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.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Always celebrating!

A NOTE before we start:  For those who don't know, if you click on any picture, it zooms in.  Click again, and it will zoom some more.  To get back to the original post, just hit you back arrow.

As we said in our last posting, we are well into the April festivals. Yesterday, April 12th, was the 454th anniversary of the founding of Cuenca. Well, the founding of Spanish Cuenca. There were people living here long before that, and in fact, the Inca had one of their capitals here in what was then called Pumapungo. The father of the Inca whom the Spanish killed liked this place so much that he spent much of his time here, and actually died here.

Anyway, to celebrate April 12th, there were four days of celebrations, including art fairs, parades, expositions, wreath layings, masses, dancing and a children's singing competition. We tried to get to as much of it as possible.

There was a parade of school children on Saturday. Each school had a drum corps, and some had majorettes or acrobats. There were some little girls all dressed in pink and stilt walking. Luckily, the weather was beautiful for the parade. (Remember, we've been having lots of rain. But the weather cleared up for much of the four days of celebrations and the rains came mostly during the nights.)

This little fellow is hard to see in this photo, but he had a ringside seat for the parade. (We recommend a click on the picture to see the pooch better.)

On Monday, we went to an ethnic dance show put on by three of the local dance schools for children. They were, as always, totally adorable.

We then wandered over to one of the many art expositions. This one was over in the oldest Spanish area of Cuenca, which was built near the area of Pumapungo. It is where the metal workers are. There's a big statue of a man coming out of a volcano, representing the "fuego workers" (those who work with fire.)

On Tuesday, there was a presentation of flowers at Parque Calderon.

Also at Parque Calderon on Tuesday, various government agencies had booths set up to give out information, and sometimes, free items. We thought you might find this interesting. At the Department of Public Health booth, there was a shaman who was doing a cleansing ceremony for people. They were lined up to get their cleansing. Here, the medical community respects the traditional medicines. By doing so, instead of denigrating and ridiculing the old practices, the indigenous people trust the modern doctors more, and will come to them for help when needed. We overheard one man who was in line telling someone else that the cleansing was free. (Evidently, the shaman usually gets a little something for the cleansing.) He was very excited about being able to get his cleansing ceremony courtesy of the government.

We also attended an indigenous ceremony. Here, we were told that the beautiful layout of flowers and fruits and vegetables represented the moon, sun and the heart and soul of the people of Canar, Azuay and Cuenca. It was a lovely ceremony, and we were pleased to find that we could understand a lot of the Spanish.

While we were at Parque Calderon, a group of toddlers were lined up by their teachers (it looked like a pre-school class) so they could take a photo of them. Look at these faces. They look so suspicious about this whole endeavor. "Why are we being lined up like this? Why are people taking our pictures? Who are those funny looking tall people in the straw hats who are taking pictures of us too?" Their expressions were just priceless.  We recommend another "close-up" click to get a good look at those faces.

We then made our way to the 9th of October mercado where we ran into a man walking his goats. He walked them up and down the street for quite some time. We aren't sure why.  We caught them at a moment of rest.

Also at the mercado, we were treated to some fabulous dancing.

For the grand finale of our days of celebration, we attended a singing competition for school children. They were singing various songs of the nation. Some were not so good, but most were impressive. Here's a shot of most of the contestants before the competition began.

Some of these children had wonderful voices and loads of personality. We'd wager that you might be able to pick out who the winner was from this photo.

There was also a band that played ethnic music for us while we waited for the judges to tally their results and announce a winner. This little girl also entertained Gil and I while the music was playing. She danced and danced specifically for us. She had a huge smile (with a front tooth missing.) She was having a wonderful time dancing in front of us to the music. Just adorable. By the way, get a load of the size of the pan flute that the man next to the drummer has. There were three different sizes of these flutes used in the band. This one had a very deep sound to it.

The winners' circle. The little boy in white was the winner. I, Deborah, was betting on, and rooting for, the tiny one on the end. He was full of charisma, dancing and singing his way into our hearts. He was also an audience favorite. He came in second.  I must admit that the little boy in white had a wonderful voice and also had lots of charm and some great moves.

And the winner received a great big hug from the family.

We had a wonderful time during the celebrations.  We also noted that, despite the number of gringos here, we saw very few of them at any of the events.  That's too bad for them because they missed out on some wonderful times.

Friday, April 8, 2011

April Surprises

It rains a lot here in April. At least it has this year. We've had some monsoon type rains in the last week or so. There's a construction project going on right next door, and the holes that have been dug by the workers in order to set rebar & concrete posts, are now five foot deep lakes.

These "lakes" have grown significantly since this picture was taken two days ago.

I might add, we are none too happy about this project. It is a 13 story highrise. We are constantly measuring and sighting it to try and determine whether it is going to completely block our view of the Cajas. Right now, our belief is that we will still have our view out the kitchen window and part, if not all, of the dining room window. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

On April 1st, we were walking over to get our hair done.  (Cut for Gil = $1.50, cut, color & highlights for me = $18.)  We pass a fenced-in field on the way where there have always been a couple of calves. But on this day, no calves. Instead, we found two little pigmy goats who wanted some attention.

While I was getting my hair done, Gil headed to El Centro where there was a parade kicking off the April festival season. April not only has Easter, but April 12th is Cuenca foundation day. This was a fun parade with stilt walkers, dancers, big-headed costumes, bicyclists, majorettes, lots of school children, and lots of color!

Speaking of color, that's another surprise. My hair color is different this time. Not because I asked for it to be. Sigh. Well, it will grow out and I'll be sure to tell her "mas rubio" (more blond for those of you who are non-Spanish speakers) next time.

And finally, Pepe brought the sewing room furniture. I'm in heaven. I've been spending a lot of time in there. I now have a huge cutting/drafting table, a sewing machine table, a three way mirror, and drawer inserts that hold my notions and threads. I designed what I wanted, and Pepe built it.  He did a beautiful job and each piece is exactly as I designed it.  It's fabulous.

 Getting my sewing room furniture, which took quite awhile to receive but was worth it, allowed me to finish the blanket I was making for our darling Spanish teacher Sonia who is having her first baby. The baby is due in early May, and I was really worried that the furniture would not arrive in time for me to finish the blanket.  (Pepe had my sewing machine for two weeks too before he brought the furniture and the machine back.) The hand embroidery was completed (while I was waiting for my sewing room furniture all these months, I started learning how to do hand embroidery), but I needed the machine to do the binding. Gil didn't get a good picture of the whole blanket because it had been folded up and needed ironing for a good picture, and we were about to go out the door to give it to her. Anyway, here are a few pictures of the embroidered pieces.

Can you guess that she is having a boy?