Over a holiday weekend when Cuencanos and foreigners gathered to celebrate Halloween, All Saints and Independence Day, our friends from neighboring Paute, Ecuador, Mary and her husband Scott, had stopped by our new apartment in Cuenca. I admired her winning smile as she greeted me while presenting a house-warming gift. “We have something for you. It’s on account of your interest in photography, Jeremiah,” she said.
I unwrapped it from newspaper which revealed a curved terra cotta roof-tile emblazoned with a color photo of El Centro with Rio Tomebamba in the foreground, the prime location for fiesta vendors from around the country. “Why, Mary and Scott, how thoughtful of you to do this,” I said while looking where to hang it from its twisted-twine cord.
Their visit had given my wife, Belinda, and myself the opportunity to show off our efforts to furnish our fifth-floor apartment in Condominio Santa Rosa. Our stained trestle-table sat in the combination living/dining/kitchen area as the centerpiece. That and the four chairs where we sat with our guests resulted from creative solutions to our adjustments to life in a third-world country.
I had persevered at numerous carpentry jobs and through hard work had supported myself and, later, my dear wife. “Honey, why don’t we make our furniture, and save the money for other uses?” I suggested after my introduction into the use of power tools at the Gringo workshop. I sensed a new direction for my wood-working skills as other priorities left limited funds to furnish our home. I felt liberated with time on my hands in retirement to learn how to build household items for the first time.
For over two months we had sat upon cabinet-shelf boards placed over Home Depot cardboard boxes purchased for the move from Monterey, California. The dining room table I had built from discarded plywood in the basement bodega and with remnants of a container which I had assembled to ship Belinda’s large oil painting.
One morning in May 2014 while Belinda attended a ten-day spiritual gathering in Forsyth, Georgia, I noted a posting for the Gringo workshop on Cuenca’s expat blog, http://www.gringopost.com. “Now, that’s the ticket,” I mused. I emailed my interest in joining to the workshop leader who suggested we meet the next day.
A short hop on the city bus brought me to the garage-sized shop. The ground floor of a modern apartment building also included a tienda which sold snacks and household supplies. Terry from Yuma, Arizona, greeted me, “We have openings for a few members,” he explained. He showed me around the shop and his latest project, “I’m building this roof rack for my pickup.” I admired the welded construction and observed varied tools in use. “You can buy-in for $20, with monthly dues of $20.”
“Fantastic, Terry,” I exclaimed. “I’m in!”
Back home I studied “you tube” videos on how to build chairs at minimal cost. I particularly enjoyed the antics of a hippie carpenter building chairs out of shipping pallets in his backyard.
This is the first 500 words of the story. Click the link for the completed version.