Sunday, July 10, 2011

First Impressions – True or False?!?

It’s always fun to get everyone’s first impressions of Cuenca when they come into town. This week there are several blog readers and one special friend from Pennsylvania who will be staying here for a month to write her version of “Eat, Pray, Love.” As all the new folks shared their impressions of Cuenca, I took some mental notes:

“It’s such a clean city. Everywhere I turn, I see someone sweeping, cleaning or mopping up.”

TRUE: This is absolutely true and one of the first things I noticed about Cuenca. Men and women in blue, green and orange jumpsuits are constantly surveying the land for garbage—on the streets and sidewalks. I especially love their brooms, made of branches—very efficient. And if you walk by many of the businesses at night or in the morning, you will see them scrubbing the sidewalks (with soap and water!).

“I didn’t expect it to be so cold here. It reminds me of October in Pennsylvania during Halloween!”

TRUE: This comment made me chuckle! I have to remind folks that if you visit in July, you’re going to be in the dead of winter and it’s cold! My friend from Pennsylvania only brought a sweater, even though I begged her to pack a jacket. This time last year, I remember wearing my cashmere mittens at night. That’s why all the Ecuadorians go to “la playa” during the “summer” months! Maybe Cuenca should be called “perpetual fall.” The only problem with that is the trees never lose their leaves and there’s always something blooming here.

“Why do I have to throw my toilet paper in a receptacle instead of down the toilet?”

TRUE: It’s one of those things that is such a common occurrence; I fail to mention it to folks who are coming for a visit. I think it all depends on where you live in Cuenca. In our building it isn’t necessary, but in some of the older buildings where the plumbing isn’t so great, they request that toilet paper not go in the toilet. My friend, Trisha, is staying at a nearby hostel and there was a sign on the bathroom door and she thought it was very odd until I explained the reasoning.

“The Ecuadorian people seem to be so happy with their lives; they do everything as a family.”

TRUE: It was interesting that in the 2010 Census in Ecuador, there was a question regarding “happiness with family life,” and Ecuadorians listed it as very high—nearly 80 percent. At the hostel where my friend is staying, the family invited her to their daughter’s birthday party which started at 10:00 p.m. and lasted until 3:00 a.m. Trish commented, “I’ve never seen so much love in such a small place!”

“You’re always celebrating something in Cuenca—right?”

TRUE & FALSE: Not every single day, but enough to make you think that every day is a holiday! Cuenca is rich in history and culture, so there’s always an historical anniversary, religious holiday or an important occasion that warrants a few fireworks, street vendors and dancing! Yesterday while my friend and I were at “al centro” we heard music and sure enough in the “Barranco” section of town there was a “Luces y Dulces” (Lights and Sweets) festival going on. There was music, entertainment, dancing and—of course—lots of food! Yes, there were fireworks as well, but we left before they started.

It’s so much fun to hear everyone’s first impressions of Cuenca and get a pulse on what they’re thinking. Oddly enough, I haven’t met one person who didn’t love it here! However, not all comments are positive. My friend, Trisha, wanted to know where the Dollar Store was located. After I peeled her off the sidewalk and explained to her that we didn’t have the Dollar Tree in Cuenca, I took her to SuperMaxi to find some mascara. The sticker shock scared her a “little”: $14.50 for Maybelline (as compared to $3.50 in the States). I tried to explain that everything that’s imported (perfume, makeup, electrical appliances and computers) carries a hefty price tag.

First impressions do count and Cuenca has made quite a “splash” in the minds of many!

Until next time…hasta luego!

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