Friday, November 15, 2019

The Wonder of America

Alas. But the Bohemian Cafe (Czech Us Out) in Omaha closed a couple of years ago as well. Americans grow up and do their own thing, which often (as in my case, my father's, my grandfather's, my great-grandfather's...) isn't continuing a family business. At the same time, I rue the loss of ethnic totems such as Amish Acres. A few years ago I designed a couple of restaurants for a Chinese immigrant about my age. He came to America and did his own thing, and it went well for him. He said that he'd sell at retirement, as none of his kids wanted to be in the restaurant business, which they had been raised in. America is fertile soil for fulfilling your dreams; but the same goes for your kids.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

La Huelga

For about 9 days now Cuenca's been cut off except by air from the rest of the country due to the political unrest. Following is a train of bits starting with oldest first, I'll add as makes sense: 

********Today I was gonna get some passport copies notarized and drop them off at the lawyer's office in Centro. But it was raining. Then there was rioting off and on, tear gas, etc. due to heartburn over eliminating subsidies for gasoline and diesel. Gas prices going from 1.85 to 2.40 and diesel from 1.03 to 2.30, roughly, as far as I can tell from what I read. Taxis blocking roads. People biking & walking to work. Roads blocked with burning trash barrels. People driving on sidewalks to get around blockages. Crazy. Tempers are flaring. Weather cleared up nicely but I figured the chances of both the lawyer and notary being in were nil. Stayed home. Curfew tonight.

********Everything is still closed today, and quiet. Our neighborhood park is full of idle taxistas with cabs parked around the perimeter, but not blocking the streets. Ojalá I can get our permanent visa stuff done on Monday.

********Now that the transport strike blockades are supposedly over, we went to the store. It was just like hurricanes and snowstorms- no milk, no bread, no toilet paper. Dribs and drabs of fresh meat and produce.

********At 4pm Cuenca received a C-130's worth of vittles. 45k lbs in a 400k metropolis doesn't mean much, but I expect it's more about making a point than a difference.

********Had stuff I needed to tend to today regardless of politics.

Enroute to the electrical repair shop where I had left a non-working quartz heater, I saw that the little army post a few blocks from my house was hosting on its ballfield the helicopter that's been hanging around Centro the last couple of days.

As I drew near the shop I saw the two guys outside talking. They gave me a big smile and handshake, said the heater was ready, $10. I said I'd come back tomorrow as I had to buy food today, all good.

Stopped at the sculptor's studio to check on our pedestals. he makes statues of saints, stays real busy. We ordered a couple of pedestals for our old Jesus'n'Mary statues. He's not in, just his helper.

Headed on into town to pay utility bills at Western Union. Ran into a police-army barricade a full block north of Parque Calderon. Only folks with business were getting past. Turns out all eight blocks surrounding Calderon were barricaded, but I eventually got to the WU office. The line was too long for my taste, so I proceeded to the Notaria's office to get copies of our passports notarized for our permanent visa applications. It's the 11th notary office in town. As they say in Spanish, Decima Primera, the Tenth First.

The Notaria isn't busy, I go to the desk with 3 passports and 6 copies, as the visa process requires two copies of each passport. The senora says, you want two copies notarized, right? Then you need to get a third set of copies for our records. I go around the corner to a copy place, get three copies. The owner is missing a temple on her glasses. I show her the jury rig on my broken Ray-Bans, say I've had these for about 40 years, I won't replace them. She says she's too busy to mess with getting hers done.

Back at the Notaria I'm now first in line for the Notario to sign all my stamped copies. He's got someone with him, they talk & talk. In the meantime the line grows from one to over a dozen. A staffer comes over, says give me your documents, and gets the Notario to sign while he talks. Thanks!

I head toward the lawyers office. Lawyer is Abogado in Spanish- Advocate. Not so hard. I draw near to an older man, tatty but elegant, seems kind of Italian. He looks at me, says are you Italian? No, are you Italian? He says yes! We start talking in Italian, he's from Rome. I say we're going to Rome in December. So how's your life in Cuenca? Well not so good: I'm retired, my wife died a few years ago, no family, I'm unwell...he pulls up a trouser leg to show bad circulation in his calf and ankle. If I could maybe give him a dollar it'd really help, he doesn't get much pension. Sure, here you go. I plan for a certain amount of charity each time I'm in Centro, so I have change.

Cecyl the Abogada is standing outside her office talking to her assistant and a woman I don't know. We chat a bit about the Paro (stoppage), seems like things are getting back to normal. I give her the passport copies.

I stop by an artstore, ArkiArte, just to see what stuff they have. Very nice brushes and drafting pens, lots of paint colors, yes they have acrylics, a pleasant visit with the owner and adult daughter. They give me a little complementary metric scale.

Now I'm off to the Mercado, Janet has given me a list of stuff. She's angsty about the food situation, yesterday the pickin's were slim-to-none. For dinner we had popcorn, I thought that was fine. A friend of ours had rice and animal crackers. But the Mercado is as slap-full of edibles as ever. I get kilos of taters, onions, beets, red & green peppers, carrots. I suppose even if the indigenous folks are blocking access to Cuenca, they at least let trucks in so the indigenous foodsellers can make a living. Other folks are getting pissed, yesterday someone ran over a road-blocker. Then other blockers wouldn't let an ambulance through. By the time the doc walked to the injured person, he was dead.

A good day for me though, and I beat the rain home.

*********Our Ecuador phone has been getting PSAs from Cruz Roja (Red Cross) reminding everyone that they are neutral in the current unrest, and to please allow the free passage of their vehicles.

********Grocery store is slap empty, but mercados have food when they are open. In other news, Cuenca is now at US Dept of State Level 4 Do Not Travel. You know, like Iran. On the bright side, we had trash pickup for the first time in over a week.

********Just saw a C-130 go around our house (typical landing pattern) on the way to landing. First one we've seen. A few minutes ago a bigger helicopter flew near, Blackhawk-sized. Since the strike began, we've see a Kiowa-size copter around, which is based at a nearby soccer field. So the Blackhawk is interesting.

********Today is Saturday, October 12. Took a fast shower today, first one since Sunday. Walked downtown to pay bills around 11am, which is before the demonstrations start, but the barriers are still up around the 9-block area centered on Parque Calderon. Paid bills, and ran into a Cuencano I know about my age, talked a bit about la huelga (the strike), and getting food. Cops were in a good mood. I noticed assorted young non-indigenous men kitted out in all-black with neckerchiefs which would soon become facemasks. Heading home, I watched a peaceful indigenous march go by- lotsa red flags and happy, well-mannered folks shouting slogans. Noticed assorted places where vandals had busted up curbs & sidewalks to make throwing stones. So sad in such a lovely city. Also went over to Santo Domingo to teach my first catechism class in 3 years. Turns out the class for adult catechists was canceled due to the situation. Had a good visit with the DRE though, gave him a good idea of what I can do. 

Popcorn for lunch.

********  Sunday 13 Oct. Quiet day. After Mass, breakfast at an underpatronized cafe, then off to the grocery store. About 5% of typical fresh produce. No fresh meat. No bread. No juice. Milk! Toilet paper! Canned tuna! Whiskey and Amaretto! Frozen Turkey! We will survive. Still not as bad as a hurricane. We have used up one of our 4 LP gas tanks, which are about twice the size of ones you can swap out at Home Depot.

******* Tuesday Oct 15. Armistice. Still no gas trucks, but life is 90% normal. Went to the airport on visa business, saw a couple hundred soldiers waiting to fly out out of Cuenca. They seemed tired.

*******  Tuesday night, Oct 22 The unrest in Ecuador began on October 3, and was officially over on the 14th. Supply of everything but LP gas was virtually normal by the 16th. The gas company was about 100,000 tankfulls short when the blockade ended, but can only fill about 14k per day. So Cuenca is still way behind on a normal supply of filled tanks. During the first days after the unrest, the normal $3 tanks went for $20, but now are back to normal if you are ready to wait in line for a few hours to maybe get one tank. We were careful with our 4 tanques, and between the 3rd and yesterday had used up two of them, with two still partly full. In normal times, small flatbed trucks roam the neighborhoods, playing a jingle, and swapping empty tanks for full. Some neighbors & friends simply call for deliveries, but we never did. I'd put a red ribbon on our gate, and they'd stop and ring the bell. Anyway, the trucks haven't been out for weeks, so the daughter got a number from a neighbor.

A woman answered Francesca's call, said she'd have to see if her local gas dealer still had any tanks, would call back. Within the hour she did- she could get 2 tanks, $10 each, delivered to us before it got late. Maybe an hour or so later she came by. It's a young wife, husband, and toddler in a crossover, with the gas tanks on blankets in the back seat. My guess is she lives near a distributor's bodega, takes orders and waits in line there. Or goes in the back and pays a bit more not to wait. Whatever. I could have done the same a few blocks from our house, but even after waiting, I'd have two very heavy tanks (or one, or none) that cabbies aren't fond of toting. I have a handtruck good for one tank at a time, but there's elevation change...I just don't want to hump them home. $10 each- wotta deal!

So we are all taking showers and washing clothes today. Life is good.


nice neighborhood

Paid a visit to a friend's house on one of the oldest streets in Cuenca. Typical Centro house, two stories built right against the sidewalk. Ground floor front is commercial. Planted interior courtyard with surrounding balcony. Older back part of house wattle-and-daub construction, newer front made of brick. Second floor rooms with skylights have glassblock floors to let light into rooms below. Lovely plaster ceilings 11' or 12' high. Electric lights added later. Elegant, cool, tranquil. Heavy walls kill almost all of the noise of the street. At 90 minutes, my longest Spanish-only conversation. Way down the street on the left is our parish, Santo Domingo.

We also recently had a Venezuelan over for dinner on Saturday. His father had been a colonel in the pre-Chavez era. The family spent a couple of years at Ft. Benning while Dad liaiased. Son learned very good English, teaches it here at a school a couple blocks away from our house. Quite the story from the heady days of pricey oil to the current debacle.

What else...n
ear Parque Calderon a nicely-accoutered gringa asked me if I could help her pay her hostel bill. I said, "You've told me this story before." She said, "I thought you looked familiar," and scooted. Not 10 feet from us were little Venezuelan kids selling lollipops and worthless 500-Bolivar notes so they could eat.
Today I swapped a dollar for 600 Bolivars, also known as toilet paper. The Venezuelan kids got an excellent deal as the rate today at the Colombia border is 12,625. I have a nice collection of worthless Bolivars.

Needed rubber bands awhile back. There are little tiendas called papelerias, paper shops, they'd probably have some. Walking to Centro yesterday I stopped at the first one- nope, no rubberbands. The one across the street had them, a penny apiece, the owner counted out the 20 I needed, done. Had a nice little visit. Google translate had said 'cinta de goma' and 'banda elástica' for rubber band, but he said no, we call them ligas (ligaments). Nice.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Caught in Celluloid

Image result for the spy who came in from the cold movie

I was born in 1957. When my parents went to the movies they almost always took me. Of course, none of the films were aimed at little kids. Regardless, many of the ideas made very vivid lasting impressions on my young mind. I still remember them with that little boy's worldview, which makes them all the more compelling. Some I've re-seen as an adult, but the original imprints remain.
These I can recall off the top of my head. Not every movie I remember by any means, but the ones that still matter:
Lord Jim
The Subject Was Roses
Mutiny on the Bounty
The Quiller Memorandum
A Man for All Seasons
Taras Bulba
Pillow Talk
Dr. Zhivago
Fistful of Dollars
Spy Who Came in from the Cold
The Sandpiper
Dr. Strangelove
Fail Safe
Zorba the Greek
Lilies of the Field
Lawrence of Arabia
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Miracle Worker
Breakfast at Tiffany's
The Train
The Sand Pebbles
Fahrenheit 451
A Man and a Woman

"There's no hiding in my memory/ each thought and gesture are caught in celluloid"
The Carpet Crawlers, Genesis, 1974.

Just Hair

We are usually not out and about when schoolkids have lunchtime. I don't play close attention to the schoolday schedules, but I think they get out from 1 to 2 or so. Many, if not most businesses, close between 1 and 3; so we have learned to run errands before and after.
On Friday we were headed home from erranding right when schools let out. My impression is that the schools physically close, so students either walk home to eat, or get food from street vendors who are ready and waiting right outside the gates. They are entirely at large until school restarts, a virtual antithesis to school in the US where kids are typically forbidden to leave campus.
So as we drew near one school, a torrent of teens began to spill out, overflowing the sidewalk, around parked cars, and into the street. Everyone is in dark navy blue uniforms with white shirts. And the hair- as we slip into and through the crowd, we're surrounded by dozens of long, thick, and glossy tresses of straight black hair played against the navy and white. Long feminine hair is a kind of wealth, a splendor; and the gleaming ebony opulence is on luxuriant display for the couple of minutes it takes us to pass through the crowd.
It's the same at Mass every Sunday, but not with such density, and not so uniformly long. The indigenous women all keep their hair long regardless of age. Mass is a great place to see the older women, usually with braids, but some with hair unbound. They're always so beautifully turned out.
So anyway, we're squeezing through the kids, and I was saying to Janet, "Look at all this awesome hair, it's so healthy and affirming. You see how good it looks? That's how good your long hair looks." When we got married, Janet's hair was long, i.e., between the shoulder blades. It was the best, I felt good about life just by looking at it. At some point she thought it was too long, and cut it short for at least 15 years. But it's been full and long again for the last 5 years or so, and I remind her daily how glorious it is and don't miss a chance to compare it favorably to all the competition.

Friday, May 17, 2019

La Serenissima

This is not a movie set
Met with our lawyer yesterday afternoon about wills, then had a pleasant happy hour at Goda Bar. Can't beat the glass wall for panoramic people-watching. May is Mary's month, so we had a pair of men come by: one in front playing his accordion; the follower holding a shadowbox Marian shrine. Three little uniformed girls out of school, at large and unsupervised. Dignified Cañari women in habitual dress. Sleek young folks all in black, the women with scarlet lips and teetering on spike heels. Janet stayed busy smiling and saying hello to folks examining The Blonde Gringa as they passed. I just sat there and let her make me look good.
Another serene day.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

All Roads Lead Away From Rome

Now it goes everywhere

I got married in 1988 to a woman whom I'd known for 11 years. She was a few years older than me, and had a son; both of which I thought made me look pretty cool, which they did, and still do. We got busy doing the Stability Thing right off, bought a 1930s Cape Cod before the wedding. We did most of the fixing-up ourselves after work, made a nice nest. That first summer the son was away for a week, would return Sunday. That Saturday I said to the wife, let's go for a drive in the Smokies. So having no destination, off we went: Flat Rock, Asheville, the Parkway, Boone. That afternoon I was vaguely headed southwest out of Johnson City, Tenn. on a rolling, traffic-free 2-lane that was perfect for my new 5-liter Mustang. Janet was sleeping with her bare feet stuck up on the dashboard, hair blowing out the rolled-down window. And for a fast and serene hour it was, as the song says, Just Like Heaven, we could have done anything, gone anywhere. When she woke up I said, hey you ever been to Gatlinburg? Me neither. Let's check it out.
Gatlinburg was quite a pleasant surprise: a good place to forget the car, stroll, have a relaxing, beguilingly unpretentious low-key evening. I didn't want to drive back to Greenville, so we stayed at the epically modest River Park Inn, long since torn down and replaced by something sleeker. Woke up Sunday to discover the room's balcony overhung the river, with its mist, whitewater, and ducks. Had breakfast, walked a bit more, got back home in time to retrieve Jacob at the airport.
And then we made two more children, adopted two more from Russia, bought a bigger house, and for the next thirty-plus years raised a family, and it was transcendent. But that hour snaking through the sticks of East Tennessee remained a touchstone: not of the family, but the marriage.
April 30th was our 31st anniversary. We dressed up and dined in one of Cuenca's toniest joints. At age 68, Janet more than ever is elegant and self-assured and desirable, and all the other things men dream of about women. I did so well to marry her. We talked a bit about visiting Italy later this year, and for the first time since 1988 I got that Tennessee 2-lane vibe again. For a while at least, we can go anywhere and do anything, just the two of us.
Some years ago I first heard the song 'Free,' by country singer Zac Brown. Until this week this song has been a little anthem of a future I hoped would come if I were patient. Now that future is here. 'Free' is still the same song, but now it's an anthem of the actual instead of the potential.
My life is just incredible beyond any reckoning.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

La Churona

Image result for virgen cisne  ecuador
La Churona*

We moved to Cuenca, Ecuador in 2017, and about 20 years of catechizing has been put on hold while I work on Spanish competency. In the meantime I'm in a Bible study group, and sit in on family catechesis. Plus I have developed a surprisingly cordial and substantial relationship with the nearby Jehovah's Witnesses congregation.

Once every couple of months or so,  JWs will call. At this point they know me, I know 5 of them. We don't agree of course, but I'm happy to talk about Jesus with anyone. My pitch to any evangelizer at my door is, if you are so motivated by your faith to go door-to-door, why aren't you Catholic? So we always have a good time disagreeing without arguing. They have their Bibles, I have mine. I like the chance to present the Catholic worldview in a scriptural context, which I don't think they've heard before, not even the former Catholics. I don't press them, so they can hear me without feeling threatened.

On another note, we have no car, and walk almost everywhere. Occasionally we take a cab, some of them will have a statue of the Madonna on the dash. But these aren't generic Madonnas, they are specific to a given locale, of which there must be dozens in South America. So I make a habit of asking the taxistas about their Virgens. Two days ago, after grocery shopping we took a cab  which sported a Virgen with Rapunzel-length hair. The driver said she is La Virgen del Cisne, the Virgin of the Swan. Her shrine is in Cisne, not too far from Cuenca.

This morning about 9:30, we were in Centro (downtown), and noticed streets were blocked off around the stadium, and hundreds of people are briskly headed to it, walking, in cabs, and in buses. I figure, soccer game. I ask someone what's up. It's not soccer: rather, the statue of the Virgin from the shrine in Cisna is visiting Cuenca, and the Cathedral is too small for the crowds. Quite the coincidence! Once home, I checked a local paper for info, here's an excerpt from an article:

"A welcoming Mass was offered yesterday, as the image of the Virgin of El Cisne visited Cuenca on the occasion of the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Diocese of Cuenca. From 17:00 the devotees gathered in the Miraflores parish church, where the Mass was celebrated. This was followed by a procession carrying the image to la Cathedral de La Inmaculada Concepción. A second Eucharist was celebrated and youth groups kept vigil.

Today's program will begin at 11:00 with a ceremony of thanksgiving that will take place at the "Alejandro Serrano Aguilar" stadium. In this event the official anthem of the Archdiocese of Cuenca will also be presented."

So folks were already arriving en masse at 9:30 for an event starting at 11:00.

It's a good place to be Catholic.

*La Churona, the woman with lots of curls.

Saturday, April 13, 2019


In 1981 I was in West Berlin off and on, for love of all things. It was cold, the East was snotty, scared, and pitifully bleak; the Wall was grafitti'd on the free side, mined and patrolled on the other. S-Bahn stations rotted away, Turkish peasants stared straight ahead on the U-Bahn, the Vopos sported submachineguns in its dead Ost stations, punks spiked their Mohawks with glue, the Zoo Bahnhof was as gritty as the movie, and you never knew when you'd see a tank on the street instead of a taxi. The town had a surplus of war widows and elegant restaurants in Schoneberg, Charlottenburg, Dahlem, usw. They were, in good German fashion, more than they appeared to be. One frigid afternoon I had plate of venison & sides at one of them. At the next table was an old Frau kitted out in black, fussing at someone who wasn't there. The staff were kind to her, I think she and her invisible companion were regulars. And the sauerkraut was the best I've ever had.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

À la Recherche d'une Aiguille Perdue

This needle kit is my idea of au courant; but it's apparently démodé.

I've been doing basic clothes repairs & alterations with a sewing machine since I was in high school. About 30 years ago my mother let me have her Kenmore, as she was done with kids and I was just getting started. I brought it with me to Ecuador, and it's gotten plenty of use as we have no car, and have lost a mess of weight walking up and down hills at 8300'+. My nextdoor neighbor is a tailor, he takes up my jackets. He asked at some point, don't I have any pants that needed alteration? I said yeah, I can do that on my mother's machine; but I can't pin my own jackets. He thinks I'm crazy, but I explain that if you can DIY in America, then you DIY.
Anyway, sewing layers of denim requires a heavy-duty needle, more of a spike than a rapier; and I was out of them as of today, having somehow misplaced my needle stash during the move. I made yet another check of the sewing machine cabinet's drawers, no luck. But for the first time in my life, the lower drawer didn't want to shut due to some obstruction. Pulling it out completely, and shining a flashlight in the recess revealed missing bits that I had bought over the years, and also stuff of my mother's, including a supply of both hand and machine needles that will probably outlive me.

Friday, February 1, 2019


Patience Is Rewarded

Like most folks in Cuenca, we have a tankless water heater, a calefon, which is bolted to an outside wall. It is terrific, but can be finicky for safety reasons. E.g., if anyone flushes, the pressure drop will cause the heater to shut off. Then you have to shut the HW faucet off, wait a minute or so for the flushed toilet somewhere in the house to refill, and turn the water back on. So today it wasn't heating any water. Last time, it needed a new D-battery which provides the spark. but this time, plenty of spark, no gas. Took the cover off and had my daughter turn the water on and off in the house while I watched. Turned out a solenoid had got stuck, and wasn't letting the pilot have any gas. A bit of wiggling and it was happy again.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


Janet bought 30 lemon tree seeds from Italy's Amalfi coast last year, and is ready to get them germinating in sand-filled cups. I can find tons of sand at places on the outskirts of town, but I needed only 10kg or so. A friend suggested a nearby mercado. I went by this morning. Vendors first wanted to be sure I wanted arena (sand) and not farina (flour) of which there was plenty. No, no sand here, they said, but two blocks thataway was a tienda that sold sand. Two blocks later I was there: a modest house on the corner, with the living room half full of different sizes of bagged river sand. No signs. It's good that the doors are open, so one can see inside. Grandma is sitting at a desk watching TV, papa is chatting with the daughter who's home for lunch. Pop shows me the options. This is one of those occasions where I'm the monkey who escaped the zoo. The three of them just look at me and smile, the wonder of a tall Spanish-speaking gringo standing in their living room buying sand for God knows what. I pick a 10kg fibermesh bag and pay the daughter, who gets my change from Grandma. I taxi home to avoid toting the sand up to the house, which is over 150' higher than Centro.
A pleasant & productive morning.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


Oh dear:
"Matthew Hayes focuses on North Americans relocating to Cuenca, Ecuador, the country’s third-largest city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site...Regardless of their individual motivations, Hayes argues, such North–South migrants remain embedded in unequal and unfair global social relations."
We live in a bourgeois Cuencano neighborhood, so most days we won't even see another Anglophone. We don't know enough expats to have an informed opinion about their lives. But still, much of what's in the review and the Look Inside excerpt at the Amazon link seems alien to us.

Thursday, January 24, 2019


Ran into this image today. One needn't be able to read Old Church Slavonic in order to know who it is. A halo'd man writing in the company of a lion can't be anyone but St. Mark. That said, with a bit of patience one might translate the overlapping letters as well, from left to right.

св. is a standard abbreviation for святой, svyatoy, saint. The tilde over св means it's an abbreviation.
апост. is short for апостол, apostle, although it's hard to separate all the overlapping letters.
и, i, means 'and'.
Another jam, the letters are еван. a shortening of евангелист, evangelist.
And last, Маркъ, Mark.

related: The Forerunner

Friday, January 18, 2019

La Skina

yes we have no bananas

Near my house is a tienda (small grocery store) which I pass by once a week or so. It's called La Skina. I assume it's a translation of Greek η σκηνή, ee skeenee. It's where we get the word scene. In Greek, skēnē/σκηνη is not a uniquely theatrical term. It essentailly means tent; what the Romans and the King James Bible would also call a tabernacle, or a booth, a plain little shelter. I imagine that itinerant Greek theater troupes would set up a skene, a tent to house their stuff; have one side painted, and would act in front of that painted side. Anyway I'm also assuming that the owner of La Skina knows at least this much Greek. All that being so, he took the Spanish word 'tienda,' which primarily means 'tent,' and translated it into the Greek word for tent, skini. Because skini is feminine in Greek, it's adjusted to suit a Spanish sensibility: La Skina.
I keep walking by without ever going in to confirm all this. Hoping that writing it down spurs me to do so.

Update: I went into the tienda recently. They don't know any Greek. La Skina is a play on La Esquina, the corner. Because the tienda is, you know, on the corner.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


Plenty to eat at the reception
Spectacular day on Dec 22 at the wedding of our, what, godchildren? In Ecuador the church requires padrinos (godparents) for the wedding couple, and we were it for a young man and fiancee whom we've known for a couple of years. Had a great nuptial Mass at La Iglesia de la Virgen del Milagro here in Cuenca. The padrinos accompany the couple through the whole Mass, and once the couple is married, the padrinos put a rope yoke of sorts over their heads. Right behind the church is a small lot with a garden and tiny rough-lumber house, maybe 200sf that a Cañari abuela (grandmother, but also an honorific for any older woman) lives in. Cuenca has an unusually high proportion of indigenous people. Folks like this woman manage to live in a big modern city while residing in a patch of countryside. On any given street you can't see where this could be happening only a few yards away.
Then off to the reception with lots of food, dancing, modest alcohol consumption, and visiting with family members. Many of the older women were traditionally turned out in embroidered blouses, velvet skirts, braids, and Panama hats. All the younger folks wore dresses and suits. I couldn't ID the liquor, it was dark red and reminded me of sweet Vermouth. It was served in 1/2 oz. or so plastic cups which I imagine reduces the chance of anyone getting drunk.
Right before the meal was served we each got a small plastic bag. This was so we could take home what we couldn't eat of the pile of food that we were served: rice, potatoes, grilled pork, salad.
As is typical for us in social situations here, everyone was gracious and interested. Janet's long blond hair always draws attention, and a couple of boys had their pictures taken with her. We are very lucky to always be so well-received.