Today I am writing my 100th post. My motivation for today's post at this time is the fact that I relied on my memory--very bad idea. I thought my flight out of O' Hare in Chicago was at 12:15 pm. No, it's at 2:00 p.m. I don't think the consumption of an entire jar of unadulterated coconut oil each day would improve my short-term memory. So here I am killing time by writing a post.
Needless to say, anyone who read my last post knows that the last seven weeks have not gone like anything that I had planned. Such is life, but even in bereavement there can be joy and the wonderful feeling of being surrounded by family, relatives, and friends. It was a pleasure to see people I have known for years, and former colleagues with whom I have worked at various times over the years. My mother's funeral allowed for so much of the family to be together. It was also the first time in a long time that both my sons and all of their cousins were together at the same time, and of course, having the four great-grandsons of my mother's all there as well was especially meaningful. I have had a number of requests for photos of my grandson. I will do what I can after I'm back in Cuenca, and have time to deal with the trepidation and time-consumption of transferring, downloading, editing, and posting photos. I didn't take many photos on this trip, because then I feel like I have to do something with them, and unfortunately there were times when a group of us were together in a restaurant and I just didn't have my camera with me.
The weather in Chicago and as we traveled throughout Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin could not have been more ideal. September was definitely a summer month. My first three days in Chicago were greeted with record setting ninety degree temperatures. The remainder of the month made September a record month for warmth. THANK GOD FOR GLOBAL WARMING! October until now has also be unseasonably warm. I'm skedaddling out of Chicago just as the the temperatures are finally falling into a more seasonable pattern for October. Degrees in the 50's or even the 60's on a windy day are just too cold. I have especially enjoyed the incredible amount of sunshine and clear skies over the entire seven weeks, and I am praying that Cuenca will be warming up and not too rainy. I am looking forward to opening my condo windows wide, and enjoying the warm temperatures when I get home.
One thing I did want to mention as Cuenca is in the process of initiating the building of a cross-city transit system, which is based upon a European model that will be constructed by the French. While visiting in Minneapolis-St. Paul, we rode the urban transit that traveled from the southern suburbs and Mall of America through the heart of the city and its commercial and financial sector and through the northern part of the city. The light transit system cost $1.75 during non-rush hour times, and $2.25 during rush hours. By North American standards the prices in my opinion were quite reasonable. Senior citizens pay seventy-five cents during non-rush hours, and $2.25 during rush hours. Everything is automated. One buys a ticket from a machine, if one is not using a pass. What I found interesting, is unlike the Chicago and New York City subways, there was no token or ticket insert to get by a gated barrier to approach the landings to board the trains. No one collected our tickets while on the train, and there was no place to dispose of the ticket to leave the train landing after we arrived at our destinations. The whole thing appeared to operate on an honor system. We easily could have ridden for free. Minnesotans must be more honest and honorable. I can't see such a system work in Chicago. Tickets were also good for two-and-a-half hours for transfers to the bus transit system as well.
Another great feature of the train transit system is its convenience for the handicap. My sister-in-law was using a power chair. She was able to smoothly enter the train, and remain in her chair right at the entrance of the train, with room for other riders to board and exit at each stop and still get around her and her power chair. When we arrived at our destinations, my sister-in-law was able to just drive her power chair right out of the train onto a perfectly leveled landing. Certain seats near the entrances were also set aside for the handicap.
Finally, what I found most impressive is that the light transit train coaches began operating in 2004. The coaches were so absolutely clean, comfortable seats with sufficient leg room, and the interiors were in such excellent condition that they looked like they were brand new. I can't imagine that I will be able to say the same of the new transit line in Cuenca when it is completed. I would say with the city officials' indifference to the tagging and grafitti problem that has been rampant over the last two years in Cuenca, that within a week of inaugurating the new light rail system, the coach interiors will be quickly spray-painted and exhibit an ugly appearance. I would love to be proven wrong, but I'm not counting on it.
In Minneapolis/St. Paul, with the University of Minnesota located in St. Paul, the light train transit transports approximately thirteen percent of the public riding population. Eighty-four percent of the public riding population depends on the bus transit system. The metro heavy rail provides for the remainder of the public transportation. The current line of light train transit, therefore, by itself is not sufficient to replace most buses.
Obviously the initial light rail transit in Cuenca will be a beginning to reducing some of the buses in El Centro, and recent attempts to re-route some buses out of El Centro is a step in the right direction as well. However, the entire complex of inter-connected light rail transit will take approximately ten to twelve years to complete, so it will be awhile before buses are dramatically reduced as the main source of public transportation in Cuenca. In the meantime, I don't have an answer as to if additional public transportation buses are purchased for use in the city, why the companies are not required by the municipal government to buy buses that meet certain pollution standards, which can be another way of contributing to the reduction of the number one polluter in the city, the carbon emissions from public buses.