The whole weekend felt a bit like orientation all over again. We would roll down the street surrounded by other gringos, looking for a place to eat or a place to drink. We joked about random things and about the difficulties of living in Ecuador, as well as the good parts. But it was definitely not the traditional experience of being immersed, which was nice for a little change of pace.
Waking up barely alive on Monday morning, we went without breakfast to get to the military parade on time. Most of the people staying at my house settled their bills and grabbed their things to make an exit after the show. It was already hot and sunny as we headed across the river towards the heavy crowds gathering by the three bridges. As we were getting ready to cross the street police sirens rang out, and a motorcade rushed by. We could just make out President Rafael Correa, sitting in the back seat of a pick up truck with an arm out the window, easily recognizable, like a Latino JFK.
We made our way towards the stands where men in uniform stood in the road waiting. Soldiers were everywhere, as well as policemen and women, secret service, and snipers on the roofs of buildings. We stood across the street from the stands waiting, tired and not saying much. Finally after a long wait the music started and movement started. The crowd started to push out into the street, and the cops reacted by driving a truck into the crowd to push it back. But shortly after, the crowd grew restless and pushed back onto the street, and the police had no control over it. We didn’t want to bother, so we just stayed on the sidewalk.
It was hard to see over the people, even though I’m average height in Ecuador, and many people had umbrellas to shade against the sun, making picture taking nearly impossible. The crowd got excited as President Correa came by, standing up in the back of a pick up truck, waving to the crowd and smiling enthusiastically. He was just across the street from us, but the crowd made it hard to get a good look. He shook many hands and then made his way up to a seat in the stands.
The parade commenced, and what I thought were Russian MIGs were flying overhead over and over. It seemed a bit like those military parades you see in history class reels, sans the tanks. We wanted to hear the president speak, but since the parade had just started and everyone had to catch a bus, we decided to leave.
Clouds were rolling in and soon enough it was lightly raining for the rest of the day and night. We said our goodbyes on Calle Larga, and that ended the weekend in Cuenca. It was a lot of fun and extremely tiring, but a great refresher for all of us.
Later on I went with my host family to check out a market with natives from Cusco, Peru, who had made the long trip up to sell their goods. Afterwards, we went to a concert in Parque de la Madre, but it was cold and raining, so we didn’t stay the whole time.
To close up the long weekend, I hunkered down with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, ready to enjoy my last day off before getting back to work on Wednesday.
Above: a short indigenous woman looks on at the parade, the military band performing for the crowd, a woman selling food on the street