Saturday, January 3, 2009

Adiós 2008!

New year´s holiday here is really fun. It is a cross between new year´s eve, halloween, mardi gras, fourth of july and burning man with a lot of other crazy style tradition thrown in.

These are paper maché dolls stuffed with newspaper and sawdust called "año viejos" (old year). There are popular cartoon characters, political charicatures, generic old men, all sorts of things.

The biggest party happens in the center of town where people set up elaborate scenes full of viejos that will be burned at midnight. My favorite part is that before they are burned, you get to beat them up. Kick them, hit them, stomp on them, get out all the aggresion you have from the previous year.

During the day, but especially at night, young men dress up as women in very sexy, scantily clad, fake boobs and all. They stop cars going by and do very suggestive dances and demand money from drivers in order to pass. Some of the sexiest girls I´ve seen were these boys dressed up, some of them would rival any drag show queens that I´ve seen. I´m not sure where this tradition comes from, but it´s pretty funny. Young kids dress up and wear masks and demand money from pedestrians. Later in the night, boys in masks stop cars to demand money and do a little dance. Training for years to come, no doubt. I especially loved when the young men would start making out with their girlfriends, cause then you´ve got this crazy ´looks like lesbians but also looks like drag queens, people making out in the street´craziness. All of this in a country that is 95% catholic mind you.

At midnight, all of the blocks look a little something like a war zone when all the años viejos burn and people are drunk in the street dancing and running around. At first glance, it could easily be something other than a celebration. Lot of fireworks as well. Big fireworks. Often held in your hand - stuff as big as I´ve seen go off boats in Portland just from the street out of some drunk guy´s hand.

These are Phil and Ruby. Aren´t they cute? They totally are.

Some of the other traditions are:
wearing a green shirt - for "esperanza" which is like hope
putting money in your right shoe - for prosperity
running around the block at midnight with a suitcase to bring travel in the coming year
putting on all your jewelry at midnight
eat 12 grapes - signifies the months of the year and 12 wishes
very very important - wear yellow underwear. Nobody could tell me exactly what it was supposed to do for you, but a panic ensued if someone didn´t have yellow underwear.

So that was new year´s eve here in quito. We had a great time and it´s always fun to see some other customs. It made me laugh that some of them they don´t even know why they do it, but it´s very important.

I´m getting excited to head out to Peru and it feels like it´s coming really really fast. I´m going to head to Canoa for a couple of days and then I will need to pack (again!) and get ready to head out. My target date is around the 15th of January. I will go to the couple of international bus companies on Monday and see which one I like better, especially to cross the border. Border crossing can always be a little sketchy, so best to do it with a group. Most of the crazy, sounds like no fun, stories that I have heard have had to do with border crossings. So my preference is not at night and with a group of people. We´ll see what I can do. It´s looking right now like a 36 hour bus ride to Lima, then a flight to Cusco. A person can go by bus to Cusco from Lima but it either takes 24 hours to go around the mountains, or you can go through them on what is meant to be the absolutely scariest bus ride in all of South America. I´m actually quite intrigued by it, but I think that after 36 hours on the bus from Quito, I wont be in my best "take me on a super super scary ride for 15 hours" mode. I will take that trip another day.
Of course, I don´t actually have any idea what I will do, so we´ll just see.

Happiest of new year´s to each of you, I hope 2009 brings all the rewards of the work from 2008. Love you.


  1. I love that the biggest effigies to be burned are sporting the stars & stripes. Kinda feel the same way up here, too.

    I do love the drag queen car-jack, too. Sounds like you're having a fabulous time... Portland was just the same ol' rainy night. Personally, I was in conversation and lost track of time - I suddenly remembered to look, and it was 12:15. Oh well.

    Take care, and keep the updates coming. I don't always have anything witty to write, but I always read!

  2. Thanks Anne. It´s always super nice to have comments, makes me feel like there are actually people out there in the world that I know. I can´t wait for Peru and more to say....