Thursday, January 29, 2015

Did Jesus Have Red Curly Hair?

I was standing outside on our balcony when I noticed this young woman struggling with her backpacks; one huge one was on her back and the other was placed on her chest. Besides these, she had multiple bags that she carried by hand. It cracked me up as many people brag about ‘only having a backpack’ when they travel, yet the backpack is the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. She put the bags down, repositioned them multiple times and then finally had it squared away to continue down the street.

When we leave the apartment to the right is a small shop that puts pictures, decals, and other art on shirts. This is the scene on this morning. She is so intent on playing with the computer; you almost want to find out child labor laws here. 

We were strolling down Calle Larga; we were near to Todos Santos Church. It has been rather elusive with its opening hours. Having checked here multiple times, we have been disappointed. Finally, we hit the jackpot. When we walked in, there was a tour guide there asking if we would like a tour. There was already one woman waiting who said, “If you don’t join us the tour will be for me alone.” This lady was a Methodist minister from Arizona. Of course, we wanted the tour. It was $2 each for a 40 minute tour. Just as we started, a group of Canadians arrived increasing our group.

What we learned was that this is the site of the oldest church in Cuenca. Spanish settlers built a chapel on this land. Later, a church was built replacing it. Outside, the cage like structure with the picture of the rooster on it (picture in album) is one of the four points of the old city of Cuenca. Today, this church is non-functional. There are no religious ceremonies of any kind held here any longer. Ironically, there is a convent and Catholic school attached. Six Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales live here and teach in the school.

What I found most intriguing about the churches in Cuenca is that most of them are ornately decorated, but without the glitz of gold. All the wall décor is painted and the floors are mostly incredible works of art in wood. This church in particular was fascinating as the interior was once completely white. It was not until they started the restoration that they found the walls were covered with incredible artwork underneath. 

One thing that I found creepy was the statue of Jesus. The hair on his head is real human hair from nuns who go from novice to final vows. During the final vows ceremony, they get their hair cut off. Here is Jesus with red curly hair.

The gardens were included in the tour, with dozens of varieties of fruits and vegetables. The sisters have a restaurant and use the food from here for the menus. They still bake bread in huge hard wood burning ovens. We were able to look into the restaurant, but it was not operating at the time.

Our tour guide, Stephania, was a student from the University of Cuenca; she is studying tourism. She was delightful and continued to apologize for her English. Because she was so comprehensive, our tour lasted beyond 40 minutes, but no one cared.

When we left here, we went to Museo del Sombrero de Paja Toquilla, The Panama Hat Museum. Two years ago, we visited here and were not impressed. Why did we return? Perhaps in the hopes that something had changed. It hadn't. In fact, there was less there now then two years ago. 

In small rooms, there are tired and lame displays of the history of the Panama hat, which is not from Panama at all. Within the work area, one bored worker was steaming hats in a machine mold. In actuality, this is a sales showroom. There are hundreds of hats on sale in various colors and styles for both men and women. Strangely enough, the warning label inside warns against wearing them in the rain. The most fun we had here was having Ron pose with different hats on. He has that kind of face that looks good with almost any type of hat. 

From here, we went to the mercado that seems to have the freshest meat, but we also bought our first soursop fruit. More on that when we eat it.

On the way home, I just happened to notice an embroidery machine. It cracked me up thinking that this type of machine is doing the work that vendors all over the world are passing off as home sewn. You can see for yourself with my YouTube video here.

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