The title of this post was the headline of many an email I sent last week, trying to organize that event. I know you all are probably rather lost, but stick with me. I will get there, I promise.

The beautiful thing about having Monday and Tuesday off, I realized, is that the week before vacation, you can make it through it with the thought of a break on the horizon, and the week after is only three days—gently easing you back into the routine of reality. Wednesday then, was lovely in that if felt like Monday but then I would realize it wasn't, which is a happy feeling.

Fuzzy swing hanging from a tall tree
I was greeted on my first walk to school with the addition of this oddly fuzzy swing to the roundabout with the fountain area…

But this upset me a biiit:

A blue Christmas tree visible through the window
Seriously? So much wrong with this, not only do the neighbors have a Christmas tree up when it is barely November, it is also garishly blue AND FLASHING! Why??

This was eerily beautiful though:

View of the soccer field but it's too foggy to see anything
Foggy night that utterly covered the soccer field across the street

As I mentioned, Ximena's birthday is November 2ed, but since I (and a lot of the rest of the Ecuadorian world) were out of town that weekend, because of day of the dead, she decided to have her party the following weekend. Here is where I explain what a chiva is: it is essentially an old bus/truck with open sides and no seats, except around the edges, and it is decked out with open space, lights and a bar to party in. You then crank up the music and cruise around the city, drinking this slightly alcoholic tea (called canelazo, which is mostly for warming you up purposes) and then you dance and dance. So, we were going to have one of those. "Invite all your friends!" she told me, which is not necessarily the typical approach to celebrating your 44th birthday (hence, my host family is super cool)

After I presented about my interviews with Ecuadorian men about machismo for my oral exam in Spanish on Thursday, I had no other big assignments for the week, and so my mental energies went towards inviting and confirming who was going to come to the chiva.

When Friday finally rolled around, I did some work after class, then ate some dinner, and got dressed for the long awaited chiva. A little before 8 (when it was to start) I finally remembered to gift Ximena those earnings I had gotten her from the Waorani community, and soon thereafter, the birthday girl, Lupe (next door neighbor but also Gustavo's mom) and Gustavo and I drove to the place the chiva was to start.

The chiva is here
And there it was-as luminescent and exciting as promised
Selfie from inside the chiva
Blurry and blue chiva selfie

We had to wait a while for everyone to show up (we think it ended up being about 30some of us, with their friends and my friends, and some of their friends) In the final tally, there was everyone from Earlham except Rodolfo who was sick, and James, who had a date (That left: Michelle +3 vegan friends of hers, Tyler, Sarah, and Minori) plus Veronica (anthropologist), Carol (friend from camping trip) and Valentin (French classmate from Spanish class who made us crepes) It was a grand group, once everyone finally did arrive. I collect everyone's $5 as they boarded, and each was gifted a plastic cup on a necklace string (to avoid having to hold it in the rare moments it was empty) and plastic whistles (to make as much noise as humanely possible)

We had a great time trying to dance and not fall over, as we slowly wound our way through heavy Friday night traffic to the centro historico (where we saw several other chivas). At some point we stopped in a park and all got out. It was time to crown the king and queen of the chiva. Being the birthday girl, Ximena was obviously the queen, so all that remained to be decided was the king-who would volunteer?

When only Gustavo stepped into the circle, Ximena volun-told Tyler and a family friend into the circle as well. Each contestant had to dance with Ximena, and the king was to be elected by popular vote (loudest cheers.) I think because of the large contingent who knew him, and not the other two people (in addition, of course, to his fabulous dance moves and natural charm) Tyler was crowned the king of the chiva with Ximena. After a little macarena and some other dances in which the foreigners were utterly lost to the correct moves (in one of which I also managed to break Sarah's sandal in three places…but we ended up fixing it with a combination of the string from the cup necklace and some gum) We then piled back into the chiva to finish our rout back to where we started.

At 10:00, when it was over, we spilled back out onto the street, and started deciding if we wanted to go to the clubs (just a few blocks away) or if we wanted to load ourselves into the combination of cars, taxis and a bike and go back to our house. We eventually elected for the latter, and slowly arranged ourselves into the various transports to get there. Ironically, the three of us who actually live here were the last to arrive, to 30+ people in our living room! Popcorn, Cheetos and cerveza were passed round, and the furniture was pushed aside, Spotify fired up, and pretty soon Ximena was pulling everyone onto the "dance floor" once again.

We had a lovely time, I learned a little bachata from Ernesto, the family friend who had been the other chiva king contestant, and had a lot of fun with everyone, Sarah and I occasionally breaking into exaggerated interpretive ballet-style dance when we felt it was necessary (things you can only do in clubs if you wanna be ridiculed for looking like an idiot) and her and Minor impressed everyone with their spontaneous ability to do the splits and russian dance moves when needed. It was about 2am when everyone left and we had cleaned up enough to go to bed.

The next day, Minori came over at 11, because we were planning on going to the centro historico to buy some yarn (the hat I had been making in Yasuní having inspired her to learn to knit.) When we asked Ximena for directions on which bus to take, and if she had any knitting needles, she suggested we all go, and pick up Sarah to fill the last seat in the car. The five of us spent a lovely (if a bit rainy) Saturday strolling through narrow cobbled streets, to yarn shops and shoe markets (Sarah was a little desperate for footwear, after the shoe tragedy of the night before) we ate candied figs, salted green mango, and chocolate covered bananas all before we sat down to a large traditional lunch in an excessively cheap (and therefore excessively crowded) restaurant. The sheer quantity of food made us waddle back to the car, groaning and threatening to explode all the way home.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with chatting and knitting lessons in my room, which Tyler later joined, minus the knitting. Veronica joined us sometime in the evening, and when they all left to go clubbing, a slight stomachache kept me at home.

Sunday was a day of homework and preparing for the first real week after Yasuní (on Monday we were to have our written midterm for Spanish) Sarah Tyler and I went to see a free showing of an independent Spanish film at la casa de la cultura near school in the evening. It was an interesting slice-of-life type film, with no easily definable plot, but it had characters that alternated between funny and touching.

After taxi-ing back home in record time (since the city is essentially totally empty on Sundays, especially in the evening) I met up once again with Minori to study for our exams together (but also just mostly knit and talk some more) Our study session turned into a sleepover when it got too late for her to walk home, and thus it happened that I woke up Minori in the other room at 7am (when asked if she wanted to sleep in my bed or in the other room she responded: "Hmmm, I move a lot in my sleep, and in Yasuní you sang in your sleep, so I will sleep in the other room" ) so that we could register for classes for next semester. Or try to anyway…But that is the start of another story, and a new week. Although I have now lived most of this new week by now, I will store up that story for when it can be a week long.