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, March 24, 2011

The Moments of Our Lives: Part I

When one has had a career in education as I have had as both a teacher and an administrator, and when one cares about what one is doing; if an individual does not enter the career of education as anal retentive and a Type A personality, one will certainly leave the career as both. Any time when large group management is involved, when a myriad of activities and interruptions keeps one frequently distracted with a need to refocus one's self and the class back to the lesson again, and when one attempts to engage students even when they are cooperative with the learning process; these factors can be wearing on a teacher. Not to mention how wearing it can be on a teacher when students passively or actively choose not to be engaged. Not to mention the drain brought on by educational politics, and a management style that may range from pro-active to simply "putting out fires". All these factors can take their toll and provide a high pressure work environment. It is not surprising to the typical American educator, to discover that psychological studies and surveys conclude that teaching in the United States is a more stressful occupation than being a police officer.

The "American Way of Life" in the Estados Unidos, not only in teaching but also in many other fields is a pressure-cooker existence for many Americans. Not to mention the barrage of images and noise that we and our children almost from the time of birth are constantly subjected. The life styles of many Americans are further compounded by the constant need for activity and distraction. For better or worse, the American Way of Life is not a culture that encourages reflection or that provides very many opportunities to savor the minutes of our lives.

Retirement has provided me with two mundane events in my life in one day in Cuenca that would normally transpire and quickly be forgotten in the rush to the next activity, and to the next scheduled and not so scheduled outcome. These are two events that simply by reflecting on them, and by taking the time to post and share them become moments I will remember for many years. These are events of ordinary things done by ordinary people that have meaning when we have the time, take the time, make the time to be fully aware and conscious in the moment.

I was in need of a telephone. I decided that I would purchase one in the neighborhood where I live. I thought that possibly phones would be less expensive than in the shops in the high rise type of buildings where I currently live or in the Cabanas directly in El Centro. I had no idea if my assumption was true. However, coming from Chicago. I know that upscale stores in upscale neighborhoods charge more; not just because the clientele have higher incomes, but also because the shops are paying pricey rents. I also factored in my decision that as long as I was living in this neighborhood, I was a part of the neighborhood. Therefore, if the products and service were reasonably priced and adequate the local vendors deserved my patronage.

I entered a local cabana west of El Centro on Simon Bolivar. The lady spoke hardly a word of English. On the other hand, I am highly fluent in Spanish, now approaching maybe 150 words in the language. Well what can I say, Spanglish was going to be difficult. Luckily through demonstration, and some pictures she was able to to communicate to me what phones she had available, and I was able to communicate to her what phone I wanted. From this point on the transaction began to break down as language became a greater obstacle. I loved this lady because she was so patient with me, and we would laugh and smile our way through the miscommunication and frustrations of attempting to understand one another.

Suddenly a guardian angel appeared and came to our rescue. A man entered the cabina, who understood some English and he was able to serve as a translator between the two of us. Her body language, facial expressions, and intonations expressed to me how she now understood the varying things I tried to communicate to her. I imagine as the gentleman explained to me what the lady was attempting to say, that I reflected back to her an understanding of what I was trying to communicate to her. So we agreed that I was to come back in a couple of hours. I was to leave her with a ten dollar deposit, and after whoever did whatever had to be done to the phone, I would return to pickup the phone and pay the balance. She asked me if I lived in the neighborhood, and I told her that I did. There were these surprising moments when our limited capacities for one another's language where overcome, and we both were like gleeful little kids when we succeeded in successfully communicating with each other.

When I returned at the appropriate time, the lady had the phone with its card and batteries installed and whatever else had to be done to provide me with a number. She checked out the phone to be sure it was working, but she was having a problem. I had no idea what the problem was that she encountered. I just simply waited while she played around with the phone. They she signal for me to open up the phone cabina door directly behind where I was standing. At first I thought she was going to call me with my phone, and that she wanted me to answer when the cabina phone rang. She motioned, however, that I should be seated rather than in effect continue to just stand there waiting. I assumed at this point, that if she wanted me to take a seat, then this wait was going to be awhile.

At this point, another guardian angel appeared as a neighborhood teen male entered the cabina. I assumed he was from the neighborhood, because the lady seemed to know him. He helped the lady with my phone, and after a few minutes he left. Then the next thing I knew the phone rang, and I assumed that the teen had called her to be sure the phone worked. She laughed and smile with that success, and she then encouraged me to call my friends as I had requested earlier, so I could be certain the phone worked and I could make contact. I suppose the lady was very happy with the sale. I have no idea what profit she made from it. I think we were both quite happy that together and no doubt with some help we pulled this sale and purchase off, much to each of our own satisfaction.

It was in that moment of jubilation of shared success as we smiled and laughed; that this lady who was simply a neighborhood lady--a lady who was matronly, older middle-age, and free of sophistication--that for one moment I saw in her eyes and in her smile as she looked at me, the young girl that she once was and was no more. I think in that moment of connection she saw the same in me. The young man who once was but was no more. As I paid her for the phone, and she gave me my bag. I thank her for her time and trouble, and in so doing I impulsively touched her upper arm just for a moment to demonstrate my appreciation. We made our goodbyes, the moment passed, and I was on my way.


  1. Jim, thanks for sharing that wonderful story
    Hasta pronto


  2. Jim, Your beautiful spirit shines throughout this post. Welcome back to Cuenca....we need people like you.

  3. Thank you, Nancy, for your very kind words and your warm welcoming greeting. There are already many beautiful spirits in Cuenca, which is part of the reason after first visiting that I am sure that you and me and many other expats were attracted to set down roots in Cuenca for the long-term.