Thursday, March 10, 2011

Carnaval with the Watsons

Carnaval is a several-day holiday here in Cuenca. Many of the shops are closed and the City feels like a Sunday, but quieter, almost like Census Day (when everyone stayed at home to be counted).   Many families take a vacation out of town, stretching the weekend, and taking advantage of the extra days off.

Carnaval 2011 is our 3rd.  We first visited Cuenca during Carnaval 2008 and got drenched with a hose in the open window of a taxi!  At the time, we had no idea about this tradition, getting eveyone wet.  Not a pleasant experience as the day was chilly and rainy and we had a lot to do that day. 

Our 2nd Carnaval last year, we mostly hid out.  There were some close calls with water, including a little kid 'getting us' with a water gun as we waited outside of our apt building for a ride. Just a sprinkle and the day was warm and the little kid was so cute!   We got lucky.  Last year, we heard some yucky stories about Carnaval...  serious injuries, bad bruises.  A few busy days at the emergency rooms, another Carnaval tradition.

This year, we were even more vigilent, and we were thankful we could escape most of the water frivolity.  Not that we think we're too old for it!  It's just who wants to be wet, or foamed, or floured or least not intentionally.  Everyone on the street is fair game, even us old folks.  Most of the kids had a lot of fun and carried out the traditions just fine without us.  They had each other and had a ball.

This year, our friends/neighbors, Chuck and Nancy, hosted a wonderful Carnaval soiree on Fat Tuesday, with great food and friendship and fun (and no water, except the rain).   You can read here:

Since Chuck and Nancy are usually behind the camera, here are some pics of them from the party.

Building the scrambled dog.  Nancy's chili is the best!

Chuck taking a rest from his perfect hosting duties.

Last Sunday we walked to town, as usual, with Chuck and Nancy. 

We were a little intrepid walking during Carnaval...too much of a chance to get water balloon'ed!  But, we started out fairly early, in hopes all the 'water devils' were still sleeping at that hour.  We made it to breakfast, without a drop of water.

It was a lovely day!

We admired the flower arrangement a woman was carrying...

Here's a closer view.

Of course, we had to drool over all the goodies at the bakery.

We usually only see these bread babies during All Souls day in November.  Fun!

New street art...with an 'interesting' message on the man's sign.  Public urination is common, but we think this sign is asking folks to not do it here.  Probably in interest of the new cultural center being built on this stretch over the river.

(Boy, is our Spanish lousy!  Anyone have a better translation?)

We kept looking up as we walked!  Often, the 'water kids' hang out on the balconies awaiting their 'victims'! 

On the way back home, we did get a little wet.  A couple of kids sprayed water into the open windows of the taxi.  We didn't get too wet, but the water was a good drink for the flower bouquets we bought at the flower market.

We decided to walk along the river to the Oro Verde Hotel for coffee on Monday.  So far, no water, until we were headed back along Av Ordonez Lasso.  We just happened to need a rest in the shade and stopped in a doorway.  Yep, water-alert!  We could see the pick-up with the kids in the back, speeding down toward us...  That balloon just barely missed us!  It was thrown with such force, it probably would have knocked Nancy out if it'd hit her.

A couple more interesting tidbits about Carnaval:
A Cuencano friend of ours mentioned that the City had declared all water 'attacks' illegal this year.  Didn't seem to stop everyone though..  And, did you know that foam spray is flavored?  Brother Bob at the Coast got sprayed with pink foam and it tasted like strawberry!  And, we just thought it was pink soap.

So -- we survived Carnaval again this year and had alot of fun, but we did see and hear more about the 'downside' of  the Carnaval season. 

We met a little boy with an eyepatch.  His Mom said it was 'Carnaval'...not good.   One of our friends got royally 'balloon'ed' by a few older boys and young men who cornered her as she was going to work....her face was swollen and bruised.  Even though she asked they spare her backpack from the water, it wasn't.  That was mean.  Another day, we saw teenagers smack a young Mom and babe-in-arms on the street with a bucket of water.  Mom almost dropped the baby and it made her toddler cry.  So not good.

The City is back to normal (busy traffic, noise, construction, open shops, etc, and no water attacks!) and we're now looking forward to Easter celebrations coming up soon.

(This pic was taken from a taxi from the Supermaxi near us yesterday...almost gridlock traffic.)

Lent began yesterday with Ash Wednesday.  When we were downtown, we saw several folks with perfect little ash crosses on their foreheads.  We remember in the US it was more like a smudge/thumbprint of ash.  Some priest here is an artist!

Here are more pictures of beautiful flowers at Chuck and Nancy's:

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