Saturday, February 23, 2008

New Years in Jama

Andrea had been talking about New Years since we arrived. It's a very big deal in Ecuador which translates directly into Big Party. The plan was for us to go to Jama a town about 20 minutes south of Tabuga and attend a party with a local family that Andrea has become close with. But of course, first we have to dress up for the occasion! While we didn't exactly put on our finest we did take it up a (small) notch from the dirty clothes we had been wearing and - as is expected in Latin America - made sure to have on plenty of makeup!

Assured by Andrea that we were appropriately dressed and that we would have a good time we got in the car and drove down to Jama. Our first stop was the home where Andrea spends most of her time when in Jama. Her good friend Juan Carlos lives there with his mother Isabel, his dad, his 22 year old brother and his 10 year old sister also named Isabel. Dinner with Juan Carlos' family was quite an adventure. We sat at a formal table with big plastic cups of Coke and ate some interesting things. Isabel made pork which was actually very tasty. She also makes the best plantains in Ecuador (or that we had at least) which Mom and Alex eagerly ate up. And of course there was rice! So at least I had something to eat ;)

After dinner it was time to go to the plaza in Jama where the New Years celebration was taking place. Walking through the streets of Jama was one of the weirdest experiences I have had - we were so on display! The people were openly staring at us while we walked with Juan Carlos' family. They loved it! Little Isabel decided instantly that she and I would be best friends and that she wanted to parade me around town since I was such a novelty. And parade me she did! I spent a good hour walking hand in hand with Isabel as she introduced me to everyone she knew (which was pretty much everyone since it's not a big city). Isabel also decided that she should be the photographer for the event so she also commandeered my camera. Note - all the New Years photos in Jama were taken by the lovely Isabel.

When we got to the plaza our group rented a table and plastic chairs that some men put out for us. And there we sat while drinking beer and watching the people arrive. Juan Carlos' family is well known in the community for a variety of reasons. He claims to have been a pro football player for a time (this is actually true) so everyone thinks they know him. Plus, his dad is extremely active in the religious community and Isabel senior is the local seamstress. Since everyone knew them we they would come over to say hello which involves at least a hug if not a kiss on the cheek. I don't know how may people I kissed on the cheek that night but it was a lot!

Another funny thing about Ecuador is how the women throw their daughters at Alex. All of the ladies were very excited to see him and to meet him. He, of course, provided the obligatory kiss on the cheek to each and every one of them! My favorite story of the night involves a beautiful girl that said she was interested in Alex. So at midnight we told Alex to go over to her and kiss her since it is the custom in Ecuador. Alex got up the nerve to walk across the plaza, tap her on the shoulder, wish her Happy New Years and then kiss her on the cheek. Too bad it was the wrong girl! That's right, he kissed the wrong girl and the "right" girl must have been unimpressed as she was only about 20 feet away. Hilarious.

Let me tell you about drinking in groups while in Ecuador. Again it was the Pilseners which we bought two at a time for our table of 8, over and over again. Two beers gets split among 8 people easily when you only have two glasses. Did I say glasses? I meant small plastic cups. The process is for whoever bought the beer to fill a cup with beer and pass it to the person next to them. When you get the cup it's your job to drink the beer - no sipping here, hurry up! - and give the empty glass back to the person so they can fill it for the next person. It's a little weird to get use to at first but pretty soon I was chugging plastic cups of beer with the best of them.

It was chugging all of those cups of beer that got me dancing in the middle of the plaza in front of hundreds of Ecuadorians all staring at the white girls dancing! Andrea and Juan Carlos party together all of the time and therefore, are great dancers together. They are funny with their dance moves, it almost looked like they were trying out for Dancing With the Stars! Dancing with Juan Carlos' friend was fun and showed me the steps, but it was terribly embarrassing and I still can't believe I did it. See the pictures, there's proof.

When midnight came it was time to burn the effigies. In Andrea's part of Ecuador the people make effigies of people that have had bad years or that need good luck in the coming year. They burn them at midnight to bring the good luck. However, when we talked about New Years with the Kings they said that they burned effigies of people they wanted to have BAD luck in Puyo. Interesting that there was such a difference. Isabel walked me around town some more then to make sure I saw all of the different burnings.

At around 1am we called it a night in Jama and headed back to Tabuga. Mom and I were ready for bed but Andrea asked us to drop her and Alex off in Tabuga proper to see if there were any parties still going on. There certainly must have been! Those two came crawling into bed at around 4am! But that's their story to tell.....

No comments: