Saturday, September 18, 2010

And a River Runs Through It

"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.  The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time.  On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops.  Under the rocks are words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters."

Norman MacClean,  A River Runs Through It

One of my favorite movies of all times was A River Runs Through It.  It is about the true life story of Norman MacClean, born in Iowa, raised mostly in Montana where the major portion of the book takes place.  MacClean's book adds a poetic picture of the times and place that even the best cinematographer can't capture, but the film was also a great piece and I've watched it countless times.  I love the phrase for which the book and movie are titled.  Every time I walk along the Tomebamba I think first of my Rachel and her Piscean affinity to the rushing water and fishing.  I then imagine Norman and Paul, their fly rods gracefully and rhythmically arcing a rainbow dance on the water that no trout could resist. They would have loved to angle the high headwaters of the Tomebamba in the Cajas. 

Today the Tomebamba graces the parkways of Cuenca and is a constant reminder that Mother Earth will always have her influence on our lives and will forever connect us with our very core.  The water that rushed in a torrent of excitement and fervor in the rainy season is now a picturesque rumble on its way to the Amazon.  The smooth rocks at its bottom have seen the times of the CaƱar, the Incas, and the Spaniards.  Now the descendents of those proud peoples play soccer along its shores on Sunday and a few of us gringos just watch, listen and marvel that we are in some small way a part of all of this too.  This is a beautiful city, and a river runs through it. 

I Wonder

Sometimes I wonder about how things happen.  Are they random?  Are they driven by the laws of attraction?  Does God's will drive the events that unfold before us?  Is Pachamama beckoning us to live in our hearts?  Do the earth’s chakras pulse for alignment?

All I know is that when I eschewed my corporate life in the US and vowed that I would live the rest of my life in my heart, things have come to me in a way that is indescribable in this venue.  After 59 years, the love of my life has come to me (or I to her?) and she shares my passion for a change of living and life.  I am drawn to a life in Ecuador, and every day I live here I know it is not random.  Call it what you will.  We each have our ways and beliefs of describing how the world works, but to be open to possibilities is what it is all about.  If we're not open, we have already died.

I came alone to this beautiful land in January of 2010 with an open mind and more importantly, an open heart.  My Spanish was still in my eighth grade classroom and I struggled beyond Buenos Dias.  My friends and family thought I had completely lost my mind.  Perhaps I had.  I'm glad I did.  You see, coming here and living here in Ecuador isn't just a geographic adjustment in time and space.  It is a commitment to living in a different and yes, for me, a better way.  That doesn't mean that everything in the Andes is perfect.  If you allow yourself to be annoyed, you might find that barking dog chorus or the 5 AM rooster ensemble is not to your liking.  You might even find that the evening cool down is just a couple degrees too cool for you.  But if that is all you see and hear and feel, then you've just flat out missed it.

Did you notice that the women here carry their babies next to their heart?  Did you notice that when things don't go right, people are ok with it?  I was stuck on an airliner in Guayaquil at 1 AM waiting for two hours because of a bomb threat in the terminal.  On board passengers were accepting and joking and laughing and conversing with each other; another bump in the road.  I think if this was in Chicago or New York there would have been some eyes gouged out.  We're in a van from Cuenca to Guayaquil and have to stop for construction.  Yes, there are a few people who step out of their vehicles to relieve their bladders.  It's ok.  God gave us the means to relieve ourselves and I think he wants us to if we don't make a big deal of it.  Nobody was flipping out because we had to pee.   Gee, looks like we might be here for a while....not a problem because the locals are here with their wonderful little treats to feed us on our sojourn over the pass.  Everyone produces here.  I mean EVERYONE.  If you don't have a job, you make food or serve food, shine shoes or just find something to do.  The indigenous get $25 per month from the government to help their family tide things over, but you know, they keep on working anyway.  Last night I spoke with the bartender at Zoe's.  He didn't speak a word of English, so I was challenged to do what I could in the language I'm supposed to be learning.  We met in a universal language about family.  His 3 children and wife live in Guayaquil.  He didn't have work there so he travels the mountains to work during the week at Zoe's in Cuenca to feed his family in Guayaquil then travels back to the coast on weekends.  My friend Xavier is an entrepreneur of the Horatio Alger cloth.  He works like a fiend, is smart, loyal, and honest, dedicated to his customers and would literally take his shirt off his back if you asked him for it.  But when noon comes, he brings lunch home for his family, not because they're not capable of doing for themselves but because he loves them, wants to be with them and like every other family in Ecuador noon meal is a time to be with family.  Likewise on Sunday, you see families everywhere.  They are playing soccer in the greenway along the Tomebamba.  That's right, Grandpa Pedro, father Miguel, daughter Victoria and baby Maria.  They're all there.  They are all having fun, smiling, and yes, there's no other place they'd rather be.

So, for all of you who think this is a third world country.  Think again.  I take issue with that really.  There are 13 million people here, more or less.  Is there poverty?  You bet, lots of it.  I haven't seen or heard of anyone going hungry though.  Everyone seems to be fed.  Are there beggars?  You bet.  I think there are 15.  Every gringo that goes back to the states tells you about them.  Did they tell you that they didn't have any legs?  Did they tell you that they played the pan pipe for you to soothe your soul?  Was it worth your quarter to rest your soul?   My soul is rested.  I am home.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pan Pipe Maker

Musical instrument artisans abound in Ecuador. This man has a little shop just off Parque Calderon in Cuenca. I fell in love with the music of the Andes while in the Imbabura Province in January 2010. It seems you hear the pipes most in the north. Whenever I hear them wherever I go, I stop, listen, and readjust my heart and soul.

Groceries at the Coopera

Assorted groceries:  You guess
30 large eggs
2 Yellow peppers
2 Green peppers
2 lbs of bacon
1 lb of ham
1 cucumber
3 large, 4 small tomatoes
1 lb of fresh shrimp
1 pineapple (precut)
1 cantelope (precut)
1 carton of honey tea
4 packages of raisons
6 bananas

If you guessed $20 that was close!  $19.77
The meat, vegetables, fruit, and seafood is wonderful at the cooperativa.  I always feel like whatever I bring home from there is fresh and healthy and a good buy.

Please God, is This Where You Would Lead Me?

As we decended into Cotacachi Ecuador I asked God for a sign.  I wanted to know if this mystical province of Imbabura in a country called Ecuador was where I should live.    God has always shared his sense of humor with me and this time he gave it to me in spades.  People who know me are aware of my passion for my alma mater, Iowa State.  Who in their wildest dreams would ever imagine that as we came around the corner to follow this bus into Cotacachi that it would be emblazoned with the emblem of my beloved Cyclones!  Moses got a burning bush.  I got Cy!

Seriously......I have not ever seen another US college emblem anywhere else in this country.  Moments after I ask God for a sign I see Cy leading us down an obscure road into Cotacachi.  Coincidence?  A  God Thing?  You decide. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mozart #35 In Cuenca

Mozart #35 as performed by the Cuenca stringed symphony Friday night was an unexpected delight.  I have to thank Gringo Tree for alerting those of us who got their message of the change of time and venue for this event.  I alerted a few others and we had a respectable gringo representation in the otherwise disappointing crowd to hear this excellent production.  It seemed appropriate that I should take a hike back to the facility on Saturday to take a few snapshots of the facilities in the daylight.  I happened to be too late to get into the museum, but found these two sisters who had enjoyed the museum while it was open.  If you are considering a move or a visit to Cuenca, your cultural yearnings need not suffer.  This city loves their arts, music, and festivals and it is largely free of charge!