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How can you not love Cuenca?

It was a great day in Cuenca.

As usual, I woke up alert, the sun was shining and continued until mid-afternoon (although there would be rain later from the clouds that formed to the east). I met with my tour guide friend, Juan, to arrange the details of a trip to the Galapagos in June for me and two nephews, one with a wife.

Of major recent importance, the March visit with my eye doctor resulted in yet another three-month wait and instead of my usual “shit!, shit!, shit!” reaction and subsequent feeling really down for a few days, other than a bit of disappointment, I had little negative reaction at all. I was able to accept the information as only that, some information that I needed to know, like  learning that the price on the item I want is higher than I would like but completely acceptable. How freeing it is to truly accept the way things are instead of telling myself and others “it’s ok” while deep down and mostly unknown even to my conscious self, it was not.

Dave gets a little help from his friends climbing the 84-steps of the Juana de Oro escalinata. Photo: Boris Alboranoz

In  December, Melina, my upstairs neighbor said that her mother, whom I had never met, had invited me to the family Christmas dinner. I felt honored and after some internal back and forth, I accepted. It is a small family and the 10 of us sat around a small table and talked, mostly in Spanish among the family, with Melina or her English-speaking brother occasionally including me. A couple of hours of that, then a couple of hours for the meal, then another couple of hours afterwards while her brother played the guitar, his friend did the drums and occasionally Pablo, Melina’s husband, chipped in on guitar. It was a very pleasant time and I was not excluded but with my abysmal Spanish I was not a full participant.

Then I was invited back for a combination Lent gathering and going away party for Melina. Lent is traditionally, in Cuenca, a family event, where a combination of religious and indigenous practices result in a tradition of raucously — and with complete abandon — splashing everyone with water.

So, after the meal the younger ones From Melina on down, were out in the yard frolicking in showers of water. Thank goodness for the two exits to the building.

Melina, who taught film writing at the University of Cuenca, was admitted to a University in Portugal for a two year program leading to a doctorate in film writing. She was excited and happy with the opportunity and left in early March. I will miss her very much as well as her seven-year-old daughter Maria, and Pablo.

Cuencanos have always been friendly and helpful but having a cane has amplified the frequency of their help. Climbing the 84 steps of the escalinata to El Centro now brings offers of an arm as well as assistance at the top in crossing Calle Larga. In one case my helper held my arm with one hand as held out the other to stop the oncoming traffic.

How can one not like Cuenca?