It may not seem like it to a younger extrovert but for this older introvert there is a very special flow to life in Cuenca.
I am coming out from two or three month long doldrums, due mostly to some health issues, and feeling alive and on top of the world once again. For example, I almost always have the 24-hour classical music station from San Francisco on. Now, I am actually listening to the music, not just having it be there in the background.
It is a pleasure to look out my windows and see people exercising, either on the sidewalk in front of my building or on the concrete path across the river, very often on both. I also watch the pedestrians cross the river on the foot bridge out my front door.
On the banks of Rio Tomebamba.
Many times, I watch a class of children who have also taken a turn running up and down the escalinatas on the opposite side of the bridge. From young to old, solo or in pairs or groups, from sun-up to late in the evening, some deadly serious, some relaxed, they are always there.
There seems to be a 5K or 10K race almost every week for some worthy cause, very often beginning at Parque de la Madre, just down the street. So here they come, down the closed street in front of the building, most of them in yellow tee-shirts which come with the registration. As is common, the age and speed range approaches the infinite. The first group are the serious runners with the next and largest group being the fast walkers, then the slow walkers (very often pushing baby strollers). There’s lots of laughter and smiling as they talk to each other, everyone having a good time. As I watch, the old expression, “It warms the cockles of my heart,” fits perfectly.
Walking in El Centro has become a pleasure again rather than just going there to do my necessary chores. There is laughter again with Sara at the lavanderia; Marthita where I go from time to time for a haircut; and Angel and Juan at the bakery. Towards the center of town, the streets are very often crowded, there are those in a hurry but most are not, the streets are very often jammed with cars but I don’t feel a sense intensity about the passers-through. I agree with a Cuencano I spoke with on the trail yesterday: “tranquil” is the word for Cuenca.
Life happens, of course. A few days ago, I was in the middle of my paean to Cuenca, planning to complete it the next day but the next day brought severe pain to a tooth my dentist has been watching. As I walked from Spanish class to the dentist that morning, my legs became weak and almost uncontrollable. Staggering like a drunk — a fit description — I found a place to sit and then had to lie down. I was in obvious distress as several men came to help and two of them each took an arm and half carried me to the dentist office, another block away.
My dentist did a little grinding on the tooth so I could close my mouth without pain and then told me I would have to have surgery. I was just barely functioning the following days but then there was gradual improvement with longer walks each day, practically no pain, and the return of mental functioning.
Surgery is scheduled for this morning although with this being Ecuador I won’t know for sure until I am sitting in the chair with the doctor standing over me with his tools.
Cuidense. With my love, and yes, I will take care also.
David Nelson, spent 30 years growing up and getting educated in Oregon before moving to the Oakland, California and the East Bay area, where he practiced worker’s compensation law, representing injured workers, for 40 years. When he retired from his legal practice, he worked another nine years as a part-time gardener before moving to Cuenca.