Wednesday, our first full day here in Cuenca, we walked to El Centro's Parque Calderon for a time of seeing the sights, hearing some excellent Latin music, and doing some shopping. I had to get some more money out of our account, and I also obtained a Claro - the largest and best cell phone provider in Ecuador - cell phone and no contract account. Please don't ask me for my cell number just yet, but it starts with 099 and ends in a 1. I have to memorize it or at the very least keep the number on a piece of paper until I know it.
After the shopping, Carolyn Anne and I ate some almuerzo - lunch - at a Mexican restaurant in El Centro on the way back to the Hostel Pichincha Internacional. We had the burrito especial of the day, which was bland like a lot of Ecuadorian food here and sorely missing hot sauce, though the small chips did come with a medium and a rather hot choice of dips. That was Carolyn Anne's birthday gift to me that day.
Upon leaving the restaurant, we found ourselves in the beginnings of what later proved to be a very powerful thunderstorm. We had no coat or umbrella as the day was partly cloudy when we left to go out, but by staying under the roofs that covered the sidewalks, we could make it back to our room relatively dry. So rather than calling a cab out in the street - the local custom here - us wanting more of that great Cuenca walking exercise, we hoofed it together.
Some of the intersections in the Antigua, or old section of Cuenca don't have signs stating their street names, and the one that names our street, Calle Juan Montalvo, is one of them at its intersection with Calle Simon Bolivar. In the rain and thunder we missed our street to turn left onto, and went west two more blocks to where a hair salon was operating.
At this point I asked Rose the salon attendant, where our street was, having no map on me. Before I knew it, Carolyn Anne had continued walking - nay running - in the downpour in the middle of the street, she later told me. I looked in the middle of the street all directions of the intersection, called out her name, but no suerte. She was gone.
I figured that in due time she would come back to where she last saw me at the salon, so I waited there. Nope! Where or where had my Sweet Polly Purebred gone? Did she hurt herself, break an ankle, hit her head on the sidewalk and in a coma, resting on some couch at a furniture store, or what? Dark was coming in two hours, and that would make it harder to find her. I asked Rosa the hairdresser if she would be so kind to use my new phone to call the police. We waited a half hour for them, and they had not come by.
So I returned to our room and gathered coats for the both of us, and spoke wirh Irma, along with her sister Gladys, our hostesses, and told them that Carolyn Anne was lost. Irma immediately gave me an umbrella to use for the two of - Carolyn Anne and I - and we hatched a plan to find her before dark set in. I went on one street parallel south of Simon Bolivar to search for her, and would meet up with Irma at the salon on the corner. Irma took Simon Bolivar to the salon, calling out her name as she went. "!Carolina! ?Donde esta usted, Carolina?, cried Irma.
Likewise I searched out Calle Madrigal Sucre for my beloved. "Carolyn Anne! Where are you?" I shouted out in my loud voice. I was very concerned. "God, this is too big to handle. . . You'll have to do it. I'm not able to do this by myself," I prayed. One more shout again as I continued my search. "Carolyn Anne!"
"!Mi esposo! Carolyn Anne replied in great relief. There she was, in a car with two Christian (evangelical) sisters, and she bolted out of the car with great joy and relief in finding me again. The sisters attend Unidos church in Cuenca, and helped Carolyn Anne stay dry after getting soaking wet earlier in her solo adventure in the rain. She had become disoriented upon separating from me, and didn't realize until five minutes before I found her that she had in her bag a Gideons bilingual New Testament with the name and address of the Hostel Pichincha Internacional stamped on the back cover. Thank God for the Gideons, eh? (smile) I found her before she could have gone to the Hostel. Praise God for his wondrous abilities in reuniting us!
Lessons learned: never leave your partner (from the film "Fireproof," of course). carry a map and a business card of your lodging with you. Carry a Spanish-English dictionary to assist in communication. And always carry your passport or copy thereof with you, along with some cash for a taxi ride home. Carolyn Anne gave me her neck wallet just a half hour before we got separated, which she now realizes is a most foolhardy thing to do in new and strange environs like Cuenca. We learned from this episode how comforting and truly kind Cuencanos are, and we are so thankful to God for each one of them that assisted us in our travails. Selah.
Blogger's note: I'm now aware that there is a problem in having people using the "Reply" function on this blog for reasons I don't quite understand. I'll try to fix it if I can while here. Meanwhile, please continue to pray for us in our searchings together for what Cuenca has to offer us in terms of living here permanently, and for our safety as well as our interactions with the locals. We've met some more expats here while out and about, and have gone window shopping at the Supermaxi grocery store (high prices like Vons back home) and Corel, a hypermarket that is at Mall del Rio in new Cuenca south of El Centro. We're very impressed with both Corel - which is sort of a combo of Costco, WalMart, and EasyLife furniture, with an extensive line of tools like Sears was always noted for. Absolutely huge store, clean, well stocked, with incredible prices and very helpful personnel. Ten per cent discount to either expats or over 65 years of age folks . . . I didn't get the reason why from the kindly front end manager's Spanglish. The mall is two story, huge, and probably has 200 stores besides Corel. A multiplex cinema too, and a large food court, including. . . California Burrito, which has good prices and a strange take on SoCal culture. We didn;t eat there, preferring something more Ecuadorian in Deli Internacional two tiendas - stores to its left.