A Little History of Cuenca

While in Ecuador, we got an up close and personal look at some of the oldest buildings we had ever seen. Even the hotel we stayed in was built in the colonial style, probably for a well-to-do Spanish family in the early days of Spain’s colonization. 20160721_155845

We walked narrow cobbled streets built for horse traffic. And they have traffic snarls morning and night, just like home. I was glad we were walking. Because of our convenient location, you could always find your way back. Just look for the cathedral.

From the ancient Incan ruins at Ingapirca, to the beautiful cathedrals of downtown Cuenca, I was enthralled. I do love history.

In these photos, you can see exactly what went into building this particular (now dilapidated) location. This is what you would find if you began to disassemble most of the downtown buildings. The really old ones, anyway. Can’t you just imagine the native workers creating the mud and straw construction? Another fine example of slave labor, I imagine. I couldn’t help thinking of the ancient Egyptians, who forced the Hebrew slaves to cut their own straw for the brick-making process. I guess it might’ve looked a little like this.

Earlier in the week, we’d spent some time snooping around the old cathedral. Built in 1557, the year Cuenca was founded, it’s called Iglesia de El Sagrario. I was shocked at what lay inside of the ordinary looking exterior. The early Spaniards put some money into this thing. Then they made huge contributions in order to secure burial beneath the sanctuary. This pretty much sealed their entrance into paradise. Or so they believed. These families had beautiful rooms built on either side of the main sanctuary, where they could come and pray in privacy.

It was not built for the masses. It was built exclusively for those of Spanish descent. The locals had to worship outside. Still impressive. I enjoyed the tour.

13707633_10207480945561661_3690816263750498409_nThere is Spanish influence throughout the city.  Many of the other buildings show the exquisite workmanship of the Incas, with their extremely straight cuts through solid rock, forming square foundation stones that fit together with precision. In many places, the outer plastering has been removed so the stones can be plainly seen and admired.

The new cathedral was completed in 1975, took 90 years to complete, and is called the Catedral Metroploitana de la Immaculada Concepcion. Unlike its predecessor, this new church was meant to include everyone, no matter what caste or nationality. If you’re Catholic, you’re welcome. If you’re not Catholic, you’re still welcome to visit and ogle, which is exactly what we did. We climbed the tower to the rooftop which affords a breathtaking view of Cuenca.

13697202_10207511051034279_7378325463621388261_nThe climb is breathtaking, too. A spiral staircase, winding up and up and up. I almost quit and headed back down. It’s a good thing they’ve placed windows at regular intervals. When I finally arrived, I had to pause a few moments. 🙂 If you’ve ever climbed a lighthouse, you’ll know what it was like.

You want to pause once you reach the top anyway, and take it all in. I thought the inside of the cathedral was gorgeous, but this view! Oh, Cuenca! Mountains! Beauty everywhere.

At the risk of conjuring up old memories of next-door neighbors inviting you over to show you their vacation slides (kids, you have no idea how lucky you are not to have to endure those), I will stop here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour. Suffice it to say, we were wowed by Cuenca, Ecuador and all it had to offer. I’m still processing all that happened during those few short days of service. But I know this–our lives changed and God planted wonderful friendships that I hope will never fade.

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Adventures in Ecuador

We’ve heard a lot of negative words lately. And let’s face it, negative words make you feel bad.

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Left to right: Todd, April, Bob, and Betty Owens

So it was a relief to spend a few days outside the U.S., in a place where we saw very little television, and had limited access to the internet. When I did log on to Facebook, I found it easy to ignore the negative stuff. I skimmed through to find the important, like what the family was up to now. Their vacation pictures made me smile.

We’re smiling here, though it’s the predawn hours at Louisville International, waiting to board our flight to Miami. Some of us had not slept, or had at least gotten very little sleep.

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Left to right: Todd, Bob, Bill McDonald, Betty, and April

This next picture was taken about 19 hours later, on the other side – in Guayaquil, Ecuador. After facing long lines in customs, a friendly face was most welcome. Our host, Bill McDonald got us quickly to our hotel room and sleep, at last…

Cuenca had a calming effect on us. We were very busy, but it wasn’t frenzied busy. We were able to share on a personal level with some of the most important people in the world. Those right in front of us.

Back row: (left to right) Betty, Bob, Mishel Gomez, Front: Todd, Melissa (Mishel's little sis), April
Back row: (left to right) Betty, Bob, Mishel Gomez, Front: Todd, Mishel’s little sister Melissa, and April.

 

We met a lot of people–missionaries, interns, ex-pats, and native Ecuadorians. We worked with them, talked to them, played football (actual American-style football!), went on adventures, and shared wonderful meals with them.

We bonded with a few of them and they became family.

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Todd & Mario at the Incan ruins

Bob (middle photo) was very serious about his encounter with one of the ancients.

Back outside, the weather was unusually warm and sunny for a winter’s day at 10,000 feet. Regarding the end photo – I am not trying to connect to Facebook. I was trying to find pictures I’d taken. Honest.

13782268_10207533011903287_1198769075288032728_nWe spent Sunday with some very special people, first at an inner city church, where I shared a message of forgiveness. I look like a giantess here, but I’m only 5’7″ and wearing flat shoes. The girl who’s interpreting for me is quite a bit shorter than that, but she was an excellent interpreter and so cute.

moments_ff0ce947-dd84-4973-8164-0430611f7ec5_hi_resShe and a number of others joined us for dinner after the service. I loved that table. I could use one just like it for our holiday dinners at home. I’m afraid we’d have to open the front and back door to make room for the thing, though.

Besides Pastor Miquel and his family, we were joined by short-term missionaries, summer interns from the television station, missionary Leah Diaz, fellow Kentuckians, Jeremy and Tiffany Riggs and their family, and Thom and Becky Davis of Unsion Television. Most of these accompanied us on a trip into the Andes to El Chorro de Giron, a beautiful cascade down a mountainside.

We climbed, though I had to stop a couple of times just to breathe. We were at a high altitude, after all. Everyone was relieved when I stopped, since they didn’t want to be the one. 13782199_10207533036983914_6770409064301955671_nNow that I’ve caught my breath…

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Thom & Becky Davis
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Todd Owens & April Teeter

Of course these two never ran out of breath. We later joined them at the midpoint where we all got wet from the spray. But we loved it!

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Todd, me, Leah Diaz, and April Teeter

Thus ends another week in Cuenca. The following day, we headed back to Guayaquil to spend our last night in Ecuador. It went so fast!

Later this week, I’ll be posting about some of the interesting buildings we discovered in Cuenca. For further adventures and lots more pictures, you can check out our group page on Facebook at Owens to Ecuador.

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A Morning at Mas Cafe

Mas Cafe OutlookI’m writing this post from the coffee shop at Unsion Television in Cuenca, Ecuador. It’s quiet at this hour, but will soon fill to capacity. We’ve had a wonderful week so far in Cuenca. I’ve been busy talking about Annabelle’s Ruth, speaking at various locations and teaching a workshop on creative writing. It’s been a great experience. I’m so thankful to our dear friend, missionary Bill McDonald, for the opportunity.

Meanwhile, my team members have been busy working. The guys are helping Mario renovate the television studio upstairs. They love Mario, whom they dubbed “Super Mario.” April is working here in the coffee shop, alongside our beloved Rocio Romo Ortiz. Rocio is gracious and funny and tends to “adopt” her helpers as family. I loved her smiles and hugs and wonderful cappuccinos.

13775830_10207510951351787_196415123665694259_nLater today, we’re headed to the marketplace to find gifts for our family and friends. The picture to the left is of a vendor we met. My son, Todd, tried on a pair of too-small gauchos, just for fun. They may fit the vendor, but not my big ole gringo son.

And of course, I have to show you the world-famous flower market. Their prices are low and the flowers are amazing. You can smell the place a block away. 13692488_10207480944801642_5443356270469841507_n

 

I’ve been impressed with Cuenca. The people are kind and generous and hard-working. Most of what they do is done by hand, the old-fashioned way. We’re staying in the old downtown area with its cobblestone streets and amazing mountain views. CasaDelAquilaThe hotel was once the home of a well-to-do Spaniard. It has the inner courtyards and patio, though a glass roof has been added to protect from the elements. It does tend to rain more often this time of year. And though it gets quite chilly at night, they don’t have heat. They don’t have air conditioning, either. I don’t think they really need it, since it never gets really hot here.

If you go to Cuenca during their winter, take your flannel PJ’s and socks. You’ll be glad you did. They are in the mountains, after all.

AndesDayOneSpeaking of mountains,  the trip over the Andes from Guayaquil (locally pronounced “why-a-keel”) to Cuenca was … an experience. We piped around hairpin turns to find anything from gigantic boulders in the road, llamas, or small herds of cattle. At one point, Bill jumped out to help recapture a runaway cow.

The bathrooms were an adventure as well. A little on the primitive side, and you can’t flush paper.

13775877_10207479488165227_1482985366801095928_nBefore climbing into the mountains, we passed banana groves, cacao groves and rice paddies. Yes, rice is a staple here, along with the bananas, plantains, potatoes called “papas” and yucca root, which they fry like french fries, or boil.

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Arrow points to oritos.

Bill stopped to buy us a bunch of small bananas called “oritos.” Large bananas are oros, which means gold. The oritos were delicious and the potassium helped us make it through those hills and curves.

The city of Cuenca lies in a valley that resembles a bowl. The altitude ranges between 7,710 to 8,370 feet. That’s higher than Denver–it took us a couple of days to settle in. We walked slower. Even the process of getting into bed at night made me wheeze.

The long name for the city is “Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca” — since there are four rivers which are part of the Amazon watershed. This place has been around for a long, long time. It was originally founded in April, 1557 by the Spanish. I noticed a definite mix of Spanish and natives among the citizens of Cuenca.

Ecuadoran WomenAs you walk down the streets of the city, you’ll notice many who are dressed in traditional clothing. They’re not wearing costumes. This is their everyday wear. Many are Quichua (Kichwa), but may also be Huaorani, Shuar, or Chachi. They are polite and friendly and very patient, for the most part. They zip along the inner city sidewalks along the narrow cobblestone streets, headed to market or who knows where. Some of them have booths in the marketplace, where they sell handmade textiles, hats, and jewelry or other crafts.

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Todd with Mario!

Thus ends the first few days of our Cuenca mission trip.

Next post, I’ll have more to share, after we’ve visited the beautiful cathedrals and vistas. In the meantime, ¡hasta la vista! ¡Dios le bendiga!

 

A Legacy of Love

CloudsInFlightAt the time of this posting, I’ll be on my way home from Ecuador. I’m certain I’ll have lots to tell you about our trip. Just getting ready to go has been an amazing journey for me and also for the three others on our team.

I’ve learned a few things about human nature. I’ve learned there are a great many loving individuals out there who will give sacrificially to a cause they believe in. Sometimes, they gave because they love us and want to support us. So I shed a few tears as I unfolded wadded-up hundred-dollar bills that had been pressed into my hand after church on Sunday.

ants-1169349_1920And then there are those who have nothing to give except their thoughts and prayers. Those are most welcome, because faith moves mountains. And sometimes, prayer is a sacrifice too. Because people are busy and the world is a distracting place.

With all that’s happening in our great, big world, all the bad news can easily overwhelm us. But I choose to focus on the good. The ordinary people who seem to be able to cut through the deepest darkness with their bright smiles and loving wishes. Folks who not only know the two most important commandments (according to Jesus–Matthew 22:37-40), but practice them in everyday life.

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. ” — Galations 5:22-23

I wonder if they realize, they’re passing on a legacy? A wonderful, beautiful legacy of love.

Has someone surprised you lately with a sacrificial gift or an act of kindness? I’d love to hear about it. Leave it in the comment section or email me via the contact tab above.

If you’d like to know what I’ve been up to, you can find me and my current activities on my Facebook Author page, or on the Owens to Ecuador group page. See you next week!

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Going South to Winter

anemone-1053017_1920I’ll start with a couple of questions. Feel free to comment with your answers and suggestions.

I’d like to know…

  • How to survive a long layover.
  • How to pack light when traveling from summer to winter.
  • How to cope with high altitude.butterfly-312295_1280

Yeah, that last one. I live just above sea level. The nearest mountain is oh, about 300 miles away and it’s highest point is around 6700 feet. We’re going to Cuenca, Ecuador where it’s winter (but not all that cold) and the altitude is 8500 feet above sea level.

I’ve been high before. Uh, no–let me rephrase that–I’ve been up a couple of mountains. Stood on top of Pike’s Peak (14,114 ft.) and had lunch between eight and nine thousand feet in the Cascades. I’m not really worried. But I’m accepting suggestions.

Pike's Peak
Pike’s Peak

suitcases-595327_1280We’re getting ready. The suitcases–we haven’t used those in a long, long time–they probably need airing out. The last few trips were road trips. We carried several smaller bags and a couple of hangup bags. But this time, we’ll need the suitcases.

Jeans are a good bet for chilly weather, so I plan to pack those. Actually, I’m hot most of the time, so looking forward to a cooler climate. I’ll let you know how that goes.

I’ll keep you posted and up-to-date, but maybe not here. You might want to like my Facebook page if you’re interested. There’s a clickable link on the sidebar, or you can find me here: https://www.facebook.com/betty.owens.author and also, our group page, Owens to Ecuador.

And don’t worry, we’re not leaving things unattended at home.

13316940_10206565887042896_1503291551972684209_oNext week, I’m interviewing Patricia Talbert of The Final Ride. She’s a beautiful young woman and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with her. Being a writer means you can converse with people who only exist in the pages of books. It’s loads of fun. I hope you enjoy the interview. I’m a big fan of Linda Yezak’s stories (she exists outside the books).

Carlottas Legacy Front CoverAnd don’t forget–book 2 of the Legacy series, Carlotta’s Legacy has released and is available at Amazon.com. In just a few days, my publisher is lowering the price of Amelia’s Legacy (Kindle edition) to celebrate the release. More about that in my July 18 post.

 

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