El Día de los Disfuntos

I think it was last Tuesday that I realized that I really need to try and be more mentally in charge of certain things, such as Ecuadorian holidays and current events- things I can read about in English using the good ol’ intranet.  Why did I come to this all too true realization?  Well, after blogging Monday evening and thinking about my mounting work load, I planned this activity that would help me learn the children’s names and help them learn descriptive adjectives in English.  You can read about it in my teacher blog here if you’re really interested in it: http://misslagae.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/teaching-english-as-a-second-language-in-ecuador/

Anyway, I was up kind of late working on this planning.  In the morning, I brought my computer with me to school.  When we arrived, Reyna said that we wouldn’t be teaching “right now” because, well I understood her to mean, because the teachers had a coffee break first period.  I asked her if I could still go to her classroom and get my lesson ready.  She said “claro” (sure).  I spent about 45 minutes getting things set up, then reemerged from her classroom and joined the teachers in the office.  I wondered how long this coffee break would last.

Basically, it wasn’t a coffee break.  This was the day before El Dia de los Disfuntos and it was the school’s day to celebrate.  The entire school day was spent preparing colada morada, playing games, watching students play soccer (and sooooo well!), then finally enjoying our colada morada and bread babies.  I think I realized after 2 hours of games and relaxing that school was not going to happen this day.  Later, I was talking with the teachers about how silly I was to do all that work.  They said “We told you!” and I had to admit my casi-constant confounded state to them.  They encouraged me to probe and ask questions, even if it led to awkwardly long conversations and frustration.  Good advice, I guess.

I really wish I would have brought my camera with me to school this day! Coloda morada takes hours to make and involves stewing berries, cloves, and spices in large pots. At the school, students were involved in this and used a large fire pit. Then, you have to blend the concoctions from the different pots together into a smooth mixutre, then strain out any seeds. It is served hot with guaguas (pronounced wa-was- it's Quichua!) de pan. A delicious way to remember your ancestors!

Here’s a summary of this important holiday (which meant that we got 3 days off of school- days I spent at the beach- more on this soon!) that I stole from this website: http://www.rocketlanguages.com/spanish/resources/culture_ec_holidays.php

El Día de los Difuntos – November 2

The Ecuadorian Day of the Ancestors isn’t quite like the Mexican Day of the Dead, nor is it like American Halloween. El día de los difuntos is a time to celebrate one’s dead ancestors. In the small country villages, families dress in their finest clothes and carry a meal to the cemetery, where they dine on top of the grave of their ancestors. One plate is always left for the dead ancestor. This traditional meal includes guaguas de pan and the colada morada.

Guaguas de pan are bread babies. (The word guagua, pronounced wa-wa, is Quechuan.) Some families make their own guaguas de pan at home, but most buy them from the panaderías, or bakeries, which only make them during this time of the year. These bread babies can be up to 12 inches long and are shaped with a ball of dough for the head and a long, tapering ball of dough for the body. They are decorated with icing and may have jam or some other sweet inside.

The colada morada (translated as the purple colada, or oatmeal drink) is a drink made from cooking blackberries, blueberries, cinnamon, cloves, and other fruits and spices with a little oatmeal in the water until thick. The drink is then blended until smooth. From the middle of October until the second of November, cafés and restaurants try to outdo each other in offering the best guaguas de pan and coladas moradas.

In the larger towns and cities, families no longer eat with their ancestors. They spend the day visiting the cemetery and laying flowers on the graves. They may make guaguas de pan and colada morada, but only for eating with their family at home. Nevertheless, the spirit of the día de los difuntos carries on as one of the important traditions of Ecuador.

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