Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca

Trip Start Sep 08, 2012
Trip End Nov 27, 2012

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Where I stayed
Expat Apartment

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The bus ride back to Cuenca was pleasant. On the leg from Vilcabamba to Loja, I chatted with an expat artist originally from California who had been traveling the world for years! He and his partner chose to finally settle down in Vilcabamba because it was a nice climate and wasn't in the Northern Hemisphere- his words. He reminded me of many of the community producers who were regulars at the little public access television station I worked for just out of college in Amherst, MA. Another child of the 60s full of various conspiracy theories but very, very cool. We talked about art and photography. Our time together was short and was I glad for the company. He got off the bus shortly before the main bus terminal in Loja, and as he was doing so I asked if he had a website. He told me yes and that "it's not what you think it will be." Interesting. He wished me well and hopped off. As I was madly scribbling down the website address, I looked up to see him blowing me a kiss goodbye from the street corner. Awesome! Made my day! I looked up the website a few days later and it turns out my friend is an erotic painter! His stuff, although very graphic, is actually quite good. HA! It was only then did his story of not being able to freely paint in other countries like he used to make more sense. It seems as though the world in general has become an even more repressed place than it used to be. Psst Catholics and other repressed types, it's OK to let your hair down every once in a while!

I arrived safely back in Cuenca and picked up the keys as planned. Ruth (a wonderful lady originally from Ohio and apartment proxy) was kind enough to walk me over to the apartment. During our lunch together she let me know of a bar that was going to be showing election coverage the next night. Cool! Finding a place to watch the results come in was on my to-do list. I told her I was definitely game as the bar was right around the corner. It turned out to be fun made even more fun by the 2 for 1 Pisco Sours. I wasn´t going to turn down a happy hour special on election night!

My home for the next 8 days was on the second floor and had a terrace overlooking the street. There was also another community terrace located on the roof that housed a washer AND a dryer! One of the first things I did was wash my clothes. It was fantastic to not have to hand wash everything! The apartment building was in a great spot and close to everything, only a few blocks from Parque Abdón Calderón and Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. I would like an apartment like this some day! I feel so very grateful Bobbi was kind enough to rent to me having only known me for 5 minutes. I guess I really do have a trustworthy face? :)

I spent my time wandering around the city checking out the various plazas, shops, artisan booths and cafes. I went on a search for a coffee joint and stumbled upon El Café Lojano y Tostador where I bought a pound of the BEST coffee in all of South America. Bobbi´s place had a coffee maker and a blender so I was in luck. So between the coffee, fresh juice and batidos (milk shakes) I was in bebida (drink) heaven. I even made guacamole because there were avocados aplenty at the market.

It wasn´t until my second to last day in Cuenca that I discovered Moliendo Café which is the best food I´ve had in all of South America! Interestingly enough, it happened to be Colombian and not Ecuadorian. The first time I went (I went once more before I left), I met two other Colombians visiting from the States (via Maryland near D.C.) who invited me to their table to chat. It was so nice to connect with other ´east coasters.´ The proprietor, I think his name is Xavier, was the friendliest man on the planet. For the record, every single person I have met from Columbia on this trip has been amazingly kind and welcoming. I even got tips on cool places to visit in their country. (Katie K- we need to talk about this when I get back! I have some ideas for our BIG TRIP). Why can´t Americans be this nice? It´s a big burden to always try and show the world that not all Americans are aholes.

Speaking of aholes... I was shoved -or maybe punched- in the kidneys by a very angry old man at the market one afternoon. Aholery (aka Douchebaggery) knows no race, gender, or creed. Most of you heard this story via the recent Facebook post (thanks for all the love BTW! I so needed it!). The gringa hate crime almost knocked the wind out of me but I did had the awareness to NOT get robbed. Thankfully, I was able to get myself into a broader perspective quickly because -all truth be told- there was a hot second there where I almost went after that mean little fucker. Sometimes people hurt other people physically and/or emotionally because of whatever ugly unresolved crap they have going on inside themselves. It wasn´t about me but I certainly refuse to be anybody´s f$cking punching bag. I was sore for a few days but was able to let it go.

When I wasn´t getting shoved/punched, I was out on a cheap city tour. Cuenca is a really neat place and I can see why people want to retire here. It´s official name is: Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site.

The only paid museum I visited was Museo de las Conceptas. You know how I like the monastery/museums. It was a great museum and I was the only one wandering around for most of time. Unlike my visit to the monastery in Arequipa, I bought the home made nun treats after my tour. The treats here are called quesadillas (more like cookies than what you would think of as quesadillas) and the one I had was de-licous. It wasn´t until I was practically out the door that I realized I wasn´t supposed to take pictures so please enjoy the illegal images below.

I ended up meeting more expats than backpackers. Although, I did have my first official international date with someone my own age (Lisa B: details when I get back, promise!). And it was quite pleasant. Originally my date was from Maine so we had a wicked lot to talk about. Fun!

Other than that, I had a great time just hanging out in the city. I had plenty of time to explore and browse through Bobbi´s extensive collection of movies. If you haven´t seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and/or The Help check them out this winter. Unfortunately, the dud of the bunch was the movie I watched with Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud. It was an absolute disappointment but I´m going to blame that one on Keira Knightley who was terrible and not my dear Aragorn.

I really felt like Cuenca was a home away from home. I think it helped that I felt like I was living in a Decemberists album. All the architecture and history often reminded me of Castaways and Cutouts. Excellent!

Sadly, today was my last day. One of Bobbi´s neighbors was kind enough to arrange a reservation on the van to Guayaquil this morning so I wouldn´t have to take the bus (thanks Pattie!). I am happy to report that for the first time during this entire trip that my blog is current

Hello from Guayaquil! Tag line: Where the rest of the world only passes through.

I write to you now from the shady neighborhood of the ´get what you pay for´ hostal near the Guayaquil airport. Weather report: HOT as Hell (in comparison to the cooler mountain town I was just in).

On the plus side, the hostal staff here are quite friendly which was nice to encounter after the mildly dramatic taxi ride from the van drop off office. It was only dramatic in the sense that my driver didn´t ´know where he was going´ and as a result ended up charging me a dollar more when we FINALLY got to the hostal. What should have been a 3 minute trip turned into a 20 minute scavenger hunt. I had no problem paying that extra buck. I was stressing the taxi leg of this trip and was happy to have it over with even if it meant being a dollar lighter. Not bad!

Here´s hoping I will have the dorm room way ´arriba´ on the third floor to myself tonight (UPDATE: a dormmate just showed up). At least the place is gated and has a real computer.

Tomorrow I am meeting one of my favorite people at the airport bright and early for our Galapagos adventure. I´m so looking forward to seeing family! YAY!! This is going to be awesome!

Thanks for reading!

Cuenca Playlist:

The Decemberists: Castaways and Cutouts

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Crystal on

I love the pics of the political graffiti!! I can't wait for you to get back to talk to you about some things. Continue being safe!

Blind Bill E. on

Clearly the guy who hit you got lucky that you didn't retaliate. You should wear a sign... "bench pressed 200 lbs" ha! Glad it wasn't serious though Kellie.
OK, I think I figured out the acronym SHFC....Southern Hemisphere Front Cartwhell? Yes? Keep on truckin' bud. Love reading the updates and seeing the photos.

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