Letter to my sister

Feb 11, 2018 | 9 comments

By Robert Bradley

Dear Paulee,

Autumn means something different here. It is not composed of days getting shorter, leaves bursting with color or cold rivers of wind coming home to roost.

Fall is the time of falling water.

When I woke up this morning the sky was nearly clear. I thought the flotilla of clouds sailing far down the valley would find moorage on the coast, but they tacked upwind instead, gathering strength in numbers until they became a single vast grey ship hauling fuel for the gods Thunder and rain.

Perhaps it is the weight of cloud itself that causes the rain to spill with the urgency that it does, I don’t know. I imagine a secret garden, cached high in the Andes, brimming with row upon row of fresh raised water, plucked by the keepers of the cloud works and spilled down the valleys washing away dust, broken branches, and work we neglected  —  a  scrap wood dollhouse, bits of cloth from an old shirt, a small carpet of woven grass.  

As the storm subsides, it is the clamoring rivers that grab my attention, a frothy urgency of thundering water pushing against immovable stone, anxious to make room for the next shipload of rain…

Ecuador had a special referendum last Sunday that will have significant implications for the future. Most citizens of Ecuador are required to vote, gringos with residency can but aren’t required to, and I am already looking forward to when I will qualify to participate in the fundamental responsibility of citizenship. Unfortunately, quite a few gringos were making their voices heard last week, not in the ballot box, but in the alleys of self-righteous anger because there was no alcohol to be had in the country all weekend. Ecuador has a long-standing law that no booze can be consumed in bars, or sold in stores for 36 hours prior to an election or referendum.

Even if it falls on the head-banging spectacle of Super Bowl Sunday.

As for me, I really do not care. All that stuff is drifting downstream and away from where I live.

Someone asked me a while back what I did on Thanksgiving, and seemed surprised when I said, “Nothing special”. I told them that in all the years I lived in the U.S., I never once celebrated an Ecuadorian holiday, and I expect the reverse will be true here.

I may not care about George Washington’s birthday anymore, but I enjoy the Feast of the Traveling Christ Child with the same enthusiasm I expend on celebrating the day Simon Bolivar drove the Spanish into the sea of defeat.

My reverence for the culture of Ecuador is as expansive as the Andean paramo. The warmth I feel for Ecuador is as penetrating as Amazonian heat.

I feel refreshed knowing the future holds great promise and I feel invigorated by the positive attitude and clear-eyed confidence people have for the future of this country. The special referendum confirmed the aspirations of  Ecuadorians everywhere that their country will be guided by honest men and women who are dedicated to providing support for those in need, and opportunity for those who want.

The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.

I lost 60 pounds. My doctor complimented me a few weeks ago when he told me the good news. However, he chastised me on my next visit, when he weighed me because I had gained five of them back. He asked me how it happened.

“What is there to tell?”, I stammered, “I lost 60 pounds by walking. I gained five pounds by walking to the pastry shop.”

I remain quite busy.  Photography still consumes a bit of my day, every day.  Writing my column comes less painfully, but still requires many hours of solitude and the patience to allow the words to arrange themselves to their own satisfaction and the best of my ability.

My editor job requires working with the staff reporters on standard writing practices common in U.S. newsrooms. However, it is occasionally difficult for me because we share a common tendency:

“Why use a simple declarative sentence when four paragraphs will do?”

With the merger of CuencaHighLife and Cuenca Dispatch (a newsprint publication), most of my old columns will be reprinted in ink. It will be quite a treat to revisit those many wonderful days of last year via newsprint telling tales I recall with fondness.

I still begin most mornings sipping cafe con leche at Casa Azul on San Sebastian Plaza, often joined by an international and changeable assortment of folks who have become my friends. I count four countries with heavy representation, and one guy who has traveled for so long, and lived in so many distant locales, he is simply an Earthling. I love the poetics; the lyrical muse of folks slipping into French, Dutch, German, and Spanish, casually chatting about nothing at all while pitching dice in a game I do not understand and enjoying the company of others living in the moment.


Well, alrighty then. I’ve taken a bit of your time and given a bit of mine. Of course, I hope all is well with you and the family, and of course, I grieve for your country. The distance of perspective provides a glaring view that is appalling  — you are paying a very steep price for a brittle wall of anguish.

I do wish you well.

Drop me a note so I know my best wishes ring true and that you are content.

Peace and Love,

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