Monday, July 11, 2011

Early Impressions of Life in Cuenca

When we fly off to a new country and a new life, we are filled with the anticipation and anxiety that goes with that.  I am pleased to say that the dust has started to settle after our first couple of weeks.  We are beginning to enjoy exploring our new city and beginning to appreciate some of the cultural differences.

In our first couple of weeks, I have to say that there were moments that provoked some anxiety.  For example, we were buying some needed supplies at a local hardware store and the clerk at checkout asked me a question.  I had no idea what she was trying to communicate and neither she nor anyone else in the vicinity could reframe it to help my understanding.  Finally, a manager in the store was able to reframe it in Spanish so I understood that she was asking whether I wanted to buy the item on credit for one or for three months.  I was able to respond that I wanted to buy it right now.

We studied Spanish both in a class and on our own with an excellent software program, off and on over the last six months.  We are committed to learning the language as quickly as possible.  Nonetheless, there are challenging moments when we are unable to make ourselves understood or we are unable to understand someone elses communication.  So far, we have found the Cuencanos to be patient and helpful.  It is hard for them to slow their speech down to the pace of our understanding.

We stopped to have my shoes shined about a week ago at one of the many spots around Parque Calderon - the beautiful central square of the city.  The shoe shine and newspaper operation were operated by an elderly Canari couple.  The Canari are the aboriginal people from this area of Ecuador having lived here long before the Incan empire.  They looked like they were in their 80s but it is difficult to tell.  When I asked he said it was $1 to shine my shoes.  We helped him up from the sidewalk and he sat me in his chair and indicated for me to put my feet up.  When he saw my size 13 feet he started to laugh and said in Spanish that he should have charged $4 or $5.  We all laughed out loud.

This morning they were cutting the grass in the lovely Parque Las Americas beside our building.  Instead of one man on a large tractor they had about a dozen men with gas powered trimmers cutting the park.  At first I thought this was quite a curious practice.  On reflection, it was employing many people in a rewarding activity instead of employing one and having the rest on social assitance.  Perhaps we could learn from the Ecuadorians.  The building in the foreground of the photo is a community police station that is staffed 24/7.  The road to the right of the park is being newly constructed.  Almost all of the work is being done by hand and "wow" do they ever work hard.  I think about the number of times in Canada where we see 4 men watching one do the work.  It simply is not that way here. 

The park is used every day and night - they play soccer and volleyball with people of all ages involved.  The play equipment is used continuously.  In Kingston, our parks seemed to get little use and I often speculated that kids were inside playing computer games.  These Ecuadorian children and their families are very active and engaged in community life.

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  1. So excited to see you guys all settled in your new home and loving Cuenca!!! Un abrazo muy fuerte!

  2. Welcome to Cuenca, I hope you find the life you expected and more than you hoped for.

  3. It's great hearing about your adventure and seeing the photos. LOVE the view. Can't wait to hear how you spend your days. Looking forward to following your progress! Love from Oakville, Andrea and Ron, Maren, and Nicole x0x0x0