Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Angels Sing on High

December 24, 2013

(For whatever reason I am no longer able to upload videos onto this page, so please check out the YouTube links to see videos of the events  - in particular, the special videos of the Olón Orphanage 2013 Christmas Party)

The winter solstice was a couple of days ago.
It’s the shortest day of sunlight during the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
It’s the longest day of sunlight in South America, and means diddly-squat in Ecuador, because we have twelve hours each of day and night, with little variation year-round.
Our weather is heating up, and Christmas has a way of sneaking up on some of us.

Since Thanksgiving, many houses are brightly lit, and a lot of locals display their trees outside too.  The lights are blinking from our house as well, and our fake Christmas tree is up…which was easy, since we have nowhere else to store it, the tree is a permanent fixture in our living room.
We’ve been listening to lots of Christmas music to get in the holiday spirit. The other night, Todd and I were fixing “breakfast for dinner” and listening to Bing Crosby, and couldn’t help but think that it was “beginning to smell a lot like bacon” in our case.

The holiday season in Olón is marked with raucous town parties, parades, and nativity pageants – punctuated with frequent and loud fireworks (which terrify Daisy, and she has spent most of it cowering at home, in the far reaches of our office).
Below, I have posted pictures and videos of some of the recent festivities here in Olón.

Parades are a big deal here, especially this annual one:
Please see this link for a video of it


One of my favorite pictures I took that day

As are Nativity scenes and pageants:
The "reason for the season" is celebrated here in Ecuador.

The scene is set for the Nativity Pageant later in the evening.


 Other town events that mark this season:

Baptisms on the beach

New soda pop machines being delivered to the
beach cabanas (in readiness for our "high" season)

The aluminum turkey pan needed some
"flexibility" (squishing) to fit in here

It is Christmas Eve, which is traditionally the day that Ecuadorians  close up shop early, and celebrate together as families.  It is a festive day, but on the somber side.
Todd and I are fixing our turkey dinner for tonight, so we can eat left overs and do movie marathons tomorrow.
One of the challenges of fixing holiday meals in Ecuador is that many of our traditional ingredients aren’t available, so improvisations are required in the kitchen (not to mention that whole turkeys cost as much as a used car).  Over the course of three and half years of living here, we have both become more adept regarding substitutions, but Todd definitely reigns as the chef in our household.

My lack of interest in cooking - along with my poor sense of smell – renders me a mediocre cook (though as a Kansas City gal, I do come with a pretty decent repertoire of casseroles).

Given that insight, it strikes both Todd and me – as hilarious - that I am a HUGE, HUGE fan of “Top Chef”.
I never miss an episode, read many of the “Top Chef” blogs, and talk French while warming up canned lentils on our itsy-bitsy propane stove.
I can define a “mise en place”, “amuse-bouche”, but still trying to figure out what the hell might be a “chawanmushi”.
I’m thinking our kitchen might make a fun place for a Quickfire Challenge, given the teesny, weensy, baby stove/oven, and equipment and ingredients available. 
Because I think most expats who have lived here long enough can take on those "Top Chef" guys any day, in this situation.
Gauntlet thrown.

"Santa" (Woot) and
"Mamita" Isabel the.
director of the orphanage in Olón

But most special today (Christmas Eve) was the annual Christmas party at the Olón Orphanage. Many expats and locals contribute to make this a special day for the kids (providing a holiday meal and gifts that these children don’t normally have).
Traditionally, these special children put on a Christmas program to celebrate the day. Not to be missed, and never a dry eye in the house afterwards.
I will let the photos and videos links from that presentation say the rest`


Angel from the Lord speaks to Mary
"Do not be afraid"
“For Nothing is impossible with God”
The angel went to her and said,
 “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”


Please click on this YouTube link below. Not a dry eye in the house afterwards.

  Joseph and Mary seeking shelter for the birth of their child.

Mary & Joseph
seeking shelter


A child is born

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,
 keeping watch over their flocks at night.
 An angel of the Lord appeared to them,
 and the glory of the Lord shone around them.
 and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people".


The shepherds said to one another,
“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing
 that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about.”
 Click here to see the shepherds pay their respects:

And the angels sang on high






Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tis The Season

December 10, 2013

Little neighbor boy playing
"peek a boo" with candy wrappers after
I gave him a "carmelo"

In the last couple of weeks the weather has finally turned the corner, and we’re welcoming back sunny days after months of mostly overcast and drizzly conditions.  While the weather is always mild (ranging from 65-75 degrees from June through November, to 75-80 degrees of brilliant sunshine the rest of the year), it’s wonderful to bask in the steady sun rays once again.
Starting around Christmas, the “high” season begins in our area and lasts through March/April.  Tourists flock here for New Year’s Eve, Carnavale, surf tournaments, Semana Santa and other festivals, especially to Montanita (international travelers and Ecuadorians alike).  It’s a lot of fun, but exhausting after a while.

This makes us grateful that we live in Olón, the next town north of Montanita, since we’re close enough to enjoy the “party” there, but can escape back to Olón for a more tranquil environment.
However, Olón has become more and more of a tourist destination in the last few years (especially for families and retirees). I suppose we personally view this with mixed emotions.
Many of you who have visited Olón will recognize
the "Old Man by the Park Who Sells Beer"
Wonderful gentleman, second from right
This group of friends plays cards most everyday
 outside his house.


It’s “good” in the sense that as a consequence, the local economy has thrived.  It’s unwelcome at times because no one I know in town (locals or expats) wants to see Olón turned into another Montanita (hey – Montanita friends, don’t bite my head off…we love you!...and no one can do it better than you all).

Local elections for communa leaders (gringos, think “city councils”) being elected later this month, and we hope for officials elected that have long-term vision for these Ecuador beach communities.

Local fishing boats heading out at dusk

Refreshment break

Don't be fooled.
These trains are anything but tame.
Drivers push pedal to metal and purposely swerve.
Olón version of roller coasters.
One tradition that always kicks off the Olón season is the annual beauty pageant, which was held last Saturday night on our park stage.  I got a few pics this year, but didn’t stay for the whole show.  Typically, it is very similar to any beauty pageant (coordinated dance routines (s), native costume, “esportivo” clothing, and fancy dress competition…as well as the “interview” portion).
I am still scratching my head a little about the “belly dancing” routine preformed this year.

Beauty Pageant
Belly Dancing Segment (???)
I have YouTube video that I will post eventually

Later this week is the annual “St. Lucia” 3-day party, which coincides with Olón’s birthday. This is the town’s biggest party, and is always fun, boisterous, and loud. It includes music and dancing until the wee hours of the morning, carnival rides, food & gift booths, and fireworks (our dog Daisy hates that part, and cowers inside during most of the festival).

Last year, a girlfriend (Elizabeth LaFortune) and I braved riding the Ferris wheel. I’ve never had the nerve before, because the wheel spins so fast, I’m always waiting to see bodies flung from their seats as it wildly rotates – and I’m pretty sure there are no stringent safety inspections for these.  We hung on for dear life and laughed ourselves silly.

Preparations are now underway for this year’s festival.


School band students practicing for
Christmas program and parade
Also have another video to be posted on YouTube

(See the post “I Love Lucia” for more details about our annual town party).

Wishing all of you a very blessed and special holiday season.

And welcoming my newest granddaughter

Photo courtesy of Kacie

Chloe Annabel Diniz
Born December 9, 2013 at 1:56PM (in Germany)
  6 lbs 8 oz and 19 inches long
Congratulations to proud parents Kacie and Pedro Diniz, and big sister Clara!
Also, a very happy, happy birthday today, to my oldest daughter, Elizabeth!