Thursday, September 15, 2011

cuenca puppets!

cuenca puppets! a video by pequenasventanas on Flickr.

if this doesn't put a smile one your face...i don't know what to say!

Monday, September 12, 2011


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cuenca, a set on Flickr.

thanks for cuenca teddy, matt y dianne!

Still amazed by the incredible gesture of generosity of a family we met over breakfast and a conversation of schooling kids while on the road, we floated into Cuenca after sunset. Arriving at the apartment of Matt and Dianne where we will stay for a night or 2 with their nephew Teddy. Teddy is awesome, and obviously an extension of his family....generous, warm and welcoming. Turns out, he is taking a semester off to live abroad from University of Montana, where my brother Tyler just started his masters program.....small world! Recognizing that we are hungry and stagnant from the 8 hour bus ride, we all walk into the old town for some dinner.
  I like Cuenca already, the blend of the old colonial buildings and the new, the rios that run through town, the yellow street lamps and even the nutty traffic circles. Dinner is easy in a great little spot with music that feels like home, cheap drinks and tasty food. We stay late, talking, sharing and laughing. I can see how this family chose Cuenca as a place to live for a while, it's foreign enough, gentrified and welcoming.
Their apartment is across the street from the futball stadium...and as luck would have us, there's a big game tomorrow, Cuenca vs. Quito!

 Not only do we get to sleep in a comfortable bed, have a hot shower....but there is a kitchen and we get to cook! Gratefully we start the morning out with eggs and dreams of homemade pizza for later. But first the game!! Unfortunately we forgot the you'll just have to imagine a lively game of futball in Ecuador, their national sport. And it truly was a great game...Cuenca won 2-1 against Quito, the best team and with a long standing rivalry. So imagine anthem songs sung by young and old, curse words in spanish, mani(peanuts) and cervesa!  
The next day everyone was felt like staying in, Xylia sounds like she is coming down with something, and it was just rainy enough to feel right...except for me, I was itching to explore the city and practicar mi espanol. I wandered around Parque Calderon and throughout the tight colonial cobbled streets. Coming off the startling news of the recent death of a former student, I purchased a candle and entered the big cathedral. The cathedral was filled with the soothing sound of a woman reciting prayers and sermon. Walking around the perimeter I find myself standing in front of a dark statue of a woman. Her altar is low lit and she's wearing a black robe and headdress. Looking for a place to light my candle for Georgette I continue around the cathedral. Closer to the main altar is another statue of a woman, this one has a child with her, a book in hand and is dressed in a green robe with a crown, the stained glass around her is designed with red roses, doves and books. Toward the back of the cathedral was one more statue of a woman, this time she was completely carved out of white marble and left unpainted, a shock of white in comparison with the other statues. It occurs to me that I have found the triple Goddess in the cathedral in Cuenca....Maiden, Mother and Crone.
I light Georgette's candle at the Mother's altar, and leave offerings at all three before I head out again. I left the cathedral to find a flower market and small shops with religious items, I ducked into what I thought was a small shop to reorganize my pockets when I realize this is no shop. People are gathered to light candles and say prayers at what looks like an old, old painting. The light is behind me and casting an awful glare so I can't really tell, but as I look more closely around me, I wander deeper into the room. There is a line of people waiting at a wood farmed window in the wall. In the window is a wooden "lazy susan" turnstile thing that spins around. Next to the window is a sign that says "Se Vende" (we sell) and a list of kind of odd, a cream for sore muscles, water, sweets and other things my spanish won't allow. I'm in line of course, and I watch as a woman in front of me leans in as far as she can to whisper her order to someone on the other side. She puts her money on the turnstile and spins it in. A few minutes later it turns again with a small bag where her money once was. The man in front of me does the same and eventually lifts out a large crate with bottles of wine and other stuff. I chickened out and didn't order... I wasn't sure what was what, or if I was even allowed to. I kinda regret that one though.....Well, next time I'm in Cuenca.
Probably the best part of this day though was what I found on my way to meet, Michael, Teddy and Xylia for dinner. Standing outside the cathedral was a street performer who had to skeleton puppets that were playing music... this guy was brilliant! I sat through a few songs with the biggest smile on my face, and I could have stayed all night. Here is a picture, but really you'll have to see for I'll work on loading the video. 

Reluctantly I left and met everyone at our favorite restaurant for our last night in sad! But we had another great night, playing cards, eating, drinking and laughing.
Teddy has been an amazing host, and has now become a great friend! And Matt and Diane...we hope to actually spend some quality time time with you and your family one day. Your generosity has opened me in a new way...if ever we can return the favor, we will! Teddy we hope to see you in Portland on the other side....if not sooner! 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

new friends in PL


new friends in PL, a set on Flickr.

In the week plus since we've left Pijal, I realize I haven't written much at all.We had a misadventure making our way to Peurto Lopez through Quevedo. We finally arrived in PL for about 4-5 days filled with humpback whales, boobie birds of every variety and making good friends. We first met Richard, a Dutch man who is for the second time in 6 years touring the world! We met Kevin and Diane, who own the Cafe Ballena (Whale Cafe), expats for over 30 years, and Bernie who owns a meditation center in Vilacabamba. We met a great young Argentine couple at the end of their tour of the continent. they shared their mate with us and invited us to stay with them when we make our way down there. They were with a bright eyed young Portuguese couple traveling during their school break. We spent most of our time with Kevin and Diane eating lots of their good food, and swapping stories. On our last day Kevin took us and his two nephews, Paulo and Rafael for a hike and explore the fog forest of Ayampe a few km south of PL. After we took our first over-nighter bus back to Quito and landed back at the Maple early enough to curl up on their couches waiting for our room to be available. The Maple has turned out to be a great spot to meet other interesting travelers from all over the world. This is where we met Jo on her way home to Scotland and Anja who turned out to be a great friend. This morning we met an American family with 2 small children that have been living in Cuenca for the past 10 months. They were on their way to Mindo then Puerto Lopez. Over breakfast they invited us to stay in their apartment in Cuenca with their nephew for the few nights we would be there.

Its this kind of generosity that seems to grow here. Honestly, it's at a striking contrast to our American culture I have found. I understand that there is a certain level of vunribility we are all in being forieners and therefore reaching out, looking out, and starting a conversation with a complete stranger is so common and easy here. I mean at home though, how often do you make new friends? Or when you do, how often do they drive you around to all their favorite places or invite you to stay in their home and sleep in their bed? No, this is a new kind of generosity I haven't before seen.