It's been a great ride for this past month. I really love this city. I enjoyed immensely the Ecuadorian people, and I made many new acquaintances and friends among members of the expat community. Everybody is extremely helpful, and the expat community gives newbies to Cuenca and those who come to settle not only a great social network, but a great source for how to adjust and navigate one's way around Cuenca, the Cuencano cultural mindset, and the bureaucratic red tape that is an integral part of Ecuadorian culture. As I said temporary goodbyes to acquaintances and friends this past week. (Sorry Rich, if I read BobnRox's blog correctly after I had dinner with you and Nancy Friday evening, I would have wished you a Happy Birthday on Friday night.) I for one appreciated that you dined with us way past your bedtime. If you read the other blogs, you already know what great food you can get at California Kitchen. It was back to the Colombian Restaurant on Saturday to have dinner with Barry, where like California Kitchen, the owners are the hosts and are warm and gracious, but unlike California Kitchen have limited English skills. We had the Colombian national dish, which had a variety of meats, pancake, plantain, eggs, and beans. What was absolutely excellent was the sausage--very flavorful and distinctively spicy without being a red chili-hot spicy. It was not a breakfast sausage. Dinner for the two of us came to $18.00, that was with two beers each.
I walked all over Cuenca on Saturday as the weather warmed up. After three days of cold weather, I was more than ready to get in some distance walking time, and I walked miles before I met up with Barry and again after we departed.
After Barry and I departed, I was heading for Maria's Alemania for the opportunity to select a variety of cookies to be packaged as a gift to take back to my mother in the states. I read the map wrong, headed in the opposite direction, but when I eventually corrected myself and found the bakery it was closed. It didn't matter in the least. It was a beautiful evening, and I enjoyed the walking. I also knew it was going to be quite awhile before I would get this chance again to walk the streets and always discover and try something new. I even stopped and tried a blackberry yogurt shake. Blackberries are big in Ecuador, but I didn't think I would like them. Luckily, they were out of Mango, which I first ordered. I tried the blackberry (mora), and it was very good. Next time I am in Cuenca, I will have to try the granadilla yogurt shake.
As luck would have it, if I just headed in the direction of home after we had dinner and returned to El Centro; about a block from Parque Calderon was an open bakery filled with galletas (cookies) and an English speaking mother who waited on me. I picked out a wide assortment of cookies for my mother upon my return to Chicago. The owner had her eight year old son with her, and he was full of enthusiasm. What a talker! I asked him his name and how old he was in Spanish, and I think he told me his whole life story in the most rapid Spanish I have heard to date in Cuenca. When it came time to pay, I ask her son, Manuel, to count all the dollars out for me. He counted up to eighteen. It suddenly dawned on me that I had forgotten what his mother said the price of the box of cookies were. She reminded me, and Manuel began to count all over again. We got it right, and I thanked him for his help.
One of the posters requested the name of the pizza place that I bragged about on an earlier post. I only ate there twice and had walked past it numerous times, but never wrote down its name and location. Streets as one leaves EL Centro heading west do not follow a perfect grid, and at times I reach a fork in the road, and street names change, although ultimately they all take me back to La Caudra II. The restaurant is called Pizza Express. It is not part of a chain, just a simple neighborhood restaurant. It is located at at 18-68y Grand Columbia. If you are walking west from El Centro along Grand Columbia or Simone Bolivar. You will come to a forge in the street were both streets merge and become Gran Columbia.
Being Saturday night, they had more than just the two pizza workers who are normally there during the day. They assured me they would be open on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. You know where I am having Sunday dinner. Keep in mine depending on your taste in pizza, there is no tomato sauce served on these pizzas. Their toppings are plentiful, the cueso cheese is good, and if they get the crust just right like the first time I had it, it was particularly flaky and light.
After my pizza, I walked for blocks along the river. The Rio Tombebamba is by no means a wide river. It generally is only twenty to forty feet wide. However, with the increase in rain the last few days, the greater depth of water, and the numerous rocks in the water make the river a fast moving ride of rapids. Much of the river is surrounded by shrubs along its banks or enhanced by parkways. It made for a very nice evening stroll, as my thoughts reflected on the events and experiences of the past month and my final evening in Cuenca.
I returned to La Cuadra II and began to pack for tomorrow's departure. I eventually went down to see my good amigo, Jose, and he gave me my final Spanish lesson for the time being. He showed me many photos of his wife, and son,his parents and siblings, and even of himself as a boy and a number of his cousins. We said our goodbyes. Jose reminds me a great deal of my son Chris. He is a real solid young man, and loves his wife and son deeply. I will miss him.
I am going to be extremely busy when I get home, but I do hope to make the time to post some follow-up thoughts and reflections on Cuenca, and occasionally keep friends back in Cuenca informed of my progress toward my eventual return to Cuenca. I have not discussed the Catholic Church, the pro and cons of renting or buying, and the advantages and disadvantages of living in Cuenca, nor the type of people who might consider if Cuenca is the right move for them.
Thanks to all of you who made my visit to Cuenca utterly enjoyable, and so resoundingly a beautiful experience. Hasta luego! Jaime