Monday, March 14, 2016

Adventures in Suburbia

Grab this related post Widget!
Saturday afternoon we were picked up by friends and driven to Challuabamba, Cuenca’s ritziest suburb. Mutual friends had invited all of us to a dinner party, after which Cynthia and I were spending the night and being taken back home the following day.

Challuabamba is about a twenty minute drive from Cuenca, but when you don’t own a car that’s a long way. We were traveling on the autopista, which is basically a wide road with a median and no painted lanes where drivers get to make up their own rules.

None of us had been to our friends’ house, so we were sent detailed directions which I read out as we proceeded. “Turn right on the dirt road immediately after the first gas station.” Sounded easy enough. OK. there’s the station. There’s the---oh no, that can’t be the road!” Before us stood a steep, muddy (it has rained a TON here recently) dirt incline. Yep, that’s it.

Welcome to suburbia, Cuenca-style. In spite of living here almost six years, our familiarity with this neck of the woods was nil. We’ve visited one other couple who reside in Challuabamba, but they live right off the autopista we were exiting, not up in these hills we were about to climb. Four wheel drive engaged, up-up-up we went, dodging potholes and gingerly easing through deep gullies filled with water.

Along the way we’d pass a series of large, modern houses, then a vacant lot with a couple of cows grazing, then more nice houses followed by a small shack followed by a row of brand new townhomes. It’s quite surreal and bizarre, but by the time we reached our destination it was obvious that this was in fact the norm. The network of terribly maintained dirt roads in these hills connects a crazy quilt of everything from poor, rural families to incredible 10,000 square foot McMansions in gated, guarded communities.

The site of our dinner and spend-the-night party falls somewhere in between those two extremes--a lovely, almost new 3 bedroom, 3 ½ bath home with spacious rooms and a huge kitchen that would fit nicely into any similarly styled U.S. subdivision. Except for the dirt road, the cows, and the roosters.

After a fantastic meal and lively conversation, the friends who drove us left and we headed off to bed. Lying there we immediately noticed, “Wow, it’s SO quiet out here!” Our neighborhood is normally pretty calm at night, but there’s a bit of traffic and the occasional car or house alarm. Here---silence.

The reason we spent the night is because we were invited to tag along Sunday afternoon to engage with other neighbors in the sport of boules. Never heard of it? Neither had we. A quick Youtube video revealed it’s a French game similar to bocce from Italy where you toss out a little ball onto a long, narrow field of play, then teams try to get their metal balls closest to score points. Seemed easy enough, plus lots of food and drink were involved, so this looked like our kind of sport!

Turns out it was, as Cynthia and I were astonished to emerge the afternoon’s undefeated champions. Chalk it up to beginner’s luck on full display. Win or lose, we had a good time and got to meet lots of new and interesting people. We’ll see how much they liked us by if we get invited back (just kidding--while there we were kindly asked to come to a big birthday bash later in the month).

So we stayed in a beautiful home with friends and met lovely people. Could we happily live in the ‘burbs? In a word---no. #1, we’ve been there/done that many times in our previous life and #2, we hope to never again live anyplace where we must climb into a car to do anything and everything.

We love having all of our basic needs within a fifteen minute walk. Our apartment, while fantastic, isn’t perfect. We have no terrace or outdoor space and we’re in a four floor walkup. As mentioned in previous posts, it’s damned noisy sometimes. Still, neither of us has ever brought up the subject of buying a vehicle because we enjoy our pedestrian lifestyle so much.

Our weekend in suburbia was an absolute blast, and we were grateful for the experience with good friends. We know they’re happy with their choice, just as we were glad to return home Sunday evening to city life. How great to have fun wherever you go!

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