Friday, October 8, 2010

The Warmth of the Ecuadorian People

In just a couple days I'm heading back to the States to get married.  I couldn't be more excited!  Rachel is the best thing that could ever happen to anyone, let alone me. 

 Tomorrow some long lost friends arrive here in Cuenca and I get to be with them for a couple days before I leave.  I've been reflecting tonight on how things happen here in Ecuador.  First, you must understand that people here truly have a warm and forgiving heart.  They MUST be forgiving to be kind to us silly gringos! I was thinking back to my first days in Ecuador back in January when it first occurred to me that I  knew this was where I was going to spend the last chapters of my life.  I encountered the locals in Cotacachi that simply took me under their wing and showed me their heart.  The owners of Hostel El Arbolito and the restaurant owner next door became my friends.  They looked out for me.  They helped me with my pitiful Spanish.  They called taxis for me and told me exciting and beautiful places to explore.  They fixed my eggs the way I liked them.  It wasn't just the perfect climate.  It wasn't the majestic and mystical Imbabura.  It wasn't just the pan pipes that still bring tears to my eyes from a recognition of a spiritual resonance that permeates this country.  It's the people.  

Another thing happens when you come to this country with your senses and your spirit open.  You meet other people who who have come here from far away places like the US and Canada and Switzerland and Germany and they sense what is going on here too. A comraderie is quickly established. Suddenly you have more friends than you've ever had in your life!  I look at the pictures I took of the people that were on my tour in January.  They were all here for a visit.  More than half of them are now living here! 

Some special friends, Bob and Freida (see above), stayed in touch with me over the last 8 months and have found their way back to Ecuador from New Hampshire.  They came into Ecuador this time to expand their search for their new home.  Like me they fell in love with the charm and the tranquil life in the countryside of the Imbabura.  This time they also wanted to experience the beautiful pacific coast.  While exploring the sandy beaches north of Salinas they accidentally ran into some other friends of mine from Cuenca who just happened to also be touring over there.  Bob and Mike are both former military pilots and share a passion for world history, politics, and the things that make the world turn.  They aren't the kind of people that just sit back and watch the tide roll in.  They are engaged and passionate about life's experience.  Bob had an engineering business fostered at the University of New Hampshire and MIT.  Mike was a career Air Force pilot in special ops and has lived all over the world.   Mike and Bob immediately became great friends and their wives, Patty and Freida also became great friends.  It's like that here.  Believe it.  Mike and Patty are passionate about Ecuador too.  You can visit them at

Tomorrow Bob and Freida will be here to stay with me and experience Cuenca.  They will stay in Rachel's and my condo and keep watch over our home while Rachel and I make our way around the midwest visiting family, get married, and honeymoon.  The day Bob and Freida arrive in Cuenca Mike and Patty are throwing a party to celebrate their birthdays down at the California Kitchen.  I am invited.  Bob and Freida are invited.  I know I will see other familiar faces there too.  If they aren't yet friends, they soon will be.  Life is so good.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Stop at Peliqueria Azuay

One of the expenses that I always hated to endure in the states was a haircut. Shelling out $17 for a haircut at a Walmart just rubbed me the wrong way.  They never took more than about ten minutes on me. I never got my neck shaved with hot creme and a straight razor either. Granted, I don't have a lot of hairs to cut, but the ones I have I want cut with some care.   This morning I  went whipping by Peliqueria Azuay on on my bicycle.  Impulsive that I am, I figured  I could just as well get a haircut since I am after all getting married in about a week.  My Mongoose brakes grabbed a hold of the cobblestones and in a minute I was invited in (my bicycle included).  The street was busy and you can see from the picture how much space there is on the street for a highly prized bicycle.  With Mongo at my side, I felt comfortable inside and the man having his hair cut immediately engaged me in conversation in Ingles.  Eager to exercise his dormant English, Jorge was at once friendly and inquisitive as to what brought me to Cuenca.  Jorge's darling 4 year old daughter, Diana looked on with her big brown eyes.  Carmen, the barber just kept cutting Jorge's hair and started giving him a fabulous shave.  I knew I had hit a gold mine here.  After visiting with Jorge I found that he had lived in the US for a number of years but was back living once again in his beloved Cuenca.  Cuenca is his home.  He didn't say so, but I think he built his nest egg in the US and now he's back where he wanted to be in the first place.   We talked about the people of Cuenca and how they have this special friendliness and acceptance of foreigners and anyone who might be different from themselves.  We talked about the Cuenca climate and the politics surrounding last week's noise in Quito.  I think that topic is pretty over with.   He showed me pictures of the rest of his handsome family.  Then I found out that this was his father's peliqueria (barber shop).  Pretty soon his dad comes out.  Padre has been at this for 40 years in this shop.  I got the impression that he now cuts hair when he gets the urge and not necessarily so much in between urges.  It seems like this is how it's supposed to be when we're over 70 or so.  Work when we feel like it!  Most Ecuadorians love work and are hard at it well into their 70's or 80's.  I guess work isn't such drudgery when you like what you're doing,  take a two hour lunch and engage the people you come in contact with all day.  Time flys and life is good.  
     When it was my turn on the throne I came to my moment of paniced but practiced translation, 'Corte por favor sólo un poco' which I think means just cut a little but I've had mixed results in that interpretation.   Sometimes that seems to mean just leave two or three short hairs.  I never know whether I'm telling them to cut just a little or leave just a little.  In any event, today is my lucky day.  Rachel will not be embarrassed after all!  I'm fortunate to have Jorge at the ready to translate my desires to Carmen.  Jorge seems to give a much more eloquent rendition of 'cut just a little' and Carmen is obviously taking in the apparently clear and precise instructions.  Jorge could have left at this point but instead stayed to visit while Carmen worked on the detail of my ever-thinning scalp. The result was highly satisfactory and my neck feels clean and sleek.  Afterwards I wanted to take their picture.  I'm not sure they were wholly into the picture thing because their smiles were constant and flowing without the camera and not so much as I took their picture.  I wish you could have seen Diana's smile because she could melt the Sphynx.  

Next time you're needing a haircut in Cuenca, consider Peliqueria Azuay, $1.50 well spent.