Archive for November, 2011

Cuenca is a city known for its excellent healthcare and hospitals.  SOLCA is a Cancer Hospital with modern equipment and highly skilled physicians.  People literally come from all around South America  for treatment.  The medical care here in Ecuador is inexpensive compared to the US, however there are people with little, to no, incomes in Ecuador, so a non-profit organization called FASEC was established to help these individuals.  If an impoverished person develops cancer, they can go to SOLCA during the day for their treatment, and then go to the FASEC building right next door where they recieve their meals, sleep, and are monitored by the doctor/nursing staff.  The patients are usually people from rural villages that sustain themselves by growing/selling vegetables or livestock.  I have been volunteering there once a week for two hours every Wednesday.

FASEC has a large fundraiser every November, the money rasied goes for salaries, medication, supplies, meals for the patients, etc.  It is a food fair that represents the cuisines of different countries.  This year, the 16th year of the event, included the food of Colombia, Chile, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Japan, Mexico, United States, Italy, Taiwan, Switzerland and others.  There were booths from various local organizations such as ” The Association of Gourmets”, the local Gastronomy School that is affliated with the University of Cuenca, the “River Basin Santa Barbara Association” which is typical food of the Azuay area.  There was also a vegetarian booth and a HUGE Desert booth.  Ecuadorians love their sweets.

Our neighbors across the street have been heavily involved with SOLCA and FASEC, their family has been touched by cancer several times and this charity is dear to their heart.  

One neighbor spent quite a bit of time in Italy and is a great cook, so she purchased and cooked most of the food herself. I shelled shrimp for about three hours the day before the event, and then both Michael and I were at her house the next day helping with the rest of the Antipasto dishes. At the event I volunteered to help serve food.   There were 10 cold dishes and five or six hot ones, meat lasagna, vegetable lasagna, Gnocchis and Ravioli’s, and a Mediterranean Shrimp Stew. An event like this would never fly in the US, the food served at most of the booths is all homemade, the FDA would go nuts.

My grandmother tackled breast cancer with success back in the 70’s, one of my Aunts has overcome  several battles with this invasive disease, I call her the “Bionic woman”, a cousin has also dealt with breast cancer successfully, (Cancer was in for a handful with her, there was NO WAY she was taking that laying down!!!), the same goes for  very close friend of mine.

Because of family and friends this foundation is close to my heart as well.

The entrance to the FASEC fundraiser. 
It was held in the conference facilities of the largest Mall in Cuenca

The Italian booth I worked in.
The smiling lady was the contributor and cook for the food of the Italian booth, the blond woman with the sunglasses on her head helped Rosa by making a few of the dishes, and contributed the table clothes, and serving pieces from her own house.
Delicious Pasta dishes

It was a great spread of food

Rosa and I spooning up the Antipasto dishes. 

This heaping plate of food was $5.00

One of the conference rooms where the food booths were lined up around the perimeter and tables were set up in the center for dining. 
The Ecuadorian Booth, no Cuy in sight, but the standard roasted pig was front and center.
This is a HUGE pan of Paella, I heard it it was sold out in record time.

The Italian booth served over 400 meals in about two and one half hours.  We raised $2,600 for FASEC!!


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Cuenca Fiesta

Cuenca has a huge festival starting on November 1st and runs through November 6th.  It combines the Day of the Dead, celebrated here on November 2, and Cuenca’s Independence from Spain on November 3rd, 1820.   There are tons of parades, concerts, arts and crafts fairs spread ALL over the city.  It was impossible to get to see everything.  Here are pictures of “The Peruvian” booths that were set up along one of the main Avenues along the Tomebama River.
.  .). 
We bought two rugs and two sweaters from the Peruvuian Ladies

The products are hand made, the young woman in the back is knitting a blue scarf.

We bought our rugs from this woman.  Every single one of them had JET black hair in beautiful braids.

I just included this to exemplify the height of most of these ladies.  Kinda tiny.

We thought their hats were so cool, if we could have bought one we would have.  Such detail!!

A curios shopper

We strolled down the river, in the background you can see another market that was set up for the festival. Mostly people from Otovalo. Behind Hazel and Wally the display materials for the artwork were being set up. The next day the street and park were covered in an assortment of artwork, and jewelery sellers.

Michael relaxing in Parque De Madre.  
Pretty little girl passing by on the Bus.

The next day we met our friends for breakfast in a nice, new little restaurant in the square pictured below.  An then we headed off to the parade.  Our friends had Spanish Class so they missed it.

Breakfast Pals.
They just looked too cool in their hats!!

The Parade Route.  It was supposed to start at 10:00, but this is Ecuador, it got off around 11:00.

Beginning of the Parade.

The following pictures mostly speak for themselves, beautiful floats, costumes, children and dancers.

The guy in the Gray jacket is the Mayor of Cuenca.  There were lots of Beauty Queens in the Parade.

Food was a theme on lots of the floats. This woman is holding a tray of fried Cuy.  Some of the floats were handing out cups of various traditional drinks, we passed on those.  A bunch of floats had special pastries taped to them also.  Some floats threw out beautiful roses.  We took those to the cemetery later that day (it was the Day of the Dead) and placed them on the a friend’s fathers grave.

Michael wants this mask!!

Later that evening we grabbed the dogs and strolled down to Parque Calderon.

This little girl was fascinated with Velkey.

The next day we went to Parque Paridiaso to watch the Burro races.  They were supposed to start at 10:00, well we sat around and waited until 1:00 and there wasn’t a sign of a single Burro, so we left.  A day or two later, Michael found this video on Youtube.  Looks like we missed a funny event.  I love the guy dressed as a “Burro” on his burro.  Too funny.


We went and visited a few more little markets on Friday.

We went back to Parque De Madre and the artwork was displayed.  Cuencanos LOVE the “new” Cathedral in the city center,  “Caterdal de la Immaculada Concepcion”.  Construction began in 1885, I don’t know when it was completed.   There all kinds of different artists renditions of the building. 

In a previous post we detailed our trip to an Organic Farm belonging to “Ferbola”, he had a booth in a market selling his great products.  We bought some jam, more of his jerky and a kind of “relish” consisting of pickled carrots, onions, peas and peppers.  YUM.

It was a wonderful week.

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There is always something to do here.

The Cuenca Chamber of Commerce offers day trips to various places of interest, there was a trip to a rose farm and a candle factory, we missed both of those. 

We took a day trip to a Botanical Garden about an hour outside of the city, it was really beautiful. They have incorporated plants from the Amazon, the coastal area, the desert area, along with local flora. 

It was interesting, our guide said that it was amazing that all these plants can live together, and why is it so hard for people to do that.  HHmm.

This area was originally private land, and it has a love story as part of its history.  A young woman from a wealthy Spanish family lived here, she was not supposed to “fraternize” with the indigenous people, well she did and got sent to a Convent for the duration of  her pregnancy.  The poor little baby didn’t make it, but she met a young man, they married and lived happily after.

Gold is in abundance in this area and the story says that he gave her a bowl filled with jewels and gold as a wedding gift, the bowl has never been found.  So the story goes, who knows.

Some pics;

The Botanic Garden
Our Guide for the Botanic Garden, he LOVED his job, and his enthusiasm was fantastic.  Happy guy, lots of smiles.
An incredibly beautiful flower, we have no clue what it is called.

Orchids are in abundance here, but these are the smallest ones we had ever seen, beautiful.  We used a coin to exemplify the small size of the orchids.  A 50 cent piece is slightly larger than a quarter. 

By the way, the currency here is  American $$.  No exchange rate nonsense.  We carry lots of dollar coins, all those Susan B. Anthony’s that we didn’t want in the US are here.  Ecuadorians  like the coins because they more durable than paper money.  When you pay for something, you may get change in both Ecuadorian coins, and US coins,  thus the 50 cent piece.  Since things are fairly inexpensive here, and credit cards are rarely used, you always have pockets filled with heavy coins.  

Anyway, I have wandered from the point of the pictures, more Botanic Garden,

View from the Botanic Garden, beautiful.

Chapel in the Botanic Garden, in Ecuador there is always a chapel for something!!!!

Just a beautiful flower

Trumpet Flower Tree

I don’t remember the name of this tree, but these thorns were really sharp, a defense for predatory insects.

These are the graves in the middle of the Botanic Gardens of the man and woman that married and happily spent their lives here.  We hope the story is true and that there is a bowl filled with gold and jewels with them.

The Botanic Garden was beautiful, at the end of the trip we were served sandwiches and tea.  It was a warm, sunny afternoon, what a great way to spend the day.

 OK, Halloween.

We were invited to a Halloween party and costumes were requested.  We had been in Quito most of the week getting our Cedula’s,  and we did not have a lot of time to plan, so we improvised with some stuff we had, some stuff we rented, and a little bit of a wine cork our friend Leslie gave us.



Oscar in his Halloween costume, Ecuadorian hat and pants.  Not a happy guy.

Michael was a convict

I was a wizard, with our pal Digit in the pic. (Yes, I tried being as pale as possible)


Beautiful  girl at the front door of the party

Unbelievable spread.  FABULOUS FOOD.
A Priest, a Witch and a Ghoul!!

Cool, creepy table setting
Batman and Elvis – cool!!!

Our lovely landlord, the hostess of the party dressed as a Hippy.   It was a Halloween Feast.

We had a great time at the party.  I can’t remeber the last time we got dressed up for Halloween.  We “rented” Michaels convict costume, we bought my wizard hat, two masks,  and pom poms for my “wizard stick”, it set us back about $9.00.

Next up, the Cuenca Festivities.

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