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Today was the second time the girls and I have visited this museum (it’s called Centro Interamericano de Artesanías y Artes Populares or CIDAP). Honestly, I think they like the gift shop next door more than the museum. I really like this little museum. It’s super close to our apartment, on the way to our favorite park. When I get home, maybe I will actually use the loom I bought and learn how to make some wall hangings! I definitely want to every time I visit this place. Today we walked through, strolled through the gift shop and then picked up a snack at the next door cafe. It’s these moments that are so wonderful. 

The zoo here in Cuenca is a very worthwhile experience! We had heard and read good things, but we did not realize the treat we were in for! First things first, the zoo is on the side of a mountain and is absolutely not stroller friendly. The paths are rugged and steep. Fortunately, Maeve’s favorite mode of transportation is the ergo and we didn’t even bring a stroller. If I was going to this zoo with a 2-3 year old, I would want a back pack carrier for sure. The zoo is one big loop of one way paths so all of it needs to be experienced if you want to make it to the exit. A lot of families passed us! We were soaking up our first visit.

One of the first animals we saw was the Andean bears and lucky us, when we arrived at their very large enclosure, they were about to be fed. A female bear came lumbering down to the spot the keeper throws the food. He threw her some mango and papaya. Then the keep called the male bear’s name to get him to come and have something to eat. And sure enough, he made an appearance. It was pretty cool! 

There were a ton of snakes and frogs and other animals native to South America. The condors were a neat thing to see and the monkeys were one of our favorites! Near the end of our visit, the rain hit pretty hard for 5-10 minutes. We somehow lucked out and were back near the covered lunch tables and managed to stay reasonably dry. But after the rain, the trails were pretty muddy and slippery. We had to be careful as we descended.

Lunch at the zoo was seco de pollo (rice, chicken and a small salad) for me and hot dogs for the girls and a sandwich for Conor. I love seco de pollo. It’s so simple and so reliable and so Ecuadorian.

Once we finished at the zoo, we walked down to the highway where we thought we would be able to hail a taxi, but I guess it’s illegal for taxis to stop on the highway? So that was a little tricky but eventually it all worked out. Just a part of the experience! 

One of our most favorite parts of the Amaru Bioparque Cuenca Zoologico (Cuenca Zoo) was this one pathway through a thicket of trees in which small monkeys lived. We almost walked straight through without realizing just how close we were to these adorable animals. And then we all lost our minds when we saw the teeny-tiny monkey on it’s momma’s back! Seriously, go watch this video Conor posted on his Instagram account. We totally wanted to tuck that baby monkey into our backpack and bring it home with us. Obviously we didn’t. I think one of the amazing parts of this experience was that there was no fence separating us from the monkeys. They were right there so close! Holly and Greta both have a new found obsession for monkeys (they started playing “monkeys” before we left the zoo!) and Maeve was like, “meh, I’m cuter.”

I wish every day was Saturday.

Okay, here it is… the crazy “when in Ecuador” experience! Cuy or Guinea Pig is a traditional dish here in Ecuador but specific to the city we are currently in, Cuenca.

A family that we met last Sunday when we flew here from Quito invited us over for roasted cuy. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity, plus friends! Our friends, Monica and Gustav are so generous. Not only did they pick us up from our apartment, but they also made us an amazing meal of cuy, chicken, rice, potatoes, corn and salad.

The cuy… oh gosh, reflecting on it, I can’t believe I ate that! I would compare the meat to dark meat, but silkier (maybe because of the fat content). There isn’t a whole ton of meat on the cuy. I would guess that it weighed about 3 pounds. Conor and I were each served a hind quarter. And it’s eaten with your hands. I just can’t get the image of that little claw so close to my face out of my mind! The skin is really thick and difficult to eat. While it was roasting, we sampled the liver and that was actually really good.

Don’t get me wrong, the meat was tasty, or bien rico. However, it’s the getting my mind around eating something that is a pet, a rodent back home. Super glad I did it. Not biting at the bit to do it again!

Oh, I have to note that while the cuy was roasting over the charcoal, rain came. And to solve that problem, Gustav and Conor brought the grill into the house and opened a window. Not going to lie, my first thought was that we were going to die of carbon monoxide poisoning in Ecuador. It was fine, but the grill did go in and out of the house a few times! 

Also have to note, that when we asked our friends in Quito about cuy, they thought it was yucky to eat. So it’s definitely a regional dish! 

After lunch, our friends took us on a driving tour around Cuenca. They were seriously so generous to spend so much time with us!

Cuenca has a few different markets. We finally made our way to one on Thursday. Grocery shopping is tricky for a few reasons: first, we can only buy what we can carry. 2. There are different ingredients than from what I’m used to. 3. It takes a good chunk of time to walk to the Super-maxi or the market, buy the food and walk home. In Quito, I would often stop in at the market on our way home from school. That was really easy to do. Here, we have decided that on market days, we will eat a meal at the market while we are there. 

This market is three levels and as soon as we stepped foot onto the “food court” level, a couple of women were immediately holding out meat from their pigs in their bare hands, inviting us, kind of forcefully, to have a sample. After we sampled, I felt obligated to buy, and buying eliminated the decision making process. And so we ate pork, potatoes, corn, salad and juice. It was great! I love the market experience. Next time we go to the market, I want to spend more time checking out the venders set up outside of the market.

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