Sunday, February 16, 2014

Back in Ecuador...two weeks in Cuenca

Olmec at Museo
Museo de Anthropologia
 We are on the go again. First we traveled to Mexico City and saw the ruins of Templo Mayor as well as the Archeological Museum which offers so much on each visit. I wish I could remember all that I see but I don't. I like seeing the artifacts but mostly like to see the various cultures of history and places we have been traveling - Maya, Aztec and Inca. Someday I will sit down and learn about the time periods that they each cover and who was trading or fighting with whom. Amazing are the things that are found - pottery, cookware, jewelry, etc.

Mitad del Mundo -
The Equator
Rio Tomebamba - Cuenca
Then we were off to Ecuador. We arrived in Quito at 5:30 am and waited for our 8:30 flight to Cuenca. As luck would have it, we learned at about 8am that the airport in Cuenca was closed due to ash from the Volcano Tungurahua which erupted late the day before. Due to wind currents the airport was closed for several days. We made quick friends with folks sitting around also waiting to go to Cuenca and discovered an expat travel group planning to visit places in Ecuador with ideas of moving here. We spent the day with them - went to "Mitad del Mundo" - the Equator and then stayed in a convent that night with the group of 40. Plans were to leave the next morning by plane but the airport was still closed so they rented a bus for their group and were kind enough to take us along. I had my moment of "tour guide" as they gave me the microphone on the bus to talk about our "expat" life in Mexico. Guess I always wanted to be a guide and this was my chance. Since we had 12 hours on the bus there was no hurry and I could answer questions from the group.
La Familia
Finally we arrived in Cuenca on Monday night instead of Sunday morning and were reunited with our family - Yolanda, Bernarda (daughter who is a medical intern in a small village 3 hrs away). Diego (husband) and two new friends - Sara (whom I met in SMA in 2013) and Max, a 20 year old University student. So now we had 4 students all studying at the same school - Fundacion Amauta. Fun moments were sitting around the dining room table after dinner doing our homework, asking each other questions about our lives, speaking Spanish and laughing together. To me it felt like being a kid again.

Cooking class at school with Marcella
Traveling gives us such a wide experience of family and cultural life. This being our third time with "our" family, we have begun to learn the ins and outs and the ups and downs of their lives. Perhaps like many families there is a bit of a "soap opera" feel to their lives. Of course we are hearing everything in Spanish so it is harder to understand each detail but it is a great way to learn via listening and to appreciate the similarity of all people, no matter where we are. Having friends here gives us a completely different life than the usual travel life of hotels, restaurants, etc.

Cuenca is a very pretty city of 500,000 people and the expat presence is much larger than it was 2 1/2 years ago when we were here last. There are many new restaurants that cater to "gringos" and the prices for meals have increased as well. We frequented a few of them as well as others. It is still amazing that one can get a complete "almuerzo" which consists of soup, meal, drink and sometimes dessert for $2.00-$2.50.

Family in Saraguro
One Saturday we went with Sara by bus to Saraguro - a small village of indigenous people and the women specialize in beaded jewelry. What fun it was for us to buy loads of beautiful items and talk with the women. I showed them a few things that I had made myself as well as necklaces from Mexico as each design of culture is a bit different. Walking around gave us a chance to see their clothing - still the same as the past - each village having its own style of decoration.
Sharing bead techniques with
artists from Saraguro
The men in Saraguro wear dress pants that are cut off at the knees and all the women wear heavy jewelry and big beaded collars, including the young.
In the church at Saraguro
combination of broccoli and cauliflower
Birthday celebration -
Ricardo and Poppie
The men of Saraguro
Winding down our time today with dinner at home with the family including Yolanda's parents, a pre birthday celebration for Ricardo and Poppie who turns 90 next week. Taking a group photo was entertainment trying to get the dog to cooperate. This will be a memory that we will all keep for a long time. Many tears as we said goodbye to our family as we do not know when we will see them again. Tomorrow we are off for our last two weeks in Ecuador - Banos and Quilotoa Loop. We wanted to return to Banos as we loved it last time and Quilotoa loop will be completely new to us. 

Thanks again for traveling with us and love from the both of us.
The family together...
La abuelita, Yolanda, Poppie, David,
Bernarda and Pucha

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