So this past week was carnaval in Ecuador and it was so much fun!!
I decided since I had the time off I would go visit one of my friends who lives in the province that celebrates carnaval the most. She lives in a tiny little town called San Miguel (about 3,000 people). I got there on Thursday afternoon and we dar veuelta-ed (hung out and circled the town). There was a huge dance going on in the center of the town so we stayed and danced for a while and also got some foam (espuma or carioca) to spray at little kids. Carioca is one of the biggest parts of carnaval in that province. Everyone has a can and everyone is spraying it. There is no escape! We stayed at the dance for quite a while but left around 8:30 because it ended early. The town decided a few years ago to end the concerts the first few nights of carnaval early because people were getting so, so, so drunk at them. So instead of encouraging the drinking every night for a week they try and take it slowly the first few nights.
The next day we watched a parade in the center of town. Now, I have seen ecua-parades before but the ones I saw during carnaval were awesome! The only down side was that they were super long. The first parade was 3 hours long and consisted of school groups making fun dances and people in crazy costumes walking on the street. Then after the parade Cheryl, I, and some little kids got in a giant foam fight (see picture). I realized that once you have foam on you, people just want to keep spraying you. The foam is colored and does get clothes dirty but it washes out really well. Then we went to lunch with her family and rode in the back of a truck. I love riding in the back of a truck but during carnaval it is a baaaaad idea. Tons of people have buckets of water on the side of the road and throw them at you as you drive by. We were soaked!! They also throw flour too. That night we went back to another dance in the center of town. It was fun because she knows a lot of people and a lot of her students were there. One of her students that was in love with her danced with her for most of the night. I got passed around between all his friends because they all wanted to dance with the gringa. It was a lot of fun!
The next morning we went to another small town really close to San Miguel called Chimbo. Since the whole province celebrates carnaval they just move the parades from town to town. The Chimbo parade was not as good because it wasn't well organized. The timing was terrible and you'd have to wait 5 minutes between each act. It ended up taking 4 hours! However, the town is crazy. Everywhere you went people were dumping water off of balconies and shooting you with foam. If you didn't have a good attitude about it then it would have been horrible. But I loved it! After that I went back to Ambato because some of my friends were coming in.
Ambato isn't known for carnaval but it is known for a festival that happens during carnaval called fruits and flowers. Around 1940 there was a giant earthquake that destroyed Ambato and the people wanted to re-build their lives and celebrate what they had. They decided to celebrate the two things Ambato was famous for, fruits and flowers. So now every year during carnaval Ambato has a huge parade. The parade is televised and really pretty!
I woke up at 6am on Sunday so that I could go and get seats for the parade. Apparently like half of Ecuador comes to this thing and my host mom said I would never find a seat if I got there after 7. So luckily I was able to find seats for me and my friends. The parade was awesome. Each float had a theme (like pear or lily) and was decorated to represent that. The dancing was awesome too. After the parade I hung out with my friends for a while and then we went out dancing that night. There was a band playing in the middle of the center. Carioca in Ambato is becoming more popular ever year so it wasn't too bad in Ambato but I can tell people want it to become more popular. I also had this neat experience with a taxi driver. Ambato was having fireworks but I was supposed to meet my friends. As we were driving we found this perfect spot to watch the fireworks. They were being set off from three different places in the mountains. The taxi driver asked me if we could stop for a few minutes and watch the fireworks. Of course I said yes. It was really cool that he felt comfortable enough to ask me that. I guess he was sad he had to work during them. And I'm definitely glad I stopped to watch them for a few minutes.
On Monday I decided to go back to San Miguel because it was so much fun! I stopped in Guaranda first to watch the parade. This parade was great. The costumes were amazing. The parade was about different dance groups around the country and whichever group had the best act won a prize. It was super long but awesome. Everyone was into it and dancing in the street. That night we went to another dance in the city and stayed out pretty late. This was where one Ecua told me that "I has how to dance." I thought it was funny.
The next morning we went to a place called Lourdes. It is a monastery way up in the mountains with an incredible view. The monastery is also known for making honey from the bees on site. It was a fun excursion! Then I went back to Ambato.
Today I had my meeting about teaching. I'm going to be teaching two pre-intermediate classes from 2-6:30 Monday-Friday. The hours are pretty good so I'm happy about that. Tomorrow I officially start teaching and I'm nervous but excited. Then this weekend I'm going to a town called Salinas that specializes in making chocolate and cheese. Ecuador is so exciting!
(And, yay! I figured out how to add pictures to my blogs!)