Up, Up, And Away!
This year’s Christmas wasn’t really that interesting. I spent it alone – well, in my town. Most volunteers live with host-families, and while a family lives in the same abode as I do and I spend time with them, I live quite independently, which was my choice upon arriving in my town. Peace Corps is supposed to find a family for you before you move to site – that didn’t happen in my case, so I sought out my own living accommodations. As a fairly independent person, I prefer living how I choose rather than living under a household with rules I think are pointless and out-dated – especially for a 27 year old guy. I lived long enough with a host family in training to get the idea. (The photos are from New Year´s: Vish, me, and Frank with our rings of power and light...my friend Fletch brought those when he visited back in September, we were finally able to use them, thanks Fletch!)
The people in my town spend their Christmas Eve with family, usually eating late, if not at midnight, then close to it. They’ll eat traditional food (like guinea pig) and drink hot chocolate along with a dessert-type of bread. Since most are pretty poor, this is exciting for them, it’s not all the time you can splurge for hot chocolate. Then at midnight, fireworks (I.E. simple noise-makers) go off and if they weren’t already drinking, then it begins. A lot spend Christmas day in a state of inebriation. Some friends told me they were coming to get me…which I didn’t really want, so around 9pm I turned off my lights and put on a movie, falling asleep around 11pm, waking up at midnight to all the noise. I didn’t really want to go out partying in my town – the novelty has worn off and it’s more of a patience-tester than anything else (the music is horrendous to me, the beer is warm, the conversations are the same, and I’m the center of attention at all times). Presents don’t really happen here – so I never ask the kids if Santa brought them something. If you didn’t know, Santa forgets about the poor children of the world. (That´s me and Jenifer...she gets scared when I pick her up...especially after a bunch of tequila...but I tell her not to worry, I´m a professional and she quickly points out I was...and university was a long time ago...)
At 5:30am on Christmas morning, I was awoken by a group of young guys (in-between 16-20) that were getting in a shuffle outside my door after drinking all night. I wasn’t going to get up until they were literally pushing against my door and didn’t appear to keep moving. Opening my door and seeing me must have calmed them down to some extent, or maybe they just decided to go elsewhere. I talked to a couple and they said they came by my place around 10pm but noticed the lights were off so they didn’t knock…which means my plan worked. Literally, at this same moment, the lady who owns the house I live in came stumbling down the street with a person on each arm to keep her held up. She’s in her 50’s, resembles a keg, and often gets so drunk she can’t walk or speak – and this was one of those moments. I wouldn’t be able to help anymore than the two people already helping, so I tucked back inside and went back to sleep.
It was an interesting experience, not one that I hope to repeat – but I’m glad I had it. Kinda like a movie you want to watch once but never again. I made myself some good food, watched a Christmas movie, walked around, and had a normal day. I didn’t walk around too much because anywhere you’d go people would invite you to drink with them. Luckily, most were already so far gone I didn’t have to worry about being rude, since they wouldn’t remember anyhow.
New Year’s was a different story – though nothing unusual. Almost all of the volunteers in the area (which recently doubled due to a new group) came into celebrate together. There was a lot of dancing and silliness until the early morning – which the pictures show. We go to a bar called 13 Buhos (13 owls), which plays music we like. During New Year’s Eve, a lot of street vendors sell gold-colored stuff, mainly underwear. Wearing gold-colored stuff is good luck when the New Year hits – foretelling a prosperous year ahead. Some take the Spanish tradition, eating 12 grapes. I shared my tradition, a simple kiss.
I hope everyone back home had a great time. 2009 seems like it will be a very interesting year for the world.