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.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021


Cuenca Perspectives by Jim: TENTH YEAR ANNIVERSARY IN CUENCA, ECUADOR: I arrived in Ecuador on Sunday, March 14th of 2011 to begin my new adventure of living in a foreign country.  Monday morning, I visited my a...


I arrived in Ecuador on Sunday, March 14th of 2011 to begin my new adventure of living in a foreign country.  Monday morning, I visited my attorney in Quito, and on Tuesday after spending the previous day touring the historic area of Quito, I flew to Cuenca.I always thought when my ten year anniversary arrived that I would do a post on the changes in Cuenca over the ten years of life here.  However, I would be writing a book, and I decided instead that I would simply post a link that captures much of the essence of life in Cuenca for me.  Adventure, beautiful mountainous scenery, friendly welcoming people, a big city with a small town feel, a feeling of being alive, social life as much as anyone can handle or desire, and friends upon friends.

  Maria Rosa, Mathias, Esteban, and James 


A special thank you is extended to Maria Rosa, who is Mathias and Esteban's mother, and who brilliantly compiled the link above of Mathias, Esteban, and me capturing the spirit of Cuenca.

Bella Ciao is an Italian song which is a favorite of ours, as the three of us were caught up in the NetFlix series entitled, Casa de Papel, an exciting series of about five years running that takes place in Spain, and does a fabulous job of combining action with character development, in a timely fashion with all that is going on in the world today.  Some of the predictaments are preposterous, but never boring.  Mathias learned Bella Ciao on the guitar, the center piece song of Casa de Papel which was one of the songs he played at his brother, Esteban's birthday party.

Mathias 18th Birthday Party

As many of you know, if you read my last two blogs I have the two older Rios brothers living with me, and we recently celebrate Esteban's  birthday in December when he turned fourteen and we had the Paella party with friend and Chef Michael Wagner, and now in late February we celebrated Mathias eighteenth birthday.  

It was a surprise party.  Mathias birthday was actually on Friday, the 26th of February.  However, he and Esteban had English language classes until 8:00 p.m.  Esteban and I deliberately chose not to wish Mathias a Happy Birthday, since his surprise party was the next day.  Mathias traveled home to his mother's that evening, and disappointingly told his mother that James and Esteban did not remenber it was his birthday.

Saturday, and Mathias arrives with his brother, Andres, on the pretext that I was injured and needed his help, since I had recently torn my rotator cuff.  Mathias arrived to a chorus of Happy Birthdays.  We really pulled this surprise off.

Mathias give his mother a kiss in appreciation for the wonderful party she planned for her son.  The decorations where all her idea.  Esteban was such a great help in getting everything setup, and helping his mother prepare the meal in the kitchen.

Early arrivals were Michael Jones, Loren Kuhne, Karen Braun, Nancy Kuhne, Betty Jones, and Seig Braun.

Those of you old enough to remember the old Ben Casey television series will remember how it always began each new episode with drawings of man, woman, birth, death, and infinity.  Mathias, below, is displaying his infinity symbol, with the blessing of many more birthdays to come.  Ben Casey would have been a great role model for someone like Mathias, who aspires to be a medical doctor.

Below is a photo of the Rios family Esteban, Mathias, Maria Rosa, and in the front is Andres.

                Below are the Rios Brothers Trio

The evening began with different hors d oeuvres of crackers, spreads, cheeses, and fruit bites.  When I first came to Cuenca, it was impossible to find good cheese.  In recent years, many craft cheese and delis have appeared on the scene to meet the need for quality cheeses of all kinds, among them are cheese makers from Europe who have found their niche in Cuenca.

For dinner Maria Rose prepared a very inviting Chaulafan Mixto, which was fried rice with chicken and large shrimp.

Seig and Karen brought a delicious side dish of Cheese brocoli.

Loren and Nancy brought their fantastic ambrosia salad.

Michael and Betty brought a creamy potato salad that was no ordinary potato salad.

The evening was topped off, due to the generosity of the guests, with eleven bottles of wine, a bottle of champagne, and two beers.

Seig and Karen Braun

Before the cake, there was the cavalcade of guests who took their turns having their photo taken with the birthday boy.

                            Below Nancy and Loren Kuhne

Andres Garcia and his wife Veronica.

Betty and Michael Jones

Mathias with his mother and Lourdes Guzman.

Below, Mathias and James having fun with Mathias' age.

Below, Mathias growing an alien out of his head.


Mathias with Jerry Ramos

Below Juan Garcia (UFO), his sister Belen Garcia and their brother Andres Garcia, all three family members are electrical engineers.  It is not unusual in Ecuador to find many members of the nuclear family following the same career paths.  Three or four members may all be engineers, medical doctors, educators, dentists, bankers, and/or identical fields in the craft industries.

Below with Mathias is Silvia and her husband Lenin Alvares.  Although Lenin is not related to the Garcias, he is also an electrical engineer.

Below is Juan (UFO) and his wife Gabriela.  UFO is also Mathias' godfather.

The maravillosa chocolate cake was created by a friend of Maria Rosa, and gifted by Sherry Naudeau, who was unable to attend the party.

After the cake and ice cream was endulged.  Silvia was ready to get the party hopping with some dancing.

The dancing continued until midnight when everybody suddenly turned into pumkins, and an evening of enjoyment was brought to a close.  While Mathias had an 18th birthday celebration he will long remember.

Sunday, February 21, 2021


Cuenca Perspectives by Jim: MICHAEL WAGNER--MASTER CHEF-- PAELLA DINNER PARTY:   The ninth of December 2020 was a most enjoyable celebration of Chef Michael Wagner's culinary wizardry, as he and his two  assistants,...



The ninth of December 2020 was a most enjoyable celebration of Chef Michael Wagner's culinary wizardry, as he and his two  assistants, Mariano and David, prepared tapas and a champagne seafood paella dinner for approximately fifteen guests at my home.

Long before I arose from my night of slumber, Chef Michael arrived early in the morning to deliver all of the food needed for preparation as well as the grill for the cooking of the paella.  Michael, as his two assistants began preparing the creation of the tapas, would return later to explain and demonstrate the step-by-step process of his paella preparation to the guests, after they arrived and feasted on the tapas.

Tapas Preparation

                          David, below, cuts the meat to be used in the tapas.


Mariano sautés the garlic.

Below, the tapa begins to take form.


Mathias Rios is one of the two brothers living with me to practice their English and I my Spanish.  Simultaneously, they also use  my Internet for their classes on Zoom, while the schools are closed in Cuenca due to the Covid.  Mathias is smacking his lips; waiting with anticipation to make his way through the tapas, as the finishing touches are added and soon to be served to our guests hot from the oven.

Four tapas were prepared, and beyond a doubt, they were the best tapas I ever enjoyed either in Cuenca, the United States, or in Spain.  Generally, I find tapas to be skimpy on toppings and fillings, and expensive, dry, or offering little in the way of a taste worth savoring.  The one exception was in Barcelona, where one tapas bar served great tapas, and they also cost me a fortune.  Michael's tapas were quite large, and could have been a meal in themselves.  Everybody commented on how superb the tapas were.  Michael made me a believer in how good tapas are when prepared properly and lovingly by chefs who value quality and artistry.

Below is a photo of Sherry Nadeau, Mike Jones, Betty Jones, and Nancy Kuehne as they enjoy conversation while beginning their trek into the world of tapas--Michael Wagner style.


Maria Rosa and her son, Esteban Rios, the younger brother of Mathias Rios, as they both enjoy the tapas.

Below is the youngest Rios brother, Andres, who is enjoying his tapas while watching cartoons.  Rios means rivers in Spanish.  There are four rivers running through Cuenca like the Rio Tomebamba, which is the river only a short block from me.  The brothers claim that the four rivers are their primos or cousins.

Below are good friends Mike and Betty Jones with yours truly.

Friends Loren Kuehne, Jerry Ramos, and Sherri Nadeau

Below eight year old Andres, who is destined to be a favorite with the girls.

Also in attendance were friends Daniela Valez and her son, David.

I could not get the photo below to color properly.  David's hair kept coming out blue.  I was amazed that the best photo composition of Daniela and David came out in black and white--a great photo of a mother and her teen son.

Michael Wagner and the Paella Preparation

After our indulgence in the tapas, time for further conversation, and the arrival of Michael; we were ready for his presentation of how he prepares his Paella step by step.  Michael brought his own grill with him, which can vary in sizes dependent upon the number of people for whom he is cooking.

Michael is a true showman, who immensely enjoys cooking, and always shares his enthusiasm in his demonstrations.

Michael starts with his base of oils, green and red peppers, onions, and garlic. He explains the various spices and sauces he uses, the addition of champagne, and how they each add a variety of flavors that soon blend into a tantalizing, savoring sauce that permeates the seafood and sears in the taste.

Eventually, the bountiful langostinos (large prawns) are added, along with camarones (shrimp), calamares (squid), and the almejas (clams).

Maria Rosa and Chef Michael

Mike and Jim contributing our two cents worth.

Guests gather around to pickup points on Michael's cooking preparation.

The sight of the prepared skillet below was just mouth-watering, and a work of art to the eye.

Mathias, our food critic gives his seal of approval to Michael and David for an excellent outcome. While Michael can take full pride in a preparation more than well done with a thumbs up.

Truly a meal fit for a king.

Below Mike Jones and Esteban waiting to be served.

Below is David, Daniela, and Jim enjoying the paella.

Esteban and Sherry's Birthday Celebration

Michael also made the cake for our dessert and birthday celebration, although the birthday party was a surprise for Esteban's fourteenth birthday, we made sure that the cake would be made to Esteban's specifications, as Michael can make any cake or torta and postres (pastries) as desired.  The cake required chocolate, strawberries, whipped cream, and Michael's surprise of raspberries.  


In the photo below, Mariano adds the finishing touches. If you are a chocoholic,  this cake is to absolutely die for.  It was chocolate decadency at its zenith. Very rich, fabulously moist, made with four different types of high quality chocolate including chocolate ganache.  The raspberries between the layers were a welcomed surprise, and complemented the moisture of the cake and set its flavor off beautifully.

As I recall, this was a four layer cake.  Luckily, for me I discovered that after everybody left for the evening; in the refrigerator there were two layers left over without the frosting, and only Mathias and Esteban to help me eat it.  The chocolate cake by itself was sooo incredibly good!  Michael was so considerate.

Birthday boy, Esteban, better known as "Joven Chevere" (Mister Cool)

Below is "Joven Chevere" with his very proud mother, Maria Rosa.

I finally remembered to sport my Panama hat.  All of which  have always been designed and created in Ecuador.  Teddy Roosevelt made the hats popular, which at the time were bought in Panama, and the name stuck.  While "chevere" means 'cool' in Ecuatoriano español.  Señor Mola, believe it or not, means Mr. Cool in the Castilian Spanish of Spain.  Thanks to everybody there, it was a cool party.

Sherry, my neighbor, also had her birthday that day.  While Esteban was turning fourteen, Sherry was enjoying her sweet sixteen birthday.

Michael led us in a rousing Happy Birthday chorus for our two stars, and Sherry left it to Esteban to blow out the candles.  Esteban learned quickly that is was no easy task as the candles kept reigniting.

Michael also did the honors of cutting the cake.  As demonstrated by Loren and Nancy, whip cream was a must as well, as if the cake wasn't rich enough.

Below, while enjoying the cake, in the back behind Jerry, one can see Mathias playing the guitar as background music to entertain us.  As long as I live, I will always associate 'Bello Ciao' with the Rios brothers.

Old my goodness!  Whose piece of cake is that, and the whipped cream hasn't been added yet?!?!

All and all, it was a memorable evening with great friends enjoying and indulging in Michael Wagner's extraordinary skills and experience as a master chef, which made for a wonderful time and a extraordinary meal.  Cuenca is so very lucky to be blessed with Michael and his superb talents.

Michael Wagner

Chef Michael also offers cooking classes for up to ten people, either in your home or in his culinary kitchen.
He also offers catering for all kinds of celebrations--large and small.

Michael's Contact:
+(593) 099 946 6241

Michael's Email:

Michael's Restaurant: Restaurante Rancho Alegre
It is of typical Ecuadorian meals and almuerzos.
Address: In middle of Panamericana sur, 15 minutes from the center of the city of Cuenca, Ecuador.