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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Fourth of July in Ecuador

The cruising community had two opportunities to celebrate our nation's independence yesterday with a potluck at 1 PM at PA and an old fashioned party for the kids at 4 PM in a local park across from Hostal Coco Bongo. I made a bus trip to Portoviejo with some friends and didn't get back until after the PA meal was already winding down. John reported that the food had been plentiful and delicious, and I could see that there were lots of leftovers, but I was saving up for the party later. Along with the rest of the boats waiting to go up river, John and I strolled down to join the Saiananda crowd for their party in the park.

It got off to a bit of a slow start, but we were very glad we gave it a chance to get going because we ended up having a blast. It was the perfect setting for a Fourth of July party, and Linda Lea had put the word out in the neighborhood that there was going to be a group of crazy gringos having a fiesta in the park. Suzy, of Coco Bongo, provided a charcoal grill (the ubiquitous metal drum cut in half lengthwise and mounted on a rebar frame), kitchen support, and music (after electricity in the city came back on), and Linda Lea had done most of the food prep. Judy set up the ticket booth where tickets were 25 cents each: three tix for a hamburger, two for a hot dog, two for a pony bottle of sugary soda (the "Inca Kola" was yummy in small doses - sort of a bubble gum, cream soda flavor), one ticket for a cup of cole slaw or potato salad, and two for a piece of banana bread. There was plenty of Pilsener beer in the ice chest and Suzy's bar was open in Coco Bongo.

The cruiser kids (Yvette-10, Dana-11, and Fletcher-12) from Aquamarine and Desiderata did a fantastic job preparing the fixin's table for the burgers and dogs, while the two dads traded shifts manning the grill. The girls cut the delicious locally special ordered buns and put them in handy yellow "to go" plastic bags (which made eating them easier and less drippy), and Fletcher passed these to Mike or Chris for the meat delivery. Once the BBQ got going the local kids and their parents showed up in droves and the burgers and dogs flew off the grill. I'm not sure what they thought of the concept of paying for little pieces of paper and then turning those over for food, but they lined up for all of it with the rest of us.

When no one could eat another bite it was time for some action. The children at the Saiananda sponsored grade school had made an American flag "pinata" for us out of a cardboard box with lots of red, white and blue tissue paper, and it was filled with candy and toys. Half a dozen local kids had hung around long enough to give the cruiser kids some stiff competition taking blindfolded turns trying to whack it open. Mike learned a new skill as he dipped and waved the box which was hanging from a length of (very bent over) PVC pipe, even momentarily landing the pinata on top of one child's head. Eventually the pinata (and Mike) couldn't hold up to the assault any longer and the candy spilled out under the rush of miniature, and young at heart, scavengers alike.

After all the candy and discarded wrappers were cleared up from the paving bricks and the grass someone brought out the water balloons. Unfortunately there was a bit of confusion over the difference between a water balloon "toss" and a water balloon "fight," and the water balloons didn't last long. Eric and Sherrell played nice, but Sherrell still managed to take two to the chest and got soaked. Even innocent bystanders like John and me were splashed by aims gone bad. The parents were easy targets, but woe to a kid whose dad took one too many hits. I wonder where those boat kids learned to run so fast.

Finally we managed to round up some not so "safe and sane" fireworks to get started on the real fun. For starters we had a half a dozen You-light-ems, a large bottle rocket with an M-80 on the end. These were stuck in a convenient crack in the curb and the lighter was passed from dad to dad: "You light em", "no, YOU light em", "NO, YOU light em"... The big finale was a 3' paper mache effigy of he-who-must-not-be-named (you supply your favorite image) which was stuffed with fire crackers and set on fire against a curb in the street roundabout. Hilarity ensued when the thing wouldn't "go" until a little gasoline was applied. There was much yelling at the two pyros to "Run!", and we made sure the fearless local kids kept their distance until finally it went off with a brief but satisfying set of bangs and was left to burn in the street. We wound down by lighting off something I don't remember seeing when I was a kid which was much more fun than sparklers. These were like Roman candles but longer and skinnier which we held at one end, lit the fuse at the other end, and pointed (preferably) at the sky for a series of single launches 30' up in the air. You could feel the stick pulsing in your hand with each pop, and it was fun trying to aim for the power lines (but not at the thatched roofs!).

By 8 PM it was time for people to catch the last bus back to Saiananda, and we had a hungry cat to feed, so most of us called it a very good night. This is one Fourth of July I'm sure we'll never forget!

Linda and John