Wow! I just noticed that it has been almost two weeks since we last published a post about our life here in Manabí, Ecuador. That might be the longest hiatus we have taken in the year since we began.
We are both doing well. The dearth of posts is only an indication of how busy we have been these last few weeks! Christmas is upon us and many of our friends have been returning to San Clemente for the holidays while others have been moving on. Between having people over for dinner, decorating the house, meeting old and new friends, and all of our usual day to day activities, we have been kept very busy from sun-up to well after sun-down. It is a good thing that we are, “retired” and do not have to try to fit actual, “work” into our schedule!
This post will be the first of several Christmas 2013 posts we will do this season to let you know what is going on for our holidays. Last year we published three posts that gave some details on how our Ecuadorian friends and fellow ex-pats celebrate Christmas. We will be doing many of those same activities this year, but this year we were also invited to share in the children’s activities in the near-by community of Santa Teresa.
Santa Teresa is a small town located between Charapoto and San Jacinto. From the main highway it appears to have only a few homes, but there are a few small tiendas, a repair garage, a table and chair manufacturing business, and several active onion farms surrounding a community of perhaps four hundred residents. We have been lucky to meet many of the men from Santa Teresa as they work in San Clemente in construction and gardening.
Norgio Zambrano is one of our good friends. We met him on our first day in San Clemente in December of 2011 and have maintained a friendship with him ever since. Norgio is a gentle soul who can do just about any construction project. His ready smile and hearty laugh make him a real joy to be around. His leadership skills also got him selected as the, “president” of Santa Teresa this year.
As such he is responsible for organizing community events and he asked me if I would be, “Papa Noel” and sing for the children of Santa Teresa for the children’s celebration in his town.
We did not have an official Santa suit, but our friends, Jimmy and Susan gave me this shirt that looks like it has a belt. We had the Santa hat and Mary sewed up a big red bag. Mary and I went to Portoviejo and bought several bags of wrapped candies to fill the bag with treats for the children. Norgio asked me to be ready for the program to begin at 2:00 in the afternoon, so I hopped on the bus at about 1:00 and arrived in Santa Teresa before 1:30.
I had to walk a few blocks up the road to the square by the church, so I put on the hat, slung the bag over my shoulder and walked alongside the highway waving to scores of kids in cars as they passed. As I walked by one house, a little boy (perhaps three years old) came running down to the roadway with the wide-eyed look of wonder and awe that only little children can show. I stopped to give him some candies and wished him Feliz Navidad then, as I walked on, he ran back to his house shouting that he had seen, “Papa Noel!”
As it turned out, it was good that I arrived early as there were already a few beautiful little girls wearing their finest dresses with their hair done up pretty sitting in the front row with their mothers. When I came around the corner they both let out a little gasp and whispered to their mothers. I had the indescribable pleasure of spending time with these two little girls and then hundreds more as the children of Santa Teresa came walking in from all around the area with their parents to celebrate Christmas.
Languages might be different and faces look different as one travels around the world, but the innocence, mischief, happiness, and pure love of children is universal. Especially in Santa Teresa yesterday afternoon!
Some of the older boys knew me already from my bike rides through their town and prevailed upon me to do animal sounds and other stunts as I tried to entertain what turned out to be some two hundred and fifty kids as we patiently awaited for the official program to begin. Remember that it was scheduled for 2:00 PM, so I was somewhat tired and greatly relieved when Norgio came out of the community hall (where he had been preparing treats and gifts) at about 2:45 to call the crowd to order!
A very tall young lady (I believe “Miss Manabí” or something) from Bahia dressed in a colorful outfit arrived a little after 2:30. She was the emcee for the program and took over the microphone from Norgio to lead the crowd in some activities.
She called up several little girls and led them in a dance contest. All of the little girls won and were awarded small prizes. Then she moved on through young boys, older girls, and older boys.
Then she called up five mothers. After a little coaxing she finally got five ladies up to dance around in front of their family and neighbors.
But she had much worse luck when she tried to get five fathers up to embarrass themselves in front of the whole community. The kids were shouting for their fathers to come forward and a general melee ensued as some men broke from cover and actually ran away from the area. After a while someone started shouting that, “Papa Noel” should come up. Oh well, “In for a dime in for a dollar” I jumped on up and managed to get a few other men to join me as this youthful woman tried to get us to do moves that I had never before attempted (even when I was young enough to possibly do them!)
I won! I got a small action figure of some robot, but I really won watching the children and adults alike roll in laughter at the crazy gringo Papa Noel.
Luckily, I avoided major injury and was greatly relieved to finally get to relax and sing a few Christmas carols in Spanish for my friends in Santa Teresa.
I walked out to the road to catch a bus back to San Clemente at about 4:30, but the buses sped right by me without stopping. I knew I was too tired to walk all of the way back home, but it looked like I might have to do that before a friend from San Clemente pulled over and gave me a lift downtown to where I had parked my bicycle.
This afternoon, I am scheduled to sing (again as Papa Noel in a full Santa outfit) for the children of San Clemente.
We are truly blessed to share Christmas with these loving people here where…
Life is good (and jolly – “Ho, ho, ho!) in Ecuador!