Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Hi everyone! Welcome to the LAST blog of this experience. I cannot believe those words are even true! Of course if you would have asked us what we thought the last month of our year in Cuenca would look like, we could never have predicted this! The pandemic changed life for everyone in the world, and we definitely felt the change in the last few months of our life here.  

\As is happening in many places, things are finally starting to look more normal around here.  We have moved into "yellow" in the stoplight system, meaning the curfew has been shortened from 2pm-5am to now 9pm-5am, which has given us more of a chance to just get out and get some fresh air.  Masks are still mandatory in public, but the custom of wearing gloves has started to fade out and be replaced by consistent use of anti-bacterial spray or gel. Some restaurants and public transportation have been able to open at a limited capacity with extreme precautions.  The long awaited Tranvía even finally opened here in Cuenca, and will be free to the public for the first few months.  We got to get on the other day, and it was super cool! We are still trying to take as much precaution as possible, while also getting a few minutes of fresh air during the day! It has been a great help to our mental health. I’ve been walking a lot around the city in my free time, reminiscing on all of the layered memories I have made in different places. 

Finally made it out to take a walk!
Our first lunch out of the house!
We even painted our masks!
EL TIEMPO - Después de cinco años el tranvía da un alivio a Cuenca
The Tranvía

We are just wrapping up our third cycle teaching with CEDEI! This cycle has been entirely online and presented a monumental learning curve to all of us.  Although it was extremely frustrating at the beginning, we eventually found our own rhythm and were able to bond with our students and give classes we are proud of, even though they looked different from what we were used to with face to face learning.  The last day of class, though, was hard for me, because I normally have a party with my students and we have a fun ending to the class, something we didn’t get to do in an online format.  Regardless, I was so thankful for awesome students this cycle that motivated me to learn and grow so that I could give them the best possible class experience!  I am definitely ready for a bit of a break though now that the cycle is coming to a close.  In fact, I am planning to visit my family in July in the United States!  I hope that all goes well, because many things are still up in the air as far as travel both domestically and internationally.  I will definitely be extremely careful with that process, but I am so excited to see my family and friends! 

I still made balloons for the last day of class! 

Last day of class

Although as I said, this year didn't end how we expected, it has still been one of the most dynamic years of our lives, and this last blog is a good time to reflect on all of it- the good, and the unexpected. 

Coming up on this experience, I loved the feeling of the unknown; when your brain has no reference for predicting what is to come.  It was a blank slate, and I was excited for all of the life to be lived in the coming year.  I am so grateful for Jhoseline, who has been the best since the moment we met in the Cleveland airport on July 9th. We got to do and see so much, even including the Paro and the pandemic!  

Living with two different families in the beginning was such a great experience.  It brought us into the life of the people here in a way we couldn’t have seen it otherwise; from eating typical (and delicious) meals to having someone to go to with questions about the city.  I’ll never forget my host mom showing me the route to CEDEI and taking me out for ice cream on my first day.   

Conquering the TEFL course was a huge learning experience- it had some serious ups and downs and had me questioning if I was cut out for teaching. Now, almost a full year later, we are wrapping up another cycle with CEDEI and I am loving it.  I love the students so much, and it has been extremely rewarding to grow into my role and improve every day. Not to mention the amazing people we work with that have become lifelong friends!

Unfortunately, the pandemic ended both of our volunteer positions much earlier than we anticipated. Before it ended, though, I loved going to San Jose de Calasanz every morning bright and early to be greeted by all of the hugs and smiles from the students.  When I first started, I felt too unqualified to really be of help, but was able to build a strong connection with the students that I will cherish forever.  I really miss them and think about them all the time with all that is going on! I’m still holding out hope that there may be some way for me to see them again before I leave Ecuador and begin another chapter. 

Committing to at least a year in one place gives an insight that a short visit never could.  In the past year we had the opportunity to experience Fiestas de Cuenca, Carnaval, Baños de Ambato, the Paro, multiple new apartments, a variety of friends, and just everyday life. I remember saying to Jhoseline that before the grant, I am sure I would have liked to visit Ecuador, but I wasn’t really thinking about living here.  Without this experience I never would have come to know this beautiful country so well, and wouldn’t have had so many of the amazing times and insights that we have now.  Now Cuenca will always feel like a home to us. 

We all know that it is difficult to check every item off of a bucket list, and leaving a few things is normal.  For us, there are definitely still some things we haven’t gotten to experience that we would like to! For example, we never did get to try cuy (guinea pig), although it is a typical special dish here.  We definitely wish we could have traveled more, but considering our busy schedules and other blocks to travel (the paro and the pandemic), our only big trip out of Cuenca was to Baños de Ambato before we started teaching, sprinkled with smaller trips in the area to places like Yungilla, Ingapirca, Cajas National Park, and Baños.  We would like to someday get to travel a bit more around Ecuador, to the beaches for example, and also around more of South America!

We knew going into this experience that it would change our lives, but we didn’t know how that would look a year later.  Now, it has been so rewarding to reflect back on our year, filled with color, memories, friends, warm moments, growing, learning, triumphs,  and more.  I am so thankful for all of the people we have met, things we have seen, and ways we have grown.

Looking toward the future, there are still a lot of question marks.  COVID has made it hard to plan, but has also shown us that we can trust our guts in questionable times.  As I mentioned, I am going to visit my family in July, but after that I plan to come back to Cuenca to teach with CEDEI for the August cycle.  I don’t know exactly what the future will hold, but that excites me! I have my eye on the future and I’m definitely looking forward to the next adventure! I can’t wait for things to continue to unfold and to see what is next.  Without a doubt, this year has been a milestone that I will carry into everything else that I am able to do… I want to thank Mark and Linda again for not only the grant but all of their support- I hope you guys are proud of us, the grantees for 2019-2020. I am eternally grateful.  To anyone reading- thank you for coming on this journey with us! We have certainly had some ups and downs, but recounting it all in this blog has been a special experience.  Thank you!

Our first day in Cuenca

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Hello! We are back with another blog post, bringing everyone up to speed with our situation in this ever-changing world.  On May 9th we celebrated being in Ecuador for 10 months, although these last few have not been what we planned for! We have now been in quarantine, with pretty strict regulations, for over two months (starting on March 12th). We still have a curfew of 2pm-5am, parks and business interiors are closed, wearing a mask and gloves in public is obligatory, travel out of the country and between provinces is still difficult and strictly regulated, and driving is heavily restricted based on license plates.  In the morning until 2pm we are able to go out to get groceries if necessary, and some places have begun to operate with extreme caution (small tiendas are open but you cannot enter, you order from outside).  Food delivery services are in operation until after the curfew begins, which has been very helpful to small businesses (and to us on days we don’t want to cook).  Although parks are closed, I did get out to take a walk the other day, which was great for my mental health.  In these times I’m definitely wishing we had a porch or terrace! For now I’m grateful for the sun that shines into my room from my little window. 
The country has moved to a “stoplight” system, in which each province can choose to be in red, yellow, or green, with each color bringing a different level of restrictions.  All provinces started in red, and as they slowly begin their attempts to return to normal, they can choose to go into a state of yellow and then to green.  Cuenca has stayed in red since the announcement, and although this past week we heard some rumors that we might go into yellow on Monday, it was announced that we will stay in red until at least May 24th.  Although this whole time we have understood the importance of protecting the community and staying inside, we did get our hopes up a bit that things might start moving forward. 
Abandoned Plaza de las Flores, usually filled with vendors selling flowers

We have been keeping up with the news from the United States, and everything we see is telling us that for us, the best decision was to stay in Ecuador.  We miss our families so much, but we have been very disturbed by the images from the U.S.  Honestly, the protests against the stay at home orders seem so ridiculous to us, because in comparison to the restrictions we have had here for months the rules there are pretty lax.  Here there have been some protests, but for a completely different reason, and they look very different.  It was announced that government financial aid for university students was to be slashed drastically; and students have been protesting the threat to accessible education, but in a responsible fashion.  Everyone has a mask, and not a single person is armed- unlike the protests we’ve seen from the U.S.  As mentioned, we hope that soon we can move toward some more lenient restrictions in a safe way for everyone- with the heavy reliance on the informal economy here (street vendors, etc), many people and their families are struggling after going so long without work. 
University students protesting

Another protest here in Cuenca- to symbolize killing the education of young people

That said, we are still spending just about all of our time at home.  Now that we are almost halfway through the cycle, we have found a bit more of a rhythm with online teaching.  At first it was really overwhelming having to learn multiple different platforms in a short time, and then in turn help our students learn what we barely understood, all before actually getting to the English part.  Over time, though, it has gotten easier and we have been able to find new ways to make connections with our students, and new ways to make a class fun online.  I am sure that these skills we are developing now will be useful in the future, for example engaging with technology in ways that we never had before! Although it has been nice to have something to do during the day, prepping for online teaching has proven to be more involved than for in-person classes, and though I was super productive at the beginning of the cycle, I am growing more tired as time goes on.  As I’m sure many people can relate to, working from home is hard on us mentally; there is no clear line between work time/space and personal time/space.  All things considered, we feel very lucky to have a job in such an unsure time for so many people. 

How some of my classes look- my students are in the top right side of the screen!

Although we love our students at CEDEI, we definitely feel a hole in our lives here in Ecuador left by our inability to volunteer at our organizations.  We find ourselves thinking about our students a lot, and hoping they are doing okay with all of the changes in daily life.  For me, I am really missing my students from Calasanz.  I was at the school with the students when the initial national 2 week suspension of classes was announced, and I never thought I would have to go this long without seeing them again.  Of course the pandemic and quarantine is a disruption in the lives of everyone, but for students who are differently abled, such a massive disruption of their normal lives and schedules cannot be easy on them or their families.  I have no way to contact or see them outside of the school, so I can’t wait for the first day that classes resume to go give each and every one of them a hug, and to see all of their smiles! 

The absolute best part of this month was my birthday on April 27th.  Of course since Jhoseline’s birthday, we had talked about mine and how we wanted to celebrate with all of the friends that we have made here this year.  I even had a dress picked out!  When quarantine started I, like many, didn’t realize how long it would last and hoped it would end in time for my birthday.  Unfortunately it didn’t, but we still had the best day EVER, and I felt super special and happy, all thanks to Jhoseline! When I woke up that morning and went into the kitchen to make a coffee, as I do every morning, I was immediately greeted by the house absolutely COVERED in gorgeous balloons and decorations.  It was all so colorful- there was a 23, FELIZ CUMPLEAÑOS, a rainbow, hearts, and more multi-colored balloons.  There was even a Coco table cover, my favorite movie!  She was so thoughtful, and I couldn’t have ever anticipated having such an incredible person by my side for this birthday before I met her in the Cleveland airport in July.  Throughout the day there were more surprises- she had bought my favorite wine and the face cream I use everyday but was basically out of (how she knew that, I have no idea).  Then, she surprised me by ordering lunch (for delivery) from my favorite Mexican restaurant here in Cuenca.  It has been so long since we’ve been able to eat there, and the food was even better than I remembered! Later, we received another delivery (another surprise), which was this incredible, decadent chocolate cake.  Later, we put the candles on it, and just before we cut it and sang happy birthday, Jhoseline surprised me by having set up a Zoom call with my family so they could sing with us as we cut the cake!  She truly thought of everything, and did so much to make the day special.  All of the surprises were amazing, but the most meaningful part of it all was us making the day special together.  She knew how excited I was, and went above and beyond to make it an amazing day!  I didn’t feel like the day lacked a single thing- which is quite a seal of approval for a quarantine birthday.  So many other friends reached out with sweet messages, so many that I didn’t expect, and I truly felt loved.  Hopefully when this all starts to get back to normal we will be able to see our friends again to celebrate- whether for my birthday, or just life.  Jhoseline and I have definitely experienced more than our fair share of ups and downs in our time here, but I couldn’t have even pictured in my mind a better person to experience it all with.  I’m so thankful for her and this life we’ve created together here.  Although it looks like it will be a process, we are excited to get back to that life we love so much.  If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

The decorations were absolutely gorgeous!

Coco tablecloth, my favorite wine, a birthday crown, and my favorite face cream! Jhoseline thought of everything!

Super thoughtful birthday gesture! Shout out to Ryan, Erin, Becca, Erin, and Baylee :) 


Hello again and welcome to another blog. Nothing much has happened here and I am sad to say that the days are very similar. It is frustrating being stuck at home all day and I find myself spending much time wishing the quarantine was over. However, it is necessary to stay inside and follow the measures put in place to maintain health and take care of one another. 

Plaza San Francisco without vendors and tourist 

The best thing that happened last month was celebrating Emily’s birthday. Her birthday was April 27th and although is not how we had planned to celebrate we had an amazing day. While she was sleeping I decorated the house with lots of colorful balloons including a Feliz Cumpleanos, a 23, rainbow, hearts, happy birthdays, and different color plain balloons. The house looked beautiful and when she woke up she was so surprised to see the house all decorated. I also ordered her favorite Mexican food for lunch, a chocolate cake that was very delicious, and got her some gifts.  It was great celebrating her on her special day and I loved seeing her so happy. A huge shout out to her mom Donna for all the help, without her this process would have been much more difficult. Emily was so happy and it was great to do something out of the ordinary. I am grateful to have her by my side every day and I am happy I was able to do something special for her and show her how much she means to me. When things go back to normal we will celebrate her birthday again with friends and have a great time.

Birthday decorations for Emily 


Teaching online has been challenging. I must admit I am not a very technological person and it was hard to get used to the 3 platforms. Besides, we only got a 2-hour training for all the platforms on the same day which was not enough time. The students as well-received little training and to this day technological issues continue which is very frustrating. I find myself moving at such a slow pace and way behind. I also spend so much time on lesson planning way more than before. This might be because this cycle I was given all niños classes which I have never taught before. It has been challenging teaching little kids because the curriculum is way different and the pace is different. Also, it is more interactive which requires a lot of planning and is so hard to be interactive when teaching online. Parents are also very involved which can get frustrating. I miss teaching Intensives and teens/adult classes. Little kids, however, are very cute and bring joy to my life. Over the past couple of weeks, I have felt little support from CEDEI and to be honest, it has been hard to feel like teachers matter,  like I matter. There have been a lot of changes in the staff and we are unsure as to who to contact when problems arise. New staff have joined CEDEI coming with great ideas and with the best intentions but fail to ask us teachers, who at the end of the day are the ones who have to teach, what we want, and our opinions on how the program can be better. Instead, they want to change the curriculum already put in place, disregard the help Lead teachers offered so that they can understand the program, and dictate our way of teaching as if the way we teach is the problem. There is no transparency and it sucks that we teachers are not taken into consideration when making big decisions and at the end of the day are the ones that get affected by changes the most. Despite all the frustration, I am grateful to have a job and to be learning new skills that are preparing me to be a better teacher. 

I miss my kids at the Fundacion a lot and I am so sad that I do not get to see them. Without volunteering at El Arenal I am having a hard time feeling like I have a purpose. I miss not being able to help with homework, talk to the parents, and hear how my kids are doing.  Teaching has become more frustrating and I wish I could be doing something I enjoy a lot like spending time with my kids. I think about them and their families a lot and wish I could do more. I know a lot of the families are struggling with paying rent and keeping food on the table and it is hard to sit here and not be able to do anything to help them. Some of my kids are also worried about their parents who continue to work to make ends meet. They are afraid their mom will get sick from the virus and although they understand she is doing what she has to, to have food on the table they are very worried and wish she did not have to work. I am grateful that despite not being able to see them  I can communicate with them on a regular base via Facebook and help them with their homework. I am blessed to have gained their trust and care. My kids tell me they miss me a lot and trust me enough to tell me how this crisis is affecting them and their families. Although I am not there physically with them and at times feel like I can not do much or that I am not doing much, I can bring comfort to their life by listening to them and giving them advice. I know this is something my kids need a lot, someone to listen to them and show them that they care. As mentioned I am grateful to have them in my life and I can not wait until I get to see them again. 

My kids having fun. I miss them!!!!
Like I mentioned not much has changed here in Ecuador. We continue to be in quarantine and the strict measures remain in place. We still have a curfew from 2 pm until 5 am, traveling out of the country and to different provinces is very limited, vehicular transportation still is dependent on your license plate and we are only able to be out of the house if it is to buy groceries, buy medicine or go to the hospital. I have not been out of the house for a while now and it is overwhelming being in my apartment all the time. Like most people, I have my ups and downs and am taking life one day at a time. There is hope things will change and I do wish things will go back to normal soon. The president of Ecuador mentioned back in April that the transition from isolation to social distancing started on May 4th. To execute this well a traffic light system was put in place. This means that provinces in red remain with strict measures, provinces in yellow/orange will experience fewer restrictions, and provinces in green will either have restrictions lifted or very relaxed restrictions. Each governor of the province will decide the color which it will operate under. This is all dependent on data and the number of cases of coronavirus in the providence. Everyone began in red and over time provinces with fewer cases have changed colors. We heard rumors that Cuenca would change to yellow soon and fewer restrictions would be in place. Both Emily and I got very excited about this but we were sad to find out that our governor decided to keep Cuenca in red until May 24th. Although I understand the importance of staying at home I have hope that things will change soon and everything will go back to normal. All things said I am grateful to be in a country that is taking the virus seriously and is taking the right measures to keep its citizens safe. I am very disturbed by looking at the news from the United  States. I have a hard time understanding the protests going on when in my opinion the United States has done very little to stop the virus from spreading and has not taken the right measures. In Cuenca, there are also protests going on, but these are from totally different reasons and in my opinion more valid reasons than the protests going on in the United States. Students are protesting because the government has cut down funding for the public University threatening their education. Everyone protesting wore masks and gloves, and there were no riffles on site. I hope the United States can learn some things from Ecuador and apply them to keep its citizens safe. 

Protest by University Students 
Protesters wearing masks and gloves 

These times are hard for everyone and it is sad to see how much the world is suffering due to the crisis at hand. Things have not been easy for us mentally and we struggle with all the changes that we have gone through recently. We both miss our families a lot and wish things will go back to normal soon. I am so grateful to have Emily by my side and I know I could not have done this without her constant support and care. One thing I do know is that I have to allow myself to feel all the feelings and validate them. I hope everyone reading this is doing well and I encourage everyone to not lose hope and faith. We will get out of this and come back stronger than ever before. Like always thank you, Mark and Linda, for all of your support and this amazing opportunity. Take care everyone and thank you for reading. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Welcome to the fourth blog of the year. This month has been very interesting with everything going on but I am happy to say that I am healthy and doing my best every day to get by. 

As many of you know and are experiencing we are in a pandemic and therefore our lives have changed drastically. For us, the quarantine began over a month ago. It began with schools closing until further notice. Because schools closed CEDEI as well stopped classes in person and we had to end the cycle online. This was a huge shift since I have never thought online classes before. To be honest it was very complicated and I experienced many issues that could have easily been avoided. 

One of the hardest changes for me has been not going to the Fundacion. I had to go in for 2 days after the government shut down schools and began quarantine. It was not open for the kids, just the staff and it felt so strange being in the Fundacion without all my kids. I miss my students so much and not knowing what is happening with them is hard. I maintain communication through Facebook with some of my kids and at times even help with homework. However, it is not the same. I miss seeing their faces and all the hugs I receive.  They mean a lot to me and I am constantly worried about them and their families knowing that many of their parents are out of jobs and are experiencing hardship. Also, many of them do not have the necessary materials to learn online. Recently a newspaper published that 60% of Ecuadorian children do not have adequate materials to learn online. I know the Fundacion plays such a huge factor in the life of these kids and I am very sad that it is not open and they can not receive the resources it provides. 
Headed to the Fundacion during the pandemic 

Last time on the bus 

Some of the restrictions that the government has put in place seem harsh in comparison to other countries. Ecuador has put in place a curfew and if not followed there are consequences. The first consequence is receiving a fine of $100, the second consequence is paying the minimum wage which is $400 and the third and most harsh one is going to jail.  No one can be outside unless it is to buy food, go to the doctor or the pharmacy. The first curfew that was put in place was from 9 pm-5 am, then 7 pm-5 am and the latest curfew is now from 2 pm-5 am.  I barely go outside, only when it is necessary. The times I have gone outside caught me by surprise. There is a different vibe going on. Everyone is wearing a mask and gloves and fear is visible. If I am being honest it is sad to step outside and see the city you love be so different. I miss seeing the Plaza San Francisco full of artisan vendors and full of people. Now even to go to stores you have to wear a mask, gloves and have to get sprayed by alcohol to enter. Only one person from the family is allowed to go into stores and it depends on the last digits of one’s ID or driver’s license. Even in our apartment, we have rules regarding going out. We have to take an extra pair of shoes and clothes to change when we come back, use hand sanitizer, no visitors, disinfect all of the food we buy and clean the floor to kill all bacteria and viruses we might have brought it. There are a lot of new changes and it has been hard to adjust. I miss my walks to work, teaching in-person, taking pictures of the beautiful city,  buying street food, going to the market to buy fruit, riding the bus, walking past La Feria Libre, and most of all I miss my kids. 

Travel restrictions 
Groceries to last us a while

News about the curfew 

Despite all of these changes, I am happy that I am safe, healthy and continue to have a job which sadly is not the same for many individuals.  Ecuador took measures pretty fast, and although there is a lot of controversy about this topic, it has been strict with all the restrictions and measures to keep everyone home and stop the spread of the Corona-Virus. All of the borders are closed as well as International airports and only some humanitarian flights can leave the country. Unfortunately, Guayas has been the providence that has been most affected by the virus and is experiencing a lot of deaths due to the virus and other reasons. Everyday stories on the news about Guayaquil depict the huge problem that is going on. One reason many say  Guayaquil has the most cases in the country is that people are not following the rules of staying home. The reality is that Guayaquil has more poverty than Cuenca and individuals can not stay home. They need to continue working and earn money daily. This goes to show that the problem is more than just the virus and that many people are suffering due to poverty and lack of resources.

Statistics regarding cases in Ecuador 

Being stuck at home all day has affected my Mental Health. I have been doing a lot of sleeping, crying and overall have been overwhelmed with everything going on. I have isolated myself and have found doing basic things like eating, showering, etc become harder. It is something that no one has dealt with before and has caused many changes. Something I keep telling myself is that I have to allow myself to feel what I feel and process all the feelings and continue despite everything going on. It sucks that our last months here in Ecuador have to end like this and we are not able to travel as we had planned. Despite not always feeling my best I have found ways to distract myself. Painting, playing cards, watching movies/  Netflix series, calling family, talking to friends, exercising, and even playing with the kids next door has helped a lot mentally and brings joy to my life. It nice knowing that there are a lot of things I can do to have fun and feel complete while being inside all day. 

Enjoying  a snack while watching Netflix 
I am taking all the measures put in place very seriously and hope that as time passes things get better here in Ecuador and all around the world. I know these are hard times and there is so much uncertainty for a lot of individuals. I feel grateful to still have a job, source of income and family and friends who support me and give me love despite being far away. Thank you all for reading and I hope things get better for everyone soon. Until next time. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Hey all!  We are back with another blog, and as you may have guessed, this one is not like the others.  While almost the whole world is in quarantine right now, maybe you all are interested in how it is going for us here, since we have chosen to stay here in Ecuador rather than return to the United States. 

We decided to stay for a few reasons.  We have continued our job teaching English online, and feel very thankful to continue to have a source of income, acknowledging that this is not the reality for so many people both here in Ecuador as well as in other parts of the world.  Also, if anyone reading has seen news about Ecuador that has reached international attention, it looks like the situation here is almost apocalyptic. The reality is that in the province of Guayas, the situation is extremely serious, and while in our province the virus is serious, the situation is not as bad here as it is in Guayas.  To leave the country, we would have to fly out of Guayaquil, and we prefer not to travel out of Cuenca and risk infection if it is not absolutely necessary. Finally, swift action and harsh restrictions from the government make us feel safer than if we were to return to the United States. 

Of course, harsher restrictions can be hard on one mentally, but we feel that in the end it will prevent many infections and deaths.  On March 12th, the government announced that all classes were canceled nationwide until further notice. When this happened, volunteering effectively stopped for both of us, and CEDEI decided to continue classes online.  A curfew was put into place across the country, first from 9pm-5am, then restricted to 7pm-5am, then finally 2pm-5am. During the curfew, no one can be outside unless they have specific permission from the government (doctors, police officers, etc), and if caught, there are consequences that vary in severity for each offense.  Everything closes around noon in order to give people time to get home before the curfew begins. Other measures have been put into place, for example wearing a mask in public is obligatory. In order to enter any store, one must have gloves, a mask, and be sprayed with alcohol. Only one person per group/family can enter at a time.  In the markets, one can only enter once a week depending on their license number, and it’s the same for driving a car! Even within our apartment building, if we have to leave for some reason, we have to take off our shoes at the main door and wear slippers up to our apartment, and no one is permitted inside that does not live in the building. 

The sign says that 30 people maximum can be in the store, one person per family can enter, and children are prohibited from entering.  The small blue sign says that one must enter with a mask and gloves.  The employee is holding a bottle of alcohol to spray on customers as they enter. 

Store fronts closed and replaced with a small pop up shop that sells masks and gloves. 

Outside of the 10 de Agosto market 

Right by our house in La Plaza San Francisco. 

This part of the plaza is usually filled vendors selling colorful artisan crafts and other souvenirs, tourists taking it all in, or people commuting to or from work. 

An empty, gloomy Plaza San Francisco. 

All of this goes to say that we haven't seen much outside of our apartment this month. We have been taking all of the restrictions very seriously and staying inside, leaving very rarely to stock up on food.  Every day we are finding new ways to pass the time, whether it is playing cards, watching every Disney movie over again, zoom calls with friends and family, painting, working out, coloring with our little neighbors, posting throwback pictures, or binging Tiger King (yes, they hype has even reached us here).  We started the new cycle (our third, we can’t believe it) with CEDEI on Monday and anticipate that it will be conducted entirely online. It is nice to have something to do during the day; something to focus on and to make us feel accomplished at the end of the day. After working so much and so hard for our whole time here, that feeling was definitely missing once the quarantine started.  We are missing our kiddos from volunteering so much, and are always thinking of them hoping they and their families are making it okay through this crisis. It would have killed us to leave the country without ever having had the chance to say goodbye to all of them, which is another reason we decided to stay. We are hoping that everyone here continues to take the restrictions seriously and that we can return to normal life as soon as possible. 

Some quarantine painting!

Coloring with our little neighbors!

Some of our friends feel that when this is all over they will need a break from Cuenca, but I feel the opposite.  I feel like I haven’t seen Cuenca, a city I’ve come to call home in months! The day I can leave out my front door and be met with Cuenca- the real Cuenca, alive bustling with people, not a ghost town- I might just kiss the streets. I’m sure that feeling will be shared all over the world.  We are certainly all in this together (while staying physically apart). 

Thanks for reading!