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Chocolatadas, Panetón and WiFi – Part Two

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So, a few days before Christmas, it was beginning to feel like Christmas. I was stuffed full of Panetón and hot chocolate. We had Christmas music and a little Christmas tree. However, we were experiencing “technical difficulties.”

A Christmas Miracle

Our laptop detected an aggressive virus a few days before Christmas. Even though we tried to be extra careful, it must have gotten it from some USB or Internet cafe. (I’m lookin’ at you, bad-hot-chocolate place.) Fortunately we had back-ups for the super important files, but we were pretty sure we lost all of our December reports, presentations, and documents. Purchasing and getting a new computer was going to be a challenge.

Later that day, someone came over to our house to install Internet. It worked for a few hours, and then it when down again. The guy told us our computer crashed the Internet for the entire Luya network. He said he would have to return later with an engineer to configure everything. Several prodding phone calls and two days later, just in time for Christmas, Internet-guy returned with his engineer. They spent an entire Saturday working on our connection, and finally, it worked. It was a Christmas miracle. I never expected to have Internet, much less WiFi , during Peace Corps service. We don’t have regular running water, but we have WiFi. Sometimes, life is weird like that in the Peace Corps.

So, we were able to FaceTime our family to give them the good news. While we wouldn’t be physically with them on Christmas, we would still be able to see each other on Christmas day. As an added bonus, Ian’s mother is a computer genius. She walked us through how to fix our computer, and we saved it.

Christmas Eve

During Christmas Eve Day, Ian and I cleaned, cooked, and listened to Christmas music. We even had to run to the market for last minute ingredients, which was completely familiar. There wasn’t snow on the ground, football bowl games on TV, or a big shiny Christmas tree, but it still felt a lot like Christmas. That evening we went to Christmas Eve mass with our host mother. I found comfort in knowing my family and friends were doing the same thing in the US. After church we walked home together and sat down for dinner. Our host dad apologized for not having turkey. We ate chicken, figs and applesauce. Of course, these things were followed with hot chocolate and Panetón. As the church bells tolled midnight, Neli asked me to place Baby Jesus in the manager. I was honored.

Baby Jesus!

Shortly thereafter, she gave us a little nativity scene for our room. It even had a llama! Ian and I went to bed happy, but we wondered what it would be like to spend Christmas Day away from everything we’d always known.

Christmas Day

A few days beforehand, we asked our host family if we could cook for them on Christmas Day. We wanted to share our traditions with them, and food is a big part of that. They graciously agreed. Ian woke up early on Christmas morning and started making french toast and hot chocolate for our host family. Our host family asked for second servings and the recipe. We gave them their Christmas presents (Panetón and a homemade wreath) and talked about holiday traditions. It made my heart happy.

Neli, Meister and Ian are all smiles after french toast on Christmas morning.

After breakfast we went back to our room and spent the morning on FaceTime with all of our family members. It was such a blessing to be able to do that, and I truly believe that it made the day easier for all of us. There are current volunteers in Peru who had to ride two hours to access Internet. (I think they have running water, though.) By the time we finished talking to family, it was almost time for lunch. Since we didn’t have access to an oven, we weren’t able to make Ian’s traditional family lasagna. However, he did make an Italian sauce from scratch. We shared the sauce and pasta with our host family, and again they asked for seconds.

Stockings hung on the closet with care (?) and our little Christmas tree

That afternoon Ian and I exchanged gifts. Santa managed to find us in Peru, so our stockings were full of candy and there were little gifts under our little tree. Best of all – Santa got me a monogrammed machete. I cried when I opened it because it was hilariously perfect. Santa knows me too well. That evening, we decorated sugar cookies even though I couldn’t bake. We bought little cookies from a nearby bodega, found sprinkles, and made frosting. We called our friends currently serving throughout Peru. They all found their own ways to celebrate. My Spanish instructors texted and called me. Students from the local colegio texted to wish us a Merry Christmas. So, while our pequeñita Navidadita wasn’t quite the same, it still full of love and family. We found ways to incorporate traditions and family from home into our life here. And, that’s what Christmas is all about.

Sprinkles for everyone!

Two Weeks Later

“It’s a Wonderful Life” finally finished downloading last night. So, tonight we’re watching it and drinking hot chocolate. Merry Christmas, y’all.

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