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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Yogic Pratice of Learning Spanish

I found it interesting that as I've advanced through my Spanish lessons that my classes have gotten smaller and smaller. The administrator of our course basically said that most people just want to be able to talk to a cabbie or hair dresser and that's good enough for them. This is a concept that I can understand, but refuse to settle for.


I've been studying a tense called subjunctive, which we don't have in English. It's the mood of the heart, what we wish, hope, doubt etc. which is a lovely sentiment and really, it's not that hard to put in to practice, but subjunctive has four different tenses, add to this the standard tenses (present, past (Spanish has two basic variations), future, conditional, and the compound tenses that form all the perfect tenses) you have yourself a mess of options to choose from every time you open your mouth.


This brings me to the yoga part. In yoga practice you learn very quickly that some days are amazing; you're flexible, your breathing is focusing your postures and you come away feeling taller and awesome. Then there are the other days; you know the ones, you feel stiff and awkward, you seem to have forgotten that breathing is actually a natural act and the new person in class makes like a pretzel and you feel like a failure. So goes the experience of practicing Spanish. (I assume any other language as well.)


Today wasn't the best day. It's bizarre to understand things in theory and fail to execute them in reality, but it happens. So I have a choice, accept my limitations today and not worry about how amazing my classmates are or beat myself to a pulp, crippling my self-esteem even further. The choice seems pretty obvious and I'm working on acceptance.


I've only been studying Spanish (in a dedicated manner) for around a year, so given the theory that it takes 4 years to learn a language, I should only be about 25% there, right? At least I can have a half decent conversation, if given some context. So for now, I'll be okay with where I'm at and leave the poetry and heavy prose for the year 2018.

Monday, October 6, 2014

On the Road Again...Cuenca's southern environs

Ron met a very nice man named John in one of his Spanish classes and since then we've gone out with John and his wife Cathy on a couple of occasions to enjoy a meal and each others' company.
Pre-juice delivery
This week they very generously invited us to come on a road trip with them to Giron and some waterfalls and a lake nearby. Giron is situated south of Cuenca and is a fairly easy drive, despite the town not being available on their rented GPS. The falls are up near El Chorro and there are a couple of hikes that you can do, one to the lower falls and one to the upper falls. The upper falls hike is any where from 3-6 hours depending on who you talk to, so we decided to skip that one this time and went to the lower falls, a 10 minute walk/hike through some lovely green scape and forest to a fairly impressive little waterfall with a green pool, surrounded by rock, pines, eucalyptus and tons of bromeliads and air plants.
Upper and lower falls
Upper falls

Lower falls


There is a fee to get in to the park (not sure about taking the long hike as the entrance isn't as far down the road, but it's a reasonable $2 for visitors, $1 for residents and citizens and $0.50 for children and seniors. (Affectionately called Tercera Edad or third age.)
Note the "thee" not "the" ;0)
The path is steep, in parts, and not recommended for people with balance problems, weak knees or vertigo. As you hike up, you get tempting glimpses of the lower falls (the higher falls being up and to the right of the lower ones and not visible as you hike). There are strategically placed viewing platforms which provide excellent places for photos. You can also hike down to the beach of the lower falls and enjoy the fine mist that comes off the thrumming falls. Unlike other water falls that I know, this one has obvious changes in flow, as you stand there admiring the cascade; like someone is further up the river opening and closing a lock of some sort. The flow never stops but has definite surges. (I hope the video works.)
video

Trails are definitely Ecuadorian height.
 

It's hard to be tall here!

Translation: "Only for killing hunger." Our juice place.
We had a lovely jugo de tomate de arbol (tree tomato juice) at one of the conveniently located restaurants at the base of the park and then hopped back in to the rental car to carry on to the lake. The GPS lady became belligerent when we followed the street signs and not her directions, so we turned her off. We wended our way through the village of San Fernando and on to Laguna de Busa, which has a community that abuts the lake.
Stunning countryside



On arrival, we discovered a rather breathtaking Tor that dominated the vista above the lake, as well as a small green lagoon surrounded by a walking path. The path ran through a pine "forest" and as well as a Cypress stand (or so I assume "cypres" is the Spanish for Cypress). There is a playground for the kids with some questionably safe equipment and little cabins tucked in the woodland as well as very interesting wooden platform on which you can erect your tent. (Interesting concept, I guess they're trying to protect the land.) A goodly part of the trail is a raised wooden walkway that takes you through the aforementioned "forests", by a huge stand of marsh grass, past a field of cows and under the watchful eye of the mountain.
Reminded us a little of Black Tusk on the Sea to Sky Highway
The whole set of crags
Ron being crazy; that thing was wiggly!
We were shown the "right way" after the fact!

Thought it was a bee...nope, it's a fly! Chevere (cool)!

The Laguna

From the far side of the lake.

Flora
Fauna...he looks impressed, doesn't he?
Once we discovered the beauty of the natural landscape we stopped and shared a beer and then headed back to Cuenca. We stopped at a Mexican restaurant called Agave on the far outskirts of the city, which seemed like an odd location, but we figured they got a lot of lunch traffic. The food was actually very good, but we were the only people in the place and I think that family was ready to close up when we walked in the door. Despite that, they served us graciously and didn't scrimp on the food quality or quantity. (My chicken fajitas were $8.50 and I didn't have enough room to eat the included rice and refried beans.)

Ron and I are looking forward to some more day trips and multiday discovery tours in the future. Thanks John and Cathy for a great day! Until later, be well and happy.