2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage

2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage


My mission in publishing this blog is first to provide a living history of my settlement and life in Cuenca, and to provide myself and the reader with a journal account delineating my reasons for why I have chosen to settle in Cuenca. Second, the posts are my way of staying in contact with family and friends back in the states, and to provide them with an understanding of a country and culture that most North Americans have little knowledge and awareness. Third, the blog is open to one and all who wish to compare and contrast the experiences of expat bloggers living in Cuenca, so that you can determine whether or not from your perspective Cuenca is an appropriate move for you. Fourth, my blog provides another example of how expats view and interpret life in Cuenca. Ecuadorians and Cuencanos who may read this blog are especially invited to post comments that may enhance all expats understanding and appreciation of Cuneca and its people, or to correct any misinterpretations in my assumptions and perceptions of Cuencano culture. Finally, I hope I can convey the feeling of love and appreciation that grows within me each passing day for this heavenly city nestled in the Andes and its very special people.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Walking on the Wild Side and Riding the Bulls in Cuenca

There is a wild side to Cuenca while walking its streets. It's called "taking on the bulls", which this pedestrian and every other pedestrian matador unfurls every time anyone crosses its streets. There are few traffic lights, and not many stop signs—not that either of them matter. Whether I wish to cross at the intersection or in the middle of the block, the goal is to cross the street without being gored by the mechanical bulls. Rarely anyone in Cuenca simply walks across the street, even at the intersection. It is you or the bull. Scurry at a minimum, but better yet just run across the street. The bulls are the masters of the roadway, and our fate is in their hands, and if not careful our hides can become permanent hood ornaments along the roadway of life.

It is amazing how autos just ignore stop signs with regularity and at best just slow down to a roll through the intersections. As soon as a traffic light changes, it is like New York City, everyone is on their horn. Coming from Chicago, where the pedestrian has the right of way; stepping off the curb, and crossing against the lights are common. That kind of mindset will get you killed in Cuenca. Many of the streets are narrow, since they were built before the days of automobiles. Yet parking may be allowed along one side of the street, while the other lane is used for traffic. Therefore, space is a precious commodity, and the drivers like the bulls of Pamplona, grasp for whatever inch of pavement they can get as they meander through the narrow passageways of Cuenca.

I took a taxi ride yesterday to the Del Rio Mall. It was just after a shower and the streets were slick. Cars were constantly bobbing and weaving in and out of traffic for the advantage. In that respect, it was like riding on the Dan Ryan in Chicago. Although even I was surprised at the number of drivers who ride two lanes simultaneously, as if deciding which lane will give them the advantage before relinquishing the other lane. At one point, I thought my own driver was going to skid into the back of a truck on the slick pavement, when he miraculously maneuvered around the truck as if it was nothing. Of course, it’s always more nerve wracking in these situations when you are the passenger and left to be dependent upon the skills and foresight of the driver. Being known for my own heavy pedal to the metal driving style, I think I could hold my own on the streets of Cuenca. I much prefer Cuencano driving styles to the slow motion driving in Honolulu. A driver behind the wheel could be dead for years, before anyone in Honolulu would ever notice that the driver was no longer viable. But being a pedestrian in Cuenca, not so good.

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