Cuenca offers people more than enough opportunities to stay as busy as they like. I am beginning to think I’m too busy. I take Spanish three days a week, am in two writing groups and a contemplative spirituality group. Plus I have a standing appointment every Tuesday. Enough, I say! Enough!
But it is all good.
Katherine has stayed quite busy this summer with inline skating classes every morning along with two different Spanish classes, which occupies a significant part of her Mondays thru Fridays. She collapses on the weekend–says she needs her alone time. We hardly see her Saturday and Sunday. And the great news is, we hardly hear complaints about how miserable she is. I believe she’s found her groove in Ecuador. It also helps that she’s also found a new friend, Jessie. For the time being, all is well at Ricardo Darquea Granda 2-104.
School starts the first week of September and she will be entering 7th grade. She skipped a grade here but will also be going through grade 13. We haven’t told her that yet.
David stays busy hoofing it all over the sprawling city. He returns from his long treks and marks the city map with yellow highlighter. The web of yellow grows by the day. I believe he is seeing more of the city than many native Cuencanos have. Our taxi-driver friend, Miquel, says David ‘s knowledge of our city is pretty impressive.
My morning Spanish class ended last week and, to wrap it up, we took a day trip to a small mountain village, Gonzol, about 3.5 hours north of here. David and Katherine accompanied me, Katherine being the only child among 40 retirees. She was a trooper.
This agricultural community works hard to raise corn, barley, wheat and other crops on the steep slopes of the Andes. They work cooperatively, helping each other plant and bring in the crops. Farmers come together for a minga when crops are ready to be harvested. Once the work is completed, a feast is held to celebrate. People depend on each much more in communities like this. The village coop has even purchased two trucks to carry crops for all its members to market.
As a way of supplementing their income (the average earnings per family in Gonzol is $500 a year), the residents are hoping to create business ventures to benefit the entire town. The first idea in the works is to provide tourists with an opportunity to see Inca ruins, experience life in a small village and enjoy the grandeur of the Andes.
Our class was the “test” run for the villagers. We were greeted with big smiles and a hot traditional fermented drink as we got off the bus. ( I opted for café.) After a brief introduction, four men accompanied us in small groups on the hike up the mountains to the ruins.
Our entourage quickly grew in number as a few children joined in the parade. Then two of three older boys riding horses passed us ear-to-ear grins. A nursing mother with infant appeared. And a wizened cowboy dressed in tiger-trimmed leather jacket regaled us with stories. In español, of course.
We visited the site of very recently discovered Inca ruins. Well, many did. I didn’t quite make. Another woman and I opted to rest on the trail and talk with Katherine about the Kardashians, conspiracy theories and the Illuminati. We met the group on their way down and headed back to town for lunch.
After our almuerzo of chicken soup, queso,maize and habas (fava beans), we were introduced to various activities of the villagers. Three elderly women, wrinkled and bent with gnarled fingers and dusty black bowlers demonstrated crushing barley with stones and spinning wool by hand.
I left this tiny, struggling community with a deep appreciation for the hard work and determination of the Cañari people, along with their warmth and kindness. We all left
being called “sisters and brothers” and “family” by our hosts. What an amazing experience.
A remarkable day. One filled with breathtaking vistas, gentle people, warm smiles, gentle breezes and a warm sun.
I commented to my new friend Anna (whom Katherine really likes) as we were hiking along, high in the Andes on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, “This is my life. This is not a vacation. I am walking towards new Inca ruins with friends from all over the world and this is my life.”
Amazing. Simply amazing.