Monday, March 14, 2011

Carnaval - Riobamba

Are you a Ziploc bag half full or half empty kind of parent? You just wonder as a parent sometimes when some "event" takes place at the beginning of a trip if it's going to set the tone for the whole trip. And so fifteen minutes into our six hour bus ride to Riobamba, "I have to go potty" elicits the internal crisis aversion protocols: remain calm, ask the question--"just pee?" The very big and serious sign on the bathroom door at the back of the bus foreshadows, "SOLAMENTE URINARIO!" The answer?head down, sad eyes looking up, no answer--which is the answer.

Mothers and nurses alone know the true tragedy of the human condition. (It's the best argument that Shakespeare was actually a woman, and mother). In damage control mode, saying as much to herself as to me, "I have a ziploc bag. I can hold it under him. I hope they have a trash can in there." Though she continued to look at me, her eyes did not implore me to take her place. This is mommy's job (at least for this child, anyway). Instead those eyes said, "and there will be flowers, dinner, and a massage."

And they headed back. Once more, into the breeches, dear friends, once more.

And did this set the tone for the trip? It did indeed, but our heroes emerged faster than was possible had things gone down as expected. It is possible to miss entire three-course dinners accompanying Duncan to the potty. This would have been an unprecedented best time, given what needed to happen in there (and how it needed to happen). So Diana explained in one of her happiest, if not proudest, moments, that she had given him the "big boy" speech and he was convinced to hold it till the bus stopped later on. He then slept for much of the trip and was also distracted trying to watch movies, so he made the entire six hours "on hold" and earned the Golden Ziploc award for being a big boy.

I say "trying to watch movies," as we were both employing our best tactics of distraction and outright authority trying not to let our kids watch the "in-flight" movies. It is worth an aside here to any families looking to travel Ecuador by bus: Most long-haul buses here play movies wholly inappropriate for prepubescent children and for adults with tastes beyond pubescence. We got to see the family classics "Paranormal Activity 2" and the Stone Cold Steve Austin formula "Hunt to Kill" on our ride, whether we wanted to or not. There were three TVs suspended from the ceiling, like on airplanes, to ensure that even short children can see from their seats. And the volume was at a convenient level such that there was no risk of even a crying baby making you miss an F-bomb. Fortunately for Duncan's development into manhood they were all in English (with Spanish subtitles), so he wouldn't miss this valuable "ex-parente" education.

Corn of coppi...cona corpa...look at all the food!
So we arrived in Riobamba late on Friday having knocked off a rite of passage and the tone set for the trip. We really just stopped in Riobamba to split up the trip to Baños. But Riobamba also has one of the larger Saturday markets, so...why not? You just cannot tire of seeing such an astounding bounty of fruit, veggies, and Chinese-made tennis shoes. This market is large every day, but Saturday is when the entire countryside surges in and shuts down the surrounding streets with its weekly riot of culinary color.

We also happened upon a morning parade for Carnaval, which was the occasion of this extended school break. Now I don't pretend to understand the basis for Carnaval (as opposed to just Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday), but it seems to me the clearest and most widely recognized example of the Latin American habit of extending festivals. They just don't do one-day parties here. Ever holiday seems to last a week, and every town has its own big date(s) that it celebrates in addition to the seeming dozens of national holidays.
Ready position

What makes Carnaval unique, however, is the water, spuma, and colored talcum powder. Again, whatever someone may offer as to the significance of these various missiles  to the holiday, I'd say is at best a loose justification raise hell and hurl stuff. And I'm not knocking it. Though water balloons launched from moving cars has been outlawed in many places, entire buckets of water from three stories up are fair game and the best reason for constant and wide-eyed vigilance. I suspect the frozen water balloon stories are just myth, but we can testify to the ubiquity and democracy of the other armaments.
Haa Haa

No one is immune, there is no mercy, and god only knows what's in that foam crap. And the idea of a foam battle sounds pretty appealing, until you take one in the face. Duncan has his award, but he's getting to full big boy in stages. He was, on this first day of Carnaval, not yet to the "shrug it off, shoot back, and worry about scars later" stage. Toward the end of the trip, he was managing to grin, or at least cover his eyes and not cry.

But what we had discovered in Riobamba as a peculiar means of celebrating, was merely a training exercise for the shock and awe that was Baños.
Pull yourself together and get back in there, soldier

1 comment:

  1. All I can say is - I love you guys!!. Thank you for letting me live through you these days.
    Love your writing, Matt.

    Love you, Liz