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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Observations - 3rd Edition

It's a never-ending, process of human nature ...that of observing the differences between places you've lived and/or visited and wherever you are right now.   The habits, the personalities, the structures, the processes, the topography, the attitude, the law, the clothes, the food, the weather....the list goes on and on.

So, here's s'more of the things I've taken mental note of:
  • Though drywall can be obtained here, it's rarely incoporated in construction.  But, just the other day I saw a truckload of it being delivered to a new construction site.  'Bout broke my neck.
  • Police don't have souped up cars here.  In fact, they drive the same thing we drive.  Typically, they are four-wheel drive pickups or Chevy Grand Vitaras like I have.    They are practically on-par with the public when it comes to the power under their hoods.   Even their motorcycles are rarely any larger than what everyone else has. 
  • Speaking of Police, I have yet to see ONE chase scene in the 9 months I've lived here.  Darn nearly daily back in Seattle!!
  • Windows are single-paned with aluminum framing.   For some reason, the sealed double-paned standard we're used to back home hasn't taken on here.   Sure would be nice to deaden the noise!
  • There seems to be no requirement for licensing, or vaccinating, pets here (or if there are, they are not enforced).   It's rare for a person to spay or neuter their pet (sorry Bob Barker) for two reasons....cost and most people like leaving things to nature.  No collars, no identity/address tags, and leashes???  HA!!
  • Once you're outside the city, there's little to no names on roads, whether paved or not.  Makes you wonder how emergency vehicles would find them?
  • Many, many, many homes are dual purpose.   They have a tienda (store) in the front/first level.  It seems every 5th house has a tienda.  They may simply sell candies, basics like milk and eggs, or maybe a mini-ferreteria (hardware) outlet for light bulbs, nuts and bolts, plastic piping, and general electrical stuff.   Many have a re-bar cage-like front so the public can't enter.  This way, the occupants can continue doing their house chores but when a customer walks up and announces 'HOLA!!' they come to the front and serve their customer.  Money is handed thru the bars and the goods passed back the same way.  It's a method of working from home!  No commute!
  • If you find a Petro Commercial gas station, it is owned by the government, and you'll find the Super gas at least .10 cents cheaper than the privately-owned competitor.
  • Umbrellas are dual-purpose here.    The obvious, is for rain.  But, just as many people use them to shield their heads from the intense sun on a clear day.
  • 9.999 cars out of 10 have a cover over their steering wheel.
    • Ditto with carpets covering their dashes
  • 7.875 cars out of 10 have at least one light out...usually a tailight.
  • There's no such thing as license tabs here.  If you're pulled over, you have to show your Matricula (registration) which shows if you are paid up or not.  
  • City taxi's MUST be yellow and carry orange license plates, otherwise they are not a legitimate taxi.
  • Instead of a 'Merge' sign at the on-ramps to the Auto Pista (freeway), we have 'Pare' (Stop) signs.  What?    Start from a dead stop to enter a freeway?    No one pays attention to them....they drive right through them, accelerating to match the speeds of the others already on the Auto Pista....as it should be!!!
  • Stopllights can be a mystery.   Sometimes they're overhead, other times to the side of you, or across the street on the corner, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.   I'm used to pulling all the way up, but oftentime find myself under the light or the light is now behind me, leaving me with nothing to look at to know when it switches.   So, I just watch the other direction to start moving or wait for the inevitable horn behind me.   There is also the mixed-message light.   Solid green, switches to green with yellow flashing, switches to leaving only green, then suddenly red.
  • I'd guestimate more than 50% of the homes in Cuenca (higher if rural) do not have a dryer.  They hang their clothes out to dry.  For those who don't have drying lines, they drape them over bushes, plants, whatever will expose them to the sun.   Countless times I've seen many still out during a thunderstorm.  I don't know if they WERE drying, or maybe they were left out to be in natural 'wash cycle'.  Whatever, the next day the sun will come out and they will dry...that is...unless it needs a second rinse which means just wait til the afternoon.
  • On sunny days, you will likely see people washing their clothes and/or blankets and such in the rivers.  The large smooth rocks make it excellent for scrubbing.  Then, they lay everything out flat on the lawns that line the rivers and take a nap while they dry. 
  • Vacuum cleaners are luxury items here.  They are EXPENSIVE!!!   I have never seen a vac with a beater bar/brush motorhead.   I've only seen suction-only models.  Of course, carpet is not widely used here, so maybe it's not such a big deal.   But, here a commonly known brand (from back home) asking price is usually over $700!!!   The 'cheap' ones are very small, compact, wimpy canisters for $200.
  • Don't DARE go near the major grocery stores or the Mall on a Sunday afternoon unless you feel most comfortable waiting in long lines for parking, as well as the checkout, and lots and lots of screaming kids.  Sunday is the day for families to go to the Mall and spend time hanging out and shopping.  The parking lots are full with backups spilling into the access streets.
  • General aviation is minute here.  Back home, it was common to see small airplanes and helicopters buzzing about every day.  Here, it's so rare, that you take notice when they do fly overhead as the oddity of their existence makes you look up.
  • Believe you/me, there is NO separation of Church and State here.  There are photos or paintings or statues of Mary, Jesus, and other religious personas everywhere.   Behind the Customer Service counter at the supermarket, in banks and government buildings, doctors offices, in oil paintings sold on the streets, in taxi's, in schools and universities, in public parks....EV....VRY.....WHERE.    Houses have small crosses on their roof and darn near one is hung on the wall of every room inside.  Crosses dangle from rearview mirrors.  If there's an undeveloped hill, look closely and there will probably be a cross at the top, or maybe a Saint or an Angel keeping a vigil over the city below.   Me, I cross my legs and arms a lot....maybe that counts.   A super-dooper ex-pat couple I know, found a great rental house and gave notice on their old place.  Some time later they were in a conversation with the landlady who asked them if they were Christian.  No, she considered themselves Budhists.  Confused, the landlady asked them if they had a Bible.  Again, No.    The landlady informed them she would no longer agree to rent to them.  OI VEY.
  • We don't have parking meters here.   You have to buy a slip of paper from a local merchant ($1 for 4-30 minute slots here in CUE).  When you park, you write the date and time in one of the empty slots of the paper and lay it on your dash.   Uniformed agents roam the streets examining the slips of paper.  If you don't have one, or it has expired, they take a photo of your car with a digital camera, then write a ticket on a 5 x 8 pad, peel off the backing, and slap it on your window so it sticks.  No blowing off in the wind here.  It's on there GOOD.  I know, I got one.  $10   Side note:  Quito's parking slips are ridiculous.   You have to buy one long slip for each block of time you are going to park.  Check out the photo below where I had to prepay for late afternoon thru early evening parking.  The agents can also have your car towed if you are parking where you shouldn't be.  I see them pass up all kinds of violators.  They may be avoiding confrontation, I dunno.    LOTS of people park in no-parking zones and simply flip on their flashers as if that gives them validation and go on about their business.  Meanwhile, they are impairing the movement of traffic by shutting down one lane.   People will even sit in cars with their flashers on (ie; outside a bank) instead of driving around the block until their other person is done with their task.  There's a lot of loopholes in this semi-honor system.
  • You don't need anything bigger than a $20 bill here in EC.   Buying $2,000 in furniture?  Get out 100 twenty dollar bills.  Anything bigger than a $20 is presumed to be bad and a high-risk...98.157% will not take it.   Even small stores have a tough time having enough change to break a $20.  Oftentimes, the clerk will run next door, then next door to the next door until he/she finds someone with change to bring back to you.
  • You can buy USED tires here.  Yes, you read right!  Scratch this one.  I was always under the impression (when I lived in the USA) selling used tires was illegal.   Ooopsie.  As Gilda Radner once said "Never Mind!!".
Dano


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Short Subjects

No, this entry isn't about the height of most Ecuadorians.  (RIM SHOT SMITTY!!).

Just some miscellaneous tidbits combined together in one post....kinda like a grab bag at a garage sale.

RADIATOR REPAIR

The top of my radiator cracked.   It's was made of plastic....thank you Chevrolet.  But, the good news was that it could be removed and replaced without having to get a whole new radiator.  My mechanic refered me to a radiator shop about the size of a dining room.   They work on cars in the parking strip on the street.   I took it in about 10:30am and he said it would be done by doce y media (12:30).  So, I walked home and killed time until 1pm then took a taxi back.  He was just starting on it.   Apparently, I misunderstood him as he said 'dos y media' which is 2:30.    Not wanting to go back home again, I stood around, went and bought an ice cream, stood around some more, then finally sat in the car and got a bit of shuteye. 

I thought they were going to install a new part, but they had a used metal one that would fit.  They did some cutting and soldering and grinding and crimping, etc etc and even had to cut a hole in the top to solder on a throat piece which the radiator caps twists onto!!  STRANGE    He sent me on an errand to buy a new radiator cap about 5 blocks away.  Around 3:30, the car was done.   Price?  $45.

THE 'G' CURSE

Sometimes I wonder how things that seem so apparent, so on the ridiculous side, end up bypassing the part of every humans' capacity to apply the 'common sense test', then decide to keep it, throw it out, or challenge it.  It's inevitable anyone who's moved here from another country ends up observing how things are done differently here vs there...it's just human nature.   There are lots of things that have had ex-pats wondering 'HUH?', most of the time resulting in an 'oh well' shrug.  But, there are times it's just too whacky, you just gotta say something.  Case in point:

The first letter on a vehicles' license plate indicates the province the car was licensed in when initially purchased the FIRST time.  It doesn't change during the life of the car, even if the car moves to another province.    I live in Cuenca, which is in the Azuay province.  If I bought a new car here, the plates would start with 'A' even though I might choose to live in Quito which is in the Pichincha province.  Get it?

Guayas is the province where Ecuadors' largest city, Guayaquil, resides.  Try selling a car with plates starting with 'G'.  You'd think the car had cooties.  First question out of peoples' mouths....'What's the first letter?'.   If it starts with a 'G', forget it....it's a bad car.  They don't want to touch it.    WHAT??!!!   It's not bad because it was manufactured there (it's not) and the plant is known for bad workmanship...noooooo....it's bad because Guayaquil is bad (no mention of all the other towns in Guayas province).  Everyone drives badly there.  It's humid there.  They don't take care of their cars there.  Or, so the naysayers say when they see 'G' plates.

WHAT!!!???    I could buy a car brand spanking new and be assigned 'G' plates and move the next day to Timbuktu, never spending more than 1 day in the 'G' province, and my car is doomed for all time?  You mean ALLLLLLL the over-million people in the 'G' province are bad drivers?  And, NONE of them take care of their cars?

UMMM....didja ever think maybe you could EXAMINE the car and look at all the indicators as to whether it was taken care of or not?  Upholstery clean, no rips, dents/scratches, tires worn properly, no rust, functional stuff still works, examine maintenance records/receipts???????     Nope.   Brain does not compute that logic.   Press Control/Alt/Delete.

I was talking to a person in his mid-20's and he said he can remember this 'rule of thumb' existing back when he was a kid.  Aye Caramba!!!

Luckily, I sold my 2009 Peugeot to an American couple who moved here from NW Washington State and engaged their brain and saw past the 'G' curse.

GROCERY SHOPPING AT THE MERCADOS

Mercados are the big open-air markets where farmers and indigenous folk sell their fruits, vegetables, meats, animals, seafood, etc etc and vendors have booths selling just about everything else from spices, to eggs, to shoes, to sunglasses, to DVD's.   Those who can't afford the supermarket chains, generally do all their buying at the mercados as it is far cheaper.

Examples of one of my recent sprees:
  • 10 lbs potatoes $5
  • 16 bananas $1
  • 11 lbs chicken $13
  • 1 lb shucked peas $1
  • 1 mango (free…negotiated with potatoe price)
  • 1 lb grapes $1
  • 3 huge avocados $1
  • 5 rose plants $10
  • sunglasses $3
  • DVD $1.50
  • 2 lbs of large strawberries $2
  • 5 apples $1
  • 20 juice oranges $1
....they were fresh out of partridges in a pear tree.  (RIM SHOT SMITTY!!)

Total $40

Back home in the US of A, just the 5 rose plants would've cost me $40.

SELLING A CAR IN ECUADOR

Let's go back to the car subject for a smidge...which also correlates to the common sense reference I made earlier.

When people sell their car themselves, they stick a sign in the window of their car saying 'Se Vende' (For Sale) and their phone number(s).   What's wrong with this picture?  Or, more appropriately, what is MISSING from this picture?  How about:
  • Price?
  • Year?
  • # of miles/kms?
  • Transmission type?
  • Features?
Nooooo.   I have seen hundreds and hundreds of cars for sale, all marketed the exact same way.   I've asked many people why they don't provide more information?   Their response:   'people can call me and ask me'.

WHY would I want to waste my time calling a bunch of people, often playing phone tag, to ask questions that, many times, will result in a 'no thanks' from me?  For example, I may want a car with less than 100,000 kms on it, but theirs has 200,000 kms.   Or my budget is less than $10K but they're asking $15K.  Or, I want an Automatic, but theirs is a Manual transmission.  Wasted my time.  Wasted their time.  Wasted cell phone minutes.

Out of millions of people in Ecuador, no one has thought outside the box enough to think they might sell their car faster and not be bugged with useless calls if they provided more information upfront?  REALLY??

Dano

PS.    It seems I've irked someone with this post.  If you're interested in 'why', see the Comments section.    As always, please feel free to post a comment following any of my posts.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Loja, Malacatos, Vilcabamba

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, I travelled to Loja/Malacatos to get my Chevy Grand Vitara registered and title (Matricula) in my name.

Loja (Loh-hah), population approx 285,000, is about 200 kms (120 miles) from Cuenca.  Though we might typically calculate that to be a 2-hour drive, it's more like 3+ because of all the twist and turns and ups and downs of the highway that takes you there.  Loja holds a rich tradition in the arts, and for this reason is known as the Music and Cultural Capital of Ecuador. The city is home to two major universities.  It is situated 2100 meters (6890 ft) above sea level, about 1,500 feet lower than Cuenca. It has a mild Andean climate.  At nearly 500 years, it is one of the oldest cities in Ecuador.

Malacatos (Mah-lah-cah-tohs) is a small town of only a few thousand located about 40 kms (25 miles) outside of Loja and before Vilcabamba.  Like almost every town in EC, it has the traditonal central square anchored by a lovely cathedral.  My friend Roberto, relocated here from Lima, Peru and built a cottage high above Malacatos with a commanding 180+ degree view.  I stayed with him the few days I was in the area.   He has a sweet new 2-month old Weimaraner puppy named Kleina and several guinea pigs.  At this point, the road leading up to his place and several other homes, is very rough, full of potholes, muddy, and you must drive thru 2 streams.  No sense washing your car...EVER.  Every time we drove up/down that road, I felt as if the GV was going to disintegrate into a pile of broken pieces.  As yet, there is no electricity to the area, so his house runs off a generator.   No gas for the generator, no electricity.  Roberto doesn't own a car.  He relies on pickup-truck taxi's.  Malacatos is surrounded by fields of palm, papaya, banana trees, and sugar cane.

Vilcabamba is a favorite relocation area for Ex-Pats because of it's warm, comfortable climate (about 5,000 ft), topographical beauty, and healthy living.  It, too, is a very quiet small town of only a few thousand, located 9 kms outside Malacatos.  There is nothing special about the typical village other than a few shops and restaurants obviously created and run by foreigners (obvious because of their trendy looks).  There is no major grocery store or real amenities here, just small tiendas.  For anything substantial such as theater, large markets, clothing stores, shopping, medical facilities, and/or large hardware stores one would probably rely on Loja which is a 45 minute drive away.  The valley is overlooked by a mountain called Mandango, the Sleeping Inca, whose presence is said to protect the area from earthquakes and other natural disasters.  It is often called the 'Valley of Longevity' because there are so many people who have lived to be over 100 years old there.  Organic is very big here.   Some people say Vilcabamba is very hippy-ish.

We went to one of a handful of nice resorts in the area, Izhcayluma, owned by a couple of German guys who relocated to the area over a decade ago and built this phenomenally beautiful sanctuary on a hill looking back, and down, to the village of Vilcabamba.  The setting is stunning with rock walkways that wind through beautiful flowers, shrubs, trees, and lawns....through the pool area, outdoor bar, and life-size chess game patio, and various cottages for the guests.    It also has an outdoor dining area with mesmerizing views of the hills and town below.  They have a couple of large lab dogs who hang out and greet visitors.

The next day, we came back to Vilcabamba to have lunch at Jardin Escondido, another wonderful escape with guest rooms, outdoor courtyard dining amongst orange trees, great food (cheap!) and the customary white and orange kitties that come up to greet you and beg for a petting.

After that, it was time for Gracie and I to head home....with Matricula in hand!!!!

Dano


In Loja...don't know what it is, but you can drive through it!

Loja


A church in one of Loja's squares.

The cathedral that anchors Malacatos central square.

The view from Robertos' hammock...down to the town of Malacatos (see the cathedral?)

A roadside stand selling sugar cane drinks.

The church that anchors Vilcabambas' central square.

Mandango


Entrance to Izhcayluma resort.

Pathway leading down to the outdoor restaurant.

View of the town of Vilcabamba from the dining area of Izhcayluma.

Izhcaylumas' restaurant.


Outdoor bar, game area, hammocks.

A game of Chess, anyone?

Beautiful pool of Izhcayluma, surrounded by lush gardens and waterfalls.

Jardin Escondido in Vilcabamba, where we had lunch.

Their bathrooms.

Roberto and Kleina at Jardin Escondido.   I love how Kleina is just dangling without a care.

One of the dogs of Izhcayluma saying 'hi' to Roberto and Kleina.

On the drive home, a small town deeeeep in a valley.  Up and to the right of the church is (in white) a cemetary clinging to the side of the steep hill.  Notice how the hill soars upward behind the town.

Part of the highway slid down a steeeeep ravine.


I walked onto the portion of the highway taped off (see prior photo) and took this shot looking straight down the slide.   The road below is at least 1,000 feet down.  SCARRRRRRY!!!!!


Process, Process, PROCESS!!!!!!

I needed to get the paperwork on my 'new' 2003 Chevy Grand Vitara 4 x4 legalized and the title changed over to my name.   Yeah, I decided to switch to a 4x4 so I can go places the Peugeot is not really designed for, haul construction junk, and toss my dog in the back.   Anyway, experiencing the nightmare, stress, and lonnnng process it took when registering my Peugeot in Guayaquil, I cringed at the thought of doing it again with the GV, but in Cuenca.   Now, you'd THINK the process would be the same regardless of what province you're in.   But, as  many people keep reminding me...don't THINK when in Ecuador.

I was also concerned about my limited Spanish capabilities when it comes to dealing with bureaucracy and non-English speaking processors.   But, a Peruvian friend of mine who lives near Loja (about 3 hours drive south of CUE) said he would be happy to shepherd me through the process as he knows where to go, has contacts, and speaks English.  YEA!!!   Off Gracie and I went on a 3-day jaunt out of town.

Roberto lives high in the hills above Malacatos, about 40 km outside of Loja, towards Vilcabamba...a well-known retirement area for Ex-Pats.   Vilcabamba, nestled in a beautiful valley surrounded by tall hills, is also known for the fact there are more people who live to be 100 or over there, than anywhere else in EC.  Both Malacatos (about 9 km from Vilcabamba) are small villages with no more than a couple thousand people, spread out over a broad area.   It was wonderful to sit outside above the town and hear no more than crickets chirping.  No car alarms, no dogs barking, no house alarms, no horns honking.

We drove into Loja the next day, arriving about 11am to start the 'ugh' process.
  • First, to the Notary (who, in EC, must be lawyers) to notarize a bunch of documents regarding the sale.
  • Then to a copy place to make copies for the Notary.  In EC, NO ONE uses their own machines to make copies for you....you have to go somewhere else and pay to get them.
  • Back to the Notary.  Ooops, a document is missing.  
  • Back to the copier to find the missing document...not there
  • Back to the Notary.  Ooops, he had it all along.  Pay $20 Notary fee.
  • Then, to the Police to get their blessing that all is in order.   They inspected the documents.  Ooops, there's a name in the Notary's statement block that shouldn't be there.  The Notary copied and pasted text and altered it, but forgot to delete one line.
  • Back to the Notary for correction.
  • Back to the Police to have the car inspected.  The line of cars wasn't too long.  We had to wait awhile for the engine to cool down because they apply scotch tape to lift off the imprinted numbers on the engine to validate all the numbers jive.   While waiting, the inspector started removing the tint film off my rear window.   I thought he was trying to get to a number on the glass, but he completely removed all the tint without saying a thing.   Roberto asked him why.  The inspector said it was illegal.   Funny, you'd think (oops, there I go again) he would inform us of that and either make us take it off, or at least disclose the fact he's going to do it BEFORE doing it.  The car passed inspection, which involves verifying all the lights work, wipers work, tire tread is ok, #'s match, and that I have a fire extinguisher, medical kit, and roadside reflectors stashed in the car (if not, there were plenty of lurkers willing to sell you one).
  • Now to the SRI (don't remember what it stands for) to register the car.  We're running out of time and traffic was jammed in downtown Loja.    Roberto leaps out and heads to the SRI while I slowly drive in circles around the central plaza.  8 circles later and 2 loops around another area (I got tired of the plaza), Roberto emerged.   He paid about $75, but not at the SRI.  You see, many agencies in EC don't handle $$.   You have to go to the bank and the bank accesses their system, takes the $$, gives you a receipt, then you go BACK to the original place (in this case the SRI) and show them you paid so they can finalize their process.
  • BACK to the Police to get the Matricula (equivilant of a Title) in my name.  The lady at the processing window inspects all the documents and informs us I cannot legalize the GV using a Passport alone.  I must have my Cedula, which is the national ID card everyone has, that I've been waiting for 8 months to get but Quito doesn't have their sh_t together.  We argue with her stating I already purchased the Peugeot AND a house using my passport for cripes sake, and WHY are we just now hearing this when everyone up to that point looked at my Passport and never uttered a word????  Wouldn't budge.   She suggested we wait about 5 minutes and we could talk to the boss about it.   We waited.  I never saw her summon anyone.
  • No one showed up.  We decided we would have to come back the next day and started to leave.  But, Roberto recognized the boss arriving back at the Police station in his car.....which looked  EXACTLY like mine.   He was with a lady.  I jokingly made a comment that he's probably just coming back from a tryst with his mistress at a local motel. 
  • Robert nabbed him as he exited his car and told him the story.  He confirmed that indeed the rules require a Cedula....apparently the rules changed recently.  But, he could authorize an override with his signature. 
  • With his signature on the documents we raced back inside to the same lady who 'helped' us before.   She informed us it was too late.  It was 5pm closing time!!!!    Roberto pleaded and pleaded with her claiming I had a flight to catch and we had been at this process for SIX hours and we wouldn't have been late if it hadn't be for the screwups that had happened....and it would only take her 5 minutes to finish it up.  This went on for awhile...no, No, NO.   But, she finally gave in and processed us, though it took more like 10-15 minutes and $46.50 in fees. 
  • I thought I would 'reward' her with a $20 bill.  Roberto slipped it inside a document.  When she was finished, he tried to hand it to her but she waved it off saying no, no, no.   We realized there were probably cameras on everyone.   My FIRST try at bribing/paying off someone failed!!  LOL  So, I scribbled on a large pad of paper 'Muchas Gracias' with a big heart complete with arrow going thru it and a smiley face and pressed it against the window as we turned to leave.  She and the other women giggled.
The car is legal now...I have my Matricula.  Even though I didn't do all the legwork, I was stressed and had not one ounce of patience left in me.  It wasn't until I chug-a-lugged a big glass of red wine at a resort in Vilcabamba where we went for dinner, that I began to calm down.  

Poor Roberto.....he was a saint, I was an ass.

Dano

The Car

The Saint

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cuenca Independence Day

The Spanish settlement, Cuenca (full name Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca), was founded on April 12, 1557 by the explorer Gil Ramírez Dávalos.   Andrés Hurtado de Mendoza, then Viceroy of Peru, had commissioned the founding and ordered the city named after his home town of Cuenca, Spain.  Cuenca achieved its independence from Spain on November 3, 1820.

Thus ends our history lesson for the day.

Every year, the last day of October (known in the USA as Halloween) All Souls Day...or....Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated.   This rolls right into what probably is the largest event of the year for Cuenca...Independence Day on November 3rd.   It ends up being a city-wide, week-long celebration that brings hordes of tourists from other parts of Ecuador into town to party-party-party.

In the few weeks leading up to the holidays I observed a lot of crews around the city picking up garbage, cleaning and turning on fountains, refreshing flowerbeds, and painting out graffiti.

Not being fluent in Spanish, I had a hard time determining WHAT was happening, WHERE, and WHEN.   But, it was pretty easy to stumble upon (and get stuck in) things just by venturing out.

There were concerts of every variety...even an accordion concert in one of the larger theaters!  I went with a friend of mine visiting from Quito to a couple of outdoor concerts.  One was in the parking lot at the Mall Del Rio near my house and scheduled to start at 6:30pm.   We left late and walked over there fearing it might be over.  Well, it didn't START until 8pm!!!  After we did al that waiting we were hammered with hard-rock, grungish music.  UGH!!!  The only thing Latin about it was the fact the words (I presume there were words) were screamed in Spanish.

We decided to bail and head for the main park in the central, Parque Calderon, where many festivities are held.   Here, there were a couple thousand people wandering about, enjoying treats and some fireworks.  But, again, we were slammed with gawd-awful crappy grunge music, screaming, and wailing.    Amazingly, there were people of all ages from the elderly all the way down to babies amongst the crowd.   Side note:  it's fascinating to see how many young couples have their kids and babies out late at night here.   Anyway, we partook (is that a word?) of a tradional hot beverage boiling in a sidewalk vendors' cauldron.  I don't know what it is made of except that there is alcohol (of the bottom-est shelf variety) and assorted spices.   It definitely had a bite to it and even an alcoholic would find themselves sipping it slowly due to its power.

Over the days, we visited several craft markets lining the streets where you could buy handmade sweaters, scarves, belts, purses, goodies, paintings, knick-knacks, etc etc mostly from the indigenous folks who made them. 

There were two carnivals in town (that I found) with typical rides, but not so typical food...that is, not to us Northerners.   I wandered through one of the carnivals and enjoyed a couple of treats such as grilled meat on a stick dribbled with mayonaise.  Don't know what the meat was, don't care.  It was good.  One ride in particular had the attention of a large crowd, including me.  It was a round gizmo with a bench seat going around the entire perimeter.  There were no seat belts or other protective devices.   You sat down, you hung on to whatever you could grab.  The 'thing' started spinning, then tilted up while spinning, and the passengers were hanging on (more like dangling on) for dear life.   Then the 'thing' would start bouncing and going back and forth at the same time, sorta like a washing machine agitator.  This was even funnier because while the passengers were flailing about, those who were, shall we say, endowed in the upper region of their chest (women and heavier men) were clearly showing a bounce-fest through their clothes. 

The other carnival was adjacent to the auto pista (freeway).  Ok, sounds normal.  But, the location was smack dab at a roundabout which caused a lot of traffic congestion and appeared to be located in a former gravel pit.  Cars were parked on the edges of the auto pista and people walked (scrambled) up the embankment to the carnival via rudimentary dirt trails.   I didn't go.

Calle Larga is the party street in downtown Cuenca.  It is lined with numerous restaurants and small clubs.  A group of us dropped in on one which was charging a $10 cover to get in.   UGH!!!   They had a cool live band playing old disco which was fun.  We had a drink and when the bill came, the $10 cover was added on for each person.

Throughout the city, over the course of the week, neighborhoods would have their own party.  They were called Noches de Cuencanos (night of Cuencanos).   They were much like a block party where large sections of their neighborhood would be closed off and vendor stands selling crap (oops, I meant crafts),  goodies, grilled meats, maybe even a roasted pig, bands would entertain, and general frolicking and visiting, then ending usually with fireworks.   There were about 3-5 neighborhoods designated in different areas of the city each night throughout the week.

Now the city is back to normal.  All the ghouls are back in their graves, and most of the tourists back in their hometowns.

And I....went for relaxing therapy at nearby Banos!!!

Dano

Here's a few photos I took.

Ghastly concert at Mall Del Rio

This lovely sidewalk vendor lady was making the concoction that warmed the cockles of your heart but burned a hole in your shoes.

Just hanging out.   This entertainer appears to have no mechanism to support himself, but underneath his clothes is an unseen steel structure connected to the pole he's hanging onto.

3 blocks of paintings to choose from.


Don't know what it is.   But, it's two crispy discs smeared with your choice of goop inbetween then sqwooshed together.  I chose a peanut-buttery substance.


Army band made the rounds of various locations and performed.  A couple of kidlets enjoyed dancing to their music.


Comidas Rapidas (fast food) at the carnival.

My favorite, and they were everywhere!   Strawberries or grapes dipped in milk chocolate, on a stick.

Indigenous women selling their handmade textiles.
One of 3 pools.

Gorgeous Trumpet flower tree/plant.  The blooms hang straight down and they're at least 12" long by 6" wide.


Restaurant and Lobby.

Me...cookingin a box.

About Me

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Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Cuenca and greater Ecuador. I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live here.

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