We were invited by a new Cuencano friend to spend the day with her and her husband at their farm in the country Saturday. After checking our social calendar and noting we have no other plans until November we said, "Sure, we'd love to."
Here's the setup for an interesting outing: our Spanish is horrible; her English is decent and hubby's is non-existent.
So off we all go. A little ways out of town we stopped in a tiny village for breakfast. This hamlet apparently has a reputation because there were numerous small roadside stands on both sides of the road all cooking the exact same items--cornmeal griddle cakes, chickens, and guinea pigs (a local delicacy known as cuy).
I was aware of cuy and with the same spirit of adventure that brought us here I was planning on tasting it on a day of my choosing and certainly not first thing in the morning. Since it's pretty much roasted "childhood-pet-on-a-stick"--head, feet, claws--the whole chincillada, Cynthia, a Doctor Dolittle type, had never been a player on the concept.
But we weren't doing the ordering. Fortunately our hosts skipped the meat altogether and we dined on the griddle cakes and an interesting hot milk drink that included more corn and an unrecognizable spice.
After a short drive through a town called Paute where many roses are grown for export and up a bumpy dirt road we arrived at their retreat. It's a modest 2 bedroom home with a loft, very rustic in a good way. Natural materials right off the property have been incorporated wherever possible.
A tour around the spread revealed several gardens (our constant Spring-like weather requires staggered plantings so ripe produce can always be available) , a trout pond, chicken coop, rabbit and, yes, guinea pig coop, and a lone sheep tied up with a rope.
We were soon to eat the freshest food we'd ever consumed. Our hosts gathered onions, garlic, cilantro, parsley, celery, and tomatoes and a chicken was selected from the coop. Then we entered a cultural time/space continuum that's hard to describe, but I'll try.
The chicken was slaughtered, plucked, and butchered right before our eyes--in like 20 minutes. Vegetables, fruits, and herbs were sliced and chopped. The tiny 4-burner stove was wall-to-wall with big pots boiling, sauteing, and deep-frying away. It was all a blur of activity that inexplicably felt calm and relaxed.
All the while we're talking--sort of, gesturing, passing a guitar around and singing, laughing. Effortlessly sharing a wonderful spirit of camaraderie stripped of sophisticated verbal communication, enjoying connection at a basic level with which many of us have sadly lost touch.
After a remarkable feast that went from farm to table in only two hours the men retired to the front porch,. somehow "discussing" politics with lots of arm-waving, foot-stomping, and exaggerated facial expressions. Like religion this subject of conversation is fraught with peril under ordinary circumstances, but fortunately we found we leaned in the same direction---a la derecha (to the right). Otherwise our wild gesticulations could have resulted in fisticuffs.
One part of Latin American culture Cynthia & I have quickly embraced is the siesta, so we retired for a quick nap while our hosts checked out the progress of some projects around the acreage. I awoke first and sitting alone on the porch admiring the surrounding vistas I felt a surge of emotion.
It dawned on me that last Memorial Day weekend, during three blurring days of white-hot energy and intention, our thought process had wildly accelerated from the initial notion of leaving the US to contemplating a relocation to Cuenca, Ecuador, of all places. Three days??? Cuenca, Ecuador???
And now, exactly one year later, impossibly, I found myself sitting alone and staring out at-----South America. Wow. We did it. We really did it.
Soon everyone reconvened, we straightened up a bit and returned to the city. As we said our goodbye's it was apparent that each of us had just experienced something magical and deeply satisfying. Two couples had really put themselves "out there" to begin a relationship. Without the usual crutch of banal, stereotypical chitchat we were forced to dig deep and focus not on what we were going to say next but solely on what the other person was trying to say. We supported and encouraged, expressing ourselves and understanding each other as we truly were because it was impossible to do otherwise.
Two couples, strangers in so many ways at the beginning of the day, parted last night as real friends.