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Tuesday, February 24, 2009


It is Carnaval season here in South America and Monday and Tuesday of this week have actually been national holidays so there has been no school. Though there is no Rio-style celebrating here, they have been ‘celebrating’ for over a week now. For the first few days we were in Otavalo, far as we could tell, celebrating mostly consisted of water fights with your friends and foaming each other with giant cans of what looks like shaving cream. It seemed a bit odd but harmless enough.

As the week wore on however, these cans of foam appeared for sale on every street corner, throughout the market, and in every tienda. People with water balloons were now showing up on street corners launching unprovoked water bomb attacks at cars and passer-bys alike. Thursday Troy was foamed in the crotch on the street by a random five year old and on Friday Erin (a fellow volunteer) and I were targeted from across the street and were literally chased down the street by kids with water balloons.

At first we found this a bit odd that it was perfectly acceptable to launch attacks on friends and strangers alike, however we were forced to accept this as the norm. By the weekend, we were leaving the house only when necessary and felt like secret agents, ducking in and out of buildings and under canopies, keeping our eyes scanning doorways, storefronts, and the all too often forgotten rooftops, for people with the dreaded water weapons which by now had increased to water guns of various sizes, buckets, and even the odd hose. Troy’s arm hanging out of an open window of a moving shuttle was invitation enough for a sharp shooting bucket wielder on a rooftop and won Troy a soaking wet lap on Sunday afternoon.
On Monday a group of us decided that if we can’t beat ’em, we might as well join ’em. Erin, Kate, Aviv, Elysia, George and I headed out to the Peguche Waterfall which was promised to be the location of the water fight to beat all water fights. We went armed. With water guns and cans of foam in hand, we set out to meet our fate. Half the fun/challenge was actually getting to the site. This required about a half hour walk along part road, part path, part abandoned railway tracks, along which we were water bombed and foamed from the backs of pickup trucks, kids with buckets and various water carrying implements lining the road, and others also on their way to the falls. Since we came with limited ammo, our attacks were all purely defensive. No need to waste our precious resources instigating fights. We worked as a team and when one of us was attacked, we would respond mercilessly in defence which usually involved foaming, aimed strategically at the face of the attacker, and fleeing in the opposite direction.
When we arrived at the scene of the actual action, it was no holds barred! We couldn’t help but notice that the fact that we were gringos and, for the most part of the female variety, made us particularly appealing targets. At one point people lined the path with buckets, scooping up water from the river and dousing everyone who dared pass. We knew what we were in for but couldn’t turn back now so we bravely marched on. It was at this point that we heard the fateful words “Touristas!”. As all the bucket wielders turned their attention on us, it was all over…
Once soaking wet and foamy from head to toe it only seems fitting that people should start adding flour to the mix, right? Right. Kind of like a tar and feathering I guess. To add insult to injury, a nice doughy mass was created in my hair from the mixture of water, foam, and yes flour.
And of course I can’t sign off without mentioning food… We emerged from the battle grounds into the welcoming aromas of the local vendors eager to fill our cold bellies. I started off with some warm blackberry colada (being soaking wet from head to toe is a little chilly after all) and a cheese empanada, followed by a grilled corn on the cob on a stick brushed with butter and rolled in powdery cheesey goodness. To top it all off, I went for some fried potato balls of goodness and some bbq’d ’meat’, all served gourmet-style in a plastic baggy (as is the norm for street food around here) with a spoon.
It is now Wednesday and all signs of Carnaval have magically disappeared from the streets. It’s a little eerie, the calm that has followed the madness. We can once again walk confidently down the streets. I think I will miss feeling like a secret agent, just a little.


  1. What fun! And no naked samba dancing, whatsoever...
    Works for me!

  2. Hey Guys! We Love hearing about all your adventures! We are on just about every day looking to see if you've posted something new. We are glad you are having fun and living this experience. We Love YA. Love from Lyle, Lori, Paige and Brie!