¡Feliz Navidad y Año Nuevo de Ecuador!

While the days are short and nippy for you, our Norteamericano readers, and perhaps you're even heading into a snowy winter, our December days here at the Manna site are... exactly the same as they were in July when we arrived.  Except rainier.  The sun, announced by our rooster's cries, rises between 6:00 and 6:30, followed by a usually bright and warm morning.  Mid-afternoon the temperature rapidly drops, and a torrential downpour makes getting to the library something of a difficult task for PDs heading to the teen center or children's English at 4:00 and adult English at 5:00.  The sun sets again between 6:00 and 6:30, darkening our upstairs space just in time for the meditation period at the end of women's exercise classes.  By the time we're heading home from the Centro just after 7:00, the rain has stopped and our trek on the Capelo bus is simply damp and cool.  Although it's often nice to have such predictability of daily weather patterns, it's a little disconcerting for us to be entering the holiday season here when we're used to the short, markedly colder December days characteristic of the world above 30N latitude.

However, that isn't to say we haven't been able to get into the holiday spirit, both at our Centro and at home.

Last Friday, we held our second monthly library celebration, the first being our Día de los Difuntos party.  We made cookies, hot chocolate, and decorations for a Christmas party (seeing as the vast majority of Ecuador, like the rest of Latin America, is Christian), complete with the tree we set up at home!  As with our last party on November 5, we advertised during the week prior to kids who regularly come to the library as well as out in the community, and this time had even higher attendance.  When we arrived at the library to open at 2:30, a crowd of kids was already clustered excitedly at the door shouting "Profe!  Profe!" ready to start the fiesta.  We had a schedule lined up throughout the afternoon to occupy the kids of varying ages and interests.  At 3:00 Zoë and Becky took a group upstairs to play games (musical chairs and the human knot, for instance) in our women's exercise space while I announced a Christmas storytime in the reading corner for those who were feeling more tranquilo.  In addition to reading stories from a lovely Spanish Christmas book Hannah had found at a local toy store to a small group of eager kids, I passed out a coloring book I had made of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (Sucedió Una Nochebuena in Spanish) to children to decorate and take home.  At 3:30 Sam and Brock led multiple games of chess for older kids and teens, some of which took place on our newly painted checker/chess boards on the wooden tables in the game area.  At 4:00, our normal children's art time, so many children wanted to participate in the ornament-making project led by Luke that there was a waiting list 30 names long to go into the children's art corner and use the limited number of scissors and glue available.  By 5:30 our tree was decorated (temporarily, since most children took their creations home) with multiple cotton ball Santa Clauses.  At this time, baked goods in hand, Hannah and Ashley announced the gingerbread cookie decorating hour.  They'd been upstairs churning out gingerbread men, stars, and bells in our kitchen space, and the kids were jumping up and down to decorate them with homemade icing, gum drops, and sprinkles at the end of the day.

The party was a fantastic success.  After the initial surge during which two of our sign-in sheets filled up within 5 minutes of opening, the number of children in our library grew to over 50 by the end of the day.  Throughout the day, while guided activities were going on, PDs were teaching and playing games, talking, and greeting newcomers who'd climbed our stairs for the first time upon seeing our sign outside reading "¡Fiesta de Navidad!"  We left exhausted but exhilarated to close our library for the holiday season on such a note of excitement.

After the party we immediately left for Quito to celebrate further: Brock turns 23 on December 15!  Upon his request, we headed to north Quito, the shopping center Quicentro, to go bowling.  Complete with black lights and air hockey, we celebrated Brock's birthday in classic style at the bowling alley.  Happy final birthday of 2010, Brock!

Monday night, before five of us (Zoë, Becky, Jack, Ashley and I) left for the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu and the rest headed back to the States, we held our own little holiday celebration with Secret Santa around our Christmas Tree.  The evening was a great success, complete with homemade eggnog (thanks Jack and Sam!) and spice cake (thanks to Bibi!), and a lovely way to send us off for the holidays.

¡Feliz Navidad y Año Nuevo de Ecuador!  We'll see you in January!