Slight change / Petit changement


I have decided to send newsletters by emails instead of blogging. SO, if you do read this blog and want to keep doing so, please leave me your name and email address as a comment (no worry, I´ll be the only one who can see it, ever) so that I can build a list of recipients and you´ll keep being able to follow M´s super duper fascinating adventures in Ecualand.

I don´t know how to translate Cimer Albert in English, so chau.
PS: if you keep checking this blog though, you´ll be able to see the photos updates on flickr (see left hand column)



Pour avoir un peu plus le contrôle de mon lectorat, je vais, au lieu de poster sur ce blog ouvert à tous, envoyer mes posts sous formes de “newsletters” (oui oui, grand-père, comme toi). DONC. Si vous lisez ce blog de temps en temps et voulez continuer à le faire, envoyez-moi votre nom et adresse email en commentaire (je serai la seule à la voir) pour que je puisse constituer une liste de destinataires des aventures follement passionnantes de M en Equateur.

Cimer Albert !

Si vous revenez sur cette page, cela dit, vous pourrez voir les nouvelles photos sur flickr (colonnes de gauche)


Birthday in photos

It included:

-trucha in Cajas with my colleagues, the rector and school secretaries

-a walk to the Virgin Mary santuario in Cajas ( and a visit to JC)

-Too many canelasos with the same colleagues, rector and school secretaries

-a surprise cake/cafecito from my host mum who had invited my fellow PCVS C, N, and S as well (host sister made the cake, host sister in law made the pasta, and everyone gave me presents and cards !)

-Too many tequila shots and a Time´s up game in Spanish

-KTV with PCV pengyous and my host brother and his friend

-playing pool, ping pong, cards, chess, darts in the most gorgeous setting ever at this hostel in Vilcabamba ( I will have to hike next time, this time we wanted to be slugs and relax)

-eating French fresh baguette made by a French hippie who has settled in Vilca 16 years ago, (the baguette, not the French hippie) with smoked ham

-eating breakfast with a  view on the green valleys of Vilca

-swimming in the hostel pool

-walking to the village and taking it easy napping in hammocks

All in all, a pretty wicked birthday !

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Baby shower and high school graduation fiesta.

I went to my first baby shower of all times.
I guess I have no friends who have had babies yet, so my first baby shower was Ecuadorian.

As for most Ecua celebrations I have been to, the chairs were placed all around the room.

We arrived, sat, waited for people to arrive poco a poco.

The baby was due the next week. The older sister (3 year old?) had a T-shirt that said “big sister” in English.

I couldn´t help but stare at the MASSIVE 1 by 2 meter painting of Jesus on the cross, a knotted rope around his neck, flames, small devils dancing around him.
Pretty traumatizing, right there, master piece of the living room-

The young cousins walked around with plates of chips, salchi bites, and (best of all) chocolate covered stawberries (wanna steal that chocolate fountain thingy).

Majority of women, but a few men nonetheless.
We started the games.

Soup of letters, labyrinth, put the letters in the right order to find the baby related words (too bad I couldn´t keep my paper cuz I didn´t know all of those !)
Then we had to guess the waist line of the future mum, tearing toilet paper.
I rock cuz I won that one. 9 toilet paper sheets exactly.

A fun one was for men: two dads had to change a diaper on a doll, blindfolded. That included wiping the doll´s butt, yes.

I have issues with cakes here, like I did in the U.S. and in China: they are SO sweet and heavy. Frosting and ice cream and what not.

I don´t want heavy cakes, I want smelly cheese instead, what can I do?

The same day, my host family invited me to the graduation party of the daughter of the family´s nanny.

City folks versus campo folks.

Big time.

We drove 30 minutes out of town, parked the car in the dark, walked down a mud lane with the light of our cellphones, all the way down the hill to one of these massive Azuay houses. 12 kids, 4 emigrated in the U.S. who sent money to build the house.

B. started working for the family at 14. When she was got her daughter, my host dad became the godfather, and that´s why the host fam was invited. They hadn´t seen B. in 13 years. Last time they had been to her house, it was a shack with mud floors, and B.´s  family was very hostile towards them. “what are THOSE people doing here?”

From what I understood, my host fam almost lost everything during the sucre/dollar crisis in 2000. Because they had taken a loan to buy a van right before the price of the dollar was multiplied by 5, they ended having to pay a massive amount for that car. Like, having 13 ,000 dollars in debts when making about 250$ per month between the two parents.

So they lost the nanny at that time.
But kept in touch with the daughter whose school was in the city.

It was super interesting to see my host family interacting with people from a way lower class.

Host brother loves to dance so he was doing great.
Host dad: way more comfortable  than host mum, socializing, making a speech, saying thank you. Host mum? Not so much.

Well, she´s like me, she doesn´t like to dance, so ….

Traditional music, traditional hats and skirts.
For the older generation.
The younger? They lost those a long time ago. The graduate, who wore them as a kid, was wearing a super tight short silky mini dress with real high heels.

The overcrowded room was over heated by human heat, while it was deadly freezing outside.

We waited for dinner (12:30 at night) to leave.
The grand mother followed us as my host mum and I were climbing up the path “you´re not leaving, are you?”


We reached the car, hands full of doggie bags (the tradition is to give the guest WAY too much food: usually pork – hornado, chicken, rice, potatoes cooked in the pork fat, salad, beans. A MOUNTAIN of it.). Host bro was there with his wife, and explained to me that, for him too, this was a culture shock.

My host dad arrived 15 minutes later, having profusely thanked everyone, with three cooked guinea pigs in a plastic bag.

We had guinea pig soup the following day. Yum yum. Not.

High school graduation ceremony.

On Friday night, at 5pm, I entered the amphitheater where the last year students were to have their graduation ceremony.

About 140 students, their parents, and all the teachers (they had to sign a paper upon getting in the room. Apparently, last year, some were late and the doors were closed so major loss of face with empty rows where the teachers should have been. Hence the compulsory signatures).

At 5:10, before the students got in, the secretary asks me “tu tienes que dar el certificado al mejor alumno de ingles”

Ok. That seemed ok, since I had helped him write his speech in English (correcting only the language, not the actual message – 3/4 were about thanking god for shining light on the class).

But then I was told (it was about 5:20pm by now and the students were walking in): “oh, tienes que sentarte a la mesa directiva para dar el diploma.”
Oki doki.
Mesa directiva.
What´s that?

Well, it´s that long official table covered in a white table clothe that is right on the stage, where the rector, vice rector and 9 other teachers were seated.

“wait, I JUST have to give that certificate? What else do I have to do?”
“no, no, that´s it. I´ll tell you when to get up”

The students come in, the ceremony starts.

We all have a fancy program with the names of ALL the students who graduate tonight on it, silver letter, logo of the school, program that says “speech by X, speech by Y., musical piece 1, student award 1, speech by Z, musical piece 2 etc”

The secretary starts:
“due to a printing error, we have to apologize because student X, who graduated in -insert whatever major here-  does not have his name on the list. ”

Ouch. Poor kid !

Ecuadorian national anthem (I REALLY need to learn it, damnit)

After the few first speeches comes the reading of the students´names. Turns out that … 12 names are read. 12 students stand up, holding their square hat. 12 students start walking towards the stage.

Sure I just have to give that one certificate?


Each student stands in front of each person at the mesa directiva, me included. The rector reads a text saying that according to the article number y of the constitution, he certifies that they are now about to be officially graduated. Then each kid gives the person in front of him, and the mesa directiva people get to place the hat on his head, shake his hand and say “felicitaciones”.

That, about 12 times.

The good thing was that the students were super stressed, and didn´t have more of an idea of what they were supposed to do than I did (not giving the hat in the right direction, sweaty hands, hands trembling with stress, not knowing if they were supposed to shake more than one teacher´s hand, replacing the hat on their head so that it wouldn´t fall.)

The musical piece turned out to be Kenny G style songs blasting on the sound system, which gave the opportunity to the parents to stand up and go in the aisles to photograph their kids.

Graduating fronm high school is a big deal. The majority doesn´t go to university.

Then it was time for the best English student to give his speech, which turned out to be the longest of all (about 10 min, and he … hadn´t printed the corrected version, it seemed?). After 10 long minutes, he said “now I am going to translate my words in Spanish so that you can all understand”

That woke everyone up. The audience didn´t like it.

It all ended with the Cuenca anthem.

All in all the ceremony lasted about 2h, and it was interesting to see the Ecuadorian version of a graduation ceremony.

After having seen an American one, a Chinese one, an Ecuadorian one, I am always kind of sad deep inside that I never got one in France.

Ah, French public system = no money = no ridiculous hat and gown nor emotional “I did it” time. Sigh. I have kind of gotten to like those and wish I had had one of my own.

Couldn´t help it…

Dans les rues de Cuenca, je suis tombée sur ça:

Alors, j´ai pensé à ça!

Other amusing things these days:

marketing aqui is as good as in China:

Seen on a man´s T-shirt: “I don´t want to be loved for my brains”

Seen on a bright pink wallet: “mommy´s my bank account”

Seen on a cap, worn by a tiny skinny little boy: “F.A.T.”

Besos and enjoy your Summer. I never realized how not being able to wait anxiously for the hot Summer days sucks.

I actually do hate the hot Summer days. I prefer the Spring. But I was not mentally prepared for no change of season. It´s super strange!


On a side note…

I went to the Cuenca Foto Club and learnt that….

there is….

a CUY CORRIDA in Giron, not far from Cuenca, somewhere close to Cuenca sometime every year.

My new goal in life is find out when and to go.

Cuy, if you haven´t been following, means guinea pig, or cochon d´Inde.

Concentré d´Equateur en deux-trois conversations et quelques heures.

Le week-end dernier, Y. m´a invitée à la fête de fin d´année en l´honneur de son neveu, diplomé du lycée.

Y. a trente ans, n´est pas mariée, mais est depuis quatre ans avec un divorcé père d´une petite fille, sans que ses parents (à elle) ne soient au courant. A trente ans, elle a sa propre voiture depuis un an, a deux emplois, mais doit toujours demander la permission à ses parents avant de sortir. La permission en question est souvent refusée donc elle “s´échappe” discrètement, ou ment.

On arrive à la maison, IMMENSE, en fait quatre ou cinq maisons regroupées dans lesquelles habitent plusieurs familles plus ou moins proches. Ces maisons énormes sont typiques d´ici, construites et agrandies grâce aux envois d´argent des membres de la famille expatriés en Espagne ou aux U.S.

Y. a une chambre séparée qui ferme a clef. Elle m´explique qu´elle a dû casser la vitre une fois où elle avait oublié sa clef.

Il fait froid.

J´ai encore un rhume débile (can´t get used to that climate it seems), alors je garde mon manteau (et les trois couches dessous) et mon bonnet. Y. me dit de me mettre à l´aise, allume la télé, et me dit qu´elle doit aller dans la salle du bas pour appeler sa soeur aux U.S. avec skype. Je feuillette un magazine gringo, lis l´article sur la préparation du cochon d´inde.

Sa soeur préférée, qui l´a en quelques sortes éduquée parce que ses parents travaillaient énormément, a émigré aux U.S. il y a douze ans.

Elle ne l´a pas vu depuis douze ans.

La fête est pour le fils d´une autre soeur. Les relations sont conflictuelles.
La soeur a été chassée de la maison quand elle est devenue fille-mère (le copain, américain, a décidé de ne pas rester), mais les parents ont changé d´avis avec ce premier petit fils qu´ils adorent. Mais la mère travaille énormément, n´a pas une vie facile et peut être odieuse avec Y. “pourquoi t´es devenue prof? C´est le pire métier du monde.” “Tu sors encore? Pourquoi”


Back to the fiesta, qui a lieu dans ce qui ressemble carrément à une salle de bal: système hi fi à fond la caisse, chaises placées tout autour de la salle, dance floor.

“Ahora, el graduo y su mama van a bailar el baile tradicional, el paso doble! ” dit le DJ dans son micro.

Je suis avec Y. dans la cuisine adjacente, fascinée par le cochon d´inde dépecé, tout rose comme un nouveau né, avec du percil dans la bouche, bien au frais dans la casserole, qui doit être cuisiné le lendemain.  Elle prépare un vin chaud.

“Il déteste danser !”

Effectivement, il a l´air de s´amuser, le graduo, c´est fou!

Puis il doit danser avec sa grand-mère, qui a pleuré durant son discours, en remerciant dieu pour l´éducation de son petit fils.

Quand je dis il danse avec untelle, ça veut dire que TOUT LE MONDE est assis sur les chaises autour de la pièce et tous les yeux sont fixés sur le couple en train de danser…. Well, tous sauf l´arrière grand-mère, toute menue avec sa jupe de velour plissée et son chapeau de feutre traditionnel, complètement endormie. Il faut dire que la fête, prévue à 20h30 a commencée à 22h30.

Heureusement que Y. sait que je déteste danser….