Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Marching Band

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.

Santa, Where Are You?

I was so excited.

We were going to visit Santa. Or more correctly, we were going to visit Papa Noel. I've never talked to Papa Noel in Spanish before. Do you get more presents? Mangos instead of oranges? Tank tops and sandals instead of socks and underwear? I didn't know, but I was very excited to find out.

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

A Change In The Wind

Isn't that what made Marry Pippins leave? Well it is now time for us to leave Ecuador.


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

Would You Like Fries With That?

Nothing like a delicious baby girl served with your freshly plucked from the sea shrimp.


I Can't Believe It

My little baby girl is old enough to have a ponytail.


How is this possible?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Natalia's Obsession

While my obsession this trip has been food related (and really when is an obsession or memory of mine not food related), Natalia's is more locations oriented.

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.

With bubbles.

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.

My Obsession

Eating the ice and flesh out of a coco helado.
Every time I come to Ecuador I become obsessed with a certain type of food. One trip it was yogurt and pan de yucca. The "yogurt" here is more like a smoothie/milkshake made out of fresh fruit, plain yogurt and sugar. Devine!!!

The next trip it was yogurt and tortillas. Again, "tortillas" here are not like the tortillas we think of in the states. These are not Mexican tortillas. These are Ecuadorian tortillas. They are the size and shape of an extra-large egg. Made generally of corn or plantains and filled with cheese. Served warm and crunchy on the outside and gooie on the inside, with a consistency kind of like grits. LOVE them!!!

My food obsessions have been more on the fruit variety on other trips. Mangos, papayas, white pineapple. Always amazing.

But this trip it is jugo de coco. And helado de coco. And coco helado. But generally jugo de coco. Otherwise known as coconut juice. It is not as thick and heavy as coconut milk, but is sweet, refreshing and always COLD. Helado de coco is coconut ice cream. Generally home made with a real stick serving as the popsicle stick. Yes a real stick. Without bark. Coco helado is a coconut someone has stuck in the freezer. They cut off the top, stick in a straw and you drink the coconut water. Kind of what you can imagine happening on some deserted Caribbean island. But these you buy in the middle of Ecuador. (Notice a theme in these blogs? Amazing how much you crave cold when you are always hot. Pretty sure I'll be pining for Ecuador's heat in week or so.)

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

The Cure



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.

Lights, Lights, Lights

It doesn't matter where you are, how hot it is, how long the days are. If you are in a Christian/Catholic country in December, it's CHRISTMAS TIME.

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

Can You Imagine . . .

New Year's Eve is celebrated with fireworks the world over. But how many people can say that they celebrate the coming of the new year by burning HUGE paper mache dolls? Every family has at least one of these dolls. Most have two or three. Some families make their own, others buy them. The big ones (like the Hulk) can sell for up to $400.

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

Park Time

I've seen this park a number of times, and always wanted to live near it, but never did. Until this trip. Now we live 2 min away by car or 15-45 min by foot (depending on if we are going our speed or Natalia speed). We generally take a cab (a whopping $1.00 ride).

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.

Natalia approved.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Trouble Again

We are having trouble with the internet again, so this may be the last post for a couple of days.


I was so happy to be updating again. Oh well, at least I got in a couple good photos.

Thought I'de leave you with a photo of Natalia in the farmer's market we went to yesterday. They had papaya the size of watermelon. Natalia was quite taken with the sack of limes.

Day of Rivers - Part 2

We went swimming twice the day we drove to pick up Geovanny's mom. It was just so hot.

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.

A Day of Rivers - Part 1

There is so much to look at here at the banana hacienda.

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 Like to Eat, Eat, Eat, Apples and Bananas

A fruit stand at the side of the road.
Notice the orange pumpkins in the back.
Too bad I didn't find them earlier. But no worries though, the pies turnd out great.

It is always so interesting to me to look at the fruit that other countries have. At home in the US we have 5 bazillion different kinds of apples, peaches, nectarines, and pears. Here in Ecuador there are two kinds of apples. Red and green. But ask someone for a mango and they will ask you what kind. Do you want the little ones, the size of eggs? The kind that you bite off the top and suck out the juice? Or do you want a big one? A green one? A red one? I have seen literally 7 distinct and different kinds of mangos. I'm sure there are more.

Bananas are the same way. We have one kind of banana at home. Funnily enough, they don't sell that banana here in Ecuador. It is grown only for export. Geovanny tasted our kind of banana for the first time when I packed one as a snace and forgot to eat it on the flight down. The banana made it round-trip to Ecuador before being eaten. When Geovanny tried it he got a funny look on his face.
"That's not a banana!"
But I digress.
The point of the story is that there are a million different kinds of bananas down here. Bananas and mangoes down here are like apples and peaches in the US. There is tons of variety. My current favorite type of banana is gineo. It is a little bit longer than a crayon. The skin is very thin and the fruit is sweet and dense. It is the perfect banana for our baby girl.

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.

The Colonel

Does this look like anyone you know?

Natalia keeps pointing to it and saying, "Opa, Opa!!!"

I guess it's the glasses (because it certainly isn't the apron).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

We Are Back

The internet around here has been VERY VERY BAD recently so I apologize for the lack of updates. I will give a quick rundown of what we have been doing in case my connection decides to die again and then will come back and do better updates with photos.

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.