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Expat Life

Make an auspicious beginning: Reveal yourself!

By Robert Bradley

I have long held that serendipity and Cuenca are well-traveled companions. So, it was no surprise to me as I walked through Parque Calderon on Monday morning, to run into an acquaintance just as I was thinking about stopping for cafe con leche.

She was busy ridding herself of a guy anxious to continue his New Year’s Eve party from the evening before. When she saw me she rolled her eyes, indicating her pursuer, and insisted, “Well! It’s about time you showed up! I thought you were taking me out for coffee!” I was already scanning the bordering cafes.

It had all the makings of a very good day.

I cannot think of a better definition of, “auspicious beginning to the new year,” than a chance encounter that becomes a thoughtful and stimulating conversation lasting nearly four hours. As we chatted, we rewarded ourselves with coffee, ice cream, and watching people outdoors who were themselves being rewarded with the softest caresses of a light drizzle: the spirits of chinchilla, mink, and baby alpaca, their gauzy presence confused as mist, gently petting cheeks as they passed…

My new friend is a good storyteller. Her tales of tales written, and yet to be, are stories unto themselves and got us both to wonder on the many hidden treasures; the slow-spoken reminiscences and recollections, perhaps unknown at the time, that guided so many others to this place, to be right here, right now.

We agreed that the stories our neighbors cradle are as vast as Saskatchewan.

I would like to know these stories. I’d like to hear about how you became my neighbor, even if you are separated merely by thousands of miles. Mention your dreams. Share a secret. Toss up a patch of the wisdom you tended through good times and drought.

I’m confident that as you write your story, you will discover memories flooding your way and calling out to you even if you do not remember their names. Draw them close and listen carefully as they dock, for they will become the keel of the tender that will support you, revealing dreams anchored, near-discoveries of your true self.

I do not know your stories, but I know they are vast and expressive and essential.

I certainly enjoy sharing my stories with you. I have taken more photographs during my eight months in Cuenca than in, well… forever, and I never penned a blog, column, or newsletter prior to making my home here. I had never even given it a moment’s thought. But, boy, I sure do now; I think about photography and telling stories every day. I do because I found the time here to fall in love — with photography, with Cuenca, and writing to you.

I have a gentle suggestion for the new year:

Begin a journal, start writing your story — to be printed or to be preserved for another time. You may think it is impossible, or too difficult, but it is not.

It is simple.

You need only to quiet yourself, take a deep breath, and allow your identity to become revealed.

14 thoughts on “Make an auspicious beginning: Reveal yourself!

  1. Thank you Robert!!! I think I will do exactly as you say….my six children (all grown now) may someday decide to read it and remember the real me!!!

    1. Dear Karen,
      I am sure the day will come when your children and grandchildren will hold your journal in their hand and love you all the more for sharing your life with them.

  2. What an excellent suggestion, Robert. I, too, found a wonderful and fulfilling hobby for my retirement. I was a driven business-woman with a successful financial planning practice but I worked 12 hours a day and the stress level was extremely high. I went to two Vino and VanGogh events last July and August and got hooked on painting. Now I have the same passion as I had for my business but with NO stress! I love painting angels and flowers. As you have so eloquently expressed your vision and observations through your photography and written word, I am with painting. Having a journal is the best idea ever and one long overdue. Thank you for your photos, your blog and your insight.

    1. Thank you, Susan.
      As has often been said; every picture tells a story.
      I hang out at Casa Azul often, see you in the ‘hood.

      1. One of my favorite places for breakfast on a Saturday with my husband!! May see you there sometime!

  3. Thanks Robert for another well written article. My husband, Ray, and I have lived in Cuenca for almost seven months. We have been adopted my three lovely Ecuadorian families and are loving life here even with the challenges of learning a new language late in life. We wanted to find a way to give back to the community and people who have welcomed us into their “home” and made us feel like we are home. We have found that way. We are now volunteers teaching English to children and parents at Crea tu Espacio. Never have I had a more rewarding experience than what I experienced this past Saturday.
    We will be teaching every Saturday for two hours and we can’t wait to return there. The exuberance of the adults and the energy and eagerness of the children to learn, along with the smiles and laughter, truly warms the heart.

    1. Hooray! Good for you! I like to spend a couple hours hanging out with old folks on Saturdays, It truly is big fun.

      Welcome to Cuenca.

      1. Yes, there are some “old” folks there, of course that depends on what you consider old. Ages range from as young as four to the oldest being 79. We have tweens, teens, young adults and adults. Always looking for volunteers to help teach.

        Also looking to help raise funds so that Crea tu Espacio has the supplies, equipment and funding it needs to maintain its ability to reach and teach the Ecuadorian community. Like many organizations, it has had its funding from government cut in half. Funds are needed to purchase chairs, tables, desks, pens, papers, help pay rent and utilities and other necessary items.

        Thanks again Robert for your truly delightful articles and photos and thanks for the warm welcome. Hope to buy you a cup of cafe con latche sometime.

  4. When I was a kid, I loved reading daily journals written by women heading West in covered wagons, and homesteading once they arrived. The details of their daily life fascinated me; it was an experience that I could only imagine. And yet, when they wrote their entries, it was mostly just to record the hard work, danger, drudgery of day after day. The passing of time makes it interesting. When I was in my teens, my mom gave me a diary my grandmother had kept while she was in high school. There was nothing exciting in it – weather reports, school assignments, clothes she had sewed for herself. But I loved reading it. I think it is the same, if I decide to begin a journal now. My ordinary daily things now may seem interesting to someone later on.

    1. I recently read a collection of vignettes written by women crossing westward in the 1800’s in which the entries were bursting with wonder, excitement and joy. I recall one entry where the writer expressed interest in returning east once she reached the west simply to prolong life in a wagon, on the road, in unknown territory… It was great!
      I will look for a copy for you.

    2. ps. send me your email address and I will notify you as soon as I find a copy, or means to get one.

  5. Thank you for sharing your stories with us, Robert. You serve as an inspiration for fellow expats seeking creative outlets, be it writing, photography or community projects.

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