Sunday, July 31, 2011

Streets Closed For Family Activities

It's always fun to walk to El Centro (Old Town) and people watch.  Today, there were 3 or  4 major activities and most of the main streets were closed to cars and buses. It was nice being able to walk down the cobblestone avenues and not be concerned about dodging taxis.  There were several races but my favorite site (its at the 1:28 of the youtube video) was putting exercise ropes at one of the pedestrian bridges on the Tomebamba River.

I took a different route home and I got to see two beautiful churches that I've never been in. Watch for my next video on the Churches of Cuenca.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Candle Factory- Cuenca

Each month the Cuenca Expats Group of the Chamber of Commerce takes a trip to an interesting Cuenca business.  We visited a candle factory that makes candles using 3 antiquated machines. The business employs 6 people and they primarily make candles for 3 retail locations.

Can you guess what vegetable is under the purple/blue flower?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In Cuenca: Don't Leave Home Without Your Camera

Every morning when I leave for my walk my camera is ready to load into my pocket along with my wallet and keys. Every day there is either a street entertainer or someone doing something unusual on my path. The video shows how this street performer handles a little mishap.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tiendas Of Cuenca

A Tienda is defined as a stall or store that sells merchandise. You can find a tienda on every block in Cuenca. Most are not bigger than 300 sq.ft. Many resemble the 7-11's in the States. The majority don't open before 9:30 am and many tiendas close between 1-3:00pm for the afternoon nap.

Many of the Tiendas also are able to recharge or add minutes to your cell phone. On my street my two favorites Tiendas are Marsello's Panaderia (Bakery)  and the Tomebama Lavanderia (Laundry)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Street Vendors Of Cuenca

I take my trusty Kodak Camcorder with me on my walk today. The first category of street vendors are the Campesino women selling fruit from wheelbarrows. The second category are tricycle vendors selling food on the street. The third type are the permanent street carts usually on the corner selling candies, sodas flowers, newspapers and shoeshines.

I was lucky today to pass through Parque Calderon where the Cuenca City Hall was sponsoring an Opera singer. Of course I always enjoy watching the beautiful churches in Cuenca.  Enjoy the video.  Part 2 will concentrate on the Tiendas of Cuenca.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

8 Weeks In Cuenca

Sharon and I are fortunate that our move from Oregon to Cuenca went so smoothly. We rented a beautiful apartment 20 meters from the Yanuncay River. On our walks we can experience the daily mood of the river.  A new Cuencana friend's son one day described the river as "angry".  We see people washing their clothes and fishing almost every day. I'm also fortunate to be able to walk everyday into El Centro ( Old Town).  I see the beautiful churches, the ongoing construction and the street entertainers.

In the next couple of posts I'll try and paint a picture of the city's entrepreneurs.  Enjoy the video.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Graffiti, Street Art And The Machete Juggler

All cities have their share of graffiti.  When I lived in the New York there was one year your eyes were immediately asaulted with the graffiti on the subway cars. It seems to me that Cuenca has more than their share of graffiti for a city of 400,000 people. Is this the work of bored teenagers or gangs?  Fortunately, there is a lot of good street art that compensates for the graffiti.  In the video below I walk on Calle Larga and document some of the street art and graffiti.  I end up on Solano to witness a juggler throwing machete's in the air.  Never a dull moment in Cuenca.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Blue Buses Of Cuenca

When I lived in the United States I often used the public buses. In Portland a ride on the Tri-Met Bus is $2.35 and a ride on the New York City Buses is $2.50. In Cuenca a ride on the Blue Bus is 25 cents. The good news is that the bus system ( 28 lines) is safe, efficient, and I have never waited more than 5 minutes for a bus. The bad news is that it's not handicap friendly and the exhaust from the diesel fumes are very smelly.

Riding the bus is always an adventure. Don't tarry getting on the bus because the driver waits for no one. The bus often moves as you are getting your second foot on the step. Always hold on to the seat or banister because most bus drivers take off and stop abruptly. Don't assume a bus will stop for you just because you're standing at a bus stop. Yours truly found out the hard way. The correct protocol is to extend your arm out at elbow height. In the video you can see several passengers exhibit the correct method.

There is a great free guide to the bus system at the Tourist office opposite Parque Calderon. My goal is to ride all the bus routes and report on the most interesting rides. In eight weeks I have been a passenger on 4 bus routes. Just 24 more to go.  Mas tarde ( more later)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cherimoya & Sunday In The Park

My second favorite tropical fruit is Cherimoya. I purchase the fruit at both the local food cooperative and the local markets.  Today's smoothie was 1/2 Cherimoya, 1 1/2 Pitahaya, 1 Tangerine 1/2 Papaya, 4 oz of Pina, Coco Yogurt.  You can find out more about the health benefits of Cherimoya here

After breakfast at the Kook Sharon and I took our weekly walk through Parque Calderon. The park had a band playing and there were vendors selling hats and native dresses. The last 4 seconds of the video is of handsome Rooster outside a furniture store on Solano Ave.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Me Gusta Pitahaya

One of the benefits of moving to Cuenca is being able to reasonably purchase and consume large quantities of tropical fruit. In the next couple of posts I'll talk about my favorite varietals and how I prepare them for juicing and eating.

Pitahaya (Dragon Fruit)  is hands down my favorite. I purchase them from Coopera, the local food cooperative. The price of the fruit varies. Today I purchased 5 large Pitahayas for $3.00.  They are usually about $4.90 a kg (2.2 lbs).  If I'm real lucky I can find them on sale at 10 for $1 at the Coopera.  You have to consume them within 2 days or freeze the pulp.  You can find more on the health effects of pitahaya here 

This morning I sliced two large pitahayas and scooped out the flesh into the blender. Next I added the juice of two oranges and the flesh of 1/2 cherimoya, 1/2 strawberry papaya, 4 oz of Pina Coco Yogurt, 4 ice cubes and 1 tps of sugar.  Blend for about 30 seconds and you have 16 oz of nirvana.

Bonus: Short video of a walk near the New Cathedral.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Short Walk

I met my friend Bill for a short walk. He introduced me to his barber. Martha cut his hair and my hair.  My hair cut was $4. The Spanish word "todos"( everything)  is taken seriously at the barber.  We then called both our wives and had a great vegetarian almurezo (lunch) three blocks away. The movie below shows our walking path by the Tomebamba River and some of the traffice on Avanida De Las Americas.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Long Walk

Once a week I try to walk to someplace unusual or to a place I usually take a taxi or bus. Today I decided to walk to Coopera, the local food cooperative to buy pitahaya (dragon fruit). On the way I bumped into a fellow American. Clarke has been here for over a year and I have been living in Cuenca just short of 2 months. We have bumped into each other by acccident 4 times in less than 8 weeks. Cuenca's population is about the population of Portland Oregon.  He invited me to lunch and we had a great Almuerzo for $2.50 which consisted of soup, juice, chicken, rice, macaroni salad, plantain and a banana for dessert.  We then parted company and I went to the Food Coop. On the way back I got on the wrong bus so my walk was a little longer.

My wife asked me if I was too tired to walk along the Yanuncay River by our apartment.  We enjoyed the cool weather and the great scenery by the river.

Note to self. Learn how to say "13" in Spanish

Monday, July 11, 2011

más o menos

Friday night Sharon and I entertained three Cuencana friends and for the first time more Spanish was spoken in our apartment than English.  We learned the Spanish version of  "Hearts" and we really enjoyed the interaction with our new friends.

Saturday I went to new markets with Gerard, a fantastic expat who has lived in Ecuador since 1994. We arrived at the organic market at 6:30 am and picked the very freshest Swiss Chard, red potatoes, and a superb papaya.

We then traveled to Fieria Libre, a gigantic market that is about 10 times larger than a Costco in the States.. I purchased, oranges, tangerines, pineapple, sea bass, shrimp and sweet potatoes. My favorite experience was watching one Cuencano stopped an entrepreneur walking two goats and buying a glass of fresh goat milk right from the goat.

On Sunday Sharon and I went for a walk in El Centro and had a great coconut ice cream cone. Videos of all the events are below.

Friday, July 8, 2011


My condominium rental on Primero de Mayo is 20 meters from the Yanuncay River. 3 or 4 times a week mostly during the afternoon a herd of 6 Holstein cows graze across the river. Each cow is chained to a spike allowing them about 5- 7 meters of grazing area. The smallest calf I've nicknamed "Violetta".

You can see them graze in this short Youtube video below. The cows seem to be unaware of the river or the traffic noise.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Animal Preserve And Tarqui Church Festival

Yesterday, Silene, Jim, Sharon and I took a taxi ride out to an Animal Reserve about 6 miles outside Cuenca.  Silene who is fluent in Spanish and English read an article about the Animal Preserve in the local paper. We were fortunate to have a taxi driver who knew the exact location. He agreed to stay while we toured the preserve.  You can see some of the interesting animals in the You Tube Videos below this post.  Admission was $2 and food for the animals was a $1. We were followed by two tame roosters who thought they had a good thing trailing the food. This was the first time I encountered native Ecuadorian birds and monkeys.  My favorite area was the monkeys but I also enjoyed the parrots and the ostriches.

Our cab driver suggested stopping off at the Tarqui Church Festival and he again stayed while we took pictures and observed the festivities. I felt that we were dropped off in the middle of a GlobeTrekker TV series. I really enjoyed snapping pictures of the native costumes and the entrepreneurship of some of the local vendors.  One vendor brought in a ice cream truck with a portable generator to supply electricity for making soft ice cream. The cab driver then brought us back to our respective apartments. Total cost.  $10 per couple for the cab and $5 admission to the animal preserve.  Viva Ecuador.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Six Weeks In Cuenca

On my usual walk into town I realized that Sharon and I have been in Cuenca for six weeks. I enjoy watching the street entertainers at the Solano Ave traffic lights and there is always a photo or video opportunity in El Centro. The biggest challenge remains understanding and speaking Spanish.  I try to stop off each day at one or two local merchants to order something and use my developing Spanish vocabulary. There is a great Yogurt Tienda on Benigno Malo right near Cafe Austria.  I usually buy 4 small pan de yuca rolls and a small raspberry yogurt shake. 

This morning I noticed that several elderly indigenous women came up to the owner and greeted her with a "Buenos Dias".  The owner then gave each woman some coins. I would like to find out more about this. Maybe in a week or two I'll be brave and ask the owner.

Mas tarde.

Friday, July 1, 2011

This And That In Cuenca

The animoto video below contains some pictures on my walk to Mall Del Rio to recharge my phone. I estimate that it costs me about $7 per month. I mainly use the cell phone to call a taxi and to communicate with my wife and call a few friends.  You can recharge your phone at the cell company or at hundreds of tiendas located throughout the city of Cuenca.

On a separate matter, my wife Sharon has started her own blog.  She is an accomplished writer and you can find her blog at . Cuenca Chronicles