Spending the Holidays Abroad

Saturday, December 24

Among everything this trip has already taught us, it’s also given us the chance to experience the holidays away from home. To start off Christmas Eve we slept in, had breakfast, caught up on house cleaning and organization, and then went out for a busy day of errands.

Our first task was to try to find a laundry mat to get our laundry done for us. Unfortunately, after lugging our dirty clothes across the city, we were turned away because the mat was full. We took the loss and decided we would just hand wash our clothes with detergent from the corner store. Problem solved.

We also needed to get our gifts for the white elephant party later that evening, so we walked the streets of Trujillo to find Peruvian goodies to exchange. Grace’s gift was my favorite: a white elephant for the white elephant gift exchange. Elephants are also a symbol of good luck in Peru, which makes it even better. After the girls did some shopping on their own, we went home for lunch. Then, we met the guys and all went to the mall downtown. Julia and I got delicious frozen coffee drinks and I found Momma a Peru Starbucks coffee cup and whole Peruvian coffee beans before the festivities began.

5:00 pm: The group went to Rosa’s for a Christmas party between the volunteers, our two coordinators, and Rosa’s two adorable kiddos. We had cinnamon buns, chicken sandwiches, olives, cheese, meat, Coke and wine. We played white elephant; I took home a box of chocolates from Brian and Omar ended up with the bag of Peruvian snacks I brought. After the gift exchange, we played heads up, girls vs. boys. The boys took the L home with their gifts.

9:00 pm: The girls joined Lesmyy in going to the cathedral for their Christmas Eve Mass. This was one of few events we participated in without the boys, and of course we ran into them on our way there. Christmas Eve Mass was an incredible experience. There was a live nativity scene with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. I recognized several of the hymns the congregation sang, and joined in with my English version. To celebrate the birth of Christ, confetti was shot throughout the church and everyone cheered. For fellowship, there were hugs and kisses. Kisses are used to greet one another in Peru. I love this custom. The hearts of the Peruvian people are so warm and loving. Growing up, my family always celebrated Christmas with a focus on the birth of Christ, and His coming into the world in such a humble way. Being able to experience this in a new culture cured the homesickness I was feeling on Christmas Eve.

After Christmas Eve Mass, we returned home to rest before our midnight dinner. I needed a power nap to be attentive during the long night ahead.

Sunday, December 25

12:00 am: It was time for dinner: hot chocolate milk, turkey, applesauce, and fruitcake. After dinner, we opened presents. Mommy got us each a purse and earrings. The whole family, including myself, found great joy in watching Mary’s, our host sister, son open his Christmas presents. I was amazed by the thoughtful gifts exchanged between our family members.

3:00 am: After a long night of feasting and opening presents, the girls went to bed. I was exhausted, but my heart was full. The love displayed by my host family has eased my heart in its longing to be home on Christmas Day. I went to sleep pondering the birth of Christ, and being amazed by the worldwide celebration of His birth. My mind went back to two years ago, when I spent Christmas in China. In China, too, the Christians made room in their typical routine to spend Christmas Eve’s evening in church, remembering the reason for the season.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night…

9:00 am: I woke up earlier than I hoped after the late night. I took it easy for the first part of the day; I was exhausted from two late nights followed by early mornings.

3:00 pm: Julia suggested we spend our Christmas evening in Huanchaco, a beach town about an hour bus ride away. Reluctantly I agreed, but as soon as the bus approached the shore, I was so thankful for a friend to travel with that was always up for an adventure. We shopped along the beach strip and I found several souvenirs to bring back for family and friends. After shopping for a few hours, Julia grabbed a bottle of water, I grabbed a fruit slushy, and we sat on the beach and watched the sunset. It was amazing, and a great way to spend Christmas away from home.

I have to give Julia a shout out. She has been so great to travel with. She is always up for adventures, and always encouraging me to get out and explore. At times, I shy away from going out in order to rest, journal, read, or sleep. I am thankful for friends that remind me that I might only be in Peru once, and I need to be out doing as much as possible. 

Another aspect about traveling with Julia that I have enjoyed is that we tend to reflect with one another about what we are experiencing, feeling, and what we have experienced in the past. During the day, we have at least two lengthy bus rides (to the clinic and home from the clinic), and most days at least two long walks. It is great to have someone to chat with and make good use of this time so that it is not spent mindlessly sitting on a bus.

Julia is a year older than me. She has been a source of advice, care, reason, and reflection. We talk about what we are seeing in the clinic and compare it to experiences we have had in the past. We often reflect on what changes we see that could be made, and also things that we see that encourage us to change certain habits we have. Julia mentioned wanting to do a clothing drive for the kids that attend the clinic we worked in. I love this idea; we have further coordinated and thought of ways to get donations. Julia has a cousin with a nonprofit that sends shoes to Haiti; she hopes that they will do a campaign for shoes to Peru once. Julia is very intelligent and always has unique perspectives to offer.

8:00 pm: Julia and I were both proud of ourselves when we made it back home without getting lost. It was our first time going to Huanchaco and back alone. As we approached our front door, we saw the guys playing basketball in the park. We walked over to watch for a few minutes. Our guys are proud to say they have never lost a game of basketball in Peru. Julia and I watched for about fifteen minutes and got the run down of they guys’ Christmas Day from Timothy before heading home for dinner. 

10:00 pm: After dinner, the girls and our host mommy went over to the guys’ house for cake and coffee. The guys were so kind to buy a cake for their host family and invite us over to enjoy it with them. The guys on this trip have been exceptional. After cake, we played more heads up. Ramy, Grace, Julia, and I played against Brain, Omar, and Timothy. To their dismay, Brian, Omar, and Timothy lost. Ramy joined the girls team and got the W. Everyone in our group (especially Omar), is so competitive, which makes beating them (Omar), so great.

12:30 am: After heads up, the girls walked home in hand with our host mommy. We were all in our pajamas and asleep shortly after we got home. I was exhausted, and knew I needed as much rest as I could get for the week ahead in the clinic. I was not feeling well when I went to sleep. I had had bad heartburn for the past 36 hours and my body was achy. I went to bed hopeful that I would be in good health when the morning came.