Keeping up with the changes in Cuenca

Apr 22, 2017 | 8 comments

Walking. It’s my favorite way to get to know a place. I’ve come to love my new city and find new delights in it every day. On foot. 

While I try to vary my routes, particularly in El Centro, there are a limited number of ways to get there. As anyone who has been here for a long time knows, things keep changing!

I shared with a recent arrival that taxi drivers know streets but very few business names (SuperMaxi, Coral, churches excepted). When she asked why, I said simply: “Because everything changes!” There is no reason to learn the name of restaurants because they pop up and disappear like mushrooms. This is even true of big businesses like banks, which move frequently, partly because of the disruption of tranvía construction.

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I live high on a hill, in a mid-rise apartment building, and have come to appreciate the fact that I can sit still (when I’m not out walking) and watch the world go by. (Cue the music: “Fool on the Hill” by the Beatles). I especially enjoy watching a neighbor who lives in the next apartment building a couple of floors below me.

The best way to see Cuenca? On foot.

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On most days, I watch as he puts on a pair of dressy slacks and a shirt-with-collar and, on colder days, a corduroy jacket. He dons his jaunty cap, picks up his cane, walks out the door to the 4th floor open parking garage and goes for a walk. He stays close by, circulating in the neighborhood, usually stopping to see what’s happening on our busy intersection.

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With the changing of the seasons, there’s a lot to see these days. A huge, two-story inflatable disco was up for the holidays (thankfully now removed). A new shoe store opened and, even though it played the traditional ear-splitting music out the front door, put out balloons and stopped people on the street, it’s now closed.

We have street performers nearby, such as jugglers and flautists, in the neighborhood. Flutes can be quite nice but not if the performer knows only a single refrain, played over and over all day long (sigh). The drummer who appeared to accompany the repetitious flute player was also a one-note-wonder.

Then, there are the traffic cops, male and sometimes female, who attempt to bring order out of chaos where two major streets converge. With the drivers in Cuenca, we still haven’t lost a traffic cop as far as I know, but I don’t discount the possibility.

I admire my neighbor’s commitment to his daily walks. He’s even out in the rain. And, I wonder if he too, considers writing the story of life on our corner.

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Something that might be useful to know: You can order cuy delivered. I jumped in a taxi one rainy Sunday afternoon (surprised that I could find one under the circumstances) and smelled something delicious. The driver and I were able to communicate well enough that I understood he had just delivered a cooked cuy to some tourists in a hotel. Now, they can tell the folks back home they tasted the local cuisine! (And, yes, it smelled just like chicken!)

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Cuenca is a city in transition, as is most of Ecuador. I well recall on one of my early days in Cuenca seeing an indigenous woman in full traditional dress, standing next to an ancient bicycle with a large basket filled with fruit while she talked on her cell phone.

On the recent Palm Sunday, I walked past Iglesia San Sebastian where families were sitting on the steps, ledges, and benches just outside the church. At first I thought, how nice to see families sharing time together, until I realized that every one of them, male, female, young, and old, was on a cell phone.

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