Written by: Maria
We visited just about every lower-end hostal Cuenca has to offer: 9 maybe. That is to say, all of them were nice enough, but our first venture at Hostal Macondo in the end took the cake. Of course, could have avoided the trouble if we had known, but I did enjoy roaming around pretending like we had direction. At least, I felt like I got some hard-learning done. It's best not to look "wandering" here. Hard when I'm consumed with wander-lust like all the other travelers but by slipping into a shop to orientate a bit with the map I can pull it off in the street with feeling just a tinge of dishonesty and of something hot burning under me. Another red flag: walking or even resting in public with a tour book or map in front of your face. I recall passing several big city maps near neat parks/museums/etc. and walking at least ten feet away from them holding my breath like they were roadkill or such. "Oh, but they're here to help me!" I'd think.
Hostal Macondo is an old colonial building from the inside. You can never tell what you'll find behind doors here as, with little exception, they all look like a hole in a cement wall from the front... with occasional shattered multi-colored glass trimming to prevent city monkeys from traipsing. Wood floors inside and white walls punctuated with some colorful art they nailed up the other day. One is going for $2,500 and it doesn't appeal to me.
The staff are all used to putting up with gringos so they are quick to pick up on my sincere attempts to communicate and relate or just smile in gratitude. There's Silvana, 28, who we're most chummy with, two other front desk ladies and the Night Guy. Lady 1 is pretty and quiet and smiles softly, often. Lady 2 works here the most and crunches up her nose a lot when she pushes up her glasses with three of her thin fingers. She seems to always be at something be it writing in this rainbow little kiddy notebook that has scratched on the front in perm. marker: "treasure" or maybe it says "treasurer." or else shes running, literally running around the hostal (ecuadorians dont run often, they just walk fast and decisively like ants with orders) helping out with cleaning, or kitchen duty and then back to the front door when the "dingdong" asks her to buzz a guest in. The other day I saw her picking up little leaves that had tumbled into the courtyard, folding them up into little square packets of brown carbon and putting them into a clenched left hand so they were almost completely hidden and then she was off presumably to throw them away. I haven't met any of the real cleaning ladies who dress in grey with baseball caps- Typically behind-the-scenes-ultra-helpful and i can't help but want to say: ya know, you don't really need to make my bed every morning...I'm here for a month, after all. But they keep alluding me, the four of them tag-teaming my bed. I felt even worse this morning when they picked up my tepid breakfast coffee and milk and washed it for me when i definitely planned to finish and wash it after the jitters subsided from the first even if it was cold by then. And then there's the lead breakfast lady who's always so sweet and considerate when I'm reading in the cafeteria on cold damp mornings and she needs to clean. I'll get up and move out of her way, but we always end up dancing the polite, "no, you, " dance and smiling, "gracias a Uds."
Free internet here. although slow and there's only one sticky-keyed computer available, it seems everyone but Ki and I and the front desker's have a laptop for use of the wifi so it works OK. The included breakfast is soft bread from a local bakery of two types: sugary cinnamon swirled or sesame seed white. Two cute little butter balls and home-made marmalade to go with our toast, cream or hot milk with coffee, cocoa, tea (and hot water), and a freshly-prepared daily juice. Today was papaya which i dont like much, but yesterday was blackberry yum. And then there's a plate of fresh mozzarella to pick over. Today was a particularly rough morning so I ordered two huevos fritos (fried eggs) for $1 extra.
Our room is gigantic: ceilings maybe 12 feet up there and it's gotta be about 15' by 15' on the sides. I don't know how it worked out, but there are five beds in there and we're paying only for a room with two so Ki and I have each assumed a second bed to splay out our pack's innards. I guess we've offered to move if a family ever comes in and needs the space, but for now I'm enjoying the stretch room. Only 2 complaints: the smoking guests congregate near our door and the smoke gets stuck just inside our door sometimes. and everyone has to clomp past our echo-y chamber on the wooden floors to get to to the courtyard and this really bothers at least Kiley.
The courtyard is simple and lovely. orchids, vines, lilies (Cala), papyrus fronds, grass and tables, a giant fake parrot cage around a palm tree with swinging wooden birdies with four foot tails. a hammock (which ill muster up enough courage to use soon... it's just so OUT THERE and other people have rooms that look out AT IT.) If i look carefully at the grass, i feel at home because there are clover flowers there just like un-herbicided lawns at home which is strange for me to think about because I don't really like lawns all that much but i like seeing the clovers.
a I guess we haven't met any of the guests, but im starting to know who's here for the long-term. There's the short round lady and her tall bald husband who are always working on theirlaptops, speaking american english and nuzzling each other. The Norwegian girls who can't speak espanish, but are always asking for more beer and smoking in front of our room. So far, all of the europeans have been stuck in the back of the hostal together as if there was some kind of segregation going on because i know they didn't all come together. then there's the smug professor with the deep voice who never has company and carries around thesame NYT magazine everywhere and yesterday brought 5 musical instruments up into his padwhich is the big one up the stairs overlooking the courtyard. I did talk to him once. he's guiding a group of students from wisconsin whitewater? to teach english in the same school (CEDEI) in which i will be taking quechua classes (starting today at 5!) He said none of them speak spanish and then I felt smug, too.
That's about it on the hostal. A comfy place. I just finished 660 pages of great literature: All the Kings Men and recommend it to anyone who thinks about politics or wants to. Thankfully, for 1$ you can exchange books or rent them from what other guests have left in this locked-up cupboard near where the Norwegians smoke or where i read when they aren't there. I'm eye-ing "The Omnibus of Science Fiction," but wondering if I would get anything out of one more go at the likely self-proclaimed Almighty Vonnegut.
Our address if you have to send anything that's worth sending but not worth your arm because someone might steal it:
Attn: Maria or Kiley
Calle Tarqui 11-64 y Lamar