Thursday, January 1, 2009
New Year’s Eve is a cultural experience in Ecuador. First of all, they call it Old Year and their custom of burning the old year in effigy demonstrates this. This year we celebrated New Year’s Eve at a friend’s house in Malacatos, about 45 minutes south of Loja. We arrived in the late afternoon and stayed the night, our first time to stay overnight at an Ecuadorian’s home. After bringing in the New Year in Ecuadorian style, we stayed the next morning and afternoon before heading back to Loja to get some rest. Here’s our reflection of our cultural experiences:
Before arriving, Julio was eager that we arrive, encouraging us to come as early as we could. Upon arrival, there was nothing to do, no plans, just sitting around. Of course to them this was something. But for me, it was hard to just sit. During our time of “sitting around”, we were asked to make a poster to add to the display of “Año Viejo” (old year) effigies to be burned at midnight. Since they were going to burn the mannequin-looking dolls representing the old year. Micah wrote out Matthew 10:28 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” I made the lettering pretty. We continued to sit and chat.
Julio’s cousin, who helps with youth group, asked Micah to lead a few games that we’ve enjoyed playing at youth group. So we played “signs” and “Moose, Moose” for the next two hours. They were great games to include the deaf mother. She was good! Also, many neighbors stood at a distance and observed our laughter. The family wanted to play more. But it was 11:56PM and Micah said, there’s only 4 minutes until midnight. No one did anything. Just kept sitting around until finally they got out their “Ano Viejo” effigies. The exact time of midnight was not a big deal
So, shortly after midnight we burnt the old year in effigy. But burning wasn’t enough, everyone, or those who could, jumped over them. Yet the evening wasn’t over, we sat down to eat a chicken soup “dinner” after midnight with dessert and coffee. By two it was bed time, so we slipped away to the back of the house.
The next morning we ate a late breakfast by ourselves (others must have eaten before) and then headed down the road to swim in the river. After walking for about 20 minutes, we hitched a ride in the back of a truck passing by. It was a warm day, but the water was cold. When I saw some people washing their newly killed chicken in the river for their cookout, I postponed my entry. Honestly, I didn’t call this much of swimming. The river was moving rapidly. We waded out to a point. And then, one more step and you would be washed away unless quickly and with all your strength you swam across the current. Yikes! I made it though and we rested on the rocks on the other side of the river. One or two more times across was enough before the chill of the water was more than I could take. We started back home, walking through water, meadow, orchard, and along the road. After stopping for a snack at a local “tienda” (store), a taxi finally came by and we quickly jumped on. It would have definitely taken us over an hour of walking. What an adventure.
By early evening, we decided we needed to head back to Loja in order to get home by dark (6:30). The night before we had brought food that we thought was going to be shared, but never saw it again. We were told that the dip for the carrots and celery was “riquismo” (very good). So, upon leaving, we asked for our Tupperware back and received it empty and clean. We walked 45 minutes into town to catch a bus to Loja. After attempting two times to get on a bus we finally made it. They were all crowded with people literally hanging out of the door to make sure they get in. Well, we chose the wrong bus to fight to get on, because after 20 minutes on the road, we got a flat tire. Gratefully, we were going slowly up a hill. The bus driver said that this was typical after New Year’s (the effigies have nails that are left on the streets). Finally we got home, ready for a night’s sleep.
View a video of "Burning the Old Year"