Happy New Year!!

Boy, what a wild ride 2015 has been! Our move to Ecuador in March has been everything we hoped it would be. We have enjoyed meeting so many people, both Ecuadorians and Expats alike. We have enjoyed immersing ourselves into a new culture that is both exciting and frustrating.

December was sort of a mixed bag for us. It started with us going to Washington State to transfer our legal residency from Georgia to Washington. We accomplished that, plus had a wonderful visit with our niece and nephew, Donna and Bob. It rained every day, which was just fine with me as that meant some “jammie” days were we did nothing but stay in our jammies and visit and eat. Along with getting our driver’s licenses and voter registration cards, we did some shopping and even went to a movie. Bob and Donna took us to see Mocking Jay Part 2 in one of the plushest theaters I have ever been in. Not only did the backs recline but there were foot rests as well. You could purchase food and beverages (including alcoholic ones). If the movie was the least bit boring, which it wasn’t, you could easily fall asleep.

Our apartment complex had a Christmas party on December 19th with a Novena. A Novena is a prayer said during the 9 days prior to Christmas. Each day a Novena is usually performed in church or with friends and family. Today it was said with our new group of friends. Most of our neighbors we have just nodded to in passing, so it was nice to finally meet and get to know some of them.

6Cuenca12-19-15GROUPApartmentParty

What a magical evening we had on December 23rd when our landlords’ son, Vicente, picked us up, and took us, along with his parents Braulio and Maria, for a stroll along the Tomebamba River! We walked up one side and down the other, ending at Otorango Plaza and the HUGE nativity scene all lit up. I read that the figures are over 30 feet tall but haven’t been able to verify that. They are HUGE, though!

Cuenca12-1-15NativityOtorangoThis is a picture of the nativity scene I had taken earlier in the month, during the day

There are ribbons of blue lights stretching across the Tomebamba that, when turned on at night, give the river a rich blue hue. All along the sidewalk there are different flowers and animals of lights contrasting with the beautiful blue lights reflecting off the Tomebamba.

4Cuenca12-23-15NightRiverWalkMikeSusanMike and Susan with the Tomebamba River in background
16Cuenca12-23-15NightRiverWalkBraulio, Maria and Vicente
10Cuenca12-23-15NightRiverWalkThe magical full moon over the Tomebamba River

Otorango Plaza was filled with people enjoying the beauty of the nativity scene while fireworks from El Centro could be seen filling the sky. The full moon extended high into the sky making it a perfect evening.

After our stroll we went back to Braulio’s and Maria’s home where we had a wonderful dinner of lasagna and salad topped off with one of the most delicious desserts I have had here in Ecuador.

It couldn’t have been a more perfect evening.

December 24th is a HUGE day here in Cuenca with the 6-8 hour long Pase del Niño Viajero Parade. I read it was estimated there were 15,000 participants, 100,000 spectators, 600 floats and 400 horses. According to what I saw in the short section of the parade where we were standing, that may even be a low estimate.

89Cuenca12-24-15PaseDelNinoParade copyThis is what the parade is all about, El Niño Viajero

The parade didn’t start until 10:00am, but Mike and I were up early and walking along the street beside floats that had been lined up the night before. It was a fun stroll as we headed to where the parade would start, watching them put finishing touches on the floats along the way.

We got to the head of the parade over an hour before it was due to start. It was already a riot of sounds, colors, and smells as people in their native dress, costumes of all sorts, horses, and families mingled in the streets. The vendors were set up everywhere selling all sorts of things but what we saw most were the whole pigs.

26Cuenca12-24-15PaseDelNinoParadeVendors lined streets everywhere, selling everything. See the whole pig?

The parade seemed to be “organized confusion” as I could see no rhyme or reason for the ebb and flow. At times there were horses with beautifully dressed riders, followed by floats and then maybe hordes of people in various costumes along with parents pushing kids in strollers. Notice all the food on the horses, floats and people. No matter the chaos, all looked like they were having a wonderful time.

60Cuenca12-24-15PaseDelNinoParade**

73Cuenca12-24-15PaseDelNinoParade copy

43Cuenca12-24-15PaseDelNinoParade

247Cuenca12-24-15PaseDelNinoParade*

208Cuenca12-24-15PaseDelNinoParade*

199Cuenca12-24-15PaseDelNinoParade*Notice the basket on this little girl’s back. The next picture shows what is in the basket.
200Cuenca12-24-15PaseDelNinoParade*  That’s cuy (guinea pig), an Ecuadorian delicacy in the Andes

195Cuenca12-24-15PaseDelNinoParade*

71Cuenca12-24-15PaseDelNinoParade**

259Cuenca12-24-15PaseDelNinoParade*

125Cuenca12-24-15PaseDelNinoParade*

229Cuenca12-24-15PaseDelNinoParade*

220Cuenca12-24-15PaseDelNinoParade*

We had hoped to participate in some of the Ecuadorian New Year’s Eve traditions, but due to our colds we weren’t able to; even had to cancel out of a party we had been looking forward to attending. Despite the holiday season we thought people didn’t want to receive what we had to give.

Since we weren’t going out that night, we decided to celebrate by walking to Mayu, one of our favorite lunch spots along the Tomebamba River. On the walk back we passed a burning effigy (guess they wanted to get an early start) as well as a group of Viudas (the widows), men who dress as women to beg for beer money on New Year’s Eve (lots of fun). Mike got “roped” into paying them, usually it is just small change, so in exchange I asked for their picture. They were happy to oblige.

1Cuenca12-31-15BurningEffigyByRiver*

2Cuenca12-31-15MikeViudasOrWidows*

Ecuadorians believe that New Year Eve signifies a way to let go of the old and welcome in the new. There are many ways they celebrate, but the one I find most interesting is the burning of effigies at the stroke of midnight.

The effigy is usually a cloth or paper mache dummy stuffed with paper (and sometimes fireworks!) that is painted in the likeness of a person or famous character or, as an Ecuadorian friend told me, a likeness of yourself (this is supposed to bring you good luck).

Unlike our making New Years resolutions about what we will do differently, their tradition is to take some time to reflect on the last year and to write down all the things that you don’t want in your life anymore; from bad moods, to sadness or frustration, whatever you are feeling. Once you have your list, put it inside your effigy and, at the stroke of midnight, light it on fire to say goodbye to the past and welcome in the New Year. Many jump over the burning effigy 12 times representing good luck in each of the coming 12 months.

We had planned on getting our effigy the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but since we had been sick we weren’t able to go out and purchase one. Sadly, this little brown paper bag had to stand in for our effigy. I am almost embarrassed to show it, but in keeping with the things I put in our effigy to get rid of, “worrying about what others think of me” was one of them, I am proud to say this is our effigy and I am sticking to it!! And to top it off, even if we did go outside briefly to burn it, we couldn’t find anything to light it with. So we did the next best thing, a “pretend burn!” Well, aren’t good intentions almost the same thing?

3Cuenca12-31-15OurEffigyWe wrote down the things we wanted to leave behind in 2015 and put them in our effigy
4Cuenca12-31-15Mike4Effegy8This is what Mike wrote
5Cuenca12-31-15Susan4Effegy*This is what Susan wrote

Another fun tradition is wearing colored underwear on New Year’s Eve. Yellow underwear brings prosperity while red ensures love and other colors bring happiness, peace, etc.

We stayed up as late as we could but by 10:00pm we put on our new YELLOW undies so we would have them on at midnight and crawled into bed. Sleep wasn’t to arrive until several hours later as it literally sounded like a war zone with the fireworks going off everywhere and lighting up our bedroom almost like daylight. So, we periodically got up and watched out the bedroom window until things died down. I wish we could have really experienced New Year’s Eve down in the street, burning our effigy along with others, but we did enjoy all the sights and sounds from our bedroom window.

7Cuenca12-31-15BurningEffigy*From our bedroom window we could see people burning effigies right outside our apartment
6Cuenca12-31-15Fireworks*Some of the fireworks as seen from our bedroom window

Although many of you already know, I just wanted to remind you Mike is having a January promotional and will be reducing ALL his books from the original $3.99 price to 99¢! Each week he will reduce a different book and will post on Facebook, the link to where that week’s book can be obtained. If you don’t use Facebook and would like to be notified when each book will be reduced, just email me and let me know.

This week the promotional if for his first book, Black Diamonds, and began January 2nd, for a week. You can purchase Black Diamonds by clicking HERE.

Remember, eBooks can be “gifted” so if you have read Black Diamonds and enjoyed it, now is the time to purchase and give that special friend or family member their own copy so they can also enjoy it.

December, along with the Old Year, certainly went out with a BOOM! We look forward to all that 2016 brings.

Here’s hoping your 2016 is an AWESOME one and will make all of your wishes come true.

Happy New Year – Feliz Año

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