Tomorrow marks our 3rd anniversary of moving to Cuenca to start our retired life. In researching what to say in tomorrow's post, we came across two articles about Evelyn that never made it into our blog. Both were articles that came out in March 2016, just as we were preparing to leave for Turkey for a three-month home exchange, and as Evelyn was getting ready for her first solo painting exhibition.
The first article, above, was in the March 9, 2016 issue of Diario El Mercurio, the local Cuenca Spanish newspaper, titled "Ecuador Inspires Evelyn Johnson," which talked about her solo exhibition, which was opening that night.
The other article about Evelyn was a two page spread, shown above, in issue #8 of Cuenca Expats Magazine, a local English language monthly magazine that covers news of interest to expats in the city.
Vistazo is an Ecuadorian news magazine. The issue with yesterday's cover date (October 20, 2016) has an article about three photographers in Cuenca, of which Burt is the first listed.
They asked for a few of my photographs to illustrate their article celebrating Cuenca's upcoming Independence Day, plus a few quotes from me around which they wrote the article. The text above is rather small and hard to read in this blog scan, so I transcribed it here:
Three Perspectives on Cuenca
Festival and Heritage.
We have mentioned the free cooking classes at La Yunta before. $3 for a round-trip bus ride (or free if you drive yourself), and get a free cooking demonstration, along with some scrumptious bits of meal that fill you up enough that you don't need lunch.
Yesterday we opted to join them again on their almost-free bus trip to see how Sandy of Carolina Smokehouse uses her products for cooking. To be honest, I was skeptical, since we already use many of their products. Later I decided that it was a morning well spent!
Sandy started off with stuffed mushrooms. Snooze. Boring. NOT! I have made these for guests for the past couple years, but she used her spiced sausage instead of the Parmesan cheese that I have been using. What a difference! We just discovered a new standard appetizer for guests!
She then proceeded to show us how to make different types of biscuits, some with prosciutto and others with pulled pork fillings, and finally brownies. I can assure you that her mixes are of an "impossible-to-fail" type. I tried to make brownies for years here, and never got results I like. I now use her mixes, follow the instructions on the package, and the brownies have always been a hit with guests -- if they ever last long enough for the guests to experience them!
In each case, she made them with just a little different twist from how I have been making them. In each case, they took my "oh my, that is good" results to "I have died and gone to heaven" outcomes.
If you are in the area and have a chance, I strongly recommend you attend one of Sandy's (aka "Carolina Smokehouse") cooking demonstrations. They are held about once a month, are free, and give you little cooking tips you never knew you needed! You can contact Sole at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the schedule of upcoming classes.
We have never before reposted someone else's blog article here, and I don't expect to make a habit of it. However, I read a blog today that is on a topic I have harped on repeatedly, and is written better than I believe I have been able to do. This article was written by Jim Santos, and can be see in it's original location here. I am reposting with his permission. Without further ado, the rest of this post was written by Jim:
Recently, Rita and I took a week long exploratory trip up the coast, along the “Ruta del Sol” of Ecuador. When we announced our plans to friends and family back in the States, I was surprised at how often we heard some variation of the admonishment to “Stay safe!” Now I know that usually it is meant along the lines of “drive safely”, but sometimes there was a darker undertone as well, an idea that we should keep in mind we are in a foreign country, and therefore “not safe”.
That four-letter “s” word seems to be coming up all the time. In the US, politicians scream that you are not safe unless you vote for them. In online forums, expats always are being asked if it is safe where they live. I am constantly asked if large cities in Ecuador are safe, if riding the local buses is safe, are the cabs safe, is it safe to jog with my iPod, and so on.
What is this obsession with being “safe”?
Curious, I looked up the word in the dictionary. For those of you born after 1985, a dictionary is a book that contains most of the words of your language, listed in alphabetical order and providing information on pronunciation, definition, and usage. Not to be confused with a thesaurus, which is not a part of the female anatomy but is instead a book of synonyms. Synonym of course is something you can sprinkle with sugar on toast.
But I digress.
The word “safe” means: 1 –
Notice how often another four-letter word, risk, shows up there? People want to know if living in Ecuador is without risk. Well, that’s any easy answer – hell’s no! And guess what? Living in the US is also not risk-free. In fact, living is not safe!
Let’s face it, the mortality rate for being a living person is 100%. You are not safe. You are going to die. This is such a sure thing, there’s an entire industry based on making money off the fact that you will die. The insurance industry not only knows that you will die, they know the odds of when and how you will die, and so although they do pay out, they have tons of spreadsheets and auditors tracking the risks to make sure they charge you enough so that the house always wins.
What the insurance companies understand, and what the American people do not understand, is the idea of risk. There are degrees of risk, but the people as a mass don’t seem to get it. They just want to be safe.
This tendency has been growing for a long time in the US. You can try to blame it on 9/11, and politicians certainly do like to use that tragedy for their maximum benefit, but I believe it only sped up a process that was already there. Before 9/11 there were still things like bicycle helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, etc for kids. There were warnings posted at DQ about the possibility of deadly peanuts lurking in your ice cream sundae, hospitals offering to x-ray Halloween candy (in spite of there never being a case of someone finding a razor blade), stranger danger alerts, and other indications. Look at the prevalence of something as simple as hand sanitizers, to keep you safe from germs.
Take my word for it, it was not always like that in the US. I mean, for years the most popular present for kids 10 or over was their very own Daisy air rifle. Just BB’s, right? Ever get hit with one? You could punch through a tin can with a properly pumped Daisy air rifle. No, I blame the whole preoccupation with safety on one playful little item: Jarts.
Again for that post-1985 gang, Jarts were an amusing little lawn game, fun for kids of all ages. The Jarts kit consisted of two plastic hoops, which you placed a set distance apart in the lawn. Then you took the six Jarts, which were small, hand held missiles with a very heavy metal tip, and gaily decorated plastic fins in two bright colors (for teams!). You then took turns, and I’m not kidding here, lobbing these missiles underhanded in big looping arcs while standing at one circle in an attempt to have it plummet down and pierce the ground within the opposing hoop. The tips were not particularly sharp, but the Jart – which was a shortened word for javelin dart, which I guess should have been a clue – could fall with a force as high as 21,000 pounds per square inch, if tossed high enough.
Fun? You bet! Safe? Not so much. Especially since each team stood behind their own hoop.
I had a set myself, and I remember playing a variation with a friend of mine, where we each stood with the hoop on opposite sides of the house. We proceeded to take turns lobbing our Jarts over the roof, blindly trying to hit the unseen target. Of course your opponent was on the other side so he could yell out encouragement or insults, as the case may be. This continued until my mother stuck her head out the door and yelled for us to knock it off before we (sing along with me) “put someone’s eye out!”
There were, rather predictably, a number of injuries caused by this product. Enough so that they were finally banned from sale. They were definitely and demonstrably not safe, and appropriate action was taken.
But getting back to the US and Ecuador, now we are talking about risks that are harder to define, and appropriate steps are not usually taken. For example, according to the CDC in 2014 over 2.6 million Americans died in the US. Almost half of them (1.4 million) died from two causes, heart disease or cancer. In that same year, 24 Americans lost their lives in terror attacks. That’s almost 50% of all deaths due to heart disease or cancer, and about 0.000000092% by terrorists. That means you would be safer if TSA was confiscating knives at your local steak house instead of at the airport. But do you see Congress rushing to pass laws to make you safe from heart disease, or to provide better funding for research into causes and cures? Of course not. It is to their political advantage to make you afraid of something else.
Meanwhile here in Ecuador, the best stats I could find from the State Department on violent deaths of expats in the year 2014 stated there were 6 reported. Granted, they openly acknowledge that these may not represent them all, just what was reported to the State. But still, only six. Of those half dozen, three of them were suicide, one was a traffic accident, and the remaining two were homicides.
Over the recent years it seems to me that the trend in the US has not been to make you safe from harm, it has been to make you feel as unsafe as possible. And Americans increasingly seem to want to feel safe. It’s like the nation is entering into a second childhood, yearning to be enfolded in the trusted arms of an adult, and protected from all harm.
And again, that’s not going to happen. You are never going to be safe. There will always be risk. What you need to do is decide what is the real degree of risk involved, and what are the potential rewards for taking that risk. Choosing to live overseas is definitely taking a risk, it is not a safe choice. But that does not mean you are necessarily any safer by merely staying where you are.
So if you are considering life overseas, I suggest instead of trying to find reassurances from others that you just go and see for yourself. You don’t have to pack everything and take off blindly. Take a vacation or two in your target country(ies), get out there and look around at the world and see for yourself what the situation is. Yes, you should take reasonable precautions, whether you are traveling to Ecuador, Italy, the Philippines or even Boston.
But for myself, living my life in fear, intent on staying safe, and risking regret that I didn’t see and experience as much of life as I possibly could? Well, that’s one risk that I don’t want to take.
Image courtesy of www.retro-cafe.com
This post is a bit of a personal brag for both of us. You have already read about the Mayor's Gallery Art Reception this past Friday, and the Cuenca Art Walk 2016 that followed during the weekend. El Mercurio is a major Spanish Language Cuenca newspaper that we follow (usually from Jeanne's daily English translations in CuencaHighLife). This past Sunday, October 2, 2016, El Mercurio printed a 1/2 page article about the art walk, titled "Caminata del Arte crea intercambios culturales" (or "The Art Walk creates an exchange of cultures").
They commented on some specific artists in the art show, including Evelyn. In referring to one of Evelyn's favorite paintings, "Recordando Su Vida" (Recalling Her Life), El Mercurio wrote:
Muestra de artistas naciones y extranjeros se fusiona y en una muestra son operadas por el público.
La norteamericana Evelyn Johnson muestra un perfecto retrato físico y sicológico de una mujer campesina, camino a la senectud, en su traje típico de chola….
The show fused together the work of national and foreign artists. Evelyn Johnson perfectly captures the physical and psychological expression of an indigenous women, who is on her way to senescence [old age], wearing the traditional Chola Cuencanan clothing from the Andes.
Wow! They love her work! ☺
On another front, Ana Louise from Coffee Club Spanish (Burt's Spanish teacher) hosted an end-of-term photography competition for all her classes. The requirement was to show a photograph, and then write a Spanish language story describing the image, with more advanced classes requiring longer stories (Burt was in Intermediate 1 this past session, which is "level 4" in Ana's program).
Burt opted to display a storyboard, shown above, from our recent trip to Puerto Lopez. The story that I wrote was:
Visitamos Puerto López en agosto, para observar a los pescadores y disfrutar de tiempo en la playa. El clima era cálido y agradable, con días claros y noches frescas. Había no hay mosquitos, que fue una agradable sorpresa.
En nuestra segunda mañana, llevamos nuestras cámaras para ver el pescado siendo traído. Como nos acercamos a la playa, podíamos ver los barcos llegar, rodeados por enjambres de aves (superior izquierda).
Cuando nos acercamos, vimos hombres que llevaban cubos de pescado desde el barco a las escamas y camiones. El pescado podría volar sobre los hombres, tratando de agarrar los peces en los cubos. A veces, los hombres se ejecute en parejas (media izquierda), con una persona que lleva la cubeta mientras que un amigo sería tratando de asustar a los pájaros. Otros hombres no tienen un amigo, y agitaría sus manos sobre la cabeza para tratar de salvar su pescado (inferior izquierda).
Había tantas aves que era imposible detenerlos a todos. Algunas aves, como la fragata (inferior derecha), se ciernen el cursor sobre el cubo, luego vienen con cuidado, levante la cubierta de protección, y robar un pez del cubo, antes de volar lejos.
In English, that translates to:
We visited Puerto Lopez in August, to watch the fishermen and enjoy some time at the beach. The weather was warm and pleasant, with clear days and cool nights. There were no mosquitoes at all, which was a pleasant surprise.
On our second morning, we took our cameras to watch the fish being brought in. As we approached the beach, we could see the boats arriving, surrounded by swarms of birds (upper left).
As we got closer, we saw men carrying buckets of fish from the boat to the waiting scales and trucks. The fish would fly over the men, trying to grab fish from the buckets. Sometimes, the men would run in pairs (middle left), with one person carrying the bucket while a friend would chase away the birds. Other men did not have a friend, and would wave their hands over their heads to try to save their fish (lower left).
There were so many birds that it was impossible to stop them all. Some birds, like the frigatebird (lower right), would hover over the bucket, then come in carefully, lift the protecting cover, and steal a fish from the bucket, before flying away.
The photo and story won 1st place in the competition, with the prize being a scholarship towards additional Spanish classes. ☺
So, this is how we spend our life in retirement.
Last Friday was the art reception at the Mayor's Gallery that launched the Cuenca Art Walk 2016. This was followed by a self-guided art tour of 55 locations throughout the historic el centro district of Cuenca, all day Saturday and Sunday. Evelyn Johnson and fellow artist Garry Kaulitz exhibited at the Casa Artesanal, AKA Carolina Smokehouse (the source of our bacon and a whole lot more!). Tamara and Bob also joined us, supplying their Alaskan Style SHRUB. There was a good turnout for the entire art walk circuit, but whenever I returned to Evelyn's exhibit, it was always the most packed with people enjoying the wine (from Dos Amigos) and shrub tasting, pulled pork sandwiches, brownies, lots of goodies, as well as signing up for art courses with Garry. Evelyn sold a third of the 13 paintings she exhibited during the weekend, in a show that was intended to introduce the great variety of talented art we have in Cuenca, from jewelry, sculptures, paintings, handmade crafts, weaving, music, folk dancers, theater, to puppets. It also showed us that wine and fine art can be a great mix.☺
Museo Pumapungo had a simultaneous event on Saturday, called "Noches de Shungo", which was packed with families enjoying plenty of activities and games for kids, the craft vendors, and lots of food vendors (I had a delicious and unusual slice of pizza from In Situ).
Though paintings accounted for the majority of art displayed, two galleries in town exhibited some of the best metal sculpture art I have seen anywhere. We are still deciding which piece(s) we will be adding to our home...
With literally thousands of pieces of art on display, it is hard to pick a subset for this blog.
This was the "Second Annual" Cuenca Art Walk, aka Caminata de Arte 2 in Spanish. The event is likely to continue to grow and become even more popular next year, so be sure to support the artists and the many small businesses.
Last night was an art reception at the Mayor's Gallery(aka Galería de la Alcaldía) to kick off the weekend of the Cuenca Art Walk 2016. There was a fusion of more than 30 national and foreign artists who are living in Ecuador represented at the gallery, each with a single piece of their work. This exhibition stayed up during the entire weekend, so people could come and see the variety of styles and talent as part of the Art Walk (see tomorrow's blog for more details on the Walk itself). Some of the artists included Jorge Chalco, Alberto Soriano, Garry Kaulitz, Catalina Carrasco, Miguel Illescas, Maité Eusebio, Klever Moscoso, Ali Spence, Janda Grove, Lorena Duca, Ariel Dawi, Santiago Sutton, Cara Venn, Amelia Earl, and of course, Evelyn Johnson.
There was a good turnout, as both Cuencanans and expats came to meet the artists, and the artists could also mingle and catch up among themselves.
1500 copies of the yellow catalog detailing all the artists had been printed, and many people in the crowd had a copy to reference. You can download an electronic version of the booklet here, if you wish.
Later in the evening, Cara Venn (the organizer of the entire Cuenca Art Walk 2016, shown at the podium upper left), gave a short talk, and then introduced the Ecuadorian folk dancing entertainment. Meanwhile, outside the beautiful Mayor's gallery (bottom left), we were having a typical rainy evening.
There is an amazing variety of music talent in Cuenca, most of which you can listen to free. It is often hard to choose between competing performances, and there are more performances than we can realistically attend each week. It has been awhile since I have mentioned that fact in this blog, so I thought it was time to remind readers of the variety available. This week, there was another free symphony, which we missed. There were also several musicians playing rock, jazz, or pop, or oldies in several restaurants around town -- all either free, or with cover fees of $5 or less, many which are listed on Itur's website, Cuyker.com.
The first free concert we did attend this week was with Karen Kennedy who performed at Teatro La Casa de la Cultura, shown above. Karen was a professional opera singer, performing around the world, including New York city, before settling with her family in Cuenca. We have heard her perform several times over the past years, and usually try to attend when we hear of her being scheduled. We understand that she has scheduled performances in Germany and Holland next month. She was joined on stage by Cosié Aquirre Saula on piano, and Santiago Zumbana on violin.
As always, the performance was magnificent. Unusually though, we were the only gringos in the audience. The large theater hall was about 70% full, and everyone appeared to be Ecuadorian. This performance was not advertised in the English speaking forums, so probably most of them were not aware of her performance.
Colibri Conciertos has been putting on "house concerts" for the past 10 months. These are usually held in private homes somewhere in Cuenca. Tonight there was such a free concert (however donations are requested to support the musicians) at Mansión Alcázar, a first class hotel here in Cuenca. As usual, this concert was sold-out (you do need to sign-up quickly due to limited seating) within the first 3 hours after it was announced.
There were four musicians performing tonight. Daniel Brito Acosta played the piano, Carlos Andrade the violin, and Eddie Jumbo the cello, and Sandra Echeverri was the soprano vocalist. All the musicians were beyond superb. The string work by Carlos and Eddie were amazing to watch, as well as listen to. Sandra's voice is pure and sweet, and is some of the best classical singing I have heard. Always the expert, piano music of Daniel tied the rest together.
At the end, there was a raucous and lengthy standing ovation from everyone in the audience. Very well deserved. Next time you hear of a "house concert" in town, jump in and sign up instantly. If you wait to have your coffee, you will be too late and will find yourself on the waiting list...
Last night we attended another expat community theater performance with A.C.T. Theater here in Cuenca. The show was "Talking With..." and consisted of monologues by 11 women, each with a completely independent story. Each woman was in crisis in her life, and -- to be honest -- I expected a bit of a dark downer theater experience. Instead, these women each brought humor to their personal crisis moments of their life. There were definitely moments to be considered deeply, but the presentation kept the audience laughing... allowing the deeper thoughts to subtly intrude, while enjoying the antics of each actress.
Each gringa actress presented a wildly different woman in crisis. They varied from a bored housewife escaping to Oz while doing routine housework (my personal favorite), to a woman 23 hours in labor for a child already expected to be "challenged," to a homeless woman dreaming of living in McDonald's (another favorite of mine), to a snake charmer concerned with her loss of faith in gawd, and a host of others too numerous to mention here.
The cast originally expected to give a single performance, but the (English-speaking) expat audience wanted more, so a second performance was created, which we managed to get tickets for. The first performance was totally sold out, and the second was nearly so. Next time you hear of an ACT performance, be sure to jump at the chance for tickets, as we have been awed by how much new creative talent there is in Cuenca. We have been to all their shows so far, and can attest that even those that seem "dark and foreboding" in the initial description are interesting, and yes, fun. Kudos to Deana Culp, the director, and the entire expat cast.
The last two days, I have described our trip to Puerto Lopez, first with the whales and then with the fishermen. I will wrap up describing the trip with other images of interest from our four day trip to the coast.
The malecón on Puerto Lopez has been under construction for a couple years. Work stopped for nearly a year when the government ran out of money (largely due to the drop in oil prices -- what is good for the American consumer can sometimes hurt developing countries like Ecuador). Everything is back in full swing though, and there were crews working along the entire stretch of unfinished work. As a side note, the remaining construction is all a fair distance from Hostería Mandala, where we stayed, so we did not have any disturbance.
In the afternoon, after the fishing boats were all emptied, it was time to repair the nets. This is a daily effort, always trying to keep the nets in optimal condition. Also, any holes allow part of the catch to escape, which hurts the success of the fishing crew. This is hard work, but I never saw anyone grumbling. Instead, they use this time to mend the nets and socialize with friends. As hard as they work, they always seem to have a smile on their face, and a friendly wave and glance to a passing tourist.
I will finish with a random collection of images from the coast. Kids playing soccer (or fútbol, as they call it here), ice cream vendors (delicious and made right there on the mobile cart!), a fisherman barbecuing in his wood boat, a boat repairman, families enjoying the beach and, of course, chimpers.
That completes this trip, but you can be sure we will be back for more in the future!