Warning: This post is a big, sappy, emo pile of mush. This is so sentimental that I probably won't ever be able to read it after I proof-read and post it. If I am forced to read it, I'll cringe at my mushiness. But I like to keep it real, so here's the Christmas 2011 post.
Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you were/ are all able to enjoy the holidays with your loved ones. I won't lie, spending the holidays away from my family was very very difficult.
I won't talk about how glum I was though, because I just can't focus on that alone. Even though it was really tough spending Christmas without my favorite people (that's you, family), I was also surrounded by some rather awesome people and I think I had a pretty good Peruvian Christmas. I am incredibly fortunate to be where I am and am happy to be here experiencing Christmas in another culture.
I like to think I got to spend Christmas with 3 families this year. My host family, my Peace Corps family, and my real family. In that order.
December 24: Noche Buena (Christmas Eve)
I spent Christmas Eve with my host family and it was pretty cool. During the day I was pretty bummed, but by the time the festivities began that night, I was feeling better. At around 9 or 10pm, we went to the Plaza de Armas here in Ascope where the entire town seemed to be. I wasn't expecting to see so many people all in one place, so I was pleasantly surprised when all of these people started coming up to me and hugging me, wishing me a Feliz Navidad. This was so touching. Most of them were kids or teens which makes it all the more special. Teenage boys who I thought didn't take me seriously stopped their game of foosball to come hug me, or at least look up and wave while they said Merry Christmas. Little kindergartners brought their parents and friends over to say hi to me. One of my socias from the muni introduced me to her friends who are around my age. All of this was awesome. Maybe it's because I was so caught up in feeling sorry for myself earlier in the day, but I hadn't actually thought about what to expect that night. In any event it was a very pleasant surprise. It feels great to be remembered and thought of by the people I am working with. This also speaks to the respect and courtesy Peruvian people hold priority to. I am lucky to be here. There were plenty of adults too, parents of kids I have met, people who work in the municipality or the schools, people who work at the bodegas where I buy my copious amounts of snacks, etc. I really felt like part of the community that night and it was wonderful.
After Piere had worn himself out playing on the jungle gym, slides, and trampolines that were set up in the plaza for this event, we returned home for our midnight dinner. I was so not hungry, but I ate a load of food anyway. It's Christmas. Nutrition rules are void on Christmas. Dinner was nice. Solid family time. I had yet another giant chunk of paneton, the Christmas staple here. The best way I've heard paneton described was by my friend Matt (different Matt than my ex-neighbor. This Matt is down South and a fellow 17er) when he called it a "big, unimpressive muffin." That's very accurate. Paneton is like a huge muffin with raisins and weird little fruit chunks in it. I remain neutral when it comes to paneton. Can't obsessed over it, but I can't hate on it either. I've definitely eaten worse things, but I would never crave paneton.
Highlights of the Noche Buena Dinner: Piere running around the house with sparklers; Tasty champagne; Christmas hugs with everyone when the clock struck midnight.
First Christmas in Peru with Host family: Success. One family taken care of. On to the next.
December 25: Christmas Day
In recovery from the late night celebrating, I slept in a little bit (like 9am- stop freaking out, family, i didn't waste away Christmas morning), then had some more paneton and hot chocolate with the family for a Christmas breakfast. After that, I took off for Huanchaco (beach town that I'm kind of obsessed with) to meet up with Slack, Nicole, and Sue Song. We spent the day hanging out with a few other volunteers and a bunch of people from random places in the world who were also staying in our hostel. It was nice to commiserate and celebrate to together. I don't know what I would do without my Peru 17 La Libertad group. Love them so much. I got to talk to Joe and a few other volunteer friends on the phone that day as well. I even received a few hilarious emails from Eva throughout the course of the weekend... that's actually the only kind of email that come from Eva now that I think about it. All of that love made it hard to be sad and easy to feel really lucky and fortunate.
Christmas with the Peace Corps Fam: Big success.
December 26: Nigon Family Christmas Day
Best for last, right? The 26th is the day that my family celebrated Christmas. So even though Christmas was officially over, the 26th was the hardest day for me to be here and not there. It wasn't so bad though. I was able to spend it with more volunteers and friends in Huanchaco on the beach, so I can't complain. Most importantly, I was able to talk to everyone in my family on Skype that day. I love Skype. Seeing all of their faces and talking to everyone made it so much easier. I feel like I was at their party, I just didn't get to hold the baby or eat the delicious food they were all talking about. Message to Brenda: you may have been able to tease me about Rachel's caramels that I missed out on that day, but Joe stole some for me for my next package! Haha! :) Anyway, seeing them all made it feel like Christmas. I even got to met Laura the dinosaur, watch some Buzz Lightyear-esque 'flying' and hear all about Santa's treats. I really don't have anything to be sad about. I have a marvelous family and a great set up here. I have everything I need. Even on the hard days, I'm spoiled and can't complain.
Family Christmas via Skype: Huge success. Wouldn't have felt like Christmas at all without this hour and a half of bliss. Thanks family. Love you! :)
Paneton: "A big, unimpressive muffin."
La Libertad 17 Group. Our Christmas family photo :)
Spreading holiday cheer in our hats from the market... which makes me look kinda like the Travelocity gnome.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!!!