Monday, September 15, 2008

The Athens of Ecuador

La Bienal Internacional de Cuenca invita a Ud(s) a la apertura de la muestra de la artista rumana Liza Wheeler en la que se realizara la donacion del Mosaico "El Primer Paso", para el Hogar Infatil Tadeo Torres, el miercoles 10 de septiembre de 2008 a partir de las 11h00.

Up bright an early, we ventured downtown to look at the fabulous mosaics of Liza Gafitanu Wheeler and actually got an opportunity to talk to the artist and her husband (who works on the mosaics with her). They were fascinating people and told us "they'd never met a Canadian they didn't like". She's originally from Romania and he's from Texas. She'd done a mosaic and donated it and the show was to honour that act. They explained to us that a smaller piece takes about 3 months to complete and the larger ones 6 months. The work involved is intense and they told us it was only possible to keep up concentration for about 2 hours before they needed a break. We asked them how they ended up in Cuenca and they told us that Cuenca was the art centre of Ecuador: "It's the Athens of Ecuador." You can check out their work on their website at

Going to the exhibit was the best thing we could have done after our Mirror Mirror fiasco. Leaving it we felt lighthearted and good about Ecuador and Cuenca again. We also had an opportunity to talk to a few of the people we'd previously met at ExPat night. We wandered downtown Cuenca and had a cappuccino and congratulated ourselves on the good fortune of ending up here.

Having decided we need to expand our horizons a bit in regard to our new City, we hopped on one of our regular buses (#28) going in the opposite direction than we usually take it, and rode around on it's route for 2 hours. We ended up way past the Terminal Terrestre and the airport right at the edge of no buildings at the end of town, where we had to get off the bus because the driver was going to lunch. Incidentally, he spoke pretty good English! There was a number 28 just getting ready to leave at the same turn-around and we hopped on it and did the return trip. It seems to do a figure 8 through downtown twice and out past the airport and the army base the one way, and beyond Coral Central and SuperStock the other. It was a pretty interesting way to spend 2 hours and we're planning on doing it with several other buses. There is apparently no bus route map for the City. We were told at the tourist bureau they were planning on issuing one, but to not hold our breath waiting for it's publication.

As Brian's watch was loosing about 10 minutes a day and despite the fact that we now live in Ecuador (time has less meaning), we decided to venture out and get him a new one. We once again encountered the phenomena: any other time you're walking down the street you can see a watch outlet every 4 stores except when you're specifically looking for one. This phenomena seems to work with internet outlets as well. In any case, we finally discovered a few but could not find a watch with an expansion bracelet. After looking in at least 5 places, we finally settled for a regular buckle watch for $15. This is not a wonderful Ecuador deal as Brian's last watch cost us $12 at MetroTown in Burnaby.

Stopping off at Cafe Lojano (El Tostador) at Sucre 10-20 y Padre Aguirre we bought a couple of pounds of coffee. We've been buying our coffee at SuperMaxi but kept meaning to try the coffee here. It was $2.30 a pound (cheaper than SuperMaxi) and absolutely wonderful! The woman who works in the tiny shop is very friendly, asked us where we were from, was very patient with our poor Spanish and we'll definitely go back.

We finally got around to going to the Museo Municipal De Arte Moderno and we highly recommend it. It's a warren of rooms with modern art from many artists in Ecuador and elsewhere. It's free and it's fascinating both inside and out. At the square right beside the museum there was an outdoor venue of young artists singing and dancing their hearts out. We sat down on a bench in the park and really enjoyed ourselves for a few tunes. Later on, we walked up to the top of the Av. de las Americas and along that major street for awhile, past the Catholic College so Shelley could get a picture of its spire and then down Luis Cordero to the middle of town where after basically 3 hours of wandering we felt we deserved a piece of cheese cake and a cappuccino. On our walking days, we're trying to set out in a different direction from our apartment in order to discover our neighbourhood. If you're in a car, you don't stumble upon that perfect little artisan shop or tiny cafe like you do if you're walking and let's face it, we need the exercise.

At the Tourist Bureau in the square in the middle of town you can pick up a Cultural Agenda for each month. It's in Spanish but at this point we can usually cobble our way through things. On Sunday we went to: Musica, arte y tradicion>>Presentacion del Duo Renacer in the gazebo in the middle of town. It was put on by the City of Cuenca and the Association of Professional Artists of Azuay (the Province that Cuenca is in) and was lively, entertaining and the guitar playing was astonishing. We really enjoyed ourselves. We picked up the agenda because we want to see the Cuenca Symphony. At the tourist center we inquired where we could buy a seasons pass, only to be told it's free! Concerts are usually held in the old cathedral in the square.

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