Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld.

11 Feb

You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.

So let me take you then with me on my (brief) journey to and from school (the one where I now work, not the one that I attend ~ if you catch my drift). Since early January I have been teaching at a language school here in Cuenca. We usually work three classes a day (or two a day and a Saturday or other variations), and your shift depends upon numerous things, none of which I have quite figured out. Anyway, my first class begins at 7:00. A.M. Yep, 7:00 A.M. !!!!! I decided to walk to work if the weather permitted, so this means crawling (almost literally) out of bed around 4:45 so that I can get a cup of tea, maybe a piece or two of toast, shower and generally try to understand that I have to be up and not crawl directly back into bed again.

Our living room and kitchen looks directly out towards the Yungilla, situated as it is on Mariscal Lamar. Due to the fact that Cuenca sits in a bowl (Cuenca actually means a bowl in Spanish ~ or a derivative so I am led to believe) we are higher than Gran Colombia and have an (as yet) unobstructed view out towards the valley. As I begin contemplating getting out of the front door the view is beyond description. It is ever changing due to cloud formations, the sun (or lack of) the low clouds, or even the heavy rain clouds that have been lingering for these many days past.

Time to go. Keys? Check. Phone? Check. Money? Check. I-pod? Double check. What shall I listen to this time? Has to be something with a beat, walking to school I don’t want to sit down by the river and listen to classical music. Moby? Fatboy Slim? Orbital maybe? Ministry of Sound usually has something for me. I must have about 15 or more albums with this club music. Electronic Anthems of the 80’s I and II will do the trick.

I say good morning to the guard at the gate, usually waking him from his slumber, as he lets me out of the front gate. I then turn right, down towards town. I then turn right on one of the unnamed streets, (or if it is, I can’t find it on the map), and good luck to finding name plates on a corner somewhere. I guess Cuencanos have this inbuilt sense of knowing the exact name of every street in town from the moment that they are born. Down the hill (more on that later) and on to Gran Colombia and cross over towards the Jefferson Perez Coliseum. Turning left on 3rd de Noviembre the river is now on my right. I have chosen (subconsciously at first) to stay on the left side of the street, and pass by the school (two actually I’ll have to remember them on the way home today ~ Colegio Nacional & Colegio San Padre Corazon ~ I think ~ because that sign is behind a very large tree/bush and it’s hard to read), the second of which finds an elderly lady who might be 60 or 80 (or older) I have no idea setting up here roadside stand. She now greets me as I do her. Both of us have something which requires us being out earlier than most. She is there most of the day although she must leave between first class and lunch time as she has gone by the time I return home in the morning but there again both when I return to school and when I make my way home again.

The guy at the Lavado Otorongo now waves at me as I pass and we exchange occasionally “buenas dias” if he is within earshot. A little further on and the sights and smells of the comidas begin to fill the air, I can smell the early cooking for the almuerzos, some probably just breakfast smells from the houses along the street.

The city seems to wake from its slumber (although I am sure that there are many more people up and around and doing things than I see) at this time of day. Kids off to school catching the bus, arriving on the yellow Escolar Bus, or just walking. I walk down toward the Otorongo, knowing that I need to be there around 30 minutes past the hour and I am usually, meaning that I am on time perhaps with a bit to spare. The daylight, this being almost on the equator, is now rising quickly and the mountains around town are bathed in the early morning light, or covered in mist and cloud. I cross the river at the new pedestrian bridge opposite the new square, or cross about another 150 yards or so at the traffic bridge at Ave. Loja.

Pedestrian traffic is now getting a bit heavier as I near the University on Ave. 12 de Abril. Crossing Loja and passing the University the river is now on my left. I pass the lady setting up her newsstand. Again another buenas dias. Just past the University (well at the edge really) they are rebuilding the auditorium (I think it is). Lots of construction work and these guys are already at it by 6:30 or getting ready for the day at least. Turning right on Ave. Cueva, then left again on who knows what it is called and then right on Federico Proano, on which the school is located. I teach my first class which ends at 8:15 and as my next class isn’t until 3:00 p.m. I head back home. For the time being at least, as our Spanish classes are due to start in the next 2 weeks so I am not sure if I will find time to get back home, we’ll see.

The city is now beginning to become more like most other cities in that shops are starting to open and more and more people are around. Of course now the route is reversed and I choose to walk along the river. There are trucks parked by the bridge as I go from 12 de Abril to 3rd de Noviembre at Loja, and again what started as a morning nod, and a buenas dias, has now become a handshake and a really “good morning” and there is one guy who speaks a little English (still better than my Spanish more is the pity) with whom I exchange a few words daily. I know he likes fishing and lives out towards Sayausi because he told me that he lived 30 minutes away from town towards the Cajas. “Oh Sayausi?” I asked. He is amazed that I know. Now his friends all stop and shake hands. They are still there in the early afternoon, waiting maybe to either load or unload their trucks, perhaps both. And usually in early evening too as I make my way home at around 6:00 after the last of my two classes finish.

I forgot to tell you that the last part of my walk home is directly vertical. Or it seems so. Hors Categorie for Tour de France enthusiasts. For anyone who knows the town, they know where I am speaking of; it is as you come up from Gran Colombia back towards Mariscal Lamar. I am now half mountain goat it seems; I swear that I am developing cloven hooves. Returning to school around 2:00 or so, the streets are very busy, what with school doing two “shifts” as it were with some kids (the younger ones I think) going from 7-12 and the older from 1-6. The University now is a hive of activity. I actually am not too fond of the way back to school it is too “busy” as it were. Still the evenings coming home, as the sun is beginning to set over the Cajas, the people going home from work, the kids getting out of school, the vendors finally finishing up their trade and calling it a day. The kids waiting for the bus excited to be out of school at least for one more day, the men playing volleyball along the river, with vendors selling food courtside, the families all watching with seriousness (or as serious as one can be watching 40-50 year old men playing Ecuaball) and a general hive of day finishing activities.

Almost home the uphill beckons me. She seems to dare me to try one more time. I succeed. The walk in to work takes about 25 minutes early doors, about 30 minutes in the afternoon, but the return is about 30 or so going home early morning and about 40 in the evening. By now of course it has been about a 13 hour day, 3 classes and a total of maybe a 6 mile walk thrown in for good measure. Who said retirement is about taking it easy? But I wouldn’t miss it though. The city waking up, the people whom I have gotten to “know,” mostly the same faces early morning and later in the day, some different faces of course. The sights and sounds of the ever changing river and the landscape. Every day is really a new day, both physically and literally. I trudge home a bit weary but really happy that I chose Cuenca for my home. It is different things to different people, the same which surely applies to wherever one calls home. But I think that I have seen a lot more of the inner and outer of the city for want of better descriptions, its people and it way of living and breathing than most. For that I am very, very grateful. I am one of the lucky ones. Every day I look out of the window and thank whatever fate that it was that made me find Cuenca.

Or perhaps Cuenca found me. Who knows?


Walking Wounded

23 Jan

Over the holiday period, I house/dog sat for someone who helped me out when I first came to Cuenca, about 18 months ago now. (Gosh is really that long ago, time certainly does fly). A chance to return a favour. The house was over in the tres puentes area, and as I had not had to pleasure of knowing that part of town, I went not quite knowing what to expect. The house stands right on the bank of the Yununcay river, one of four that run through the city. During my time walking the dog, I saw that the city has indeed tried to “pedestrianise” the riverside, in that there are many walking paths, and a fitness area much like I had been used to in the States.

Of course with as much rain as we have had lately, the river was running very fast and quite full. There is market fairly close to the area, just off of Ave. Solano, the 27 de febrero. One day while I was taking a walk, sans the dog, I saw an elderly lady attempting to climb the few steps that are along the sidewalk. I didn’t know at the time that it led towards the Mercado. She took a couple of steps towards them and stumbled and fell backwards onto the pavement. I rushed to her aid, and managed in my halting few words of Spanish to calm her down, get her up very slowly and tried to ascertain if she was hurt badly in any way. She seemed more concerned about her hat which had rolled out into the street. I retrieved it, and noticed a man lying down in the median at the side of the road. He was obviously drunk. I could not converse in any way shape or form with her meaningfully. It was then that it dawned on me, that were the situation reversed, I could not tell anyone who was trying to help me if I were injured or not. I also figured out that she was not injured in any manner, but it seemed at least to me that she also was drunk. She may of course, have been suffering from an illness, but having seen my fair share of inebriated people, she did seem to fit the bill. I assisted her, got her hat back, made sure that she was okay, and tried to ask where she was going. She could not convey that to me, or if she did I couldn’t understand her. I assisted her up the steps; along the path towards what I now realized was the Mercado. Several people passed us and no one seemed to give us a thought. Now this was an extremely elderly lady, and it was also quite obvious that I am a gringo, and that she was very unsteady on her feet. Not one person asked if everything was okay.

We managed to get down the steps, again there were many people there, several of whom looked at us as we must have seemed an unlikely couple. Her obviously indigenous, me quite blatantly not, and her holding on to my arm, and me holding on to her shopping bag. We got to where the intercity buses were parked not quite sure now where all of this was going to end up. She stopped at one bus, the driver asked us where we were going to, and I quite obviously once more, could not explain. Luckily enough she managed to mumble somewhere, I am still not sure to this day where she was going, but he pointed us toward the next bus. I helped her up the steps which were about 18 inches or so off of the ground, a difficult enough task to manage as it was, without being unable to help yourself and extremely difficult for me to help her, but manage we did. A lady passenger spoke to her, I guess that maybe they knew her, she had maybe travelled in with them, or she just knew that this person needed help. She took her bag, assisted her to a seat and I got off the bus, the lady thanked me (I know what “gracias” means), I think I may have said “de nada” but who knows?

I wonder what happened to her? I assume that the passengers, in particular the lady who helped her to a seat made sure that she arrived safely to where she was going. I wonder how she managed to get drunk (or maybe she was ill) and wander around, no one there to take care of her in this what is a very family oriented society, and what would have happened had I not come along? You do not see many homeless or indigent people here, but there are a few. I would like to think that someone would have taken care of her and seen to it that she got to where she needed to go, but not one person asked if they could help at all, even when it seemed obvious that between the two of us that we could have used some, but perhaps they thought that we were fine and didn’t need any. I prefer to think that maybe that was the case.

I hope that the expression “All’s well that ends well” applies. I hope that she made it home safe and sound. Perhaps she doesn’t come back to Cuenca again, but it did seem as though this was a weekly or maybe more than that, “outing” of some description.

Who knows?

And I said that I wouldn’t post another serious blog entry.

Oh well.

Wither, Blister, Burn and Peel

3 Jan

So it’s here then. Finally. 2011. With every new year people tend to make “Resolutions” although quite why we wait until a New Year is beyond me. If they are so important to us that they become “Resolutions” then why not do them as soon as we think about it/them? Probably so that we can go through the holiday season continuing to eat & drink (and smoke I suppose) with impunity knowing that we will give all of this up as a gesture towards a better lifestyle. I wonder how many unused gym memberships abound out there after say January 3rd or so?

Anyway I try to do something “useful” in that it won’t require me to dedicate myself to a life of monk, and with that I try to look back over the past 12 months and see if there is any improvement that I can make going forward that won’t lead me to repeat the same mistake(s) that I did prior to that.

I was here until mid December 2009, and therefore saw New Year’s Eve 2009/2010 in Houston. I was staying with a very good friend of about 20 odd years. He told me that I could stay with him, as long as I needed, no problem. I wasn’t sure if I could return to Ecuador because acquiring a visa was throwing up all kinds of problems and I wasn’t sure that I could overcome them. I decided to look at the Philippines as a viable alternative. My friend also wanted to eventually retire there but for him it was a pretty long way off. He wanted to go to Boracay while I wanted to go to Cagayan de Oro if I did decide upon there as a destination. Eventually around mid February, he asked me to move out right there and then (his wife and he were, although married, separated and living in two different homes). Okay, well I guess that’s fine, what seemed to be the problem, I wanted to know if I had done something wrong. He informed me that I had no “plan” and that originally I said that I would stay until mid-Feb or so, but it didn’t seem as though I was doing anything about it. I had no job, obviously that was why I had been in Ecuador to begin with, and so helped keep the shop (their business ran out of the house) etc. clean and tidy and in general kept out of the way during business hours. There was a time during that stay when another friend had asked me to house sit dog sit while she was away on business. I could either move in there and do it without remuneration, or do it on an outsit type of operation and get paid to do it. My friend told me to stay with him and take the money, only to later say no, I needed to leave.

A bit later I also found out that he had told my friend where I moved to, something that was completely untrue, and even if it were, I thought he had no right to say it. So friendship of over 20 years gone. I had seen him and his wife go through her pregnancies, watched the kids grow up and go to their graduations. It was a sad occasion first tempered by anger over the situation but it is what it is, or rather was what it was. We did loads of stuff together a lot of really stupid stuff in there, and I spent time at Christmas and other holidays with his family.

However, looking back, and he is a Type A personality (coupled with an obsessive/compulsive) although we did do lots of things that friends do, I seem to have spent more time doing things with him, rather than he doing things with me, if that makes sense. A lot of it was my fault as I am easy going (easily lead might be a better description) and he would say “let’s do this” and I would say okay. Towards the latter part of my stay with him, arguments would develop and I sometimes found him talking down to me, like I was one of his kids. I once told him that he didn’t have to talk to me like a child. Oh well, the point I suppose I am trying to make is that I have tried to make sure that whatever fault lies in me (yes there are one or two, but that’s about the limit) I find and try to correct them, which when gets older isn’t quite so easy. So for me the New Year is more about a time of reflection, looking back over the year, to see if my life has improved (or more apt, what I have done to accomplish that).

Last year now, (2010) I also lost the good friendship of someone here, and therefore another self evaluation has to take place. Not easy, I grant you, but if one wants to move on, something however painful, that has to be done.

I promise that’s the first and last serious post I’ll do. Honest.

Equally Blessed and Cursed

7 Dec

So Sunday came around and a long planned trip to Canar materialised. Passing through there on a recent trek to Ingapirca, it looked a very interesting place to return to and visit in depth. So it transpired that after breakfast the three travellers made their way to the Terminal and boarded a bus for it’s final destination, Canar. There were very few people on this bus, which is quite unusual, normally either there are many people as it leaves already on board, or people are picked up en route, going somewhere, not necessarily all the way.

We managed therefore to find the back seat available to us in order that we could have a good chat. I promised not to blog about our conversation, so as Elaine Benes says “It’s in the vault.” Suffice to say we had a good time and the journey passed quite quickly. It’s about 1 hour plus from Cuena. Azogues and Biblian are the stops on the way, but just about lunch time saw us exit and begin our adventure.

I am guessing that Canar isn’t a tourist stop, as I never see a mention of it on any blogs, nor have any ex-pats mentioned the town in passing. It is however a pretty decent size town, but as already mentioned it is en route to Ingapirca and I would guess that this is the only reason that this town may sound familiar to some.

What is immediate and very different is that men, women and girls alike wear this round, narrow brimmed felt hat. It also has 2 balls on it hanging from the brim, sometimes they are at the front, sometimes at the back. It transpires that it is a sign of marital status, their placing indicating whether or not the wearer is single or married. Well one of our party ascertained this, but due to the conversation taking place in Kichwa, we felt pretty sure that this was the fact, but not completely certain. Again, surprisingly (or maybe not) most people who were asked found it difficult to converse in Spanish, and it was only through another person who spoke halting Spanish, that the conversation took place at all.

We wandered around the main market square, lots and lots of indigenous people, possibly only on a par with Otavalo, up around the Quito area. I was hoping that a repeat of that trip was not in store, because that mainly consisted of shopping, shopping and more shopping. However, as there doesn’t seem to be much on sale for ex-pats that fear passed very quickly. It is amazing how much of the local dress is supported by these ridiculous socks, most of which carry the USA logo on the side. Was there a “job lot” of these which sold quickly upon arrival being very cheap, or perhaps they are actually made locally and the “manufacturers” give them out willy nilly to their employees? I cannot see any other explanation, unless one of the very first discovers of the city traded these with the locals as barter for food and supplies.

Being used to being stared at wherever I go, didn’t really prepare me for the fact that just about everyone stared. Of course it could have been that my comrades consisted of one Canadian (virtually blonde), one Ecuadorian (obviously indigenous) and myself, a suede headed very white Caucasian wearing shorts. There are one or two ex-pats who wear shorts also, and the very, very occasional Ecuadorian, but it is obviously not the norm. In Canar at least. The fact that we all carried cameras when this is not really a tourist destination also made us a bit conspicuous and were it not for this, we may have passed unnoticed.

It is a very interesting town and I would have to say one that I would like perhaps to re-visit a few times. Maybe then the locals would accept us a bit more and not stare continually. Perhaps a trip on my own next time, because I am really sure that my colleagues stood out more than myself. Maybe not. Anyway we walked around a whole lot, you could see nudges and open talk (although my Spanish is almost non-existent I could understand the innuendos and gestures) but we did get a lot of smiles and in some instances it seemed as though people were maybe as curious about us as we were about them. There were some incredible examples of rope weaving although I didn’t really get what it was about. It seemed far too intricate for normal usage, but we never really managed to figure out what they were for. Also there was a really great idea for recycled tyres, for instance receptacles for many items, shelves, rubber covered stirrups and most strangely (or not) sandals. They looked effective but not really comfortable in any way. If you had a horse farm there were many bridles and such, and lots of horse shoes, which in my limited experience I thought would be tailored for each individual animal, but maybe people do go to things like Horse-Shoes-R-Us. In Canar anyway.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, luego.

Are You Normal?

30 Nov

Thanksgiving Day. It all started out innocently enough, when I packed up and left the apartment to keep my appointment with my friends. We had not planned on the menu at this stage, but as I am a vegetarian, it was assumed that we would not be eating turkey. Not that I had persuaded my friends also to become vegetarians, but because a 100 lb. turkey would feed a third world nation. Oh, wait, that’s what Ecuador is, isn’t it?
When figuring out that our Thanksgiving Day would consist of one Englishman, one Canadian woman, and one Ecuadorian woman, one had to figure that this would not be your ordinary day. Suffice to say that it wouldn’t be. Not by a long shot.
We sat down and pondered what we would actually eat. Our usual modus operandi is to go to the Mercado and get inspired. Today would be no different, although we started to get a few ideas as to a basic menu. Fish. Great start. What kind and how would we cook it? Running through a few pages of the we hit upon some kind of stuffed fish. Then being the “autumn” and wishing to try to incorporate some vegetables of this time of year, we came up with ~ apples. Okay so stuffed fish with apples and what? I won’t bore you with the research that we did, because almost immediately our Canadian friend arrived with her nerves all of a “jangle” and a suggestion was “Would a glass of wine help?” ~ half jokingly as it was well before the appointed cocktail hour. “Sure, why not?” Happily we joined her.
Perhaps this is where we started down the slippery slope. About 2 p.m. Or a little later, we suggested, “Hm, we might need to go to the mercado to shop for dinner.” Well the 9th de octubre being just around the corner on a normal day might be the answer, but as Mr. Bill used to say “Ooooh nooooooo!” Our destination of choice was ~ the Feria Libre. On the bus then across town and to the market.
One suggestion was that we get some type of vegetable that none of us have tried yet. So the shopping list at least comprised of “mystery vegetable.” We began shopping. If you have been to the Feria Libre you know that is is a huge array of stalls selling, well, everything and anything. If not, let me tell you that this place covers something I would guess at about 10 acres or more. Of course our inspiration might have been a little clouded by the couple of glasses of vino tinto that we imbibed before leaving. Then again it might be that we are not quite your normal crowd of people to begin with. Shopping list in hand we traversed the mercado a time or four. One thing that we did agree on was that we didn’t agree on anything in particular. “Do you like beets?” was one question. Oh yeah and as the ladies hadn’t had beets in a while, they became part of our salad. “What salad?” you ask. The one that inspired us. Do keep up at the back. So now our bags became laden with various things that go into a salad. Including the one mystery vegetable ~ mellocos ~ which none of us had eaten, but were willing to try. The bags became heavier and we still had not acquired the fish, nor a particular herb that we were looking to add. Thyme. No one seemed to know where the fresh herb seller was, but as is the Ecuadorian way, no one seemed to acknowledge that fact. So we went hither and thither receiving one differing instruction after the other.
Have you ever been lost while not actually being lost? Traversing the same place on numerous occasions from different directions each time? A bit like a Benny Hill sketch in fact. All that was missing was the music. Had t.v. been filming us it would have made an incredibly hilarious reality show like the Great Race (against thyme?) or sit com. Or maybe a bit like the Seinfeld episode where they can’t find their parked car. It could have been that one Ecuadorian after the other thought that they would send these crazy gringos back and forward just to get a laugh. But no, surely not (and don’t call me Shirley). Suffice to say that after about 2 hours of traversing the mercado, we stumbled across the dried version of the herb, bought the fish which had now expanded to shrimp also, successfully haggled the price, and left for home. By now of course it was around 4 o’clock, a time when all good Americans across the world are sitting down to dinner. At one stage, my Ecuadorian friend said “I bet that they think that I am your empleada.” Not hardly since our Canadian friend and I were the ones laden with the shopping!! I have to relate that while my Ecuadorian friend was asking directions for oh, maybe the 15th time, a little girl approached my Canadian friend and myself. She was obviously trying to sell us some peas or corn or something similar. My friend’s Spanish is pretty decent but she was lost for words. Trying to tell the little girl that she was allergic to what it was that she was trying to sell us it became, in English, “If we eat that it we’ll die,” and walked on. I do so hope that this little indigenous girl spoke no English and won’t be traumatised for the rest of her life. However, the inflection of my friend’s explanation may have been enough.
Arriving home, we left the poor driver with a pool of water (from the fish) on the floor of his cab. The look of utter despair was evident as his head was in his hands, while the pungent aroma stole up from the floor of the front passenger seat. We did feel quite badly about it, but at least the “carpet” was a rubber mat and not the wool variety that would not have taken kindly to the leakage and necessitated in a total detailing. We now proceeded to get dinner ready in earnest, (although if Ernest had been there the kitchen would have been a bit crowded). Well of course the mandatory couple of glasses of wine were consumed, and we did begin (or did we begin again?). Dinner turned out to be great, stuffed fish with apples and carrots, sweet potato biscuits, beet, cabbage, and who knows what else salad, more wine and we sat down to eat maybe around 7 or 8.
We then discovered that we were down to our last 2 boxes of wine, and panic ensued. “What time does SuperMaxi close?” Another 30 minutes passed by when we thought, “Did we go already?” and if so where was the wine? We discovered that we had not actually been, but now the situation was really serious. We piled in a cab, shopped (at which time I think the staff of the store were bemused by our child like antics) and returned home and obviously figured out that we didn’t need the extra wine of course. But at this stage who knew what was needed or not. Another friend told me afterward (yes I have more than 2 friends) that we could have joined them for traditional dinner but when I told her that we probably ate around 8 (or maybe it was 9), I was told “Well we had all gone home by around then.”
Oh well, this was by far the most entertaining, amusing and nontraditional Thanksgiving dinner that I have ever spent. My American friends may not have thought the same had they joined us on our jaunts. Oh well that’s what keeps us sane I guess. (Or perhaps keeps us insane could be more on point).

The Downward Spiral

27 Nov

Yet again time has passed and I have been remiss in posting. Having had a staph infection in my knee many years ago, a consequence of having surgery in the States, standing for many long hours at work necessitated a visit to an orthopedic surgeon. After x-rays showed that there is no osteoarthritis in the joint the doctor advised me not to stand for long periods of time as my knee was swelling up and generally uncomfortable lately. So it’s a sad goodbye to the Bar and my many friends that I had worked with. I will be taking up teaching English as a second language so I am still going to have to do some work soon, but having the next month off I must admit is a welcome respite. Sadly though my workmates are Ecuadorian so that means losing contact with the very people with whom I wished to encounter in my move here.

Which brings me I suppose to a sort of inner wondering. Adding another “Gringo Night” to a calendar already set with one, surely means that those of us Gringos (and I admit that of course I am a Gringo, like the description or not) are only further alienating ourselves from the very people that we wish to integrate with. I understand the need to be with like minded people, where struggling to be understood isn’t a difficult enterprise. However, I do feel that it’s like saying “Gringos need to be together socially and although Ecuadorians are welcome, they are not necessarily encouraged.” It seems a bit exclusionary, and however we wish to label it, should we (as Gringos) send out messages that although we are in your country, we prefer to have more nights that we can attend where we can be together with other ex-pats? I don’t remember for instance, in all of my time in Houston, and there were many foreign nationals living in the city, having a “Foreign Nationals” night. Or even an “English ex-pats nights, Americans welcome but not necessarily encouraged.”

Soap box put away. Well not quite. There are many blogs out there and just as many reasons for writing one. I feel that writing my blog offers a way for me to get out a little bit of “creativity” which I think exists within me (the writing part) although some may disagree as to how creative I am. For whatever reason people choose to blog, be it to let family and friends know how they are doing, posting information about Ecuador and Cuenca in particular (as you know my blog isn’t set up that way, there are many people who do a better job of “selling” Cuenca than I possibly could) or merely showing people their new home, we should surely be able to blog without criticism as to the content. My personal posts usually poke fun at myself because I do seem to be a walking catastrophe, or one in waiting. Just looking at the band aids (not the live Bob Geldorf gig of course) on my fingers are a testament to how many cuts and burns I managed to get in any one day at work. This is a person who traveled over 3K miles to visit a friend in Koh Samui, only to fall off a motor scooter (which I really had no right trying to manage) and break or crack 3-4 ribs and injure my shoulder. Of course the trip was curtailed much earlier than I wanted, but as I said, I am only one catastrophe away from another one. So I suppose if there are people who wish to post about what they ate for dinner, what their dog(s) is or isn’t doing, or even just photos with captions, surely it’s their prerogative?

Soap box definitely away for this week at least.

Hopefully everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, I guess my next post will be about the exploits of a very, very different Thanksgiving Day for me and two wonderful friends. Bet you can’t wait.

Luego, and as usual, thanks for reading.

Brutal Youth

18 Nov

Wow, another 2 weeks or thereabouts has come and gone as another year is quickly disappearing. Where IS the time going? I have been remiss in updating the blog, and I hate to sound repetitive but work has kept me incredibly busy what with Halloween and the Independence Day celebrations. I might have to read my blog to find out what I have been up to and what I have posted already. Time flies it seems the older you get. I know that in effect it cannot really do that, but what other explanation can there be?

Quito was the destination of choice for my Cedula, but I could have quite just as easily have gone to Guayaquil, but having been there a couple of times and not really getting a “feel” for the place, I chose Quito. And boy am I glad that I did. My work schedule changed and it gave us 5 days in Quito instead of 4 which meant a flying start (literally) and lots more opportunities to shop. Well for my friend to shop, my last expedition in shopping was exchanging gift certificates for clothes in Academy or the Sports Authority in Houston.

We had booked a nice colonial hotel in the Old Town, which turned out to fit the bill nicely. Conveniently located as it was close to the Presidential Palace and a church on every corner it seemed. I won’t go into the boring tourist guide stuff, but I will only add that we spent Saturday in Otovalo. Let me begin by saying that it is mostly frequented by Gringos and if you think that you are getting a “deal” think again. The prices are inflated to take into account that the Gringos will barter down to a price that they feel is “acceptable.” It’s much less than in the States (if you could get them imported directly from China or India I think) and therefore one still ends up paying above what the “normal price would be.” If you wish to get something “indigenous” for a “bargain” then by all means go. If not, save yourself the trouble. Still it was a fun trip (as my trips with my friend usually end up being ~ we seem destined to discover so many other things along the way). Oh, I have to add that my best friend got a standing ovation as we left the market square.

Quito was excellent in my very humble opinion with a real buzz to the city. Transportation is easy, the taxi’s have meters, and there is a great “trolley bus” (as we called them when I was a kid) system working very efficiently. I won’t go into the minor trials and tribulations that I experienced with my Cedula, I will add however that I spent my birthday being sung “feliz cumpleanos” to in the immigration office by the very sweet lady who was processing my photos and fingerprints.

We also found this really good restaurant, (so good that I wanted to spend my birthday dinner there) about 6 floors up on a roof top terrace. The view of the city was/is spectacular. Every corner it seemed was filled with floodlit churches, they had outdoor heaters which were very good and effective. So much so that although I had to make a concession to wear long pants (do Levi’s count?) I was wearing only a light sweater, and this was fairly late at night.

The teleferico was visited on our last day and another spectacular vista beckoned us. I would visit Quito again, as we only glimpsed one of many parks and there were also other areas to which we were unable to visit owing to time restraints. Shopping again? Nah not so much. Quiet church squares, coffee and humitas were more my style.

Afterward of course the piper had to be paid, with the work piling up and the city celebrations beckoning it was back to the grindstone. A planned trip to the zip line place here is on the not too distant horizon now that work schedule is slackening a bit. I also am going to cut back the hours as my knee (long story) is finding that standing for hours upon end results in pain returning that I haven’t experienced at this altitude. The lower pressure helps many of us oldsters with our aches and pains but of course I am not 20 any more. Nor have been for many years unfortunately.

I have my I-pod at work which has to provide us with the beat to bang out in excess of 90 meals a day at times. One of the Ecuadorian girls I work with (a very sweet and talented ~ in my opinion ~ young chef) asked me about my musical tastes (all over the spectrum) and what or who was my most favourite band/artist. Lots depend upon my mood I guess but it came down to a flat out “If I had to choose” scenario and the Beatles won hands down. Have you ever tried to explain the impact of something in your life when things turned completely on their head? As music did for us in around 1963. At that time we had only things like American music (nowt wrong with that) or cover versions of American music (a lot wrong with that most of the time). Then along came this band of mop haired kids singing songs that although they lasted maybe 3 minutes maximum (radios didn’t play long songs until McCarthur Park if my memory serves me) duration, have still stood the test of time. Not releasing anything since 1970 (if memory serves me) and the last live performance being around 1966 ~ not counting the “rooftop” performance, the band and their songs have more than competed with anything turned out today, and I am a big fan of a lot of music released since then. I am not stuck in a time warp whatever people might say about me. So I put all of the songs that I have of theirs into my I-pod and we listened to about 5 hours worth of songs during the day. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

I guess that you had to have been there, but my young friend had heard songs covered by other musicians and didn’t realise that they were originally done by John, Paul, George and Ringo. Oh well, when someone 25 years old can’t relate to albums (not c.d.’s) ~ vinyl long players ~ it may be time to put yourself out to pasture. Luckily she speaks great English as my Spanish is pretty well non existent, but even then trying to convey the impact of music and fashion combined on one’s life leaves one grasping to convey even in ones own language, how the effect changed one’s life.

Another blog showed some local business (run by ex-pats) in some far off newspapers. This part left me somewhat unhappy. “Many people find Cuenca a nice calm place to spend their oldness.” Lost in translation I wonder?

Until later then, and hopefully not as long between posts. Thanks for reading.