Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentines' Day

Our hotel room is on a corner of the second floor on Cevallos Street, which is the centre of the Carnaval celebration in Ambato. There were crowds of people on the street all night long, with stereos blasting and kiosks cooking and serving food and huge stages set up every few blocks. I am amazed that Maya was able to sleep! I think I finally slept about two hours before people started to set up their seats along the side of the street in preparation for the parade. Maya and I took our time getting up. Eventually I left her for a few minutes to push through the crowd to the bread store (five buns for 50 cents) . Maya and I ate bread for breakfast before I remembered to ask at the front desk if breakfast was included. We were directed across the street to a literal 'hole in the wall' for a breakfast of Nescafe, watered down pineapple juice and bread with ham and scrambled eggs. We rushed to get back to the hotel to watch the parade at 9, but were entertained by the crowds for another hour or so…until the parade finally started! It was impressive, with the floats made entirely of fruits and flowers, a beautiful queen on each float, and dancers traditionally attired in colonial costumes and dancing in the colonial style, or scantily clad and grinding their hips ala Rio de Janeiro, all very entertaining. The parade lasted over two hours, and when we ventured forth into the crowd, establishments set up huge speakers on the street and blasted loud music to compete with the next one a few feet away. The dancing style was rubbing and grinding against each other, men with women or course, but also women with women and men with men, sometimes a threesome for foursome. Children and adults were spraying foam or 'carioca' on friends and strangers and both Maya and I were sprayed several times.

A View From Our Window

Crowds Entertaining Us

Beautiful Queen

Captive Audience

Crazy Costumes

Wild Colours

Floats Made of Flores y Frutas

Gorgeous Young Women



Wild Men?


We found a science museum and had an hour or so outside of the insanity of the street, looking at stuffed dead animals, (a little creepy ) and some archeological finds. We returned to the art gallery we had visited yesterday, I wanted to look at the earthquake photos again, and check out the archeological section. The science museum had a collection of unlabeled ceramics, so I wanted to know more about what I had seen. The Panzaleo group were the major pre-Columbians in the area. I remember seeing their pots at the museum of the Banco Central, and am now interested in returning again. I was hoping to see an ethnographical section, since I had been seeing several indigenous people in their traditional attire and was trying to distinguish between the different groups. I recognized the Salasaca, admiring their ponchos, which Eric has wanted for some time. The ponchos take huge amounts of material and hours of work to complete, so are sold for about $300!!!

We returned to the main square and admired the fruit and flower mural and found yummy ice-cream for a snack. The ice-cream here is 'helado de paila', made in a large metal bowl, and having a distinctly different taste than that which we are accustomed to. The main square was packed full of vendors selling hotdogs, hamburgers, a local dessert of figs and cheese, which has a distinctively sweet odor, 'chochos' , potato and banana chips, coconut juice and sugar cane juice and orange and lemon juice. A high school had a concert in the afternoon, and we watched several huge stages set up on Cevallos in front of our hotel room, but most of the day only taped music played. Later in the evening, the bands started to play in earnest. There were chivas riding around all day and night, playing pop music. I think I often heard three or four bands or sources of music at once, not quite blending well together.

Eric arrived just before dinner. He found the scene on the street outrageous, so we found a sixth floor hotel restaurant at the local casino to escape from the noise and action, where we watched three sets of fireworks going off in the distance. We walked home amongst the revelers foaming us and each other, Maya asleep on Eric's shoulder, back to our room at the corner in the midst of all the action. Maya and Eric were out in seconds. I think we forgot about Valentine's Day

Foam Wars

I would have been happy to stay out all night, and certainly the music and action were happening right outside our windows, so it felt almost as if I was on the street partying. I believe the music lasted until four or so in the morning, but somehow I fell asleep by then….How is it possible that both Eric and Maya slept uninterrupted all through the night?

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