Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our First Christmas in Bolivia

Talk about a milestone.  I think the "first Christmas" is a bigger deal than the one-year mark.  This holiday season has been bittersweet, but probably not for the reasons you'd expect.

Within our home, everything was what Christmas typically is:  decorations, music, cookies.  We decorated, as usual, the day after Thanksgiving:

We made "gingerbread" houses and cookies:

And, of course, throughout December, the Christmas music was going pretty much non-stop! :)

Outside the house, though, was a different story.  People here definitely celebrate Christmas, but it's not a "season" like it is in the US.  We never sang Christmas songs in church, for example.  A few houses have Christmas lights on them, but not many.

Oh, and it's summer:

Swimming at our team Christmas party:

For us, Christmas Day, especially the morning, is the big celebration.  Well, here in Bolivia, Christmas Eve, referred to as "Noche Buena (good night)" is the big deal, typically including a midnight dinner.  We wanted to experience it for ourselves, and a family from church invited us to come along.  But I'll get to that. . .

On Christmas Eve, we had my brother's family and another family over to celebrate with us early in the evening.  Ham is horribly expensive here, but beef is not, so we decided to barbeque!  I bought 4 kilos (8.8 lb) of pulpa from the butcher next door and grilled it.

My brother did 4.5 kilos (10 lb) of prime rib:

Needless to say, we had PLENTY of meat and all of the fixings as well:

After a fun evening, we put the girls to bed late, with their cousins camping in their room with them.  Kaylee and I were both tired after a long day, and unsure about going out for a new experience.

But at 10:30, leaving the kids with my brother and his wife, we walked down the street to the home of our friends, Hector and Marta, the parents of Kaylee's language helper.  We smooshed into their Land Cruiser with their family of 8, and drove off to the city, to see the lights:

Right at midnight, we headed for the south end of the city, to the home of Hector's father, a 93-year old widower.  Five of Hector's seven siblings were also there, and we were welcomed in as part of the family.  Dinner was served at 12:45am and started with a champagne toast to another Noche Buena together as a family:

We spent more than two hours there, listening and talking and hearing the family stories.  We felt surprisingly comfortable and enjoyed our time with them.  The saddest part was finding out that Hector's mom passed away 16 years ago on Noche Buena. They even invited us to the special Mass they would be having for her in the morning (the rest of the family is Catholic).

Around 2:30am, we packed up the car and headed home, arriving right at 3am!  My brother packed his family up and went home, so they could have Christmas morning at their house.

Thankfully, our girls slept in until almost 8:00, extremely unusual for them.  We had a fun Christmas morning together:

Unfortunately, after all the sweetness, our day turned a bit bitter.  Not only were Kaylee and I dead tired by lunchtime, I didn't feel well.  We're not sure if it was something we ate or what, but something cleaned us out and we both felt miserable the rest of the day and the next as well.  We're still trying to recuperate today.

But hey, we're not complaining.  Even with many adjustments (especially the weather!) and sickness, we enjoyed another Christmas and experienced new things.

Of course, you realize there are more photos!  As usual, you can find them here: Picasa Web Albums - Una Vida Para Cristo.

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