Saturday, January 26, 2008

Navidad, Navidad!! Hoy es Navidad!!

As you can imagine, my first Christmas in Peru was quite different than what I'm used to.

First of all it's not cold here and doesn't get too cold because December is spring turning into summer. It was hard for me to realize that Christmas was even coming. One thing that helped was learning Christmas carols with the PROMESA teachers. I was so glad to learn some of the traditional carols in Spanish (although they aren't sung too much in Peru).

I spent Christmas Eve morning with my friend Luz in downtown Cusco. On Christmas eve there is a big outdoor market selling crafty things and supplies for elaborate nativity scenes. There were millions of little animal figurines, moss and grass, sand, stone and paper to decorate your nativity scene. There was even special clothing for baby Jesus (if you had one that was a doll), including some Andean style outfits!

After that I went to visit with my boyfriend's family in Urubamba. We enjoyed time with them playing Dutch Blitz, eating cookies (I brought a huge container of them - I think they were gone by the next day) and talking. My favorite part of the day was playing soccer in the small cobblestone side street outside the church building/house with some neighborhood kids. I'm not very good but somehow I didn't do half bad!

That night I got to celebrate Noche Buena with the congregation at the Huacarpay church. Christmas eve is the big thing here in Peru. People stay up until midnight and eat a late night meal to celebrate Christmas. The church had a special service to celebrate Navidad. It started out with worship, a sermon and then reciting scripture memory verses. Unfortunately the memory verses came at about 10:30 when I could barely stay awake. How many times can you listen to verses on respecting authority and stay alert and awake and interested??

Finally around 11:45 they stopped and started handing out PANETON and CHOCOLATA. These are two very important ingredients for a wonderful Christmas! PANETON is very much like a fluffy version of fruitcake which is quite delicious in my personal opinion. CHOCOLATA is hot chocolate which usually has oatmeal added to it or something cause it's thicker than the hot chocolate in the states. Then we had a talent show with music, kids doing dramas and clowns getting us to sing "Chichiwa" (a song with silly motions). As you can imagine I woke up enough then! We stayed till about 12:30 when we got a ride home with the Kreider family in their truck.

I slept in late and went to a missionary Christmas lunch on Christmas day. As usually we had quite a yummy lunch! We hung around all day singing carols, doing a gift exchange and enjoying each other's company. One word about the gift exchange. I had Kiersten the 14 yr. old son of John and Cindy Kreider. Cindy told me he wanted a pocket knife that was just a knife without all the doodads that usually come with pocket knives. The only thing that I could find was a bit bigger than a normal pocket knife. It kinda reminded me of a switchblade that someone might have in NYC. Well, despite my doubts as to whether it was a good idea, I gave it to him. Kiersten _loved_ the knife and named it Bob! I'm not sure the parents were thrilled but I tried to squelch by fears of him seriously injuring himself with it. (side note: Bob did cause some damage when the family was on vacation and Kiersten was cutting bamboo. Thankfully he only needed one stitch! augh...)

Definitely a different type of Christmas but I enjoyed every part and piece of it! FELIZ NAVIDAD!!

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