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, December 29, 2011

Palermo Part V: Scenic Views (I Don't Know Clouds at All)

I wrote the following from a post entitled, "Cuenca:  Delightful and Enchanting during my first visit to Cuenca in July of 2010.  The following text is provided from that July 17, 2010 post.


"Cuenca sits in a basin and is surrounded by elevated land and mountains, which provides a beautiful setting.

The mountains, the low lying nebulous clouds that almost form a dome over the city; I can almost feel as if I can reach out and touch any one of these flawless acts of creation. The light of the equatorial sun, which can be masked behind the large dark clouds when it is about to rain, can enhance the light reflected on the city's buildings at different times of the day--a reflection that gives an entirely new mood and atmosphere to the city. From the vantage point of my condo balcony,the houses and buildings under these atmospheric conditions appear like little dioramas. The city does not follow a simple grid pattern, and parts of it is hilly. Streets oftentimes curve and meander. As evening approaches, and dusk sets in, the street lights appear to flicker as if they were lanterns which gives an enchanting feeling to the night time city.

The mountains are most inspiring, and continuously changing as the lighting of different times of the day give an entirely new look and feel to what I see. From greens, to reflected streaks of sun light, to bold black hills that are sometimes blended with grays. Each moment speaks to the ever changing perspectives of the mountain views. As I snap photos with my camera, I fear that my lens is not capturing all the subtle shadings and moods of the mountains that I see with my naked eye. I guess you will just have to come to Cuenca to capture the experience of which words can only hint...."  ( The link above provided six photos.)

Both Sides Now Lyrics

(Joni Mitchell, song-writer)

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons ev’rywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on ev’ryone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and junes and ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As ev’ry fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say I love you right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living ev’ry day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all
I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

The clouds of Cuenca in a bizarre way magnify our feelings and emotions by providing a reflection of our feelings and emotions as we observe their glorious manifestations in the sky dome above.  At the same time the clouds project feelings and emotions into our very experiences of how we view life--the good, the dark; the joy, the sorrow; the mundane, the awesomeness; the sanity, the insanity; the oneness with another soul, the separateness.  As the clouds are ever fleeting, so our are feelings and experiences.  We experience life, and yet it is life's illusions we recall.  We don't know life at all.

The following slide presentation is taken from my balcony at the Palermo facing eastward.  Oddly enough some of the photos appear to be sunsets, but are actually reflections of light on the eastern clouds from the western sunsets.


P.S.  I delayed publishing this post to my blog last night, because I wanted to try something new and run an audio of the song to go with the slides to give the slide presentation more atmosphere.  I was unsuccessful in doing so, and the suggestions I received from friends today would have required me to use another format than Flickr and basically start all over.  FORGET THAT!  What you see is what you get!  I suggest if you know the tune that you sing or hum along while you watch the presentation, and we will consider this post an interactive project.  After all, there ain't no reason why I should have to do all the work.  (Sorry, I beginning to sound like some of my former students.)

I arrived home this evening to discover that a post I wrote in July of 2010 when I first visited Cuenca was re-posted with a December 28, 2011 date.  How that happened, and/or whatever I did to make it happen, I'll never know.  But thanks to the almost 200 of you who today read the July 2010 blog, I wonder what was going through your minds when you read it.  There must have been something to tip you off that something was out of kilter time-wise.  I tried changing the date back to 2010 this evening, but the editing process won't let me delete the date and reset it, so there it will remain.  Without going into detail, beginning with Christmas Eve, it has been a very surreal week for me.  I can't begin to imagine what this New Year's weekend will be like.  This blogging business endlessly has my head in the clouds as well, so it's only appropriate that my year of blog posts should end with clouds.  Happy New Year to you all as we begin the Mayan calendar countdown! 


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Something New Everyday!

Monday was a warm, sunny day with temperatures into the low 80's--my kind of winter! I took a taxi to Parque Central Calderon. It's a beautiful square with the magnificent and imposing new cathedral located across from the square. The new cathedral was built in the 1800's, as opposed to the old cathedral which was constructed in the 1500's. I shot a few photos of the fountain, the church, and the palm trees that also grow in this part of the Andes due to Cuenca's mild climate.

I arrived early, so I could catch the 11:00 a.m. double-decker bus that would take me for a two hour tour of Cuneca, which included a stop at a pinnacle of the city that provided a panoramic view of Cuenca in its entirety. At 10:50 a.m., I am in the middle of the square as I spot the bus moving around the square. I assume the passengers were from the previous excursion, and would be dropped off, and then I and anyone else would board the bus. The driver drove around the square twice. I moved in whatever direction the bus was moving. The bus stopped at each corner of the square, granted I was always positioned on the driver's side of the bus. However, I never noticed anyone embarking or departing from the bus as it made its stops around the square. If anything, it appeared the tour was in process. The driver then proceeded down a side street. That was the last I saw of the bus, and it was only 10:55. I waited another ten minutes, in case another bus came. I sat on a bench near the location where a police officer told me I would catch the bus. While waiting to see if another bus came, I conversed with a professor from the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, who would be leaving Tuesday for the states.

Since no bus appeared, the professor and I departed are own ways. I spent the morning being a tourist, and began taking photos of the endless squares, churches, and utterly beautiful colonial facades. I made my way down to the open market, did a little haggling, and made some purchases. I entered the huge mercado filled with vendors--half the building devoted to freshly cut meat--entails, heads, claws; and the other half devoted to fresh fruits and vegetables. One vendor cracked open with her fingers a fruit the size of a tennis ball, yellow in its exterior color, and inside was a texture of slime filled with lots of little black seeds. I imitated the vendor by eating the pulp and smooth seeds. I believe the fruit is called granadilla. It is my understanding that grandilla is called passion fruit in some parts of the world. It was deliciously sweet, and quickly made me forget its slimy appearance. I believe I may have seen these fruits in the supermarkets back home, but the expensive price and not knowing how to eat them prevented me from purchasing the granadilla.

When I was at the SuperMaxi on Saturday, I had purchased half of a papaya. A sweet tasting papaya is good, but for my taste is not a favorite compared with mellow mangoes and succulent peaches. Papayas have more the texture of a melon, although not as grainy as water melon. The cashier told me the best way to eat papaya was to squeeze fresh lime over it. I will have to attempt that the next time I purchase a papaya, and see how lime enhances the taste. One thing to date I have not seen in Cuenca is seedless grapes. Otherwise, while back home, we appreciate that we can buy most fruits the year round, we also know that buying fruits out of season does not provide us with the fruits at the peak of their succulence. Because of the year-round growing season in Ecuador, most fruits are at their peak throughout the year. Fruits, therefore, remain very inexpensive throughout the year as well.

After exploring here and there and taking my allotment of photos for the day, I began to walk home. I stopped and had my personal pan pizza at my currently favorite pizza spot. I then stopped at my currently favorite bakery for fresh baked loaves of bread. The first time I shopped at the bakery, I bought a loaf of cuesa bread, which is made with cuesa cheese layered throughout the bread. This time I tried a different loaf with sesame seeds sprinkled on it. The first time I entered the bakery, what little Spanish I had in my command completely abandoned me. I could not get the lady to understand that I wanted to know what the price was. I finally pulled out a dollar, so she would know I wanted to negotiate price. I thought the dollar would be the starting point. Instead, she broadened into a large smile took my dollar and presented me with twenty cents change. Fresh-baked bread for eighty cents, such a deal! The next time I returned to SuperMaxi, I checked out their baked whole loaf bread prices--$3.50 to $4.50--Panera prices back home. It took me four days to finish off a loaf of bread. Most amazingly, the bread remained fresh right up onto the last piece late in the evening of the fourth day before it began to harden. Yes, I know what some of you are thinking--just what you need more carbs.

Marc, will be glad to know I am becoming more diligent in my study of the Spanish language. I am using the "Spanish for Dummies" course, and I study from the book and listen to the tapes. When I return to Cuenca, I will hire a Spanish tutor, so I can receive immediate feedback and interaction. I do try to practice a line or two and build on it everyday with Jose, one of the security workers here at the La Cuandro II were I reside. Jose is very patient, and forever correcting my Spanish and sentence structure.

Last evening I took a taxi out to the the Mal Del Rio, which is a beautiful, two story mall. It is fully enclosed, which surprised me. With the mild Cuenca climate, I thought the mall might be fully or partially open-air, like malls I have visited in San Diego and Honolulu. I'm not big on malls, but its food court adds a nice variety of Ecuadorian choices as well as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King. No, I have no intentions of eating at either of them. Video arcades are still very popular at least at the mall. There is a very large one aimed at children, and a smaller version aimed at teens.

My purpose for going to the mall was to experience the cinema complex. I particularly had hoped to study my Spanish. I had read in a book that American movies in Ecuador were generally in English with Spanish subtitles. The movie "Eclipse" seemed like a good way of beginning. First surprise, the movie was only $4.50 in the evening yet. Refreshments looked about as expensive as back home. Don't expect to find stadium seating, or long back rocking chairs. Otherwise, they were nice, attractive, comfortable theaters. My next surprise--the movie was in Spanish with no English subtitles, although I was expecting a movie in English with Spanish subtitles. Either way I could have boned up on my Spanish. Under the circumstances, I could do neither. If I only had the dialog to listen to, I would not have had any idea what was being said except for an occasional word. Seeing the film at least helped me figure out the plot. My third surprise, it has been decades since I saw a dubbed film. I always hated how the lips did not synchronize with the words. I assume the sophistication of computer-generated software has allowed the lips and Spanish to move in perfect sync. I would have believed the movie had been originally filmed in Spanish with Spanish-Speaking actors. I was very impressed.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Parade in Cuenca December 24, 2011

This being my first Christmas in Cuenca, I was looking forward to the Christmas Parade.  One of the Ecuadorians told me it is the largest parade in Ecuador, and the largest in Cuenca during the year.  I have no idea how accurate the statement about this parade being the largest in Ecuador is.  However, I was told by more than one source that the floats and trucks begin to line up as early as 3:00 a.m. along Aviendas de Americas near Feria Libre, the largest open market in Cuenca.  The parade known as "Pase del Nino Viajero" (In honor and worship of the baby, Jesus) was suppose to begin around 9:00 or 10:00 a.m.  It was my understanding that the parade began more around 11:00 a.m.  The Parade meanders through the city and runs for miles.  There are more participants in the parade than people actually watching it, although the crowds get thick in EL Centro.  It is as if every child in Cuenca is a participant.

I did not make my way out to see the parade until almost 2:00 p.m.  Living on the west side where the parade was to begin I assumed by now I would have to make my way toward El Centro to catch the end of the parade.  Silly me, I walk half a mile down to Avenidas America and discover blocks of floats and participants still waiting for their movement forward in the parade.

Wow, I was impressed.  There was such a lively sense of comraderie and excitement.  The people both in the parade, and many walking along the sidewalks where dressed in traditional garb, which added to the gala festivities.  There were no larger-than-life Macy Thanksgiving Day inflatables, no floats decorated in thousands of roses as would be found in Pasadena.  However, the parade was every bit as colorful and fun as I could hope for, and I am by no means a parade person.

Unfortunately, I had my typical camera/computer problems. This problem was strictly of my own making, I had failed to remove all the old photos from my camera, and ran out of photo space very early into the parade.  So I will show you what I have at the following link. I did not in any way get the most beautiful floats.  You will notice fruit, and bags of candy, etc also used as decorations on the side of some of the floats.  It is my understanding when the parade was finally over, which was around 4:00 or 5:00 p.m., the food from the floats was given to the poor. 

It was a beautiful day, and the rain held off until after the parade was over.  Many of the umbrellas you see were to offer protection from the sun.  It made a long day for the little ones, but they seem to handle it well.  I saw one float as ice cream cones were distributed to each of the children, which was much appreciated by the kids.  These Ecuadorian kids are just incredibly adorable, and thank God this wasn't the U.S.A.  Gringo mothers would have been screaming child-abuse to high heaven for having the kids participate in a parade that ran for hours.  There is no commentary (I just provided my share of that) just a slide presentation.


Since the vast majority on my blog readers in the states do not read some of the other blogs, I am also going to link you to Connie and Mark Pombo's post on the parade.  They have all the beautiful photos I did not have a chance to get:


There were also children riding camels, and I understand there was even a roasted pig riding the back of a horse.  I'll bet you didn't see that in Macy's parade.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Merry Christmas and A Very Joyous New Year to Mom, to Family, and to Friends both in the States and Here in Ecuador.


May the Peace, Love, and Hope of the First Noel Fill Our Hearts to Overflowing in the Year Ahead.

With Affection, Love, and Appreciation to     You All.   Jim Mola