Anyone who visits Parque de Calderon might have seen a young woman musician near the New Cathedral.
There she stands, guitar in hand, her baby strapped to her back, a tambourine around her ankle, making music. I heard her one day before I even saw her. When I realized what she was singing, I had to smile, add some money to her basket, and join in singing …”I Will Survive”. And, with that kind of work ethic and guts, somehow I know she will!
One day shortly after, as I walked into El Centro on Gran Colombia, up ahead I could see a Cuenca dog approaching. He trotted briskly toward me, past two parked cars, then veered sharply across the street. He relieved himself on the tire of a motorbike propped against the wall, then re-crossed the street and continued on his journey. “What was that all about,” I wondered? He had passed the two cars with eight big, enticing tires. Had the motorbike done him harm and he was taking his revenge? These are the mysteries of Cuenca. (A “Cuenca Dog”, fyi, is a small dog — 25-30 pounds, short hair, usually brownish hair with a curling tail, pointed ears…probably developed over years of street-dog love affairs.)
There were even more workers than usual digging up cobblestones for the tram on a recent Saturday. I had learned to carefully watch my feet as I picked my way around all the construction, so it wasn’t until I came upon the workers in their bright orange vests that I realized there was a procession into the local bakery where they were getting a coffee and a sweet roll. Cuenca coffee break to the Tranvia workers!
Most of us expats have not only made a trip to a new country but are also entering another new phase of our lives — retirement. We all approach it differently … some easily and joyfully and some with great difficulty. After years of structure with jobs or family-focus, it can be a challenge to decide how to fill our days. Some of us already have hobbies. For others, Cuenca activities offers book discussion, religion gatherings, music events (including the free symphony), travel near and far, arts and/or crafts, hiking, biking, tennis, games, cooking classes, dining out, woodworking, photography, dancing — the possibilities are endless. One of the things I enjoy about Cuenca is there are avenues of expression for all of these activities. And, if we aren’t finding what we want, we can put the word out and start something!
Yesterday, I met another gal who I’ve known previously only on Facebook. As I’ve said, Facebook is like the backyard fence where I talk to neighbors. I’ve even met people from my state and we’ve started our own Facebook group — New Mexico Expats in Cuenca. (I encourage others to do the same, depending on their interests.)
Like all “neighborhoods’, ours has grumpy old men (and women). I can guess pretty well what someone is going to write as soon as I see his or her name! There is the know-it-all, the tin-foil hat guy, the world’s greatest expert, the negative nellie (not reserved to females), the paranoid, the health-food-is-the-answer-to-everything guy, and the “xyz” will cure cancer devotee. It requires a great sense of humor to survive in cyber space … but I get my quota of belly laughs every single day.
With the political campaigns in the USA, there are sometimes heated discussions including name-calling. But, just as often there are philosophical discussions, soul-searching attempts to find common ground and understanding.
Something I’ve seen develop in the past almost two years is there is such a close, trusting sense of community, that people will literally get on Facebook when there is a medical issue and ask for advice rather than getting medical help. That can be scary.
You can also find shared great inspiration, heart-touching stories that make me cry. David Sasaki on the Ecuador Expats Facebook page provides great Ecuadorian history lessons, complete with antique and/or current photos of our beautiful new country. My friends who do a weekly hiking group, take us along as they share their photos or videos.
We share birthday greetings, anniversaries, photos of our kids in the Old Country, travel photos, all the things that make up our lives and times and help make up the quirky, funny, connected community that makes Cuenca so special.
When asked where she is from, Kay Davis says “lots of places”, but most recently Albuquerque, NM. When asked what she did in the states, she says “lots of things.” When asked why she came to Cuenca, she says “I was approaching my 70th birthday and still working. I decided I wanted to take a breath between work and death, and moving to Cuenca was the only way I saw to do that. No regrets!”