In this monthly column, project coordinator Megan van der Moezel writes about her experiences in Quito. Livin’ la vida Local: a humorous beginner’s guide to this fascinating country. This month a column about fiestas and water in Ecuador.
By Megan van der Moezel
If I had to describe this past month in Quito in two words, I would say “fiestas” and “water”. These are without a doubt the two things that people here were most concerned about in December 2017. Not Christmas, and definitely not snow. On the contrary. There has been an unusual amount of sun these past few weeks. The number of sunburns has risen alarmingly, in the absence of the usual afternoon cloudiness and rain. But before you guys in my chilly home country start getting jealous, don’t worry. We have suffered in other ways this month. Believe me.
Survive the fiestas de Quito.
The 6th of December is the anniversary of the Spanish foundation of Ecuador’s capital. Reason enough for this party-prone city to host celebrations that last for about a fortnight. From numerous parades to open-air concerts, you name it and it was on the agenda. Integrated in the local culture as we are here at Local Dreamers, we started off with a traditional nightly chiva ride. And we weren’t the only ones. Half the city was dancing and getting tipsy off the all-you-can-drink canelazo on one of these colourfully painted open buysses. The fact that the warm fruity cocktail in question tasted more like motor oil than anything else, couldn’t spoil the fun one bit.
For most citizens, the recipe for the following days was one of lather, rinse, repeat. If it weren’t for the traditional chuchaqui (hangover) day at the end of the party marathon, I’m not sure we would have made it. But we did. And then, just when we were mentally preparing to get back to work, disaster struck.
It all began, when I got back from the noche de plazas on Tuesday evening and decided to go to bed straight away. Why not postpone taking a shower to the next day? Wednesday-chuchaqui-day would be the perfect for hanging on the couch half dead and smelly, before re-awakening myself in the afternoon with a hot shower and tons of coffee. Or so I thought. By the time I was ready for my reawakening, there was not a single drop of water to be had from any of the pipes in my house. Was this my neighbour’s revenge for me ferociously negotiating down my share of the bill?
The water cut in Quito
Nope. As it turned out, there had been a massive landslide into a canal that delivers water to a large share of the households in Quito. The necessary water cut that followed, affected an estimated 600.000 people, including me. So the president decreed the public sector closed for the rest of the week, and water tanks were to make the rounds through the affected areas.
Now I personally never saw any of these vehicles. But there were constant rumours about where they were supposedly seen last. On my way to the busstop on Thursday morning, one of my vecinas grabbed my arm to beg me for information on where she could fill the buckets she was carrying around. A passing neighbour who overheard us, swore that he heard water was being distributed just around the corner. It wasn’t of course. When I arrived at the office, my colleague told me I just missed a lorry passing through our very street. I tend to think he was pulling my tail though. Yes, I fell for the whole Sinterklaas scheme as a little girl. But I’m not sure I am ready to start believing in invisible water trucks.
By the time the water cut came to an end on Friday evening, we had all learned some valuable lessons. First: landslides are bad. And so are shopkeepers. Mean bastards suddenly charge you double for a bottle of drinking water in your hour of need. And finally, that it is very, very nice to be able to cook pasta, take showers, and flush toilets. I’m sure we’ll all be enjoying these privileges just a bit more than usual the rest of this month. Viva el agua!
© Local Dreamers, fiestas during volunteerwork in Quito