Yesterday, Saturday, was a down day for me. By Friday night I was tired, but insisted that I was going to get my blog posted before I went to bed. When I am tired and spend too much time on the computer, I suffer from eye strain. I awakened Saturday to an excruciating head ache, and with all of the tension which surrounds my eyes when they are strained. Unfortunately, I only had aspirin, which I knew from experience was going to do no good. I hoped if I just stayed in bed and rested my eyes, the tension would finally let up. It was a perfect day to be under the weather. It was cloudy all day, and it also rained on and off throughout the day. Finally, I ventured out into the rain about 4:00 p.m. I needed food, and I needed something like a Tylenol.
Did I mention to you that since I have arrived in Cuenca I am always hungry? I have eaten more carbs in the past week than in the last two months. Some may argue that my increased carb intake is causing greater hunger cravings by playing havoc with my sugar levels, and they probably are right. Nevertheless, I find that fruits, yogurt, and meat without carbs just doesn't cut it for me in the Andes. I may be kidding myself, but my clothes to date don't feel any tighter. Friends here in Cuenca say the high altitude will require more carbs to keep up one's energy level, and the amount of walking we do also burns calories. Many a blogger has reported that they eat more, but still lose weight. Time will tell. If true, wouldn't that be the icing on the cake?
I arrived at the SuperMaxi, which is not only a supermarket, but anchors about a dozen other upscale boutiques and shops in an enclosed mall environment. I decided to try the pizza in one of the restaurants. Remember I only paid a $1.50 for a personalized delicioso pizza on my first day of arrival. At this restaurant, I paid $6.00 for the Pizza which included tax, but did not include the coke. The pizza was decent--nothing really to write home about. So why the greater expense for mediocre pizza? I was paying for higher rental in an upscale shopping center, and for ambiance. The restaurant had elegant wood counters of a two-tone hue. If I were building a house, I would definitely want my kitchen cabinets and any other woodwork done in that particular wood and tone. Sorry, I didn't ask about the wood. I had all I could do with my level of Spanish just to order the pizza.
In yesterday's blog I had described for you the condo I rented. However, I wanted to save for today what I consider to be the outstanding feature of this very fine condo, and that is the balcony, which runs across the entire length of the south side of the condo. Balconies are rare in much of the new construction in Cuenca, and when available are oftentimes small. I am on the seventh floor, which is the top floor of the condo building. Only the top floor condos have balconies in this complex. The master bedroom, middle bedroom, and living room are all glass-enclosed along the exterior wall, with sliding doors that open to the balcony. I don't need to concern myself with remembering to slide the door shut behind me, because there are no pesky flies nor mosquitoes. While Cuenca does have spiders, insects are rare. The kitchen exterior wall above the sink is also entire window with a view out into the the neighborhood.
I have a grand view of the neighborhood before me. How do I describe the neighborhood? I think back home we might call it gentrification. The high-rise condos align one side of the neighborhood before there is a steep drop off on the north side to a lower elevation of land. I assume that these high-rise condos (four to eight stories) recently replaced older housing structures. As I look to the south, the homes below me are a combination of new townhouses, older appearing buildings that look maintained, and others than are in need of repairs. About three or four short blocks southward, (maybe the length of a football field) the land begins to rise and there are blocks of homes built along the incline up the side of the mountain that extend upward to eye level with me on the seventh floor. Above these homes is a thick layer of Eucalyptus trees.
The view is always entertaining, whether observing people, pets, and chickens on their roof-top terraces; or watching the younger kids and later in the day the older adolescents playing fotbal and volley ball on the court directly below the condo balcony. There are four basketball hoops which are setup as well, but I never see anyone playing basketball. What I noticed for the first time yesterday is that on the incline are two adjoining vacant lots, each about 25-30 feet wide and possibly 60 feet long. These two lots are green pasture land, and there were about eight cows out there yesterday munching on the grass along the steep slope of the land. Some gringos complain about the slow pace of bureaucracy in Ecuador when it comes to getting things done. Well, I can't address that issue, because I haven't had to deal with it yet. However, there certainly isn't any bureaucratic red tape when it comes to zoning ordinance restrictions, which of course, is part of the charm of Cuenca, and which sadly over time will most likely disappear.
What really makes the view captivating is the mountains to the west. The clouds and light are invariably changing the landscape. Today when I arose from my slumber, the day was very sunny and warm, and the clouds slung over the mountains. I feel such a spiritual connection with these mountains. I could not help but think of Moses and Mount Sinai. Only unlike Moses, who could only look upon the Promised Land, but could not enter it; I felt I was in the Promise Land and the wilderness was on the other side of the mountains. I know that sounds absolutely corny, but I have found something special in Cuenca.
Today is Sunday. Everything is at a standstill, and except for the two major malls almost all the businesses and restaurants are close. Today is family day, and Cuecanos spend a day of leisure at home with their families. The city is very quiet. Few people are seen about, and there is little traffic. I hiked down to El Centro in the afternoon of what has been a perfectly sunny day. I by chance met up with Regina, who has recently resettled to Cuenca from Mexico. We first met last Friday evening at the gathering of expats at Zoe's. We spent the rest of the day together. I learned more about finding my way around Quenca, saw for the first time the Rio Tomebama which runs through the heart of Cuenca, and I had a wonderfully tasting Ecuadorian meal of chicken in a sauce that included lime and hinted of some Thai dishes I've eaten. The meal was served with potatoes and rice, the two major carb staples in Ecuadorian diets. Regina had potato soup. Ecuadorians are famous for their soups, and potato soup is a favorite of Regina's.
What makes the colonial section so rewarding is the historic beauty of the building facades with their cobble stone streets and sidewalks. Except for possibly the French Quarters in New Orleans there are not too many authentic historical preservations in the United States as extensive as this part of Cuneca. It has an old world charm that is authentic, and isn't a manufactured Disneyesque, squeaky-clean type of re-creation. El Centro is the living, vibrant center of Cuneca--a twenty-first century city, which continues to enhance itself with modern technology, while still having a respect for the traditions, designs, and craftsmanship of the past.