With our time in Cuenca coming to a close, we've been having lots of "despedida" type events. It's a chance to say goodbye to friends, and it has come in a number of forms:
Nikki: Last week we housesat for some friends who rent a VERY nice house, in the hills overlooking Cuenca. Nikki was waiting for this opportunity to have a birthday party, so that she could impress her friends with how rich we are, which she definitely could not do using our teeny two bedroom apartment. Although officially a birthday party, it was a great opportunity for her to get together with all her school friends (and some others) and she had a blast! It was also a great opportunity for us to see how well integrated and acculturated she has become, kissing all her friends on the cheek, etc, because she never shows us this side - she won't even speak Spanish to others if we are around! Today, the last day of classes (for her - we are pulling her out early to travel), they are having a party for her in her English class.
Us, at Rita and Jaimes: Last weekend we threw a despedida at our ex-host families house, and it was great. We invited all the people we have developed relations with over the past year, and it was really fun. It ended around 1:00 am with a bunch of us sitting around the dining room table, drinking Zhumir, and me understanding about 10% of what was said!
Debby and I, at Fundación El Arenal. Betty, the director of the foundation where both Debby and I have done some volunteer work this past year, invited us over on Wed. at 5:00 for a tea. When we got there, we discovered that this too, was to be a despedida, with the whole staff gathered to eat cake, drink tea and thank us for our work this past year. It was really quite touching.
Debby, with her University of Azuay English class. Thursday was Debby's last day of teaching at U of Azuay, and her students threw a surprise despedida for her. She was expecting just a little something during the last hour of class, but when she arrived, they were already in the classroom (unusual enough!) and had prepared a grand feast for her. The room was decorated with balloons, there were toasts, speeches, pictures, dancing, wine and apologies for not being more diligent students. Debby graciously complimented them on their cultural norm of putting people first, (which, it goes without saying, is why they missed so many of her classes!)
Mia: On Friday, the last day of classes for Mia, her friends have prepared a despedida for her. Her whole class had a year-end party at Yungilla, and she had a blast. It has been quite a year for her, and quite a end of the year. Yesterday she came back from class with her shirt completely covered with signatures and best wishes from her friends.
With that, our stay in Cuenca comes to a close. Our adventures will continue for a few more weeks. We've got a couple of weeks in Peru, and then a month more in Ecuador. It's been a good year!