Christmas and New Year's Eve
The first Christmas spent away from the family was down in New Zealand with my friend John Dundon. Luckily, we knew a good amount of other “orphans” (Other vagabonds working in Queenstown). We spent the Christmas on a rooftop/balcony showing kegs that we were in fact, the dominate species on the planet. However, after our conquest of all that barley, ironically we can also act like the dumbest. (Pic on the left is Queenstown, New Zealand...just a little shout out)
Christmas in Peru is a little different than the States. Primarily, Christmas Eve is the more important day. During the night, most attend mass. This part is very similar to the States because it seems that most Peruvians don’t really attend church or abide by the regulations of the Catholic Church (except maybe their reluctance to use contraceptives), most are holiday saints, going on the important dates.
At midnight, everyone sets off fireworks, toasts Jesus, and settles down for a family meal. If you have presents to give, here is an appropriate time to unwrap. Unfortunately, 60 or 70% of the population can’t really afford presents; hence the commercial aspect of Christmas has not yet appeared where I’m living. After dinner, most people get drunk and dance until the sun rises. Then the guys wake up and start drinking again. (Pic: Lucho and I. Lucho is the owner of the bar we frequent most often)
I spent the night at a friend’s bar with other people who do not have family in the area. Everyone cooked something and brought it to the bar. We ate dinner around 9ish, then we all drank and danced the night away. The dinner was a schmorgishboard of nationalities. There were people from Holland, Columbia, Brazil, Japan, Chile, Peru (of course), and I was the only American.
On Christmas day I had a relatively relaxed time, recovered from the night before, and prepared for a 4-day trek that I was setting off on the 26th. The brother of another volunteer was visiting and we were going to do one of the more popular trails. Unfortunately, after the first day we turned back because my friend’s brother wasn’t handling the altitude very well. (Pic: Ben, Libby, and me. One of my favorite married couples, New Year's Eve)
New Year’s Eve was a crazy time, as one would expect. The tradition here is to wear gold. Most can’t afford gold, so they wear yellow somewhere on their body. Most wear yellow underwear. You toast with champagne, but no one kisses at midnight, so I had the opportunity to share my culture… Due to the Spanish influence, some eat 12 grapes at midnight. Or, you act out something that you hope to do in the following year, for example, if you hope to travel in the upcoming year, some people will run around the block with a suitcase at midnight.
I spent the night with the volunteers where I’m living…we are a small group compared to most other areas, but that just means we’re closer with one another. The holiday season was a great time, full of new experiences. Of course I missed my family and friends dearly, but I love the opportunity of experiencing new cultures. (Vishal and me rocking out)
Next up: Carnival is a very popular event in Peru, so Vishal and I will be going up Cajamarca, the city with the largest and rowdiest fiesta. It’s a very wet time, water balloons and paint (yes, paint) are thrown all over the place. Stay tuned…
Here are some pics of New Year's Eve and the first day of the 4 day hike we were going to do.