I had gone to bed around 11 PM (2300 hrs) Thursday, after scanning through over 100 cable channels, and didn't find any of the English speaking programs I wanted to watch. I was glad to see ESPN will be televising some American football on Sunday and Monday night. I love to watch American football.
I must have slept well, as I got up at 2:30 AM, but felt rested and refreshed.. So I stayed up and had a cup of coffee and thought I'd check my email, hoping that early in the morning, my WiFi signal would be stronger. I wanted to keep in touch with my family as best as I could. Much to my surprise, the signal was the full 5 bars. It was as good as in the computer room. I was able to answer my families emails and read about some news from the States.
Betsy knocked on my door at 6:40 AM, and we were off to walk to Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic church for the 7 AM Mass. I was huffing and puffing as I tried to keep up with Betsy's fast pace. I told Betsy to slow down, as I hadn't yet deleloped the stamina at this higher elevation yet. I also stopped talking, and that really helped me from getting winded so much, as this was a rather steep hill we had to traverse. I was using air in talking that I needed for breathing. The old adage of, "Keep your mouth shut', applied here. Then when we got to the top of the hill, we still had to climb some steps to the next street level. My heart was really beating hard, along with me breathing hard.
A contractor was in the process of painting the front of the chuch, and it looked very new and bright. It was a nice church..very simple inside, and with some clever painting, made the support pillars look like they were marble. The benches and kneelers were all wood - no padding whatsoever. It was very hard for me to follow the Mass, as it was all in Spanish...naturally. The acoustics were very bad also, and with my not hearing well, made for an interesting time. I was able to sing some of the Spanish songs though...and that was nice. Spanish is such a beautiful language.
I hope I can finally learn to converse in Espanol, and the sooner the better. I can say some of the standard greetings, but at this point, that's all.
Old indiginous people in their particular dress were in attendance along with middle aged people in more modern garb, but no young people were present. I think there were only 4 men there, and that included me. After Mass, the walk home was much easier, as most of it was downhill. It felt good to get back 'home' to my apartment. Most of my neighbors were up by now, and some European couples were even having their breakfast on the balcony in front of their rooms. A nice sunny day had developed in the time I had left for church until I got back. It was cold enough to see your breath when I left at 6:40AM.
Since I did some food shopping yesterday, I was able to make my own breakfast. 2 eggs over easy, 2 slices of bread (No toaster) and a large cup of my Mountain Blend coffee. Yummy.. Garth came by walking his 2 dogs, and advised me he and Orilla were going to Coral...a large department store much like WalMart, at the Mall del Rio, and wanted to know if I wanted to come along. Naturally I said yes. We were even going to take the infamous Blue Bus at a cost of 25 cents apiece. The mall was at the end of the line. The buses don't automatically stop for you unless you signal them, even though you are standing by the blue bus sign. That's because there are so many routes, you have to flag down the numbered bus you needed. I was lucky to have a small pocket-sized book listing all 28 routes and their line number. You signal by keeping your palm down, and move your hand back and forth horizontally. It's either bad manners to use your hands palm up, or it has some other connotation.
We walked about 20 feet outside the gate of our complex to the bus stop, waited about 2 minutes and saw the #7 bus approaching. Just what we needed. We properly signalled the driver and he did stop, much to my surprise, as he was going so fast. We quickly entered and paid our quarters and sat down. The front rows are reserved for older folks, but they were already taken. You have to exit the bus by the rear doors, so we took seats near the exit.
After being jostled about, side to side, up and down, we finally saw the mall ahead and promptly went to the rear exit and pushed the red button to signal the driver to stop at the mall entrance. The Mall was multi-level ( 3 stories) and was very modern looking, and sat in a deep valley. More steps to encounter to get to the mall entrance, but they were going down this time, not up.
Upon entering,the first food concession I saw was a Burger King and the second was a KFC. I think there was an American Pizza place there too. There were many other local food stands also, selling all kinds of sandwiches, ice cream, chocolates and even a deli. There was a rather large dining area in the center, with plenty of seating. There were lots of tables there and each table had 4 chairs. No worry about having to stand and eat. They were even selling automobiles there.
Security was everwhere, and some guards had guns. Not like the guard I saw at the Super Maxi yesterday. He had an Uzi ! Some people might be put off by all the armed guards at the banks, outside ATM's and some stores, but I feel safer with them around, and you get used to seeing them. I make sure I greet them whenever I pass by one of them. They do a good job, and are generally young men.
We finally made our way up the nice clear glass elevator to the second floor entrance to Coral, after window shopping at all the other fancy stores. We even went into a furniture store, looking to see what the prices were for some stuff that Garth and Orilla would need to furnish a rental house, when they find one to their liking. Coral has virtually everything, except a surge protector my Canadian friend needed for his computer.
The elevator was generally used by people with carts. You could use the escalators if your items could be carried by hand. Not only did Coral have tons of merchandise, but a lot of every item. The shelves were in a constent state of being restocked. We finished our shopping in the hardware and home furnishings departments, then went into the food section. We went from aisle to aisle, looking at all the strange sounding food items, sometimes acting like litte kids in a candy store. It's unusual when you get to the checkout register. You do not push your cart through the much narrower aisle. You simply unload your goods unto the moving conveyor top and pay the cashier as normally we do in the States. A young man bags up your items and places them unto an upright 2 wheel cart. You tell him whether you want to go to the parking lot or to hail a taxi.
He followed us out of the store to the normal taxi waiting area. Just seconds before, there were 4 taxis waiting for people, but not now. We finally were able to get one, only after one person, then the next, grabbed the cab before us. The driver loaded our purchases....they filled the whole trunk, and we were on our way. Garth was able to tell the driver where our apartment was located and we arrived safely. We split the $3.00 fare. I found out later the fare should have been only $2.00.
After putting all my things away, I went next door to Betsy and Mikes place as several other people were there visiting and drinking some spirits. We all had a good time, and I met some new neighbors from England. The lady was English, but her husband was Indian, but he had a definite English accent. We talked about all our exploits in coming to Ecuador. The evening went by very fast.
After I went back to my apartment, the fireworks started up across the river. The first boomer shook my windows, as my kitchen and bedroom area face the river and is very close to it. There doesn't have to be a reason for fireworks going off in Cuenca. Combine that with car alarms going off night and day, honking horns, roosters making a racket in the morning and plenty of barking dogs. Amazingly though, I found that I didn't really pay attention to the noise and it hasn't bothered me. One learns to take things slower in Ecuador, much like it was in Kentucky, not to get aggrevated, and you'll be fine....and I was indeed.
The adventure continues. Stay tuned.
Tags: Vacation Travel Adventure