Okay so, in this blog post, you, my lovely reader, have three options:
A) Read the first long post about the holidays here in Peru
B) Read the quick list-type section, Bite-Sized Peru, towards the bottom
C) For the diehard blog-readers (probably just my parents) you could even read both!
Very Long Overdue Blog Post on Christmas in Peru
The holiday season has come and passed. If you remember that I’m on the underbelly of the world (at least in the popular perspective of the earth), summer happens during our (the U.S.) winter. So right now all the kids are on their three month summer vacation. Summer in Ancash, however, is more like winter. I’ve mentioned all of this before, but it’s rainy season, and its lovely here. I love rain and, even more than rain, I love how the rain has turned everything a beautiful emerald green color. The rain clouds cover our epic snow capped views, but I’d rather have this green-ness.
So the holidays in Peru? A lot of volunteers struggle with the separation from their home and family during the holiday season, so I was preparing myself heavily for the worst. I think Thanksgiving was tough, craving pureed Pumpkin products and the smell of my grandma’s house. But I was able to talk to my family a bunch throughout November and December and that was really nice. And then Christmas came, and I thought it was going to be rough. But something incredible happened – it was one of the best Christmases I’ve had in my life. [Disclaimer: this does not mean I didn’t miss my family and friends like crazy, I did and I do, I think about you every single day and night that I’m here.]
I decided to hold on to my traditions a bit, I made a Christmas tree out of paper (next year I’ll go ahead and buy the fake tree), put it above my desk, and laid out presents beneath. My Uncle Steve and Aunt Julie, my grandparents, and my mom and dad had all sent stuff that I put under my tree and then I bought a present for each member of my host family. I then spent a lot of time baking and preparing cookie trays a la Fillmore Street for my family and favorite neighbors in Pariahuanca.
Christmas here is for the most part celebrated on “Noche Buena”, or Christmas Eve. I went with my host mom, sister, brother, and my favorite dog Caballero to the mass in our cozy little church at about eight o’clock. I was excited because mass was going to be led by Padre Corado, an Italian priest who works at the Parroquia, rides a motorcycle, and, please tell me this is not sacrilegious to say, is, um, kind of attractive. His service was actually very moving… he started to talk about how it was hard for him during the holidays to not be with his loved ones in Italy, but that here in Pariahuanca he was also with family. Okay, so I teared up a little bit. Whatever.
So throughout the season people put on “chocolatadas” where they serve up hot chocolate and paneton (a delicious fruitcake) and hand it out to anyone within sight. So after mass, and after everyone came up and kissed the baby jesus from the nativity scene (god I hope no one had mono…) the church had their own chocolatada and then we went home to have yet another one. Yum.
That night we set off fireworks and sparklers and my host mom and I rallied each other to make it until midnight.
Before going to sleep I let everyone in my host family know, to not be alarmed that Santa knew where I was living this year and would probably be coming down our kitchen stove chimney and dropping off gifts under the paper tree I had made. Sure enough, when I woke up in the morning, there was a huge pile of presents under the tree! I ran upstairs to let everyone know that Papa Noel had in fact come! My host brother said that he definitely had come, because he had heard him walking around the night before. I led everyone into my room and handed out gifts. Everyone was beaming, gift-giving is not usually a part of Christmas or birthdays here so it was a nice surprise for all.
My host family was to make a Pachamanca on Christmas day. I was super, super excited about this because I had yet to try it and heard it was delicious.
To prepare Pachamanca:
1. Dig a hole in the ground. About 2 feet by 2 feet wide, doesn’t have to be too deep.
2. Stack rocks in the hole to form an igloo like shape. Make a fire within your igloo.
3. Prepare freshly-killed chicken and assorted potatoes. Smother all with a delicious garlic, salt, and ground up herb-sauce (most likely cilantro and parsley).
4. Collapse the igloo.
5. Lay large leaves found in your backyard on top of hot former igloo rocks.
6. On top of large leaves, lay the chicken and disperse potatoes around.
7. On top of food, lay heaping mounds of grasses cut from your fields.
8. On top of grasses, lay assorted blanket-like things like rice bags, etc.
9. Finally, cover this huge mound with dirt.
10. Let sit to cook in the heat and smoke of the igloo rocks for about an hour.
11. Unearth and enjoy!
DELICIOUS. Like, woah. I’m really pushing for another pachamanca soon, maybe for when my parents come.
Keren’s parents were here visiting and so came and celebrated and ate with us. They were fantastic. And later that night we all went to Huaraz and I was able to celebrate Hanukkah with them! No Christmas is complete without Hanukkah.
Sorry for more emotions, but, that night, thinking over my Christmas made me cry a little bit… The fact that this family here has taken me in, a complete stranger, and accepted me so entirely and really made me a part of the family, is truly incredible. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d like living with a host family. It turns out it’s my favorite part. They really are family. I have no idea what I’m going to do without them when I leave…
I certainly missed everyone, my family, my home friends, my college friends, and my neighbors. I hope you all had a nice holiday season too!
For the slackers (including me, because I can’t stand writing more than bullet points at a time): Bite-Sized Peru
• I am notoriously cursed on New Years. For some reason, I can never make it epic. That might be the issue, that I try so hard. So usually I end up craving Chinese food and movie fest with my parents instead of a crazy party. Not this year. Nope. This year I got the best surprise of all. Charlotte Ariel Bowman, was able to come to Peru for New Years. Most details are not blog-appropriate. We went Mancora, a touristy beach town 18 hours north of Lima. We had a lot of fun. It was very much needed on my behalf. I have no idea how I’m going to survive without that girl for another year. Meow.
• My little 3 year old Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dee host cousins (Keren came up with those names) are making weird noises outside my door right now. Also, since I was having trouble hitting my biceps with the resistance bands my parents sent, I’ve started doing reps lifting them. This is perfect since, a) they both need to practice counting and, b) as my dad pointed out, they’ll keep getting bigger, and I’ll keep getting stronger.
• Speaking of exercise, this year I am going to run, or at least try to run, the Pacasmayo Marathon on July 1st. It is supposed to be an epically boring race, but I am so psyched to do it. I have always wanted to run a marathon and this is the perfect opportunity. My official training starts February 27th, but I’ve already started a pre-plan and am getting ‘acostumbrar-ed’ to running at over 9,000 ft.
• These bullet points are too long.
• We keep losing water at night. This is pretty frustrating mostly because we tend to lose water when it’s raining. How is that possible?
• I finally finished Pride and Prejudice.
• We had our all-girls camp last week, it was incredible. I brought Meche, my host sister, and Helen, another favorite student of mine. A huge thing Peru PCVs work on is self-esteem, especially with girls from the sierra. It was incredible to watch the girls at our camp come out of their shells and be so outgoing and creative.
• I’m teaching and running a summer school. Three days a week, two sessions, one for primary, one for secondary, an hour and a half a piece. I teach English mostly, but we draw, exercise, and will eventually be making books.
• I am also teaching an adult English class which is turning out to be really fun.
• Carnaval season around here is about to start. I’m heading up to Cajamarca where the celebration gets craaazy. Most places they just throw water balloons at each other. In Cajamarca, its paint, oil, eggs, and water gun fights for two crazy days throughout the city. I’m psyched.
• I’m about to buy this awesome thrifted vest with a werewolf on it. I’ll post a picture upon purchase. Start getting jealous.
• I am in love with tea. I love it. It loves me. I like to put lemon in it. I like to put soy milk in it. I like to drink it plain. I like to drink it cold. I like to drink it hot.
• I also love mangoes. If you come visit, come visit for the fruit.
• Yes, I would like to move to Brooklyn when I get back.
• I day-dream of just a few things: drunken noodles, new york city, Go-Nuts pistachio iced coffee, and gyms. All of these things make my heart beat uncontrollably.
• I finally saw Animal House. So good. Also my site-mate Keren is exactly like Jim Belushi’s character. Like dead on.
• My. Parents. Visit. In. April. AH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So excited!!!!!! More on this later.
Love you guys. So much. Happy Carnaval!