Monday, February 14, 2011

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Why I Love Cuenca

Tonight Randy, Karen, Lorena and I went out to hear a woman play improvised jazz at the Galleria Cafe El Otorongo. The woman was an excellent musician, however, she played to this documentary about hummingbirds; very modern art-ish. Although I am not a huge fan of modern art, I really enjoyed the evening out. But what made it so great for me?

First of all, the event started at 5:00 and only went until 8:30. Great for a mom with a small baby who sleeps by 9 every night.

Secondly, the ambiance was very tranquil. No loud conversations, no hooting or howling, so when Kesh fell asleep she actually was able to take her normal 15 minute nap.

Third, there is no smoking inside of cafe or even most bars now here in Cuenca. It really makes for a very family and baby friendly environment. It allows me and my friends with kids to be able to go out and do things without feeling like we are putting ourselves before the well being of our children.

There are many cafe/bars like El Otorongo here in Cuenca.We were able to take Kesh to La Vinoteca the other week, again, no smoking and a nice, calm ambient. And places such as Zoes, Di Baccios, and Eucalyptus do not allow smoking yet serve wine and nice appetizers.

I really feel like I can be a social mom here in Cuenca and still bring my baby with me. I love it!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Out With the Old and in With the New (Año Viejo/Año Nuevo)

New year, growing up, was never been a big holiday for us. We usually sit at home, watching the fireworks on TV from our warm living room (rather than being in the cold fighting the crowds and traffic). However, for my family, it has been an adventure. We have welcomed the new year in Bolivia, the US, Sydney, and Ecuador. We have watched the Sydney Harbour Bridge light up with fireworks from a small boat in the harbour, we have cheered on the roof top of a hostel (while being sick) at the fireworks from the hills surrounding La Paz, we have drunk champagne in the snow in the small town of Ellensburg, and we have celebrated with friends at a bar in Seattle.

This year was my first new year in Ecuador, and it was an experience in and of itself.

First off, this is my first new year being a mom. Having a baby changes everything, especially if and when you can go outside, and your schedule. Kesha has been quite sick, which has restricted my outside activities to almost nada (which is okay as long as she gets better... poor thing).

It was also my first new year in 5 years without Arturo (he had to be out of town). But my mother-in-law took me under her wing and made sure I saw the sights and said goodbye to the old year and welcomed the new year Ecuadorian style!

In the early afternoon (when the sun was still shining and it was nice and warm outside), we bundled Kesha in her stroller and wandered out to Av. Las Americas to check out the Año Viejo dolls and masks. Año Viejo (or the old year) is represented by a doll made of nylon stockings, newspaper (and sometimes other materials, including fireworks), dressed in clothing, with a mask. Many times families will pick one person that has had a particularly tough year, and the doll will represent that person. At midnight (or way before in our case!) the dolls are burned. The burning is a way to usher out all of the bad energies from the past year and wish for positive energies in the coming year.

Chela with the monster Año Viejo (Kesha is there too, hence the stroller, but she's all bundled up)

 Guys finishing up painting large Año Viejos to sell

Año Viejo masks

Año Viejo dolls (with no faces)

More Año Viejo dolls

An Año Viejo doll on the front of a motorcycle

Chuckie and bride of Chuckie Año Viejo dolls

Rather than buying a doll (they can cost as much as $35!), we made our own (good 'ol handy Graciela). I twisted newspaper (a high skill job), while Chela stitched together old nylon stockings to make the arms, legs, and body of our doll. Here is the progression of the doll making process (I will have to apologize to Chela, even though she doesn't read my blog, about the pictures, she was wearing her pajama top, which is not like her, usually she is dressed to the nines!)...

Supplies needed to make your own Año Viejo doll

Chela stuffing one of the legs for our doll

Chela stitching together the old nylons to make the torso and arms for our doll

Our doll in the making, legs stuffed and ready to go... just need to stuff the torso, arms, and give it a head

 Kesha helping us with the doll by playing with her toys (poor thing was so sick)

Chela making a head for our doll (I told you, all I did was roll newspaper!)

 Our Año Viejo doll, ready to go!

We put the doll in the stroller and left it in the kitchen and it scared Ramiro because he thought we had left Kehsa alone in the stroller in the kitchen (hehehe)

After making our doll we bundled Kesha up, got in the car, and went to look for the viudas (or widows) in the streets. Groups of young people (men and women) dress up (not necessarily as widows), hold ropes across the street to stop cars, and only let you pass if you give them some change. We gave out pennies, but most were more than happy to let me take their picture. It was great fun!

A Viuda on the Remigio Crespo

Another Viuda on the Remigio Crespo 

A Viuda close to our home

A couple of Viudas close to our house 

 An Año Viejo set-up with lots of dolls

When we got home from seeing the Viudas we called Aida to see if she wanted to come over for dinner, and got started on what we needed to do to prep our new years eve meal. Aida, Homero, Lorena, Paolo, and Nico arrived around 9 and we dug in to our feast! Aida brought stuffed cabbage leaves, and a honey glazed ham, we also had another type of ham, rice (of course!), salad, and chocolate cake for dessert. We had a glass of wine and a wonderful chamomile tea with honey.

Honey glazed ham

Sitting down to dinner (Homero, Lorena, Paolo, Nico, and Ramiro)

More eating (Rami, Chela, Aida, and Homero)

Aida and her glass of vino

 Tio Rami and Kesha

Kesha had perfect timing and fell asleep right as dinner was ending. So we put her in bed and went outside to burn our Año Viejo. I think it was probably a drag for the Ecuadorians, but I loved it! Chela and I jumped over the burning doll (I'm not sure if that actually means anything or if that's just something that Chela likes to do), and played with sparklers.

Our Año Viejo ready to go

Chela setting our doll on fire

Good bye old year

Burning out the bad energies from 2010

Go old year go...  

Enjoying sparklers mid way through saying goodbye to the old year

 Enjoying sparklers mid way through saying goodbye to the old year

 Me with our burning old year

The year is almost over...

Chela jumping over the old year before it is gone

The old year has ended. Out with 2010, in with 2011!

I called my parents around 11 my time to wish them a happy new year and was asleep by 12:30. I rung in the new year alone (well, Kesha was alseep next to me), but had a very nice evening.

Happy 2011 everyone! May the new year bring you joy, love, and wellbeing!
How we welcomed the new year... hopefully 2011 will bring better health for us all!