A quiet, sunny and warm Saturday afternoon. Quite a contrast to last Saturday, the third day of the four day celebration of the 197th anniversary of the freeing of Cuenca from the rule of Spain.
Exhibit tents spread out more than a quarter of a mile up and down the river and in several other locations around town. In my area, the exhibitors were certified craft people from all over South America, and this year Japan and Indonesia were added to the mix.
Musical performances drew as many as 20,000; art exhibits were everywhere; auto traffic in El Centro, always bad, was much worse; for a welcome change, restaurants were full; there were at least 200 events and if you had an interest in something it was probably covered; lots of stuff by and for young people; in other words, a big deal and the biggest celebration ever. There were an estimated 120,000 out-of-town visitors, 30,000 more than last year, plus 200,000 locals, and the hotels were 100% booked. Good for Cuenca, which has been having a hard time economically.
It was enhanced for me by the visit of my friend Gus with his friend Jean who came down from Oakland, she seeing Cuenca for the first time. Good food, good talk, the obligatory trips west to the Cajas and east to Gualaceo and Chordeleg as well as a Day of the Dead visit to the cemetery filled out a good and relatively unstressful week.
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For those of you who are interested, my eye surgery did not happen in October because the retina was not quite healed enough to risk the surgery. It has not been easy dealing with the situation but with luck my appointment in mid-December will result in surgery. It would be a wonderful Christmas present to have both eyes working.
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Now it is Sunday and another very pleasant day. Out to dinner last night at Fondue Garden, a relatively new second floor restaurant across the Tomebamba River. I like to eat on the front of the balcony with the river flowing by and Miguel seated me at a table for six.
After a bit, a group of four came to the door looking for a table. I caught their eye, motioned them over and they accepted the invitation and sat down. They were three young women in their 20s from Quebec and an older but still young man from Switzerland. They had been on the same tour in northern Ecuador and ended up traveling together. After a drunken and late evening on the northern coast the day before they had been on buses all day, sleeping most of the time, arriving in Cuenca earlier in the day.
One of the women had just graduated from college and was returning home to begin a new job. The man had been born in Switzerland but his background is Turkish (he looked middle eastern) and he subscribes to Alevism, an offshoot of Islam based in Turkey. We got into a great discussion about destiny of the human being, with him saying that perhaps it was destiny that landed him at this table in Cuenca, pointing out many of the little events over the past few days that had landed him here and not somewhere else. We got no deeper, the group being a talkative bunch who were enjoying their experience. The fondue was great, he said, and fondue being a Swiss specialty, he should know.
So ended my evening, me leaving with a clinking of glasses, smiles, and thank yous all around. They, to finish out the evening with dessert and then to get some rest.