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.