Thoughts about making friends and living in Cuenca:
Recently, I corresponded with a couple from Nashville, TN who are moving to Cuenca. They are here for a week to get things started. It is their first visit.
We met them at a local cafe to talk and have coffee. Cafe Austria is frequented by expats and Cuencanos and has a pleasant sunny exposure for the intimate tables. While we were at the cafe, in walked three other expats we know. Two of them live in our building but we rarely see them so it was nice to chat for awhile.
When we parted ways, Len and I walked to a farmacia we have come to appreciate for the owner who is both a pharmacist and a doctor. Most of the pharmacies here seem to have a doctor on staff who is also a pharmacist. This particular farmacia is tiny to the extreme but the prices are very competitive and the owner, Marta, is friendly to everyone who comes by.
Lenny waited while I conversed with Marta in my very basic Espanol and Marta answered as if I was a native speaker (read: she said a lot of words and I got about every 6th one). A woman was sitting in a chair waiting so Len struck up a conversation in Espanol with her. It turned out to be Marta's sister who tried to recruit Lenny to volunteer-teach English in her school. She suddenly sang a famous Latin American song, Besame, and was so proud she was singing it in English. Quite a sweet character.
Lenny and I continued our walk. A block later we ran into Santiago, our Spanish teacher's brother. We chatted with him for a brief time in Espanol. He knows to talk in basic sentences so I can keep up. We invited him to join us for a casual meal next week when several members of his family will be over.
Three blocks farther on our route we met an Californian who attends Lenny's IPad Users Group. They exchanged a couple of tech ideas and we moved on.
Suddenly it was time for lunch. We met with an American couple, our amigos Dean and Bill who had invited us to celebrate her birthday. Tiesto's - we had been there once before. It is not cheap but it is a great experience and the food is excellent. The chef Juan is quite a showman, delivering each patron's main course himself with a dramatic flourish. You really feel that he cooks each dish just for you and you are welcome in his casa. He invited Lenny into the kitchen to taste the birthday cake before it was delivered to Dean, the birthday girl.
It is amazing to see so many people we have met in just 5 months of living here in one random trip into El Centro (the older part of the city). Remember, Cuenca has the same population as the city of Portland proper (not Greater Portland) but because most people walk or take the bus it "lives" like a very small town. One could say it is very user friendly!
After lunch we walked across the Rio Tomebamba for an appointment at the Chamber of Commerce to consult with an attorney who is a legal counsel/attorney for the Chamber. He is also our Espanol teacher's son. He is the picture of professionalism. We were talking with him about the overly-lengthy process to get our residency/cedulas completed, to see if he has any suggestions.
The Cuenca attorneys we hired (and paid 80% up front) came very highly recommended by 3 people we respect. The attorneys say the same thing every time we call them: "the application looks fine and it is out of our hands - it is just taking a long time for many people and we must all be patient". When we talked with them yesterday, they reported that our "applications are in order and are in the office of the Director of Foreign Affairs and has been assigned a file number." So someday...we will get the call to go to Quito to finalize the process but no one knows when.
We have been in Ecuador long enough to be patient to a degree but not long enough to accept fully how inefficient this system is. But is it Ecuador, not the US, and we have chosen to live here... so enough about that.
OK, back to the happy stuff. We are now hoping that we will have our residency and can visit the US in January. At the suggestion of my very wise friend, Cindy, I am seeing 1) how much Espanol I can learn and 2) how many quilt blocks I can complete before our visit. Just a way to keep a positive focus in the glorious setting in which we are living.
By the way, I don't feel "homesick" for my kids/grandchildren/family/friends all of the time, every minute. But it is there, quietly behind the scenes, all the time. Planning a trip to see everyone is a positive way to manage those feelings. Calling with Skype is very positive as well.
It's been only 5 months since we arrived. We have things we need to be better at: Espanol, patience, remembering street names...but I feel we have adjusted to life high in the Andes near the equator quite well. I cannot say enough how wonderful it is to have such a resource as the group of ex-pats, many of whom offer assistance at the drop of a hat. And I could go on and on about the kindness, generosity and warmth of many, many Ecuadorians.
So loved ones, expect to see us in January 2012, more likely. I look forward to it!! Know that we are safe and enjoying SO many aspects of our new life adventure. And I miss you! All for now. S.