Cuenca is a city of surprises. On any given day you can go out and see something you haven't seen before or never expected to see. We trip across parks and museums that have interesting artwork, desfiles (parades) that pop up randomly and without warning. Wandering around in a fairly residential area can lead you to the equivalent of a May day celebration, with dancing and loud music. I'm sure if I was trying to get to work, or keep to a certain schedule, some of these things might drive me crazy, especially if I was driving, but I find them charming and refreshing, a pleasant break from the crazy laws and restrictions that we're used to in Canada.
This is only one of the things that reminds me that I'm no longer in Canada. The first clue is the weather. Sure we've been going through a bit of a cloudy stretch, but I've yet to see a day where the sun doesn't show its face at least once. A cold day requires us to put on a light jacket, but of course, it's summer here, so we'll see how it goes during the rainy season in the fall.
I walk too fast here, despite the "gringo" stereotype of being slow. I usually have no place to be at any sort of precise time, but I haven't lost the "city" pace. (I also have longer legs than the locals, so that might have a bit to do with it.) This also means that I'm too tall, unlike in Canada, where I'm of average height, I seem to be literally heads above most of the population here. (That I have curly red hair also makes me stick out like a sore thumb, but that's a whole other issue!)
Now, obviously the language is a big hint. Not English, not french, not even Cantonese or Mandarin, Hindi or Punjabi, Italian or Greek that can be frequently heard around Vancouver. Everywhere I go, there's Spanish. (Admittedly, I've also heard this language around Vancouver, but usually not in the absence of all other languages.) I do occasionally hear French or German here, but I can count the instances on one hand. (This really oughtn't to be a surprise, as we are in a Spanish speaking country!)
There is no Starbucks here or more to the point (from a truly Canadian perspective) no Timmy's. Over Christmas there were no street vendors hawking chestnuts and pistachios and you'll be hard pressed to find a "dirty water" hot dog here, but you can get some darned good grilled chicken or other meat. Hockey is something that is mysterious and incomprehensible here. I think the phrase here goes along the lines of "If it's not soccer, it's crap", or something of that nature.
As Ron and I walk along the river, every once in a while we see a flock of parrots chasing each other from palm tree to palm tree or, walking past the Inca ruins at Pumapunga, you can catch sight of an alpaca or llama grazing on the grassy slopes. No, this isn't Canada. Sure, it's hard to get some things and other cherished items are expensive (yes, peanut butter, I mean you!). But in stunning contrast, you never know what interesting and entertaining things you'll trip across next. This is a city of chance. If you don't get out and about you might miss something, or if you happen to be walking down a street you've never been on before you may just find a masterpiece. Getting lost here is more about discovery than lost time.
We're so looking forward to getting out to see the rest of Ecuador, but I'll leave that for another day. So, yes, we ARE enjoying being here in Cuenca.