This last month was filled with Christmas festivities. In fact, there were so many things to do that I began to wonder if one could have too much fun. Today is Monday, December 30th, and it's nice to have a "normal" day, not that I didn't enjoy all the activities we've had the privilege of participating in.
Most Novena Participants
The Temporada de Navidad (Christmas season) started in earnest on December 15th. We had the family novenas every night from December 15th to December 23rd. This was the fourth year the family has had them. The first year we were in Ecuador, Cesar, Isabel's brother, decided that something needed to be done to keep the family interacting with each other, at least once a year. The first year, we went to a different family member's house each night to say the Rosary. This year and last year all of the novenas were at our house, for three reasons: 1) Victoria lives with us and she is the matriarch of the family, 2) it's harder for Victoria to go out at night than it used to be, especially if it's cold and/or rainy, and 3) our house is larger than most.
This year we invited some friends to share the novenas with us. Two groups joined us. For nine nights, we began by greeting each other as warmly as if we hadn't seen each other in a year (which may have been true the first night). After that, Cesar led us in the Rosary. Marilyn is not Catholic, and I drifted away from the Catholic church when I was in college, but we both enjoyed the togetherness and the meditative quality of repeating prayers. (Of course, because the prayers were in Spanish, we needed a cheat sheet.)
Some Of The Cousins With Canela
After the Rosary, we always had something to eat. Each night a different family was responsible for the food, so we had a variety of different foods to eat. It was also a time for the cousins to play with each other. Right now a lot of the cousins are very young. There was a lot of squealing as they chased each other through the house around our central garden. The hallways around the garden form what is essentially a continuous track.
Our Goddauhter, Natasha, At Caluquí Party
La Reina De San Rafael
During these nine days, Marilyn and I also went to Christmas programs at the three preschools where Marilyn taught this fall: Pijal Centro, Caluquí, and Inty Huaycopungo. At Inty Huaycopungo the Queen of San Rafael showed up to hand out gifts to the children. (Yes, they still go in big for beauty queens in Ecuador.) She was with a troupe of clowns from a nearby police academy. There was also a police escort and one of the policemen decided that a picture of the queen with me would be nice. (Why, I don't know. Surely they knew that I didn't attend the preschool. Or did they?) I didn't think to ask Marilyn to take a simultaneous picture, so there is no proof. Proof or not, I enjoyed it. The other Fiesta de Navidad we attended before Christmas was for the women's group at Pusir Grande.
On Christmas Eve, we all went to misa (mass) at the largest church in downtown Otavalo. Then we came home and had a meal with nearly all the people who had attended the novenas. People stayed very late because we were all having a good time, and no one had to work the next day. At these gatherings, Cesar usually holds court because he has a store of jokes and funny stories. Marilyn and I actually understood two or three this year, but we always laugh at other people laughing with abandon, whether we understand the jokes or not.
Laughing With Cesar
Marilyn caught Luz in the kitchen and told her that people would go home if Cesar would stop performing. Luz shortly thereafter collared Cesar and passed on the message. People finally left about 11:30 pm and we got to open our gifts with Cesar, Luz, Maria Augusta, Elvis, Gaby, Michael, Joel, Maria, Brayan, Victoria, Isabel, Yolanda, and Carrolito.
On Christmas Day we had a turkey dinner for 17 people. There would have been even more diners, but Blanca and Luis couldn't make it because of sickness in the family.
On December 26th, we went to a Christmas party in Quito at the FEDICE offices. The party was given for FEDICE staff, board members, volunteers, and family members. It was really a lot of fun. Even I got to participate in some of the games.
On December 28th we went to two masses. These masses are not weekly masses, but are paid for by families. Their are many such masses at this time of year. The masses are given to honor Jesus Christ's birth and give thanks for blessings received throughout the year. Further, these masses are often combined with fiestas.
The first was at 9:30 am. It was given by Alfredo, Victoria's oldest son. He gives this mass each year. He usually invites employees from his beer distributorship as well as family members. This year, however, there were only family members and a few friends. He hired four different bands, one a mariachi band. Sometimes the music was so loud that I had to go and sit outside to rest my ears. But the fiesta was a lot of fun, filled with food and dancing. We went home about 2:00 pm so we could rest and get ready for the next misa/fiesta at 7:00 pm.
Cesar, Victoria's second son, and Luz, his wife, also wanted to hold a mass. This one was attended by only a few of the Pasquel family ("our" family). It was mainly for Luz's family who mostly live in Ibarra, though some were in from Guayaquil and Lactacunga, too.
Tómasito At Lower Right Of Manuelito, Victoria's Niño Jesús
In Ecuador each Catholic family has a doll representing the baby Jesus. It can be large or it can be small. It is given a name, usually after one of the apostles. Though Marilyn is not Catholic and I'm wishy-washy, the family urged us to get our own Niño Jesús. We decided to use the small baby Jesus from our small nativity set carved in the likeness of indigenous people. We call him Tómasito, after doubting Thomas with whom I identify.
That last paragraph was to help explain what comes next. At Cesar and Luz's fiesta we learned of another tradition we hadn't known about. (I don't think everyone observes this tradition.) Each year a family will often give their Niño Jesús to a family member (extended or otherwise) to care for during the year. The following year, it is brought to the mass to be blessed again and put into the care of another family member. Part of the care involves buying new clothes and a new bed for Niño Jesús, which, we're told can be fairly expensive. We learned all of this after Cesar and Luz presented Niño Jesús to us at the fiesta, which appeared to be a high honor bestowed upon us. We think we also heard something about us throwing the fiesta after the mass next year! We'll cross that bridge when we get to it, I guess. Somehow, I'm not sure that our selection as caretakers was a wise one. We had walked to the mass and then the party, having no idea this would happen. The Niño Jesús was big enough that it was too awkward for us to carry home while we were walking. Thus, we left Him in the care of Luz and Cesar until either they or we could bring Him to our house. (He's still not in our possession.)
Marilyn And Blanca
Yesterday we had lunch here with the family of Blanca, a woman Marilyn met when she took a class in Quechua in 2012. We all became good friends and went on several outings together. Blanca's eldest son wasn't able to come because his wife had a baby just before Christmas. But the rest of us had a nice RELAXING time.
This year Isabel reconnected with some of her friends from high school because they had a 30-year reunion. The school was an all female school. After the reunion, some of the friends, including Isabel, continued to meet about once a month. Marilyn has been drawn into that group. Obviously, one does not always have to be proficient in a language to enjoy camaraderie and fellowship. As I write this, Marilyn and Isabel are at a gift exchange with the group. I think that's the last Christmas event for us this season.
But this is Ecuador. The fiestas won't stop. They will just have a different focus. Instead of Christmas, it will be New Year's. And after that...?
Happy New Year!!!
¡¡¡Feliz Año Nuevo!!!
Thanks for the great pictures! I love the bright colors of the clothing people wear in Ecuador.
I don't want to minimize the suffering many people in the US and Canada are experiencing right now due to having lost electricity due to ice storms. Nor do I overlook the sadness some people feel as they celebrate this season for the first, or second, time after losing a loved one. Those are truly Hard Christmases.
However, last night Marilyn and I had a conversation which brought to mind the hardest Christmas we've ever faced together. In this case, "hard" equates to "challenge". While talking, we realized that we'll celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in June, 2014. (Thank you, thank you, but your applause is really not necessary.) The thought of our 30th wedding anniversary made me think about where we were during the Christmas season 30 years ago, and it made us both laugh. Although, 30 years ago laughter may have been hard to come by.
In August, 1983, I proposed marriage to Marilyn. For added insurance against the possibility of her declining, I did it on one knee, a pretty cool feat for me. I'm not sure I needed that added insurance because Marilyn didn't hesitate in saying, "Yes."
After we told our parents that we planned to get married in June the next year, we had to decide what to do about Christmas - her family in California, or my family in Louisiana. We decided to do both (which we never did again). Since Marilyn's extended family had a gathering before Christmas, we decided to first fly from Houston to Sacramento. Then, on Christmas Day, we would fly from Sacramento to New Orleans. We figured it would be fair to both families.
Marilyn drove from Denton to Houston one day and we flew to Sacramento the next. I was anxious to make a good impression on Marilyn's family. On one of the first days in Sacramento, I got sick and vomited. Normally, that wouldn't have been anything but a nuisance to me. However, except for Marilyn's brother, you could say that Marilyn's family were teetotalers. On the day I upchucked I had had two or three beers with Mark, Marilyn's brother. I was mortified that Marilyn's mother and other relatives would think that I was a drunk and not fit to marry Marilyn. Fortunately, I had fever which proved that I really was sick. That's the only time in my life that I've been glad to have a fever.
The rest of our stay in California went smoothly. Marilyn was happy to introduce me to all of her relatives and they formed a good impression of me despite not putting my best foot forward.
We flew from Sacramento to New Orleans on Christmas Day to spend the rest of the holidays with my family. My mother met us at the airport. We waited and waited for my wheelchair to appear, but it had apparently been hijacked by Santa. We found out that when we had stopped in Dallas we went on to New Orleans but my wheelchair went to Amarillo. Like the tiger protecting her cub that Mama had always been, she argued and argued that the airline get my wheelchair to New Orleans by the next morning. It was to no avail. I was to use a loaned airport wheelchair for three days.
Have you ever used one of those tanks? The only time I truly felt comfortable in one was when I needed a wheelchair that could be beaten up when I played intramural football at the University of Illinois! They're huge. They're heavy. They're hard to roll around. I moved my wheelchair with my feet, but I couldn't move that monstrosity very well because the footrests were not detachable. Marilyn said that during those three days it made her realize that I really was disabled. (Obviously, she married me all the same.)
The wheelchair wasn't the only challenge we faced that Christmas. The deep south was experiencing a deep freeze. The hot water pipes in my parents' house froze. Nobody wanted to take a cold shower or bath during our time in New Orleans until they got pretty ripe.
My wheelchair arrived about two days before we flew back to Houston. I remember how we were looking forward to getting back to (at that time) my house. The thing is, when we got back to Houston we found no water at my house and quickly realized that no HOT water was better than NO water. A pipe had frozen and burst.
Fortunately, the pipe that burst was from the water main to the house and a neighbor had seen the gusher and turned it off. That was our first Christmas Miracle, because I don't want to begin to think about the possible damage from a burst pipe inside the house when no one was home for days. The second Christmas Miracle was that I was able to call a friend, who called a friend, who convinced a swamped plumber to come out and restore the water before nightfall. Needless to say, we gave him our business from then until he stopped working.
I was able to take a hot bath that night. Marilyn was able to take a hot shower before driving back to Denton the next day. People often say, "Thank God for small miracles!" After the challenging Christmas we faced that year, we said, "Thank God for Christmas Miracles!"
The Following June
Glenn and Marilyn, That is the most beautiful wedding picture ever. And Glenn, I love your blogs and hope they will be published as a book someday.
Happy 2014! Enjoyed several of your latest posts. I especially loved this one about Christmas 30 years ago. Happy 30th! We are all good here and blessed with 3 grandsons and another one on the way. Thanks for all the great work y'all are doing. God Bless, Peggy
Great to hear from you, Peggy! Three grandchildren! I'm old! But I still remember when we were drinking beers with geology professors (which Mama loved when she joined us on Friday nights) and pulling all-nighters at the University of New Orleans. Many good times then. Many better times now.
I like reading about your life in Ecuador. I had to laugh when you talked about airport wheelchairs and equating them to the football "tanks" at U of I. I remember like it was last week the fun we had rolling around the floor of the Armory in those things. It was tough pushing with arms, let alone only your feet.
Ahhh! Those were the days. I'd always wanted to play football and the Rehabilitation-Education Center at the U. of I. provided a legitimate environment for me to do so. One painful memory I have is of a scrimmage we had when a coach who shall remain nameless "rolled" my ankle with those immovable foot plates while I was blocking. I "limped" back to my dorm but didn't tell anyone about the injury for fear of not being able to play anymore. (Tim Nugent and others had been skeptical about my playing anyhow.) That ankle is still not right, but I wouldn't trade my football injury for the world!