Friday, January 1, 2016
Ecuador! My first night has me utterly blown away!
After a fourteen-hour travel day, my friend (who is in the same program) and I landed and made it through customs without any hassle (thank God!). As we exited security the people who were to be there holding a sign with our names on it were nowhere to be found. We looked around and after not seeing anyone, we started to talk about taking a taxi (not the best option here). I went to the bathroom and my friend sat down. When I returned, a couple and their baby had excitedly found Makenna and were ready to take us home!
More family filtered in, and they all greeted us with hugs and excitement and a sense of urgency. We got in one car and the other half of the family was in another. May I add that these smaller cars are absolutely adorable! On the radio was what sounded like someone commentating a sportsgame. I asked if it was fútbol and the dad explained that it was the countdown to the New Years. Oh yeah! I totally forgot about that. The city however had not and seemed to be jumping with excitement. About five minutes into the drive, the two cars pulled over and the dad said !Vamos! Once outside, the family started hugging each other tightly, some with tears rolling down their eyes, wishing each other a happy New Years.
They pulled out a doll, un muñeca, and searched for a lighter. After coming up empty handed, we huddled in the car again and took off down the road a little further. There was a large fire going in a lot by the road and we emptied onto it. The family I was with greeted those who had started the fire and then threw their doll in. I inquired about what the doll represents and they explained that it is symbolic of the old year. They burn the bad from the past year to make room for the good of the new year.
The dad explained to me that it is tradition to always be with your family when the New Year arrives, hence why we pulled over on the side of a not-so-busy highway so they could all be together. It struck me that this is an important night to be with family in their culture, yet they still came to pick us up and drive us around. Furthermore, they completely included us in their festivities, from the fire, to the drink they were all sharing and even in their family photos.
I love how kind and warm they are towards each other. It was clear that they were completely supportive of one another and were not afraid to show that with two strangers.
POP! Something in the fire exploded, followed by two more pops! So it was off to the host families. Driving through the city was incredible. On the ride there, they were all incredibly patient with us as we stumbled over our words in what I’m sure sounded like Spanish toddler talk.
I was dropped off at my host family and greeted by a lady and two gentlemen who carried my bags for me. Once inside, I was given hot tea and was able to have about a two-hour conversation with the family. I am eternally grateful to everyone who has and who will bear with me until I get this language down. Their patience is out of this world. I write this story, but I can’t express the feeling I had throughout this time. It has been incredible in every way.
As the people so excitedly exclaim here: Feliz Año!