Monday, November 15, 2010

Rainy Days and Guinea Pigs

This is the dry season in Cuenca. But, it's been even drier than usual and the rivers are running to about half what they were this time last year. So, everyone has been wishing for rain. Well, this week, we finally started getting some rain. We've had some pretty good rainfall the last few days, and everyone is relieved to see it.

We've been busy getting the lease for our apartment squared away, measuring and shopping for drapes, buying appliances (for those of you reading this in the US, apartments don't come with appliances, so you have to get your own and you take them with you when you move), buying a bed, etc.

Here are some shots of the apartment we will be moving into. It's huge, and is in a new highrise condo building where a lot of expats live. We have some good friends who live there already, and have already met a few other people in the building. Fortunately, there are a fair number of Ecuadoreans living there too, so we are hoping to become friends with some of our Ecuadorean neighbors.

I, Deborah, am particularly taken with the kitchen. It's larger even than any living room I've ever had before, much less a kitchen, and you all know I love to cook. I'll have a nice big room for a sewing room too, and Gil will have a room for a study/office.

Here are a couple of shots of the kitchen.

Gil says I'm going to lose weight just walking around in this kitchen. I sure hope so, because something's gotta work.

This is a view from the master bedroom (also huge) into the dressing area and then into the master bathroom.

The master bathroom has a jacuzzi. Aaaahhhhh!!!!

There are also these wonderful built-in cabinets in every room. This one is in the room where I will have my sewing room. This saves me from having to have cabinets made for storing all my sewing supplies and my material stash. Also, note the beautiful wooden floors. They are in the three "bedrooms", and the rest of the apartment has beautiful ceramic tile floors, which are very standard in Ecuadorean homes.

And finally, here's the view from the kitchen, dining room, and Gil's study windows. The beautiful mountains, where we will be able to see those gorgeous sunsets to which we are becoming accustomed.

Over the last few days, the wonderful and always fun to be with Fabian has been helping us with the chores for getting ourselves set up. On Saturday, after doing some shopping, getting our coopera account set up so we can get discounts at the organic market, and getting our Supermaxi discount card, we were hungry. Gil has been hankering for cuy, so Fabian took us to a wonderful little restaurant where we could have cuy cooked the traditional way.

The cuy is put on a spit, in this case a long wooden stick, and slowly roasted over hot coals. In this photo, the cuy is getting close to being done, but still has a little way to go. The restaurant is a family affair. This is me with the proprietor and his mother who is the cook. She's been cooking cuy for many, many years and knows what she is doing.

Finally, the cuy is ready to eat. Fabian and I are ready to start.

But, we couldn't start without getting a picture of Gil getting ready to have his first cuy. (I had cuy in Peru about 10 years ago, so this wasn't my first time. Although, this was much better than the cuy I had in Peru, because that cuy was dry, stringy and tasteless. I think it was an old one. This one was young and plump.)

Now, that's one happy man! He enjoyed it too. He's ready to go again. Those other things on the table are potatoes that were absolutely delicious. We had a lot of them, so we brought a "doggy bag" home with us and have been enjoying re-heated potatoes for several meals. There's also a plate of white corn and a little bowl of delicious tree-tomato salsa. The cuy was fattier than we expected. I guess that's why they are called guinea PIGS. They have a fat layer under the skin just like a pig. The roasted skin is fantastic!!!

Now, we realize that cuy isn't for everyone, but we are adventurous eaters, and are mighty glad we are. There are so many wonderful foods here to try, and we are looking forward to each and every one of them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Knight Skies in Cuenca

You know how beautiful the sunsets are on a tropical beach, like those in Maui?  The kind of sunsets that make you take your mai-tai down to the beach each night and sit in a beach chair to wait for the glory?  Well, they can't hold a candle to the sunsets here in Cuenca.

The sun here, near the equator, falls behind the mountains that surround Cuenca, and the sky lights up with fire.  It starts with that bright white flame of light as the sun first dips behind the mountains.

Then it gets a little more orange as the sun sinks lower.

The level of orange keeps increasing as the sun drops further and further down until the sky is a deep dark pumpkin.

Almost every night we have been in Cuenca, we have been treated to this show.

A few nights ago, we were treated to something even more spectacular at sunset.  While I was watching the movie King Arthur on TV, the one with that dreamboat Clive Owen playing King Arthur and Kiera Knightly as a bow and arrow toting Guinevere, Gil noticed that the images on the TV were being superimposed on the sunset by a reflection in the windows.  He came up with these amazing shots.  These are not double exposures.  This is actually what he could see and the camera picked it up.

Eat your heart out Maui.  You got nothing on Cuenca!  Well, except affordable mai-tais.  Anyone know where we can get a good mai-tai?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Home to Cuenca

We've made it.  We are back in Cuenca and loving it!!  The Jacaronda trees are in bloom.  What's not to love?

Jacaronda lined street

There's a beautiful pink tree in bloom now too.  Sorry, don't know the name of it.


 We've had a busy week finding an apartment, buying appliances, and a bed.  We are currently staying in Rich & Nancy's studio at the Frigata.  It's truly lovely and a very good location.  Thanks to Rich & Nancy for this beautiful accommodation.

In addition to "working" to get ourselves set up for our life in Cuenca, we've also been enjoying the festivities taking place here this week.  First, there was All Souls Day or as it's known in Latin America, The Day of the Dead - and the festivities leading up to it.  Second, we have Independence Day.  The result is a four day weekend (or maybe it's five days total) as a holiday for the Ecuadorians.  Anyway, a lot of people have come into town for the festivities.  There's music, dancing, beauty contests, art displays, food, fireworks, and just loads and loads of fun.  The celebrations are taking place all over the city, and we've tried to catch as much of them as we can.  We are having a blast and so happy to be back in Cuenca.

Dancers at the flower market square

Kicking up the heels at the flower market

Beauty Contest at Mercado 9 Noviembre

Dancers at Plaza de San Francisco

Capturing the wolf with ribbons

Enjoying seeing the wolf get captured

Blow-up toy salesman

Even the food gets dressed up for the celebration -- those are Cuenca/Azuay flags its wearing

Blow torching the pig

Pigs and guinea pigs for feasting upon

Candied apples

People come from all over for the festivals

Merchants from Otavalo

Child in Parque Calderon enjoying the festivities

Everyone gets into the celebratory mood

Fireworks over Turi (seen from the studio apartment window)

Tomorrow there is a military parade.  President Correa will be here to watch.  Fortunately, we will be able to see the parade from the terrace of Rich & Nancy's two bedroom rental that is right above the studio we are renting from them.  Today, there was a practice parade.  We had a lot of fun watching the troops practice through the routine several times.  Tomorrow, we'll be able to see how all that practice paid off.  The President will be sitting right across the street from where we will be watching, so the troops should be putting their best boot forward as they pass by us.

The practice parade

Watching the practice parade from the gorgeous terrace