What's Happening

In Cuenca, Ecuador

Starting a new life in Cuenca, Ecuador is exciting, invigorating and filled with moments of wonder.  Every time we step foot on the street outside our temporary apartment we experience a joyful feeling and revel in the excitement of what the day will bring.


We are intrigued by the cultural differences around us. We are no longer living in an instant gratification culture. With this conditioning ingrained in us, we read some situations as strange and perplexing. Internet and phone service comes and goes; television programs in English are available, but often not shows that we would choose to watch in the US, given hundreds of other options. Running out to Starbucks for a Latte is not an option here. Besides, we have joyfully relinquished our cars for a healthier walking lifestyle.


The pace is different here. The locals are not in a rush and seem to understand that the moments between being served or getting something one wants are moments to be savored.  Americans want to be waited on instantly. In restaurants here you may not be waited on for 20 or more minutes even if there are only a few people in the place. Your food might take twice as long to be delivered to the table.  How lucky we are to have the opportunity to lose some of our American conditioning and get in touch with the things that are really important in life, like “being here now”.


What a strange and wonderful experience it is to see people walking around outside! American culture has become quite bizarre with everyone sealed inside steel vessels rolling around on pavement or sealed inside the gigantic boxes we call home. There is human interaction here. The streets and plazas are filled with people of every age. Children are playing in the parks! Senior citizens are out selling fruit or out walking with their families. What a wonderful and refreshing change from the life we left behind.


Our first couple of weeks here have been a flurry of activity.  We have performed at the Jazz Club several times and had a band meeting to get to know the musicians, charming young men from Cuenca and another transplant from Spain. We found a house to rent and worked with an interpreter and a lawyer to finalize the contract. We took a trip to a neighboring town to complete our Visa application.  We have shopped in both the modern and indigenous markets.  We have enjoyed meals out with new and old friends, mostly American expats living in Cuenca.  I have cooked up a storm with all the beautiful ingredients I have found in the local markets. 


What is traditional Cuencan food? Lots of soup, pork, potato and cheese pancakes, guinea pig. We still have a lot to learn about local specialties, but in the meantime, we have found all the ingredients to cook like we would in the US. In our apartment, I have cooked fresh pea soup with ham, chili made with fresh pinto beans, salads, roast chicken with mashed potatoes, brocolli and roasted beets. We have enjoyed lots of fresh fruit, including papaya, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, cantalope and bananas. We love all the little bakeries with the wonderful smell of fresh baked bread wafting through the streets. We buy French bread loaves and an assortment of little rolls: cinnamon, ham and cheese, corn and whole grain. Some friends hooked us up with the best coffee in town at a locally owned café. We were hearing so much about the challenges of cooking at high altitudes, but I have not had any problems with this so far.


Our apartment is tasteful and modern. We have stayed in 3 different apartments here in Cuenca in the last couple of years and I have enjoyed them all. We are not lacking for any comforts. The kitchen appliances are not the same quality as those we are used to in the US, but that is such a minor thing. We love the built in wood closet systems and wood doors.


Everyday we are attending to the details that are integrating us into daily life here. We have gotten local telephones; I have found a Spanish teacher to tutor me twice a week in Spanish, I’ve taken a few yoga classes, I’ve gotten a haircut. We’ve walked and walked on sidewalks and along the river constantly discovering new places and taking loads of photos. We’ve taken numerous taxi rides and I have listened in wonder as John chats and jokes around with the drivers in Spanish!  John has even had an unexpected surgery to repair 4 hernias and the attending doctor and hospital staff were kind and proficient.


So far, so good.  Thanks, Ecuador, for welcoming a few more Gringo refugees!