A Travellerspoint blog

Hot air balloons, New Year customs, Ecuadorian Chinese food


I suddenly realised earlier that I hadn't posted for a couple of weeks, so here goes. Here are a few things that have happened.

Hot air balloons

One of my teen pre-intermediate students told me on Thursday that he'd seen something in a newspaper about how a lot of hot air balloons were going to start taking off from the Malecon from 5pm onwards the next day. I was overjoyed at the thought of seeing this spectacle, but also surprised, because I wasn't convinced that there was enough space there for hot air balloons to set up! I aimed to arrive at the Malecon at about 4.45pm anyway, with my camera, so that if it did turn out to be true about the hot air balloons, I'd be there to see it.

There was definitely a carnival atmosphere at the Malecon - it was absolutely heaving!


At first I couldn't see any hot air balloons anywhere, but once I'd walked along a bit I saw one being inflated further ahead. Amongst other things, on my walk to the balloon I passed by a children's puppet show with a large crowd surrounding it; further on Ronald McDonald entertained a crowd outside a McDonald's.


A couple of minutes later I passed by a large space cordoned off with a hot air balloon basket in it but no actual balloon (it hadn't been brought out yet), and only once I'd passed that did I get to where the balloon was being inflated.


Unfortunately it only looked halfway there, so my heart sank at the realisation that I wouldn't have enough time to wait for it (I knew hot air balloons take ages to inflate). I waited for about half an hour but was then forced back home by the need to plan for two one-to-one lessons with new students the next day. Otherwise, I could have stayed for however long it took for the balloons to inflate and set off. It was just starting to get dusky as I left, so considering how quickly it gets dark here, I think it would have been completely dark by the time the balloon finally set off. It must have been a wonderful sight.

Ecuadorian New Year customs

In the same lesson the students told me some interesting things about how they celebrate New Year in Ecuador. I have to admit that I had already seen something about it in my guidebooks, but they gave me a lot more details. Male dummies made from clothes variously stuffed with paper, sawdust, straw or papier maché (like the Guy at Bonfire Night in the UK, but more realistic looking) are burned on bonfires in the streets. They are called monigotes or año viejos - 'old year' - because that's what they represent. They wear masks, either bought plastic ones or homemade papier maché; these nearly always represent someone famous either internationally, nationally or locally. In Guayaquil and Quito the monigotes are nearly always bought, not made, and they are often extremely large; apparently even the smaller ones are taller than the tallest man, and the biggest are 20 to 30 metres (yes, metres not feet, if the students weren't exaggerating) tall! People often put fireworks inside the monigotes before they are put on the bonfires.

Lots of firecrackers are set off for a couple of hours before the proper fireworks go off at midnight. There are street parties everywhere. The monigotes are burned at midnight and after this their 'widows', men dressed as women in masks and black clothes, dance around and on top of cars at traffic lights in order to get money from the drivers and passers-by. (At this point I checked whether I'd heard them correctly by drawing a picture of a stick man on top of a car - they nodded and said that was correct.)

I told them about Guy Fawkes' Night and the similarity between a monigote and the Guy, but they hadn't heard of it. Not that I was expecting them to, of course. They did seem to find it interesting, though.


After classes finished for the day yesterday a group of us teachers went to a chifa (the Ecuadorian name for a Chinese restaurant) for lunch. It was the first time I'd had Chinese food since I arrived in Ecuador in May, and I was interested to see how it differs to British Chinese food. To be honest it wasn't that different, except that in the sweet & sour chicken dish (and indeed the three other dishes we shared) there weren't any beansprouts or bamboo shoots. The pieces of pineapple were bigger and obviously fresh, too, instead of tinned. The pieces of celery were bigger, greener and a bit more crunchy than the celery at home, as well. I was so stuffed when I left that I didn't have any dinner in the evening because I was still too full from earlier!

I was observed in class last Tuesday - by a prospective student! She wanted to observe a class first before paying for the course. I was informed of this after the class had already started. I secretly felt really pressurised for a couple of minutes after the receptionist went back to tell her it was OK, because after all, if she didn't like it then she wouldn't sign up for the course, and if that happened then how badly would that reflect on me? Once she'd come in and I'd welcomed her, however, I acted as though she was just another student and she joined in as if she were already part of the class. Thirty seconds after everyone had left at the end of the class, the receptionist came back in to tell me that the student definitely wanted to come back, and did I think she was the right standard for the course? The answer was yes, so I've had a new student in my Pre-Intermediate 3 class since Tuesday.

The 10th of August is a public holiday here. This year that falls on a Saturday, so since classes will be cancelled that day, Friday is my day off at the moment and I won't have to teach until the Monday evening, I've decided to go to Cuenca for a long weekend! I'll leave first thing on the Friday and come back first thing on Monday morning. I can't wait - numerous people have told me about how beautiful and historic Cuenca is. Some of the others might be coming with me as well.

Posted by 3Traveller 07:35 Archived in Ecuador Tagged hot_air_balloons ecuador guayaquil english_teaching malecon_2000 chifa traditional_customs

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