by Arlyss Herzig
My family warned me time and time again. Sophia, my nine-year-old host sister, is quite the Carnavalera—meaning she loves to play Carnaval. I knew this entailed getting each other soaked and spraying foam, but boy was I not prepared.
This year on the Sunday of Carnaval, it was also my host cousin’s 13th birthday, so it was a double celebration, with lots of family at her house. In the early afternoon my sister and young cousin called me out into the storage area of the house. This was the room that connected to outside so it was acceptable to get soaked. Of course I went to to play, but after half an hour of pouring buckets of freezing water on each other, I was ready to warm up.
I went inside and everybody wanted me not to change into dry clothes. “If you change, they’re just going to get you wet again.” I thought there was no way, I’ll just choose not to go outside again. Little did I realize, it wasn’t my choice to make.
As I enjoyed my dry clothes, slowly I saw adults get roped into going outside one by one, and once you’re wet it’s your job to make sure everybody is, too. I fought to stay dry but eventually I was pulled off the banister, one adult holding my legs and another carrying me by the arms. I was carried outside with multiple buckets of water waiting for me. Everybody laughed as they saw me struggle in vain and I had to laugh as I saw the massive pot of ice cold water waiting for me.
This is Carnaval. This is having a host family. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know everybody there or that I didn’t want to be wet, I was going to be included in the fun either way, and it was so much fun.
As each person came back in the house completely wet, the furniture in the house was cleared to the edges of the room. Someone put on music, and the dancing began. Dripping wet we danced around the living room, every now and then being pulled outside and getting sprayed down with the hose, just to make sure we weren’t getting too dry.
It was one of those moments where I really felt a part of Ecuador; I really am a part of this family. This is my family, this is their holiday, and dancing the cold away was how we were going to celebrate. Everybody was laughing and running around, trying to avoid the wrath of the hose, foam, and buckets of water, but enjoying watching others be caught and laughing when they themselves had their turn, only then returning inside to change the music and keep the dancing going.
To finish it all off, we came inside to sing happy birthday to my cousin. All shivering from the cold, sitting in the scattered furniture, we ate birthday cake and talked over the fun of the day. And, after all, what good day doesn’t end with some cake?