I know, I know. It's been awhile since my last update, and I'd like to say I haven't written because I've been SOOOO busy changing lives and making a huge difference, but that's not quite the case. My work-life has been fluctuating like a roller coaster. It started off pretty well, then the holidays came and productivity came to almost a screeching halt (not just for me, but any and all of my Peruvian socios too), but now it has started to increase again which makes me happy. As many or most of you know, I don't do well with free time and love to be busy. So I have been reaching out to more people and trying to initiate more projects while trying not to stretch myself too thin. It's quite a choreographic challenge, but so far it seems to be working.
Now I wanted to make the bulk of this post about my experiences during the holiday season here in my site. Not only did I celebrate Christmas and New Year's here in Paracas, but I also attended a baby shower as well as my 12 year-old host brother's promocion from primaria to secundaria (basically graduation from elementary to high school--they don't do middle school here).
Let's start with Navidad. First of all, the holidays felt a little weird for a myriad of reasons. Mainly because it's hot. Down here in the southern hemisphere summer is in full swing, and I've got the sunburnt shoulders and neck to prove it. Also, there was minimal decorating for the holidays. The only decorations my host family put up were a single string of green-colored lights in the front window, and this took place only 2 days before Christmas. I guess I just became so accustomed to Christmas decorations being shoved in your face beginning as early as the beginning of November back in the US, but here there was very little evidence of the holiday season. Even though it wasn't my first Christmas away from my home and my family, it was harder than last year when I had to work at good ole SeaWorld. At least there they played Christmas music and there were gaudy decorations everywhere you looked--that I could deal with. But here my host family didn't even have a Christmas tree! Anyways, the celebrations in Peru are vastly different. We celebrated at midnight on the 24th, counting down like it was New Years until the clock struck 12 and it was then December 25th. After we counted down we all hugged and wished everyone a Feliz Navidad, then went outside to watch the fireworks. Yes, fireworks for Christmas. I'm telling you, the entire thing was very January 1st-esque. After the fireworks, my family and I shared a large meal of chicken, pork, potatoes, and salad. At about 12:30am when everyone was done eating, we went to walk around town but there was little to no action. After walking a bit and finding not much about, I ended up in bed by 1am. The next morning, the morning of Christmas, I was able to Skype with Mom, Dad, Ryan, and Ashley as they opened presents before they headed to Augusta to celebrate with the rest of the family. Not gonna lie, Skyping with them was weird. It didn't feel like Christmas at all for me, and I was sitting in my room sweating watching them open their gifts. At least the internet Gods didn't fail me and allowed me to see my family on Christmas. After that I got to Skype with Addie B. for a little bit, which was nice. Still weird to see people dressed in winter clothing when I have my box fan blowing full blast. After that the day was pretty tranquilo. Even though it wasn't very sunny I decided to go lay on the beach and have a beer. That was my Christmas present to myself.
Next event--Baby Shower. Oh boy was that weird. My oldest host brother, who is 22, guilted me into going to a baby shower with him. Really? Two guys heading to a baby shower? That alone seemed weird enough. It turns out it was for a girl I knew that works in the Municipality, but the festivities at Peruvian baby showers are just plain odd. Their were relay races with hair accessories, a birthing enactment by the soon-to-be-mother's father (complete with a C-section using a butcher's knife), guessing of gifts, singing, dancing, a piñata, oh and did I mention clowns? It wouldn't be a Peruvian celebration without a couple of payasos. After the hora loca complete with balloons and limbo, I opted out and headed back to my house before anymore of the girls from the Municipality tried to get me to dirty dance. Maybe it's just me, but dirty dancing at a baby shower with women that work at my local government was just a wee bit uncomfortable. I'll chalk this one up to a cultural experience, one that still has me confused.
My youngest host brother asked me to attend his promocion, which I was pretty excited to attend. I like doing things with my host family sometimes, but I also like that they give me my privacy and independence. The promocion was a simple ceremony/celebration for students as they essentially graduate from primaria and are moving on to secundaria, or high school. Their teacher made a speech, presented them each with a huge frame that had a class and individual picture, there were lots of photos, some dancing, finger foods, oh and of course a CLOWN. Yet again the payaso makes an appearance. Another clown, another hora loca, more balloons, more dancing, more antics. Ugh. After this I think my host family could tell that I wasn't a huge fan of clowns--not that I have a fear or phobia of them but I just find them pretty damn annoying. And of course I always get extra attention because I'm the lone gringo in a crowd of Peruvians. Oh well. I survived another event and made my little host brother happy in the process.
New Year's was quite possibly stranger than Christmas. I think the problem was that I kept thinking about my past New Year's Eves with my friends, and imagining what they were doing at the same time all throughout the night. I knew what they were doing--they were out at bars or parties having a great time, dressed all fancy, drinking good beer/drinks, and making lots of noise. What was I doing? Starving and waiting for midnight so that I could finally eat dinner! Yes, just like Christmas we waited until after midnight for our meal. This time there wasn't a countdown though. That part really threw me. My host family was just kind of watching TV and waiting for midnight, but no one kept an eye on the clock. Then we heard all of the fireworks and assumed it was now the new year, so we went outside to watch. More hugging and Feliz Año Nuevo-ing, followed by dinner. Pretty similar meal to Christmas. There was also the tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight to have 12 months of goodluck, but there weren't enough for everyone to have 12 so it looks like I'll only be lucky through May. Oh yeah, apparently it's tradition to wear yellow underwear for luck in the new year as well, so a few days prior I bought some bright yellow boxerbriefs from the market in Pisco to ensure 2013 would be great. After dinner we walked around town to seek out family members and wish them a happy new year. My family is pretty large so I was meeting/saluding many relatives that I'd never seen before. After that we drank in the plaza for a little while (my first sip of alcohol wasn't until after midnight--another odd NYE difference between here and the states) then I headed to a bar with my oldest host brother where we were later joined by some other family members. We stayed at the bar drinking and dancing until the sun came up. It actually turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected. In Peru things just always seem to start a lot later than I'm used to. Leading up to midnight and shortly after were pretty anti-climactic, but after that the night was full of celebration. I've realized that it's hard not to compare life here to life in the states, especially during holidays or special events.
I'm glad I got to experience the holidays with my host family. It was a great way to learn more about their culture and their traditions. That being said, I'm pretty sure I'll be traveling with friends for the holidays next year. So far 2013 seems to be flying by. I can't believe January is already more than halfway gone. Since January has begun I have started a new project with a school that has an awesome environmental program. To start out with I am going to work with them to plant some trees and help maintain/improve their existing gardens. Each class has their own space they take care of, and there are 3 "environmental leaders" for each grade. The whole school/program is pretty mind-blowing, especially for Peru. I think they will be great to work with during my remaining 22 months. Oh yeah, within the first week of 2013 my computer decided to crash (thanks internal hard drive…of course I didn't want any of my documents, photos, or music) so I made a quick trip to Lima where I indulged in some Chili's and the best sandwich place in the world. At least I didn't have to buy a new computer and I got to go two days without having a meal with rice.
Another volunteer here in Peru told me that the days feel long but the weeks go by quickly, and she couldn't have been more right. As always I am continuing to enjoy my time and life here in South America, and I hope things are well with my friends and family back home in North America.
Until next time,