Nearly four years ago I walked through Cuenca for the first time and felt enchanted. The river! The mountains! The cobblestone streets! I was under the spell of its South American charm. As I started my teaching contract, my feelings didn’t change too much. Sure, there were the normal frustrations. On rainy days, I really wished I had my car. I missed almond butter and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I got frustrated when the Cuencanos’ strolling pace got in the way of my “I’m on a mission” North American stride.
I returned to my home state of Colorado after nine-months of living and working in Cuenca and traveling throughout Ecuador. I left a piece of my heart in this country and this city. Now, after three years in Colorado, I am back in my beloved Cuenquita!
This time I am working with students studying abroad through CEDEI. The city and country still hold the same charm they did for me before. Some things have changed – trends like food truck parks and organic shops can be seen all around the city.
Though Cuenca has become more sophisticated, it continues to hold its old-world charm. I can still buy artisanal ice cream for 40 cents in Parque Calderon, in the heart of the old city. I still pass the indigenous women, known as “cholitas” selling milk, fruits, and cheese on the street corners. Stores still close during the lunch hour and the city center doesn’t bustle on Sundays, which continues to be a day spent with family.
Located just outside of Cuenca, El Cajas National Park is just as mysterious, magic, and other-worldly as ever. It’s the perfect place to escape into nature and walk, hike, or camp. There are plenty of restaurants that cook fresh trout, harvested from the many fisheries that are found in the park. I love going with students and watching them take in the beauty of the mountains, forests, and lagoons.
One of the best things about my job is sharing the richness of Cuenca and Ecuador with the students who are studying abroad – the culture, beauty, and charm make it impossible not to love! Come, Cuenca is calling you too!