"Sitting on a park bench-----." I couldn't help but think of that song last night as I found myself doing exactly that. And, no, the lyric reference stops right there; I wasn't "eying little girls with bad intent!"
I left quite early for a dinner engagement with the sole purpose of wandering around downtown Cuenca and absorbing the atmosphere on a Friday night. After living here almost six months I realized Gringo Night, going out of town or other activities had always taken precedence over simply "being" here.
Shame on me for even in this faraway place falling prey to behaving like a "human doing" instead of a "human being."
The area outside Milenium Plaza (not a misspelling), the small mall near our home, was teeming with teenagers hanging out, laughing, and flirting. I didn't stop to check out the inside, especially the food court, but I can only imagine how crowded it was.
Then I crossed Madre Park and watched guys playing volleyball (I've got to join in sometime soon. At 6'3" I'll be such a star against these little dudes.) and futball; parents with kids enjoying the playground equipment; young sweethearts curled up under trees smooching; joggers; and tons of other kids heading towards the mall I had just left.
Strolling up Calle Larga the crowd switched to young adults getting an early start on the evening. This street is filled with nightclubs, disco's, hookah bars (who knew?) and restaurants. We lived right in the middle of this for a month and heard all the weekend action until far into the night. These kids LOVE to party.
No matter where I went there were people out and about. The energy was so happy and positive and I kept thinking, "Why have we been hanging out at a damn happy hour almost every week instead of being part of this?."
My last stop before dinner was at Parque Calderon, the main square in the center of the city. It was here that I plopped down on the aforementioned park bench and just took it all in. I'd been out for an hour and hadn't seen a single gringo--guess they were all having drinks at the function I skipped.
Two days earlier the country was gripped with those silly hi-jinks; this evening that foolishness might as well have happened two centuries ago. An upside to political instability is citizens never learn to depend on government and in fact continue to function in spite of it. Nobody has their hand out because in a poor country there's nothing to put in it.
People here simply enjoy life and take care of themselves. What a concept.