Days 8-12: Spanish immersion and cultural program in Cuenca

This week I continued my Spanish immersion program in Cuenca, with 4 hours of intensive Spanish classes in the morning and exploring the culture and history of Cuenca in the afternoons (in Spanish, of course). 
My teacher this week spoke virtually no English, which means that the translations were often done through a mixture of charades and pictionary:   
So in my notes I have a lot of words that have ??? after the English translation.  My English-Spanish pocket dictionary is getting good use…
Surprisingly, though, my Spanish is apparently pretty good considering I have not taken any Spanish classes.  The instructors were all very surprised by this based on my level of Spanish, making me feel a little better.  I thank almuerzo en español in our lab!!  One of the instructors asked me where I took classes.  When I responded I haven’t ever taken any classes, his response was “en serio?”  Ha.  Yeah, seriously!  The only other time I’ve heard that phrase was from the boy in my homestay when I answered how old I was. 🙂
In the afternoons I took in as much as I could of the rich history of Cuenca, including some 58-odd churches!!   Based on the population of Cuenca that’s approximately 1 church for every 5500 people.  For comparison, Rome has approximately 1 church for every 3000 people.  For a relatively small city, Cuenca gives Rome a pretty good run for its money!!
We visited Cuenca’s oldest church: the Church of the Shrine (also known as the Old Cathedral of Cuenca).  Construction of this church started in 1557, using stones from the ruins of the Tomebamba Inca colony.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, known as the New Cathedral of Cuenca, sits across the Parque Calderon from the old cathedral.  Construction of the new cathedral started 1885 and lasted for almost a century.  However, the church’s towers were never finished due to an error made by the architect! 

We walked up to the top of the tower

 to take in views of Cuenca…

 the brilliant blue copulas…

 and Parque Calderon.

Although there was not enough time to visit them all, I passed many other beautiful churches during my walks too and from school…

My favorite being the “plaza de las flores”, where you can buy a dozen roses for a couple of bucks!

A sample of some other beautiful historic buildings around town…

Today, we climbed some 400-500 stairs to get views of the town

And last but not least, enjoyed the local food, especially the fresh tropical fruit and fruit juices!!

 My favorite being Maracuyá…deliciously tart and sweet at the same time, even if it does look a little like brains and have the consistency of boogers…

And I enjoyed my Thanksgiving meal, Ecuador style: mote pillo (hominy and egg scramble), grilled pork tenderloin, potatoes, salad….and (of course) topped with Aji!

Last but not least– I had a great time with my Ecuadorian family!   It was Robin’s birthday while we were there, so we got to help him celebrate 🙂

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