Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas in Cuenca

This time last year, we were getting ready to go to the States for the holidays and missed a lot of the parades, parties and festivities of Christmas in Cuneca. So this year, we're taking it all in and then some! Although our schedules are full with teaching, speaking at the University of Cuenca, and writing, we're making a lot of time for PARTIES!

We started out the month by going to the "Open House" of Todo Santos--the church at the end of Calle Larga that has been wrapped in a blue tarp since we arrived last year. The restoration process should be complete by 2012, but they offered tours of the church, demonstration of the various types of breads made in Cuenca, and of course lunch at the Todo Santos Restaurant where there is also an art gallery and souvenir shop. You can even watch them make bread in the restored brick oven. The school children of Todo Santos put on a demonstration of their own (both in English and Spanish) which was quite informative.

And then off to the Christmas Bazar at Esquina de las Artes where the school children put on a performance every evening around 5:30 (rain or shine). They were adorable in their Christmas outfits and it was even more fun watching the parents scoot to the front of each row to get a picture of their child. It was definitely a family affair.

The University of Cuenca has asked me to speak several times to their classes (English and Tourism) about my book Living and Retiring in Cuenca, which they are now using as a textbook. When I first met the professors in the faculty lounge we spoke all in Spanish and then toward the end of our discussion, they switched into perfect English. Surprise!!! They've also invited Mark and me to their "tandem" meetings on Mondays where professors can practice their English. And then I will also be speaking at the Polytechnic University on Wednesday and helping out with their English Club as well.  During the week, we keep busy with our "intercambio"' classes -- trading English for Spanish lessons and Mark continues to teach at CEDEI and loves it!  Something tells me that we didn't really retire, we just changed direction in our lives.

And then the Christmas parties are beginning. We had a lovely time at Uncle Wally and Auntie Hazel's house on Saturday (they own Hostel de los Perros), but this party was for grown-ups -- no doggies allowed. We met new folks and "old" and enjoyed spectacular food, fellowship and "yes" presents for Mocha and the other doggies who missed the party. Aunt Hazel and Uncle Wally thought of everything -- right down to snowflakes cascading off the walls!

When we're at "el centro" there's always something going on: a parade, fireworks or a procession. I walked home after meeting some new folks in town who were staying at the Santa Lucia Hotel and I followed the music, the luminaries, and the procession to Santo Domingo Plaza where there was a fireworks display. It was almost magical with thousands of luminaries lining the streets and fireworks being lit off in the plaza. I don't think I've ever been that close to the action before and it was exhilarating.

And this week I had lunch with a special friend at Inca Real Hotel and she handed me a very special book. Her first Chicken Soup story was published! I remember when we first met and she shared with me a very poignant story from her past and I encouraged her to enter into Chicken Soup and it was accepted. It's always fun to watch others get published for the first time. Congratulations, Sue!

Now back to my writing deadlines and more Christmas parties this week. In between school and "work" we meet with new folks coming into town to look, explore, ask questions and make the all important decision, "Is Cuenca right for us?"  Some of the questions are the same, but others are thought provoking. Most of the folks fall in love with Cuenca -- the way we did -- and others prefer a place that is warmer with less rain and head to Vilcabamba or somewhere on the coast. Cuenca certainly isn't for everyone, but for those of us who call it "home," we can't think of a better place to live and spend the holidays!

Our favorite months: December, January and February are filled with sunshine and we can "almost" forgive Cuenca for the months of rain that preceded it. While the rest of the world fights with snowstorms, we're enjoying our piece of paradise called "Cuenca."

Hasta luego y feliz navidad!

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