Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Day

So, obviously we slept through most of Christmas day since we didn't get home until around 6:30am. And, for the rest of the day, we just spent it together. No gifts or anything, just time together. We woke up around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and I made us French toast. We didn't have any syrup, so we just used condensed milk. It was delicious!!! Then, we watched 3 House episodes together. I had really wanted to go look at lights the night before, but we didn't have time. So, around 7pm, we went for a walk around the neighborhood. It felt like we were in Florida, especially with all the palm trees in the neighborhood. I was so happy to take pictures finally in our neighborhood. I've wanted some pictures of the houses here because they are absolutely gorgeous! And, I have laughed at how many people have decorated with snowmen when Frosty would definitely have melted already! After our little walk, we came back and watched about 3 more movies before going to bed. It was a completely uneventful yet absolutely wonderful day!!

Christmas in Ecuador

So, my first Christmas in's the play by play.

First, we went to Christmas Eve Mass. They actually had a mass here in our neighborhood outside at the park that's right on the river. It was so nice and so peaceful. Obviously, it was a little difficult for me as I couldn't understand everything that was being said and because I don't know all of the Catholic traditions, but it still felt right to be at a Christmas Eve church service.

Then, we went over to our landlord's house and visited for a while. They really are wonderful people. We got to meet all of their family, I had some hot chocolate, and Senor Noritz gave us a really nice book of Guayaquil as a gift. I had taken them a plate of treats that had Rice Krispie treats, ritz crackers with peanut butter dipped in chocolate, and Oreos, and everyone loved them! :o) Elizabeth and I took lots of pictures together because she likes to do so, too. Lots of fun!

Finally, we ended up at Wilson's brother David's house. Here, people celebrate Christmas more like New Year's. We didn't get to David's house until around 11pm and didn't eat dinner until around 12:30am! At midnight, everyone stopped and toasted and hugged each other saying Feliz Navidad. There was talking, eating, drinking, laughing, dancing, and singing. They gave out a gift to each child that was there, and we also had gifts for Wilson's dad. And we partied until we saw the sunrise around 6 in the morning. (I was definitely ready to go home by then!)

On the way home, I must admit I started crying a good bit. I was tired and that made the homesickness a little worse, I'm sure. As my older brother told me, change sucks sometimes, and it's hard when other people don't do Christmas the "right" way like your family always did it. But, regardless of how you do Christmas, the important thing is that you do so with your spouse. (Who knew Bryan Trice had such good brotherly advice, right?!) :o) But it's true. I certainly miss being with my family, and I have been so spoiled at holidays because we never had to share with Wilson's family like most couples do. I always got to be with my family, and now it's Wilson's turn. Christmas with family is what's most important, and we had that here in Ecuador. And, my mom has already reassured me that we'll be having Christmas again in February when I visit, so I'll just get the best of both worlds this year! Feliz Navidad!!!!

American Christmas Party

My friend Hannah, who teaches primary at Colegio Americano, decided to host a Christmas party at her house for the Americans on the 19th. She asked us to each bring something that reminded us of Christmas back home, and she would provide the turkey. I brought a jello salad because I don't have an oven and couldn't find ingredients for many of the things I would normally cook. We also stopped at a bakery and picked up some fresh bread--delicious!! Everything was so nice! We had mashed potatoes, broccoli salad, deviled eggs, and everything! And it was a nice group as several of the Americans there had Ecuadorian spouses. We had a really good time together.

We also did a white elephant gift exchange. We were supposed to just take something random we had at our house and wrap it up. Well, we haven't been here very long, so we haven't accumulated too much that we don't actually need. I did have an extra copy of a SAT vocabulary cartoons book, so I brought it. Unfortunately, everyone else brought nice presents like photo albums and lotion and Christmas decorations. Poor Hannah's husband! He got my gift. He's Ecuadorian as well and was a little distraught that he only got a book of English vocabulary. Ha! Oh well. We still had fun all the same! We also decided that maybe in the future we could just have get togethers for game nights. Yay!

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

One of the things I've really liked about the holiday season here is that nativity scenes are much more popular than Santas or snowmen or whatever (although you do still see a lot of that, too). Because of Ecuador's Catholic background, nativity scenes are everywhere! And it's been so interesting to see all the different kinds. Even the malls focus more on the nativity than on the secular aspects. For example, at one mall, the Santa area is off to the side and is much less the focus than the huge nativity scene in the middle. And one shopping center had a moving nativity scene where the characters and the animals would rotate their heads and arms and all. Really cool! I wish I could have taken more photos, but I couldn't always take my camera with me. Hopefully, next year I'll get more photos, but here are a few that I did get.

Holiday Work Party

The school had their annual Christmas party for the faculty after the students left on the 23rd. We had been told the party would be from 1:30-7, and I thought that there was no way I would want to be at a work party for that long. But boy was I wrong!!! I stayed until the very end and was even a little sad that it was over! Ha!

This year's party actually had a theme--80's! Ha! But, really, they didn't actually do that much with the theme other than decorate really cute and play some great music at the very beginning! They told us that we could dress as our favorite 80's person, but I decided I still didn't know everyone well enough to come as my best Cyndi Lauper impersonation. (I also don't really have anything but my "normal" clothes here in Ecuador--all my costumey stuff is still back in the States!) There were a few people who may have been dressed up, but they may also have just been dressed in their own tacky way. It's sometimes hard to tell down here. :o)

But, they had food and all (which was okay), and then they started the dancing! About 85% of the staff was up dancing, and it was so much fun! We danced to merengue, salsa, reggaeton, and then some good older stuff like YMCA, In the Navy, and of course some Michael Jackson. :o) They also had a karaoke contest which was absolutely hilarious! And they gave away door prizes throughout the night. The last prize was a really nice flat screen tv, and it was nice because one of the guys on the custodial staff got it and was really excited!

At the end of the night, I was a little concerned about how I was going to get home because Wilson was at work and the taxi company wasn't answering my call. But, then, one of the Ecuadorian teachers I'm friends with came and found me to see if I was riding on the school bus or not. Yay! After the party, the teacher school bus took us home!!!! Ha! Such good times indeed! :o)

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful...

But not in the same way! It is so stinkin hot down here!!!! December, January, and February are the hottest months here in Ecuador, and I have sure felt it! And so it just didn't feel like Christmas! I was wearing shorts and flip flops, I wasn't buying gifts for anyone, and I wasn't eating lots of Christmas goodies. And, I wasn't able to be around all of my family. But, Wilson and I tried to make the most of the weather. We went in our summer clothes and took pictures at the mall. The first time we went, Santa was on break, and we didn't have time to wait for him to return. But, we went back again on Christmas Eve, and we were able to get our photo with Santa! When we were in line, I looked at Wilson and just started laughing. I told him that I guess one good thing about being in Ecuador is that I can get him to do things he would never do in the States--he would certainly NEVER have gone to the mall for a photo with Santa with me before! Ha! But, it was fun, and we enjoyed our little photo shoots. Good memories for the future!

My Students

Although there are a lot of things I don't really like about my school, teaching is still enjoyable because of the kids. Of course they frustrate me and make me angry at times, which just means they're normal 10th grade students. They were pretty unwilling to work before Christmas, but that's just because it's the end of the year for them. They will come back for a week of review and end of year stuff in January, and then they start their finals. (which means I'm almost done, too!) :o)

We had school until the 23rd, so they had a few Christmas activities for the kids. On the 22nd, the school hosted a neighboring elementary school that's in one of the poorer neighborhoods. They had games and food and presents for the kids. It was really pretty cool! And, on the 23rd, the kids just hung out basically and then had a sort of Christmas presentation. A few of the other American teachers and I have noticed that every school presentation turns into a form of a talent show, and this one was no different. They had hip hop routines and student band performances and everything. Again, completely unorganized, but the kids seemed to be happy!

Cheerleading Competition

So, the school asked me to be a judge for the competition they were hosting. They were flying in 2 other girls from Texas, but they wanted me to help out as well. The talent overall is pretty much equal to teams in the US; the only really noticeable difference is that everything here is so unorganized. Over half the teams that were supposed to come didn't even show up because they didn't have enough girls show up that morning. And many of the routines reflect that same lack of organization.

But at least no one tried to hurt us! Last year, there were a lot of angry parents and they were throwing watermelons and stuff at the judges. Luckily, they took us inside to the director's office until all the parents and coaches left. So, overall I really enjoyed it!