Friday, December 25, 2009

Feliz Navidad!

So I celebrated Christmas last night, Christmas Eve, with my host family in Cumbaya. I made some gingerbread cookies with my host sister and helped her make a tiramisu (but she insisted we add passionfruit juice to the cheese mixture, typical Ecuador). First, we all trucked downstairs of the condominiums they live in to visit my host mother's cousin. There were about twenty people coming and going in the hour we spent there. Some of the kids read the story about Jesus being born (as far as I could gather) and one of the little boys reluctantly played Silent Night on the guitar. They gave each other gifts, and I got a small bag of candies, cookies, suckers and even M&Ms. They explained that this is a tradition, to give everyone a candy bag at Christmas. I was grateful to be spending the holiday with family, anyone's family, however it did just make me miss my own all the more...
Next we took the desserts to my host father's parents home. It was like walking into a bank, so beautiful and there was even a butler. Again, they exchanged gifts and I received more junk to rot my pearlies. It wasn't until midnight that we sat down to eat turkey, potatoes au gratin, spinach salad with apples, carrot and squash salad and some red wine. We naturally followed this up with the tropical tiramisu and my cookies. We left the house around two in the morning. Outside the gate was a black and white dog standing in the trash bin, having his own Christmas dinner. (I must explain the trash bins in these neighborhoods: they are small metal baskets on a stand about four feet high. I assume this is in an attempt to keep such scoundrels out of the trash, but obviously not very effective.) It made me think of Charles Dickens somehow...
Today we all slept in, which was very nice. At noon we went to my host mother's parents house in another small village. Here we had another huge meal: chicken, mashed potatoes, carrot and squash salad (again), and avocados (since they have a frickin' avocado tree in their backyard!). Afterwards most of the adults fell asleep on the couch (it's like a whole room of my Uncle Earls) and I taught the kids how to play Rummy and War card games. We came home around seven, but they are now in Mass.
Tomorrow morning the kids are leaving with their uncle for Esmeraldas for the weekend, so they can visit the beach, now that they are on vacation from school. I'm heading to Otavalo tomorrow and then leaving for the airport early Sunday morning. 

As my travels are coming to a close, I have been reflecting on how much has happened and how I have changed during the past four months. I am truly grateful for everyone who has supported me and loved me while I took off on such an endeavor. And touched by all those who kept in touch with me, even though I'm not a great pen pal. I am sad for all the things I have missed in the lives of my loved ones back home, but am also reminded of this quote:
"For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else." Ralph Waldo Emerson