The saga of my toothly adventures ended with a tooth extraction a couple of days ago. Maria Elena had a baby boy on June 17th and she and the baby are well. Now I can finish my ode to Cuenca.
On one of the nights of the seven day Corpus Christi celebration I went to dinner with Tom, Ruta and Tim to try out a new restaurant (it was just ok) and then walk over to Parque Calderon to be with the crowd and see at least one of the fireworks castles do its thing. At the first corner there was a castle and I walked around a parked car to be as close as possible, ready to fend off any burning particles that might come my way. It was only 15 or 20 minutes of waiting and suddenly the tenders (the name I am using for the people, mostly young and both sexes who light the castles) are there lighting several different fuses and the sudden sight and sound of firecracker and spinning wheels at the bottom; a moment of quiet as the tenders light higher up and then another round of explosions and flashes with shrieking whistles added. Then, when it is over, the yelling, laughing and cheering of the crowd..
Down the block to the next castle but the wait obviously going to be pretty long so Tom took off, Tim, Ruta and I made friends with a young 7- or 8-year-old girl but the standing and waiting got to be too much for Ruta so off they went. I saw a piece of empty curb and with the help of the knees of the young man sitting there managed to sit down. In that situation of being in the gentle crowd, bumping elbows and shoulders as I move about, gives me a wonderful sense of being a part of this world, not just an outsider looking at it.
Eventually (there is no schedule) the tenders were there lighting the fuses and the second castle went up. Although taller and noisier with an extra spinning wheel of firecrackers off to one side, it just wasn’t as good as the first one. But, enough is enough and I did not have the stamina to wait for the third one. As I was struggling to get up suddenly a strong brown arm and hand appeared, I grabbed it and was lifted to my feet. He was leaving as I uttered my “muchas gracias” for his kind act.
As I got to the bridge to my apartment here was a 3 or 4 feet high castle in the street with the owner of the restaurant in the back who I assumed was the stimulus. Only another ten minutes or so while the tenders finished their work and another castle did its thing.
The bridge in front of my place has a nice arch and skateboarders and trick bicyclists use it quite a bit. On the other hand, I will often see a bored teenager sitting alone at the bottom waiting, perhaps just hoping, that someone else comes by to share in the fun.
The other night Tom and I ate at Mayu, on the opposite side of the bridge, and when we left there was a table of a dozen or so teenagers laughing and talking, just having a great time. We stopped and just looked, enjoying their happiness, when they noticed us they began the “holas” with the nearer ones giving us high fives as we laughed our way to the exit. An exhilarating moment!!
From the quiet solidity of the crowd to the laughing joy of the young, Cuenca is a wonderful place.