Cuenca isn’t for everyone. the cool weather and unheated homes take a toll on what i call the “little” people. you know, the women without much meat on their bones. the ectomorphs who seem to thrive more on blazing heat than brisk temperatures.
nor is it really for people who aren’t open to walking. this city definitely requires one to stretch one’s legs between bus stops and taxi rides. and this old city has not yet become wheel chair friendly, making it very difficult for men and women with handicaps to travel with any ease or safety.
for me, the city is perfecto. always a cool part in the day. some heat but it will go away in an hour or so. beautiful blue skies dotted with brilliant white clouds. four flowing rivers. plenty of green space. and street workers dressed in colorful uniforms that keep the streets and parks close to immaculate.
and every day it seems i discover something new to love.
like the elderly couple that crosses my path on the days that I attend Spanish class. it was love at first sight.
perhaps the walk they take is a daily event for them. i don’t know. i’m only there on Mondays and Thursdays. but i’ve found myself going earlier and earlier just so i can sit on the bench and watch them.
i don’t know their age. hard to tell in this culture. i imagine they are in their late 70s or early 80s. or perhaps they’ve just had a very hard life. they walk ever so slowly, he gently leading her by the arm across the bridge, then Avenida 3 de Noviembre,the bumpy Plaza Otorongo then up the massive set of stone steps.
i believe she is blind. she shuffles her feet along, head bent and shoulders hunched. her long gray/black braid hangs to her waist, creating a sharp contrast to the tan alpaca poncho that serves to block the cool morning air.
he wears nice pants and shirt and a blue jacket. especially among the older Ecuadorians, one seldom goes out in public without being nicely dressed.
each one of her steps requires tremendous effort, yet he never shows impatience or irritation. i can sometimes see his lips moving as if to encourage her. “One more step, dear. Now one more.”
I can hoof it across the bricked plaza in less than a minute. Their walk requires five to eight minutes. And then they arrive at the pasos. they stop. linger. talk a few minutes and begin the arduous task of climbing the 100+ stone steps.
on occasion it seems as if she is insisting “No more.” she resists at times, but never fights. But he nods, smiles, waits, and encourages her on. they proceed up the massive flight of stairs. Each step may require 15 to 30 seconds. She pauses every couple of steps to rest and talk. Then they proceed. He holding her arm very gently.
I have never seen them reach the top.
My class begins and I dart into the building to take my seat. I have no idea how they get home. but they do. and when i arrive for my next class, there they come. right on time. taking their time. and demonstrating so beautifully what love looks like.
it’s lasting. it is patient. it’s kind. it is not selfish. it is supportive.