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Independence of Guayaquil (and other celebrations)


I went into town on Wednesday morning to see what I could of the 9th October Independence of Guayaquil procession. The bus journey took a very long time because of all the traffic, but even though I missed the military part of the procession, I caught the latter stages which consisted of schoolchildren twirling batons, waving Guayaquil flags and playing drums, trumpets and portable steel glockenspiels (though not all at the same time...) It was very colourful and musical - the sound of the glockenspiels reminded me of Caribbean steel pans.


I started off watching it on Avenida 9 Octubre, the main street in Guayaquil, but then walked along to the Malecon and saw some of it there before returning the way I'd come.


I could only stay for about an hour because I had to get back to work, but I was really glad I'd made the effort to come.

I did a bit of food shopping earlier today at the supermarket and noticed they had some (undressed) artificial Christmas trees on display - the first sign of Christmas I've seen here. I suppose in the UK there's Hallowe'en stuff everywhere. Here, apparently a couple of years ago the government banned Hallowe'en for being an US import and not a native Ecuadorian festival. They celebrate All Souls' Day, 2nd November, as The Day of the Dead, but officially at any rate they don't celebrate Hallowe'en.

I was told this by the students in the pre-advanced conversation class I had for the past four Monday mornings but has now finished. (The conversation classes come in blocks of four). I enjoyed that class a lot, despite it being between 7-9 am on Monday mornings, because there was a great atmosphere, everybody got on extremely well and there were some very interesting discusssions about such things as the high levels of corruption they feel is present in the government and Ecuadorian society in general; the problems with drugs which they think has only become a major issue since Correa came into power; the All Souls' Day, Christmas, New Year and Carnival celebrations in Ecuador and other countries; the popular meaning (in Ecuador) of different colours of flowers, which led on somehow to the importance of love and positivity; whether people's destinies are fixed from birth or fluid; and freedom of speech and where the line is.

Posted by 3Traveller 04:51 Archived in Ecuador Tagged buses ecuador procession guayaquil english_teaching malecon_2000 avenida_9_de_octubre traditional_customs Comments (0)

Isla Santay

Half-day trip from Guayaquil

A group of us teachers and other staff went on a trip to Isla Santay today. The River Guayas is so wide next to Guayaquil that there is space for the three-mile-long Isla Santay in the middle of it.

The day started for us at the Malecon, where some of us had some candyfloss before the boat was ready to depart (boat ticket and tour: $8 each).


Once we arrived we were shown around the only village by a local boy who gave us a commentary in Spanish. There are 56 houses, all built for the occupants two or three years ago as part of a government project. Before they got these wooden houses, raised up on concrete stilts/ columns, the people lived in little huts which got flooded every year in the rainy season. A recycling centre, visitor centre and little building for tourists to sleep in are currently being built.


After walking through the little village he took us a few minutes further to a small enclosure where there were some crocodiles, the only ones on the island. They were brought over in 2001.


As we walked through the forest I noticed lots of little holes in the earth - apparently they are made by crabs burrowing down. Once they get big they are widely eaten by the villagers and also by an animal which might be a type of small bear or crab-eating raccoon - we saw some of their footprints in the mud when we went over a bridge.

It felt surreal to be in an environment so different to Guayaquil yet so geographically close. It was a really nice change to go from walking through the bustle and noise and dust of the big city to being in a a forest/mangrove with the smell of grass and damp earth and the sounds of cicadas and birdsong around us.

After coming back from the crocodile enclosure we were taken to the visitors' communal eating room, a separate hut with no walls. The price of our tour ($8) also included lunch. I had 'seco de pollo' or chicken stew; very tasty it was too.


After lunch everybody else from the boat went back, but our group asked if we could look round more of the island, by ourselves. This request they appeared to find highly unusual, and it turned out we couldn't go by ourselves because the whole island is a Protected Area or something similar, so someone had to be with us in case we did any damage.

We didn't go all that far in the end - our guide took us to the local school, which involved a trek of about 15-20 minutes. We all got our shoes extremely muddy.


When we emerged from the trees we were in a clearing with a path of wooden planks leading to the edge of the river at one end and the school building at the other.


The classrooms were all locked (it's a school holiday at present) but we had a look around the communal areas. On one wall there was a display of children's work about the national flag, and on the front wall of the school there were hanging flowerpots made from plastic bottle halves. The playground was an area of grass with some tyres half-buried into the ground and a tyre swing. We all got bitten a lot by mosquitoes.


After looking round the school, instead of walking back through the forest we walked to the river edge and our guide shouted until the people working on the jetty further around the coast heard him. He got one of them to come round in a motorised wooden kayak to pick us up and take us round to the main boat! We were quite precariously balanced to say the least - with six of us in there the sides tilted back and forth a lot and at one point the whole thing nearly overturned. It was fun though!


Once we got back to the Malecon some of us went into a nearby Sweet & Coffee branch for a cold drink and pudding. Sweet & Coffee is an Ecuadorian version of Starbucks or Costa. I had a mocha frappelatte and a delicious 'queso de leche', which is quite a lot like creme caramel, only the texture is slightly more solid and the sauce is based on honey rather than caramel. Despite the name, it didn't taste of cheese to me at all. I've had this in Brazil as well.


At one point while we were eating and drinking, I turned my head and noticed a clown trying to get in though the glass entrance! She had the full wig, makeup and clothes on and was pleading with the employee at the door to let her in. He gently refused though and the clown disappeared. I think her intention had been to beg from us and the door employee had realised this - either that or clown discrimination is alive and well in Guayaquil...! I think she must have wandered up from the Malecon, because there are often children's entertainers there at weekends.

Posted by 3Traveller 03:15 Archived in Ecuador Tagged guayaquil malecon_2000 isla_santay ecuadorian_cuisine river_trip river_guayas Comments (0)

Las Peñas and Cerro Santa Ana, Guayaquil


Last Sunday I made a third attempt to visit the Museum of Anthropology & Contemporary Art here in Guayaquil, but I was thwarted yet again by the powers that be. This time there was a notice on the door saying that it's closed for refurbishment but will open again soon. Very frustrating... at this rate I doubt I'll actually get inside the place until well after Christmas! Hopefully I will be proved wrong though.


After reading the notice I decided to do what I did the last time this happened - walk along nearby Las Peñas district first...


...and then climb the hill above it (Cerro Santa Ana). It was extremely hot; at least 35 degrees, if not more. The sky was cloudless so I knew the view would be great from the hilltop. This time I climbed up a series of zigzagging steps at the side of the hill, rather than the front way which seemed more touristy.


Then I climbed up more sets of steps and pathways, and passed by a little 5-a-side wire-fenced concrete football pitch right on the side of the hill next to the river; a match was going on and there were several supporters sprawled on the steps leading up to and above the pitch, cheering and chatting.


Once I reached the top I took photos of the old fort foundations, the chapel and lighthouse...


...as well as the fabulous views over the city.


On the main route down:


Posted by 3Traveller 03:14 Archived in Ecuador Tagged football museum ecuador guayaquil fortifications cerro_santa_ana las_peñas malecon_2000 Comments (0)

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 Comments (0)

Further explorations of Guayaquil: Monuments and iguanas


On Saturday I decided to go back into town and try to get into the Museum of Anthropology and Contemporary Art, because it was closed when I went the Sunday before. I finished teaching at 13.00, so my plan was to go straight back to my flat to change, dump my rucksack, get my camera and then catch a bus all the way into town in order to get a nice long look round the museum until it closed at 17.30.

My plan was scuppered, however, when I arrived at the museum only to find it was closed again! This time there were notices on the doors apologising for the inconvenience caused, but no reasons were given for the closure. I think it may have been because to one side there was a small stage and some stalls set up for some Ecuador Post event going on with music blaring from loudspeakers.

I'd walked along the Malecon to get there, like last week, passing one of the major monuments on it: La Rotonda. This commemorates a famous meeting between Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín, two of the liberators of Spanish South America from Spain, in 1822.


This time there were many more piles of riverweed floating down the river than there are normally.


The botanical garden was out of bounds for me again, this time because it had temporarily been turned into a prehistoric-themed children's park, complete with plastic dinosaurs and mammoth.

After this I decided that instead of going straight home again, I'd go for a walk along Avenida 9 de Octubre, the main street, until I got to Parque Centenario. I hadn't walked along that way before. On the way to the park I came across a plaza containing Guayaquil's first public monument, a statue of Ecuador's first native president. At one side is Iglesia San Francisco, originally built in the early 18th century but then destroyed in the massive fire of 1896. It was reconstructed in 1902.


Although as a result of this it doesn't look very old inside, along the walls there are lots of beautifully painted shrines.


I wandered round and took some pictures, but then lots of well-dressed people came in and an event started. It sounded like a special children's event, maybe the start of a confirmation service (though it was a Saturday, not a Sunday), though it sounded too informal for that really. There were just a few families there. Members of the public were still allowed to wander around, but I started to feel like I was intruding a bit so I left.

Parque Centenario was lovely and green, and the sun was out most of the time, so I took some more photos.


After I'd had a look round, I decided to say hello to the iguanas again in Parque Bolívar ('Iguana Square') 5-10 minutes' walk away, so that's where I headed next. I took some photos and also two videos of them, before going inside the metropolitan cathedral which is on one side of the square. As soon as I'd finished one video, I looked up and saw some more iguanas in the branches above me, so I took another shorter video of them. The square was packed with locals; icecream and water sellers wandered around.


Like Iglesia San Francisco, the original cathedral was destroyed by fire; the present one was built in 1948. The front entrance is quite ornate, but the inside is pretty simple. There are some stained glass windows high up, though. A big service was just starting so I didn't linger too long, though I did take some photos. The service was being shown on lots of mini flat TV screens - one was attached to every main column in the nave.


The municipal museum is close to Iguana Square, but closes at 14.00 on Saturdays so I couldn't go in. It has some interesting collections, apparently, so I will definitely go there sooner rather than later!

Posted by 3Traveller 03:01 Archived in Ecuador Tagged cathedral iguanas ecuador iglesia_san_francisco guayaquil explorations malecon_2000 parque_centenario guayaquil_metropolitan_cathedra avenida_9_de_octubre river_guayas Comments (0)

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