Cuenca is a wonderful Colonial City in Ecuador…But getting here…well now that was an adventure! And it was, so far, the scariest plane experience I have had in quite awhile…besides flying in a small plane from Coca(the city near the amazon) to  Quito …we ended up having to change planes because of mechanical problems…no big deal…then our flight was delayed because of bad weather…we finally boarded the plane and taxied out, only to return to the gate(not really the gate but the airstrip next to the airport where you get on/off) to watch several mechanics enter the cockpit and again we had to deplane…we were told we had to get a new plane because of the problems…I, of course, was not at all upset(like my New York roommate was) because I was not interested in flying a broken plane in bad weather through the narrow mountain range of Cuenca(it has an even more difficult landing strip than Quito)…but we only were in the airport 10 minutes before they put us back on the SAME plane…we taxied out and took off…we were maybe a few hundred feet in the air when we lurched and the pilot quickly manipulated the plane and landed…yep, once again we deplaned and believe it or not..we returned to the same plane…this time with the assurance of “all is well”…yeah, call me stupid but I got back on…by this time I was just as anxious as everyone else to get there(Yep I am part sheep)but, as you can see by this blog and the amazon one, we did  make it to Cuenca…but after all of that, the landing was a cinch…
We arrived so late that our city tour was a mere brief drive by…but even with the swiftness of the tour, I could see that I was going to like Cuenca…I will say that I am happy I spent time in Quito first because had I not, I would have hated it after seeing Cuenca. Quito is a fabulous city but with all the problems of a big city…Cuenca is an old colonial city with beautiful churches and cathedrals, fabulous museums and many parks and squares and little to no crime and the pollution is minor compare with Quito. Basically, it is quaint. I went to several museums and have enjoyed sitting in the park while studying my endless list of vocabulary and conjugating all those silly verbs. There is still quite a bit of poverty and in some ways it is bit more noticeable in Cuenca…The children are out on the streets begging for money or selling the little candy…it’s so sad…I had a little 3 year old run after me for a block begging…it just breaks your heart..and it makes me appreciate the fact that as poor as many in our country are, we do tend to take care of our children more than other countries…although Ecuador is working very hard to get the kids off the street…but many times it’s the parents, who are mostly alcoholics, sending the kids out…In Quito there is a program to take them off the street and teach them for at least 4-5 hours a day…I met a girl, oddly her name was Emilie(spelled the same way I spell it) who was volunteering for them. It was heartening to hear that there is some attempt to help.
 The weather in Cuenca is quite cold in the morning and night( and no heat in the hotel) and very warm by mid day…It was surprising that it was colder than Quito, especially since Quito is up north and at a higher altitude…but Quito sits atop a mountain range with sun all day and Cuenca is astride one so it doesn’t get as much direct sunlight all day.
Our accommodations were in a lovely hotel near the school. Jessie and I had a full suite, so sharing wasn’t so bad. The Cuenca school was in an old but charming building with a lovely courtyard…my teacher there was all of 25 years old but had a great style…muy tranquil….we spent time on my least favorite subject, Grammar…and reflexive verbs, irregulars etc…but he also had us talking more, which is good for me, seeing that my butchering of the pronunciation was becoming less apparent…to tell the truth, I would have to spend a minimum of 8 weeks here in intensive immersion(not this immersion/travel) to really get a bit of fluency…although I am finding I am having less of a problem communicating…my palabras(words) are slowly becoming sentences that make more sense…well they make more sense to me…I met so many people in Quito… many Ecuadorians and we exchanged emails…so now, I am suddenly  getting all these emails in Spanish…great, but it takes me an hour to write back…and I tend to look a bit silly in the internet cafe armed with my dictionary and workbook, trying to write the appropriate sentences…I definitely stand out as a Gringa!
Cuenca had a few good outdoor markets, but Quito and it’s surrounding areas are far superior in that area. I did attempt to shop in a few stores but once you enter, you are immediately accosted by the salesperson, who sticks to you like glue…it’s quite nerve racking…do Ecuadorians not understand personal space? (:
I will admit that I went to a salsa class but decided that cooking was more my style….
Clyde and Steve and I tend to hang out together more because we are the only ones in the group that  actually tend to talk only in Spanish…or should I say we attempt to talk in Spanish. When I  was in the amazon, Jose, our guide asked me ” Tienes Hambre?”…I heard “Tienes Hombre?”…One asks if I am hungry the other asks if I have a man…needless to say,  to me they sounded the same and I answered the wrong question…and yes Jose thought it was so funny that it was the subject of a few moments of pure embarrassment for me…yep, I need to study more!!!…and believe it or not I need to talk more!!!!
Now onto the important stuff, the food,  in Cuenca it is delicious and cheap…we had Filet Mignon the other night and it was delicious and only 4.90….but as with Quito, and I understand most of this country, Potatoes and Rice and anything starchy are the mainstays of every meal…While eating in people’s homes, the food is balanced and nutritious, but out in restaurants, it’s…well, let’s just say, I’ll be buying really sturdy running shoes for Boot Camp when I get home!
 The city is similar to Krakow in that it has hidden little areas that have great music cafes and such…you just have to brave the alleyways to experience them…armed with my two men, we have explored more than a few!…Clyde and I have finally called a truce on our male/female…Texas/Florida competition…which is a good thing because when we are on the coast, God only knows what kind of competition we are going to participate in…and seeing that I am more a water person, he’d be in some trouble!…who knows, it may be swimming with the humpback whales…and I don’t think he swims…I would be a shoo in with that one! (:
Well that’s a bit of an overview of Cuenca…and it is definitely worth a visit.
I am heading to the Coast tomorrow…and then on Wednesday we are going to Isla de la Plata, known as the poor man’s Galapagos…we take a boat for about 2 hours out…going with the Humpback Whale migration…to the island…it has all the same Flora and fauna as the Galapagos…and yes it has the blue footed booby as well…on the next email I will report on Guayaquil and the coast….
Hasta la Vista, babies!!!!
your intrepid traveling Spanish Student!

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