The longer I stay in this quiet mountain village of mine, the more I grow to like it. Sometimes I feel like I was placed in the village most equivalent to Austin in Ecuador, due to the funk factor of the festivals here. The last 2 were the 22nd of December and the 6th of January. Both of these events involved dressing up in costume or in drag! (if you don’t know me this is by far one of my most favorite activites on the planet), but only one involved a church service.
22 December – I was invited to see the local school children dress in a wide variety of costumes including dressing in drag, as Winnie the Poo, the 3 kings, shepherds, cowboys, clowns, black-face, military personnel, gangsters, indigenous farmers, ninjas, santas, children with fake cigs and jet packs, and of course angels in mini skirts. They had a small parade down the main street and all filed in to church. But why!? Tradition! Good enough answer for me. I wonder what my old Catholic priests would say if we showed up in women’s clothing or any of the above for mass…
6 January – My favorite event in my city so far… Why? Oh, I’ll tell you why. There are men and adolescent boys wearing demonic masks and women’s clothing if desired (I wore a dress) and the main objective of the day is to cause as much mischief as possible. The men folk also drink quite a bit as well of course. Also, the entire village is under lock and key. If a family fails to close their homestead fully things might go missing temporarily, or you might just be thrown into the cold, fresh mud conveniently located 3 ft in front of your front door. If you do NOT want to be thrown into the mud you can give a cash donation to fuel the alcohol infused mayhem and to pay for the dance in the evening. Women are also known to throw change out of their 2nd story windows and roofs to quell the demonic groaning of the participants (no words are spoken while in mask) only pointing to palms for cash and non-human sounds. This lasts from 10 or 11 am until you can’t handle it anymore. I think I stayed until 4am or so…
New Years – This is quite a site to see in Ecuador. They have a tradition to burn the old year or “año viejo.” They accomplish this by making or buying life-sized or smaller dolls filled with powerful fireworks (such as dynamite for fishers) and they put them in the middle of the streets, generally in large piles so the flames look more impressive. Some of these dolls are the height of a two-story house… Every city does this, but I spent my New Years in the costa, where things are slightly more “happening” with the family of my then girlfriend Maria José. I am sure that if a low flying plane were to witness the spectacle it might be compared to city-wide rioting. I wll attach a couple of videos next time because “The File Type is not allowed to Upload” for some reason.
Couchsurfers, Couchsurfers – At the end of December right before Christmas time I had 2 Austrians come for a 2 day stay (Reinholdt and Kathi). They contacted me through the CS network asking politely if I could host them because they had heard no reply from any of the Cuenca surfers which is a popular tourist destination. They claimed to have a great time! Even though it was constantly raining as it is now as I type these words…We passed the time by taking a little tour of the village, cooking incredible food, they video-documented me giving health charlas (so I could see what I could improve on), we watched many movies, and exchanged pictures and stories of our travels. Damn, I wish I had more visitors!
Ooh, almost forgot to add that Karnaval is coming up soon! I hear it is quite a scene, 4 days of water/food concoction fights. Takes place the first weekend of March. Perhaps I won’t write about it TWO MONTHS or more after-the-fact.
I sincerely hope you all are well. I assure you that I am doing just fine.