Thursday
Apr172014

Easter Week

Ecuador is a very Catholic nation, and Cuenca is a city with numerous free concerts and symphonies. It is therefore no surprise that there have been a series of symphony concerts all week, each at a different church.  Tonight we attended one at "The Old Cathedral" on Parque Calderon. We arrived a little late and were actually the last couple allowed to enter.  Guards kept the remaining crowd outside, since the church was filled beyond normal capacity.  A youth choir joined the orchestra for much of the performance.

Sunday
Apr132014

Palm Sunday and Cajas Art

Today was Palm Sunday for the Catholics in town, but we started the day by returning to Lake Zorrocucho in the Cajas, where we spent last Sunday.  Alberto drove us there again, and then Evelyn painted en plein air.  We were joined this time by Shimi -- an artist friend from Danville, back in the San Francisco Bay Area, who joined us for a few days.

While Shimi and Evelyn painted, Stephen and I walked the periphery of the lake again, this time with a tripod and flash, which allowed me to take photographs I was happier with than last week.  Along the way, we came across several fishermen (yes, always males...) working the lake and accompanying streams looking for dinner.  I never saw anyone catch any fish, but I rarely hear of fishermen talking about the fish as much as about the lakes and streams...

This is the painting that Evelyn worked on for a couple of hours until the chill chased us off to lunch.

Lunch was a minor adventure in itself.  We went to a small Sunday Brunch place sitting at 11,890 ft elevation.  Just going from the car to the restaurant (a short climb up some steps) left me light headed.  There was no chance I was going to hike around that lake!

As we were eating brunch (a delicious trout that was probably swimming in the lake that morning), we heard a WHOOMP! We looked around, wondering if an earthquake had hit. Then the owner came out calling "Out, quick!" (in Spanish of course, but the meaning was clear). Everyone rushed out, while I gathered my camera and coat and sauntered out (I've been in lots of earthquakes before, and knew it was already too late to be worried).  After a couple of minutes, we were told to return to our meals. Turns out the Whoomp we heard was actually a propane explosion in the kitchen.  Toto, I Don't Think We Are Not In Kansas Anymore

 

When we returned to town, we found a parade going down a street about a block from our condo.  This was a Palm Sunday parade, with some people celebrating the triumphant return of Jesus on a path of palm leaves (hence the term "Palm Sunday" celebration), while others jumped the gun and paraded as Jesus carrying his cross down the streets (should be a week from now, but who's keeping track?).

We had heard of these robed penitents parading through town at Palm Sunday, but had not seen it before now.  There are a couple of towns in Ecuador that are famed for such costumed parades, and all references we read said that "every town in Ecuador has them."  It was just up to us to find them.  As luck would have it, this parade near our condo had several small groups in variants of the hooded costumes, in different shades of purple.  We finally got to see them without going into other parts of Ecuador (which we will likely do in future years, but this year is pretty full with travel plans already).

Saturday
Apr122014

Foundation Day

Cuencanas take any excuse to celebrate, and they don't limit their holidays to just one day.  This weekend is an example, commemorating Foundation Day.  This is the day (celebrated for four days...) that marks the time 457 years ago that the Spanish declared Cuenca a city.  As in North America, there are a few purists that take pains to point out that the Canaris settled this location more than 1500 years ago, just as some people like to note that Columbus did not "discover" North America, since it was settled by the American Indians long before.  Regardless, this is the demarcation of the European settlement of The New World.  For Good or Evil, it led to our being here today, and thus is marked by parades, fireworks, and general merrymaking.

Vendors lined a main street (Doce de Abril -- AKA April 12) selling portraits, food and crafts.  Other groups danced in one square or another, demonstrating their ancestral heritage and entertaining crowds that gathered around.

Kids got involved too.  The younger ones participated in a potato sack race (above), while teenagers competed in dance and singing contests.  It was fascinating to watch these singers and realize that some of them definitely had the talent to be tomorrow's teen idols.  These were not the High School talent shows I remember from the States. These kids were extremely talented and a lot of fun to watch.  The audience played their parts too, with the boy dancers cheered by screaming teenage girls, and the girl performers met with equal enthusiasm by the teenage boys in the audience.

In the evening, we wandered over to Parque Calderon, and found a (free, of course!) rock concert in full swing. The voices were superb, and many in the audience were lip syncing the songs, indicating they knew the songs by heart.  One of the biggest surprises was seeing all the musicians turned out in full suits.  These performers were clearly adored by the audience, but there was none of the punk rock rebellion we come to expect in the States. The audience went from toddlers to parents (with their kids) to grandparents, with a very few gringos in the mix, and everyone seemed to love the music.  Unfortunately, the volume got cranked up further and further until we left because it was too painful to be within a block of the speakers.  Seems one aspect is being copied from the concerts in the States...

 

Sunday
Apr062014

Cajas - Lake Zorrocucho

Today Evelyn went painting with Alberto Soriano again, and I tagged along with my camera.  We went to Lake Zorrocucho this time.  While walking around the periphery of the lake, there were plenty of photographic opportunities for me, though I had left the "right equipment" back in the car...

Evelyn and Alberto set up in a little shelter across the lake, while I continued to hike and explore.  It was cold at 10,300 ft, so I put on my ski hat and fingerless gloves (letting me still control the camera).

This is definitely a target rich environment for both photography and painting.  We are planning on returning next week, and this time I will carry that tripod that is so necessary in the darker parts of the forest!

Saturday
Apr052014

Applesauce

Gloria Uyaguari, Evelyn’s favorite Spanish teacher, requires her students to write a diary in Spanish. Evelyn takes private Spanish lessons twice a week at Gloria’s home.

Here’s a recent page from Evelyn’s Spanish diary:

29 de Marzo, el sábado

Gloria y Adrian nos invitaron a su casa de campo cerca de San Bartolomé a recoger manzanas. Adrian era un muy buen conductor y maniobró  alrededor de todos los baches en el camino. El campo era muy hermoso.

Estaba feliz de conocer a Julia, que era la major amiga de Gloria y su familia. Julia era muy terrenal y tiene una personalidad agradable.

Primero visitamos la casa del hermano de Gloria, que es un medico que vive en España. La cabaña era muy rústica y tenía aire acondicionado natural.

Entonces, caminamos a través del campo de maíz a la casa de Nancy, que era la Hermana de Gloria.

Su casa también era muy rústica, con paredes de adobe y piso de tierra. Me sorprendío que el baño era modern y un gran contraste con la casa.

Yo estuve feliz de conocer a la familia de Gloria, porque dan la bienvenida a extraños.

Las mujeres cocinaron mientras los hombres se relajaron en la sombra. Maite (que tenía 7 años de edad) ha capturado los rencuajos, peces que se convierten luego en las ranas.

Los truenos eran muy fuertes y miramos las nubes y lluvia.

Cominos un almuerzo de comida ecuatroiana traditional, que era delicisoso. Después de la casa que estaba limpia, elegimos las manzanas de los árboles de Gloria. Johnny y Maite fueron más rápidos, mientras que yo era muy lenta. Disfruté del día con Gloria y su familia mucho. 

Después, burt hizo salsa de manzana.

In case you had trouble understanding the diary, here’s the English translation: 

Glory and Adrian invited us to their country home near San Bartolomé to collect apples. Adrian was a very good driver and maneuvered around all the potholes on the road. The countryside was very beautiful. 

I was happy to meet Gloria’s best friend, Julia, and her family. Julia was very earthly and has a pleasant personality.

First we visited the home of the Gloria’s brother, a doctor who lives in Spain. The cabin was very rustic and had natural air conditioning. 

Then, we walked through the cornfield to the home of Nancy, who was Gloria’s sister. 

Her house was also very rustic, with adobe walls and dirt floors. I was surprised that the bathroom was modern and a great contrast to the house. 

I was happy to meet Gloria’s family, because they welcomed strangers. 

The women cooked while the men relaxed in the shade. Maite (who was 7 years old) captured tadpoles. 

The thunder was very loud and we watched the rain and clouds. 

We ate a traditional, Ecuadorian meal that was delicious. After the house was cleaned, we picked the apples from Gloria’s trees. Johnny and Maite were faster, while i was very slow. I enjoyed the day with Gloria and her family.

Afterwards, Burt made applesauce with the fresh apples.