one month later … this south american city

We arrived in Ecuador about a month ago. So much has happened in that time, it is simply not possible to summarize. The best part of everything, of course, is this beautiful child, the reason we are here. And it won’t be that long before I can show what I mean by beautiful 🙂 But … a few more legal hurdles first before I can offer that post. (And that one big, final, prayed-for confirmation). I would like to share a bit about Cuenca, though. This stunning city. Beautiful, with such a rich history and such friendly people. And when I say rich with history, I mean that people speak of the earliest inhabitants hanging out in the 8000 B.C. range. So, you know, rich with history. Cuenca was technically founded in the 1500’s as a Spanish settlement, which is why walking around this city feels so familiar to me. I grew up in Europe. I was born there and lived there until I was 11 years old – and went back to live there again while in college. And have since visited again and again and again. So this old Spanish town just feels a lot like home. Nestled in the Andes Mountains, Cuenca is about 8500 feet above sea level. We really noticed that when we first got here, trying to fit in 5K runs that felt like 25K runs. It definitely took a couple weeks to get used to the altitude from a fitness perspective. And the climate here is gorgeous – think year-round spring. Two seasons, rainy season and dry season. We are technically here in the dry season, although it rained nearly every day for the first couple weeks after our arrival. But not those all-day rains – more like the kind of rains that break through in later afternoon and feel like a gorgeous cleansing. Warm, glittering rain, when the sun often doesn’t bother to stop shining. The original colonial feel of Cuenca is still very much the current feel of Cuenca. It is downright difficult to turn a corner and not see some beautiful view of the mountains or another glimpse of incredible architecture. Each building is different and colorful and detailed. And the doors! The doors are little works of art. And these visual treasures are, like, everywhere. I have never been a big collection photographer, but I am collecting photographs of doors here. Some of the images below and many of the ones I am still collecting are meant as gifts for Ana Elisa. When she moves to the newborn country of America, I want her to know, vividly, that she was born into beauty and culture and ancient roots. That she lived the first part of her life in a city in the clouds with skies that change from gold to blue to purple to navy every single day. That she comes from a people who smile patiently at you while you fumble with their language, from families who spend whole days in the park, and from a land of children who are so loved and so cherished that their government asks you, repeatedly and earnestly: will you love this child, the way Ecuador loves this child?

That river image above is right outside of the apartment we are currently living in – here’s an image of the building from the opposite side of the river bank. It reminds me a lot of a couple of the apartments we lived in when we were in San Francisco – but a bit more basic. No heat, no dishwasher, no other appliances like that – a stove that must be lit with each use, running water but temperatures that change shockingly from hot to cold way too frequently. And 1100 square feet of usable space for a very active family of five. But doesn’t it look pretty??

We also live right across from one of the many parks here and spend a great deal of time there with the kids…that teeter totter image in the middle? It is the highest teeter totter I have ever seen. The kids just love it. I only ask them to please not fall off and descend what must be, like, 3 high-rise stories down to the ground.

Halloween was also a trip here. Sophie and Caleb so wanted to celebrate, but Ana Elisa wasn’t familiar with trick or treating, and she was not very interested either. So we let the two dress up (Superman/Good Witch) and we went from street vendor to street vendor until their bags were full. I can honestly say that I did not see one other person in costume throughout the city. It’s as if we somehow thought that we weren’t gaining enough attention with our particular family unit. We had to go ahead and add pointy hats and capes. Ana Elisa just looked on, a bit perplexed and – let’s be frank – slightly embarrassed for us. But she happily accepted the candy offered, and Sophie and Caleb were thrilled with their score by the end of the evening.

Those rains I mentioned? Some beautiful after-rain phenomenons, too.

And a view of Cuenca from above the entire city….

Actually a bit of a hilarious experience getting up there. We took this double decker tour bus, which I would normally be very loathe to board. But the kids were excited, so we decided to try it out. Crazy. Trying to shoot from the top while extremely low-hanging electrical wires whipped past (had to duck down while you were sitting, that low!!). The best part? I got the one shot of one of the tour operators giving me a “heads up” – one warning after three had almost taken off our heads and another 30 more or so to go. While I was getting that shot of her, Steve was getting a shot of me, barely getting out of the way but – that’s right – getting the shot 🙂

Those Andes Mountains 🙂

The steps just outside of our apartment. Late evening and more of that familiar purple. Up is to old downtown. Down is to the river.

And, lastly, just one of those many unbelievable doors. I don’t know exactly why these doors are so stunning to me. But maybe a part of it is this: Is there not something so telling about a culture that offers great beauty to one seeking a way to openness?

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