Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Seminal Reflections about Cuenca


What has it been like this past, first month of living on a permanent basis in Cuenca, Ecuador?

It’s been tough. It’s not like it was in 2012 when I visited the city for 90 days and knew I was going to return to the states. The temporal nature of that stay diluted the experience in comparison to what I’m feeling now with permanent visa in hand.

Street scene in Cuenca 

Temporary and permanent refer to very different beasts. The temporary retains the past life, it ties past life to present life and one can always see an end. It’s Bud Light. The permanent cuts the past life entirely off and renders in the mind the stay a matter of gravity and deep content. It’s dark German beer. 

The 90 day stay though served good purpose in that I met Ecuadorians I’m in contact with now, and those connections nourish a sense of belonging.

I’ve rented a two bedroom furnished apartment which I moved into November 1. No rental application needed, detailing like ten years of past address history, no references needed, and no job history or credit report needed. I needed to give $330 cash for a month’s rent and $300 cash security deposit and I received a receipt from the land lady.
 
Street market in Cuenca

When I took my first shower, the shower curtain and rod fell to the floor. I’m going to fix it because word from the neighbor tenant grapevine is that if you need something repaired, it’s you do it or it doesn’t get done. I’m not particular. I lived in my truck two years, lived on a boat, lived in dingy, dirty hotel rooms and slept out in the bushes and on the streets at times. It does not perturb me in the least if it’s me who must do apartment maintenance. At the rental cost for what is to me a well-appointed abode, it’s what I call only fair.

Here are some dark side shadows. What is it with these Ecuadorians walking on the sidewalks who bump you and pass on without an “excuse me?” What is it with the urine smell on some streets that can hang in the air for blocks?  What is it with the so often, so interminably loud piercing car alarm sounds?  

It is what it is. But if you’re a gringo with a problem prostrate, and really need to piss quickly, if you’re like me, you’re delighted to relieve yourself without fear of police repercussion or signal of societal disfavor, like back in the states.

Street scene in Cuenca

What I like most about Ecuador---it’s human. It’s real. It’s warm. I see couples kissing in public much, much more often than I did in the states. Romance absorbs with the air people breathe in Cuenca. Gay and lesbian romance I've noticed also about town as well, and it doesn't appear especially necessary a matter to hide.

Despite my complaints, I’m laughing. I’m laughing with taxi drivers, vendors, waiters, new and old Ecuador friends and sometimes strangers sitting on a park bench in the downtown district.  My Spanish teacher at Yanapuma is an engaging woman who speaks Spanish with me two hours a day four days a week, and we frequently find cause to laugh.
 
Cuenca City Hall

The Spanish I studied these three years past, much of the words and phrases return to mind in the immersive environment. Furthermore I don’t care about how to say exactly, correctly what I want to say nearly as much as I want to make myself understood. As a result I’m relaxed because I’m not worried about making mistakes. The relaxation enables me to speak mostly without hesitations. I’ll also speak with body language, hand gesture, facial expression and tone of voice to supplement understanding of my Spanish. I’m serious. Becoming a fluent Spanish speaker is so important to me I would stand on my head to get a point across.