Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas and Music

Baking Cookies

Quito is in frenzy once again. The streets are jam packed with vehicles and pedestrians. We live near large shopping mall called Quicentro, and for the past week, traffic has been intense, and because our street, Republca del Salvador, leads directly to the entrance of the parking garage, cars are backed up, so much so that the police closed off the block in front of our apartment, allowing only residents to enter. I am amazed at the number of shoppers. Quicentro has expensive stores, so I wonder how it is possible for so many to afford to purchase anything. I so go to Quicentro for coffee or for a treat, but I never consider shopping there. Instead, I like to visit the Centro Historico, where even more people have been shopping this past week.

One tradition here is to give an assortment of candy and cookies to your employees or children or teacher or other non-family member. Either you can put your own bag together and choose what to put into your bag, or you can buy a ready made one in every size imaginable. There are several stores in the center which opened up these past few weeks and they are packed with customers putting their bags together. Huge gift baskets are on the continuum. I bought five $3 bags for our three guards at the apartment building and Gustavo, who cleans his apartment, and for his father Fidel, who referred Gustavo to us. Actually, I hired Fidel, who came the first few times and then suddenly brought Gustavo to replace him, without much of an explanation. We have been happy with Gustavo, who attends university and studies Italian, and is very appreciative about working for us.

Maya received a bag of goodies after her orchestra yesterday and again after her ballet performance. She stuffed herself with candy yesterday, and all the rejected sweets are left for Eric and I to munch on.

The streets of the old town were teeming with shoppers yesterday. Several shops which Amparo had recommended were so packed with people that I did not feel comfortable entering. The economy may be imploding here, but that was not at all obvious in Quicentro or in the Centro Historico; everyone is out buying presents, there are Christmas lights and Christmas designs everywhere. Little kisosks have shown up on every corner selling wrapping paper and cards and ribbons.The tents in La Carolina house the Christmas market, where trees and bulbs and lights and wrapping paper and nacimientos are available for sale.

Today, we focused on the Artesanal Market near the Mariscal, where I had no bargaining energy today. I paid almost full price for everything I bought. Of course the prices are far lower than would be expected in the United States, but I still know when I have overpaid, and that does not feel good. On the other hand, I wanted to get my list taken care of, and I think I am almost there. When we leave Quito tomorrow, there is a gauntlet of shops before going through passport control, which has most everything available, so Maya still has a few things to buy before we leave. There are more shops in the duty free section just before we board the plane. We arrive at the airport almost three hours before the flight, so we will have time to finish our shopping.

Artisanal Market

We were invited for brunch at the Canadian ambassador's home, and Maya went wild with the friends she had last seen at her birthday party. It was a relaxing and stress free interlude for the adults. Maya ran through the house and made lots of noise and then cut out cookies to bake. It was difficult to drag her away and we ended up being the last guests to leave.


I wanted to return to the 'Casa de la Musica' to hear Christmas music, and we heard a lovely concert with a combination of choral groups and instrumental performances. I have learned that Quito is full of music all the time. On any given night there are several venues offering all sorts of styles of music, from classical to Andean to folkloric to rock. Often it is a challenge to decide which particular concert to go to. Of course there is dance and theatre and poet reading and dance clubs and more to choose from as well. Quitenos like to hear music and see dancing and theatre. The acoustics of the Casa de la Musica are the best in town, but not enough to prevent Eric from falling asleep.

Casa de la Musica

I cannot believe that almost half our time in Ecuador is over. We will fly to Miami tomorrow and return in three weeks with our group of Johns Hopkins students. I wonder what it will feel like to leave, and how we will transition back to our lives here.

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