Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Noise in Cuenca

Yes, Cuenca is a noisy City!
Cities, in general, are noisy places.

Some new folks in town were dismayed and upset about the noise levels in Cuenca.  All we could say was 'yep'. 

The Cuenca area is home to almost a half million people.  Yes, you will hear construction, loud music, children playing (sometimes with that obnoxious, loud Barney song, over and over and over), roosters, barking/howling dogs, cats in heat, cows, birdsong, fireworks, churchbells, traffic, car alarms, weedwhackers, sirens, thunder and heavy rain, the roaring rivers and more, around the clock, in some neighborhoods. 

Sometimes the loud music will go on all night with a one-time event like a wedding, concert or graduation, or a couple hours for the City-sponsored, outside exercise program.  Sometimes it will be loud, live music at a nearby bar or club. Sometimes it will be kids practicing their drums for the next parade.  Expect it to be really loud at holiday times with fireworks and music.  Some days, there seems to be only one volume in Cuenca and that's LOUD, turn it UP as high as you can! Some days we can hardly think or carry on a conversation.

There doesn't seem to be any noise abatement laws in Cuenca. Ecuador is a developing Country with growing pains...perhaps creating/enforcing noise laws will be a priority some day, but not today. 

Some of the apt buildings around town have noise 'rules'. Some of the building administrators do enforce them, some don't.  'Guess it depends on the type and the hour of the noise (and who's making the racket).

Depending on where you're coming from, the noise can be deafening, nerve-whacking and can make you downright crabby. 

We also suffered the first few weeks here coming from quiet, peaceful rural Oregon. Now, we compare our life in Cuenca more to San Francisco where we grew up, for noise, activity and services.

 If you're coming from country-quiet, you may be affected more than the folks already used to the noise of a big City.  We often smile as we remember new folks complaining about the cable car bells, construction and fog horns in San Francisco when we lived there, too. 

You will hear all the construction around Cuenca.  Workers have tight deadlines and many projects work all shifts.  The good news is that lots of workers are employed and they are getting the work done. The bad news is that it can be noisy, at all hours!  At least, until it's all done (maybe...). 

Traffic is being re-routed around the construction sites, so some side streets and neighborhoods which used to be mostly quiet with less traffic are now major thoroughfares (which means loud and more polluted).  If you do find a little pocket of quiet in Cuenca, it can all change to LOUD in a heartbeat. 

Yes, you might find peace and quiet in other parts of Ecuador, but there are no guarantees.  Even in the countryside or at the beach, you could still hear animals, parties, traffic and construction. (One gal thought the ocean was too loud!) Could even be noisy in the jungle, with animals and construction in some areas.
Everyone has their own tolerance levels for noise.

When the noise levels in our neighborhood get out of control,  we try to play defense...we get mobile and leave, when we can.  We take a walk or ride for a change of scenery.  We catch up with friends for a few yucks or a trip out of town.  We have a meal or a cup of coffee in more quiet surroundings.  We do the same things when the utilities go out.  If you just stay put and stew, you'll go nuts.  Better to just put your shoes on and go for a break.  Chances are, when you return, the noise will be gone (or at least tolerable) and the utilities are back on. 

Several folks we know who have moved here, have actually moved several times as they try out different neighborhoods.  Sometimes it's the noise levels or the air pollution, sometimes it's something else.  They eventually find a better place in town, sometimes at the Coast, sometimes way out in no-darn-where.  Funny, some of these new country mice still complain about the loud parties, roosters and churchbells. But, sometimes they find they can hear the wind blowing through the trees and the birds chirping!  Yes!

On the bright side -- Isn't it great that workers have jobs and are busy beautifying the City! Isn't it wonderful that folks celebrate with their families and friends! We think it's more than fine that our City sponsors neighborhood dance/exercise classes all over town for all who want to join in and 'get healthy'. (Well, except for maybe their eardrums...)

We love our (noisy) Cuenca!  It's a vibrant, happenin' place. 

But, if you think noise will be a problem for you, you may want to add earplugs to your packing list.  (you can also buy them here).

 You can't change Cuenca, and who would want to?

PS -- About the air pollution...

The City will begin the new light rail system construction later this year, which will help keep the air cleaner when it's all done.  Today, buses spew yucky black diesel fumes.  The rains and the prevailing winds tend to clear the air now, but it's not perfect.

We're hearing the goals of the light rail project include replacing the polluting buses in some areas and limiting some of the car traffic....all good.  'Soon'.

There are less air and noise pollution early mornings and on Sundays.  That's why we like to walk downtown at those times, or try to avoid the bus routes mid-day.


More progress shots at the massive underpass project...almost done!

One more peaceful picture...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sweet Cuenca -- Corpus Christi

Cuenca is winding down the celebration of the Body of Christ, a week-long Catholic tradition.   (Sorry about the shadow on the picture.  This is a banner at the flower market for the holiday.)

Here in our City, Corpus Christi also means lots of sweets for sale!  Over 100 vendors around the New Cathedral.  These families baked for weeks in preparation.

Take a look...try not to drool!

You can see more of the candy tents behind the balloons.

The balloon man is standing at the flower market, across the street.

At the Square, we caught folks making the frames for all the free-standing firework castles.  During Corpus Christi, there were fireworks each night.


Some more fun pics from this week.

This is a shop window display of baskets with bright lids.  Just lovely.

We met the sweetest little girl while shopping this week.  She kept wanting to shake our hands and
talk with us.  We loved it!  A real cutie pie.  She definitely tugged at the heart strings...

Taking a break...

Flowers blooming in our window boxes.

Just another 'sweet week' here in Cuenca.

Monday, June 11, 2012

More Countryside Pictures

Road trips to the countryside are always fun.  We see little towns and different plants and flowers.  The views of the Andes are always a treat.

Always something fun to see...

Fun street art.

Drop-spinning and making hats.
Bottles and caps embedded in the wall.

Vistas in the Andes and her small mountain towns.

An open-air delivery truck.

These plants grow wild all over Ecuador.  Some friends have a warning though.  They brought some into their house and ended up with a bug infestation.  Best to leave them outside.

Kids in school uniforms.

Their school.

Interesting trees in the town squares.

Interesting churches to explore.

A recent roadslide from the rains.

Good black dirt for the gardens.

You can see there is a little bit of everything out there, all pretty interesting and fun, so make some time to explore the little towns around Cuenca.

It's easy enough to get out in the country.  You can take a bus, a tour, hire a driver or find friends with a car.  Most of the fun little towns are close enough for a day trip.  A refreshing change from our big City.