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.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

END OF THE YEAR 2012 IN REVIEW

AS MANY OF YOU KNOW, UPLOADING PHOTOS IS NOT MY STRONG POINT.  MANY PHOTOS DO NOT GET DISPLAYED ON NEW BLOG POSTS IN A TIMELY MANNER.  SOME POSTS NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY, BECAUSE OF ENDLESS AGONY OVER TRYING TO GET THE PROCESS TO WORK.   MANY OF YOU HAVE ASKED TO SEE MORE PHOTOS.  THEREFORE, YOU WILL SEE A COLLECTION OF ALBUMS AND LINKS, WHICH YOU MAY PERUSE AT YOUR LEISURE.  THESE PHOTOS AND LINKS ARE GOING TO BE A LITTLE OF THIS AND AND GREAT DEAL OF THAT (LIKE THE PASE DEL NINO),

I OWE A GREAT DEBT OF GRATITUDE TO CHRISTIAN LUPERCIO, A UNIVERSITY STUDENT IN COMPUTER SYSTEMS, WHO HELPED ME TO ACCOMPLISH IN FOUR AND A HALF HOURS WHAT WOULD HAVE TAKEN ME DAYS OR EVEN WEEKS.  CHRISTIAN WORKS FOR THE PALERMO WHILE HE COMPLETES ONE MORE YEAR OF COLLEGE TRAINING TO PAY FOR HIS TUITION, AND SUPPORTS HIS WIFE AND SIX YEAR OLD SON. THOSE OF YOU WHO WANTED TO SEE MORE PHOTOS IN MY POSTS, I WARNED YOU TO BEWARE OF WHAT YOU WISH FOR.  THANKS AGAIN TO CHRISTIAN, WHO ACCOMPLISHED MORE THAN ANYONE IN ATTEMPTING TO GET ME TO UNDERSTAND THE PROCESS.  

I HAVE NOT MADE ANY FINAL DECISIONS AS TO WHETHER OR NOT I WILL CONTINUE WITH MY FACEBOOK PAGE.  I WILL BE POSTING ON MY BLOG MUCH LESS IN 2013, AS NEW PROJECTS AND ADVENTURES ABSORB MY TIME.

THE YEAR 2012 HAS BEEN MOST MEMORABLE IN CUENCA.  THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEAR HAS BEEN MY PERSONAL GROWTH AND THE MANY NEW FRIENDS WHO HAVE CROSSED MY PATH.

MY MOTHER'S 90TH BIRTHDAY PARTY IN MAY BACK IN THE STATES WAS THE SINGLE BIGGEST EVENT OF THE YEAR, AND IT IS A JOY TO STILL HAVE HER WITH US.

THE TWO WEEK VISIT TO CUENCA IN MARCH OF MY BROTHER, LEO, AND HIS WIFE, CARLA WAS ANOTHER ENJOYABLE HIGHLIGHT.

MY ONE WEEK VACATION ON THE COAST IN SEPTEMBER WAS EXCITING AND VERY MEMORABLE AS WE TRAVELED TO SALINAS, MONTANITA, AND PUERTO LOPEZ.  WHAT MADE THE ENTIRE EXPERIENCE SO DELIGHTFUL WAS THE PEOPLE WITH WHOM I INITIALLY TRAVELED, AND THE FRIENDS WE MET ALONG THE WAY AND ADDED TO OUR TRAVELING TROUPE.  EVERYBODY WAS DEDICATED TO THE PROPOSITION OF JUST NATURALLY HAVING A SPONTANEOUSLY GOOD TIME, IN WHICH OUR WIDE AGE RANGES WERE OF NO IMPORTANCE,  IT WAS NICE TO KNOW I COULD HAVE SUCH A GOOD TIME WITHOUT IT COSTING ME MUCH MONEY. 

ANOTHER HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEAR WAS THE FEBRUARY PARTY AT MY PLACE THAT MARTHA ABRIL DID SUCH AN EXTRAORDINARY JOB OF CULINARY DELICIOUSNESS IN THE THREE MAIN ENTREES SHE PREPARED, AND THE GUESTS BROUGHT THE PERFECT SIDE-DISHES AND DESSERTS TO COMPLEMENT THE MEAL.  FORTY-FIVE FRIENDS IN MY APARTMENT WAS REALLY PUSHING IT, BUT EVERYBODY ATE HEARTY WHEREVER THEY COULD FIND AN OPEN SPACE ANYWHERE IN THE APARTMENT AMONG THIS MASSIVE WALL-TO-WALL OF PEOPLE.  A GOOD TIME WAS HAD BY ALL AS MARTHA AND HER BROTHER, WINSTON, ENTERTAINED US WITH THEIR SINGING TALENTS OF PRIMARILY SOUTH AMERICAN MUSIC.  THE PHOTOS BELOW ARE ALL I HAVE OF THE PRE-DINNER ARRIVAL OF GUESTS.  I WAS WAY TOO BUSY ONCE GUESTS ARRIVED TO WORRY ABOUT PHOTOS, AND THE CROWD OF PEOPLE WAS NOT CONDUCIVE TO PICTURE-TAKING.








THE RAIN LET UP THE LAST HALF OF THIS YEAR IN CUENCA, AS THE BACK-TO-BACK LA NINAS FINALLY CAME TO AN END.  THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR HAS BEEN JUST FOR THE MOST PART WARM AND IDEAL WEATHER FOR CUENCA, WHICH IS A TRULY BLESSED PLACE TO LIVE.

LIFE IS CONSTANTLY IN CHANGE, AND NOTHING REMAINS THE SAME FOR VERY LONG.  THIS HAS BEEN A YEAR OF RELEASE FOR ME AND OF PERSONAL GROWTH AS WELL, AS IS FOR BETTER OR WORSE EACH YEAR OF OUR LIVES.  NEW YEAR'S EVE IS THE BIG DAY OF CELEBRATION IN CUENCA.  THE FOCUS IS MORE ON THE YEAR PASSED THAN THE HOPE OF THE YEAR AHEAD.  IT IS A DAY OF RECKONING, AS EFFIGIES ARE BOUGHT AND BURNED THROUGHOUT THE CITY.  SOME EFFIGIES MAY FOCUS ON CIRCUMSTANCES LIKE BURNING ONE'S DETESTABLE BOSS IN EFFIGY, OR LONGING TO CUT TIES TO AN UNFULFILLING JOB.

OTHER EFFIGIES MAY SYMBOLIZE AN INNER WORK INTO HABITS, ATTITUDES, FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS, AND NEEDED PARADIGM SHIFTS IN OUR WORLD AND PERSONAL VIEWS AS OUR DESTINIES AND FATES ARE UNFURLING BEFORE US.  OF COURSE, I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS HERE.  INSTEAD, I AM ADDRESSING AN ON-GOING AND CONTINUAL RENEWAL OF CHANGE THAT TAKES PLACE EVERY MOMENT OF OUR LIVES.  NOR ARE THOSE CHANGES ALWAYS OF A PROGRESSIVE NATURE OR NECESSARILY TO OUR LIKING.  THE CALENDAR COUNTDOWN TO THE FINAL DAY IS ONLY A WAY TO MOMENTARILY REMIND US IN A MORE DRAMATIC FASHION, THE PROCESS OF EVER CHANGING REALITY.  FINALLY, CHANGE AND TRANSFORMATION IN OUR LIVES ARE FURTHER AND OFTEN TIMES INDELIBLY MARKED BY THE PEOPLE WHO CROSS OUR PATHS WHETHER BRIEFLY OR FOR A PROLONGED PERIOD OF OUR LIVES.  THESE PEOPLE PLAY THEIR ROLE IN OUR LIVES FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE AND WE IN THEIRS.  POSSIBLY BECAUSE OF DEATH, A CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCES, OR  RELATIONSHIPS WHICH NO LONGER SERVE A HEALTHY AND MEANINGFUL PURPOSE IN OUR LIVES; THESE RELATIONSHIPS COME TO AN END.

IN THE THREE PHOTOS BELOW IS A GOLDEN RETRIEVER.  THEY WERE TWO BEAUTIFUL DOGS WHO LOOKED IDENTICAL. WHEN I FIRST MOVED TO THE PALERMO IN MAY OF 2011, BOTH DOGS STILL HAD SOME LIFE AND FRISKINESS TO THEM.  MUCH TO MY GRATITUDE, NEITHER DOG  WAS A BARKER TO ANY DEGREE, AS I OBSERVED THEM FROM  MY BALCONY IN THEIR FENCED AREA OR RUNNING FREE IN THEIR OWNER'S LARGE YARD.  WHEN THE REST OF THE DOGS WOULD GET INTO THEIR "A ONE AND A TWO AND A THREE, ALL RIGHT GUYS IN UNISON BARK AND HOWL" MODE; THE RETRIEVERS JUST RELAXED IN THEIR TYPICAL ECUATORIANO TRANQUILO STYLE.

AS THIS YEAR PROGRESSED, IT WAS OBVIOUS TO ME THAT THE DOGS WERE IN DECLINE, AND SPENDING A GREAT DEAL MORE TIME JUST LYING AROUND.  WHILE I WAS IN THE STATES IN LATTER NOVEMBER, MY LADY FRIEND SAW ONE OF THE DOGS TAKEN AWAY NEVER TO RETURN.  I WAS HOME ONLY THREE WEEKS AND THE SAME FATE APPEARS TO HAVE BECOME THE OTHER DOG AS WELL.  UNFORTUNATELY, THE OWNERS OVER TIME MUST HAVE PREPARED FOR THIS DAY BY ADDING TWO POODLES TO THEIR FAMILY IN PROBABLE ANTICIPATION OF THE PASSING OF THE SETTERS.  THESE POODLES BARK, AND THE ONE HAS DAMAGED VOCAL CORDS.  THE FAMILY IN THE HOUSE BELOW THE PALERMO CAN LEAVE THEM OUTSIDE FOR HOURS, WHILE THE POODLES JUST BARK INCESSANTLY.  THE BARKING OBVIOUSLY DOES NOT IN THE LEAST BOTHER THEIR OWNERS.

THESE RETRIEVERS ARE JUST ANOTHER REMINDER OF CHANGE IN OUR LIVES:




THIS LAST PHOTO IS MY FAVORITE.  I  ONCE WANTED TO USE IT AS A SYMBOL OF THE FREE AND EASY LIFE OF A RETIREE.  MY PHOTOS SKILLS JUST WERE NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO ACCOMPLISH THE TASK AT THE TIME I WROTE THAT POST.  IT IS ALSO A REMINDER TO ME TO ENJOY EVERY MINUTE OF LIFE WHILE I CAN, FOR AS WITH THESE DOGS IT IS ALL TEMPORARY.  NOW IS THE TIME WHILE I STILL HAVE MY HEALTH AND HOPEFULLY THE FINANCIAL WHEREWITHAL TO LIVE OUT SOME OF MY DREAMS.  IN THE MEANTIME, I WILL MISS THESE DOGS, AND WHAT WAS ONCE THEIR LIVELINESS AND THEIR LIVING IN THE MOMENT.

THEREFORE, THE NEW YEAR ALSO SPEAKS OF NEW OPPORTUNITIES MANY OF WHICH I NOW ENVISION AND OTHERS THAT WILL APPEAR AND ARE NOT YET SEEN BY ME IN THE YEAR AHEAD.  I KNOW THE UNIVERSE HAS ANOTHER EXTRAORDINARY YEAR OF EXPLORATION, NEW RELATIONSHIPS, AND ADVENTURE BEGINNING TO UNFOLD FOR ME.  I HOPE AS WELL, THAT ALL OF YOU WILL MAKE THE BEST OF WHATEVER COMES OUR WAY IN 2013,

BELOW ARE SOME PHOTOS OF "BEAUTIFUL CUENCA", A CITY WHICH IS A FEAST FOR THE EYES AND THE SENSES.  THESE ARE THE FIRST OF MANY PHOTOS AND LINKS TO  FOLLOW BELOW:

















ON ALL THE LINKS BELOW JUST CLICK ON THEM ONCE.  IF YOU WISH TO SEE THE PHOTOS ENLARGED, PARTICULARLY OF THE PARADE FLOATS AND CHILDREN, CLICK ON THE FIRST MAIN PHOTO, AND YOU CAN CLICK THE SLIDE PRESENTATION AND THE CLICK FOR LARGER PHOTOS:

DISCO PARTY AT MALL DEL RIO

THE NEXT SET OF PHOTOS IS FROM OUR BIG DISCO NIGHT AT THE CONVENTION CENTER AT MALL DEL RIO ON NOVEMBER 1ST.  THERE WERE EASILY 500 PARTY- GOERS PRESENT.  ALONG WITH DANCING, TRIPLE LARGE SCREEN PRESENTATIONS, AND THE REQUIRED IMPERSONATIONS OF MICHAEL JACKSON, AS WELL AS OTHER STAGE DANCE ROUTINES; AMY ABRIL ALSO PARTICIPATED IN ONE STAGE DANCE ROUTINE.  THE EVENING WAS LIKE WOW.  IN OTHER WORDS, A GREAT NIGHT OF SPECTACULAR FUN, NONSTOP MUSIC, AND DANCING.  UNFORTUNATELY, I NEVER GAVE MY CAMERA TO ANYONE TO TAKE PHOTOS OF ME WHILE I WAS DANCING.  NEXT YEAR, I WILL BE SLIMMER, AND HAVE A SPECIAL OUTFIT MADE JUST FOR OUR ANNUAL DISCO NIGHT.  LOOK OUT JOHN TRAVALTA.  THE MOLA MAN IS MAKING A COMEBACK.

https://plus.google.com/photos/111741036841400152108/albums/5827472506159633889


PALERMO CHRISTMAS PARTY

THESE PHOTOS ARE FROM OUR CHRISTMAS PARTY AS THE PALERMO LOBBY WAS TRANSFORMED INTO A FORMAL DINING AREA.  I TOOK THE PHOTOS BEFORE EVERYONE ARRIVED, AS I WANTED TO PUT MY CAMERA UP BEFORE THE MEAL WAS SERVED.  DINNER WAS SERVED AFTER 10:00 P.M., AND AFTER DINNER THE TABLES WERE CLEARED AWAY, THEN THE DANCING BEGAN AFTER MID-NIGHT.

UNFORTUNATELY, I DID NOT HAVE MY CAMERA WITH ME FOR THE 3:00 P.M. DINNER BUFFET AT VILLA SAN CARLOS, WHICH IS A BEAUTIFULLY WOOD-CARVED INTERIOR OF EXQUISITE DESIGN.  TWO CHRISTMAS MEALS IN ONE DAY WAS NOT OUR INTENT.  HOWEVER, TWENTY OF US ALREADY HAD OUR TICKETS PURCHASED FOR THE SAN CARLO'S MEAL, BEFORE THE PALERMO DINNER WAS ANNOUNCED FOR THE SAME DAY.

https://plus.google.com/photos/111741036841400152108/albums/5827479339921202641/organize



PACE DEL NINO PARADE

THE  "PACE DEL NINO" IS FOR ME THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE ENTIRE FESTIVAL YEAR IN CUENCA.  I HAVEN'T LIKE PARADES SINCE I WAS A KID, BUT THIS PARADE I ENJOYED EVEN MORE THIS YEAR THAN I DID LAST YEAR.  THE PARADE FEATURES PARTICULARLY THE CHILDREN, AND IS IN HONOR OF THE INFANT JESUS.  PARTICIPANTS COME FROM PROVINCES ALL OVER ECUADOR.  THE PARADE BEGINS ABOUT 8:30 A.M. AND CONTINUES UNTIL ABOUT 5:00 P.M.

I ONLY CAPTURED NINETY MINUTES OF THE PARADE, SO DON'T THINK BY ALL THESE PHOTOS THAT YOU HAVE SEEN ANYTHING APPROACHING THE TOTALITY OF THE PARADE.  I HAVE SEEN BLOG AND FACEBOOK PHOTOS OF THE PARADE BY FRIENDS, AND SO MANY OF OUR PHOTOS ARE DIFFERENT BECAUSE OF THE DIFFERENT TIMES AND PLACES WHILE WE WERE OBSERVING THE PARADE.  I DO NOT HAVE MANY PHOTOS OF HORSES, SHEEP, AND CAMELS.  HOWEVER, BELIEVE ME, THERE WERE MANY IN THE PARADE BY THE AMOUNT OF FRESH FECAL MATTER I HAD TO SIDE-STEP WHILE TRYING TO ENJOY THE PARADE AND SHOOT PHOTOS SIMULTANEOUSLY.

WHAT MAKES THE 'PACE DEL NINO' SO SPECIAL IS THE FACT THAT IT IS NOT A BIG COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISE, BUT IS INSTEAD A PEOPLE'S PARADE.  ALL THE FLOATS ARE DESIGNED BY FAMILIES AND VILLAGES.  THE ENTIRE FAMILY PARTICIPATES, AND THE ECUADORIAN CHILDREN AS ALWAYS ARE ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE.  IT IS NICE TO BE ABLE TO WALK UP TO THE FLOATS.  PARENTS ARE ALWAYS WILLING AND HELPFUL TO ARRANGE OR POSE THEIR CHILDREN FOR OUR PHOTOS, EVEN THOUGH THEY THEMSELVES WILL NEVER SEE ANY OF THESE PHOTOS.  I WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH THAT EVENING TO HAVE MY ECUADORIAN FRIENDS AS THEY LOOKED AT MY PHOTOS IDENTIFY FOR ME WHAT PART OF ECUADOR FROM WHICH THE VARIOUS PARTICIPANTS OF EACH FLOAT CAME.  AS I WALKED CLOSER TO EL CENTRO FROM THE WEST SIDE WHERE THE PARADE BEGAN, THE CROWDS WERE TOO MASSIVE.  I COULD NO LONGER MAKE MY WAY DOWN THE PARADE ROUTE AND THROUGH THE CROWDS TO KEEP UP WITH THE FLOATS AND TAKE PHOTOS OF SOME OF WHAT CAME EARLIER BEFORE I BEGAN SHOOTING PHOTOS.

TAKE A CLOSE LOOK AT WHAT ADORNS THESE FLOATS--LITERALLY EVERYTHING.  FROM COOKED PIGS AND CUY TO ALL KINDS OF CANDY, FRUITS, VEGETABLES AND CANNED AND BOTTLED GOODS OF ALL KINDS.  THERE IS NOTHING LIKE SEEING THE INFANT JESUS SURROUNDED BY VINO AND BEER BOTTLES.  MY ONLY DISAPPOINTMENT WAS WHEN I SPOTTED A RATHER LARGE FLOAT AND THERE WAS NO ONE ON IT.  WHEN I APPROACHED THE FLOAT AND LOOKED INSIDE, A LITTLE BOY ABOUT SIX TO EIGHT YEARS OLD WAS SPRAWLED OUT FAST ASLEEP ON THE FLOOR OF THE FLOAT.  THE MUSIC, NOISE, AND CROWDS WERE OF NO DISTURBANCE TO HIM.  UNFORTUNATELY, JUST AS I WAS ADJUSTING MY CAMERA TO TAKE HIS PHOTO, THE FLOAT BEGAN MOVING AT A SPEED THAT MADE CAPTURING THAT MOMENT IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME. THE VERY LAST PHOTO IS OF THE WORKERS WHO BEGAN TO CLEAN-UP AS THE PARADE REACHED IT CULMINATION ON THE WEST SIDE WHERE IT BEGAN:

https://plus.google.com/photos/111741036841400152108/albums/5827497261735945633



CHRISTMAS EVE DINNER AT THE HOME OF THE ABRIL'S

AFTER THE "PACE DEl NINO" PARADE, DINNER WAS HELD THAT CHRISTMAS EVE AT MARTHA ABRIL'S HOME, WHICH INCLUDED BOTH FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS OF MARTHA.  MARTHA IS A WONDERFUL COOK, AND ONCE AGAIN DID A MARVELOUS JOB IN THE PREPARATION OF THE TURKEY AND THE ENTIRE MEAL.  AFTER DINNER WE MADE OUR WAY INTO THE LIVING ROOM.  THE PHOTOS ARE ALL OVER THE PLACE.  HOWEVER, CHRONOLOGICALLY, AMY, MARTHA'S NINE YEAR OLD DAUGHTER BEGAN TO HAND OUT PRESENTS TO THE VARIOUS GUESTS AND FAMILY MEMBERS.  MARTHA HAD A VERY SPECIAL CRADLE MADE FOR AMY, AND MY GIFT TO AMY WAS THE DOLL THAT AMY PLACED IN THE CRADLE.  NEEDLESS TO SAY, THESE DOLLS ARE MADE TO DO JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING.  AMY'S MOTHERING INSTINCTS IMMEDIATELY BECAME APPARENT AS SHE CRADLED THE DOLL, WHOM SHE NAMED VIOLETA, AND IMMEDIATELY BECAME A FULL-TIME MOTHER TO THE DOLL.

JOSHUA, MARTHA'S FIFTEEN YEAR OLD SON, IS AT AN AGE WHERE MONEY AS A GIFT IS MORE APPRECIATED.  AS YOU CAN SEE IN MANY PHOTOS, LIKE MOST FIFTEEN YEAR OLD MALES, JOSHUA IS FREQUENTLY PREOCCUPIED WITH SOME TYPE OF GAME ON HIS GALAXY.

I DID THE BEST I COULD WITH THE CAMERA AND MY UNDERSTANDING OF LIGHTING.  HOWEVER, THE FINAL PHOTOS ARE OF AN ABRIL TRADITION, WHICH THE FAMILY SETS UP EVERY CHRISTMAS SEASON IN AN ADJOINING ROOM TO THE LIVING ROOM.  THE CHRISTMAS SCENE IS VARIED, REQUIRED METICULOUS HANDLING AND ARRANGEMENT.  THE DISPLAY IS ABOUT SIX TO EIGHT FEET LONG AND APPROXIMATELY FOUR FEET WIDE.  LAST CHRISTMAS SEASON, AMY PATIENTLY EXPLAINED TO ME EVERY DETAIL OF THE DISPLAY IN SPANISH.  SHE IS STILL AT AN AGE WHERE SHE ENJOYS THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS.

THIS WILL BE THE LAST CHRISTMAS CELEBRATED IN THE ABRIL HOME, AS MARTHA IS BUILDING A NEW HOME THAT BEGAN CONSTRUCTION OVER A WEEK AGO.  I APPRECIATE THE TWO CHRISTMAS SEASONS THAT HAVE BEEN SHARED WITH THE ABRIL FAMILY IN THEIR OLD HOMESTEAD.  LIKE EVERYTHING IN LIFE, NEXT CHRISTMAS WILL BE BOTH A CONTINUATION AND AN ADJUSTMENT TO THE ABRIL CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS.


 https://plus.google.com/photos/111741036841400152108/albums/5827879866405902865


CHRISTMAS DINNER AT THE HOME OF THE BIRKENSHAW'S

MIKE AND SUSAN BIRKENSHAW ARE A WONDERFUL CANADIAN COUPLE WHO HAVE SPENT THE LAST TWO YEARS WITH MANY MONTHS IN CUENCA PROLONGED BEYOND THE USUAL SNOWBIRD STAY OF WEEKS TO TWO OR THREE MONTHS.  CHRISTMAS DINNER WAS SERVED WITH A DELICIOUS TURKEY, OF COURSE; WITH MANY FINE AND TANTALIZING SIDE DISHES BROUGHT BY THE GUESTS.  THIS WAS MIKE AND SUSAN'S  FIRST CHRISTMAS IN CUENCA, SO TACKLING A CHRISTMAS DINNER SHORTLY AFTER ARRIVING FROM CANADA FOR APPROXIMATELY TWO DOZEN FOR DINNER WAS NO SMALL FEAT.   THE DINNER ALLOWED US THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET NEW FRIENDS AND RENEW ACQUAINTANCES, AND TOUCH BASES WITH MORE FAMILIAR FRIENDSHIPS.  THIS WAS DEFINITELY THE MOST TRAVELED AND MOST INTELLECTUAL GROUP OF EXPATS I HAVE MET GATHERED IN ONE PLACE.  THE GENEROSITY AND HOSPITALITY OF THE BIRKENSHAWS WAS MORE THAN GREATLY APPRECIATED BY ALL.

THE BIRKENSHAWS LIVE IN A SECOND FLOOR APARTMENT AT PADRE AGUIRRE AND GRAN COLUMBIA IN EL CENTRO, WHICH IS DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE SANTO DOMINGO CHURCH AND THE COLLEGIAL OR CATHOLIC PREPARATORY HIGH SCHOOL, BOTH FACILITIES ARE PART OF A CAMPUS SITUATED ON THE SANTO DOMINGO SQUARE.  YOU WILL SEE PHOTOS OF THE BIRKENSHAW'S VIEWS FROM THEIR APARTMENT BALCONIES, PHOTOS OF GUESTS AT THE DINNER PARTY, AND INTERIOR PHOTOS WITH MANY TRAVEL PHOTOS.  SUSAN IS ALSO AN INDEPENDENT TRAVEL CONSULTANT THROUGH HER BUSINESS "YOUR TRAVEL QUEST.ca"  MEETING MIKE'S SON WAS A PLEASURE.  NOT ONLY IS HE WIDELY TRAVELED, BUT HE SOUNDS LIKE A SPIRIT WHO LIVES HIS LIFE WITH FULL GUSTO, AND HE COULD PROBABLY TALK ANYONE INTO TRAVELING TO SITES THEY MANY NOT HAVE AT FIRST CONSIDERED.  I APOLOGIZE TO MIKE AND SUSAN AS I JUST NOW REALIZED THAT I DID NOT TAKE A PHOTO OF THE TWO OF THEM TOGETHER.  (CLICK ON THE PHOTOS FOR ENLARGED PHOTOS AND WITH THESE PHOTOS THERE ARE SIDE CAPTIONS WHICH BETTER EXPLAIN WHAT YOU ARE VIEWING WITH THIS LINK.)  ENJOY:

https://plus.google.com/photos/111741036841400152108/albums/5827935565161368161


NEW YEAR'S EVE

NEW YEAR'S EVE WAS SPENT DINING WITH FRIENDS AT "SOLE MIO RESTAURANTE", WHICH IS LOCATED IN THE VERY ATTRACTIVE HOTEL LOS BALCONES.  A SPECIAL CHRISTMAS MENU WAS OFFERED.  I HAD EATEN AT "SOLE MIO" WHEN IT FIRST OPENED EARLIER THIS YEAR.  BOTH IT DINNERS AND THE SERVICE HAVE GREATLY IMPROVED.  EVERYTHING WAS VERY GOOD THIS EVENING.  DINNER FOR US BEGAN AT 10:00 P.M.  A FOUR PIECE ECUADORIAN BAND PLAYED WHILE WE ATE DINNER.  THE BAND WAS GOOD, AND IT WAS NICE TO LISTEN TO A MORE TRADITIONAL SPANISH MUSIC.  AT 11:00 P.M. THE DANCE MUSIC BEGAN AS DANCING CONTINUED UNTIL 1:00 P.M.  TIME WAS TAKEN OUT TO SEE THE EFFIGIES BEING LIT AND BURNT IN THE STREETS.  THE EFFIGIES OFTEN HAVE FIRE CRACKERS IN THEM AS WELL, SO AN OCCASIONAL STARTLED REACTION WAS NOT UNEXPECTED AFTER THE FIRST EXPLOSION CAUGHT US OFF-GUARD.  THIS BURNING OF THE EFFIGIES IS WIDESPREAD THROUGHOUT THE CITY.  LARGE PLUMES OF SMOKE ARISE ALONG THE STREETS OF THE CITY.  I WAS AMAZED THAT ONE LARGE BONFIRE JUST DOWN THE BLOCK FROM THE RESTAURANT WAS ACTUALLY STARTED ABOUT FIVE FEET BEHIND AN AUTOMOBILE PARKED ALONG THE CURB.  I WAS WAITING FOR A REALLY HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN TONIGHT EXPLOSION, BUT MUCH TO THE CREDIT OF THE INSTIGATORS THE FIRE WAS CONTAINED.

I DID NOT WANT TO TAKE MY GOOD CAMERA WITH ME AS I WASN'T SURE IF I COULD PROCURE A TAXI FOR THE EVENING.  I USED MY NEW NOKIA PHONE CAMERA FOR THE FIRST TIME.  THE QUALITY OF THE PHOTOS LEAVE A GREAT DEAL TO BE DESIRED, BUT I GUESS SOME PHOTOS ARE BETTER THAN NONE, OR MAYBE NOT:

 https://plus.google.com/photos/111741036841400152108/albums/5858281719478641313?authkey=CMiYqtnyjOjB_gE

TO ALL OF YOU, I WISH YOU A JOYOUS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR! 











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