This was my first time celebrating Christmas away from home and everything that comes with: bomb Vietnamese food, the aunts and uncles you see a few times a year, the comfort of knowing everyone and feeling like this is exactly where you should be, the lame traditions, cute family photos and the easiness of things.
Instead, I laid in a bed that was foreign to me and was surrounded by mountains, relatives that I have met once or twice prior to Christmas and I felt uneasy. I was in Pimampiro, a city about an hour and thirty minutes away from Ibarra, where a majority of my host family’s relatives lived. I found myself laying in bed at 1:00 am letting myself sink in all the emotions and thoughts while listening to Adele and Ed Sheeran (simp music).
I woke up in the morning and opened up The Alchemist for the first time. I read, ate lunch and attempted to treat the day like any other day. In the afternoon, my family took me to their land where they grew fruits. My host mom drove, my uncles sat in the car, the kids sat in the back of the truck and I stuck my head out the window to take in the view of the mountains; possibly the greenest mountains I have ever seen. When we got out of the car, we wandered around the land and I decided walk alone towards the edge of the mountain. Two of favorite things were given to me in that moment: silence and wind. All day I felt a sense of uneasiness but there in that moment, everything stopped. I was calm and finally given time and a space to reflect. The Alchemist talks a lot about listening to good omens, and about finding one’s destiny. As I walked, I saw white butterflies along with the silence and wind which has always been a good omen to me. I felt God’s presence with me.
At night I decided to let myself call my family, something I avoid doing often because it pulls me away and it makes it difficult to be present. My cousins talked to me first about the Christmas party and my heart and mind wandered to that comfort and cozy place that they were at. After, I called my brother and mom. It was my mom’s first time meeting my host mom, well through a iPhone screen of course. She said to her in her broken English, “Thank you for care for my daughter, I miss her much” and I laughed because my host mom barely knows a single word of English and my mom struggled to speak those words in English, but the entirety of it all was sincere and the words felt like warmth. I stood there holding my iPhone doing my best to translate from English to Spanish for my host mom, and from Spanish to Vietnamese back to my mom.. talk about a brain exercise.
We left Pimampiro and headed back home to Ibarra around 9:30pm. My host siblings were in the back seat fast asleep and I did my best to accompany my host mom sitting shotgun beside her. First, playing music from my phone, and then just talking about dreams, relationships and life.
Even with moments where my heart and mind wants nothing but that easiness and comfort back in San Jose, I know that here is where I belong and need to be. Not just because of the “good omens” but because I’m stepping back and getting to reflect on things I wouldn’t have since a day like Christmas has become so normalized to me, and it was all I ever knew Christmas could be like. Having spending it here, allowed me to recognize how family, home, love, comfort and all of it has built pieces of who I am.
It is a strange and crazy balance to remember home and all the people and things I love there, but it’s even crazier to find myself expanding my definition of home and family.
As we drove back in a run down pick-up truck with weak headlights and windy roads, I couldn’t help but feel relieved to finally head home to sleep in my own bed, right here in Ibarra.
Definitely the greenest Christmas I have ever had.