggin somewhere waiting to be resurrected. Education truly is wasted on the young.
I left Zoe's with a lady from Santa Barbara, who like me was exploring Cuenca as a possible relocation. She had been visiting the square each evening of the week as the Catholic Church was celebrating some kind of religious feast day. Abi spoke more Spanish than I, but I soon learned she could get off a plethora of questions in Spanish, but understanding the responses--not so well. We did the best we could.
I first walked into the church. A mass was taking place. There were no pews. Everyone was standing. The interior of the church was ornate, and in the traditional Spanish style. There were streamers of pastel-colored drapery that ran down from the statue of Mary outwards, which had the effect of further emphasizing the already front-centerd focus of Mary in the church. Although the music was more lively than what I associate with Anglo Catholic services, the reverence of the people in the church reminded me of the Catholicism of old when I was a child.
On the square outside the church, Abi and I mingled with the people, and communicated as best we could. The people are so open and friendly. Abi said the program was advertised to begin at 8:00, which meant in Ecuadorian "whenever it happens". "The happening" did not begin until 9:30. We spoke with one couple who may have been about our age. The husband spoke some English, so between his English and Abi's Spanish we were able to patch together a conversation. The couple have three sons and a daughter--all living in Minneapolis. I asked the father how his children like Minneapolis. He diplomatically said, "They like Minneapolis, because they all have jobs." There are 14 million Ecuadorians, something like 3 0r 4 million are living in the United States--primarily in New York, Chicago, and Minneapolis.
It was the neatest thing in the world to watch the people--their close proximity to one another, the indulgence of the youngsters, not in a spoiled way, but just in terms of time and affection showered upon the kids. The children I see everywhere are always smiling and of good cheer. No one is in a rush. It doesn't matter when the program starts. It will start when it starts. Just being here with family and friends and relaxing is reason enough. It is the end in itself. The program was incidental.
Poor Abi--she had been bragging all evening about the wonderful dancers, singers, flute players, etc that had performed the previous evenings. Unfortunately, once the program began, it began with a very slow-moving, surreal, possibly political statement that reminded me of a mime out of Cirque Du Soleil--minus the rest of the cast and acts to hold ones attention. Not knowing if this solo dance dramatization may go on for an hour, the fact that I was tired, and the fact that my left eye was really irritated possibly from incense that may have been used during the mass, or from the vendors cooking various meats for the people in the square; I begged off and decided to head home.
I took the first taxi I saw. My faced lit up when the driver spoke English. I had an amigo with whom to converse on the way back to the condo. Better yet, he had just returned from Chicago on April 30th, where he had worked in a restaurant kitchen for thirteen years. With English and the Chicago connection, we began immediately to commiserate. He has a thirteen year old and a twelve year old son, and his home was about ten minutes beyond my condo. He invited me to his home to meet his wife, Marianna, and his two sons. As we arrived at our destination, he warned me that I should not get into a taxi without first asking the driver to show his identification. He proceeded to show me his I.D., and the two I'D's that he had from Madison, Wisconsin. I asked him if he had lived in Madison. He said no, that his cousin lived in Madison and was able to get him the Wisconsin licenses, which he said were good enough for Illinois. We may get together yet. I would like to meet with an Ecuadorian family in their home. Of all the taxis in Cuenca, that we should meet up. How's that for fate, and for six degrees of separation. Hasta luego!