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Quiteña for the weekend

Quito, Ecuador

Quiteños really love to festejar. Officially, December 6th is the independence day of Quito, so starting a little over a week before this date, the parties and events began. There have been many cultural events: art exhibitions, musical performances, wine tastings, dance performances, bull fights, etc. For over a week, we had parades in different parts of town every day. Walking around I ran into a few of them, and watched some floats go by. My favorite was passing by a group of kids from a preschool all sitting with their teachers watching the parade--they were so excited, and clapping and smiling. Adorable.

However, the most popular form of celebration during fiestas del Quito is the chiva. A chiva is a double-decker, open-air bus that drives around the city. On the top deck, there is usually a live band playing the traditional chiva big-band music. On the lower deck, there are as many people as can fit (with at least one apendage holding on to the bus) drinking, yelling, waving flags, blowing whistles, and having a merry ole time. Since the end of November, you can't go anywhere without running into a chiva, or hearing one somewhere in the vecinity. During my 4-6 class, each time one would drive by, my students would start clapping and cheering in rhythm with the music outside. They also have tried to convince me, on multiple occasions, that chivas are a form of public transit--do no be fooled. These party buses are rather prevalent at the moment, but really are only around during fiestas del Quito. Soon, they will become extinct until next November/December.

Though I enjoy the music of chivas passing by, I did not partake in this Quiteño tradition, nor the tradition of attending the bull fights. Though many people I have talked with here are against the bull fights, or at least the killing of the bulls, most will still attend because of the festive atmosphere you can find in the Plaza del Toros. I'll just take their word for it--not quite my scene.

However I did celebrate this city's independence in other ways. Thursday after my night class got out, I met up with Megan and Cristina at Central University to attend a party thrown by Cristina's faculty. Each major had their own party at the unviersity that night. We were at the psychology party and were quickly adopted into a group of 3rd year Clinical Psych students. Before I got there, there was a pageant. Once I arrived, the DJ had just finished setting up his station and the music was roaring. We were dancing in an instant, pulled into different circles and conga lines and group dances, as well as the traditional salsa and reggaeton beats. The DJ was leading dancing contests, and contests for the group having the most fun, and other such competitions; our group won quite a few of them--they were quite festive.

Eventually, the director of the school decided he didn't want everyone there anymore, so the campus was flooded with people leaving and heading to new locations to keep on celebrating. Meg, Cristina, José and I found this dive kareoke bar that apparently they like. It was pretty much deserted when we got there, but filled up quite nicely during our stay. We four took over a nice corner of couches and enjoyed each others company as well as the entertainment of others singing. This wasn't regular kareoke either--it was more like the video game that scores you when you're done, depending on accuracy I imagine. There was one girl who was really into it, and didn't get that great of scores and needed to be calmed down by her boyfriend. It was kinda hilarious.

We all took part in the merriment that is kareoke as well--including my debut of kareoke in Spanish. Of course, I chose a Juanes song. Then Meg and I deuted with No Doubt's "Don't Speak" and got the highest score of the night that far--95.5--pretty sweet. Then the rest of our group finished out another 5 songs or so. All throughout the night, the owner was very attentive, making sure we had what we needed. This bar was quite out of the way, and I don't think they were used to having that many people there. He also flagged us down taxis when we left and got us fair prices, which was great (though my haggling skills usually do the trick).

Friday, the school for which I teach declared it a holiday, since in the past students didn't show up to classes due to the heightened celebrations. Good choice. Instead, I went to Itchimbia park with Andrea and Ayla for a free concert of local bands. The park itself is gorgeous, up on a hill with a magnificent view of the city.

The music was alright, but as is typical in Quito, the weather just doesn't hold. We left as soon as the sun started to hide, walked down to the EcoVia bus, and got inside the stop shelter just as the hail started to pelt everything on it's way to the ground.

Friday (the 5th) was also Phil's birthday, so I spent the afternoon making, decorating (and eating) cake with my friends in that apartment. We also watched 2 movies and made Christmas decorations. Lisa and Colleen made some wicked sweet snowflakes. After all of those festivities, we went out for birthday dinner and then hit the streets to celebrate the independence of Quito some more. Streets all over the city are closed down because of the massive street parties. In Plaza Foch there were multiple stages erected for live music. It was packed. All the streets in the usual neighborhood where we go out were full of people and vendors.

We took to using the buddy system, to try and stay safe and together. But it was tough. Holes in the road everywhere, broken glass, bodies in drainage grates, wandering hands, and streetfights--there was a lot to pay attention to. Eventually, the crowds and craziness were just too much for me, so a few of us went to get cabs home. It was definitely an experience I haven't had before, but also not one of my favorites. Too many drunk people making poor choices. It's a really dangerous time to be out and about.

The highlight of the cultural events I attended was the ballet at the Casa de Cultura (a couple of blocks away from my house) that I was invited to by Lisa and some of her/our Ecuafriends. It was crazy though. Most things in Ecuador have a start time, and then about an hour or so later you can expect things to start to get going. However, this ballet was set to begin at 6pm, we were meeting at 530. I stood in queue with all the others there at this time (I was amazed that so many people were there early). At 545 the doors opened and the line rushed the doors, mostly in an orderly fashion. However, the line snaked around the entire foyer of this huge theater, so it wasn't the most fun snaking around, so eventually the line disentegrated and there was an even crazier rush to the door. However, at that time, I still hadn't found my companions. Some were in a cab on the way, and the others I hadn't found. With the help of a few phone calls, Maria Fernanda came out to get me and introduced me to her other friends that were attending with us. For the half hour before the ballet began, I had very nice conversation with the other Ecuadorians there (Diego, Jenny, Fatima) in our group, and oogled the adorable babe (maybe 16 months) sitting in front of me. And then, miraculously, at 6pm, the doors shut and the ballet began. It was the strangest thing!

The ballet was Don Quixote, however it wasn't quite the story I remember from the excerpts I've read over the years. Quixote plays a very minor role, just kind of there awkwardly watching for the most part. But the principal characters/dancers were incredible. The sets and costumes were beautiful. I was thoroughly entertained for 2 hour duration of this ballet. Definitely my favorite so far (though I've only seen 3 ballets, so I don't have too much to compare to....unless you count ballet in movies as seeing ballets, then it's more). If you ever get a chance, see this beautiful ballet!

permalink written by  Theresa on December 7, 2008 from Quito, Ecuador
from the travel blog: Adventures in Teaching and Living in Ecuador
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