Thursday, November 6, 2014

LIVING IN CUENCA - Celebrating CUENCA's 2014 Festival de Artesanias de America CIDAP

 What I love most about living in Cuenca is the abundance of arts and entertainment.  Every week one may find an evening concert to attend, an art exhibit to explore, see dancing in the streets or a festive parade marching by, listen to talented musicians in the parks, and on and on.  Most of the entertainment is FREE and FABULOUS!

Then there is the Festival of Artists that happens twice a year.  Artisans from Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Bolivia, Columbia and other countries come to Cuenca, set up their tents, and display their artistic creations for sale.  This year's feria was grander than the last few I've attended.  The crowds were greater, the art was more amazing than ever, and the festivities were so numerous, I missed so much!  What I did see and attend consumed me (and my wallet) for four glorious days of music, dance, food, art, beautiful people, and the 194th anniversary celebration of Ecuador's independence from Spain.

Living in El Centro, two blocks from the Tomebamba River has it's advantages.  When my arms were loaded with wares, when I had to take a bathroom break, when I wanted to just take a break - I found myself 5 to 15 minutes "walking distance" away from my apartment.  At night I could watch the most amazing fireworks right from my terrace.  It was also a perfect meeting place for my peeps who shared these four fabulous days with me.  Yes, I still enjoy living in the heart of this fabulous Historic District, I still love my little Ecuadorian flat, and I still love LIVING IN CUENCA!  What's not to love?
This was one of the more artistic booths selling Tagua Jewelry.  My girlfriend bought a splendid piece from this artist.What Tagua is and how the jewelry is made
It take several month from the moment they collect the tagua nut, until the moment the product is made and ready to sell.

The tagua nut is a dried seed from the tagua palm tree, which grows in tropical rain forests of South America (Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Brazil).

Tagua is also known as natural ivory or vegetable ivory, because of its similarity with ivory (it's hard, unbreakable, resistant and beautiful), but tagua is natural.  They don't have to kill elephant in order to get it.

The tagua nut comes in a fruit that carries multiples nuts. Each nut has a shell that contains the seed. This seed is the size of a chicken egg and is covered in a thin brown skin.

The nuts are sun-dried for 4 to 6 months before they can be worked with. Once dried, Tagua is carved and polished to a bright shine. Tagua's natural color is white but it is easy to dye and can be found in different bright or pastel light colors.

Handmade tagua jewerly is beautiful, colorful, resistant and unique.
One of my favorite booths - beautiful handmade bags from Guatamala.  Yes, I bought several of his little bags.

Talented street musicians graced the Tomebamba River.

It was fun seeing and talking to the colorful vendors from different countries......

......and stopping to photography the different dancers......

......and their dances told a story.

These lively musicians performed by the Broken Bridge (Puente Roto).

Another of my favorite artists - a (handsome) brother and (beautiful) sister, tutored at a very young age by their artist father - and their paintings were so detailed and beyond amazing.  The painting of Noah's Ark that we coveted cost $1,600.  Maybe next time!!

The weather was glorious!  Warm, sunny, rainy, stormy, hot - unpredictable each day.  Yet, four days of mostly blue skies and warm temperatures.  One of the joys of living in Cuenca is being surrounded by mountains, having four rushing rivers running through the city, and being graced with amazing historic churches.

Delicious coconut balls

Our city is CLEAN - thanks to the blue people who sweep the streets day and night.  
How I appreciate them, and tell them so when I see them.

Parque Del La Madre was packed with families attending the festivities.  

The tables were ready for the crowds, and the vendors were anticipating their sales.

Heading down the stairs from Calle Larga leads us smack into the vendors tents lining the Tomebamba River.

Admiring the fine detailed work of the Saraguro people of the southern Ecuadorian Andes. 
They are a humble and gentle people - and their attire sets them apart.

You know I'm not afraid of color - one of the reasons living in this colorful country makes me happy!

Some of the vendors would weave while they waited for their sales.

This beautiful woman from BaƱos-Ambato demonstrated her skill.  

Colorful table coverings

How can one resist these beautiful pieces?  I wanted to buy one of everything!

Un Colibri - Ecuadorians love hummingbirds!

Rustic pottery was another of my purchases.

Every artist was dressed so beautifully, and it is how many of the more traditional people dress daily.

I admire the beauty of the aged Ecuadorian women - this vendor was so classy and of a gentle spirit.

The banks of the Tomebamba River was a perfect place for the crowds to take a break.

Such beautiful and talented dancers......

.......a dance of romance......

......and their final bow!  The crowds' applause makes them smile.

Artistic drawings grace this wall along the Tomebamba River

Ahhhhh, the beautiful children of Cuenca.  She admires herself and the final face-painting art......

.....then turns to the photographer for a full-view shot!
Isn't she beautiful?

Another wee one takes her turn......

......then turns her sweet face to the camera!

How blessed Bo and I are to be living in this beautiful country!

Grilled Platanos.......

......stuffed with cheese!  A favorite treat for the people of Ecuador.

My sister-girlfriend, Lorena, is ready to indulge on her cheese-filled platano!  She arrived one day before this 4-day art event - and is here to stay!  Does she look happy?  You betcha!  It's taken her 11 months to sell her Portland, Oregon home, pack her container, and arrive to her new city.
I told her that the entire town of Cuenca was celebrating her.  I think she believed me.
Bienvenida mi amiga preciosa!!! 
Colorful twirling dancers make me happy!

A bystander joins in to give this dancer a twirl!

The crowd and dancers clap and cheer them on.

The crowds cover the stairs under the beautiful blue skies.....

Gourd creations of an artist from Uruguay whose work I so admired.
The large fat carved and painted Armadillo Gourd (calabaza) was my favorite purchase.  
A painted rock says it all - "Jesus YES I Love You" - Daily I thank Him for guiding Bo and me to this glorious country and for surrounding me with beautiful people and outstanding art.  

The next art festival will be in April.  So, come on down (or up, or across.....)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Living in Cuenca - How We Do Our Laundry! MR WASH, of course............

A sunny day in Cuenca - 
perfect for "Laundry Day" by the river!

When we moved from our Oregon home to Cuenca, Ecuador, we left behind many things that I thought I would miss - like our washer and dryer.  Our first four apartments were furnished, but only one of them had a washer and dryer, and we lived in that apartment only two weeks.  So, for the first year here, we would haul our laundry to one of the nearby local laundry services to wash, dry, and fold our clothes.  Then, we would return to pick them up and haul them back to our apartment.  These local places would staple little tags on every single piece of clothing with a 5 or 6 digit number handwritten on each tiny tag.  I would then proceed to cut each little tag off every article of clothing before putting them away.  Not fun!  But, we had decided that we were not going to invest in a washer and dryer - and besides, where would we begin to fit them in our current small apartment?  

Laundry service here is so inexpensive, but I got tired of cutting the tags off every time we would have our laundry day.  We also didn't enjoy hauling our clothes down four flights of stairs and to the laundry place.  Nor did I like the fact that the reason they were tagging each item was because they would mix my clothes in with someone else's so they could make use of filling up their machines.  However, I didn't want to find a self-service laundromat where I would have to sit there and wait for my clothes to wash, dry, and then have to take time to fold them.  After all, I'm "jubilada" and doing laundry has never been a fun chore for me.  

Then, someone told me about MR. WASH!  Really?  They'll pick up our clothes, and deliver them - up four flights?  They use organic products?  They won't mix my clothes with any one else's?  They have same day service?  Count me in!  I called them that day, and it was all true.  They came to our apartment the next day, and delivered that night.  No more little tags to cut off, and my clothes smelled so fresh and were folded so meticulously - I was now another one of their "happy" customers.  Fabian and his wife, Inez, and their son, Kevin are great people.  Their desire is to please their customers, and I'm thankful to know them and to be using their service.  Another thing I love about living in Cuenca - I don't have to do laundry anymore!!

Pictures Tell The Story

Recently, I went over to Mr. Wash to see their facility and meet their staff.  

Address:  Francisco Estrella entre Avenida 27 de Febrero y Avenida 10 de Augusto.

Phone:  099-055-2419
Meet Inez (Fabian's wife and owners), Anita, and Estefania - hard-working women who take special care of their customer's laundry.

MR. WASH is open Sunday through Friday from 7 am to 7 pm.  They are closed on Saturdays.  

They've been in business four years and know how to take care of their customer's needs.

The employees are meticulous about how they fold each item of laundry, and when they return them to us, nothing is ever missing.

They have other services - like cleaning large rugs and comforters.....

.........and dry cleaning service too!  Oh, and they will hand-wash and line dry delicates!  Did I mention that they also IRON your clothes upon request?  

Yes, MR WASH is a full-service facility that I highly recommend.  They are definitely meeting all of our laundry needs - and I'm thrilled that I can now wait up to three weeks for my pickup and not have to haul my heavy bags through the streets of El Centro.  

Recently, Bo spilled Coconut Oil on a pair of his new hiking pants.  Here, Inez and her helper are looking at the stain and ready to take on the task of removing it.  AND THEY DID!  I've had other stained clothes that they always return to me spotless.  Now, that's service at it's best!!!

If you want your laundry picked up and delivered, and if you want organic products and fabulous service - give MR WASH a call at 099-055-2419.  Inez will be over that day ($2-$4 delivery charge depending on where you live) to take care of your needs.  

Thank you, Inez, for giving me a tour of MR. WASH and for taking such good care of your customers!  Bo and I appreciate your incredible laundry service and we're glad we found you!!!