21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine: Ecuador

Rambling through the Rotary
Tyrel Nelson

Sunday morning. That’s always my answer whenever I’m asked what tops my list about Cuenca. Most would lean towards the city’s colonial architecture, numerous museums, varied greenspace, or even its four rivers if they had to choose their favorite part of the capital of Ecuador’s Azuay province. I, on the other hand, run with Sunday for one important reason: the streets are practically empty during the AM hours.

Maybe the partiers are just getting home, hardly removed from painting the tranquil town red? Or, perhaps others are packing the pews or simply sleeping in? I am not sure why the majority of cuencanos don’t go on early Sunday strolls, but I what I do know is that I like the extra legroom.

For this reason, I can usually meander along the narrow, cobblestone sidewalks without bumping into passing pedestrians; something that’s virtually impossible during the rest of the week. Moreover, due to this absence of amblers, I don’t have to worry about speeding up, downshifting, waiting, dodging, bobbing, and weaving to avoid contact with other walkers. I can truly appreciate the community which I’ve been calling home for almost a year by traipsing about and taking pictures at my own pace. Well, this had been true until recently…

Annoyed and on the verge of anger, I stayed right on Sheik’s hip as we snaked our way through the human traffic that was jamming central Cuenca. We both couldn’t believe how many foot-travelers were out and about on this sopping Sunday morn. In addition, while the two of us swerved around countless individuals, my Costa Rican neighbor and I tried to guess the reason for the unusual crowds that filled the drizzly byways. And after noticing the overabundance of parents with their youngsters rambling on the wet roads, we finally concluded that they must’ve been school shopping. Most of the learning institutions, in fact, were starting their fall classes the next day.

Pressing on, my lanky, graying companion and I fought our way north on Hermano Miguel, constantly scanning over the endless sea of dark-haired heads to prepare for the two-legged obstacles in front of us. As a result, Sheik and I cautiously zigzagged to Gaspar Sangurima, but we weren’t done. The two of us had to continue our battle eastward for a pair of blocks before reaching our stopping point at last.

In spite of arriving at the Plaza Rotary, which was our objective, I still knew we had a long way to go. I never forgot during this distracting morning that I was accompanying Sheik on an errand run and, therefore, predicted that our lengthy journey to this maze of kiosks would soon seem like a millisecond. Furthermore, I suddenly remembered something that my friend, José, had told me about his days with my next-door neighbor in the Galápagos, on San Cristóbal Island.

For six years, Mr. Martínez strode shotgun with Sheik on a daily basis, accompanying her on what must have been thousands of struts across Puerto Baquerizo Moreno’s malecón. Even though this boardwalk wasn’t any longer than a couple of city blocks, it was lined with crafts stores, restaurants, and other small businesses; all run by people who knew Sheik or occupied by browsers who would soon get to know her. Consequently, José endured eternities of listening to his dark-featured friend, nodding whenever asked for confirmation about one of her stories as well as endlessly being introduced to tourists and persons he’d probably already been introduced to.

In truth, I recalled José telling me that it was common for him to spend an entire morning with Sheik as she conversed her way from one end of the planked beachfront stretch to the other. And in spite of the fact that I hadn’t personally run the gabbed gauntlet with Sheik in Charles Darwin land, I had nonetheless been there before.

Living alongside my long-haired friend for 10-plus months, I was all too familiar with Sheik’s tendency to chat with almost every person, plant, animal, and inanimate object she happened to come across while wandering through Cuenca. Knowing what to expect, I, therefore, entered the colorful labyrinth of arts and crafts sporting a smile. Although I was sure I was going to be there for a good while, I was also certain that I would be entertained.

Immediately, I saw that my neighbor stayed true to form. During our first half-hour under the soaked tarps of the Plaza Rotary, Sheik and I managed to saunter past a stunning total of six of the dozens of wooden stands dominating the cement lot that we slowly stepped across. While I patiently listened and occasionally offered my opinion, I carefully observed my friend in action, paying close attention to the way she interacted with those around her. And right away, I saw Sheik’s trademark moves that I’d grown accustomed to.

For example, my pal never really looked at the merchandise. If not asking to take a picture, the high-pitched Tica always got her foot in the door by pretending to hold up a souvenir, turning it at various angles in front of her face, and then questioning the booth owners for the item’s price. From there, her magnetism would kick in.

Within minutes, Sheik would have her spindly arms wrapped around an elderly Ecuadorian woman, embracing her newfound friend and laughing loudly. I must have heard a handful of the stout, weathered women tell Sheik about their families and how far they had come to get where they were. On a couple of occasions, I stood in awe, watching how quickly the conversations transformed from professional to personal. Sheik just had a way with people and it was fun for me to take in.

Unsurprisingly, the next couple of hours occurred in the same fashion. Be that as it may, I entertained myself by not only watching many more Sunday shoppers and workers find themselves abruptly involved with Sheik, but also snapping quite a few photos of one of the municipality’s most popular marketplaces. All in all, I was content roving the Rotary.
When we finally left the plaza, I chuckled while listening to my neighbor gripe about not finding anything that caught her eye. I laughed because I knew that Sheik was never in it for the product, she was in it for the people.
Someone may think this is strange, but not me. I’ve always been able to see how much people are in to her too.

© Tyrel Nelson November 2008

Searching San Cristóbal
Tyrel Nelson
Breathing in dust and pouring out sweat, I trudged along the sultry gravel road beneath my feet. I pressed on, walking a tightrope on the dirt shoulder

So Long, Sidekick
Tyrel Nelson
Fighting off a fierce caffeine headache that made my previous 2 hours on the bus from Quito agonizing, I struggled to keep up with Andrew as we proceeded south on Bolívar.

More World Travel


© Hackwriters 1999-2008 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.