Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass- it is about learning to dance in the rain.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christmas Tales
Jungle BellsThis picture is not of Ecuador. But I promise the view from the kitchen window of our cottage looked just like this. Note the brown foliage in the palms. Those are banana palms. No one takes a picture of the bottom of the banana palm unless it has been recently pruned.

This is as close as I could get to what a banana palm really looks like. (on the left) But even here, the camera is a foot or so up the trunks of the palms. Those dead brown leaves are typical of the bottom of the palms. And under that pile of dead fronds live dozens of little scampery things -- bugs I can't identify, and other "stuff" that likes dead leaves! On the right the beautiful "Elephant Ear" poses. Ours wasn't landscaped and tended this nicely, but that lush green looks great anyway!

"Jungle Bells"

Once upon a Christmas, in a land far away and a time long ago, we faced the approaching Yuletide Season with minimal celebratory resources. Our tiny cottage sat near the main highway from Quito, seven kilometers from Santo Domingo de Los Colorados. We'd been in the country only six months, and our belongings still sat in port in Guayaquil, tied up in a bureaucratic SNAFU. My Christmas decorations and cooking utensils, among other pertinent items, awaited redemption more than a three hours drive south. I really wanted a festive atmosphere for our little boys that year.

Outside our house the landscape boasted banana palms (nasty looking little things, not at all graceful like the tall slender coconut palms), and broad leaf "Elephant Ears" grew wherever a slight dip in the landscape provided a soggy spot. The Elephant Ears were beautiful (unlike the banana palms), but there was not an evergreen to be found. Not a pine, not a fir, not a spruce, not a even a cedar tree graced this spot near the Equator. So, being the persistent Southern girl that I am, I improvised. I wanted sparkle; I wanted Christmas green like I had known.

At the market I found some shiny craft paper with which to make decorations. For a couple of days, the boys and I made a sort of Japanese lantern from the paper to hang on our tree. I look high and low and could find nothing for a tree. Even at the fancy store in Quito where
for exorbitant designer prices, they sold ornaments we'd find in discount stores in the U.S. , there was nothing remotely resembling a tree. So I made that too. I found cardboard, cut out two shapes of a tree, covered both with the shiny paper, slit the top of one and the bottom of the other and fit them together to make a three dimensional shape. Voila! We had a Christmas tree. The boys were excited to help place our little homemade ornaments on the tree. (It really doesn't take much to please a 3- and a 4-year old). This two foot tall wonder sat in a corner atop a small table. (The corner was necessary; it was just a tad wobbly!) Since I didn't have garland or lights, we popped popcorn and strung what they didn't eat on our baby tree. We finished off the decor around the house with some fresh greenery and candles.

That year I also discovered sweetened condensed milk. A large chocolate bar melted and mixed with the milk makes delicious fudge. We had fudge galore. A turkey was out of the question. First, I had no pan in which to bake one. Second, turkeys were terribly rare. Chicken was more costly than fillet mignon; turkey cost like gold. It would be about like trying to purchase an ostrich to bake for Christmas here. Not easily do-able. For Christmas dinner I sprang for a chicken; we had chicken and dumplings.

Christmas Eve has always been our family's main celebration. We usually ate hors' d'oeuvers and opened presents. I prepared a tray of mortadela (sort of like bologna or salami), cheeses and fruit. Not to mention fudge! I even made a few cookies one day when it wasn't too hot. Okay, it was too hot. I just made them anyway!! We'd paid department store prices for a couple of plastic trucks from the big toy store, the kind of trucks we find here in the dollar store. And I had saved a couple of Match Box cars we'd brought from the states. That finished Christmas for the boys.

On Christmas Eve, we sang carols, opened presents and ate to our heart's content. Outside, in the tropical air, stars twinkled, and armadillos scampered. Nearby on the mountain, spider monkeys screeched and puma's prowled for prey. It was a Jungle Bell Christmas.


Mrs. Darling said...

Well it certainly makes for good memories it would seem. That kind of a Christmas seems so far away and yet people are experiencing Christmas there just like we are here. It seems so weird!

jennifer said...

Hi, thanks for visiting me and leaving a comment. What an amazing adventure you shared here. Where were you? I hope your boys remember that Christmas. Blessings,

PJ said...

We were in Ecuador, South America, just outside the jungle city of Santo Domingo De Los Colorados. My older son remembers some things -- he was four. The younger one remembers very little. He was three that year. We did go back once after they were grown and married. Brad's comment as we were walking down the street in Santo Domingo just at dusk: "This is one weird little town." :)

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