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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in Cuenca

Well, I'm writing this on Christmas Day.    Happy Holidays everyone!!   Hey...wait a minute...I'm not in the USA anymore, I can be as UN PC as I want to be!!!   Sooooo....

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!  

My spirits aren't so great at this moment.   I just discovered a few minutes ago my car was robbed.   UGH.  Happy thoughts didn't last long, did it?   More about that in the post to follow.   I'll try to step back in time a few days and put on a brighter hat.

I wondered how an Ecuadorian Christmas was going to be compared to what I've been used to the past @#%#$* years (the number has been hidden to protect the innocent).  I got hit with a dose of 'uh oh' as far back as September when I saw Xmas merchandise hitting the store.   I thought....c'mon not HERE, too!!!   I mean, what happened to AFTER Thanksgiving?   Or AFTER Halloween?   Now, it's starts 1/3 of a year beforehand!!!  Soon, we'll be shopping for Xmas stuff before back-to-school stuff!!!

Here's some of the things I observed leading up to Christmas:
  • I spotted only a few houses trimmed in lights.
  • Only a few blocks surrounding the main square downtown had lights strung overhead
  • Since we primarily only have eucalyptus trees here, with some pines, there are no Xmas tree lots.   If anyone puts up a tree in their home, it's a fake one.   But, even that seemed pretty rare.  
  • However, the malls did a lot of decorations with giant fake trees adorned with huge bows and ornaments and various scenes tucked around the base.
  • Stores had large areas set aside to sell candy out of giant barrels...almost as if it were Halloween.
  • Lots and lots of fireworks.  Some of it was aerial sprays of colors and shapes.  But, much of it is 'cohetes' which are nothing more than loud BOOMS!!!   The kind that rattle your nerves...at all hours of the day and night.  I can do without those, thanks.
  • One store, PYCCA, normally sells a wide variety of items from plastics, housewares, artwork, small appliances, etc in their 2-level store.   I dropped in one day to find almost all their 'normal' products squished into a small corner upstairs and the rest of the store was taken over by things for kids (toys, games, stuffed animals, etc).
  • Christmas here is all about the kids.  On Christmas Eve morning, starting at 8am, they had a huge parade downtown called 'El Pase del Niño Viajero'  (roughly translated 'Passing of the Child Traveler').  Thouuuuuuusands of people attended as well as were IN the parade.   Lots of children on decorated horses, or in religious scenes built on the back of a flatbed or pickup truck.  The viewers crowded the narrow street so much, it was a blur who was watching and who was moving (albeit VERY slowly) along the parade route.   The paraders had maybe the width of 1 lane to travel.  Supposedly, the parade went on til late in the afternoon.
  • I really wasn't in tune to what was going on, where, and when.  But, luckily, I heard about the symphony putting on two concerts on the same night, in two separate churches near one another.  One concert was wind instruments, the other was strings.   I attended the wind instruments (horns, flutes, clarinets, basoons, etc) in the 'Old Cathedral'.  It filled up very quickly in the last 5 minutes before 'showtime'.   I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the performance and the acoustics in such an old structure.   They started off with a montage of holiday standards that WE, as ExPats, are familiar with but I don't know if it's really a staple of the Latin countries or not.   Songs such as Sleigh Ride, Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland, etc.  After all, if you translate the English words into Spanish words, they aren't likely to fit the musical rhythm, right?  Then they performed music I wasn't familiar with and several numbers included a very nice sounding male Tenor soloist.  After 50 minutes or so, it was over.   It was free.  It was good.
    • A gentleman approached me as people were leaving and asked me if I was the guy who writes the blog!!!   I'd been recognized!!  Actually, this was the 3rd time someone has recognized me solely by my face-only picture at the bottom of my blog...and passed along compliments.  What a nice treat!!
  • From what I've read, one big tradition at Christmas is turkey.   Since Thanksgiving is really an American thing (Pilgrims didn't land in EC), about the only time you'll see turkey in stores is around Christmas time.   Down the block from my house is a BBQ stand of sorts that fronts the owners home.   They usually roast pigs, chicken, etc on certain nights of the week.  The other day, I noticed some young people stationed at a walkup opening in the place, as if they were taking orders.   Then, yesterday, a steady stream of customers were dropping by, standing in line, to pick up their pre-ordered cooked turkey.   This went on late into last night and again this morning.
  • Ecuadorian families get together for a big dinner. It is traditional to eat stuffed turkey or chicken with various sauces, fruits, salads and rice with cheese or corn and, of course, drink wine. Gifts for children usually are placed at the foot of the bed to to open then they wake up on Christmas day.  An Ecuadorian friend told me that it is not common for adults to exchange gifts.  Everything is geared towards children, the baby Jesus, praying, helping/giving to the poor, and family, family, family.
OK...on to the photos!!!

Dano

Looking up at the ceiling of the Old Cathedral just before the symphony concert.

The Old Cathedrals' pipe organ.  Notice the figurines at the bottom.

Little kids on decorated horses.  The umbrellas were protection against the intense sun.

Colorful dancers

Folks watching the parade from their balcony.

The parade route along a narrow street.  Where do the onlookers end and the parade participants begin?

Typical float


Adorable children everywhere.

LOVED THIS!!    Instead of getting your photo taken with Santa, get it taken with a REAL Saint Bernard dog dressed in Santa garb!!!   This dog was amazingly patient!

Stuffed ponies in the park where kids can have their photos taken.

The ever-present hawker of junk.

Her younger brother was the center of attention, getting his photo taken off to the side, but I took a picture of her.

Llama and Pony (both real).

This horse was adorned with candy...see the boxes of Chiclets and Cloret breath mints?  At the back of the horse, see the pigs head with Ecuadorian flags stuck in it?  Lovely.


Horse adorned with hundreds of pieces of candy lined up in rows.


This horse was adorned with fruit, candy, ornaments, and even a bottle of Zhumir (booze).   Where's the horse?  His head is on the left side.


Inside the crates were live chickens.


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About Me

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Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Cuenca and greater Ecuador. I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live here.

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