On the afternoon of Monday, January 9, I got sick. Stomach sick. Yucky sick. I spent all day Tuesday in bed. Tuesday afternoon, we received word that a nephew of Sra. María had passed away suddenly. We were staying with don Moisés and Sra. María at the time, so we learned about the death as soon as they did. Moisés, María and the two girls left right away to head to Manabí to be with the family there. Rebekah and I asked them to let us know when the funeral would be, said that we would try and make it, and went back to bed. They thought the funeral wouldn't be until Thursday morning, so we figured on having one more day to recover. However, on Wednesday morning, don Moisés called to inform me that the funeral service would be that very afternoon at 2:00. "We'll leave the house at 10:00," I told him. I went and got Rebekah out of bed, and we began scurrying around to get ready to make the two-hour bus trip to Colimes, where Moisés had offered to come and pick us up to drive the rest of the way, another hour or so, to Las Mercedes, where the funeral would take place. We made it in time. Henry, Dean Vandenbergh, Ookyoung and I all had a part in the service. I was glad that I got to go first since we all ended up speaking from the same verses! We were very glad that we could go and stand by the family under these very difficult circumstances.
Here are some pictures that I shot out the car window on the way back to Guayaquil that afternoon/evening.
Can you see the tractor out in the rice field?
The guayacanes were in full bloom just beyond Colimes.
Soccer in the street
The best sunset views were out the other side, so Rebekah was in charge of shooting out that way. Ruthi obliged by getting out of the way as much as she could. Hopefully Rebekah will share her pictures with me soon!
Don Moisés and Sra. María had offered me Jorge's room for Saturday night, as he was going to be elsewhere that night, and being located in the center of the house, it would supposedly be quieter. I accepted, and headed to bed around 10:30 on Dec. 31. I read for a while and turned out the light finally sometime around 11:30, expecting that I wouldn't go to sleep for a while but wanting to do all I could to encourage such. As the clock rolled over to midnight, such a ruckus as I don't ever remember hearing began, causing my bed to shake and my heart to pound. After a few minutes like that, I decided to go out and see what was going on. So, in my pajamas and bare feet, I made my way outside. I'll just post a picture and a couple of videos to give you a sampling of the sight that met my (contactless) eyes as I left the house.
That's an año viejo burning. I didn't get there in time to see the beginning of it.
And then after I finally went back to bed, this is what I heard from my "quiet" room in the center of the house.
It finally quieted down around 3:00 am. Thank goodness for a couple hours of sleep with which to begin the new year!
On December 16, I received a phone call from Sra. Isaura, one of our contacts in the town of Quinsaloma, about three hours or so away from Guayaquil. We had previously studied with both her and her sister, Sra. Isabel. However, Sra. Isabel passed away from cancer during our last week of convention rounds. Two of the brother workers from our staff were able to attend and have part in her funeral as they were relatively close to Quinsaloma at the time. Now, Sra. Isaura informed me, the one month anniversary of her sister's death would be December 30, and she wondered if someone would be available to come and have a part in the memorial mass. She knew how much her sister loved us and wanted to give us plenty of notice so that we would be more likely to come. Receiving such advance notice was quite a thing, as this is not a typical Ecuadorian custom! I told her that I didn't know what our plans were that far in advance but that I would be in touch with her. What to do?! I had no worker companion and wasn't likely to have one until I met up with my new co-worker in my new field mid-January. I wrote to LeRoy, our responsible brother, asking him what he thought I should do. In the end, I went. Don Moisés and Ruthi Guzmán kindly accompanied me. I had no idea what to expect but had thought of a few verses that might be appropriate for the situation, and we took along several hymnbooks just in case. We arrived in Quinsaloma around 7:00; the "mass" wasn't supposed to start until 8:00, which means after 8:00 Ecuadorian time. We were hopeful that they might at least start on time, since we had asked if they could have it a little bit earlier, due to the fact that we planned to travel back to Guayaquil after it was over. Anyway, after arriving in town, we found a Chinese restaurant at which to sup. Then we set about trying to find the place where the service was to be held. Sra. Isaura had told me it would be in the home of one of Sra. Isabel's sons, but I didn't know where that was, other than the fact it was on the main street through town. We walked up and down the main street but couldn't decide for sure which house it would be. Sra. Isaura wasn't answering her phone, so we just kept wandering. Finally, right at 8:00, Sra. Isaura called me, asking where we were. As it turned out, we had guessed the correct location of the service and weren't far from there. "We're on our way there right now too," she told me. So, a little after 8:00, the three of us from Guayaquil, Sra. Isaura and her mother and brother entered the house of her nephew, where a few other family members were already present. We sat in the living room, and Sra. Isaura headed to the kitchen to join a couple of other ladies who were already there. After a short while, I began to get the uncomfortable feeling that perhaps they were about to serve us something to eat. I headed to the kitchen, and sure enough, they were preparing to dish up enormous platefuls of food for us. "We've already eaten supper," I apologized profusely. They couldn't understand why we would have done such a thing but didn't end up making us eat. I didn't bother to explain that when I hear that a service is to be held at 8:00, I would plan to arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of time without expecting to be fed, especially if I don't arrive until the actual time the service is supposed to begin. A slight cultural difference. I suppose it was around 8:15 or slightly thereafter when everyone in the house congregated in the living room. "What exactly is the format of the service?" I asked Sra. Isaura. "We're just here to listen to your message," she told me. Oh???? As it turned out, a bit of an informal conversation got underway with different ones sharing memories of the deceased. I interjected some of the thoughts I had had regarding Sra. Isabel and what she was in the process of learning and learning to love before her death. All in all, though a bit awkward at times, everything went fine. We finally left around 9:15 or so. Sra. Isaura expressed her sincere appreciation for the effort we had made to come and share with them, and to me, that really made it all worth it. It had been evident during the service that her desire was really for her family members to listen to what we had to say, rather than sharing their own thoughts and ideas regarding religious beliefs, which made us feel hopeful that she's receiving something for her soul. After we got in the car, don Moisés informed us that he had received several messages from Sra. María and Jorge, recommending that we not travel back to Guayaquil that night. As it turned out, we headed to Quevedo instead, about an hour from Quinsaloma, in the opposite direction from Guayaquil, which is where don Moisés' mother and sister live. I, of course, was completely unprepared to spend the night anywhere other than where all of my things were, but it turned out okay. Sra. Anita, don Moisés' sister, lent me pajamas, and I did without everything else until the next day around noon when we finally arrived back home in Guayaquil. I don't know that I would be so interested in repeating the experience, but it left us with quite a lot of memories and an at least somewhat interesting story to tell.
A few pictures in Quinaloma's main square after supper and before the service
Karmen's last day in Ecuador (for this trip) was a full one. We had meeting at Moisés and María Guzmán's with a quick picture-taking session immediately following.
Luísa shows off her pearly whites.
Our host family
Karmen and I made tacos for lunch. They were a hit! The greatest compliment we received was when don Moisés served himself a second taco. (He's strictly a fish and rice man!)
After lunch, Moisés and Ruthi took us on a driving tour of the city to look at the año viejos.
Here's a little write-up on año viejos from http://www.life-in-ecuador.com/ecuador-new-years.html.
One big part of the festivities for New Years Eve in Ecuador are "los años viejos" (the old years). People make large scarecrow-like dolls often of the people they dislike or of notable people from the past year. Some come complete with signs detailing their sins. And then at mid-night everyone lights them on fire. The symbolic meaning of course is the forgetting of the bad of the past year and the hope that the coming year will be better.
Some are huge!
These particularly large ones have been created for competition. Don Moisés thought that the winning año viejo earned something like $10,000! Many that we saw were still under construction.
This fellow's car needs a little work before he can take his recently purchased año viejo home.
The only kind of snowman you'll ever see in Guayaquil
We had to interrupt the volleyball game that was taking place in the middle of the street to continue our tour. I think some of the players wondered why we couldn't have taken an alternate route!
Some folks were charging a dollar for people to have their picture taken with their completed año viejo. We took all the pictures we wanted for free as we drove along.
After our año viejo tour, we headed for the center of the city. Part of our route took us through a major market. You would never have guessed that it was Christmas day; business carried on as usual. Crowds swarmed the market, both on foot and in vehicles. It took us quite a while to get past this point.
I was wondering how they decided on the amount of $366 as a fine for blocking the intersection.
The malecón is a popular place today as well. This is the little lagoon where kids can get inside large plastic balls and roll around on top of the water.
Many cities in Ecuador have a large mosaic statue in the center. Guayaquil has several such statues scattered throughout the city. Here's the back of the monkey statue.
It's at the entrance / exit to the tunnels that take you to or away from the city center on one end.
We like the colorful houses on the hillside.
Last stop before returning home for supper: Cristo del consuelo overlook
The flowers were so beautiful; we just couldn't stop taking pictures.
Do you have a favorite?
It seems like this was the only place we could get cell signal, so I had to help don Moisés out a bit as he communicated with the rest of the family regarding our ETA back at the ranch.
The bridge that collapsed in the April 16 earthquake is under construction.
We had pizza for supper! It was an "American" day for us as far as meals were concerned, and we didn't not enjoy it. 😉
Games after supper
Everyone enjoyed learning Splendor and The Bean Game.
And finally, the dreaded moment arrived. Karmen's flight left for Miami at 11:59 pm, so Ronny and Luísa took us to the airport a little before 10:00. It wasn't easy to say good-bye, but we were already making plans for the next visit.
And she's off! Thanks bunches for coming, Karmy! It was super special to have you here! See you soon. :-)