Happy New Year to our old friends and new, those known and unknown out there in the far corners of the globe, and those we have yet to meet but who share our adventure through our blog. For us it has been an incredible year, one too full to explain well, a year loaded with good and bad, and definitely one we will never forget. We are sad for those friends and family we have left behind, yet full of the pleasure of our new friends here in Cuenca.
For us it all began with the tedious process of selling our home in Wilmington, North Carolina in a terrible market and learning to accept a huge loss. Then there was the tag sale and auction of many of our prized possessions, something we hope never to repeat. We feel that we made a good decision to bring a lot of our treasured books and furniture to Cuenca that now surround us in our new home. The process of shipping a container from North Carolina to Cuenca was interesting and tedious to say the least but it was hugely successful and nothing was stolen or arrived broken. We flew to Cuenca and spent three months in a temporary furnished apartment while our home in Challuabamba was being refurbished. A few months later, it was our bad luck to stand out as a potential target due to our North American openness and casual security. We were having extensive repairs done with many workers in the house. Because of some or all of the above, we were robbed. It was so traumatic for us to see many of our family acquisitions and trust taken away that we decided to move into the heart of Cuenca to a more secure apartment building. It is odd how a single event can change the course of your life but the robbery changed ours. We are much more security conscious and, being in the city, we are able to go to many more events and see all of our friends more often. Jonny is able to go to the school he wants and is very happy there. So, something terrible has turned out to have led us down a new path, one we enjoy very much.
And here it is New Years Eve. The streets are filled with sidewalk vendors selling paper mache mannequins dressed in real clothes that represent almost every known political, entertainment, and cartoon character known and many more. It seems like the original purpose of the tradition, that is to burn in effigy a person you have a grudge with or don’t like in order to remove their bad karma from your life at year’s end, has changed like most other holidays. To burn in effigy a Mickey Mouse or cowardly Lion is a bit of a stretch but it is the fun that counts. Today and tonight there will be hundreds of street bonfires where people toss the mannequins into the fire. Some daredevils even jump over the fires to chase away the demons. There is another tradition where young boys dress up as girls in black women’s clothes and beg at the street corners. It has something to do with getting money to pay off their husbands. But like many traditions, the real meanings may have been lost in the translations.
We had New Year’s Eve dinner at Quatro Rios, a fine downtown restaurant with 13 friends and came home early as Jonny’s sitter had to go to a family affair before midnight. At around 11:30, the usual occasional fireworks explosions began to increase. By ten minutes before midnight the noise and shooting rockets had become almost constant. Picture this if you can. A few minutes before midnight, as we stood and watched from our 4th floor picture window, there were so many explosions and fireworks shooting up into the air, that there was no way to take it all in. Hundreds, possibly thousands of them were going off at once. On and on it went, the sky filled with the crackling and huge booms of small and professional pyrotechnics. When we say the sky was filled, we mean literally filled with starbursts and shooting rockets and a deafening noise. Every block in the city seemed to be competing with everyone else in an effort to fill the sky. Never in our lives have we seen such a display, not in New York City over the Hudson or in Philadelphia over the river or anywhere else. It is rumored that Cuenca celebrates New Years Eve like no other place, and after a life time of loving fireworks, we are firm believers that it is true. By 12:30 the noise and explosions had died down to a few left over explosions when we heard laughter coming from the middle of the street below. A dozen children from the families in our building were crowded around one of the fathers as he torched a mannequin as large as he was. They screamed with delight as the figure went up in flames. Jonny slept through it all. For us, this was a night to remember.
The holiday season has been an eye opener for us. It has shown us the openness of the Ecuadorian people and the pleasure of new Expat friends. It has shown us holiday customs new and exciting. It has exposed us to a unique way of life, a gorgeous city, and has knit our family together more closely than ever before. We don’t think we will ever have a year like 2009 but who can tell. We have proven that we are up to huge challenges and that we can make the best of them. We are thankful for our good health, cherished friends and family love most of all. So, with those thoughts about last year and its ups and downs, we wish a Happy New Year to everyone as we move into the next decade.