Christmas Parties, Burning Effigies

25 Dec

The scene:

Monday night at the Language Department Christmas party. The day was mostly a drag trying to get through it before my trip to Chile the next day. In my first class 5 students showed up so I let them go, not ready to start a new chapter for only 5 students the day before vacation. Going home and napping for a while, I finished packing and read a little. The night class had more people, but we only stayed for an hour because of the permission to leave for the party.
One of the other professors offered to pick me up from the university and drive me over because last Thursday Lauren and I got lost while on the way to the same place for another Christmas party and we never made it. So I rushed back home to drop off my things and then rushed back to the university. 
The party was fun with music, drinks, and dinner. There were raffles for prizes and I actually won a scented candle, which I’m not exactly sure what to do with. I’ll probably just regift it. There was a life-size doll by the stage that I thought was a pinata of some kind, but eventually after a speech everyone, including the doll headed out into the street around midnight. 
As it turns out, it was an effigy of my boss Eulalia, the director of the Language Department. Everyone was given sparklers and the effigy was thrown in the middle of the street and lit on fire while everyone cheered. In Ecuador, it’s not an insult, but rather a nice complement, and Eulalia was laughing along with everyone else. Her term as director, which only lasts 2 years, ends in February, and everyone was shouting, “Re-eleccion, Re-eleccion!”
Suddenly there was an enormous boom and the effigy blew up into two parts, the legs being blown into shreds and the upper torso burning away. Someone had planted a firework right in the belly. Those of us who were unaware and standing closer towards the effigy clutched our ears as car alarms went off. One professor who’d had a few too many drinks probably continued to dance around the corpse and threw as much trash into the fire as possible. 
Someone shouted, “Otro boom,” and threw another firework into the effigy. Everyone stood back waiting, but this time it did not ignite. Eventually we went back inside to dance some more, and suddenly we heard the explosion like a bomb going off.
Some people left, and though I wanted to go home to wake up early to leave for Guayaquil, the professor who drove me said he could take me home. Of course, an hour or so later when I asked again, he said just another hour. So I finally said no thanks and called for a taxi, not getting home until around 2 am. Lacking the necessary sleep, I was about to begin one of the worst travel days I’ve ever had.

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