August 9, 2013

Cuenca, Ecuador: One Year Later

Paseo de los Niños on Christmas Eve (2012)
Cuenca, Ecuador

Well, it's been over a year.

In May, our landlady came by with the new lease on our apartment. We signed up for another year and will most likely sign next year, too. Even though there are a couple of things we would change if we could, we basically like our apartment, love our landlady, have wonderful neighbors, and the location cannot be beat.

It is astonishing how fast the year has passed. Getting settled in a new country is one busy whirlwind, full of visa issues, learning a new language (still working on that  and may be working on it for the rest of my life), making new friends, figuring out the food and other products, and generally learning how to live in a different country than the one you lived in for over fifty years.


Since receiving our cedulas (national identity card), life has simmered down to a routine that doesn't revolve around bureaucratic paperwork. We traveled to Quito, seen some more of Cuenca, hung out with various friends, signed up with CouchSurfers and hosted a few young travelers, and played host to four sets of houseguests: my BFF and her husband, friend Elizabeth with her son Austin and his girlfriend Aleina (who now rent our SF apartment), my friend Pamela (from D.C.), and our friend Philly, who we hadn't seen in around thirty years (big surprise  Philly lives in Bolivia now, just around the continental corner).

When we were in Quito, we discovered an amazing place to stay -- Community Hostel. Run by four Willamette University graduates (one of whom is Ecuadorian and encouraged the others to start a business in Ecuador), the hostel represents the best of Ecuador mixed with a degree of American ingenuity. We heartily recommend them as a place to stay when touring Ecuador. And by the time you get here, they may have the microbrewery up and running. (They did go to school in Oregon, after all...)

Attractions, Festivals, etc.

The hummingbird statues 
at Otorongo Plaza
In our spring (U.S. fall), the city hosted a collection of giant hummingbird statues. They were amazing and fortunately were a part of Cuenca life for a month at an outdoor venue before returning to their home in Quito.

Ecuador has many national and regional festivals. Sure keeps everything lively and colorful. One of the biggest is 3 de Noviembre (Cuenca's independence day). The entire town is a giant party  really good fun. We had a couple of CouchSurfers in town for that celebration (Eva and Ailina). It was great having all that young energy in the house. After Eva finished her internship at an orphanage in Quito, she returned for a couple of nights on her way to do the Grand Tour of South America. In between times, she sent her friend Mikki to us  another European doing the Grand Tour.

Many of the festivals are religious in nature and often revolve around the children. Christmas Eve is a several hour Paseo de los Niños (Parade of the Children). There are floats, and the children are in various types of religious and ethnic costumes. It is a fabulous way to spend Christmas Eve.