Wednesday, December 17, 2008
On Sunday, we were wandering around downtown Guayaquil when we came upon a parade. Three of the main roads had been blocked off and kids were marching all the way down the length of the Malecon 2000. There were dancers, there were drums, there were parents, and there were Glockenspiels.
I have never seen a marching band made entirely out of drums and glockenspiels. At first I thought it was unique to the particular school passing in front of us. But as the next band came into earshot, I didn't hear any brass instruments. I didn't see a flute, or trumpet, or trombone. All I saw were the baton twirlers. All I could hear was the tinkling of the glockenspiel and the pounding of the drums.
Some of the bands had 20 glockenspiels and 60 drums. Some only had 2 glockenspiels and 6 drums. One band, and only one band, had some bugles. But generally, it was all glockenspiel, all the time.
You haven't lived until you have heard Feliz Navidad on glockenspiel. Trust me. It will change your life.
Geovanny, Natalia and I had been wandering through the mall close to our house a couple of weeks ago when Papa Noel was there taking photos with children. He didn't look like the Santa of my childhood. His beard was much longer and white, and he wore long thick furry white robes. There was no red suit, no black leather belt. This Papa Noel reminded me of some of the Santa figurines that Nana displays around her house. He would definitely be nice and toasty in the North Pole. Not quite sure how he was surviving at the equator. (I know I was hot in my tank top and skirt.)
We decided not to take the family portrait with Papa Noel then because we were all a bit cranky but vowed to come back that weekend. But then we went to the banana plantation. And then we went to the pool. And then to the beach. Suddenly it was the day before we were supposed to leave. So we all shower, put on our fancy cloths, and walk down to the mall.
But there is no Papa Noel. His chair was there, his tree was there, but he was not there. Nor would he be returning until Natalia and I were somewhere over Central America.
I was crushed. Geovanny was excited that he didn't have to take his sunglasses off. Natalia just wanted to go the wrong way up the escalator. So we did the next best thing. We took pictures in front of his tree and then went out for ice cream.
Monday, December 15, 2008
We start tomorrow at 11:20 am East Coast time and get home at 10:40 pm West Coast time. Can't wait. There is always something that happens, some story that springs from our travel days.
It has been such a lovely trip. Banana plantations, rivers, beaches, pools, bubble baths, and lots and lots of mangos, papayas, and coconut. Natalia has completely fallen in love with her Papi. Our trips are always bitter-sweet. We miss our family in the States so much when we are down here, and we miss our family in Ecuador so much when we are in the States. Guess that's the problem with international families.
I know I promised photos of the beach. They are coming. Just once we get a more reliable and faster internet connection. Then you will get to see how a sand covered Natalia looks a lot like a sugar covered doughnut.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I wake up every morning to her smiling face.
She points out my nose and says, "Nooo-sssss."
She points out my eyes and says, "IIII-eeeeee-zzzzzzz."
She points at the bathroom door and says, "Show-show!!!! Bubble!!!"
Thus starts our day of bubble baths.
She is seriously obsessed. The child used to take a shower once every 3-4 days. Now she wants one 3-4 times a day.
Lots of bubbles.
It doesn't matter what temperature the water is. In fact, the colder the better. (She takes after her father in this respect.) As soon as the first bubble appears she is in heaven. She splashes around. She hides her feet and finds them. She rubs the bubbles all over her body singing, "washing, washing."
Her favorite thing to do is to lie down in the bubbles. She always starts off on her stomach, but soon rolls over onto her back. Head and body fully submerged but for her face and belly, little islands in a sea of bubbles. With her eyes squinched tight and her mouth open wide, she takes big deep breaths. Pure ecstasy.
And then, after 20 minutes or so, my foot tells me that it is tired of stopping up the drain. (We are making a bath out of a shower after all). We say bye-bye to the bubbles, watching every last one disappear down the drain, before my prune baby and I find something else to do for the next 3 or 4 hours before the shower calls to us again.
But the stuff I crave every day is jugo de coco. People, generally men, wander the streets with carts selling this nectar of the gods. The carts are more like big blue oil drums on wheels. The jugo comes spitting out of the top through a spigot. Served over crushed ice, it never fails to refresh me.
It has also helped me gain the 15 odd pounds I think I've packed on since arriving.
Friday, December 12, 2008
It was HOT HOT HOT.
I know those of you currently home from school because of a snow day have a hard time believing it, but I melt nearly every day. The only thing that seems to stop the melting is cold water. So I fill our shower with cold water. And we go to the rivers. We go to the beach (photos are coming). And we go to the pool.
Ever her mothern's daughter, Natalia can be the crankiest kid in town when she's hot. But put that child in water and watch her change. She is like those sponge toys we played with as children. When you open the package they are tiny little things the size of a pill. Once in water and they transform into a butterfly, a unicorn, a heart. That is Natalia. Put her in cool water and she unfurls. The heat gremlins leave her and she opens up, grins from ear to ear, laughs, and doesn’t want to leave.
Lovely little water baby. Cool water is the best.
People are TOTALLY into Christmas here in Ecuador. There are lights up everywhere. It doesn't matter how primitive the house it, you will find Christmas lights. Here in the city there seems to be an inverse ration between socio-economic status and the number of lights you have. Some of the biggest light displays are in the poorest barrios of Guayaquil. But there aren't just lights in the cities. When I said everywhere I meant absolutely everywhere. Out in the country where the houses are up on stilts and build out of sugar cane, where they don't have indoor plumbing or even running water, you will find Christmas lights. I don't know how they power them, but those houses are lit up.
Every house, building, and shack also seems to have Christmas tree - fake of course because pines don't grown around Guayaquil and I cannot imagine the kind of bugs that a real one would bring. Every fake tree plays electric Christmas muzak. You know the kind of music I'm talking about, it's that high-pitched "music" that is in musical Christmas cards or in those buttons elementary school teachers wear. But unlike those buttons, it doesn't turn off. The music is without end. Seriously, they have the things on repeat. You would think the country would run out of batteries.
Nativity Scenes are also very BIG. They are for sale on every corner. Vendors pushing carts roam around the streets selling them. People are at intersections selling them. They are also on display. Everywhere. And they are also always accompanied by the electronic music.
This one was at a restaurant where Geovanny and I each had 1/4 of a chicken, fries, rice, salad, and soda for $2.50. And that was expensive. Lunch, which usually consists of a big bowl of soup, a plate of rice and some meat, and a drink is usually $1.50. But the 1/4 chicken is a bit of a splurge.
Oh, and I don't know if you can see, but there are three baby Jesus in this display. I mean really, why have one when you can have three?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
In a country where the average person may not make that in a month, it may seem a bit extravagant, but the Ecuadorians LOVE their parties. And they LOVE their "old year dolls". The fill them with firecrackers and at the stroke of midnight the set fire to them in the street. The city is filled with smoke, and fire, and noise.
Bye bye Kung Fu Panda. Thanks for a good year.
Monday, December 8, 2008
They have EVERYTHING at this park. Play structures for the kids. Basketball Courts. Baseball Diamonds. Some guy teaching a mix of Latin Salsa, Shake Your Bootie Hip Hop, and Aerobics. Everything.
Natalia loved the swings and slide. We loved Bootie Guy.
They really have the most beautiful wood in Ecuador. Play structures, houses, closets, chairs, tables are all made out of the same wood. I'm sure it gets old after a while, but I love it. It is rich and dark.
And they have the coolest trees.
It was another HOT day, so we decided to take advantage of the snow-cone cart. They are everywhere and are all the same. This old fashioned ice grinder and colored liquids in reused bottles. They always sprinkle sweetened condensed milk over the top.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Natalia was cranky.
I was cranky.
Geovanny was cranky.
And this second river was soooooo nice.
It was shady. It was cool. What else can do you other than strip off your shorts and jump in. (Okay, so Natalia got totally naked, but she's allowed.)
The current was a bit strong and one of Natalia's cousins almost floated away.
Even so, swimming in this river was ecstasy. The water was velvety cold. It was soul changing. Okay, so maybe that is a bit dramatic, but I thought I was going to melt, and this river saved me.
I will always love that river . . . even if I did break a toe while saving the terremoto from certain drowning.
Tia Mari and cousin Kati are on the other shore waiting for us to finish swimming.
But I don't want to go. I am having too much fun!!!!
I LOVE it when Papi swishes me through the water.
I LOVE it when I get to roll on my back and let the water rush past my ears.
I LOVE how the water cools me off.
I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the water!!!!!
I'm not so sure about these two terremotos. I know they are my cousins, but they are crazy. Really, the nickname earthquake and hurricane fits.
Yes, that's better. Just float in the water next to me. I can handle that.
I know, she has mosquito bites. I'm sorry Nana. I did the best I could when we were at the banana hacienda, but the mosquitoes wanted something to eat and she is just so sweet.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Over the weekend we went to visit Geovanny's mother and sister in the south of Ecuador. The ride took us about 3 hours through the campo of Ecuador. Sugar cane plantations, rice paddies, cacao plantations, mango plantations, and BANANA plantations. His brother-in-law is the jefe of an organic banana hacienda (haciendas - or plantations - are bigger than fincas - or farms). We got to wander through the banana trees. We ate fresh, warm, beautiful bananas picked directly from the tree. We went swimming in a wonderfully cool, fresh water river that ran along the plantation. (I wasn't worried about the water because the river is surrounded by organic banana and cacao plantations = no bad run-off). Got back home late. Exhausted, happy, and a little sun-burned (only the arm next to the window).
We went back the next day because Geovanny's mom got sick overnight and we had to take her to the hospital. So we all piled in the car for another day of driving. This time we stopped at two different rivers to cool off (they don't believe in air-conditioning in their cars). Stopped to buy mangos, papaya, coconuts, and a bunch of other stuff.
After we got back to Guayaquil, the entire family came over to our apartment for dinner. THREE NIGHTS IN A ROW. And his mom has been living with us since she got out of the hospital. A bit of an adjustment for all of us, but I do love seeing Geovanny with his siblings and Natalia with her cousins. They all LOVE her. (What isn't to love?)
So that is the quick update. They LOVE Natalia, pumpkin pie, and apple blackberry crisp.
Friday, November 28, 2008
I finally get it all mixed together and stick it in the oven. But our oven doesn't have any indication of the temperature it is at. Just a knob with the words "OFF" and "Min". They don't even tell me where "Max" is. SERIOUSLY!!!! So I wing it, just like I've been winging the whole thing.
Magically, it seems like it works. The knife in the middle comes out clean. The pie smells good. I set it down to cool.
Now if I could only find Cool Whip . . .
I have no memory of how I found out about the Laurie Berkner Band, or why I decided to go to YouTube to try and listen to one of her songs. It was probably instigated by Danielle asking me if we hand any "kids music" in the car for Ava and Natalia to listen to on our ride wherever we were going. Alas, I had generally been playing Paul Simon (Natalia is particular to "Live from Africa" songs with LadySmith Black Mambazo) or a mix that Ama made for us. Anyway, for whatever reason, I decided to look this Laurie Berkner up.
The very first song I ever listed to was "I'm Gonna Catch You". I had the same reaction as Aunt Izzy. Who was this woman running around in orange pants, a yellow shirt, and a green tank top? Why did she want to catch me? And was listening to this really going to be good for my child?
But then, as always happens, Natalia came in the room.
And she looked at the computer screen.
And she started dancing.
She was shaking her butt. She was bouncing up and down. She was turning in circles.
My heart melted. A little chase song couldn't hurt, right? And with other songs like "Pig on Her head" and "Song in My Tummy" how could I say no. There is a song about two guys who like Tabasco on their spaghetti. And it rhymes. What's not to like?
Really, "I'm Gonna Catch You" isn't that bad. I mean, I grew up with a song about a rhinoceros chasing me down a hall and I only go to therapy once a month. She'll be fine.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I'm cranky too. Blogger won't let me upload photos, so I can't show you how cute she was yesterday hiding in one of the cabinets.
We are going to go for a walk. Leaving the house will do us both some good. Maybe when we get back everything will be better. Fresh air, sun, and humidity always does it for me. You?
Monday, November 24, 2008
(If you aren't grossed out by poop stories, read on. If grossed out, just enjoy the photo and know that tomorrow you will get a picture of the baby girl).
Geovanny and I got it two days ago. I figured that now would be a great time to start potty training since we are staying in an apartment with tile floors and no rugs. Natalia has been going "potty in the potty" every morning and after every nap for some time now, but I have not been consistent with any other type of training. Seeing as it is HOT down here, naked time is all the time. Perfect time for potty training because you don't have to take anything off. Just sit down and go.
So we were having naked time for the 5th time that day. I was washing the dishes and Natalia brought the yet unused potty into the kitchen. I didn't pay much attention because so far she had only used the potty as a hat and a chair.
But this time she sat down with purpose.
She got a look of concentration on her face.
And she kept sitting.
Her eyes started watering a bit and her cheaks got red.
After a while she got up and we both looked in the potty. THERE WAS POOP!!!
Oh my gosh, there was poop. I was so happy (in part because she hadn't pooped in two days and who feels good after going days without pooping.)
I kissed her all over her face.
We jumped up and down.
Then we went and dumped it in the toilet and said "bye bye".
Cleaned out the little blue potty and went back into the kitchen.
I resumed my cleaning. Natalia sat back down on the potty. I think she was so excited about my response that she wanted to do it again. So she got to trying to poop again. This time the sitting was accompanied by grunting. She'd sit for a while, grunt, push, get up look to see if there was anything, get a disappointed and determined look on her face, turn around and start the whole process over again.
It was hilarious!!! Lasted a good 5 minutes. No, she's not stubborn. Not at all.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Getting to the park after dark wasn't a problem because it was Saturday night. Everyone was out, and when I say everyone, I mean everyone. I think all of Guayaquil leaves their house on Saturday night. Needless to say, the park was packed. All the play structures were lit up, there was a bouncy castle, and a kiddy train.
Here in Ecuador there are kiddy trains everywhere. I remember first seeing one when we were in Galapagos. They are ALWAYS blaring music and have flashing lights - kind of like a disco on wheels for kids. They are also generally pulled by some stinky old motor. Ours was actually smoking out the front (kind of like a fog machine, but I assure you this was not caused by water and dry ice). I could barely fit in it with my legs splayed but Natalia had a great time so it was worth it.
After the train we went to the bouncy castle. Natalia was the only one in the whole thing. Geovanny and I had to stay on the outside (only for kids under 10) but we tried to reach through the sides and bounce it up and down for her.
She had a great time sitting in the middle taking her shoes on and off.
After a while she decided it was time to go, so out she came.
And that was our night.
Natalia had picked out her entire outfit by the way. Put her shoes on all by herself. They were even on the right feet. I was so proud!!!
So the Welcome Home flowers were dying. At least some of them were. The leaves were decorating the counter and the apartment was starting to smell a bit. But some of those flowers were still hanging in there. Ever my mother's daughter, I was not about to throw them all away. Instead I pulled the whole thing apart, discarded the stinky ones, and rearranged them using the same vase they came in. I am actually quite pleased how it turned out.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Until of course it was time to turn them on last night. None of them actually work.
I was also very excited about the prospect of having hot water. The showers actually have two handles, one for hot and one for cold, indicating that there is actually a hot water heater somewhere in the building. This is a GREAT improvement over the "suicide showers" of apartments past.
A "suicide shower" is one where the water is run through an electrical contraption and then empties directly onto your head. They have outlets directly above the showerhead to plug these things into. Be warned; DO NOT TOUCH them while in use!!! Touching the showerhead, to adjust the direction of the water for example, results in electrocution that leaves your arm tingling for 20 minutes. Also beware of any metal shower-caddies. They do a lovely job of holding your soap or shampoo but chipped or cracked enamel may result in fried fingers if you grab the soap in the wrong way.
Needless to say, I was very excited by the prospect of real hot water. Now I'm sure there is a water heater somewhere, but it must be about a gallon tank, because "hot" water is not hot. Not really warm either. More like just barely warmer than the cold water (which is about the temperature of Lake Tahoe).
But hey, after sweating all day without air conditioning, who wants a hot shower anyway?
Friday, November 21, 2008
Someone around here has Wi-Fi that I am able to use. Natalia can have her Laurie Berkner and Elmo, I can have Pushing Daisies and House, and you can have your updates.
I didn't realize how addicted I had become to blogging about Natalia, but I was really quite stressed by the thought that I wouldn't be able to until we got home. Now all we have to do is pray that the kind people who are unknowingly giving us internet don't turn it off.
The apartment is really very nice. Marble tile floors, two bathrooms, nice dark wood doors and furniture. The downside is that there are only two twin beds right now. It will be like that until Wednesday. Then we have the option of either changing apartments to one floor above (supposedly bigger and better) or the owner will bring the bed down here. I think we will probably change apartments (better view, better breeze through the apartment = less air conditioning = lower electricity bill = happier mommy).
I leave you with a couple of pictures of Natalia playing this morning at the boardwalk close to our hotel.
We stayed in a hotel for the first three nights while trying to find an apartment. After two very hot days of hopping in and out of cabs, looking at places that were too small, too far away, too expensive, we fell in love with one. But then we found out it had just been rented to someone else an hour before.
So back into the cabs, zigzagging around the city. Too small, too far away, too expensive and then we found another one that was perfect. It was big, had a pool and great views. But then we found out that our agent hadn't check with the owner first to see if we could rent it for a month. So no on that one too.
Finally, after two days of frustration we found a nice two bedroom. There is hot water (we'll see if it works the whole time we are there), a gas stove and oven, a TV (but no cable, so it will be Spanish soaps all-day everyday). I even have a WASHING MACHINE!!!! Yay!!! But there is no internet :( Boohoo. I will do everything I can to send updates once a week, but I can't promise anything.
I think we may head to the beach next week for a couple of days. Get out of the city and go relax at the ocean.