Wow, the past few weeks have been amazing and exhausting. There have been concerts, ballets, galas, private dinners, parties galore...more parties, the festival of lights, Christmas plays, musicals, symphonies, more dinners, and today is Christmas Eve and the Pase del Niño Viajero parade (that lasts eight hours).
If I could pick a favorite event this season, it would be the Nutcracker Ballet with the Cuenca Symphonic Orchestra. It was the first time either one of us had seen the ballet and we were mesmerized. The tickets were a mere ten dollars, but I would have paid three times that amount. It was that good! I hope they make it a tradition every year. We had seats closest to the front so we could see into the orchestra pit and somehow by the end of the ballet, I wanted to be a harp player (or the Sugar Plum Fairy).
Gone is the big Christmas tree in Parque Calderon and instead they decided to light up Cuenca. Cuenca is in lights (literally) in Parque Calderon. There's a huge tree of lights at Plaza Otorongo (the tallest one in Ecuador) and lights spelling out LUMINARIA and more lights at Plaza Domingo spelling out NAVIDAD. And if that isn't enough, the Tomebamba River is "swimming" in lights. There are fish jumping out of the water; a frog sitting on a lily pad; a bluebird in the tree; and indigenous women doing laundry by the river. Oh, and just when you thought it couldn't get more colorful, the fireworks at night light up the sky in red, green and white with globos (balloons) floating into the darkness.
Last night we had dinner with some friends at Mansion Alcazar and we could hardly hear one another with all the fireworks that were going off for a solid hour. By the way, Mansion Alcazar is and always will be our favorite place to celebrate -- whether it's a birthday, anniversary, Christmas or for no reason at all. No one in Cuenca has attention to detail like Mansion Alcazar and we're always treated like family. It was a packed house at the Mansion as many come to Cuenca just for the Pase del Niño Viajero parade. Today was spectacular and sunny, so I hope the kids keep their sombreros on.
Tomorrow we'll have a Christmas brunch and our kids from Pennsylvania will call and we'll get to watch our two-year-old granddaughter, Clara, open up her gifts from Mimi and Nano. We'll be flying to Pennsylvania in January to see our growing family; our newest granddaughter Adeline Grace Pombo (Addie) was born on December 21st.
We were kind of hoping not to have any December birthdays as we don't do snow anymore, so we'll have to devise a plan to celebrate summer birthdays in the fall and winter birthdays in the spring. Cuenca has pretty much spoiled us in the weather department. After living in blizzards for twenty-three years, there's nothing thrilling about going into subzero temperatures with snow and ice.
In case any of you were wondering, we don't plan to go back to the States to live because we have grandchildren (as many expats before us have done). I look at it this way, if we went back we'd be working full-time until we dropped dead and then we wouldn't be able to see our grandkids anyway. This way, we have the best of both worlds: we can have an extraordinary life and when we return to the States for a visit; our grandkids have our undivided attention. Let's face it; what employer would give you one month twice a year to see your kids and their kids (aka grandkids)?
Mark will only be teaching one or two classes in the spring (April), so we have a fairly long vacation from our vacation coming up. And I still write, but I'm pretty selective about what assignments I take on. I first ask the editor, "How badly do you need this?" If it doesn't fit with my schedule, then I politely say no. I didn't have that privilege before, but now I do. I have a story in a new Chicken Soup book coming out in February titled "Miracles and More" and I continue to write for them from time to time. I have a new motto in my 60's: "If it's not fun, then don't do it!" Life is way too short to say yes to anything that's not fun.
After seven years, I think our family has realized that we're not moving back, so they've stopped asking. But I do feel hopeful that we'll have more visitors as my sister and her husband made it here and hopefully one day our grandchildren can come visit us. I think it would be a wonderful opportunity, but it's entirely up to their parents.
And Cuenca just keeps getting better and better. The old blue buses are being replaced by newer buses that are eco-friendly. That's a relief! And in less than 288 days, the tranvia (electric train) will be complete. A French company has been assigned the duty of completing it and I have a feeling it just might become a reality in 2018.
Christmas in Cuenca is as busy or as quiet as you want it to be. There are so many things going on you can get exhausted just thinking about it or you can be selective and only do the things that really matter to you. This morning in church, the kids were in costume and sang a medley of Christmas songs and it was so wonderful. Worship is a big part of our lives and so time spent with our church family is extremely important to us.
We also have a goddaughter, Gaby, and her boyfriend, Freddy, and we love doing things with them once or twice a month, whether it's a movie, out to dinner, or just spending a night at home fixing dinner and playing boardgames, it's a blessing. Both are university students now and one day Mark will be walking her down the aisle. We always wanted a daughter and now we have one.
We want to wish you a blessed holiday season and the happiest New Year ever!
Until next time...hasta luego,
Connie & Mark