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.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


I arrived in London after a short shuttle flight from the Amsterdam Airport to the London Heathrow Airport.  Flying into London took me over the English countryside.  I was amazed at all the open land.  Much of it being used for agrarian purposes. England, not the United Kingdom, but England, itself--minus Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales is approximately half the size of little Ecuador. Yet the population of Ecuador (16,300,000)  is proportionately less than one-sixth the population of England (53,000,000) relative to size.  England is basically the size of Alabama, which has a population of five million.  So you can understand why, with such population density, I was surprised to see so much open space once I flew over the countryside, and later would travel by train outside the London metro area.

My other reason for emphasizing the smallness of England, is the fact that it played such an enormous role in world history.  This little island-country was able to put together the largest empire in the world, so large that it was said that, "The sun never set on the British empire". Some part of the far-flung empire was always experiencing the rising of the sun. 

The Anglos and the Saxons were Germanic in origin, and were among the first tribes to settle in England, which is why English culture is referred to as the Anglo-Saxon culture.

The Romans first set-upped their frontier outposts among the tribal groups of England.  Bath, England, which I visited along with nearby Bristol, has the best preserved-excavated ruins of the Roman era.  With the collapse of Rome, England found itself dealing with incursions of various Viking groups.  The Danes, in particular, had the biggest impact upon England at that time.  The Normans from France would control England and most of Great Britain about 1,000 A.D., which had a big impact upon the way in which the English language developed. The Normans also introduced French feudalism into England. 

The English would eventually develop into a modern nation-state with the Rise of Henry VII and his Tudor dynasty.  Under Henry VIII's daughter, Elizabeth I, England would become "Mistress of the Sea" with the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1688--a title it would possess until the end of World War II when the U.S. Navy became the world's naval power.  During the reign of Elizabeth, under the leadership of Sir Francis Drake, the English expedition was the first of its kind to circumnavigate the earth, an accomplishment first achieved by Magellan, a Portuguese explorer. William Shakespeare also lived, wrote, and died during the Elizabethan period.  From thence on, the British would dominate the French who suffered one embarrassing defeat after another over centuries of warfare, until the twentieth century when the French were at the mercy of the Germans in both World War I and World War II.

The British Empire, like all the European empires began to unravel after the Second World War. Today, Great Britain attempts to maintain its own sovereignty in a struggle for survival against the European Union and the world globalists.


I found the Anglo-Brits with whom I dealt to be a very polite and patient people.  I was amazed whether they were wait-staff, bus drivers, or security attendants at all of the public building sites--all were very helpful.  The bus drivers, for example, did not rush to get to their next destination, but took time to provide directions. Even if it was necessary to repeat part of the directions to me, they did so without ever showing a hint of irritation, and before the driver would begin the bus to move to its next stop.  The security and guards at all the areas where I needed to engage them, never showed impatience even though they were most likely asked the same questions  by the multitudinous numbers of tourists repeatedly day in and day out.

The buses were very clean, hybrids, and in part battery-operated, as they came to a silent halt whenever they came to a complete stop. The patience of the drivers, the lack of constant bus lurching, and the air and relatively noise pollution-free buses made me yearn for the day that the political will and economic means would make such public transportation a reality in Cuenca. Almost all the buses in London were double-decked, a few actually were two elongated coaches joined together, as I often saw in cities like Chicago.

The subway, known as The Tube, is a magnificent means of transportation, relatively easy to use, and can whisk people rapidly to whatever destination they chose in London.  The transfers are relatively easy, no additional expense; and I bought an Oyster card, where I can put as much funds as I wanted on the card, since no cash is handled either on the buses or by The Tube. There were no long waiting periods.  I never waited more than seven minutes, and it was not unusual to have the next train pull-up a couple of minutes after the last one pulled-out.

I was surprised to discover that I always had to make sure I caught the last subway home, since the system shuts down at 12:30 a.m. As a graduate student at New York University in the late 70's, the city subways operated all night, albeit with fewer scheduled arrivals and departures at night. I assumed that London with a population of about 200,000 more people than the Big Apple would operate its subway system on a twenty-four hour system. Ironically, the weekend after I left, the city officials were to experiment with all-night subway service.  If successful, around-the-clock service would be implemented full-time, which would result in an additional 2,000 jobs created. It was projected that more tourists, as well as Londoners from the outskirts of the city might spend more time and more money in Central London as well.  I must admit, however, I would not want to live in London and ride the congested subways on a daily basis.

Another characteristic I noticed about both the Brits and the Dutch is that generally they have nowhere near the weight problems of Americans, and they do dress better.  The Dutch are also suppose to be the tallest people on average in the world.  The suits that men wear in London, all appeared to be tailored, no off-the-racks, or sports coats as such.

One of the reasons, the Anglo-Brits and Dutch have their weight under control may be because of the focus of many of the population who choose to eat natural foods, and find ways to spice food without high caloric dishes.  Most importantly, fast-food exists primarily for the tourists especially from the U.S.  Few Anglo-Brits and European-Dutch eat at such places with any frequency.

The above photo is an example of at least three major chains in London, which are coffee houses where a customer can buy hermetically-sealed sandwiches in different loaves, with meats or vegetarian, with tasty low-cal natural dressings and spices.  They were always very delicious and very fresh.  The sides, as well, included various salads, yogurts, and bean and grain combinations. Always only fresh juices were served, free of sugars and not watered down.

Finally, another great cultural trait of the Londoners are their love of the pubs. The pubs are just everywhere in the city.  Many of them centuries old.  The are breath-takingly beautiful. The carved wood-paneled walls, the intricate carvings on the ceilings, the elaborate wood-carved bars--all of which would cost a fortune to duplicate in the U.S. or England today.  I wanted to do a blog post just of the pubs, but google photos lost almost all of these pictures.

Various Londoners did explain to me that the pubs are dying.  As hard as it is to believe, I was told there use to be far more pubs. The entire family made a day of it on Sundays, much like the colonial taverns in the U.S. With Anglo-Brits also moving toward becoming a minority population in London, more pubs are fated to disappear with time.  My young friends tell me that it is the older Brits who usually drink ale these days.  The younger Brits prefer stout and beer.  We hoisted a lot of pints almost nightly while I was in London, and I was pleased that as many as ten to twelve beers were offered on draft.

To the right of the photo of John, you can see the beauty and elaborate designs of a pub ceiling in London.

John was my first Spanish tutor when I first came to Cuenca, Ecuador.  He was raised in Spain, and had come to live with his grandmother near Machala, Ecuador before he spent some time in Cuenca.  He has dual citizenship in both Spain and Ecuador, and is now also a legal resident of Great Britain. While in Cuenca his friend, Daniel, had visited Cuenca from London. John was an exchange student living with Daniel's family in Liverpool when they were both high school students. John moved to London in 2014.  He was the perfect tour guide, and made my time in London so much easier and interesting.  As a retired educator, one of my enjoyments in Cuenca has been the opportunity to have young friends as well as older friends, something which is very difficult to do in the U.S. where an age-segregation mentality is so ingrained.  I also appreciate the friends and contacts like John and Daniel that can exist across the miles.

Not everything in London is natural foods.  London is considered to be the most international city in the world.  Every kind of ethnic food in the world is being prepared somewhere in London.  Above is a photo of a small chain of Italian restaurants called Cafe Concerto.  Impressively-designed like something out of Paris in the 1800's.  The food was very good, and the desserts and pastries were decadently awesome, both to the eyes and to the taste.

They would just melt in our mouths, and John and I made at least three trips to Cafe Concerto.


My next post will present all my photos that Google Photos put in a pre-designed album, which incredibly is all of London and Amsterdam in one album.  I can only tell you that I abhor, detest, and deplore Google Photos.  Oh, did I mention that I also hate them.  I struggled with Picasa for sometime, and just as I was very comfortable using it, Google Photos had to buy-out Picasa. Google Photos completely replaced all the formatting with a totally new program, which bludgeoned me with completely having to learn how to do everything from scratch. This was last year with my photos from my travels in Italy, some of which Google Photo lost.

This year, I cannot believe that Google Photo completely changed their program again, and it's worse.  First, it lost approximately 150 of my photos.  It can take days for the upload of photos to be completed, and it took weeks before their album of London and Amsterdam were composited into one album--over 450 photos.  At least last year, Google Photos had the sense to break-up my trip to Italy into multiple albums.  Furthermore, the photos it chose not to use appeared last year above the albums, where it was easy to drag them into place wherever I wanted them to be, if I chose to add them to the album.  This year, the photos not used in the album are in a different window, and I still don't know how to bring them into the album, since everything I have done to date has been a failed attempt.

The above is just the tip of the iceberg; but you the reader, get the idea.  I know some of the problems are with me.  However, I have wasted so much time that the process has been all agony, and no ecstasy.  I would never recommend Google Photos to anyone. 

With my next-and-last post on my travel, I apologize for so many photos that will be  in one setting.  Peruse them quickly, or make a number of trips to the site and view them periodically. Hopefully, if you wish to see a larger photo, you may be able to click on the photo and enlarge its size.  However, I am not making any promises.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Traveling is fun.  I can't say enough good things about it. It's been such a thrill for me to visit places that over my life-time I studied from books, viewed in photos, or experienced from television programming and the movies.  I've always been restless, and I've always been curious about almost everything.  Traveling has given me a chance to experience so many different climates and topographies from all over the world--the plant, animal, and weather variations that can never be fully appreciated any other way than to be in the midst of them.  There has been no end to  all the types of people who have crossed my path from all the numerous cultures I have visited who proved so very mind-expanding. The acquaintances and friendships that result from traveling and living abroad; some which were enjoyed momentarily, others which developed into longer friendships is a major plus from traveling.  I am so glad that my openness to new experiences, my love of history, my search for what makes people tick, and my wonderment at why cultures develop as they do; have given me the opportunity to enjoy such an incredible myriad of people, cuisines, languages, and art-forms--all of which I experienced only because I could and chose to travel.

Software programs today bring the outside world into our living room in ways that when I was a youth were unimaginable. Yet, software programs have some distance to go before they can create a virtual world that equates with our mind and our bodies to simulate anything close to actually experiencing the tastes, sounds, smells, touch, and stimulated-feeling conjured from such experiences when we travel. Ultimately, if it were not for my experiences in traveling, I currently would not be living in Cuenca, Ecuador, which would be the biggest miss of my life.

In the distant past, I traveled to what proved for me to be indelibly conscious-raising experiences in the Far East and India in ways I could never have imagined.  In recent years I ventured into parts of South America, and last year I devoted a month to a fabulous trip to Italy. This year, I wanted to travel to something different from Latin American and Mediterranean cultures.  Off I went for three weeks to London, and a week in Amsterdam. Since my one month visit to Italy last year was the first time I traveled to somewhere which was more than just a layover in an European airport, I was looking forward to the continuation of my exploration of Europe and what it had to offer.

I would encourage anyone who is approaching retirement, and has the financial and physical wherewithal and yen to travel, do so while you can. None of us can predict when unexpected health issues may arise. Even if one's health is still good at seventy, one's energy levels continue to dissipate with age, particularly when needed for strenuous and/or long-term traveling.

I handled my month of traveling relatively fine. However, despite six to twelve miles of walking every day for almost all but four or five days of my vacation--and I have the walking-city of Cuenca to thank for my mileage endurance--it does get tiring to have to deal with all the minutia of traveling: Do I have everything. Am I forgetting anything? Is everything logistically-related covered? OMG, the frustration of getting Internets, GPS's, Uber pickups, etc, etc, etc all working, and my brain working with them.  The minutia can really take a toll on a guy my age. So not every minute of traveling is enjoyable, but the beauty of returning and resting from a vacation as the dross falls away, and what I most remember are those aha moments.

As I said, I am restless, and I knew there was no way I could make an eleven hour flight from Guayaquil to Amsterdam and then another additional one hour flight to London without going stark-raving mad in a claustrophobic coach seat. I traveled business with KLM, the Dutch airline, which I was surprised to discover has a slew of flights out of Ecuador to Europe, many of which are non-stop.  I was so happy to learn I could take a non-stop flight, and avoid the Miami Airport, and all of its logistical nightmares. 

The KLM flight attendants were the best.  The ladies were conscientious, and the service was outstanding.  I enjoyed my flight to and from Amsterdam as one of the highlights of my trip, which is the last thing I thought I would ever say about any flight. I actually slept on a flight.  I don't sleep on flights, no matter how long they are.  I could not believe I slept for four entire hours.  I would have slept longer, if the attendants hadn't served breakfast at 4:00 a.m. in the morning Quito time, but which was already 10:00 a.m. Amsterdam time. 

The movie selections were great, with a large array of films from which to choose.  I watched them on the back of the seat in front of me with every genre offered. Before I knew it, with all the seating and leg-room space in Business Class, and the ability to lay out my seat like a bed, take off my shoes, and indulge in some good quality drinks (I hadn't had Chavis Regal in years); the flight felt like it was over in half the time.  

I admit I enjoyed being spoiled, and certainly recognized why the European and American elites are so out-of-touch with everyday people.  This was only business class, imagine how out-of-touch these elites are with their own private jets, etc.  I must admit, however, that Air Italia last year, had the best cuisine I have ever had with any airline I've used. Unfortunately, the Italians have such a terrible reputation for losing passengers' luggage.  Nevertheless, I wouldn't hesitate for a second to fly KLM again.


Flying high above the clouds with KLM Dutch Airlines:  (You may notice me with my harp and halo on the center right cloud--okay corny, but what do you expect from a free-read blog.)