Happy new year!!
I hope everyone is doing well and had a great holiday season! The holidays here were very nice and much different from that of the U.S. Christmas is not as big a deal here as I thought it might have been, since about 98% of the country is Catholic. On Christmas Eve, we went to Church at 10:00 p.m., and at midnight, we indulged in one of the better turkeys I’ve ever had. My host brother and I gave a few gifts to “our” mom, and we passed the night sharing various stories, discussing differences in culture, and enjoying the company of each other. Christmas day was like any other weekend day with no special activities. The two or three weeks leading up to Christmas, I hit my first sustained low. I was having dreams of family, friends, and home every night and feeling a little lonely. But Christmas eve showed me what is really important in the holidays, the people that we care about. It sounds cliche but it really is the relationships that matter in life. A present couldn’t have passed the low I was in, but spending a great night with my host family was all I needed to elevate my spirits.
New Years Eve was a more festive day, starting with stuffing a life size doll with leaves and paper and dressing it up like a person (pictured below). We stuffed ourselves absolutely silly with scrumptious food and danced throughout the day. I wish I could be the Latin salsa instructor but my fantasy quickly dissipates every time people laugh at the white dude’s attempts to dance. Can’t win em all. At 12:00 everyone in the town takes their dolls out to the streets and ignites them, casting away all the bad of the old year for a prosperous new year. The streets were filled with fire as far as the streets extends with people celebrating and wishing one another a happy new year. It was a pretty spectacle.
Although I feel much more accustomed to my surroundings, I’m still trying to absorb as much as I can and not form premature judgements. There remain some parts of the culture that are still foreign to me. Punctuality many times is a joke here. Sometimes it’s nice to have a more laid-back culture and not be fretting about being late or not having a definitive plan. Other times it can be very frustrating when people don’t follow through on their commitments or when stuck waiting for people to show up. One thing I have learned is that there is a positive and negative side to almost everything. People often ask me “Do you prefer here more than America?” I can’t give a definitive answer. There are both positive and negative aspects of each culture, and that is why I have so much gratitude for this experience. To have the opportunity to see both sides of the spectrum and apply what I find to be the positives is truly a privilege.
Happy new year to everyone and thanks for reading! It’s awesome to see a different way of celebrating the holidays and even more so with a great group of people, but I miss everyone back home as well. Cuidate!