2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage

2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage
VIVA CUENCA

VIVA CUENCA!

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.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Visiting Quito

Hotel Boutique de Sucre is located in the heart of Quito's El Centro, the historic area which like in Cuenca is recognized by UNESCO as an historical preservation area. The hotel was very clean and well kept. It has the furnishings identified with a traditional Ecuadorian hotel. As I began to explore it, the hotel was bigger than I first imagined. The lobby was attractive, and had overhanging balconies encircling it. Throughout the hotel and in the rooms were rich, heavy, beautifully carved doors and closet cabinetry. The hotel had many large paintings on display throughout its foyers and guestrooms, which were also available for purchase. The guestroom draperies were of a traditional style with the multi-layered cornices (panels) at the top of the draperies. The floor in my room appeared to be a wood similar to parquet. I had a very comfortable double bed, with the usual amenities of phone, T.V., hairdryer, WIFI, and a luggage rack. The bathroom was beautiful with very nice ceramic tile that looked like an Italian marble design which went up about a third of all the walls. There is no bathtub; but a large shower, glass-enclosed, which is spacious enough to have a party of three or four, if anyone is so inclined. The tub and sink appear to be relatively new. Included in the price of the room was a buffet breakfast, which included having your eggs prepared as you like them. The hotel is also protected with a gate over its initial entrance. One had to ring for the gate to open. The rooms are sound proof, and the hotel itself was extraordinarily quiet during the day. I thought only three or four people were staying there. However between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., I was amazed at how many people were entering from their evening activities. Since my WIFI connection could not be made from my room, I had to sit in the lobby area to make connectivity.

Hanging out in the hotel lobby was also a great way to make connectivity with people as well. I met a lady from Hawaii whose brother is a doctor and has his own health center and blog. The two of us ate Chinese for dinner. There was a young doctor from the states, who was quite knowledgeable of about many things, and he and his family have done a great deal of traveling. He was doing some kind of emergency work in various hospitals. I also met a fellow from North Carolina, who can you guess, is thinking of retiring to Ecuador. Terry Fenny will be arriving in Cuenca this Sunday for about four days. Maybe, you will meet him if you are at the Gringo Night this upcoming Tuesday at the Italian restaurant. Terry lived in Quito fifty years ago, but so far not one thing looks familiar to him. Terry will be staying at the Santa Monica Hotel in Cuenca, since I knew nothing about it; I was no help to him there.

The best feature for me about Hotel Boutique was the location of the breakfast buffet. The room was on the top floor and had a beautiful view of a nearby church steeple and clock tower. From another vista one had a close up view of the large statue of the Blessed Virgin with wings, which was the first time I had ever seen Mary represented with wings like an angel. Her statue is on a high hill top and hovers over the city of Quito as its protector.

What where the negatives about the hotel? Well, like anything, it’s a question of what your budget can afford and what you are accustomed to in the way of amenities. The price was approximately $55.00 a night. First, don’t expect to be greeted by a doorman ready to help you with your baggage. The hotel clerk did help me with my luggage to my room once I managed to get everything to the check-in counter. There were no elevators in the hotel, but there were three floors. On my departure, I called for a “bell-hop” to assist me with my luggage. A young man who appeared to be a teenager responded. I had seen him doing plaster work and other odd jobs in the hotel. I had the feeling he was “volunteered” to bring my bags down. I had to give him a good tip. Each of the two big bags of luggage weighed about as much as he did. He smiled and looked very proud of himself that he had accomplished his task. Whether the tip will be enough to cover his hernia surgery is another question.

The lighting in the rooms and the bathrooms could be brighter. The sink had no vanity, but there were racks above the toilet where toiletries could be placed. Besides the fact that my WIFI would not connect, there was no desk or table in the guest rooms. There was a nice arm chair, but that was it. Finally with all the spacious closet space, which included a safe for personal possessions, there were no hangers in the closet. Certainly the lack of hangers is a minor expense that could readily be remedied.

When I arrived in Quito I was exhausted. I was to meet with Gabriela Espinosa at 11:00 a.m., but she was delayed at immigration, so I was asked to come back in an hour. I walked around for twenty minutes, and then I stopped at an upper floor open terrace restaurant about a block from Gabriela’s office. The restaurant was owned by a Spaniard from Seville, who has lived in Quito for eight years. I ordered a hamburger. I was not expecting much considering what beef generally tastes like in Ecuador. Was I ever surprised. It was exceptionally good, and put most hamburgers back home to shame. Being the lunch hour, the restaurant was attracting a large number of high school students. They were loud, but in a friendly, conversational kind of way. No hijinks. Just kids enjoying their time together.

When I met with Gabriela, she told me everything was in order. There was no need for any other action at this time, and that I was to return in a month and receive my sedula and legal residency. I would be able to complete everything in one day, and I could fly in and out of Quito all on the same day. Gabriela also informed me that after three years of accomplished legal residency, I could apply for dual citizenship and become a citizen of Ecuador as well—no other requirements.

I went to bed at 11:00 p.m. that evening and slept until 1:00 p.m. the next day. I was only interrupted at noon when the house keeping lady knocked on the door and awakened me. I shouted, “Haste Luego a 2:00 p.m.” She said something in Spanish I did not understand, so I put the pillow over my head and tried to go back to sleep. Five minutes later, the telephone rang. The desk clerk said, “Mr. Mola, would you like housekeeping to prepare your room in an hour?” I repeated very graciously, “Please have her prepare my room at 2:00 p.m.”, and I had no problem falling back to sleep for another hour.

I spent my last day in Quito with an older gentleman who stopped me on the street and offered to be my guide. He was a devout Catholic, so I not only saw three architecturally exquisite churches, but came to know the history of every saint of every statue in each of the churches. I enjoyed his sharing his knowledge, but was disappointed that I did not get to see the basilica, whose spired-steeples to the heavens are so impressive from the outside. A little less time on the saints may have given us time to visit the basilica. There were many beautiful paintings in the churches. One church had the sanctuary walls draped opposite each other with magnificent paintings that I was surprised to learn were not done on canvas, but on burlap.

My guide only reminded me a dozen times why did I not bring my camera. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was take photos, not to mention my camera is new and has yet to be taken out of the box. I have not had the time, and I have no inclination at the moment to tackle another piece of electronic equipment. The same is also true for the Kindle sitting in its unopened box in my luggage. The young doctor let me play with his Kindle, but he didn’t know how to use a lot of the features I asked him about. He said, who has time to learn how to use all these gadgets. My response, Amen!

My guide said that Quito’s El Centro is about ten miles long and three miles wide. It is quite impressive. Some blocks are even closed off to traffic, and serve as pedestrian-type open malls that were in vogue in the states back in the 70’s. Only cabs and limos to hotels or delivery trucks are allowed to enter these areas. I don’t know if all the buses are electric in Quito, but the ones I saw in El Centro were. Coming from Chicago and the U.S.A.’s industrial heartland, it is difficult for me to empathize with expats who complain about Cuenca’s bus fumes. However, there is no doubt that such action toward electrical lines would further enhance Cuenca’s already fresh air.

There are many new buildings done in the Spanish Renaissance style being built in El Centro. My guide claimed that a couple of the buildings he showed me were new hotels that cost three to four million dollars to build, and would cost $400-$500 per night. How accurate that is, I have no way of knowing. On the other hand, so much of El Centro dates back to the 1500’s. There were roads that looked like the skeletal remains of the original brick roads. I did not see any cars use these roads, until the next day when my taxi driver went down the block of one of them. How these guys preserve these small taxis with the way they abuse them is astounding. He took this ancient road fast; and no axle broken, no bent rims, no ripped tires, no body knocked off its frame—go figure.

My perception is that more of the buildings in Quito's El Centro are better kept or freshly painted than in Cuenca. There is no doubt that while Cuenca has some very nice churches, Quito's are difficult to beat when it comes to size and design. However, when my guide took me to what was Quito's central square, there was nothing in Quito's El Centro that could compete with Parke Calderon in Cuenca--a magnificent gem. Overall, Cuenca is much cleaner. Less trash is spewed around, and while Quito has more attractive sidewalks that coincide with the architecture and time period, Cuenca's walks are not covered in lots of discarded gum.

What I did not like about Quito is that everywhere I went people were trying to rip me off and overcharge me, except for the fellow from Seville who operated the restaurant. The hotel staff was also very accommodating. It cost me eight bucks to take the taxi from the airport to the hotel, and then the next driver wanted twelve bucks upon my return trip to the airport. He finally settled for ten. Last summer I paid $5.00. I could go on and on about the overcharges and other shifty business practices, but I’m glad to be back in Cuenca, where Cuenca's good people make me want to be better as well. My trip from the airport to Caudra Dos was ONLY TWO DOLLARS. I’M A CUECANO NOW. VIVA CUENCA!

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