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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

10 Rules of the Road When Driving in Cuenca, Ecuador by Star

When you move to another country, one of the most important steps in the adaptation process is to learn the rules by which the society operates. We finally got the rules of the road in Cuenca down. I suppose these rules apply not only to Cuenca, but to other cities of Ecuador as well. My mom thought we needed to share these 10 Rules with you. So here they go:
  1. Speed up if you see a pedestrian or a dog crossing the street.
  2. Lanes on the road are just a suggestion. Although maybe the real rule is to keep the dividing stripes between your tires.
  3. In passing a car make, sure that you pull in front of them close enough to force them to brake or move to the next lane.
  4. There are two driving speeds: lighting fast-way beyond the speed limit and dangerously turtle slow.
  5. Illegal turns are allowed whenever you can get away with it.
  6. Honk your horn a few seconds before the traffic light changes to green just in case that the driver in front of you fell asleep. As matter of fact, just honk your horn every 5 seconds in traffic or when you come to a traffic light, and you should be alright.
  7. Passing on curves at high speeds is cool.
  8. When the road has lots of pot holes larger than lakes, you are supposed to go as fast as you can; don't worry about your car's suspension system, that's something to deal with tomorrow.
  9. U-turns and parking are permissible any time and on any road; the signs prohibiting them are just for decoration. If you want to be overly safe, turn on your emergency blinkers.
  10. Be alert and ready to brake or change lanes in the highways when you see the 'danger-men working' signs which will pop up no more than 10 feet from the actual road construction or obstruction.
And, one extra rule is to never open the windows if you are behind a truck, a bus, or a school van; unless, of course, you want to choke with the exhaust fumes. Wearing oxygen masks is always an option in these situations.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Who Said I Couldn't Go to Cajas National Park? by Star

I have been dying to tell you about my adventures into the Cajas National Park....well, it has been four months since I first went there and today is the day I get to share.

Cajas is a magical place about 12 miles from Cuenca. It has many beautiful mountain ranges and lagoons. The altitude ranges from 10,000 to close to 14,000 feet high and there are many different birds and also Alpacas. Mom just recently learned what the name Cajas means. "Cajas" in Spanish means 'boxes' so she couldn't understand why the name; she learned that this "Cajas" comes from the indigenous quechua word "caxas" which means "cold"; and, cold it is, according to the humans who went with us; but with my thick coat I could never tell even though I got pretty wet.

When we first arrived in Cuenca we were told that no dogs were allowed in this incredible place; but, what do you know? Mom found a way. Well, it was really Anna who did, but the important thing was that we went to Cajas in December with my friends Chimbo and Kenna and some humans.

I've visited many beautiful places since we moved to Cuenca, but I have to say that Cajas is by far the best. We were free to run up and down the trails without leads. There is simply nothing better than freedom and fresh mountain air to make me happy.

My mom didn't have her hiking boots or her walking stick with her since our stuff had not arrived from the States. She said she needed them to go up to the lagoon because it was misting and the steep trail was very slippery so mom and I stayed behind while our friends went up.
I had to stay to keep guard and make sure mom and I were all right.
We really missed out, so as soon as the work in the house is finished, mom has promised to take me there again. This time for a real hike up to the lagoon. Although I don't know how mom is going to make it. She was huffing and puffing all throughout the hike since Cajas is much higher than Cuenca and the trails are treacherous. That's what she said, though perhaps she is not in as good shape as she wants to think she is.
Mom says that hiking Cajas is not for everyone. It's really beautiful and peaceful but the weather changes very quickly. And, that is true, I can attest. When we were there one minute it was sunny and the next it was misting, and right after that there was the rain, hard and cold with thunder and lightening and nowhere to take cover. Going down the trail is harder when it is wet, and mom fell twice and got her pants all muddy. She, of course, blamed it on me. Since when she fell it was just me and her and she had to put me in the lead, or so she felt... like I was going anywhere... pleeease! When we were all together, I knew it was safe and I ran and ran, up and down and up again, having so much fun in this incredible place.
Mom and I went down towards the car and mom was totally worn out but so was I, yet I just didn't know it until we got home and I couldn't wait to go to bed and crash.
Now that mom and dad have their hiking boots and walking sticks, they don't have much of an excuse. Cajas here we come soon!