Well, the big news this week is that my bride Cynthia returned to Cuenca after 5 long (for me) weeks in the States. She arrived in Quito Monday night and I flew up and surprised her in the airport holding a sign and roses. We spent the night together and flew back here Tuesday afternoon and have been getting reacquainted since then. It's so wonderful to have her back home!!
Next week I'm starting a new event in Cuenca called "Gringos & Friends." It's going to be at an Italian restaurant and bar called Di Bacco every Tuesday night starting October 19. There will drink, appetizer, and dinner specials each week, and hopefully it will be a big success.
The funny thing is, I never had any plans to create a new Gringo Night. It all started innocently enough a couple of months ago when Cynthia and I were on a bus downtown around lunchtime. I saw a sandwich board outside a restaurant we'd never noticed and I said, "That place looks nice--let's get off and eat there."
We had a wonderful meal (veal marsala in Cuenca? Who knew?) of authentic Italian food without an Ecuadorian "twist." And because the place wasn't very busy, we got to chat extensively with one of the owners. It turns out he and the chef had spent several years in the US, which explained his excellent English. The restaurant had only been open about 6 months at that time and he admitted that he was trying to think of ways to increase his business.
The expat community here is always on the lookout for nice places to eat and for some reason I just threw out an idea, "What do you think about hosting a Gringo Night?." He was very excited about the possibility and I said I'd talk it up a bit and see if there was any interest.
Then Cynthia's situation with her sister happened and the whole thing kind of got put on the back burner. But I was eating with some friends a few weeks ago and thought to bring up the subject. I suggested they go to Di Bacco for lunch and let me know what they thought. The response was extremely affirmative, so I scheduled a dinner at the restaurant with about ten folks to plan the event.
Well, then I invited a few more, and a lot of the original group got excited and also invited a few more, and about 40 hungry people showed up! Plus there was already a group of 20 mid-Easterners complete with their own belly dancer wearing a huge candle-filled candelabra on her head. Plus I later learned one of the chefs had quit the day before and one of the wait staff hadn't shown up that night.
Suffice it to say the evening didn't go exactly as planned. Some of the throng sensed the impending disaster and thankfully left, but the kitchen was overwhelmed and service was sadly but understandably slow. But still, 40+ had almost accidentally come, which indicated potential.
A week or so later I and two buddies quietly convened at the bar there and put the event together. One of them said, "Why don't we make this for everybody--gringos & Cuencanos?." I thought that was a brilliant idea. Four years ago the first Gringo Night was organized when there was only a fraction of expat citizens in Cuenca compared to now. That small group, spread all over the city, truly needed a venue to come together.
Now the size of the expat community has grown to the point where perhaps it is time for us to integrate more into our new home and actively embrace friendships with the local citizenry. I am working with the local Chamber of Commerce on an "expat outreach" program, so I know the business leaders of Cuenca also have a sense of wanting to welcome and assist us.
So a random bus ride and lunch has amazingly evolved into "Gringos & Friends," which will hopefully be a nice new event for the city and a boost for a new restaurant that deserves to be successful. Cross your fingers--I'll let you know how it goes.