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Amigos de Cuenca

By Emma

About a month and a half ago, we were all winding down at classes at Amauta and starting up our internships. During the time classes were happening, most of us were working part-time until classes ended and we started up full-time. But for four of us – Bridget, Isabel, Solomon, and I, our internships weren’t ready for us and we didn’t have much to do after Amauta classes every day. At our first meeting after class, we brainstormed with Flor about what we could do – and we came up with the Amigos de Cuenca program! We wanted to create something that would be a realistic goal for us to achieve in the two months we had left in Ecuador, that was something we and other people would get real benefits out of, that, most importantly, was also fun and that people wanted to do.

We got to thinking and decided that while there are many language exchange groups around Cuenca and beyond, many of them are an older crowd, generally expats, who meet in the same place each week. A few of us have actually checked these meetings out, but we wanted something of our own; something for young adults – anyone from us Americans, to Cuencans, to foreigners living here in Cuenca, and anywhere else. We wanted a group where anyone interested in improving their English or Spanish could come and speak with native speakers of the language they’re learning while doing a fun activity together.

With the help of Flor and Caro, we filled out the project proposal, budget, and schedule. It took a while to get it approved and plans were often changing, but we eventually got everything sorted out. Cafe Austria was our best friend in planning – for a couple of weeks we met up after our internships once or twice a week to work on our proposal! One worry was that there would be very few people interested; especially young adults, and that the only people who would show up would be us (the AMIGOS volunteers). But as we created the flyer, google form, and Whatsapp group, the number of people joining grew every day and it became clear that this wouldn’t be the issue. Now, our Whatsapp group has 90 members! Of course, a much smaller group shows up to our meetings every week, but it’s still a good-sized group.

Our first meet-up was the evening before our trip to Puerto Lopez. We met up at the Sucré Salé restaurant to chat and share some food and drinks, and it also just happened that an open mic was being held at 8. A few of us went up to sing – I sang a Case of You with the band! Everyone was super supportive and cheered each other on. While there was a larger age range of people than we had anticipated (people from 18 to 70 years old!), everyone was very sweet and eager to speak in both English and Spanish. After the first meeting, the word continued to get out, and even more people continued to join the Whatsapp group. It’s nice to see how connections are passed and how everyone seems to know everyone in Cuenca!

Our next meeting was a few weeks later (delayed because of Cuenca’s celebrations and ferias the week after our first meeting). We coordinated with the Sala de Bolos in a nearby mall. We played a couple of games and shared some pizza and drinks. Another successful meet-up!

For our next meeting, we met up in a very cool spot in Cuenca’s center for a movie night. The location was Huma – an artsy workspace with everything from a shop with artisanal goods made by local artists to a cafe to a movie room with a projector. We took a vote in the Whatsapp group, and decided to watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – the movie was in English, with Spanish subtitles. We had delicious empanadas and coffee served during the movie. Our next meeting is going to be a museum day and lunch at the Museo Remigio Crespo Toral – hope to see you there!