Well, well, well… It is only the 22nd of December and we are about to report on an event that took place on December 20th! That is pretty timely and certainly is much better than we have been doing reporting events weeks after the fact. We are trying to rush this out because there are so many things happening here in the next few days that will keep us away from the computer and we wanted to share some smiles with our friends.
A couple of years ago a friend of ours named Norgio asked me if I would come to the children’s Christmas celebration in Santa Teresa to sing and entertain the kids as Papa Noel (Santa Claus to you Northerners). I did just that. See: https://johnandmarylivingitupinecuador.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/papa-noel-in-santa-teresa-manabi-ecuador/ for more details.
I had a great time and the children and their families seemed to really enjoy themselves. The expat community in San Clemente is fairly well organized and is growing every year, so there are many people who contribute money and time to this community. Mary had a goal to collect and for us to contribute money to amount to one dollar per child between the Boca and Bikini Point. She was able to do that with generous contributions from many friends and we handed that money over to the Amigos de Navidad group at Thanksgiving.
But, Mary and I have been thinking about what we could do for the children in Santa Teresa. There is no ex-pat community there and we had a bit of extra money, so we determined to purchase gifts for all of the children in Santa Teresa between the ages of one to ten years old. Initially we thought we would buy the gifts at a dollar store in the U.S. when we went there for a visit in November and carry them home in an extra suitcase. So back in October we contacted Norgio and asked him to find out how many children were in that community between those ages.
Had the number been between forty or fifty kids, we might have managed to get the gifts in the U.S. as planned, but Norgio advised us that there were close to 160 children in that age group in Santa Teresa! At first we thought that maybe we would just contribute our extra money to the community party and let that be. But, once Mary grabs ahold of an idea she can not let it go!
So Mary started spreading the word and some of our friends here stepped up in a big way offering to help. With our budget now multiplied we went in search of small gifts, wrapped cookies, candies, treats, and contest prizes until our front room began to look like a warehouse full of fun.
A couple of weeks ago a group of our friends came to the house and we got a production line going filling candy bags, sorting gifts, and packing up the bags for individual boys and girls. It was a huge project that proved the adage that says that, “Many hands make light work” because it took only an hour or two for everything to be sorted and bagged!
Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who helped that day!
Mary worked to coordinate and more and more people stepped up offering help, transportation, and more money if needed until the day finally arrived on Sunday, December 20th for us to move the mountain to Santa Teresa. The main community party was set up for Christmas Day so we planned a separate party for just the younger children.
Nearly an hour before the planned start time mothers and fathers started arriving with armloads of children! Luckily we planned for a few more than we expected. By three o’clock there were upwards of two hundred kids and sixty or so adults crowded into the small ramada area and the atmosphere was electric.
About the only thing that we could complain about is that it turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year and the crowd there minimized any breeze. That and we had no sound amplifier making it almost impossible to get any order. Luckily God blessed me with a fairly loud voice and many parents stepped up to help maintain a semblance of order.
Mary planned an activity where the kids had to guess how many elbow macaroni pieces were in a plastic container. We had volunteers seated at a table to record the names and guesses with prizes for the closest guesses in four age categories.
Let me see if I can count them all…
No use… I think I already have the right number picked!
This was fun, but it was difficult to record and then read all of the names and numbers. Nevertheless the kids really seemed to have fun and enjoyed the soccer balls and stuffed animals awarded to the winners and runner-ups in four categories. (We have already determined to hand out numbers and simply do a drawing – like door prizes – in subsequent years.)
After the names and numbers were all recorded we broke out the piñatas. We had one for the boys and one for the girls and had the girls go first. I tried to take some pictures, but they really do not adequately display the mayhem that breaks out at an Ecuadorian party when there are hard candies and caramels for the taking!
Oh, oh, I see a small tear starting to form. Get ready to plunge!
Mary and Kevin stood on the sidelines throwing in extra handfuls of candy for the kids in the perimeter and it looked like everyone came away with several candies.
We are happy to report that there were no injuries to any children or bystanders during the melee.
Now that we had them all hyped up on candy and action we tried to call them into some kind of order and form up lines by ages and sex. I sang a very popular children’s Christmas song called, “Mi Burrito Sabanero” and all of the kids and parents sang along especially on the line that says, “Tuki, tuki, tuki, tuki, Tuki tuki tuki ta!” (You will not find that in any Spanish translator as it is meant to represent the sound of the donkey trotting along.)
At long last the time arrived for the kids to file up and receive their individually wrapped candies, cookies and gift. I tried to get back as the ladies handed out the gifts and managed to get some pictures of happy faces.
It was probably close to one hundred degrees in the sunshine and not too much cooler under the ramada, yet the kids near the end of the long lines still waited patiently with the same wonder and excitement we saw on those who were first in line.
I believe we all suffered a bit of heat exhaustion as we stumbled for Rick’s truck for the ride back to San Clemente, but that passed soon enough and was replaced with happy memories.
Thanks to generous donations we already have a fund set up for Christmas in Santa Teresa 2016! Thank you so much to all who contributed and helped!
And a big thank you to all of the children who smiled and came up to tell us in English, “Thank you!”
Life is good in Ecuador!