Friday, December 12, 2008

The Inauguration and Chuchaqui

In honor of a new building that the university has been restoring for the last few years, there was a giant festival outside of the campus gates last night. There was debate and rumor as to whether or not the 6 o'clock class would go on, but we finally learned that class would be dismissed at 7 pm to go watch the show. The building, which will be a post-graduate hall, is designed in a classic Cuenca architecture, and you might say it's now the pride of the city.

A day before the show everything was being set up. Giant speakers were put in place across the river, next to the new building. While trying to focus on my Spanish class, Pink Floyd was suddenly booming in clearly and drowning out the teacher. It wouldn't be that bad if the sound quality was lousy, because then I'd try to block it out. But it came in so well and loud that I just wanted to hear more music.

Some of my students were going to celebrate one of their birthdays and I was invited to go, so after class got out at 7 pm I rushed home to drop off my briefcase and change. I quickly grabbed a shwarma on Calle Larga and got to the university just as the live music was ending. I found my students and we crowded together on the steep slope of the river bank. Wires were set up and two performers were doing some kind of dance suspended in air, much like in Cirque de Solee. The new building was completely lit up with different kinds of designs, and on each floor balcony were different dancers. On the top of the building was the Cuenca choir, singing different songs in between applause and fireworks.

It seemed like half the city was crunched into the tight space to see the show. Apparently this is the first time the city has seen something like this. More and more fireworks went off, dangerously flying into the trees and buildings across the low river, and a pump was continually blowing water out across the scene and then back into the river. It had rained hard earlier in the day, so I kept slipping down the slope and into a girls' back.

Next, indigenous dancers moved out onto the bridge and lit a "vaca loca" or crazy cow. It was just a bit float that was set up like a domino effect for fireworks. The entire thing lit up and made deafening noise, but it was a brilliant display. Once one part was burned out another part would ignite. Sitting there looking at the spectacle made me truly happy to be living in Cuenca. Everyone says it's the most beautiful city in Ecuador, and last night, it definitely was.

After the last song was sung, we headed back to Calle Larga, and oddly enough wound up at another shwarma bar, this one on the corner of Calle Larga y Hermano Miguel. This restaurant just opened, therefore having lower, competitive prices. the service, however, left much to be desired. The food took way too long to come out, and once it was there we had to pay immediatlely before we could eat. It was a good shwarma though.

We wandered around trying to find the right club to go to, but nothing was busy, so we eventually went to a hole in the wall bar called Cafe con ron. The girls are friends with the bartender, so even though they weren't open, we were allowed in. Pitchers of canelazo began to flow as we played different games in honor of the birthday girl. I don't like canelazo. It tastes like acid reflux and is only taken in shot form, meaning you go through it quickly and it catches up with you slowly, but surely.

Soon we were on to 3 and 4 pitchers, mocking the posters of various heavy metal 80s bands like Cinderella. More people showed up and the bar was soon packed. Good classic rock was playing and it was funny to listen to the Ecuadorians trying to sing what they thought the lyrics were. Even though I can't sing at all, they wanted to hear me sing so they could hear what the lyrics were.

I found out that my students have been calling me "El Gato" behind my back because they think I have eyes like a cat. This is the second time a group of women have told me this. It's not an insult, they assured me, but rather a term of endearment. I still don't like the idea of being referred to as the cat.

At some point in the night, maybe 3 am, two men walked in and changed the mood. The music was turned down and everyone except our table and a couple other guys who were there before us left. I have an irking feeling those guys "own" the street. They were immediately brought 2 beers and drank in silence. The door was locked and we were only in there because of the connection to the bartender. Somehow we managed to stay there until 4 am, leaving me exhausted today and with my bad "chuchaqui," Quichua for hangover. My only hope is that tonight I can finally get some sleep.

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