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Expat Life

Cuenca doesn’t create the magic moment but serves as the catalyst for it

By Robert Bradley

Writing has been difficult these last few weeks. ​

I’ve been distracted by daily life. Rather than wander Cuenca viewing life through the magic lantern of my camera, I’ve been shopping for a new lamp shade, someone to repair a tablet. Where once I felt as if every moment was a dream, my routine is developing into a more established pattern.

There was a time when all I could do was champ at the bit for sunrise so I could ​record​ the wonders that surround me, now I occasionally wait for the cafe to open. For cafe con leche. For a little chatter before I head off for the day.

I was once blown away​ by the sheer magnificence of Cuenca; now I am seeded and sprouting. Tentative roots​ are​ s​e​eking​ strength and sustenance. The urgency of squeezing every moment is subsiding and being replaced with more gentle caress​es​. My surroundings are becoming familiar and the once long walks into unknown neighborhoods are now daily ​strolls​ through territory​ ​
I feel as my own. Whole neighborhoods are slowly revealing their distinct identity, many laced with fantastic courtyards and warrens overflowing with stuff you may never need, but want all the same. There are shops in ​every neighborhood that​ I particularly like, and familiar faces are becoming as much a foundation as any tree. And just as beautiful.

Although I am affable by nature, I spend a considerable amount of time in solitary pursuits — writing this column is one of them. So I am pleased that there is another important development; I am making friends.

The other day, while I was taking pics in El Centro, I chanced upon David Morrill, editor of CuencaHighLife. We exchanged pleasantries, commented on the weather, and I heard the latest news of note from the source himself. Wonderful.

A few moments later, just a block down the street, someone I was introduced to at a “Spoken Word” event paused as I passed and said, “Aren’t you Robert?” We chatted for a minute or two before I was off to Parque Calderon where, as I waited to cross the street, I was joined by someone from my neighborhood. Our conversation carried over to having cafe con leche in a bistro and the promise of cocktails the following week.

How delightful.

Folks here are happy to see you so introductions come easily. Finding commonality is easy as well. It seems as everyone is busy with projects that are interesting, occasionally awe inspiring, and always exuberant and infectious.

Dave, Klever, and Alberto all have art shows in galleries or are scheduled to this year. Gina is co-directing an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. Everyone in the writer’s workshop I attend is busy, their heads bowed, searching the forest of dreams. They revere the quest for every word, and the desire to share them. Paco and the band are busy with their families and work — and practice. Rehearsal is taken seriously and the results are obvious. Their gigs convert even the least likely to wail, “Can I get a witness!” And mean it. Greg is offering tai-chi classes, thoughtful concerts, and new menu offerings for his patrons to enhance their visits to his cafe.

These folks and many others are encouraged in their pursuits and their resolve is strengthened by the knowledge that community appreciation for their efforts is abundant and steadfast.

There may be many explanations why Cuenca is such fertile ground for the arts and friendship, but the availability of time and space to introduce yourself, and your passion, is certainly a contributing factor that cannot be overstated.

The magic lantern that so mesmerized me earlier is no less bright. The alluring shadows add complexity and texture beyond what I first envisioned and for that, I am very thankful.

Rather than,“Cuenca is magical.” Let’s agree it is people that create this magical moment … and that​ Cuenca is the catalyst.

Photos by Robert Bradley





16 thoughts on “Cuenca doesn’t create the magic moment but serves as the catalyst for it

  1. Very well said and written. I’ve also lived here long enough that the magic has faded, but I still find it an enjoyable and fulfilling place to live. And the magic is only a short bus-ride away in pretty much every direction.

  2. Thank you Robert for sharing your wonderful perspectives on life in Cuenca. So often you describe exactly what I would say if I could write as eloquently as you do.

  3. I love your writing Robert. I can’t wait to join in the constant discovery process, whether personal or social or enjoying the surroundings!

  4. You have been here several short months, Robert, and your insights to Cuenca’s magic is most impressive. Alberto’s painting is a wonderful photograph, a compliment to his art.
    Friday the symphony came back from hiatus and performed Gustav Mahler’s hour long ninth and final symphony. Fantastic!
    Just another cultural gem available to all for free.

    1. Oh, how I wish people here realized the gem they have in our symphony. Not only are the musicians competent and the direction excellent, but their play schedule is incredible. People that may not know the symphony might not realize how ambitious the schedule is. We have essentially twice the play dates as the New York Philharmonic. Did I mention that the price of admission is reasonable? I don’t dare mention the actual price or the tacaño gringos who have never even attended a symphony performance would overwhelm us.

      Just another one of the many reasons I love my city.

  5. You’ve done it again, Robert. Touched me with your words and photos and I’m grateful for both. We have shared experiences that allow me to fully enjoy what you describe, but what you have described about the evolution of your perception as you wander through neighborhoods that are now becoming familiar is sheer poetry. Good poetry well expressed.

    You enrich my life, buddy. Thank you.

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