November 26, 2016

September, 2016 : First Days

A diary of our first days in a new city.
Cuenca is a strange place. High in the Andes, the sun here is always strong, unless covered by heavy grey clouds, which seem to get stuck on the peaks around. It rains often, like an afternoon ritual, and the three rivers crossing the city turn brown. The paved streets form a frame of perpendicular corners in which we always get lost.

We buy our food in markets, huge halls filled with tiny stands. Bananas, mangoes, tomatoes, papayas and of course, potatoes abound. In another market, pastel died eggs pile up in baskets and ducklings, puppies, kittens, in cages. Outside of churches, in the shade of trees, kichwa women wearing long dark braids and colorful skirts sell bunches of flowers for nothing. When it gets warm, street vendors bring out their carts, with fruits or homemade icecream.

We go on an adventure in the hills outside the city. Lamas are strolling along the twisting road. The landscape is breathtaking, but the altitude even more ; at 4000m high I struggle with every step. Along the way I pick a few strange flowers and plants, all with bright colors and textures I haven't seen anywhere else. We have a hard time finding a bus to take us back at the end of the day, but when we do, I fall asleep on my love's shoulder, bathed in hard sunlight.

I come home after dark. At night, street lamps light up the pavement in orange, and the many churches light up in blue, white or red. It's always deserted when I come home from work, my shadow the only one turning the street alive. Sometimes, there's the sound of broken glass coming from an alley, or a strange song can be heard through an open window. At night, with all its beautiful empty palaces, Cuenca looks like an abandoned kingdom. I arrive home and we sit in the garden in the dark, sipping tea. The birds that live in the tiny jungle in the middle of the courtyard are silent, but the wind can be heard through the trees growing higher than the house.

It's not easy everyday, moving to a new country and settling into a new life. Work brings loads of new stressful situations everyday, you find yourself missing things you never expected to, and you question everything. How this life you're choosing is taking us away from our families and friends, how it makes us feel displaced everywhere – we'll never be locals here, but our countries aren't really home either. Now we work at finding new rhythms, new rituals, new places we like – and we learn the streets pattern of the city, find shops for our every needs. In no time we know where to buy the really good kind of coffee, organic produce, and where to get our laundry done. I buy a cheap violin.

What should be difficult and isn't is living together. Really that ends up being the easiest thing of all. I wasn't expecting it to be hard, but I am surprised at how smoothly this change went. This is a new place, and a strange place, but it feels right for us. It's bliss, having a home again – making meals, filling the kitchen with tropical fruits, laying in the sun in the garden or drinking tea while the rain falls. I feel so lucky that we can live in such a pretty place for a while.

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