I had a lot of freelance writing assignments due today. When I was finished my back was killing me and my eyes felt like they were going to fall out of my head from staring at the computer screen all day so I decided to take a walk through nearby Paradise Park to refresh my body and clear my mind.
The street that we live on, Avenida Paucarbamba, was one of the ritzy streets in Cuenca that was first developed when well-to-do locals first left downtown and fashionably moved to the “suburbs.” I put this word in quotes because our home is a mere 20 minute walk from the center of the historic district.
Today many of the old homes have been torn down and replaced with commercial buildings and mid-rise structures like the one we live in. But a scant two minutes from here lies what I call the “real” Cuenca—mostly modest homes, small businesses, freely roaming mutts (which makes me realize how few stray cats are ever seen), and an occasional crowing rooster. Wandering through such neighborhoods helps keep me in touch with how privileged we are to live a wonderful life here even with our modest, by American standards, monthly budget.
On the weekends Paradise Park is filled with people—soccer matches, families enjoying picnics on the grass, folks riding paddleboats on the lake. On this Wednesday afternoon the park was mostly empty. A few ladies were walking their dogs and several kids were playing on the old school metal swings and slides (heaven forbid—someone might get hurt!) under the watchful eyes of their moms.
But the park today was mainly the turf of sweethearts. Young couples walked hand in hand, sat on rocks by the river, or did homework together.
At the far end of the park, after walking through a towering eucalyptus forest, the Tomebamba and Yununcay rivers converge. The rushing waters crashing together there are a powerful energy center for me, and, as always, I sat for awhile to renew my spirits.
After emerging from the forest on the other side of the park I walked past the “food court,” perhaps eight stalls selling a variety of meals and drinks. On this late afternoon only two were open, and I noticed that the most expensive items on their menus cost a whopping $1.25.
I took a different route home and strolled past a restaurant where Cynthia and I sometimes enjoy an almuerzo (fixed menu lunch of soup, fresh-squeezed juice, and entrée) for $1.75 each. We never know what we’re going to get but it’s always been tasty and plentiful.
As I approached our building I thought how much this little stroll was a microcosm of our whole life here. I knew I wanted to walk to the park and back but had no thought of exactly how I would get there or return. I simply set out in the general direction and wandered without a care about the specifics, knowing I would eventually reach my destination. And I did, having a wonderful time every step of the way.
How different from my previous over-scheduled, over-planned, and under-enjoyed life.