Returning to Quito has been stimulation let down. In Otavalo, there were Christmas decorations in the public squares, on the streets, in just about every store and hotel. In Quito, you are hard pressed to find anything festive at all. In one square, there are some white lights strung on a few trees that look like the way I used to put tinsel on the Christmas tree I got tired of being careful. They are just flung on without regard to symmetry or appeal. Stores are crowded as it is so why bother putting up decorations when people are coming in anyway. Only churches have some sense of style, but one crèche after another is not my idea of fun.
Adding to my misery, I cannot get a real latte coffee. It is the strangest thing, but each time I ask for a latte, I get regular coffee with hot milk separately or mixed, more commonly called café au lait. Describing in minute detail exactly what I want as I am practically climbing over the counter to demonstrate with their espresso machine, I get something different. Sometimes it is a demitasse espresso with milk in it or a demitasse espresso with no cow juice in sight. Where or where is The Daily Grind? Oh, yea! It is in Otavalo. Well here there is The Magic Bean, but that is in the new part of town, eight dangerous bus stops away, but it may be worth the trip.
It is Christmas Eve. It is raining. It is cold. I spot an espresso machine at the San Francisco Church gift shop and restaurant. Hope is eternal. First we check out the gift shop; we want to approach this slowly and not scare off the barista. This is not a gift shop, it is a museum where everything is for sale. It goes on and on in this maze like fashion. Ron jokingly suggests I leave a trail of breadcrumbs so that I don’t get lost. I felt a need to tell him I loved him, Merry Christmas, and hopefully we would see each other again by my birthday in January. Everything for sale of course was a replica, but beautifully constructed. It took me forty-five minutes to make my way through and find my way out again. We ordered drinks at the gift shop restaurant. Again, I was disappointed. The coffee tasted like they used pig sty mud to filter it.
There is no place to eat dinner at a reasonable hour. All restaurants are closing at 5pm. Not even the fast food restaurants are staying open beyond 5pm. We went to one place we had queried earlier and arrived at 4:20 pm, a bit early for dinner. They refused us, because we could not be done by 5pm. We ducked into a close by fast food restaurant before they locked the doors. It is tough choosing a Christmas Eve dinner from a fast food menu, but dozens were doing it and I would bet many have diseases they don’t even know about yet.
Five o’clock in the evening, the streets were still mobbed with people. This is your big holiday. Get the hell home and cook dinner. Finish wrapping presents. Do something Christmasy, AT HOME! By 6pm, the streets were empty. They took my advice. We decided on 8pm Christmas mass. The only reason I go is because my heart would be in my mouth letting Ron go by himself. It is not confirmed, but the latest Christmas mass held at any of the 5 churches downtown is 9pm. I think that the police staff starts to thin out by 10pm, so for safety sake, they do it earlier and get it over with. It also gives all of the priests’ time to prepare milk and cookies for Santa.
Ron of course wanted to be at church by 7:15 to get a seat. Our church of choice or rather his was La Compañía de Jesús. I delayed us until 7:30 to reduce my agony. It was a joke. We had our pick of seats barring maybe 3 rows of pews. Long after I gave up wishing I had brought my book to read, the church was less than half full. Here is this church that is bleeding gold everywhere you look. They took up only one collection. By the time the basket reaches us, a quick perusal of the contents assures me it would not pay for a nice dinner at a semi-expensive restaurant. No fear of priestly embezzlement here unless they chip some gold from some hidden place. Even the wall sockets are gold.
Masses in Latin countries are so different. People are bringing up baby dolls with fire points coming out of his head. This is their Jesus from their crèche. They put these dolls and other items on a table to be blessed after mass. During mass, children are running around. People are staring with admiring eyes at the darlings, barely recognizing the fact that there is a priest up there doing something holy. Those who don’t belong to the child enjoyment society are busy speaking amongst themselves.
This is why I leave home for Christmas. I want the pomp and circumstance of other cultures to glide me through the holiday. It saves on sweeping up tree needles and repacking ornaments myself.