This time I'm enjoying an ice cold beer, but I'm not celebrating as much as I am savoring my most recent experience.
To digress a moment, you may be rightfully wondering why so many blogs all of a sudden. Well, Cynthia flew to our daughter's home in New Jersey a week ahead of me. That leaves me with time on my hands and the realization that I appear to have an inherent need to communicate. I further realize that my poor wife is normally on the receiving end of all my verbal chatter, which perhaps explains why she expressed a need of her own--to take a vacation from me. So spoken words have been temporarily replaced with writing, and you are the unwilling recipients.
Anyway, I started the day planning to go out for a walk, but our typical winter weather--overcast and chilly--wasn't cooperating. Finally in mid-afternoon patches of blue started popping through and off I went to Parque Paraiso (Paradise Park) for a Sunday stroll.
I first wandered through a nearby neighborhood where on an ancient street called Calle de Herrerias blacksmiths still forge iron the old-fashioned way into gates, balconies, and ornamental objects. Ladies were selling tamales, humitas, and pots full of God-knows-what all along the sidewalks. I went by a small park dedicated to the blacksmith craft.
After passing SOLCA, Ecuador's leading cancer hospital, I entered the park, Cuenca's largest by far. Even though, like almost everything else in our life, it is only a ten minute walk away, we haven't visited in quite some time.
I immediately noticed a couple of changes. One was the installation of a lot of new playground equipment beyond the two soccer fields that front the park (if you ever are confused about Ecuador's main sport, by the way, the multitude of soccer balls being kicked around will remind you). The other was the elimination of the old ramshackle "food court," as we fondly called it,
replaced by new wooden buildings selling the same basic traditional fare as before. Plenty of independent vendors were still dotted about, several of whom were selling this odd confection (not the candied apples),
a pile of something that is scooped into ice cream cones. Everything about it just seems so wrong that I've yet to indulge.
Of the thousands scattered throughout the huge green space, I observed that the vendors and I were the only people there alone. Families were picnicking and sweethearts were smooching wherever I looked.
Paradise Park is shaped like an elongated horseshoe with the Tomebamba River forming the northern edge and the Yununcay River on the south. Making a loop I passed along the Tomebamba side of the park and followed a path that takes you between the river and a beautiful eucalyptus forest.
Ten feet in the noise of all the playing children is replaced by the sound of rushing water and the sweet fragrance of those enormous trees.
The tip of the park where the two rivers converge is perhaps for me the most magical spot in all of Cuenca. I always sit on the trunk of a tree that grows horizontally out over the water, close my eyes and let other senses take over. The cool breeze on my face--the intoxicating smell of the water cascading over rocks--it's incredibly soothing.
Popping out the other side, I walked by the duck pond
and the new playground equipment
on my way out. As I got to the roundabout at the beginning of my street an indigenous family had set up a menagerie of stuffed animals for sale right on the curb. How they expected anyone to stop to buy anything in the middle of a busy through way defies all logic, but I see stuff like this that I don't understand constantly and can only scratch my head and wonder.
I visited the tienda next door to buy this beer on the way upstairs. No, alcohol is not for sale on Sunday, but Natalie lives in our building and knows I'm not a threat to report her. It's so cute how after all these years she never fails to remind me to return the empty bottle.
That concludes a very pleasant outing this afternoon. I love this place!