I can't entirely remember where we last left off, so I'll just start with Christmas. Some very nice people sent us cards, candy, a couple of calendars, books, finger puppets (that were made in Peru), and a bunch of other small trinkets. Thanks so much for all of those. There may have been decorations up in Huaraz, and we had a wonderful time celebrating with our family here, but these gifts made the season just a little more homey. Christmas turns out to be a pretty informal affair here. With our family, we sat around on Christmas Eve, we exhanged some gifts, ate, and chatted. Not entirely different from the States, but you usually don't receive paneton, a bar of chocolate, and a can of milk as some of your gifts back home. Well, maybe the chocolate. All in all it was not too bad, though I was pretty sick the next day. I recovered shortly thereafter and then proceeded to get sick for New Year's as well. This second time I had some sort of bacterial infection in my intestines. But two days and six very large pills later, I was feeling myself again. It wasn't how I'd really planned spending Christmas or New Year's, but the good news is, if this pattern keeps going, I won't be sick again until Valentine's Day or maybe Easter.
One of the gifts we got for our family was homemade chocolate chip cookies (made by Menda). They turned out really quite good, and I think our family finally understood a little of why we were constantly talking about them. Cookies are one of the food items easiest to miss here. Then again, Menda talked about cookies pretty regularly in the States too.
It's getting into the sowing season here, and nearly every day from sunup to sundown our brother heads out to one of the many chakras our family has scattered around the area. There's one across the street, one a couple of miles away with a hefty hill to climb between, and one between Paria and Huaraz among others I'm sure we don't know about as well. There's something both wonderful and sad about seeing all the people working in their fields. There's the connection that everyone around us obviously feels for the land. They still have a relationship with it here. Then again, we are here working to help modernize the country. Before long, they won't be using animals and a hand-carved wooden tool to sow their fields.
Speaking of sowing (well, sewing), the other day, our brother told us he was going to stitch up some pants, which to be honest didn't really sound all that exciting, but then he pulled out this beautiful old Singer sewing machine. This thing was ancient. Apparently it belonged to our abuelito a long time ago. But wow. Gorgeous. I definitely am my father's son, the way this antique took me.
The cards and wall calendar we received, along with two maps of Huaraz and Ancash, a 50th anniversary Peace Corps poster, and a printed off letter from Obama to Peace Corps volunteers so far is all we've managed to get up on our walls. There are still a lot of empty spaces. (Mail us photos! We'll put them up!) So one of the things we decided to do was paint a mural. We found a picture of us climbing a bald cypress at the arboretum that Allegra took for our engagement photos, scaled it down, printed it off, drew a grid on it, on a separate sheet redrew the tree with a few embellishments, drew a grid on the wall, drew the tree on the wall, painted the tree on the wall, tried really hard to get the pencil off the wall, touched up the tree a bit more, and now we have a bald cypress on our wall. Our bald cypress. The one I proposed in. It takes up a ton of space, but it also is feeling more and more like a home.
Oh, we also ate a whole bag of Dorito's in about ten minutes. It was my starting-to-feel-better gift from Menda. Somehow, it seemed like the best thing to down after not eating for two days. My, how our perspective on food has changed.
And Menda wants to write a little about the New Year's traditions here:
On New Year's Eve I went to Huaraz to meet some other volunteers for lunch (Charles was home sick). The city was packed with vendors. The tradition here is that yellow is good luck on new year's eve especially yellow underwear, it seemed like every other vendor was selling yellow underwear. The streets were like a sea of yellow between the underwear, party hats and other party supplies people were selling. The other popular items being sold seemed to be fireworks and wine. The streets were so crowded and there were so many temporary vendors in some areas that I got turned around since it was hard to see my surroundings past the sidewalk. The fireworks here are an interesting tradition too. They are primarily just for noise not visual. Also people just stand around and set them off where ever using whatever like their cigarette. Back in Paria there was a party in the Plaza which we decided to sit out after our family explained that it was going to be mostly drunk people dancing around. Our family didn't really do anything special for New Year's. We all just took it easy. One last tradition my mom explained to me but I've yet to see is burning your old clothes. I guess the idea there is just to get rid of the old and start fresh or just have an excuse to go shopping.