The ERA team has had some unusual Christmas experiences together.  Because of trip schedules and travel restrictions over the holidays, we have often finished up our trips in Costa Rica and headed straight down to Ecuador. This allows us time to do a run-down of the rivers ahead of times; while more than once we have landed and gone straight into a trip. 

 
So Christmas Day has found us in a variety of locations.  We have been on the river, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  In the spirit of giving, we shared an extra sandwich with a couple that passed us that day, leading their horse laden with fruit along the river.  Peanut butter not being the famous food product it is at home, we are not sure if they ate the sandwich or fed it to the horse! 

 
We have celebrated Christmas in a jungle lodge, surrounded by chattering monkeys and eating hand-smoked salmon brought down by friends on the trip who called Alaska home at the time. 

 
Last year we were on a big road trip, testing out our new coaster from one end of Ecuador to the other (hey—we had to make sure it was road worthy!).  And Christmas found us in the small town of Machala along the west coast, drinking rum and cokes.

 
Christmas 2006 landed us in Quito for the holiday.  Fortunately, Quito is so full of tourists that a fair number of restaurants remained open.  And certainly the Internet Café was open and full of extranjeros calling/emailing lonely messages home.  It was a beautiful sunny day, so we walked down to the central park and into one of the gorgeous cathedrals found here in Quito- Santa Teresita.

 
Many built in the 1500 and 1600’s, there are so many cathedrals, monasteries and basilicas in Quito that Santa Teresita does not even earn mention in the guide book.  You could spend a minimum of one full day touring the more renowned buildings.  Many here have suffered damage from earthquakes over the years and just as many have been restored to show off  walls gilded in gold, original artwork by famous Ecuadorian painters, woodcarvings dating back to the 1500’s, burial sites of heroes of battle, and beautiful stained glass windows.  Entering the hushed worship area of Santa Teresita we were awed by the examples of the early religious art and sculptures mounted on ornately sculptered pillars and walls.    It is hard to imagine how such beauty could have been carved out of concrete and store…by hand. And from the outside looking up at the spires reaching some 150 feet up into the heavens, we took a moment to ponder the use of scaffolding back then. Today much of the scaffolding consists of bamboo supports (probably not OSHA approved back home!!).  If bamboo scaffolding is state-of-the-art here, what would they have used back then? 

 
And then it was time for Christmas Dinner.  One of the only advantages to be found in not being with family for Christmas is that you can break tradition a bit.  Rather than the traditional Jacobsen Christmas dinner we would have enjoyed at home, we chose a rather-untraditional dinner of sardines and white chocolate! 

 
Feliz Navidad a todos!!