Saturday, January 23, 2010
Johnny with all the properties and money. He spared me a couple dollars
Me (Pepe) with the Morocho family
Johnny cleanin' out my nose
The Morochos wanted to spend some time with me over the holidays, but I couldn't because I was with my host family here in Puerto Bolívar. Geovanna then called me again and invited me to go to Cuenca with them.
I've heard so much about Cuenca and wanted to go so much. My brother Fernando always says that I'm from Cuenca. He once asked me where I was from and I said "la Ciudad de Jefferson" (the City of Jefferson). He looked at me and said "Oh, so you're from Cuenca." I had no idea what he was talking about and so he asked me again where I was from. I said "la Ciudad de Jefferson." Then he turned to the nanny, Araceli, and asked her "What's the Ciudad of Jefferson?" A smirk grew on her face, then she answered "Cuenca." My brother turned back to me and said that I'm from Cuenca. He eventually told me to look up Jefferson Pérez, who turned out to be an Olympic runner from Cuenca. So now my whole family jokes about how I come from Cuenca.
On Saturday, January 2, 2010, Johnny's dad picked me up, we went to Pasaje to pick up the others, then we went to Cuenca! Geovanna's neice and her family went with us, too. It was so cool in the car, climbing up into the mountains and seeing the change from the coast to the sierra. We first went to a lookout point over the city. Then we went to Cuenca's downtown. It was all historic looking. We passed people washing clothes in the river and drying them on the grassy hill (something typical in Cuenca). We went to eat "mote pillo" which is a corn mixture with egg. We got a hotel for the night. Johnny and I got a room with three beds to ourselves!
I asked my Machala exchange students if they knew anyone's number in Cuenca and it turned out that a Machaleña, Anna, was in Cuenca. What a coincidence. Johnny and I went to the mall to see her and her family. We actually first went to the big mall, and she was at a smaller one, but we finally found them. Johnny and I took a taxi with Anna's host-cousin's daughter's boyfriend to the house of Anna's host-aunt (that's confusing). Cuencanos are known for the way they speak: they pronounce the letter "r" as a "sh" and they are said to "sing" when they talk. I really like the way it sounds (and I think it'd be easier because then I wouldn't have to roll my r's which is so hard). Anyways, after the taxi ride, I whispered to Johnny that I didn't understand anything the boy said, and he said, laughing, that he didn't either. We talked with Anna's cousin's daughter and the boyfriend for a while. They both have strong Cuencan accents (it was cool talking to them). Johnny and I then went back to the hotel. He joked and told me to turn on the air conditioning, so I went and opened the window. It was so fresh and cold - quite different from Machala. It was the first time I felt cold in Ecuador!
Geovanna got us up, we ate breakfast, and then left for "El Cajas." It's a national park with mountains and lakes. While the adults went to buy the entrance tickets, I hid in the car, acting as a local (I do have an ID from Ecuador though!). When we were in and walking around, I pulled on my hood and wore my sunglasses, and we had everyone call me "José" or "Pepe" (because that's everyone in my family's name). That was pretty funny - idea of Geovanna. We walked around on paths in the beautiful park and climbed the hills. We drove to different lookout points and walked around more, passing a ton of llamas with crystal-like eyes! We met a European couple traveling South America in a VW microbus with a shark mouth painted on the front and California license plates. Crazy!
We ate trout (common near El Cajas) at a cool cabin restaurant. We also had canelazo, a warm, alcoholic beverage typical in the sierra. We stopped in Cuenca and I tried my first cuy! They cut the guinea pig off the skewer, cut me off a leg, and served it with corn, potatoes, and onions. It wasn't too bad. After I ate the meat off, Johny (the dad) kept the little paw in a napkin and pulled it out in the car as a prank to Geovanna and Jocelyne. On the way out of Cuenca, we bought pork that was spinning on giant grills over big coal pits.
On the way back to Pasaje we stopped at a little street-side, Catholic Saint shrine. In Pasaje, we ate the delicious pork with some delicious Missouri BBQ sauce (my Christmas gift for them). Their Christmas gift to me was Ecuador-version Monopoly! We played it then with Johnny's cousin who's from Quito. I was so winning for most of the game, but somehow Johnny ended up with everything. What luck.