Sunday, December 25, 2011


Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family!

This is our second Christmas in Cuenca, and we love it more and more everyday.

Christmas in Cuenca means fireworks and the Paseo del Nino Viajero -- the big children's parade on Christmas Eve.  The parade lasts 6-8 hours.  This year, there were over 400 floats expected, plus dancers, horses, donkeys, etc.  Here are a few pictures from this year's event.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Last week, we spent a couple of days with our friends Jerry and Rhonda in Vilcabamba. It's about a 4-1/2 hour drive from here and at approximately 5000 feet of altitude. So, it was nice and warm.

We stayed at Le Rendez-vous, which is located about three blocks from the center of town. It's a very nice place with rooms surrounding a beautiful tropical garden. And of course, since one of the main reasons for going to Vilcabamba is to relax, there are hammocks for the afternoon siesta. For those interested in a nice, inexpensive, basic and clean place, we recommend Le Rendez-vous. You can check it out at

Rhonda in front of her room overlooking the garden.

Ahhh! Relaxation.

There isn't a whole lot to do in Vilcabamba but relax -- unless you want to do some strenuous hiking or horseback riding, which we didn't. But, there is a mini-zoo that we visited. It is located in a nice park that is probably rather busy on weekends. The zoo has mostly birds, a few of which were quite pretty.

This is the prettiest buzzard that any of us have ever seen. His head was just gorgeous.

This ostrich did a mating dance aimed at the young woman standing there. Wedding announcements to follow.

This little fellow comes from the Oriente (Amazon jungle).

One of the things we really enjoyed about Vilcabamba is that you can walk down the middle of the street without worrying about getting hit by a car.

Anybody home?

Doesn't look like there is anybody home.

We went up the the Izhcayluma Lodge for lunch one day. This is the view of Vilcabamba and the surrounding countryside from there.


View around Vilcabamba

Anyway, we had a nice couple of days of relaxation. And since it's the valley of longevity, we are a bit younger than we were before we went.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Bad!

Okay, okay.  We know we've been extremely lax about posting, but that's because we've just been so busy living our lives here in Cuenca.  We just love being here.  We are coming upon our one year anniversary of moving to Cuenca.  This year went by really fast!!!!!

We've continued with our Spanish lessons twice a week with our darling Spanish teacher Sonia.  By the way, Sonia has started giving art tours of local artists in Cuenca.  We've gone on her tours, which are wonderful, and purchased our share of art.  Check out her website at

We've also been keeping an eye on the construction project next door.  The work on the 13 story highrise that is going up right outside our windows is a marvel to watch.  These guys are pretty much building this by hand, with the exception of a steam shovel to dig out the big hole for the basement levels.  It is just amazing to see what they are doing.  And OSHA inspectors would have heart attacks.  We come close sometimes watching them.  Then there is the german shepherd that lives at the construction site, whom we have christened "Poochito" (how's that for Spanglish?), who keeps us endlessly entertained with his antics. 

I continue to spend time in the sewing room and Gil continues to spend time in the lazyboy.  In all honesty, he is working on the computer.  He had Pepi make him a computer stand for his laptop so he never has to get out of the lazyboy. 

And of course, we enjoy spending time with our wonderful friends here in Cuenca and just getting out and about in our wonderful city.

We promise to post another entry soon, this time with pictures, and to try and keep up a bit better with regular postings.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cuenca skies

We've blogged in the past on the beauty of the skies here, but we just can't resist doing it again because they are so magnificent. So here are a few pictures of our beautiful mountains, the clouds and the sun.

Morning comes to Cuenca:

Sunny day, blue sky:

Storm clouds gather for the daily afternoon rainstorm:

Night moves in:

Eat your heart out, Ansel Adams!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


In 1963 a young American woman joined the new Peace Corps and was assigned to Suraguro, Ecuador at her request. There, she met a young American man who had joined the Peace Corps one year earlier, and who would eventually become her husband. They fell in love not only with each other, but also with Saraguro and her people. Since their time in the Peace Corps, they have returned to Saraguro regularly, with one or both of them returning almost every year since, with a few periods of exception. Their daughter was even born in Ecuador.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to meet Linda Belote on her recent trip to Saraguro as she passed through Cuenca. We had lunch with her three times during her "short this time" two week stay. Linda tells us that she considers Saraguro "home" and she has lifelong friends there who also consider her to be family.

Over the past several years, Linda has been assisting the women of Saraguro in showing to the world their beautiful bead weaving handiwork. She has worked to have the women of Saraguro included in an international folk art market in Santa Fe -- The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. If you happen to be in Santa Fe from July 8th - 10th this year, you should try to go. The market is evidently very selective about which artists can enter and you are likely to see some stunning work.

Here is the URL for the market if you'd like to know more:   If you go to the section on the artist profiles, and check the Western Hemisphere artists, you can see a profile of Maria Balvina from Saraguro who will be at the market this year representing the women of Saraguro.

We were lucky enough meet Maria Balvina when she and Linda came to Cuenca to ship the beadwork that would be sold at the market. Like so many of the people here in Ecuador, she is absolutely gorgeous, sweet and gracious and will be a wonderful representative for the people of Saraguro. Here are Linda (on the left) and Maria Balvina.

That beautiful collar Maria Balvina is wearing is one of the gorgeous bead necklaces that the women of Saraguro make and wear. The hats that Linda and Maria Balvina are wearing are the traditional "everyday wear" hats of the indigenous Saraguro people.

We also had the opportunity to visit Saraguro a few months back. It is a lovely place. The indigenous people there have managed to maintain their cultural identity throughout the years.

This was our local guide in Saraguro, Asuncion Saca, and his lovely daughter. When we arrived in Saraguro, we were fortunate that it was on the anniversary of Saraguro's independence from Spain. There was a big parade and everyone was dressed for the occasion. The clothes that Asuncion and his daughter are wearing are the traditional "special occasion" attire for the indigenous people. Note the black and white designs on the underside of the hats. Also, you'll see that Asuncion's daughter is wearing one of those beautiful beaded necklace collars. In the background, you can see some men in more everyday wear. The men wear short pants and people from Saraguro are very recognizable by their dress when we see them here in Cuenca.

School children in traditional dress in the parade.

Note the beautiful silver broach that the young woman is wearing. This is also part of the traditional dress for the Saraguro women. Today, these broaches are extremely expensive (they are silver), and broaches have been handed down for generations.

A building in beautiful Saraguro.

The countryside around Saraguro is stunning.

We took a hike on a very steep, very narrow trail. The ladies stopped about half-way up, but the men kept on. When they reached the top, they let out a loud scream. This was done to release bad energy, according to Asuncion. Fortunately, we ladies had binoculars with us and were able to verify that the scream didn't result from someone falling off the mountain. Whew! Up there, they were able to see some Inca ruins and also multiple important peaks for the Inca.

Here's Asuncion looking fresh as a daisy after that difficult hike. Difficult for Gringos that is. He is showing the men an Inca astronomical calendar. Water is put into the hole. Heavenly bodies (the moon, stars) are then reflected in the water and depending upon where they are reflected, the people knew the date.

We were also honored to be able to participate in traditional cleansing ceremony. This woman is known as a yacha. She is a spiritual healer. The woman in red is her daughter who is her assistant and yacha in training. We all left the ceremony with much gratitude that we were allowed to share in this experience.

If you'd like to know more about Saraguro, check out Linda & Jim's website at:

Saturday, April 23, 2011


It's Holy Week and lots of new things to see and try. Easter here is much more of a religious holiday than it is in the US. No tradition of pagan fertility-rite bunnies or eggs.

There is a soup here that one eats during Holy Week. It's called Fanesca. It has lots and lots of different ingredients including beans, lentils, corn, cabbage, potatoes, dried fish, sometimes chicken, squash (several kinds), etc. The list goes on and on. There are many different recipes for Fanesca as well. Each family has their own special recipe it seems. Also, Fanescas around the country highlight the particular foods of the area where they are served. For example, Fanesca on the coast boasts many more kinds of seafood than in the highlands where a dried, salted fish is the seafood included.

Anyway, we ventured out to one of the finest restaurants here in Cuenca, Villa Rosa, to try Fanesca. It was delicious. We had a long chat with one of the proprietors, Patricia, about the different Fanescas and the traditions for Fanesca. Patricia's sister has written a lovely book about Fanescas around the country which includes some recipes. Patricia kindly let us peruse the book while we were having our Fanesca.

Along with the Fanesca, we had Chamales. These are a sweet cornbread/mush steamed in corn leaves. Delicious! We dug in before we thought to take a picture, so sorry, this one is half eaten.

On Good Friday, we went downtown to see the early procession of the faithful carrying the statuary of Jesus through the streets.  There was a fairly large crowd of people walking with the procession.  Every now and then, it would stop while a priest spoke through a loud speaker.  The crowd would then respond in unison.  Then the procession would move a little further on and then stop and the priest would speak again.  Kind of a mass on the move.  A few pictures of the procession.

Fortunately, the sun was out for a little while in the morning, so this procession did not get rained on. After having lunch downtown, we managed to get into the apartment just before the afternoon rain deluge began.