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Expat book club teaches local culture and literature as well as Spanish

Want to study Spanish and learn about Ecuadorian culture and literature at the same time? If so, a book club designed especially for foreign residents may be the multidisciplinary solution.

The book club for foreigners meets at CIDAP on Tres de Noviembre.

Organized in 2016, the Book Club for Foreigners has nearly 20 participants who gather once a week to discuss stories, novels, and poetry written by Cuenca authors.

Led by Juan Neira of the Centro Interamericano de Artesanías y Artes Populares (CIDAP), the current subject is Trees for Dreaming, a play for teenagers by poet and writer Jorge Dávila Vázquez. It was chosen by Neira to teach idioms, history and colloquial language.

David Shallenberger, a regular attendee of book club classes, appreciates the approach. He arrived in Cuenca with his partner eleven months ago from Vermont but was raised in Peru. “I feel more at home in an Andean country but it is difficult to understand the culture without understanding the language,” he said. It makes sense, he says, to learn both of them together.

Another expat, Cheryl Pomeray, added: “To understand the language of a country you need more than a dictionary,”

Among other reading assignments, the club has read La Cusinga, by César Hermida Bustos, and Huasipungo by Jorge Icaza Coronel. Juan Neira says that the next work will be Más acá de la Frontera, by Aquiles Jimbo.

For those who want to do more studying on their own, CIDAP’s Antonio Lloret Bastidas Libary houses 9,645 books that are available for loan to both the local and foreign community, says John Reinoso, library coordinator.

Approximately 200 to 250 foreign visitors use the facility every month, Reinoso says. “They use the facility to learn Spanish, work on their computers, and read the different works we have. The library specializes in the history of Cuenca.”

The club meets on Fridays at the Museo de la Ciudad (Escuela Central), on the corner of Gran Colombia and Benigno Malo

For more information about book club classes, write jsalz@wayofadventure.com .