Thursday, May 8, 2014

Some Observations while in Cuenca

Time for some bits and pieces about who we've seen, what we've heard, and what we've experienced in our time here in Cuenca. 

Like in the United States, the English speaking expats we meet here out and about are shy about "religion" and associated topics.  Yet they are willing to chat with you about themselves, what they know about Cuenca, and expat life in general.  Many of them are single (never married, widowed, or divorced) men, but there are a number of women in this category too.  There are expat "hotspots" in terms of cafes, restaurants, and other haunts where they often hang out, including what can be called the center of the city, Parque Calderon, which is a beautiful and safe walking and sitting area with plentiful benches throughout the city square park it is.  

We have met some expats in Parque Calderon while on our errands for the day, and it strikes us that they in many ways feel lonely. . . just an observation here.  They know who is new in town, and many times are quite willing to strike up a conversation after the obligatory "hello" in English.  We've exchanged emails with a couple of expats this way, and some useful information in person about condos, apartments, and getting your Cedula from the Immigration office.  Boots on the ground provides better information than sleuthing on the 'Net from hundreds of miles away imho.  The more times you hear something, the more credible the information becomes (unless it's propaganda, of course).  

Another source on the 'Net I've found, a blog called Living and Retiring in Ecuador, states they have found very few expats attending church, much less a Bible believing one.  The few that do that attend Iglesia Verbo, like our very astute lady blogger, often are in the back row for the English translation services provided by headphones.  You can count the number of folks like this - expats that are believers and those who sit on the back row for English translation at Verbo - by the fingers on your hand.  Very astute observation by our blogging lady friend.  I've gotten to meet some of them from the 9:00 AM worship service at Verbo, and they are a tight knit group that typically eats breakfast together in a restaurant afterwards.  One of them, Carissa, is a young American tall blonde woman who is a missionary in Cuenca from her home church in the USA.  She also helps out half the time on the English translation for expats and visiting relatives and friends to understand the Spanish language worship services.  I also met Felix and his wife, who are expats in Cuenca that attend Verbo.  Looks like an unofficial small group in Verbo which we will want to associate with further down the road.  Neat loving folks.    

The bank we're using while here, Banco del Pacifico, is believe it or not another source of friendly exchange and conversation.  The banco opens at 9:00 AM weekdays, and has a line that takes a half hour or so to wait in before you can get to see a teller at a window. I'm pretty much the only extranjero or gringo in line in the mornings(afternoons are with little or no waiting in line), and this latest time I was able to practice my Spanish in good conversation with a married woman who was paying her City of Cuenca Police Department parking citation - you can do that at this bank, according to her.   Parking illegally here costs $40, which using the Ecuadorian Rule of Three's and Four's translates to a USA value of the ticket becoming $120 to $160 smackeroos.  Ouch!  Una boleto expensivo indeed.  No English spoken by her, just Spanish.  I'm doing pretty good on the Spanish. . . thank you Lord.

While I'm discussing Banco del Pacifico, I know from a prior English language conversation while in line there with a young Ecuadorian national named John from a small town near the Peruvian border that there are other bancos one may use for money exchanges and financial withdrawals from your USA based financial institution.  Still haven't found out which ones as yet. . . good to know.  

Our host at our vacation condo, Stuart White, is quite the genial, resourceful and adaptable host.  We have hit it off with him very well, for which we are
thankful.  Stuart relates that Google translate offers the best Spanish to English - and vice versa - translation service on the 'Net, and is written in a way a native speaker would talk.  Other translations out there are many times mechanical and not what real native speakers would say.  Worth knowing and using.  I've been using the Merriam - Webster dictionary site for many weeks now, and will have to relearn that habit to take advantage of something better.  Thanks, Stuart! 

He has also blessed us with a permanent key to the courtyard, which includes use of the patio - and table and chairs, and bathrooms and I suppose laundry room.  When we ever get tired of walking around El Centro once we return here to live, we are allowed use of the courtyard for free to have a respite and also interact with the residents present.  Great offer which we are thankful to have taken. . . we will therefore keep the outside door key to this complex
upon the completion of our stay here, and will be staying at the Hotel Milan near Parque Calderon to finish out our time in Cuenca this visit.  Hotel Milan has no elevator, but has a stunning view of Cuenca from its dining room on the fifth floor, penthouse suite style, where they offer free breakfast to its guests.  Will be doing some more climbing, walking, and such once again as always.  

Which leads me to say. . . I've now gotten to the fourth belt buckle hole in my belt for my slacks in this visit to Cuenca.  About a belt buckle hole smaller each week of staying here and walking about 3 kilometers a day on average.  Carolyn Anne says I look a lot better, and she does too, as she has lost some weight as well.  Another advantage of Cuenca. . . and by not having a car and living like the average Ecuadorian, helping our automobile transportation expenses go way down.  A double win!

Speaking of cars and such. . . some interesting vehicles on the road here.  No Chrysler products here, but lots of Chevrolets and Fords.  No Chevy Novas of course . . . "no va" means "no go" in Spanish. . . who would buy a car like that? - but lots of Chevrolet Forzas/Suzuki Swifts which in the USA is more commonly known as the Geo Metro.  *ONE* Mercedes Benz sedan seen, but lots of Mercedes Benz city buses.  The police here uses Hyundai buses for special unit observation detail community policing.  There are Volkswagen buses that hold around 25 to 30 people, too, nicely equipped inside.  Fiat camionetas, or pickup trucks with a factory equipped tall roof camper enclosed cargo area for commercial deliveries.  SEAT coupes from Spain. . . and lots of Toyotas, Nissans, and Kias here too.  Hondas are motorcycles here. . . no cars like in the USA, except two very used circa 1979 Honda Civics we've seen.  No hybrid cars or electric vehicles either. . . no one here except for the expats knows what a Toyota Prius is.                     

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