Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Novena de Navidad

Wonderful Sunny Day

Eric has lost 30 pounds in his four months here, which is starting to worry me. At first I was delighted that he was getting more exercise and eating more healthfully, but he has also been ill with gastrointestinal issues several times since our arrival. It is confusing because Maya and I have been able to tolerate the food quite well and have not been ill at all. At first there was a period of adjustment for all of us, but within a month we became accustomed to the cuisine and Maya is growing and glowing and I am growing too (not so happy about that!). Although we eat together and mostly at home, Eric has been violently ill several times. Today was another such experience for him. I shared my concerns with my Ecuadorian acquaintances and both wondered if he had picked up a parasite or an 'amoeba'. They encouraged Eric to see a doctor for treatment. Eric believes that it is because he does not wash his hands and touches his beard frequently. I certainly wash my hands more regularly than usual, but I am sure Maya does not. Of course, I too have been ill with an 'Upper Respiratory Infection' for about five weeks. I kept hoping I would get better, and there were enough good days, that I convinced myself that I was improving, and then I would deteriorate again. I am in fact finally recovering, but I am still confused that I could not fight whatever virus or microbe had attacked me (I believe there were several). I avoided going to a doctor, so I am not sure I can make a convincing argument for Eric to do so.

Parque La Carolina Christmas Spirit

Eric does not believe he has been ill as frequently as I have noted. Since I have known Amparo for over eight weeks now, she has heard about Eric's gastrointestinal system several times now. It is amazing how intimate our relationship has become. She knows so much about me, because in my efforts at conversation, I have told her about my marriage and my children and Eric's work and my work and our difficulties with crime in Quito and our tight financial situation; there is no area of my life that she has not heard something about. She seems genuinely interested, but then again, she has students year after year and month after month, and may just feign interest to keep the conversation going. On the other hand, I cannot imagine doing her job if she was disinterested. I have to remind myself that she is working, this is her job and her livelihood, and that she would not be involved with me if this was not the source of her income.

Nacimiento at La Carolina

I have learned much about her life as well, our conversations go both ways. She has shared intimate details about her family and her marriage and her divorce and her child. I wonder if all her students hear the same thing, if she shares her life with everyone. It certainly feels as if we have a special bond, that we could be friends without the teacher/student relationship, but I may be deluding myself. I asked Amparo about Christmas traditions and she dug up a weathered copy of the 'Novena de Navidad', which gives a day by day instruction and the words to be recited for each of the nine nights before Christmas. I visited the Christmas market again to find a 'nacimiento', and saw lovely ones which were far too expensive, and chose a very small group of figures made in Calderon, which is a small town to the north of Quito with a tradition of making figures out of dough. They are usually very intricate and colourful, but the ones I bought today were subdued and simpler than the other nativity scenes that were available. There is an exhibit of large and beautiful nacimientos at the San Fransisco church in the centro historico, where I plan to visit before we leave Quito. I was told that the most beautiful nacimientos available for purchase are in the old town, so the little one we have will do until I find a replacement.

Christmas Market

This evening, after dinner (Eric stayed in bed while Maya and I ate) and homework and violin (we practiced Christmas carols!), with candles and Christmas lights and Ecuadorian Christmas carols (villancicos) playing (Amparo gave me a CD with her favourite songs), we read the first day (dia primero, 'Jesus, luz para cada familia') of the 'Novena de Navidad'. I imagine that Amparo and her family were reciting the same words tonight as were many Ecuadorian families. Maya sang some carols and Eric was amused. We will try to do the novena nightly, or at least while we are here. There are questions to be answered and discussions suggested at the end of the recital, and prayers added, but I was pleased just to read through it and give Maya an abridged translation.

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