It felt good to get back into a routine this morning. The alarm buzzed at 6 AM, and I was relieved that I felt functional after mucho mojitos last night (and the canelazo I drank which I learned today is made from sugar cane alcohol, and is apparently very strong). Maya likes to wake up early and barks at me to get up and get moving, which is far easier for me than for Eric, who prefers to sleep as long as possible. I like to look at the mountains first thing, and by 6 the sun is high in the sky and Pichincha is glowing. After making breakfast and helping Maya get organized and out the door, I was excited to get my Spanish workbooks together and take the Ecovia back to the Mariscal. I was worried that I had forgotten everything that I had learned, but after a few minutes with Amparo, I was back on track. I needed a break from lessons for a few days, and I found myself enthusiastic again, and eager to learn more!
Eric came by to visit during my break and we escaped to 'Road Coffee' for the best coffee in town. I learned that it was Isabel's birthday today and that Erika was planning a surprise birthday celebration tonight. My job was to buy the cake (later I received a phonecall to buy two cakes), which is an easy task, since we live near a wonderful bakery. I took an inordinate amount of time looking at the cakes and making the right choice, which was the fruit tart with strawberries, peaches and grapes, as well as the raspberry tart.
The flower stand that I like is across the street, where I had a more difficult time making a choice. I am entranced by the beautiful roses I walk by everyday. The cala lilies and the sunflowers and the many other varieties of flowers are compelling as well, but the roses find their way into my house every week. I haven't been able to control myself this week, and we currently have red, orange and pink roses in vases on the dining room table, the coffee table and the counter. These are the rejected flowers from the huge rose plantations. The best roses go overseas, and the not quite perfect ones find their way to Quito, where two dozen can be purchased for one or two dollars. I would prefer them to smell more, but apparently the perfume of roses has been genetically removed, in the interest of encouraging other characteristics that help sell the roses, such as length of stem, size of petals, or longevity. Rose production is a huge industry in Ecuador, and brings in a significant portion of the GNP. I feel lucky to live where I can have fresh flowers in my house every day. I took far too much time to choose which colour Isabel would want for her birthday. She does not appear to buy flowers regularly for herself, but when I present her with a bouquet, she is always appreciative and appears to enjoy displaying them. I chose white to pink roses, that is they start white at the bottom, but have pink tips.
The original time for the party was 5 PM, but I have to remind myself that this is Ecuador, and time happens differently. I dressed for the event and arrived at Isabel's house in time to hide the cakes, place the roses in a vase, and meet with Maya before ballet. I try to practice as much violin in the half hour that we have before dance class. When Isabel arrived home from her birthday lunch, Erika and I had a hasty discussion about the plan for the surprise, and suddenly the party was to happen at 6:30 instead of 5, which gave me time to get home, go to the gym, dress again and jump into a taxi with a driver who did not know where I was going and kept answering his cellphone and making the wrong turns and getting lost and asking random people on the street how to get to our destination. I had to override his attempts and give him precise directions. I was so worried I would miss the party, but of course, nothing started at 6:30. Isabel was not even home, but Erika and her sister Marie-Isabel and I had time to scurry about and set up the event and surprise her.
Dinner was cake tonight and the eight of us (Isabel, Erika, Marie-Isabel, brother Mario, father Mario, baby Mateo and Eric, Maya and I) ate every crumb of both cakes. We sang Happy Birthday in Spanish, laughed and joked and paid alot of attention to little Mateo. Ecuadorians traditionally push the head of the birthday celebrant into the cake, but this is not done in the Carrera/Garcia household. Isabel appeared surprised and delighted and it felt good to be part of the family again.