As my plane arrived in Cuenca, I had my jacket out in preparation for the 60 degree weather I was anticipating. Folks, keep in mind that I am in the Southern Hemisphere near the Equator. We are in the middle of winter here. Well, I certainly did not need my coat. It felt like 85-90 degrees outside, without the humidity we experience in Chicago. The temperatures may have been in the 70's from what I can ascertain from the weather links, which would be unusually warm for this time of year. The average temperature in Cuenca in July is in the upper 50's, the average high temperature is about 63 and the average low is in the upper 40's. The temperature averages throughout the year do not vary more than five degrees warmer than the winter averages for July and August.
I have heard Cuenca weather referred to as perpetually spring-like. However, with the intensity of the sun, when it is not being hidden by clouds; temperatures in the 60's feel a great deal warmer than what we are accustomed to back home. The 60's feel more like back home when it is raining here. Temperatures vary widely throughout the day. Today was not as warm as yesterday and more cloudy, but still a nice day. I have not worn my jacket either day, although by evening a jacket is needed. If this is winter Cuenca-style, I'm lovin it!
Yesterday was very busy for me. I was picked up at the airport by Pablo, who works for Cuenca Real Estate through whom I am renting a condo in what is referred to as a new part of the city, as opposed to the colonial part of the city, which is in walking distance of my residence. Pablo was very helpful. I had no problem finding my way to the Maxi-store about four blocks from where I am residing. People refer to it as a Walmart-like store, but I find it more the size of a large supermarket back home, with about the same offerings one would find in a supermarket.
After I delivered my groceries back to the condo, I headed in the opposite direction toward the downtown and colonial section, which was about a mile walk. I had no problems finding the Information Center and procuring a map of Quenca. I then walked over to Cuenca Real Estate where I met Chela, who handled my transaction for rental through email and PayPal. Despite some early misunderstandings in communication in our use of PayPal, we were able to clear that problem up and eventually finalize the rental transaction. If anyone is planning on coming to Cuenca for an extended stay, I would recommend them to you. I know anxiety levels can arise, when transmitting funds to a foreign country to businesses of which we know little. The people at Cuenca Real Estate can be trusted, and they are well established in Cuenca.
On my way back from town, I stopped at a pizza restaurant to order a personal pizza. The restaurant was of neighborhood vintage, one that we would refer to back home as "a hole in the wall" type of eatery. The couple working there may have been husband and wife. She was obviously very pregnant and well into her final month or two. Neither spoke English. I sat at the counter, although there were tables to the back of the restaurant, where one young couple enjoyed their pizza and each others company. From my vantage point, I watched the lady take the flour out of a vat the size of a barrel and run it through some dough processor, which she turned by hand. The oven was located right next to her. Luckily, for me I can read Spanish much better than I can speak it. I was able to point to the individualized pizza from the menu on the wall, and the selection of toppings I wanted. For only $1.50, I had an individualized pizza that was delicioso. The crust was between a deep-dish and a thin crust. It was light and flaky. The toppings of pepperoni, salami, a vegetable I couldn't identify, and queso cheese made for a very tantalizing feast. It was surprising how good pizza can be with queso cheese. You can bet I will be visiting their eatery frequently. I don't know its name, but I will have no problem finding it. Believe me, their pizza would have no problem competing with Chicago's finest.
The sidewalks along the streets are quite narrow as are most of the streets. Sometimes the walks are so narrow only one person can walk by, while the other must step into the street. The walkways can be cobble-stone or just concrete that needs fixing. While I definitely have to watch where I am walking, it becomes difficult for me. I am always looking around absorbing everything in sight. As I walk along I see old homes, new homes, nicely painted homes, and structures not so nicely painted and in need of work. All of these structures side by side in the same neighborhood.
It is interesting to be in a city of 600,000, that bustles and yet has a small town feeling to it. A bus goes down the street, and along the way there are chickens and roosters--large chickens and roosters. In fact, at one spot along the walkway, the roosters greatly outnumbered the chickens. I imagined those roosters must make for a rather noisy time in the neighborhood,which goes beyond the simply early sunrise crowing. I pass every kind of business--some that seem to operate out of the front of their homes to serve the needs of the local neighborhood population, some are restaurants, some are small businesses that employ a craft of one kind or another. Then there are the shops where you can enter and select your own coffin, as the very colorful coffins are stacked vertically in racks along the wall. Then there will be goats. Yes generally in small front yards. Live lawn ornaments. The modern and the traditional--the urban and the rural--coming together to make the present. This is Cuenca.