Sunday, June 20, 2010

Inti Raymi

I could hear the rain falling before I woke up, which was not reassuring, so I took my time getting up and moving. It was cold and wet and miserable, and the mountains were shrouded in clouds. One option for the day was to get up early and catch a bus for Cochasqui, where a full day of winter solstice festivities were planned. It is one of the biggest indigenous festivals of the year, and later in the week, the holiday of St John the Baptist and St Peter and St Paul morph out of the more traditional Inti Raymi event to extend the celebration. But with such miserable weather, it was difficult to get enthusiastic about wandering about in the cold for the day.

Maya and I took advantage of a momentary lull in the raindrops and sped over to Corfu for breakfast, where we settled under some braziers and warmed up while watching the Italy-New Zealand World Cup game. It was so much warmer than in the apartment. We have neither heat nor AC, and usually have no need for it. But our clothing is cotton and not at all adequate for the current weather, so there is no way to warm up at home other than to take a hot shower.

We are missing very few world cup games. Every television in every shop and cafe and restaurant is tuned into a game. The Spanish school last Friday was held hostage by soccer, the salsa school has a soccer game going at all times, and I am in the habit of putting the television on when I wake up to check the first game of the day. World Cup results are on everybody's radar, so I cannot not be au courant. Except that all the teams I care about are doing poorly. Ecuadorians seem happy if any South American team wins; I guess I am not quite Ecuadorian yet.

Once the sun appeared, but even then it was not consistent or forceful, Maya and I decided to check out the 'Inti Raymi' festivities at the Mitad del Mundo, which were advertised on the 'Quito Metropolitana' website. I called Vladimir for a taxi ride, but did not feel that the drive merited $25, so asked our guard how to get there by bus. He gave us excellent instructions and it turned out that taking three public buses for a total of 104 cents total, was easier than expected. We took the first bus to Avenida America (37 cents for both), walked a short way to the 'Brasil' Metrobus stop, sat for the long trip to 'Ofelia' bus station (another 37 cents), where changed to the 'Mitad del Mindo bus (30 cents) for another long ride. We were the objects of much interest, as the only gringos anywhere during our trip.

The Mitad del Mindo complex (the wrong centre of the world measured by the original French Geodesic Mission in the 1700's) was packed with cars and visitors, most of which were locals and only a smattering of tourists. The stage area was packed with revelers, but the music was mostly awful, at least when we arrived. Five scantily clad women were gyrating to unremarkable Ecuadorian pop music. Maya and I found a balcony with a covering to stay out of the rain and hope for a better music act. After a while we gave up and visited the Ethnographic museum where we took turns being travel guides. Once out of the museum, the rain was abating and a more traditional music group was playing. Classic pasillos and pasacalles were the rage, and the audience was dancing and singing along. The third group was a big band with lots of trumpets, and played jazzy Ecuadorian favourites and the audience was even more enthusiastic. I had read that Jacchigua would be dancing, but when I asked about them (there was a huge sign announcing their participation) I was told that they would be there next week!

Resting and Dancing

It was almost dark when we decided to hail a bus on the road (you put your hand out and wave it up and down, just like you would call for a taxi) and we retraced our way back home in the dark. It was straightforward but took more than an hour. I felt so accomplished; that I had made the effort to make such a long trip through the city by public transportation (without Eric, who we are missing terribly). It would have been much easier to go by taxi, and normally I would have been too anxious to take the risk of getting lost or stranded or robbed or frustrated. We arrived home intact.

I was disappointed that we missed a genuine Inti Raymi festival. I went online once home and learned that the true event begins the night of June 22, and continues for days afterward. As I mentioned above, the Catholic holidays of St John the Baptist and St Peter and St Paul grow out of and extend for several days after the actual summer/winter solstice celebration. The places to go are Otavalo, Peguche, Cotacachi and other small towns around Otavalo, so perhaps Maya and I will head north after school ends Wednesday to participate in the fiesta, unless of course the beach beckons, which may be impossible to say no to.

It was Father's Day today, and we missed our fathers and grandfathers. Ecuadorians take this occasion very seriously and all week, we have been reminded of all sorts of weekend activities devoted to celebrating the day. We checked on skype repeatedly to try and get through without success until finally very late, Eric called and talked to us in the dark. Opa/Dad, Happy Father's Day, we miss you!

Grandfather and Granddaughter

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