So, I was going to use the Friday Monday post to talk about more reasons I dislike my school, like the Inspector that looks like Hitler (Okay, I know I need photographic evidence to prove that point, but I don't have that yet. I will, I promise.), but then I went and had one of the most interesting Christmases ever, so I'm going to talk about that instead. You'd probably be more interested in that anyway.

Because it's the Caroling season, I'm going to do this post in the form of a parody of a popular Christmastime Song: The 12 Days of Christmas.

12 people dining: There were 12 people at Christmas dinner besides me and Anita, divided into two groups: People whose Name I know: Carlos, Marco, Grace (Marco's wife), Marco Alejandro (Marco's son), Salomé (Marco's daughter), Victor (Grace's brother), and People whose Name I don't Know: Victor's wife, Grace's two parents, the housekeeper, and 2 other people whose relation I don't know. Yeah. It gets kinda awkward when you don't know someone's name but it's too late to ask politely what it is. That happened to me all the time at MITES.

11 hours driving: Anita and I had planned out (by that, I mean that Anita had planned and I had sort of nodded in agreement) that we were going to take a bus from Ibarra to Aloag, meet up there with Carlos, Anita's 30-year-old son, and drive from Aloag to Santo Domingo, to spend Christmas with Anita's other son, Marcos. Leg One of the journey worked out fine. We got up at 5AM and took the 6AM bus to Quito, where we would transfer to an Aloag bus. Anita fought with the bus driver because he wasn't leaving, and spent maybe half an hour complaining to the woman across the aisle about it, but that wasn't all bad. We got to Quito and transferred to the Aloag bus and got to Aloag just fine. Then things got bad. Real bad. Anita went to cash a check in the bank for 5000 big ones, because she just sold her car on Tuesday. Money's not in the guy's bank account. She and Carlos FLIP OUT. Not in the ninja kinda way, but the "Oh my God, someone just stole my car and I'm out nine thousand dollars" kinda way. I was just sort of sitting there. So Carlos makes the decision that we're going to drive all the way back to Ibarra and find this guy, and beat the crap out of him. Well, I inferred the last part from his tone. To make matters worse, both of the guy's cell phone numbers were out of service. It was bad. So, half-way back, the guy calls and says the money's there, it was just getting transferred from one account to another. So, long story short, we drive 3 hours to Otavalo, and sort everything in fifteen minutes. Cue the 5 hour drive to Santo Domingo. Fun fun fun.

10 dogs half-eaten: One of the things I had asked myself a lot about living in Ibarra is why there aren't more dead dogs in the road, with the combination of awful driving skills and stray dogs. The answer: Because they're all out on the highway. Seriously, ten dogs, in various states of decay, often with a flock of buzzards. Nasty stuff.

9 pounds of candy: Both Grace and one of the people I don't know handed out bags of candy, somewhere in the range of nine pounds worth in total among all of us (Yes, I just made it nine so it would fit with the song. No, I don't care.). There were animal crackers, and cookies, and Tootsie Roll knock-offs, but surprisingly little chocolate. The animal crackers here are really good, way better than American ones, and for some reason they're sold in giant 30lbs. bags. Weird. So, anyway, Anita and I ate a lot of candy, and we both got stomachaches from it.

8 pigs a-hanging: One of the strange things I saw while we were driving to and from Santo Domingo was a lot of stores selling "fritadas," which are hunks of fried pig meat, served on a plate, which is a current contender for most manly food ever against beef jerky. But, the way the people sell it is they have a pig hanging up, a dead, bloodless pig, and they cut bits from it when you need. It's kind of disgusting. I mean really. There're flies and stuff on it.

7 movie sellers: I also saw a lot of DVD sellers. It's depressing, since my computer died and now I can't watch DVDs. One of the two connectors inside the computer between the battery and the power cord burned out, and so the computer will only charge when it's not on. When it is on, it uses power faster that it gains it from the power cord, and died in about half an hour. Plus, the screen got messed up for some reason, and now it displays everything so bright all the light colors get washed out. It's very frustrating.

6 hours swimming: So, on Christmas Day, the whole family went out to a water park just outside of Santo Domingo. It was kinda tame, just two slides and a kiddie pool, but Salomé and Marco Alejandro had fun. Victor took Marco Alejandro down one of the slides, inching his way down as slowly as possible, but Marco still bawled the whole way down. I didn't have swim trunks, and I didn't feel much like swimming anyway, so I sat and read my H.P. Lovecraft book again. I went over to the bar and found a bottle of Inca Kola, which is this bright yellow soda that's native to Peru. Jesse told me about it, and said it was totally nasty, so I had to try some. It was pretty nasty. But hey, whatevs. I had a pretty good time alternating throwing candy wrappers at Carlos and playing "ataque de hormigas" with Marco Alejandro. The kid is so funny. He goes up to people and says, "Are you brave?" And if they say yes, he goes "ANT ATTACK!!!" and starts tickling them. After thirty times of this, most people got kinda annoyed and started saying "No." That kinda threw him off, and he didn't really know what to do, so he went and kept trying until someone said they were brave. He also liked being spun around, so I did that too, and got really dizzy. It was all right, although there weren't any cute girls to look at.

5 different cities: So in the course of my cross-country EcuaTour, I got to see five cities: Ibarra, Aloag, Quito, Otavalo, and Santo Domingo. I had seen Otavalo and Quito once before, and of course I live in Ibarra, but the other ones were new, and I did get to see more of Quito than I had before. It was nice.

4 unique climes: Through the trip, I got to see four different settings: Misty Santo Domingo, Clear Santo Domingo, mountains, and the city. Misty Santo Domingo was what we saw once we reached the Eastern part of Ecuador where it's really warm and humid. It was the most beautiful place I've ever seen. There are trees, EVERYWHERE, on the mountains. Every square inch had a tree growing out of it, and all different sorts. Of course, I forgot my camera, so no pictures for you. You'll just have to take my word for it. I don't know why it was misty, but there was a strong cloud cover over everything, so it was all eldritch and mysterious. Maybe I've been reading too much H.P. Lovecraft, but I kept imagining this giant monster clawing his way up over the ridge of the mountain. Clear Santo Domingo was what we saw on the way back from Santo Domingo, when all the clouds were gone. I got a good look at the forest, and it was still beautiful, although I really prefer the Misty version. There are a bunch of tiny tin shacks along the road, and I decided that when I'm a rich and famous author, I'm going to buy a plot of land on one of the mountains there and spend my time writing. I'm gonna get water and electricity and internet pumped in first, of course, but other than that, solitude. I'ma pull a Henry David Thoreau. The mountain region was what we saw right outside of Otavalo and most of the way down to Quito. Geography: Ibarra is north of Otavalo is north of Quito is west of Santo Domingo. This was also a very beautiful area, with tall mountain regions and deep valleys. The mountains were mainly brown, because not very many green plants grow there, and no trees at all. We passed by several rock quarries. The houses here are almost all made out of concrete mixed with this one rock mined from the mountains, and that's what they were digging for. There were also long buildings where Anita told me they keep chickens. It was an interesting ride. Lastly, the city. Quito is a giant city, and it took us forever to ride all the way through it. The southern part, which is the only part I really remember, is what looks like the result of some giant kid playing with blocks. The houses are stacked up and strewn about with no clear pattern or order, and they're all square and brightly colored. No sloped roofs or anything. Totally cube-like. Anita told me that's where the poor people from the other provinces come to find work in Quito, because the rent's cheap. The place was enormous.

3 bad artists: Carlos, before the mad dash back to Otavalo, bought a CD of "American Pop Ballads" from a kid selling CDs out of a bag, most of which had naked women on them. Yes. It was exactly as bad as it sounds. The whole way down, and the whole way back, I listened to Britney Speares, 'Nsync, and the Backstreet Boys. Someone needs to teach Ecuador what good American music is, but that task is too monumental for me. Some of the songs, like "Ops [sic] I did it again" were on the CD two or three times, but luckily I could hit the next button surruptitiously when this happened, and Carlos didn't notice.

2 complaing kids: Salomé and Marco Alejandro are nice kids, but sometimes... On Christmas, after we had come back from the water park and eaten dinner and all that, I was kicked back in my room writing, and Salomé comes in and asks if I want to watch TV. No, she tells me we're watching TV. At first, I thought the "we" was maybe her and Marco Alejandro, or her and her dad, but no. It was her and myself. So, I get up and go and lie down in Marco and Grace's room to watch TV with Salomé, and we're chilling there, everything's fine. And then Marco Alejandro sees us, and he comes in to watch TV too. And by "watch TV," I mean, kick me in the testicles. He thought it would be a great joke to jump on top of me while I'm lying down and knee me in the stomach. So, I'm like, "Hey, we're watching TV here." I don't know if he didn't understand, or if he just ignored me, but he kept going. I stand up next to the bed, and he starts kicking me in the groin. Finally, I get pretty annoyed, and just push him over so he falls backwards onto the bed. He thought that was the funnest thing in the world, so he keeps coming back, and I keep pushing him over. Then Salomé wanted to join in the falling over fun, and she tries to kick me in the groin too! Now, Marco Alejandro is 4, and weighs all of fifty pounds. Salomé is 10, and weighs maybe double that. Needless to say, I failed pretty hard trying to push back a rushing Salomé and almost fell backwards, cracking my head against the wall. Eventually, I lured them away by going downstairs really fast and hiding outside.

And a green Ecuadorian Cup: As part of the holiday festivities, we had a Secret Santa. I got Marco Alejandro as my gift-recipient, and so I bought him a bunch of cars and motorcycles. He liked 'em. He got me a green cup with parrots on it and a yellow (!) bobblehead turtle, both of which said "Ecuador" on them. I dunno whether Anita told them yellow was my favorite color, or what, but it's pretty nice. I'll upload some photos when I care enough have time. I'm working like a beast on FLVS (ten assignments uploaded yesterday for English!).

Thanks, Tom, for commenting. I do say it here, but I say it in English, so no one understands anyway. Thank you also to Ben and Kristina for commenting. Yes. Guinea pig is disgusting. I know. I ate it.

Also, I'm writing a poem about my time here in Ecuador, creating new stanzas as I go along. Here's the first one, and a new one's up at the top of the page.

On Sunday I walked with my head in a cloud,
My head in a cloud and my feet on the ground.
Above the stones, the silence was loud,
Except for the groans, I heard every sound.
And as I looked from Icy height,
I thought that I would die of fright.
For everything is far away
The wispy ring is dark and gray.

On Tuesday, I rode from the North to the South,
The North to the South with my heart in my mouth.
The green rose up and flew away,
The gray sunk down, and down it stays.
The chill swept in and gnawed my bones,
Until the yellow's colored tones
Held me fast and made me warm,
While insects buzzed in frightful swarm.

Ciao, y'all, and Feliz Navidad. Or Feliz Kwanzaa, if you're into that. Feliz fiestas.

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