Thursday, June 21, 2012

Expat Events!

There are so many expat events in Cuenca each week, it's hard to keep up with them all. But last Saturday, we splurged and went to several. One of them was an Expat Wine Tasting at Mansion Alcazar. Leon Hall was there (from Fashion Emergency USA) singing a medley of songs and, of course, there were wines from Cousiño Macul Wine House.

Mansion Alcazar never disappoints when it comes to putting on a special event. The flowers, candles, and  hors d'oeuvres were the perfect complement to the variety of wines (especially the "gris" which simply disappeared). We also had an opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet the new folks in town.

My favorite part of the evening came right before we stepped in the door at the Mansion. Mark turned around and realized he had lost me! Actually, right down the street from the Alacazar was a wedding which was spectacular. Our taxi had passed by the church just as the bride and groom were getting into their car. I wanted to jump out and snap some pictures, but instead I waited until the taxi stopped and I ran back to catch a glimpse of the bride and groom. What caught my eye was a radiant bride holding a bouquet of red roses and the bridesmaids were holding white roses (that was a delightful twist to an old tradition). And the groom reminded me of Andrea Bocelli, so I played wedding photographer and moved up to the front of the crowd and watched as the couple got into their antique white convertible.

After the happy couple sped away from the church with shouts of "tanti auguri" from the crowd, I decided to join my hubby at the event that we had actually planned to attend -- the wine tasting! Mark knows me so well, he hardly flinched when I disappeared before we "arrived."

Expat events are always a highlight of the week and last Saturday was no exception --  filled with wine, music, and song!

 Until next time...hasta luego!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Gala Event!

Occasionally, we get dressed up in Cuenca, but not that often! I brought one little black dress and a pair of fancy heels and after two years, I finally got to use them!

Last Thursday (June 7th), we celebrated the 20th Anniversary of CEDEI (the language school where we teach). The invitation read "formal attire only," so I let out a "yippee" and ran to the closet and made sure my dress still existed. Sure enough, I even brought a sparkly purse to go with it. We were set, except Mark left his suit at his father's funeral. But one of our friends came to the rescue with a navy suit, tie and off-white shirt. We were set!

The event was held at the Quinta Lucrecia and exceeded our expectations. As soon as we walked through the doors, we were greeted and escorted to our seats and our coats were checked. I can't even remember the last time that happened. At every turn there was another bouquet of roses and more sparkles. I'm so thankful I made an appointment and Lucy's for hair, makeup and nails because everyone was dressed to the nines. It was a who's who of Cuenca, even the Consular General of Guayaquil was there along with the reigning queen of Cuenca with her red velvet sash.

Before dinner there were introductions and a few speeches and then a toast to 20 years of CEDEI. I didn't realize it, but a lot of colleges from the States have exchange programs with CEDEI, including Salisbury University in Maryland, St. Ambrose University and Illinois College.

One thing to remember if you're invited to one of these events is to be sure and bring your appetite. The appetizer looked more like the main course to me, so I forgot to pace myself. By the time the main course arrived, I was already full. Thankfully, our table had a lot of twenty-something teachers who came with an appetite, so we kept passing the food.


Main Course: Filet Mignon and Chicken

Dessert: Raspberry Meringue

The evening didn't end with dinner (things just started warming up around 10:00 p.m.). We all went into the courtyard where there was a castillo (fireworks tower) and globos (hot air balloons), each representing a different department or college associated with CEDEI. While the band played, canelazo (specialty drink in Ecuador) was passed, along with a tray of miniature desserts.

To work off all the calories we consumed, the band played louder and the dancing began. I kicked off my heels and joined the fun. The party was actually just starting when we left and that was a little after midnight (which is turning in early for Cuencano parties). There were several taxis waiting out front of Quinta Lucrecia, so we had no trouble getting home. Mark had to teach the next day, so it was "early" to bed for him.


I told Mark, "Don't put your suit away yet, we've got Father's Day coming up!" I made reservations at Mansion Alcazar's Father's Day Eve Wine Tasting for Expats (Saturday June 16th). There's going to be wine, hors d'oeuvres and music by Robert Brinkmoeller and a special presentation by the former host of "Fashion Emergency." I made another hair appointment at Lucy's and who knows...the little black dress might make another debut.

If you're coming to Cuenca, you might want to pack a few nice clothes for special occasions -- like a gala!

Until next time...hasta luego!

A special thank you to my team at Lucy's for making me feel pretty!



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Two Year Anniversary in Cuenca!

Two years ago today we landed in Cuenca, Ecuador with four overstuffed suitcases after a whirlwind three months of preparation and on the heels of our youngest son's wedding. What a relief it was to arrive at our condo and breathe a sigh of relief. I also remember thinking, This is going to make a great story someday! 

Thanks to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress for printing our story...

Just Breathe

     “Have you seen the wedding list?” I asked my husband. 
     “Nope… haven’t seen it,” Mark answered. 
     As I shuffled through the stack of papers on the kitchen table, my elbow brushed 
against the “Have a Nice Day” mug, spilling the creamy mocha concoction onto the 
newly cleaned carpet. Too paralyzed to breathe, I felt a tear trickle down my cheek, 
followed by another and another, until they fell beneath my hands onto the pile of bills 
and receipts.     
     It was too much! Our son was getting married in three weeks; we had out-of-town 
guests who needed a place to stay; and we were selling our house, and packing up thirty-
five years of marriage in preparation for a move to Cuenca, Ecuador --our retirement 
     While I sat with my head in my hands, the phone rang beside me. “Yeah, what do 
you want?” I answered, without thinking. 
    “It’s Kathy -- your best friend -- remember me?” came the reply. “Are you okay? 
     You sound like you’re having a crummy day.” 
     It had been weeks since I heard the voice of my dear friend and I could tell she 
was genuinely concerned. 
    Kathy and I hadn’t connected in weeks and she was calling to cheer me up. 
   “I’m sorry, but it’s just so overwhelming,” I blubbered. “There’s so much to do 
and not enough time!” As I shared my fears about our house not selling, out-of-town 
guests arriving with no place to stay, and a house littered with boxes for an overseas 
move, I heard Kathy exhale a sigh. 
   “Whoa, girl… you need to take a deep breath!” she said. “Would you like to meet 
for lunch? I have time this week. I can even meet you halfway.” 
    Before I had a chance to respond, Kathy reminded me to practice breathing. “Heehee-
huu… shallow breaths and blow,” she prompted. “I’m a Lamaze instructor -- remember?” 
   “How could I forget?” I blurted into the phone. “But I’m not having a baby!” 
   “No, but you’re losing one,” Kathy replied softly. 
    A lump formed in my throat when I realized that not only were we moving to 
another continent, but our baby was getting married. As soon as I placed the phone in its 
cradle, I realized that breathing is how I made it through labor. It helped me focus on 
something other than the pain. And just maybe it could help with a wedding and a move! 
   Hee-hee-huu, I practiced. “Breathe in energy… exhale stress,” I told myself. 
 “Shallow breaths and blow!” 
   Over the next couple of days, I practiced breathing while I packed up boxes, 
prepared for a wedding shower, and “labored” through thirty-five years of memories. 
Night after night, I stayed up until 3:00 a.m., scanning important documents, family 
photos, and memorabilia, but I didn’t feel stressed. The breathing exercises were 
   I started to feel slightly better on the third day when I could actually breathe in 
deeply without clutching my chest for more air. The wedding plans were going smoothly 
and we finally had an offer on our home that we could both live with. It looked like we 
were going to have a wedding and a move to Ecuador after all. As I started to take in a 
cleansing breath, the phone rang. 
   “I have good news and bad news,” announced the realtor. “The new owners want 
to move in and settle over the Memorial Day weekend!” 
   “They want what?” I protested. “I mean they can’t. That’s the wedding weekend!” 
I shouted into the phone. “I have guests coming from California and they need a place to 
stay. It’s simply not going to work out.” 
   Our realtor stood firm. “The new owners need to settle by the end of the month 
and it’s in your best interest to do so,” she said. 
   After the phone call, I knew what to do. Hee-hee-huu, I practiced. “Breathe in 
energy…exhale stress,” I told myself. “Shallow breaths and blow!” 
   Over the next several weeks, I had more opportunities to practice my Lamaze, 
including when I found out the box labeled “wedding” accidently got sent to the 
incinerator instead of the church. But all was forgiven when the bride and groom danced 
up the aisle for the first time as husband and wife. When it came time for the mother-
groom dance --I breathed through that too, making sure I didn’t hyperventilate during the 
four minutes and thirty seconds of our song. The wedding was a success and so was the 
   It’s been over a year since the kids said “I do” and we arrived at our retirement 
destination in Ecuador, the land of “eternal springtime” and siempre mañana (always 
tomorrow). I rarely have to use my Lamaze breathing anymore, except for the other day 
when a taxista (taxi driver) slammed on his brakes for a pack of llamas crossing the 
street. As we slid into the intersection, my husband grabbed my arm and whispered in my 
ear, “Just breathe!” 

Until next time...hasta luego!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Cupcakes in Cuenca!

My new favorite place in Cuenca is Tea Cup's located in the Paseo del Puente Building (open 9-12 a.m. and 4-8 p.m. -- Monday through Friday). If you want to feel like a queen or a king for a day, you have to stop by and sit in the plush purple chairs and enjoy their delicious teas or flavored cappuccinos. Don't ask me why I ordered coffee at a tea place, but it was simply the best. And the cupcakes look too good to eat, but they're scrumptious!

I picked out the Cookie Monster petite cupcake because it was just too cute, but a sweet little girl came up to me, tugged on my shirt sleeve and said, "But that one's for me!"

What was I going to say?

 I remembered from grade school days that blue icing can do a number on your lips and tongue, so I decided on the beautiful mariposa (butterfly) cupcake and made one little girl a very happy "camper."

"Cee-Cee" waited on me and delivered my tiny cupcake to the table with its own special plate and the cappuccino was served with lots of foam -- just the way I like it. I was in cupcake heaven while I watched folks come and go with beautifully decorated boxes filled with "to-go" cakes. And if cupcakes isn't your thing, there's cheesecake and other pastries.

How could I have lived in Cuenca for almost two years and not know about this place? That's the thing about this city; you can be here forever and still find new places tucked away in a "corner." In fact, if you're at the Millenium  (Milenium) Plaza and walk down a few blocks you'll be at Tea Cup's.

I thought I was going to get some writing done, but instead I just enjoyed eating my tiny cupcake and feeling like "Queen for a Day" in Cuenca.

Until next time...hasta luego!

Tea Cup's
Doris Correa (Proprietor)
Jose Peralta y 12 de Abril
Edificio Paseo del Puente 
Cuenca, Ecuador
Tel: 404-8222 or 08-516-1794

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