Friday, June 24, 2011
Back in Vermont, it's Raining
A big thank you to all the readers who contacted me with support and advice following my homesick post of a couple of weeks ago. One person suggested that I buy some Velveeta Slices and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese to alleviate my symptoms. Another person suggested that I marry a Cuencano.
More interesting were the responses to my experiences on the streets of Cuenca. The first occurred on a Saturday morning on a busy street in El Centro. A man came up behind me and removed my earrings from my ears - leaving a slight scratch on one ear, but scaring me. I soldiered through that, going on with my planned activity for that day, determined not to be cowed.
But then a week later, three young men surrounded me and hassled me for several minutes, scaring me again. The two incidents started to wear on me, and I found my behavior changing.
Everyone who moves to a foreign place brings their own history and perceptions to their experience, and mine led to a feeling of claustrophobia and concern for my safety. I found myself staying at home, hence the claustrophobia, and then when I did go out, I would worry the whole time. I told friends that I felt like I had a big red X on my back.
Reaction varied from "you need to just get over it" to "yeh, it's a hard go for a single woman here."
Then I started to hear, "don't take anything valuable on the bus", "don't go out alone at night", "don't walk or jog by yourself."
So, all support aside, I felt unsafe and unable to lead the kind of life that I wanted to. So I made plans to leave and arrived back in Vermont a few days ago.
In the end, the lesson that I learned was that I had to experience living in Cuenca for myself before I could decide yea or nay. A short trip down to see the city wasn't enough.
I would encourage everyone who is thinking about moving to Cuenca to try it out for awhile before making a commitment. And I emphatically encourage everyone to give it a shot. Don't be discouraged by my experience, because it is uniquely my own and partly based on experiences from earlier overseas living situations.
Cuenca is a lovely city, the people are incredibly friendly and helpful, the food is fresh and plentiful, and there are plenty of adventures to be had close by. Spanish lessons are easy to come by and there are expatriates to lend support and encouragement.
Meanwhile, back in Vermont, I am looking for a place to live and a good Internet connection, so I can begin working. I'll have to go into town and park in the library parking lot to get WiFi for posting this blog.
Finally, frustration is universal. Stuff happens. Yesterday I bought a brand new car and today someone scraped my rear fender!
And, it's been raining since I arrived!