My two personalities as a PCV:
One-sentence summary: Apart from a U.S. government shutdown, my Christmas in Peru was a social ultra-marathon and I realize the last ten months in-country have been more like training for a fast-walking 10K; high-volume rains are compromising travel access, the main water supply, and cell/internet service; and boldly journaling and making all sorts of daydreams and plans for Late Never 2019 when the rainy season ends.
Right Now: Itisrealcrowdedinthefishbowl.
Expression of the Week: Ahhsh. Possibly more sound than word, “ahhsh” is the primo hermano to “ve” and my sister uses it to express kind disbelief or benign frustration. Like a Peruvian style grunt for “oh bother poppycock” or Port Townsend nautical speak for “screw.”
In Peace Corps, some volunteers take vacation days and special leave to go home for the holidays. Some U.S. families come to visit Peru. Some volunteers think it is a good idea to stay put, make zero travel plans out of site, and be open and available for new possibilities. And some of those same latter volunteers are currently manically Googling AirBnB availability in Bolivia and/or scouting another bridge to collapse.
In Peru, turkey (pavo) is the steadfast Christmas Dinner main course and is uncommonly served other times during the year. And here in the high selva Andes, theoretically throughout the majority of Peru, “Christmas Dinner” is traditionally served on Christmas Eve.
I assumed the big meal was almuerso around 1pm. Which would likely and sometimes variably mean 3pm. Yet, still not a terribly unfair bet for 6pm? Or so I told our five EEUU Christmas Dinner guests (site mate Briauna and her four family members from the PNW.) Turns out the big fancy Christmas dinner is served around 11pm after Catholic Midnight Mass (~7-8pm) is adjourned.
Confused yet? That is because you are a foolhardy slave to your carcel of cultural norms involving the constructs of time.
In the morning, I paused long enough to be moved by my host-mom Pauly who was first time rocking her Solstice gift of a New Hampshire “LIVE FREE OR DIE” hoodie. I will not lie. This made me brim with happiness.
After a family summit, namely dividing and conquering dish assignments, we moved our campo of ingredients to the family restaurant to fire up the oven and make stuffing for the main course, pavo relleno.
The stuffing composition included figs, raisins, pecans, smoked sausages, bacon, mango, peach and (maybe?) barbecue sauce. The eight kilo turkey basted in a terrific red wine and lime marinade. Then we stuffed another eight kilos of stuffing into the turkey and named her Gorda as she impressively expanded to double and Pauly sewed her up with a darning needle and cooking twine. I then Googled the approximate cooking time for an 8-16 kilo stuffed turkey in an unregulated temperature, hand-fire oven at high-altitude in equatorial South America and flatly determined 5 hours and 45 minutes of cooking time.
More meats were prepared. I threw in some cookies for Christmas Bingo prizes and traded burn risk for electrocution. Unlike in the States, there was a palpable deficit of supplemental day drinking. (Mostly because other wings of the household annihilated poor Sunday with that terrible idea and were still regret sleeping it off come Monday afternoon.) If I find a can of Sofia or grapefruit White Claw in this country I will pay a month’s cost of living without hesitation.
By 11pm we dressed up a few tables and presented a holiday meal for fifteen: meats, salads, fruit salads, potatoes, rice, sauces, wine, hot chocolate, chicha morada. We served and ate too much (somehow I became the main hostess because of the English speakers?) until clearing the multi-use addition into a dance floor featuring a surprise traditional Peruvian dance, costume, and songs of Huanuco. Briauna and her sister taught the team some electric slides and line dancing moves, and luckily no one heard when someone mumbled Macarena. Our guests did a terrific job of being polite until they could exit for the evening before 2am. The evening concluded at the customary Peruvian 6:15am.
The next day, due to monsoon rains [‘TIS THE SEASON] Oxapampa’s water supply was shut off after a few solid hours of chocolate viscosity. No matter, the family slept until the next meal of leftovers appeared at 3pm, followed by Family Bingo.
We had 25-30 games of Bingo where I had to start throwing games because I was winning all of them. After I consecutively won all three of my prizes, including my cookies and a cow, a futbol jersey, and a planter made out of the head of Guardian of the Galaxy’s GROOT, I intentionally started to throw my games. I can only handle so many cows.
Finally, Christmas-proper evening sprinted into the fascinating, semi-competitive group mind-meld of seven Peruvians assembling Wyoming. I had a friend’s photo turned into a 500-piece puzzle and help-watched my Peruvian family put together my other home, Wyoming’s northern Wind River Range, piece by piece. That was weird-cool.
Then I tried to go to bed until 2019. Ask me how that’s working out. It turns out Bolivia is all booked for the New Year.
Vamos a ver, amigos.
A Parting Shot
Eight hours later…
Update: I want Cabot.
Leaderboard: All the hotels are booked for NYE and I don’t feel inspired enough to do a turn-and-burn in the monsoon. I will make it a point post-holidays!
Hermana Jessica Rice, Cuerpo de Paz
Apartado NO. 120 SERPOST La Merced
La Merced, Chanchamayo, Junín, PERU
Please note: 1) This mailbox is two hours away 2) It costs a lot of money to send me stuff – (like $23 for $5 of candy) and only send through USPS to SERPOST 3) Keep packages under 1lb (or to not appear worth $100) or they get sent to Customs Jail in Lima. 4) Customs Jail is as arbitrary and random as my blog posts, so don’t send me anything that you’ll be sad goes missing. 5) The last numbers are my Peru cell phone and they will call me if it gets lost. Place them in the spot you would look if you were lost.