Thursday, December 30, 2010

How'd you like to hang your stocking on a great big coconut tree?

Every so often while we’re roaming Quito, a double-long trole bus will rush by, blaring the first and last 14 notes of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It’s an old, homey song in a very new, foreign setting, and one can’t help but put words to the music: Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer / had a very shiny nose / Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer / you’ll go down in history. I sometimes wonder where the rest of the song went, until I remember the music is mostly there to forewarn wayward jaywalking pedestrians, and then the last two lines promptly take on a dark double meaning.

La Navidad in Ecuador’s capital hurtled by as nolens volens as one of those buses; that sacred period from Thanksgiving to Christmas was consumed with our striving toward a vital triumvirate of goals: find teaching jobs, find an apartment, obtain 12-IX visas. As of today, we’ve accomplished two of the three, with our search for an apartment suspended until we get down to Cuenca, where our first jobs are.

Our Christmas Eve was spent at our quaint little hostel with the motherly little hostel owner and manager, Ornelia, who roasted a turkey for us and a dozen others. She brought in a traditional Ecuadorian folk band for the occasion, and they strummed and piped their tunes as we gorged ourselves on the bird and the fruit salad, broccoli, green beans, an Ecuadorian date and rice dish, chocolate cake, and red wine.

It was a feast fit for Baby Jesus himself.

Our friend Altaf, whom we met on our CELTA course, came and dined with us, then guided us to midnight mass at a gorgeous colonial cathedral. We are so not used to being up that late, but the spectacle of the thing was enough to keep us awake: the kids’ sparklers illuminating the pews, the intermittent recorded-synthesizer-and-guitar accompaniment, the bizarre informality of the congregating-decongregating-recongregating-etc. congregants.

Christmas was filled with the things that befit a great holiday: the people we love and the food that makes us fat and happy. After waking up late, we made our specialty breakfast as of late: strawberry pancakes with home-mixed strawberry yogurt topping, served with a steaming mug of semi-sweet organic Green and Black’s hot chocolate (simply the best - thanks, Bethanie and Bhadri!). We gorged again, really outdoing ourselves. ¡Qué rico!

We sat down to let it settle for a few moments, then made our way to the new Harry Potter movie in a shopping mall south of our hostel. We blinked a few times before comprehending that Christmas was clearly a normal Saturday in Ecuador; the mall was packed, everyone was eating fast food, hanging out with their novios y novias, paying no apparent mind to the import of the day. The movie was dubbed, even though it clearly said “Subtitles” at the register. We enjoyed it nevertheless, as we gorged ourselves again, this time on saladisimo popcorn.

Of course, Christmas isn’t complete without Christmas dinner, so we spent the rest of the evening brewing a batch of Molly’s mom’s citrus tea and making an enormously rich dinner of garlic mashed potatoes with some delicious gravy (thanks again Beth and Bhadri!), green beans, and Annie’s macaroni and cheese (made with yogurt for a creamy, tangy zip - the dinner would have been nothing without you, B&B!), and proceeding to, of course, fill ourselves to the breaking point. And, on top of that, a no-bake, butter-based apple pie made on the stove with excessive amounts of sugar, cinnamon, and quinoa granola and served with vanilla ice cream. It was a fittingly succulent and exquisite end to the holiday.

We’ve somewhat reluctantly settled into an early-morning schedule of Spanish classes this week, our last in Quito. CELTA was an afternoon schedule and, being the sleep devotees we are, it’s hard to wake up when we have to. From here, it’s off to see some places up here in the north – a New Year's finale in southern Colombia, SA’s largest indigenous market in Otavalo, the kitschy monument at the equator, the highly recommended Quilotoa area – before we head into the Amazon and then down south to Cuenca. It’ll be fun.

But so much hustle can scarcely be as satisfying as a day of strawberry pancakes, salty popcorn, and sated palates.

A few more photos here.

1 comment:

  1. Love it!

    Congrats on getting jobs in Cuenca too, you guys must be stoked!

    Make sure you check out Santuario de las Lajas when you pop into Colombia. Super close to Ipiales, which is the first city you'll hit after entering Colombia.