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Another Adventure

A New Year Adventure

ECUADOR | Thursday, 2 January 2014 | Views [209]

Sorry this is a little late... but this is for New Years Eve and Day. Happy New Year!

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I can’t believe it’s only been six days since I left the U.S. I feel like I’ve been in Ecuador for a month! It’s been an eventful two days. After we left Riobamba on Tuesday, we came straight for Cuenca. Six hours in a bus doesn’t sound like long, but when you actually experience it, it’s quite torturous. And my normal napping habits failed me! However, while I wasn’t sleeping, I got to enjoy the scenery. I remember dozing off and then just looking out the window to see a few quiet houses, fog covered mountains, and people enjoying the sun. On our way, we also got to make a quick stop at the oldest church in Ecuador; it was built in 1545 and still standing strong. Very beautiful! As we continued, it became quite obvious that it was New Years Eve. The people on the side of the street were selling effigies, kids were running around with masks—we had to stop several times to avoid running them over—and full pigs ready to be sold were hanging from multiple buildings in each town. It was quite a spectacle. After stopping on the side of the road for a potty break and “getting in touch with nature,” as our tour guide Austin called it, we arrived in Cuenca.

Cuenca was not what I expected. I also said that about Quito, but Ecuador is really so diverse that you never know what to expect! We came from a more dangerous Quito, spent time in indigenous villages where everything was pretty humble, and drove through multiple villages with houses that we would call far less than adequate. Needless to say, I was nervous to meet my host family and see our new home. We arrived at CEDEI (our school) to meet many smiling faces, which is something you don’t see often. Apparently smiling a lot is an American thing. We were ushered into the building only to see an audience of host families. Nervously, we stood up in front of the group and they called up our host families one by one to retrieve us. It was awkward, but as our host brother, Juan, and host father, Patricio, greeted Christine and I, we couldn’t help but feel overjoyed to finally meet them. Soon enough we were on our way to our temporary home.

Our host mother, Ruth, greeted us at the door. She was speaking in Spanish, and I have to admit I couldn’t understand a thing she was saying. I understood “hola” and “bienvenido” which mean hello and welcome, but that was pretty much it. The smell of carrot soup greeted us as we entered the apartment. Ruth is such a wonderful cook! After we ate and got settled in, I picked up on the fact that there would be a party. And sure enough, seven o'clock rolled around and people showed up honking their horns, dressed in masks, and ready to party.

The night was really great. It was fun to see the extended family interact. Not only did they treat each other like brothers and sisters, but they really made Christine and I feel like a part of the family. After salsa lessons and learning how to loosen up a bit, we went out to the park to burn the effigies. As weird as I still think it is, the ceremony was nice to participate in. We jumped over the flames with the rest of the family for good luck, and then lit off fireworks to end that portion of the night. What we weren’t expecting was the massive amount of food awaiting us inside. Ruth and Patricio's sister had prepared a feast for us! The food was delicious, and again, we got to witness some of the Ecuadorian cultural practices.

On New Years at home, we always have a big meal and it is usually prepared by all of us. The same goes for most of our meals I suppose; it’s a community effort. However, here in Ecuador they observe more traditional gender roles and the women did all of the cooking and cleaning. As much as I love preparing meals with my dad, it was refreshing to see these roles in action. It’s not a tradition observed out of dominance over women, but the men very much appreciate and honor the women for it. It’s just something different that you can tell is engrained in the culture.

After the meal, Christine and I wimped out and went to bed. Two in the morning is muy tarde para mi! We were told that it is tradition to sleep in late on New Years, for all the shops are closed for a day of rest. Sure enough, when we finally went upstairs to have breakfast at eleven, everyone was still sleeping. It wasn’t until lunch at three that we finally saw our host brother and sister. I know I’m a college student and I should be used to that, but it’s so late!

At four we went to Mass for the Solemnity of Mary. It was such a beautiful Mass with a lot of music and a lot of people. As always, the Mass was the same, but I noticed a few differences that were really interesting. First, the people are much more involved in the Mass. They sing a lot, recite prayers, and really love being there. At communion, there are no lines and people just go up whenever they felt they were ready. You can be sure that it drove my type-A mind crazy. Right after Mass finished, I was suprised to see many people rush toward the sanctuary. They were going to get blessings from the priest; my family followed suit. It was a really beautiful experience and I was honored to participate in it.

To end our day, we came back to the apartment to watch a movie with our host dad and have dinner. I have to admit, I laughed when he picked out a movie on John Lennon. It was kind of disorienting to be sitting in a house nicer than mine, watching a movie about John Lennon in English in Ecuador. Muy interesante!

Anyway, it’s definitely time for me to go to bed. Not even my late morning and afternoon nap can keep me awake for much longer.

Tags: burning dummies, host family, john lennon, new years

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