The first time I saw Carnival, I was nineteen and we were in Venice. For eight solid hours, I associated Carnival with all the panache of a masked Italian woman in a two-hundred-year-old ball gown standing stock-still in Piazza San Marco. That evening, we boarded a train for Austria to see Villacher Fasching. In a few short hours, all that imagined class drained out of Carnival with a drunken man in a rented bunny suit passed out in ankle-deep trash on a cobblestone street. We did have a great time, if not a classy one.
As I now understand it, Carnival is usually about cutting loose before Lent, really cutting loose, in some cases. To be fair to Austria, Fat Tuesday in New Orleans makes Villacher Fasching look elegant by comparison.
For the last three weeks, kids here have been gearing up for Ecuador’s version of Carnival. In the most innocent circumstances, kids throw water balloons, buckets of water, and spray each other with cans of scented foam. This lasts for about two weeks. I think they just get bored sneaking up on their friends. About a week ago, they started to pull random pedestrians into the “game”. Sometimes, it’s a relatively agreeable water balloon trap, balloons tossed from over a wall, or from a car. Other times, it’s a less agreeable raw egg trap, maybe dropped from a balcony, for example. Ha, ha…
My “foolproof” method for dodging these traps is to look at the ground. If I see bits of shell and balloons, then I know to run. But, I always forget to look down, or I’ll look, see the evidence, and think, “Huh, someone must be playing Carnival around here.” By then, it’s too late. I have, though, managed to avoid the eggs.
This weekend, the real game begins. I’ve been lead to believe that when it comes to Carnival, my family likes to play very, very dirty. They laugh as they explain it to me. The game starts with water balloons, flour, and eggs. Then the gloves come off. They butcher a pig every year, and the leftovers are considered ammunition: blood, intestines, etc. After that, everything is fair game: dirt, soda, and motor oil. In the name of fun, it seems that nothing is off limits. Tonight my octogenarian host dad said he’s going to get me. I’m actually looking forward to it, pig blood and all. Hopefully, someone on the sidelines, if there are sidelines, will take a picture.