Two lessons were learned or reaffirmed yesterday. Cuenca is really just a small town and being bi-lingual is a gift not to be ignored. It was Loretta’s birthday and the three of us drove up into the Cajas National Park to our favorite restaurant, Dos Chorreros, where we often go to celebrate a holiday or special event. It was a perfect day, bright sunny skies filled with powder-puff clouds, the weather warm and clear.
The twenty mile drive up and into the mountains passes through spectacular scenery with waterfalls, cattle grazing on steep grassy slopes, indigenous families waiting by the roadside for the frequent busses, and the sensation and the reality of climbing, constantly climbing upward.
At about 12,000 feet we pulled off the highway onto a dirt and gravel road, past trout ponds and tumbling brooks until we came to the restaurant where a dozen or more llama were grazing on the grass.
On entering the restaurant, we encountered a couple from Cuenca who we had spent the day before with in Yungilla at another friend’s farm. It had been something of a home warming event with a busload of Gringo’s arriving at the farm for an all day picnic. We chatted a bit about what fun the previous day had been.
On going to our table, a man called from his table. “Is your name Bill?” They were a visiting family from Michigan who identified us from the photo on our blog. Jonny tore off with their 6 year old daughter to play outside by the tumbling creek that runs by the big glass windows of the restaurant while we talked. They ran and jumped over the creek and became instant friends sharing their exuberance in English. We chatted about the family's adventures visiting Cuenca until they left.
After seating ourselves at our table, Jonny noticed a boy his age at the table next to us. He went over, introduced himself in Spanish and he and the boy went out to play. It turned out they were a French family and the boy spoke only Spanish and French. The mother knew Jonny from the Cedei School where she had taught French in the upper school. They had moved here from Tasmania and bought a farm outside Cuenca. Jonny and his new friend spent most of our dinner time talking in their common language, Spanish, and playing in the woods and creeks until they returned soaked to the waist.
On the way to our car after feasting at the desert table, a teen age girl said, “Hi Jonny.” in English. She had known him from summer camp and was quite proficient in English as are many of the Ecuadorian students who go to private school.
Are there some lessons here? We think so. Cuenca is a city of approximately 500,000 people yet a day does not pass that we don’t run into someone we know. And, we are not unusual. It is a common observation of almost all of our gringo friends. For one reason or another, people are extremely friendly and go out of their way to express it. We have never had so many friends in our entire lives as we have here and we hear that from everyone. Secondly, having previously used only English, we would have been deprived of some of the friendships we have in Cuenca if we didn’t use Spanish. Jonny is growing up bi-lingual and thinks nothing of switching from English to Spanish depending on who he is playing with. Though our Spanish is still in the embryo state, his is vocabulary is exploding daily. We think we have given him a gift that will soon override all the trials and frustrations of living in a foreign country.