Friday, January 30, 2015

What Does a Saint With Wings, Guayacan Blooms and a Guanábana Have in Common?

Thursday was a strange day. We had little to no ambition to do anything, but felt a need to get out and explore something. Finally, we remembered we wanted to see the art exhibition that opened the same night we went to the concert. It was less than a mile away, making it an easy walk.

Wooden flooring
Of course, we are easily distracted so when we passed by Iglesia de Santo Domingo or St. Dominic’s Church and noticed the doors were open, we had to go in. It is funny, curious, not ha! ha! that the The Catholic Directory only lists two Catholic churches in Cuenca when there are 52. That aside, once more, I was blown away by the hand painted beauty of the inside décor.

Painted and plastered walls and ceiling
Since when do saints get wings?

We did make it to the art gallery, which thankfully was open. When we met the artist the night of the show opening, she had told us this building once housed people and their horses. It was like a bed & breakfast & stable (B&BS). In recent times, the city converted it into a municipal art gallery where temporary exhibitions can be presented to the public. Lesser known artists can get their work noticed. There were about 12 artists participating, but when we showed up, it was the security guard and us.

What was unclear to us was that there was one central theme to the show. Every piece of art represented the flower of the guayacan tree; in Loja, Ecuador, there are 100,000 acres of these trees. They bloom shortly after the first rain of the year, but the blooms disappear days later, not resurfacing for 12 more months.

The Gringo Tree newsletter states, “The flowers can grow to be 4 inches wide, and area favorites of honey bees and hummingbirds. The unique flowers are also quite useful in
treating a number of health problems. Teas made from the petals have been used to treat kidney disease, urinary tract infections, and even tuberculosis in various parts of Latin America.” Whether or not we were surprised at over 60 variations of one type of flower or tree, it was a fun thing to do.

Now, we decided to test the bus system. We knew little about the routes, but we did have an idea the 100 route ran close to our place. First, we took it all the way to the end, where we were asked to depart from the bus. All he did was pull into an alley to turn around and come back on the other side. We hopped on again, spending another 50¢ for the two of us. If Ron were a resident, it would only have been 12¢ for him.  We rode for quite some time, before realizing this bus was not going anywhere we wanted to be. At the next stop we got off, which was fortunate. There happened to be a SuperMaxi grocery store within two blocks.

Short on cash and not wanting to use a generic ATM, we asked at SuperMaxi if they took credit cards. They do, so we were set or so we thought. After milling up and down the aisles, we had enough groceries; we knew it would be a taxi going home. I was going to buy a soursop, what they call guanábana. I am all about trying different fruits and vegetables here, but I am not going to try the national dish: guinea pig.

We get to the register; Ron is obviously holding his Visa card in his hand. The young cashier tells us it is $40.29. Ron hands over the card. She asks Ron for his passport. Everyone, ex-pat and locals alike warn you not to carry your passport with you. Ron gives her his Hungarian ID card. This totally flummoxes her. She has to call for backup. All of a sudden that generic ATM is looking better, but I stubbornly wait it out. Hungarian IDs don’t cut it. Ron offers a colored photocopy of his passport. A chorus of sighs of relief was heard all around. This will work and we are out of there.

Taxis are waiting outside the store like great white sharks near fishing boats. Riding home, I am watching the meter cha-ching, cha-ching. We get to our corner saying this is good enough. The fare was $1.75.

During our tea and dessert time, we cut the guanábana. It has a dual texture. The center most part of the fruit has a similar consistency to a banana, while the fruit closed to the skin is closer to an orange. Flavor-wise it is a mixture of banana,

citrus, and I tasted some peach flavor. Ron didn’t care for it as much, but I thought it was a lovely change.

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